Sibbes, Richard. Works of Richard Sibbes Volume 1. Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2001. 550 pp. $27.00. You can purchase Volume 2 at The Banner of Truth for $24.30. You can purchase the complete set of 7 volumes for $162.00 at Westminster Books or for a mere $10.00 on Kindle.
I have reviewed a few other titles by Richard Sibbes (read those here and am currently working through the 7-volume set of the Works of Richard Sibbes.
Sibbes was appointed a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. Later, through the influence of friends, he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray’s Inn, London, and he remained there until 1626. In that year he returned to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine’s Hall, and later returned to Holy Trinity, this time as its vicar. He was granted a Doctorate in Divinity in 1627, and was thereafter frequently referred to as ‘the heavenly Doctor Sibbes’. He continued to exercise his ministry at Gray’s Inn, London, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, until his death on 6 July 1635 at the age of 58.
There are only five books included in this particular volume. They are Bowels Opened (Sermons on the Song of Solomon 4-6), The Spouse’s Earnest Desire After Christ, A Breathing After God, The Returning Backslider (a commentary on Hosea 14) and the Glorious Feast of the Gospel.
As with most writers and pastors of the Puritan age, I believe they go to far with their allegorical understanding of the Song of Solomon, but the practical aspects and conclusions are extremely helpful. Specifically due to the modern-day relaxing of the view of the church.
For most Puritans, the Song of Solomon was meant to be read as a description of Christ and His relationship with the church. While that may be true today, it certainly was not the authorial intent of Solomon when he wrote it. Regardless, Sibbes makes some most comforting claims for the comfort of the believer throughout his sermons on these four chapters of Scripture. For example, God makes us good and stirs up within us holy desires.
His second book in this volume is a short look at the second verse of the first chapter of Song of Solomon and offers a treatise on the Christian’s need to earnestly desire after Christ.
The third book is an exposition on Psalm 27:4: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” Being the great surgeon he is, Sibbes offers an in depth look at how our every living moment ought to be consumed with Christ. He states that Christ is the object of the Christian’s desire and that we ought to be continually in prayer if we are to persevere in our desires.
In a poignant, and perhaps much needed look at Hosea 14, Sibbes looks at the way in which a backslider should return to the faith and also how we, as believers, ought to receive them. Perhaps Sibbes offers us a different perspective on Hosea, but one thing I know, is that this particular book of the Bible is a bomb waiting to go off in many churches and Christian lives due to its portrayal of radical grace.
The final book in this second volume looks at the Gospel and is an exposition of Isaiah 25:6-9. Of all of the books I have stated that the church needs today, it may be this book in this volume that is most needed. To understand just what a feast this gospel message truly is cannot be overstated. In just under 100 pages, Sibbes draws the reader into the beauty of the gospel and helps us to see how we have been starving ourselves with the modern gospel presentations and offering we regularly serve up to others.
In all honesty, I approached this volume as being one of the weaker volumes in the whole set. Turned out, I could not have been more wrong. Though I disagree with his understanding of Song of Solomon, I found his application to be appropriate. His look at Hosea 14 is a sweet balm for those weary souls looking to return to Christ. Christian, you should read that in order to be better equipped to minister to those who are hurting.
The final book, however, is most needed. We need to know what the gospel is (ALERT! Most Christians can’t articulate it!) and know that it is the greatest offering we can give to anyone in the world today.
I do recommend this volume by itself if you are struggling with your affections for Christ or need to meditate on the necessity of the gospel. Ultimately, Richard Sibbes has never failed to offer me help and hope through his exposition of the Word of God.