He forensically examines our often troubled state as believers in a fallen world, and Christ’s supreme power to overcome all opposition, and carry us into glory.
What I find most affecting about Sibbes’ prose is that he writes with the gravity of tears. When we hear a person start to cry, silence falls on a room. That is very much the sound of The Bruised Reed. It is a man mourning with those who mourn, speaking (to use Richard Baxter’s phrase) as a dying man to dying men.
At the same time, Sibbes understands that his role as a spiritual surgeon is not to dally in the wounds of the suffering, but to direct and deploy each sentence as carefully and precisely as a scalpel. He understands that to say more is usually to say less. Addition is often dilution. Or, as Sibbes memorably puts it, we should take care “not to kill a fly on the forehead with a mallet.” (30).
Sibbes urges us to “come boldly to the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16):
Shall our sins discourage us, when he appears there only for sinners? Are you bruised? Be of good comfort, he calls you. Conceal not your wounds, open all before him and take not Satan’s counsel. (9)
An evangelical culture of concealment robs us of the opportunity to see and savour the one who binds up that which is broken, and strengthens the weak (Ezekiel 34:16). When we conceal our sins, we also conceal the Saviour who died for them.
We also deny ourselves sweet consolation. Some of the most curiously peaceful moments I have ever experienced in my Christian life have been when I have come to the very end of my own resources. When I have felt myself to be utterly spent, as if I literally had nothing and no-one left to lose, and have by necessity thrown myself wholly on Christ as my only treasure; these have been the calmest, most blessed, most joyful moments in my life. I think this is what Sibbes expresses when he speaks of humility as a kind of dependence that “goes out of itself” to Christ.
It is sweet indeed, but not something I seem able to manufacture myself. These moments seem to come only at times of deep sadness – times that I would gladly have avoided had I been given the opportunity to do so.
As Paul says, “…it has been granted to you [as a precious gift] on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him…” (Philippians 1:29).
I’m so grateful to God for the precious gift of being bruised. There is an otherwise unreachable, unteachable sweetness in it.