Subscribe now

Review

The Works of Richard Sibbes (ed. by Alexander B. Grosart)

By Richard Sibbes
April 2008 | Review by Michael Haykin

Synopsis

This reprinting of the complete seven-volume set of the writings of 'the heavenly Doctor Sibbes' is a notable event for all who have an appetite for helpful and faithful biblical preaching in the Puritan mould.

  • Publisher: Banner of Truth
  • ISBN: 978-0851513980
  • Pages: 7 volumes
  • Price: £721.99

Book Review

Among the most remarkable of the early Puritan leaders was Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), who stands in a line of Puritanism which had a deep interest in pneumatology and piety – running from the Elizabethan preacher Richard Greenham (d.1594) and including men like Thomas Goodwin (d.1680), John Owen (d.1683), and John Howe (d.1705).

For this reason alone – in a Christian world fascinated by both these topics – the reprinting of the complete works of Sibbes is deserving of this late review. The Puritans have much to teach us about these subjects, and Sibbes’ A fountain sealed based on Ephesians 4:30 is probably his most important pneumatological writing (Works, 5:409-456).

Of course, there is more to Sibbes than pneumatology and piety. Like other Puritan pastors, he was an expository preacher, as these volumes demonstrate (see, for instance, vols. 3 and 4 which contain expositions from 2 Corinthians).

Anyone familiar with the contemporary evangelical scene knows that the issue of what kind of pulpit ministry our churches need is very much alive. We can well learn from Puritans like Sibbes that the ongoing exposition of the Word of God, book by book, is essential for a healthy church.

But Puritan preachers could also preach ‘one-off’ sermons and Sibbes is no exception. Volume 7, which contains a good number of such sermons, reveals a Christian preacher who, in C. H. Spurgeon’s apt words, ‘never wastes the student’s time; he scatters pearls and diamonds with both hands’.

Here is one pearl this student found in one of Sibbes’ lesser-known works – Christ’s exaltation purchased by humiliation, published posthumously in 1639, which consists of three sermons on Romans 14:9 relating to the Lord’s Supper.

‘[The word] is the sceptre of [Christ’s] kingdom whereby he rules. The sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper] is the seal of the word. Therefore all good subjects, that submit themselves to the kingdom of Christ, must submit themselves to this sweet ordinance of Christ, that he hath ordained for our good, the word and the sacraments’ (Works, 5:335).

Although, as a Baptist, I disagree with Sibbes on baptism (Sibbes was a paedo-baptist) nevertheless there is rich food here for thought. In the ordinances of baptism (understood as believer’s baptism) and the Lord’s Supper, Christ rules his people. And for me to claim Christ as Lord and King, I must sit under the Word, be baptised, and regularly partake of the Lord’s table. Thereby I show myself to be a loyal subject of King Jesus, and so he seals to me his precious Word.

Book Reviews

Read our latest book reviews

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
The Christian and Technology
John V. Fesko

Even the most hardened Luddite will find himself using a satnav, mobile phone, or email on occasion. But John Fesko urges us not to reach for the latest gadget without thinking carefully about how it might shape our minds, relationships,…

See all book reviews
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Christ Victorious: Selected Writings of Hugh Martin
Hugh Martin

Hugh Martin (1822–1885) was one of those 19th century Scottish theologians whose published works have stood the test of time. With good reason, for his works are consistently sound, reverent, edifying, and challenging to mind and heart. This is a…

Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
God’s design for women in an age of gender confusion
Sharon James

Is our belief in male headship culturally outdated, and should we see alternative ideas of marriage as ‘progress’? Is it possible to be born into the wrong body, and is sexual freedom good for women? Does Scripture show us a…

Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Star RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar RatingStar Rating
Sexuality and Identity (trilogy)
Owen Strachan

These three punchy books address pressing issues: what the Bible teaches about lust (on desire), about homosexuality (on Biblical sexuality) and about transgenderism (on identity). The trilogy approach keeps each book short and focused while dovetailing effectively. Each book has…