Sibbe’s style of expressing his theology – his preaching and the theology itself – are typical of the period.  His sermons are a paradigm of the practical divinity that so distinguished the English church at the time.  Even during his life, Sibbes was recognized as an eminent practical preacher.  In 1634, Samuel Hartlib referred to Sibbes as “one of the most experimental [that is, experiential – RZ] divines now living.”  Rarely polemical (with the exception of occasional attacks on Roman Pelagianism), his preaching was distinguished by its pacific tone, more concerned with comfort than controversy.  In the epistle “To the Reader” prefacing Sibbes’s The Glorious Feast of the Gospel, Arthur Jackson, James Nalton, and William Taylor wrote:

Alas!  Christians have lost much of their communion with Christ and His saints – the heaven upon earth – whilst they have wofully disputed away and dispirited the life of religion and the power of godliness into dry and sapless controversies about government of church and state.  To recover, therefore, thy spiritual relish of savory practical truths, these sermons of that excellent man of God, of precious memory, are published.

Later historians have realized Sibbes’s ability as a preacher.  William Haller has described Sibbes’s sermons as “among the most brilliant and popular of all the utterances of the Puritan church militant.”  Norman Pettit suggested that Sibbes had “the richest imagination of all.  Indeed, Sibbes was unique among spiritual preachers, perhaps the most original of his time.”  Yet, if his ability and success were singular, his theology and aims were not.

From: Richard Sibbes: Puritanism and Calvinism in Late Elizabethan and Early Stuart England by Mark Dever (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2000), pp. 1-2.

Mark Dever is Pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC.

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