The Bruised Reed: Richard Sibbes

19 Mar

The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes

A fantastic book, discussing Isaiah 42:3. Sibbes succeeds in showing those who are struggling with either suffering or sin.

Strengths are pointing to Christ as the only way to free is from these things, application of truth to our lives and updated language for modern readers.

(click “Read the rest of this entry” for a longer review).

The Argument of the Book

Sibbes book is an exposition of Isaiah 42:3. His argument has really two stages. Firstly, he argues that Jesus cares for those who are weak, either weakened by suffering or weakened by the presence of sin in their life. Secondly, he argues that when the verse states “bring forth justice” it means bring forth the kingdom of God and is a promise that this kingdom will be established in our hearts.

Primary Audience & Purpose

This is a Puritan book written originally for people from the 17th Century. From what I can tell it was originally a sermon or a series of sermons. Sibbes is primarily concerned with “Bruised Reeds” that is people who are falling down in their faith (whether that faith be Christianity or a nominally Christian faith) either because of suffering or because of the realisation of sin in their hearts. His purpose is to point such people to Christ who alone is sufficient to deal with these problems and turn them from Satan’s lies that tell them they can’t be saved. He also cautions other groups, particularly those who may be harsh to Bruised Reeds. As one who started this book a Bruised Reed (unassured of my salvation) and left the first chapter joyfully accepting that Jesus had the power to save me and would do so, I would say Sibbes definitely succeeded in his goal.

Literary Features of the Book

The book has taken out all of the “Ye Olde” English from the original (taking out “Thees” and “Thous” and changing sentence structure when necessary). I have never read the original so I don’t know whether there were any major changes, but I suspect with Banner of Truth this wasn’t the case. I found it quite easy to read but my girlfriend didn’t. She reads this type of literature less than me so it may be that this isn’t perfect for the beginner. However, this was only the second Puritan book I’d read after Kapic and Taylor’s translation of John Owen’s “Overcoming Sin and Temptation” and I found it much easier to read. I would recommend this as a good place to start reading Puritans (for a good plan see here).

As with all the Puritans Sibbes emphasises changing the Christian’s personal walk with God. He is also very caring and loving towards sinners, giving a good pastoral example. Unfortunately I can’t tell you much about the features of the edition since I haven’t got it with me. I’m pretty certain it doesn’t have a Scripture or Topic Index. The font is quite large, the chapters and book as a whole are quite small so it is quite easy to get through this book, again making a good starting point for beginners in this type of literature. Overall well written originally by Sibbes and well updated by Banner of Truth.

Is it Biblical?

At first I questioned whether “he will faithfully bring forth justice” was an internal working of the kingdom rather than an external one (i.e. Jesus ruling the world), but I think that Sibbes is right. I made the same mistake as the Jews in assuming Jesus’ kingdom is first national. While this will happen, Jesus makes clear his kingdom starts in the hearts of believers. Therefore, I think he’s right. As with all Puritans however he talks little about the context and focuses singularly on one verse. This has it’s advantages and disadvantages. However, over all I think the exegesis (limited as it is to one verse) is sound.

Does it Apply Truth?

This is the great benefit of the Puritans. Often we get silly applications that make little sense. Sibbes whole book is about applying this one verse to our lives. How does this apply to a non-Christian? How does this apply to the sinner? How can I use this verse to thwart the attacks of Satan? How can I see Christ more clearly through this verse? Sibbes is not the kind of guy who gives a paragraph of application at the end of 40 pages of exegesis, he truly cares how the Word affects people’s lives. If you have read 100 books on assurance of salvation and feel only more knowledgeable and not any more assured, this is the book to read.

Is it Christ centred?

Gloriously yes. Sibbes starts and finishes with Christ. When we look at our sin, Sibbes says “But look at Christ”. A fantastically Christ centred book. (Buy it UK)


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