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Help from Richard Sibbes

Posted by Stephen Witmer on January 3rd, 2018

I’ve recently been feeding on truth from the good Richard Sibbes (1577 – 1635), known to his contemporaries as ‘the sweet dropper’ because of the encouraging gospel flavor of his teaching. Sibbes says something in his famous work The Bruised Reed that I think applies to small churches in small places. We often think of smallness as a disadvantage – we don’t have the resources, energy, connections, education, or budget of the big urban/suburban churches.

But might our smallness rather be an advantage? Might it actually incline Christ toward us? And might it show us more clearly our inadequacies and so persuade us of our need for Christ?

This seems to be the direction Sibbes inclines:

‘As a mother is tenderest to the most diseased and weakest child, so does Christ most mercifully incline to the weakest. Likewise he puts an instinct into the weakest things to rely upon something stronger than themselves for support. The vine stays itself upon the elm, and the weakest creatures often have the strongest shelters. The consciousness of the church’s weakness makes her willing to lean on her beloved, and to hide herself under his wing.’ 

Weakness doesn’t necessarily incline us to the strength of another. But it might. And if it does, weakness and smallness will be ultimately no disadvantage, but will lead to great, eternal gain.