Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Book Review: The Soul's Conflict Within Itself

The Soul's Conflict with Itself and Victory Over Itself By Faith. Richard Sibbes. 1635. 328 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence from the introduction:
There be two sorts of people always in the visible Church; one that Satan keeps under with false peace, whose life is nothing but a diversion to present contentments, and a running away from God and their own hearts, which they know can speak no good unto them, these speak peace to themselves, but God speaks none. Such have nothing to do with this scripture; the way for these men to enjoy comfort, is to be soundly troubled. True peace arises from knowing the worst first, and then our freedom from it. It is a miserable peace that ariseth from ignorance of evil. The angel troubled the waters, John 5, and then cured those that stepped in. It is Christ's manner to trouble our souls first, and then to come with healing in his wings. But there is another sort of people, who being drawn out of Satan's kingdom and within the covenant of grace, whom Satan labors to unsettle and disquiet: being the god of the world, he is vexed to see men in the world, walk above the world. Since he cannot hinder their estate, he will trouble their peace, and damp their spirits, and cut asunder the sinew of all their endeavors. These should take themselves to task as David doth here, and labour to maintain their portion, and the glory of a Christian profession.
First sentence from chapter one: The Psalms are, as it were, the anatomy of a holy man, which lay inside of a truly devout man outward to the view of others. If the Scriptures be compared to a body, the Psalms may well be the heart, they are so full of sweet affections, and passions. For in other portions of Scripture God speaks to us; but in the Psalms holy men speak to God as in their own hearts. 

Premise/plot: The Soul's Conflict with Itself and Victory Over Itself by Faith is a collection of sermons by Richard Sibbes largely about David's psalm 42. The subject is in some ways simple and practical: how is a Christian to live and walk in this life in order to best prepare for the next; OR: how does Christian sanctification come about?!?! No doubt the Christian continues to struggle with sin, but how does the Christian handle sin in his or her life?!?! The subject is in some ways complex and quite theological. It is one thing to grasp intellectually certain doctrines and principles. It is quite another to live out the faith and "work out your salvation."

My thoughts: This one is PACKED with rich, insightful truths. It is a substantive, meaty read. But I found it to be well worth the effort. Some of the sentences were long--I won't lie. And the style itself is not modern or contemporary. Richard Sibbes was a Puritan who lived 1577-1635. This one wasn't just "good" it was FANTASTIC and WONDERFUL. The truths proclaimed within this one need to be heard, read, ABSORBED. Sibbes is still relevant because the Christian struggles are the same no matter the century.
1. To consider the greatness and goodness of Almighty God and his love to us in Christ. 2. The joys of heaven and the torments of hell. 3. The last and strict day of account. 4. The vanity of all earthly things. 5. The uncertainty of our lives, etc. From the meditation of these truths the soul will be prepared to have right conceits of things, and discourse upon true grounds of them, and think with itself that if these things be so indeed, then I must frame my life suitable to these principles. Hence arise true affections in the soul, true fear of God, true love and desire after the best things, etc.
The way to expel wind out of our bodies is to take some wholesome nourishment, and the way to expel windy fancies from the soul is to feed upon serious truths.
In Christ, God’s nature becomes lovely to us, and ours to God; otherwise there is an utter enmity betwixt his pure and our impure nature. Christ hath made up the vast gulf between God and us.
God is the cause why things are not, as well as why they are.
Nothing should displease us that pleaseth God: neither should anything be pleasing to us that displeaseth him. This conformity is the ground of comfort.
That we should not call God’s love into question, he not only gives us, (1) his word, but a binding word, his promise; and not only (2) a naked promise, but hath (3) entered into a covenant with us, founded upon full satisfaction by the blood of Christ, and unto this covenant sealed by the blood of the Lord Jesus, he hath (4) added the seals of sacraments, and unto this he hath added (5) his oath, that there might be no place left of doubting to the distrustful heart of man.
By the bare word of God it is that the heavens continue, and the earth, without any other foundation, hangs in the midst of the world; therefore well may the soul stay itself on that, even when it hath nothing else in sight to rely upon.
All our misery is either in having a false foundation, or else in loose building upon a true.
Trust is never sound but upon a spiritual conviction of the truth and goodness we rely upon, for the effecting of which the Spirit of God must likewise subdue the rebellion and malice of our trill, that so it may be suitable and level to divine things, and relish them as they are. We must apprehend the love of God, and the fruits of it, as better than life itself, and then choosing and cleaving to the same will soon follow; for as there is a fitness in divine truths to all the necessities of the soul, so the soul must be fitted by them to savour and apply them to itself; and then from an harmony between the soul and that which it applies itself unto there will follow, not only peace in the soul, but joy and delight surpassing any contentment in the world besides.
Our trusting in God should follow God’s order in promising. The first promise is of forgiveness of sin to repentant believers; next, 2, of healing and sanctifying grace; then, 3, the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven to them that are sanctified; 4, and then the promises of all things needful in our way to the kingdom, etc.
Faith is an establishing grace, by faith we stand, and stand fast, and are able to withstand whatsoever opposeth us. For what can stand against God, upon whose truth and power faith relies?
Conceive of God’s mercy as no ordinary mercy, and Christ’s obedience as no ordinary obedience. 
Corruptions be strong, but stronger is be that is in us than that corruption that is in us. When we are weak in our own sense, then are we strong in him who perfecteth strength in our weakness, felt and acknowledged. 
In all kind of troubles, it is not the ingredients that God puts into the cup so much afflicts us, as the ingredients of our distempered passions mingled with them.
But the greatest trial of trust is in our last encounter with death, wherein we shall find not only a deprivation of all comforts in this life, but a confluence of all ill at once; but we must know, God will be the God of his unto death, and not only unto death, but in death. We may trust God the Father with our bodies and souls which he hath created; and God the Son with the bodies and souls which he hath redeemed; and the Holy Spirit with those bodies and souls that he hath sanctified.
We complain of the times, but let us take heed we be not a part of the misery of the times: that they be not the worse for us. 
Christ himself is nothing else but salvation clothed in our flesh. When we embrace Christ in the arms of our faith, we embrace nothing but salvation. He makes up that sweet name given him by his Father, and brought from heaven by an angel to the full, Luke 2:14; a name in the faith of which it is impossible for any believing soul to sink.

I will be sharing quotes from this book throughout the next few weeks. I will do so in a bite-size manner in the hopes that you will take the time to absorb some of the richness for yourself and benefit from it in your own life.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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