Izzak Walton said of this prince of Puritan preachers: "of this blest man, let this just praise be given: Heaven was in him before he was in heaven." Another wrote "No man that ever I was acquainted withal got so far into my heart or lay so close therein." Sibbes was a practical preacher, a true Doctor of Souls, and multitudes gathered to hear him open the Word of Life. His most familiar works, The Soul's Conflict and The Bruised Reed, were instrumental in the salvation and sanctification of many, including Puritan leaders such as John Cotton and Richard Baxter.
The following selections are taken from Sibbes' Divine Mediations, a collection of brief reflections on the Christian life.
* Glory follows afflictions, not as the day follows the night but as the spring follows the winter; for the winter prepares the earth for the spring, so do afflictions sanctified prepare the soul for glory.
* There is no true Christian but has a public spirit to seek the good of others, because as soon as he is a Christian he labours for self-denial. He knows he must give up himself and all to God, so that his spirit is enlarged in an increasing measure unto God and towards the church. Therefore the greater portion a man has of the Spirit of Christ the more he seeks the good of all men.
* Our happiness consists in due subordination and conformity to Christ, and therefore let us labour 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."
* To walk by faith is to be active in our walking, not to do as we like, but it is an acting by rule. Since the fall we have lost our hold of God, and we must be brought again to God by the same way we fell from.
We fell by infidelity, and we must be brought again by faith, and lead our lives upon such grounds as faith affords. We must walk by faith, looking upon God's promise and God's call and God's commandments, and not live by opinion, example nor reason.
* A sincere heart that is burdened with sin, desires not heaven so much as the place where he shall be free from sin, but to have the image of God and Christ perfected in his soul; and therefore a sincere spirit comes to hear the Word, not so much because an eloquent man preaches as to hear divine truths, because the evidence of the Spirit goes with it to work those graces. You cannot still a child with anything but the breast, so you cannot satisfy the desires of a Christian but with divine truths. "The desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee" (Isaiah 26:8).
* Poverty of spirit should accompany us all our life long to let us see that we have no righteousness nor strength of our own for sanctification; that all the grace we have is out of ourselves, even for the performance of every holy duty; for though we have grace, yet we cannot bring that grace into act without new grace, even as there is a fitness in trees to bear fruit, but without the influence of heaven they cannot be fruitful. That which oftentimes makes us miscarry in the duties of our callings is this, we think we have strength and wisdom sufficient, and then what is begun in self-confidence is ended in shame.
We set about duties in our own pride and strength of parts and find no better success; therefore it is always a good sign that God will bless our endeavours, when out of a deep sense of our own weakness, we in prayers and supplications like our Lord also water our business with strong crying and tears: "Who in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared" (Heb. 5:7).
* The bitterest things in religion are sweet -- there is a sweetness even in reproofs, when God meets with our corruptions and whispers unto us such and such things are dangerous, and that if we cherish them they will bring us to hell. The Word of God is sweet to a Christian that has his heart under its influence. Is not pardon sweet to a condemned man, and riches sweet to a poor man, and favour sweet to a man in disgrace, and liberty sweet to a man in captivity? So all that comes from God is sweet to a Christian that has his heart touched with the sense of sin.