I think Martin Lloyd Jones’ endorsement of The Bruised Reed is a good place to start:
I shall never cease to be grateful to…Richard Sibbs who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil…I found at that time that Richard Sibbes who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as ‘The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ was an unfailing remedy.
There are many reasons why we may feel like this: our struggle with sin is finding little or no progress, we are overwhelmed by the remaining corruption in our hearts, we have been blindsided by devestating circumstances, we have entered into a perpetual state of doubt regarding the reality of our salvation, or a combination of all the above. Many of us can attest that we have often felt like a bruised reed.
The good news that Sibbes labors to provide his readers in this wonderful little book is that truth found in Isaiah 42:3: Jesus will not break the bruised reed, nor will he extinguish a dimly burning wick. On the contrary, Christ cherishes the least amount of grace in a believer’s heart and seeks to fan it into flame. Sibbes realizes that we are, like the author of Hebrews reminds us, “in need of endurance” (Hebrews 10:36), especially in times when we feel only steps away from foregoing the battle altogether. In order to provide us with the strength to persevere, Sibbes gives hopeful counsel. Although there is much excellent material throughout this book, for the sake of space I will mention only a few.
1. First, we need to remember that bruising is absolutely essential. “This bruising is required before conversion that so that 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” (4). It is also essential after conversion, “After conversion we need bruising so that reeds may know themselves to be reeds, and not oaks” (5). There is good reason for why Christ, in his wisdom, bruises us. One primary reason is so that we might be humbled and brought off of relying upon ourselves. Sibbes later explains, “Hence proceed those spiritual desertions in which he often leaves us to ourselves, in regard to both grace and comfort, that we may know the spring head of these to be outside ourselves” (115). Christ bruises us in order to show us, mercifully, that we are fully dependent upon Him.
2. Christ may allow us to be conquered by sin in order to help us have victory over other, more serious sins. Sibbes explains, “A Christian conquers, even when he is conquered. When he is conquered by some sins, he gets victory over others more dangerous, such as spiritual pride and security” (95).
3. In order to keep from endless despair, we must treasure the least amount of grace we find in our hearts. Sibbes again, “Since there is such comfort where there is a little truth of grace…let us often try what God has wrought in us, search our good as well as our ill, and be thankful to God for the least measure of grace…” (124). In other words, morbid introspection that sees only sin and not the grace that God has worked in our hearts (however small) is not wise or healthy. We must, in order to persevere, be able to see and thank God for any true grace we find in our hearts.
4. Finally, always remember that faith will prevail. Sibbes closes, “The Lord reveal himself more and more to use in the face of his Son Jesus Christ and magnify the power of his grace in cherishing those beginnings of grace in the midst of our corruptions, and sanctify the consideration of our own infirmities to humble us, and his tender mercy to encourage us…And may he grant that the prevailing power of His Spirit in us should be an evidence of the truth of grace begun, and a pledge of final victory, at that time when He will be all in all, for all eternity. Amen” (128).
As I stated above, there is much, much more. And I heartily recommend this book to those who are currently feeling bruised and battered and who need great encouragement. Let Sibbes be a means of grace and comfort to your weary soul.