Richard Sibbes


Anglican Theologian, Biblical Exegete, Representative, with William Perkins and John Preston, of what has been called "main-line" Puritanism

Author Quotes

It is the peculiar wisdom of a Christian to pick arguments out of his worst condition to make him thankful; and if he be thankful he will be joyful; and so long as he is joyful he cannot be miserable, but happy.

Our happiness consists in due subordination and conformity to Christ, and therefore let us labor to carry ourselves as He did to His Father, to His friends, to His enemies. In the days of His flesh He prayed whole nights to His Father. How holy and heavenly-minded was He, that took occasion from vines, stones and sheep to be heavenly-minded, and when He rose from the dead His talk was only of things concerning the kingdom of God, in His converse to His friends. He would not quench the smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed; He did not cast Peter in the teeth with his denial, He was of a winning and gaining disposition to all; for His conduct to His enemies, He did not call for fire from heaven to destroy them but shed many tears for them that shed His blood. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" (Matt. 23:37), and upon the cross, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34). So that if we will be minded like unto Christ, consider how He carried Himself to His Father, to His friends, to His enemies, yea to the devil himself. When He comes to us in wife, children; friends, etc. we must do as Christ did, say to Satan, "Get thee hence," and when we deal with those that have the spirit of the devil in them, we must not render reproach, but answer them, "It is written."

That is spiritual knowledge which alters the relish of the soul; for we must know there is a bitter opposition in our nature against all saving truths; especially, there is a contrariety between our nature and that doctrine which teaches us we must deny ourselves and be saved by another. The soul must relish before it can digest.

The Word from the mouth of God is more ancient than the Scripture, for the first word of Scripture was the promise, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:15). The Scripture is but the mode, the manner of conveying the Word of God. This Scripture is the rule whereby we must walk and the judge also of all controversies of religion, and in spite of the church of Rome it will judge them. Augustine has an excellent remark; When there is contention betwixt brethren, witnesses are brought, but in the end, the words, the will of the dead man is brought forth, and these words determine. Now shall the words of a dead man be of force, and shall not the word of Christ determine? Therefore look to the Scripture.

This bruising is required before conversion that so the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by levelling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand ourselves to be what indeed we are by nature. We love to wander from ourselves and to be strangers at home, till God bruises us by one cross or other, and then we `begin to think', and come home to ourselves with the prodigal (Luke 15:17). It is a very hard thing to bring a dull and an evasive heart to cry with feeling for mercy. Our hearts, like criminals, until they be beaten from all evasions, never cry for the mercy of the judge.

True freedom is when the heart is enlarged and made subordinate to God. A man is then is a sweet frame of soul when his heart is made subject to God, and drawn out towards Him, for He having all grace sets it at liberty. God will have us make His glory our aim that He may bestow Himself upon us. True zeal and holy diligence therefore are usually attended with the joys of faith.

Whatsoever God takes away from His children, He either supplies it with a much greater favor or else with strength to bear it; God gives charge to others to take care of the fatherless and widow and will He neglect them Himself?

When we love things baser than ourselves it is like a clear stream that runs into a sink. As our love therefore is the best thing we have, and none deserves it more than God, so let Him have our love, yea the strength of our love, that we may love Him with all our souls and with all our mind and with all our strength.

It is the policy of the devil to labor to make us slight the gracious work of conviction, for he knows that whatsoever is built upon a false foundation will come to nothing, and therefore he makes us slight the work of self-examination and searching ourselves; but slight this and slight all, for if you are careless in searching and examining yourself, you will also be partial in your repentance and obedience.

Our whole life under the Gospel should be nothing but thankfulness and fruitfulness. But oh! take heed therefore of turning the grace of God into wantonness. The honor, grace and authority of the Gospel all require that we should deny all ungodliness, and worldly lust, and live righteously, and soberly, and godly in the present world. Therefore, when we find ourselves tempted to act otherwise, instantly we should think - oh! this is not the life of a Christian under the gospel.

That man has made good progress in religion that has high esteem of the ordinances of God, and though perhaps he may find himself dead and dull, yet the best things have left such a taste and relish in his soul that he cannot be long without them.

The Word of God dwells in our hearts when it rules in the soul, when it directs our thoughts, affections and conversations, so that we dare not do anything contrary thereunto. but we shall be checked. Who shall get out that which God's finger has written in our hearts? No fire nor faggot, no temptation whatever.

This is a common rule, that we cannot converse with company that are not spiritual, but if they vex us not they will taint us, unless we are put upon them in our callings; we should therefore make special choice of our company, and walk in continual watchfulness.

Watchfulness is an exercise of all the graces of the Spirit, and these are given to keep our souls awake. We have enemies about us that are never asleep, and our worst enemy is within us, and so much the worse because so near. We live also in a world full of temptations, and wicked men are full of malice; we are passing through our enemy's country and therefore have need to be ever vigilant. The devil also watches us to spoil every good action, therefore we have need to pray always and watch that all our graces be in perpetual exercise. We should constantly watch with a fear of jealousy, taking heed of a spirit of drowsiness and laboring also to keep ourselves unspotted from such a defiling world.

Whatsoever is good for God's children they shall have it, for all is theirs to further them to heaven; therefore, if poverty be good, they shall have it; if disgrace be good, they shall have it; if crosses be good, they shall have them; if misery be good, they shall have it; for all is ours, to serve for our greatest good.

When we pray God oftentimes refuses to give us comfort because we are not on good terms with Him; therefore we should still look back to our past life. Perhaps God sees you running to this or that sin, and before He will hear you, you must renew your repentance for that sin, for our nature is such that it will knock at every door and seek every corner before we will come to God? so that God will not hear before we forsake all helps and all false dependence upon the creature, and then He gets the greatest glory and we have the greatest sweetness to our souls. That water which comes from the fountain is the sweetest, and so divine comfort is the sweetest when we see nothing in the creature, and God is the best discerner of the fittest time to bestow His own consolations.

It may be asked, how shall we know the Scriptures to be the Word of God? For answer, grant first, that there is a God, it will follow then that He must be worshipped and served, and that this service must be discovered to us, that we may know what He requires; and then let it be considered what Word of God can be different from this. Besides, God has blessed the superstition of the Jews (who were very strict to every letter) to preserve it for us; and the heretics, since the primitive church, have so observed one another that there can be no other than this Word. But we must further know that we must have something in our souls suitable to the truths contained in it before we can truly and savingly believe it to be the Word of God, so that we find it has a power in working upon our hearts and affections: "Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?" (Luke 24:32). Again, it has a divine operation to warm and pacify the soul, and power to make a I Felix tremble; it has a searching quality to divide between the marrow and the bone. We do not therefore only believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God because any man says so, or because the church says so, but also and principally, because we find it by experience working the same effects in us, that it speaks of itself. Therefore let us never rest till when we hear a promise, we may find something in us by the sanctifying Spirit that may be suitable to it, and so assuring us, that it is this Word alone that informs us of the good pleasure of God to us and of our duty towards Him.

Partial obedience is not obedience at all; to single out easy things that do not oppose our lusts, which are not against our reputation, therein some will do more than they need; but our obedience must be universal to all God's commandments, and that because He commands it. Empty relationships are nothing; if we profess ourselves God's servants and do not honor Him by our obedience, we take but an empty title. Let us seek grace to make our professed relationship good, at least in our affections, that we may be able to say, I desire to fear Thy Name; yea with my spirit within me will I seek thee early (Isaiah 26: 8-9).

That we may be convinced of sin, the Spirit must work a clear and commanding demonstration of our condition by nature. He takes away therefore all excuses, turnings "and windings; even as when we see the sun shine we know it is day. The Spirit not only convinces us in general that we are sinners, but in particular and that strongly, "Thou art the man." This conviction is also universal, of sins of nature, of sins of life; sins of the understanding, of the will and of the affections; of the misery of sin, of the danger of sin, of the folly and madness of sin; of sins against so many motives, so many favors. Proud nature arms itself with excuses, ready evasions, many mitigations. It is necessary therefore that the Holy Ghost should join with men's consciences to make them confess, "I am the man."

There are four things observable in the nature of love; first, an esteem of the party beloved, secondly a desire to be joined to him, thirdly a settled contentment, fourthly a desire to please the party in all things.

This life is a life of faith, for God will try the truth of our faith, so that the world may see that God has such servants as will depend upon His bare word; it were nothing to be a Christian if we should see all here; but God will have His children to live by faith, and take the promise upon His word.

We glorify God when we exalt Him in our souls above all creatures in the world, when we give Him the highest places in our love and in our joy, when all our affections are set upon Him as our greatest good. This is seen also by opposition, when we will not offend God for any creature; when we can ask our affections, "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" (Psalm 73:25).

Whatsoever is good in a natural man is depraved by a self-end; self-love rules all his actions. He keeps within himself and makes his chief end himself, and he is a god to himself. God is but his idol. This is true of all natural men in this world; they make themselves their last end, and where the end is depraved, the whole course is corrupted.

When we receive any good to our souls or to our bodies, whoever is the instrument, let us look to the Principal; as in the gifts we receive, we look not to him that brings but to him who sent them.

It were a thousand times better for many persons to be cast on a bed of sickness and to be God's prisoners, than so scandalously to abuse the health that they have had continued so long.

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Anglican Theologian, Biblical Exegete, Representative, with William Perkins and John Preston, of what has been called "main-line" Puritanism