True confessions: I am currently reading four books. At the same time. I mean, not literally at the same time because, well, that would be impossible. But you know what I mean.
In other words, I have a problem. My name is Lisa and I read too many books. All at once.
So when I saw that The Bruised Reed was Challies’ current selection for his Reading The Classics Together series, I was torn. I read Richard Sibbes’ book a few years ago and since it was one of my very first introductions to the Puritan theologians I really need to read it again. I really want to read it again. Can I add one more book to the “currently reading” list? Five books? Is that crazy or what?
I don’t know how consistent I will be, but I’m going to try. Because The Bruised Reed is good. Because reading The Bruised Reed will be good for me. Because I learn so much from reading Challies’ reflections on the classics as well as the thoughts of the other participants.
The Bruised Reed, as may be obvious, is Sibbes’ exploration of Matthew 12:18-20 (in which Matthew quotes Isaiah 42). In fulfillment of these verses, Christ accomplished the work of redemption with gentle grace and mercy: “A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not quench.”
In defining what it means to be a “bruised reed,” Sibbes says the following:
A bruised reed is a man that for the most part is in some misery, as those were that came to Christ for help, and by misery he is brought to see sin as the cause of it, for, whatever pretences sin makes, they come to an end when we are bruised and broken. He is sensible of sin and misery, even unto bruising; and, seeing no help in himself, is carried with restless desire to have supply from another, with some hope, which a little raises him out of himself to Christ, though he dare not claim any present interest of mercy.
This kind of bruising comes before conversion “so that the Spirit may make way for himself into the heart by levelling all proud, high thoughts, and that we may understand oursleves to be what indeed we are by nature.” Yet bruising may also come to believers by sovereign design so that we may “know [ourselves] to be reeds, and not oaks. Even reeds need bruising, by reason of the remainder of pride in our nature, and to let us see we live by mercy.”
The kind of bruising Sibbes is describing is not a fun process but I am so grateful for those things the Lord has brought into my life that have reminded me of my own weakness and sinfulness. It’s not easy to see those things in me. It hurts. It humiliates. It’s often embarrassing and painful. In those moments I know I live by mercy. I know it is Christ and Christ alone that is my hope and my salvation and I can be glad. I can marvel all over again at His grace toward someone like me and I can place my faith in the power of the gospel to save sinners.
Sibbes concludes the chapter by saying “It is no easy matter to bring a man from nature to grace, and from grace to glory, so unyielding and intractable are our hearts.” Yes, indeed. Unyielding and intractable is my heart, stubborn and rebellious, wicked and depraved, yet His grace to me is not without effect, glory to His name!