Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reading the Classics with Challies - The Bruised Reed - Post 4

A mint for making sinful thoughts!

In the sixth chapter of The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes, the author discusses evil and sinful thoughts in believers. Thoughts that are "vile and unworthy thoughts of God, of Christ, of the Word, which, as busy flies, disquiet and molest their peace." These evil thoughts, along with a host of other difficulties, fall under what Sibbes refers to as "TEMPTATIONS WHICH HINDER COMFORT".

Sibbes begins talking about these thoughts as initially being introduced by Satan. He suggests that the original thought is not in itself sin. He writes, "These are cast in like wildfire by Satan, as may be discerned by the strangeness, the strength and violence, and the horribleness of them even to corrupt nature. A pious soul is no more guilty of them than Benjamin was when Joseph's cup was put into his sack." They are thoughts that Satan introduces into our mind and are thus not necessarily sins. Sibbes discusses how this was also Satan's attack on Christ, who, of course, did not sin.

However, we are not Christ. "But there is a difference between Christ and us in this case. Because Satan had nothing of his own in Christ his suggestions left no impression at all in his holy nature, but, as sparks falling into the sea, were presently quenched." Whereas with us, Sibbes declares "But when Satan comes to us, he finds something of his own in us, which holds correspondence and has intelligence with him. There is the same enmity in our nature to God and goodness, in some degree, that is in Satan himself. Therefore his temptations fasten, for the most part, some taint upon us." And thus, these arrows of Satan can lead us to sin.

In fact, Sibbes suggests that even if there were no attacks from Satan, we would still sin in our thought life; "And if there were no devil to suggest, yet sinful thoughts would arise from within us, though none were cast in from without. We have a mint of them within." A mint is an industrial facility which manufactures coins for currency. Sibbes is writing metaphorically; we produce and manufacture sinful thoughts in our own soul.

Sibbes wants to impress upon the reader the gravity of evil thoughts. He lists some of the consequences associated with sinning with our minds: "they leave a more heavy guilt upon the soul, hinder our sweet communion with God, interrupt our peace, and put a contrary relish into the soul, disposing it to greater sins." Thus, sinful thoughts that are entertained have four dire results.
  1. a heavy burdensome guilt
  2. an interruption of our communion with God
  3. a discontinuance of peace
  4. production of evil desires leading to greater sins

Though evil, these sinful thoughts can also be helpful. "It promotes humiliation to know the whole breadth and depth of sin." And for Sibbes, this 'helpfulness' can result in great growth for the Christian, "and it is good to profit from this, to hate this offensive body of death more, and to draw nearer to God, as that holy man did after his `foolish' and `beastly' thoughts (Psa. 73:22 and 28), and so to keep our hearts closer to God, seasoning them with heavenly meditations in the morning, storing up good matter, so that our heart may be a good treasury, while we beg of Christ his Holy Spirit to stop that cursed issue and to be a living spring of better thoughts in us."

Sibbes is working at bringing encouragement to the 'broken reed' and the 'smoking flax'. In doing so, he does not sugar-coat our sin. He decries the filthiness of it with strong words. He does, however, reassure the reader that God is sovereign and will watch over His children until it is time for their release from these trials. "Our chief comfort is that our blessed Saviour, as he bade Satan depart from him, after he had given way awhile to his insolence (Matt. 4:10), so he will command him to be gone from us, when it shall be good for us. He must be gone at a word. And Christ can and will likewise, in his own time, rebuke the rebellious and extravagant stirrings of our hearts and bring all the thoughts of the inner man into subjection to himself."

1 comment:

  1. We are a mint for sin. Ouch. It’s true though. But I’m thankful Sibbes (and you) didn’t stop at that. I appreciated all the encouragement in these chapters for how to process our weaknesses as we discern them.

    The closing quote you chose was very apropos for that:

    "And Christ can and will likewise, in his own time, rebuke the rebellious and extravagant stirrings of our hearts and bring all the thoughts of the inner man into subjection to himself."
    Praise God for his mercy and power!