The Love of Christ
Banner of Truth Trust
Star Rating: 4
This is a welcome addition to Banner’s ‘Puritan Paperback’ series. It consists of a famous series of 20 sermons on Song of Songs preached by Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). This is not an abridgement, but a reprint of the Nicol (1862) edition found in his Works, (also published by Banner). Which leads to the question- is it necessary to review and commend Sibbes? Sadly, yes it is. Indeed, it is to be greatly feared that few will read this book. How low we have fallen in just a few years!
Sibbes interprets the Song as a love-song between Christ and his Church. This view, held by Luther and the Puritans, but now much discounted, is defended in the modern foreword. The present writer is happy with this interpretation- Eph. 5:27 alludes to Song 4:7.
The problem with all expositions of the Song is the temptation to allegorise. Sibbes, though aware of this danger, nevertheless succumbs on occasion. The main problem with his method though, is that he interprets thus (p.4)- ‘As the whole Church is the spouse of Christ, so is every particular Christian.’ Following this line- re-interpreting the Song as between Christ and the Christian, not the Church- leads at best to a cloying sentimentality and at worst to soul-destroying mysticism- but Sibbes avoids this.
However, must we say that he is preaching the right truth from the wrong text? Yes, to some extent. Yet there is so much here of immense value to individual Christians about fellowship with Christ. Moreover, Sibbes backs his arguments with countless other texts, rightly applied. Indeed, this is such wise teaching that much which is applied here to Christians individually can be applied to a church.
More: there is much here that, if all Christians embraced it, the church would be transformed. For Sibbes writes transforming truth. Who writes like this of the causes and effects on spiritual sleep (Sermon 3) or the beauties of Christ (over 50 pages from p. 254)? He reminds us how much Christ loves his church, and desires fellowship with it. “Christ hath never enough of his church, till he hath it in heaven” (p.121). If all our doctrine does not lead to the experience of this, it is useless. Christ knocks at the door of his church. How dare we drive him away by our worldliness and self-centredness. O that our churches would love Christ and delight in his love as this book exhorts!
If you find the Song a puzzle; or you think the Puritans will be dry and dull- buy this book and start here! Whoever you are- buy and meditate on this book.
(over 400 words, but I found it impossible to say all I felt necessary in less)