Sibbes on Sinning Against Conscience

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jw

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I have found Master Sibbes to be one of the best Pastoral directors among the Puritans I have read. Listen to this general instruction pertaining to sins against conscience (my emphases added) and how he neither would have men despair, but also never to simply "move along" as if our sins were no big deal, especially sins against conscience/light/knowledge/grace.

Richard Sibbes (Works, Vol. 4, pp. 254-255):

Sometimes when the soul is bold in sin, it weakeneth boldness and faith, and makes us look upon that object that our sins hath deserved, upon a wise God. For howsoever we may behold his glorious face in Christ, yet if we behold sin against conscience, God will hide himself, Christ will hide his face, and hide the promises, and leave us to terrors of conscience; and the soul shall not apprehend his gracious face in Christ, but that correction that our sin hath deserved. God hath power over the soul, and makes the soul apprehend what object he will; and he presents to a bold soul that runs into sin what it deserves, hell for the present. There is no terrors to the terror of a Christian that is bold in sin, till God shine upon him in his grace again. Sins against conscience, especially wasting sins, weaken faith, that we cannot go so boldly to God. Therefore those that say when they sin against conscience, that all the cause of their grief is because they do not conceive the free mercy of God, they are ignorant of God’s ways. God is wise, and though he pardon sin, as sin is pardoned in heaven, before it be pardoned in the conscience, they shall never be pardoned in thy conscience till God have made thy conscience smart for it; and God will let wrath into thy conscience, and thy faith shall stagger. It is a sin for faith to stagger, it should not do so; but it will tremble and quake, till we have humbled ourselves before God.

What is the way, after we have had boldness and sweet familiarity with God, and it hath been interrupted by sin? how shall we recover ourselves?

Surely, to apprehend our sins to be pardonable in Christ, and that God is an everlasting Father, and that the covenant of grace is everlasting, and that there is mercy in Israel for this thing; and the conceit of mercy must work our hearts to grief and shame. That is certain; for mark in the gospel, ‘Come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden,’ Mat. 11:28. He calls us when we find our consciences afflicted and tormented. ‘He came to save that which was lost,’ Mat. 18:11. By the blessed power of the Spirit, the blood of Christ is as a fountain ‘for Judah and Jerusalem to wash in,’ Zech. 13:1, and the ‘blood of Christ purgeth us from sin,’ 1 John 1:7; and Christ bids us for daily trespasses ask pardon, Mat. 6:12. Daily therefore conceive goodness in God still, an everlasting current of mercy; and this must work upon us grief and shame, and recover and strengthen our faith again. For God’s children, after breaches, arise the stronger rather than ever they were before. But this only by the way. We see here how God’s glorious grace is conveyed to us, and what is wrought in us to apprehend it, a spiritual eye to see it, in the glass of the gospel, and ‘with open face we behold it,’ we may go boldly to the throne of grace.

I beseech you, let not that privilege be forgotten, this privilege of the gospel. What is the glory of the times we live in, but God’s face discovered in Christ? In the gospel faith is wrought in us to apprehend this, to see God’s face openly, and that we may come boldly with Benjamin, our elder brother; come with Esau’s garments, Gen. 27:23; come with Christ, and we cannot be too bold. Remember alway there must be a reverent familiarity, because he hath majesty mixed with his bowels of mercy. Both are mixed together; beams and bowels. So our carriage to him must be loving and familiar, as he is full of bowels of mercy. But then he hath majesty. A reverent familiarity is fit for a father, and for so gracious and so sweet a God. Therefore that phrase we see in the Scriptures, ‘We go boldly,’ and cry, ‘Abba, Father,’ Rom. 8:15. Father is a word of reverence; that is, we go boldly to God in Christ, and open our wants as to a father, with love and reverence; as it is said here, ‘with open face.’ Let us not forget this privilege.​
 
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