Richard Sibbes (1577-1635) on the Death of Christ

   Posted by: CalvinandCalvinism   in For Whom did Christ Die?


Limited redemption:

1) First, He redeems us by paying the price, and so he only redeemeth, for he paid the price to divine justice. We are in bondage to the wrath of God under his justice; and so there must be satisfaction to justice before we can be free.

Then, secondly, We are in bondage to Satan, as God’s executioner and jailor. Now from him we are freed by strong hand. So Christ freeth us by his Holy Spirit, working such graces in us as makes us see the loathsomeness of that bondage; working likewise grace in us to be in love with a better condition, that the Spirit discovers to us. So that the Spirit brings us out by discovery and by power. All that Christ freeth by virtue of redemption, paying the price for, all those he frees likewise by his Spirit, discovering to them their bondage, and the blessed condition whereunto they are to be brought to a state of freedom, which freedom he perfects by little and little, till he bring them to a glorious freedom in heaven.

And the reason of this, that where Christ doth free by way of redemption, to die and satisfy God’s justice for any, to those he gives his Spirit, by which Spirit they are set at liberty the reasons are manifold. To name one or two. Sibbes, “Excellency of the Gospel,” in Works, 4:218.

2) Fourth, Again, Christ gave that that was his own, his own body, his own life, for his sheep; and his own endeavour, whatsoever he gave, was his own. So if we will be kind to others, we must do it of our own; we must not do good with that that we have gotten from others by unjust means. For the ‘sacrifice of the wicked,’ in this kind, ‘is an abomination to the Lord,’ Isa. i. 13. Let us have interest in that we give. Christ gave his own life, and God gave his own Son for us. Sibbes, “The Church’s Riches,” in Works, 4:523.

3) “Believed on in the world.” By ‘world,’ especially here in this place, is meant the world taken out of the world, the world of elect. There is a world in the world, as one saith well in unfolding this point; as we see, man is called a little world in the great world. Christ was preached to the world of wicked men, that by preaching, a world might be taken out of the world, which is the world of believers. Hence we may clear our judgments in that point, that when Christ is said to redeem the world, it must not be understood generally of all mankind. We see here, the world is said to believe in Christ. Did all mankind believe in Christ? was there not a world of un believers? Sibbes, “The Fountain Opened,” in Works, 5:516-517.

4) Quest. Whether Christ loved all, and gave himself for all, because here the apostle saith, ‘He loved me, and gave himself for me’?

Ans. 1. I answer briefly, first, that Christ’s loving and giving himself was parallel in even lines with God’s love and gift, John vi. 37, 39; for Christ gives himself for none but those which God hath first given him. Christ had his commission, and he came to do his Father’s will, not his own, John vi. 38, and will save all whom his Father hath given unto him; as it is John xvii. 6, ‘ Thine they were, thou gavest them me.’ Those that the Father gives in election, Christ redeems, and by redemption saves; for redemption, in regard of efficacy, is no larger than God’s election. Therefore he joins, ‘Christ loved me, and gave himself for me.’ ‘His love is only to those whom God gave him, for he looks upon all he died for as they were in his Father’s love. There are a company in the world whom God hates: ‘Esau have I hated,’ Rom. ix. 13. Here love and gift go both together. He gives himself for no more than he loves, and he loves no more than God loves.

Ans. 2. Again, whomsoever Christ did love and give himself for to death, there be other fruits which accompany this. They who have interest in Christ’s redemption, they have the spirit of application. Where there is obtaining by Christ anything of God, there, I say, is grace to apply it by his Spirit; and many things go with it. For them that he died for, as the apostle shews, Rom. viii. 11, ‘for them he rose again, and for them he sits at the right hand of God.’ These go together : For if he spared not his own Son, but gave him to death for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? ‘Rom. viii. 32. Where God gives Christ, he gives the spirit of application with him, Mat. xvii. 13, 2 Thess. iii. 2. But we see that the greatest part of the world have not faith; for it is the faith of the elect, which worldlings not having, nor the grace of application, therefore they have not the favour of God obtained by Christ. So it is written, Rom. v. 10, ‘ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.’ These go together. Now the greatest part are not saved by his life, therefore they are not reconciled by his death. Sibbes, “Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:388.

6) Christ died as a ‘ second Adam,’ as a public person, in whom dying all died. When other men die particular men die; when Paul was dead, Paul died and there was an end, only there was an exemplary good in his death. But there is more than an exemplary good in the death of Christ. Christ died alone and singular in this respect; because in him dying all died that were his, that the Father gave him to die for. For they go parallel, God’s gift and Christ’s death. He did all by commission, and he would not transgress his commission, and he died a violent and cursed death, because otherwise he could not have saved us that were under a curse. So as a ‘second Adam’ he rose, and as a public person. There fore we see in the resurrection of Christ many rose. It is like enough they died again. It was for a particular dispensation, to shew that Christ rose as a public person; and it is not strange to think so that to honour God they should be content to live a while, when Christ himself that was God was content to be man, and to be abased to death. That grand mystery makes all other things credible. He rose, therefore, as a public person, to give life to all that he died for. Sibbes, “Christ’s Exaltation,” in Works, 5:345.

The redemption’s general aspect:

1) ‘That he might be Lord both of quick and dead.’

Christ is Lord both of the dead and of the living. You see upon what ground he is Lord of all, as well as of his church. He is an eternal Lord over the dead and the living. He is a transcendent Lord, above all other lords whatsoever; and he is independent. He is not obnoxious to any. All have power from him; and in some sort indeed Christ hath redeemed even all other creatures. They are Christ’s. And in some sort even proud wicked men, that live in the church, that have perhaps some parts (which are the occasion of their damnation, because of and by them, they are proud and insolent), they are redeemed by Christ, thus far to be serviceable to his church, to use their parts to his own ends. They go a great way in salvation, that so by their parts they may be fit to do service to the church. So he is Lord not only over the church, but of others for the service of the church. Sibbes, “Christ’s Exaltation,” in Works, 5:329.

Unqualified statements indicating an apparently unlimited or indefinite redemption:

1) Come to the greatest abasement of all; when he was on the cross, he hung between two thieves. Ay, but he converted the one of them. When the thief had so much discouragement to see his Saviour hang on the cross, yet he shewed such power in that abasement, that the very thief could see him to be a king, and was converted by his Spirit. He did hang upon the cross; but, at the same time, there was an eclipse. The whole world was darkened (h), the earth trembled, the rocks brake, the centurion ‘justified’ him, ‘ Doubtless, this was the Son of God,’ Mat. xxiii. 47. He was sold for thirty pence (i), but he that was sold for thirty pieces did redeem the whole world by his blood. Sibbes, “The Fountain Opened,” in Works, 5:488.

2) But especially in matters of grace, if God had not sent Christ to redeem the world, what a cursed condition had we lain in, next to devils? Sibbes, “A Rescue from Death,” in Works, 6:153.

3) Give me leave, therefore, to add a few things more. If Christ speaketh in general to Mary, she answereth in general; and when he speaks aloof to her, she answereth aloof to him, afar off, and never gave him a direct answer, till he gave a direct word to her. When he said, ‘Mary,’ she gave him a direct answer, ‘Rabboni;’ not before. I beseech you, therefore, let us not rest in general promises and the general graces, that be so much stood on by some, that God hath a like respect to all. Trust not to that. We must not enter into his secrets, but let us obey his precepts and commandments. And withal remember this, when we hear of a general mercy and commandment for all nations to believe, and that Christ came to save a world of sinners, alas! what is that to me, unless thou by thy Holy Spirit speakest to my soul, and sayest in particular, ‘I am thy salvation,’ and speakest familiarly to my soul? Generals are in some degrees comfortable. But if I find not particular interest by the witness of thy Holy Spirit to my soul, if thou sayest not to my soul, ‘I am thine, and thou art mine,’ all is to little purpose. Therefore in the desires of our souls in prayer, let us desire the Lord to reveal himself in particular. We trust too much in generals.God is merciful, and Christ came to redeem the world. They be truths, and good foundations for to found faith upon, but they will not do the deed, till by daily prayer we seek to the Lord, that he would in a particular manner reveal himself to us. Sibbes, “Heavenly Conference,” in Works, 6:427.

4) For his wisdom. There appeared infinite wisdom in so ordering the matter to find out such a means for the redemption of mankind, as no created understanding could possibly imagine or think of. Sibbes, “The Witness of Salvation,” in Works, 7:371.

Sins of the elect:

1) So in Christ’s rising we rise. Here one may object, Oh, it was an easy matter for Christ to rise, because he was God. I answer, true; but as God-man, sustaining the burden and weight of all our sins, it was not so easy; for when we are laid in the grave, we have but the weight of our own sins to keep us down. Christ, he had the sins of all the elect people of God upon him, and therefore it was a harder matter for Christ to rise again than we suppose; and yet he broke through all, and rose again; therefore do not thou doubt but that he will at length raise thee again. Sibbes, “The General Resurrection,” in Works, 7:319.

Sufficient satisfaction for all the world:

1) Obj. Hence likewise we may answer some doubts that may arise; as why the death of one man, Christ, should be of value for satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. How can this be? Ans. but what kind of man was he? ‘ The chief among ten thousand,’ especially considering that his excellency ariseth from the grace of his personal union of God and man. The’ first Adam tainted thousands, and would have tainted a world of men more if there had been more; but he was mere man that did this. And shall not Christ, God and man, the second Adam, advance the world, and ten thousand worlds if there had been more? He is chief among ten thousand. Sibbes, “The Chiefest Among Ten Thousand,” in Works, 2:147.

2) And after conversion. Those that are in the state of grace oftentimes want that comfort in the main point of justification and acceptation to life everlasting, which they should have, because they look into their imperfections, seeing this and that want, and so are swallowed up of discomfort; whereas, if we had all the graces in the world, yet we must live by faith, relying upon the merits of Christ. For our good works bring us not to heaven, as a cause, but only are helps and comforts to us in our walking to heaven. For if we had all the sins of all men, yet Christ’s all-sufficient righteousness is sufficient for to do them all away, if we can go out of our selves, and cleave to that. Therefore, in trouble of conscience we must not look either to our good or our ill, but to God’s infinite mercy, and to the infinite satisfaction of our blessed Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ; there, as it were, losing ourselves, seeing our sins as mountains drowned in the in finite sea of his mercy. Sibbes, “The Returning Backslider,” in Works, 2:385.

3) Let us learn of Christ; we cannot have a better pattern. What doth Christ on the cross, when he had the sins of all the believing world upon him, and had there been ten thousand times more, it had been all one to so infinite a person, God-man; he had made full satisfaction to God’s justice. But having so much upon him, did it take away his claim of God, as his God? It did not, but still he said, ‘ My God, my God.” Was it a claim that did him any good? Was it a useful claim? Yes. For it was made good by his resurrection and ascension; and therefore he might well say, ‘I go to my God and your God.’ I have overcome the wrath of God due for sin; and therefore when I, that had all the sins of the world upon me, acknowledged God to be my God, and underwent the burden of God’s wrath, and satisfied for all sin, you may well say, ‘My God;’ not only from the pattern of Christ, because he did so, but as a cause. I may say so now, because Christ said so then. For he hath fully satisfied his Father, who had laid that burden on him. You, therefore, that have particular burdens of your sins, and have not that other, but have a conscience troubling you, it is for good; because if you believe, that is taken away. But put case you had the guilt of your own sins, and many sins beside, what is that to this of Christ, who had the guilt of all sin? And therefore let no guile hinder you from a spirit of faith, to say, ‘My Father, and my God.’ Is Christ ascended to heaven, to be a mediator of intercession to appear before God? For whom? Is it not for sinners? What work is there in heaven for a mediator, if we were not daily sinners? Christ that hath satisfied for sin, biddeth us, after satisfaction, to think of God as a Father, and think of his ascension; even for this end to appear before God for us as our high priest, to make daily peace for us. His blood is of everlasting efficacy. And if Abel’s blood cried for vengeance, the blood of Christ crieth for mercy, Heb. xii.24. As the appearing of the blood of Abel spake for vengeance, so the very appearing of Christ speaks enough for mercy to the sinner. Sibbes, “A Heavenly Conference,” in Works, 6:478.

4) First, then, Christ died ‘ that he might be Lord of the dead and of the living,’

Christ died, 1 Peter i. 18, to offer himself a sacrifice, to redeem us by his precious blood. ‘ We are not redeemed with gold or silver, but with the blood of Christ.’ He could not be our Lord till he had bought us. Now his death was the price of our redemption; I say redemption,’ not ‘ emption.’ A thing may be bought that was never sold away before. Now we were sold to Satan, and under a contrary government. Now Christ satisfying divine justice redeems us. He buys us again. We had subjected ourselves to the devil, and put ourselves under his regiment, till we were ransomed by Christ. Now Christ shall have no right to us till the price be paid to divine justice; for mercy must have justice satisfied; the attributes of God must not fight one against another. Christ, therefore, is Lord of us, because by death he gave full content to divine justice. So that now, notwithstanding justice, yet we are Christ’s, and are saved. Nay, now the justice of God helps us. The most terrible attribute, justice, is a ground of comfort, for it stands not with justice to have the same debt paid twice. For God is just and faithful, saith the apostle, 1 John i. 9. So then you see there is a ground from death why we are the Lord’s. We are Christ’s because we cost him dear. He hath paid pence for us that is worth more than the whole world. Now God shewed his love in nothing more than in this, that he parted with that that is next himself, the greatest, his Son, who being God, yet died, in that nature that could die, to redeem us, and here upon becometh Lord. Sibbes, “Christ’s Exaltation,” in Works, 5:329.

5) Hence likewise comes the efficacy of what Christ did, that the dying of one man should be sufficient for the whole world, It was, that ‘ God was in the flesh. Sibbes, “The Fountain Opened,” in Works, 5:481.

Suffered for the sins of man:

1) Again, consider Christ was now in a conflicting condition between doubting and despair, the powers of hell being round about him. Satan as he was busy about him at the entrance into his office, Mat. iv.1-11, so he was now vexing his righteous soul with temptations, ‘ God hath forsaken thee,’ and this and that. We know not the malice of Satan at such a time; but certainly the powers of hell were all let loose then upon him. The truth is, God had a purpose to finish his sufferings presently upon his complaint, and because he will have us all receive what we receive, even Christ himself, by prayer and opening our desires to him, God suffers Christ to complain, and pour out his supplication into his bosom, that pre sently after, he might be released of all, seeing he had now fully satisfied for the sins of man. Sibbes, “Christ suffering for man’s sin,” in Works, 1:364.

Suffered for the sins of all:

1) But now, to go higher, in Christ there are more wonderful conjunctions; for the greatest and the meanest to join together, for God and man to come together, the Lord of all and a servant, and such a servant as should be under a curse, for the Highest of all to come to the deepest abasement. For there was no abasement ever so deep as Christ’s was, in a double regard. First, None ever went so low as he, for he suffered the wrath of God, and bore upon him the sins of us all; none ever was so low. And then in another respect his abasement was greatest, because he be a curse, to suffer the wrath of God, to be the lowest of all Lord, whither dost thou descend? Here is a wonder in these conjunctions. Sibbes, ‘A Description of Christ,” in Works, 1:6-7.

2) Reason. First of all, because sin brought in death, our Saviour Christ became sin, a sacrifice to his father’s justice for sin. He was made sin for us, he was made a curse for us, to take away the curse due to us; and sin being taken away, what hath death to do with us, and hell, and damnation, the attendants on death? Nothing, at all. Therefore, Col. ii.10, upon the cross Christ did nail the law, and sin, and the devil. There he reigned over principalities and powers, which were but executioners let loose by reason of our sins. And God being satisfied for sin, the devil hath nothing to do with us, but to exercise us, except it be for our good. So that he hath swallowed up death, because by his death he hath taken away sin, and so the power of Satan, whose power is by sin. And therefore it is excellently set down, Heb. ii. 14, ‘ He also took part of flesh and blood, that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.’ So Christ by death overthrew Satan, that had the power of death, because by death he took away sin, the sins of all, and bore our sins upon the cross, and was made sin for us, that knew no sin. He is ours, if we believe. For then Christ is given to a particular man when he believes. Beloved, Christ upon the cross did triumph over all our spiritual enemies, sin, and death, and all. It was a kingdom of patience. You know there is a double king dom of Christ; a kingdom of patience, and a kingdom of power. Sibbes, “The Marriage Feast,” in Works, 2:472.

Unlimited representation and sin-bearing:

1) Sins of the world:

When faith is driven to work alone, having nothing but God, and his bare promise to rely upon, then God thinks it lies upon his credit to shew himself as a God unto us. God’s power in creating light out of darkness is never more exalted, than when a guilty soul is lifted up by God to look for mercy, even when he seems armed with justice, to execute vengeance upon him; then the soul is brought to a near conformity unto Christ, who, 1, when he had the guilt of the sins of the whole world upon him; 2, when he was forsaken, and that after he had enjoyed the sweetest communion with his Father that ever creature could do; and not only so, but, 3, felt the weight of God’s just displeasure against sin; and, 4, was abased lower than ever any creature was; yet still he held fast God as his God. Sibbes, “The Soul’s Conflict,” in Works, 1:278.

2) For as God shines in the heart in his love secretly through all temptations and troubles, so there is a spirit of faith goes back to him again : my God, my God. For faith hath a quick eye, and seeth through contraries. There is no cloud of grief but faith will pierce through it, and see a father’s heart under the carriage of an enemy. Christ had a great burden upon him, the sins of the whole world; yet he breaks through all. I am now sin, I bear the guilt of the whole world, yet under this person that I sustain, I am a son, and God is my God still, notwithstanding all this weight of sin upon me. And shall not we, beloved, say, My God, in any affliction or trouble that befalls us? Oh yes. In the sense of sin, which is the bitterest of all, and in the sense of God’s anger, in losses and crosses, in our families &c., let us break through those clouds, and say, My God, still. Sibbes, “Christ’s Suffering for Man’s Sin,” in Works, 1:366.

3) God raised up Christ the head of the church after three days, and when they had rolled a stone upon the grave, and set a watch too, and when Christ had been a surety to bear the sins of all the elect of the world from the beginning to the end; Christ having a stone upon his grave, so much mould, and such a stone, and his grave watched and sealed; and then having as a public person the sins of all the world, yet Christ rose up again for all this. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians, Chap. 4, ver. 14,” in Works 4:463-464.

4) Doct. 2. Secondly, As Christ is risen, so shall we rise. He is the meritorious cause of our resurrection, he hath deserved that we should rise; he is the worker of it. By that same power whereby he rose again, by the same will he raise us up at the last day. He is every way the cause; and which is something more, we are risen with him. He was a public person. Upon the cross he stood in the place of all the world, and all their sins committed, or foreseen to be committed lay upon him. ‘He bare the iniquity of us all,’ Isa. liii.6; and then he freed himself, and so us, by his resurrection. First, freeing himself of his suretyship; and we are freed in him; and he rising, we also rise with him. Sibbes, “The Power of Christ’s Resurrection,” in Works, 5:198.

5) This is the soul of sorrow; other outward sorrows being but the carcase of sorrow. ‘ The spirit of a man will bear his infirmities; but a wounded spirit who can bear?’ Prov. xviii. 14. In such an estate, in regard of the extremity of the burden of the sins of the whole world laid on him, was our head, Christ Jesus, making him sweat ‘ drops of blood,’ Luke xxii. 44; and when he was on the cross, when ho cried with strong cries and tears, ‘ My God, my God, why hast thou for saken me?’ Mark xv. 34. Sibbes, “The Saint’s Comfort,” in Works, 6:161-162.


1) We must here, therefore, consider God as a righteous Judge, sitting in heaven in his judgment-seat, taking the punishment of the sins of all his people upon Christ. There was a meeting together of all the sins of the faithful, from Adam to the last man that shall be in the world, as it were, in one point upon him, and the punishment of all these was laid on his blessed shoulders, who suffered for them in both body and soul. Sibbes, “Christ Suffering for Man’s Sin,” in Works, 1:356.

Notes and General Interest:

Judge of all mankind:

1) So we may say of their faith, they believe they know not what, they believe in a sinful man; for the present pope is all their church, which is an ignorant man, many times, in the Scriptures, perhaps he never read them; and he must determine controversies, and get into the chair, and judge that that shall judge him ere long. He must judge the Scripture that must be his judge, and the judge of all mankind. I list not to be large in this point; a little discovery is enough. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 24,” in Works, 3:523.

All the world:

1) Quest. But upon what ground should Christ become our surety? Ans. 1. Because he was able to discharge our debt to the uttermost. He was more eminent than all mankind, having two natures in one, the manhood knit to the Godhead. Sibbes, Christ Suffering for Man’s Sin,” in Works, 1:356.

2) Reason 2. Besides, it is the nature of spiritual privileges and blessings. They are communicable to all alike without impairing. The more one hath, the less another hath not. All have an equal share. Every one hath interest entire; every one hath all, without loss or hindrance to others. As for instance, the sun, every particular man hath all the good the sun can do, as well as all the world hath. It is peculiarly and entirely every man’s own. Every man in solidum hath the use of it. The sun is not one man’s more than another. As a public fountain or conduit, every man hath as much right in it as another. So in religion, the graces, and privileges, and favours, they lie open as the prerogatives and privileges of all God’s children; and that is the excellency of them. In the things of this life it is not so. They are not common to all alike. There is a loss in the division. The more one hath, the less another hath. And that is the reason why the things of this life breed a disposition of pride and envy. One envies another, because he wants that that another hath; and one despiseth another, because he ‘hath more than another hath; but in the comforts of God’s Spirit, and the prerogatives that are the ground of those comforts, all have interest alike. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 4,” in Works, 3:66.

3) So likewise his ordinances are to gather this church, which he hath chosen from all the world to himself. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 6,” in Works, 3:96.

4) When Luther arose for the defence of the truth, a man might have said to him, What! dost thou set thyself against the whole world? Go to thy cloister, and say, ‘ Lord, have mercy upon us.’ Dost thou hope to reform the world against all the world? Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 9,” Works, 3:159.

5) It is such a thing as all the world cannot take from us. They cannot take God from us, they cannot take prayer from us. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 11,” in Works, 3:186.

6) Then he runs to his sincerity. What would Hezekiah have done when he received the ‘ sentence of death,’ [if it had not been] that he had walked before God in uprightness and sincerity? Sincerity then is worth more than the world. And he that will not labour for that which is worth more than all the world, it is a sign he is ignorant of the worth of it. A man at the hour of death he would lose all the world if he had it, for sincerity. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 12,” Works, 3:250.

7) So Christ is the Head of the church, and the government of all the world is laid upon him, and all excellencies are

derived from him unto all his members, as from the root life is derived unto all the branches. And therefore he must needs have the Spirit in greatest abundance. Sibbes, “Excellency of the Gospel,” in Works, 4:206.

All mankind (sample):

1) Christ took not our persons, but our nature; that our nature being knit to the second person, he might be a public person; as Adam was a public man for all mankind. Therefore think of all the promises in Christ as Godman, that he was the man Christ, made man for us. This is wondrous comfortable, let us solace ourselves with it. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 20,” in Works, 3:418.

All persons (sample):

1) These, among many, are direct places to shew the truth of this, that God is merciful, not only in general, but to those persons set down by a synecdoche, a figure where one is set down for all of the same kind. God is merciful to all persons, in any kind of misery or distress whatsoever. As the apostle speaks, God is he who comforteth the abject person,’ 2 Cor. vii.6, the forlorn, the castaway persons of the world; and he is a very present help in trouble,’ Ps. xlvi.1. Sibbes, “The Returning Backslider,” in Works, 2:294.

2) First, What is their relation to us? Not only that they are our flesh, for so are all men; but they are heirs of the same salvation, bought with the death of the same Christ; such as Christ feeds with his own body and blood; such as he clothes with his own righteousness. They are fellow- members with us, fellow-heirs of heaven, and members of Christ; such as he died for, to redeem with the price of his own blood. There is an undeniable equity, if we consider their condition, their relation to Christ, and to us. Second. Again, there is a marvellous binding equity, to see the grace of God to us in particular. Christ became poor, to make us rich in grace here, and in glory hereafter. And shall not I out of my riches give some what to the poor? Is it not equal? Christ from heaven came in my nature and flesh to visit me; as it is in the song of Zacharias, ‘The day- spring from on high hath visited us,’ Luke i.78; and shall not I visit Christ in his members? He came from heaven to earth to take notice of my wants and miseries, to do and suffer that that I should have done and suffered. He feeds me with his body and blood, that is, with his satisfaction to divine justice by his death; and shall not I feed his poor members? Sibbes, “The Church’s Riches,” in Works, 4:522.

Christ as a Public Person:

1) 1. First of all, you must know that Christ died here as a public person, or else the inference were not good. Christ took upon him the person of no man, but the nature; for this end, that he might be a public person. If Christ had taken the person of any body, there had been two persons of Christ. He had died in one person and not in another. Now having the nature that is common to all men, and not the person of Peter or James, &c., when he died the person died in that nature wherein he might die; so when it is said, ‘ Christ died,’ we must consider Christ as a public person, not taking the particular person of any man, but the general nature of man into union with the second person. Christ died as a public person. Sibbes, “Christ’s Exaltation,” in Works, 5:326.

2) Let such remember, that God’s pleasure to redeem lost mankind, is not so much by way of power and strength, as by way of justice, and therefore it is said, Heb. vii. 22, ‘ Christ is become our surety;’ and Paul, when he became a mediator to Philemon for Onesimus, a fugitive servant, did it by way of surety, If he owe thee anything I will discharge it,’ Philem. 18; and Christ Jesus our Mediator blessed for ever, so intercedeth unto God for us, as that he fully satisfies his justice for our offences. Sibbes, “Christ Sufferings for Man’s Sin,” in Works 1:357.

Lamb of God (selection):

1) Therefore we should return the glory of all the good we have to God the Father, and to Christ; and as it is in Rev. v. 12, ‘ Worthy is the Lamb, because he hath redeemed us.’ When we think of the good we have by Christ, ‘ Worthy is the Lamb, because he shed his blood for us.’ ‘The Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,’ he is worthy of all praise and honour. We should honour the Father, and honour the Son, and the Holy Spirit that applies the good we have by Christ to us. When we glorify God, let us glorify Christ too, ‘ who together with the Father is to be glorified,’ because it was his grace to give himself; he made himself poor for us. We cannot honour the Father more than by honouring the Son; for God the Father will be seen in his Son, as the apostle saith, ‘ In Christ we behold the glory of God,’ Eph. iii. 21. Therefore what he saith of Christ here tends to the glory of the Father.’ Sibbes, “The Church’s Riches,” in Works, 4:513.

2) Ans. I answer, He was laid down to us in the Old Testament, in types and promises; for what other was the paschal lamb but ‘ the Lamb of God taking away the sins of the world,’ by sprinkling our hearts with his blood? He was the priest that, before he could open an entrance into the holy of holies for us, must first shed blood and offer sacrifice. Sibbes, “The Saint’s Comfort,” in Works, 6:173.

3) 2, Or whether we regard the benefit that comes to us thereby. Christ by this means brings God and man together since the fall. Christ is the accomplishment of all the prophecies, of all the promises. They were made in him and for him. Therefore he was the expectation of the Gentiles. Before he was born, he was revealed by degrees. First, generally, ‘the seed of the woman,’ &c., Gen. iii.15. Then, more particularly, ‘ to Abraham and his seed,’ and then to one tribe, ‘Judah,’ that he should come to him; then to one family, the house of David; and then, more particularly, ‘virgin shall conceive and bear a son,’ Isa. vii.14, and the place, ‘ Bethlehem,’ Micah v.2; till at last John Baptist pointed him out with the finger, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world,’ John i.29. Even as after midnight, the sun grows up by little and little, till his beams strike forth in the morning, and after it appears in glory, so it was with the ‘Sun of righteousness;’ as he came nearer, so he discovers himself more gloriously by degrees, till he was born indeed; and then you see here a multitude of angels celebrate his nativity. Sibbes, “Angels Acclamations,” in Works, 6:317.

4) In time of temptation, misgiving consciences look so much to the present trouble they are in, that they need be roused up to behold him in whon they may find rest for their distressed souls. In temptations it is safest to behold nothing but Christ the true brazen serpent, the true Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, John i. 29. This saving object hat. a special influence of comfort into the soul, especially if we look not only on Christ, but upon the Father’s authority and love in him. For in a| that Christ did and suffered as Mediator, we must see God in him recoi citing the world unto himself, 2 Cor. v. 19. Sibbes, “The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax,” in Works, 1:42.

5) And all real types. He is the true ‘ mercy-seat’ wherein God would be heard and prayed unto, for he covers the law, the curse of it, as the mercy-seat did. He is the true l brazen serpent,’ that whosoever looks on him with the eye of faith, ‘ shall not perish, but have everlasting life,’ John iii. 15. He is the true ‘ manna,’ the bread of life. That type had its ‘ yea’ in Christ. He is the true sacrifice, ‘ the passover lamb,’ the lamb of God ‘ that takes away the sins of the world,’ John i. 29. If our hearts be sprinkled with his blood, the destroying angel hath nothing to do with us. The passover hath its ‘ yea’ in him. Therefore that which is affirmed of the passover is affirmed of him, Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 20,” in Works, 3:388.

6) Therefore, I beseech you, let us examine ourselves hereby, whether our desire of forgiveness be sound or not. If we desire sin should be taken away, we cannot think of it with comfort. For in that many think with delight of their old sins, what do they else, but repeat them over again and again? But where the heart is soundly touched with a saving sense of sin, then he cries, ‘ Take it away;’ take it out of my conscience, that it cause not despair there; and out of thy remembrance, that no advantage be taken against me for it. ‘ Take it away.’ But it is no otherwise taken away than by satisfying of divine justice. How much are we beholden to Christ, therefore, who hath borne and taken away our sins, and as the scape-goat, gone away with the burden of all into the wilderness of oblivion. Blessed be God, and the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sins of the world! We can never bless God too much, nor sufficiently, for Christ. ‘ Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,’ Eph. i.3. Now we may think of sin without shame and despair. blessed state, when a man can think of his former odious, and filthy, loathsome sins, and yet not despair! Because, when he believes in Christ, the blood of Christ purgeth all away, takes away all sin. He hath taken them away. Sibbes, “The Returning Backslider,” in Works, 2:262.

1 John 2:2 (selection):

1) As we sin daily, so Zech. xiii. 1, ‘ There is a fountain daily running, to wash away sin and uncleanness.’ Therefore for our daily sinning, we must continually run and bathe our souls in this blood, apply the comforts of his sufferings, intercession, and obedience unto us. St John teaches us thus much; saith he, ‘ If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,’ 1 John ii.1. Sibbes, “The Life of Faith,” in Works, 5:363

Sins of the world as all kinds of sins (selection):

1) Again, if we would have God to shield us, and be an hiding-place in the worst tunes, let us mourn for our own sins and the sins of the times wherein we live. Let us keep ourselves unspotted of the sins of the world; let us not bring sticks to the common fire; let us not make the times worse for us, but better, that the times and places we live in may bless God for us. Sibbes, “The Church’s Visitation,” in Works, 1:382.

2) Use 1. Therefore let no Christian slight his own prayers, no, not those that are young ones. That great divine Paulus Phagius, who was a great Hebrecian in his time, and one that helped to restore the gospel in England (ee), it was a good speech of him, he was wont to say, I wish the prayers of younger scholars; for their souls are not tainted with sin, and God often hears the poor young ones (that are not tainted, and soiled with the sins of the world, as others are) sooner than others. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 11,” in Works, 3:184.

Sins of men:

1) It adds strength to faith to consider, that all expressions of love issue from nature in Christ, which is constant. God knows that, as we are prone to sin, so, when conscience is thoroughly awaked, we are as prone to despair for sin; and therefore he would have us know, that he setteth himself in the covenant of grace to triumph in Christ over the greatest evils and enemies we fear, and that his thoughts are not as our thoughts are, Isa. v 8; that he is God, and not man, Hos. xi.9; that there are heights, and depths, and breadths of mercy in him above all the depths of our sin and misery, Eph. iii.18; that we should never be in such a forlorn condition, wherein there should be ground of despair, considering our sins be the sins of men, his mercy the mercy of an infinite God. But though it be a truth clearer than the sunbeams, that a broken-hearted sinner ought to embrace mercy so strongly enforced; yet there is no truth that the heart shutteth itself more against than this, especially in sense of misery, when the soul is fittest for mercy, until the Holy Spirit sprinkleth the conscience with the blood of Christ, and sheddeth his love into the heart, that so the blood of Christ in the conscience may cry louder than the guilt of sin; for only God’s Spirit can raise the conscience with comfort above guilt, because he only is greater than the conscience. Men may speak comfort, but it is Christ’s Spirit that can only comfort. Sibbes, “To the Christian Reader,” in Works, 1:39.

2) The divine nature of Christ stopped the excess of any passion; he was turbated but not perturbated; he was moved with the sins of men, but not removed; he was as water in a clear glass. Sibbes, “Christ suffering for Man’s sin,” Works, 1:364

3) God in the covenant of grace, which is founded in Christ, in God in our nature, doth intend to be gracious to sinners. It is a greater mystery than that of the creation. For God there did good to a good man; he made Adam good, and continued him good while he stood; but after the fall, God intended to raise up the doubting, unbelieving soul against the greatest ills of sin and despair, and against all objections for sin whatsoever; from the greatness of sin either natural or actual. It is the glory of God in the gospel to glorify his mercy and goodness in prevailing and triumphing over the greatest ills that can be. Now he is good to sinners, and to great sinners; so that if there be faith wrought by the Spirit of God, raising up our souls to lay hold of this ‘ God manifest in the flesh,’ let us not be discouraged with any sin. Our sins are but the sins of men; but ‘God manifest in the flesh’ was made a sacrifice for our sins, and hath given a price answerable. What temptation will not vanish as a cloud before the wind when we see God’s love in sending his Son, and Christ’s love in taking our nature on him, to reconcile us by the sacrifice of his blood? There fore let us treasure up this comfort. It is a spring of comfort, a well of consolation, as the Scripture speaks; therefore let us suck comfort out of this breast of consolation. Sibbes, “The Fountain Opened,” in Works, 5:482.

4) It is God’s custom to denounce a threatening of a curse before he execute it. It is a part of God’s mercy and of his blessing, that he will curse only in the threatening; for therefore he curseth, that he might not execute it; and therefore he threateneth, that he might not smite; and when he smites, he smites that he might not destroy; and when he kills the body, it is that he might not destroy the soul; as 1 Cor. xi. 32, ‘ Therefore some of you are weak, and sick, and some sleep, that you might not be condemned with the world.” Thus God is merciful, even till it comes to the last upshot, that men by their rebellions provoke him. God’s mercy strives with the sins of men. Mark here the degrees of it: first, God threatens the curse, ‘Cursed be the man;’ and then in the particulars, he begins with the eldest son. First, there is a threatening; and when the execution comes, he takes not all his sons away at once, but begins with the eldest; and if that will not do, he goes to the youngest. Sibbes, ‘The Unprosperous Builder,” in Works, 7:22.

2 Cor 5:15:

1) Well, as it implies duty, so it implies a gracious effect, that we shall be enabled to this duty. He indeed in himself is a Lord. We ought to acknowledge him so, nay, we shall have the Spirit if we be his, to cause us to acknowledge him. You have a notable place, 2 Cor. v.15, to this purpose, ‘ The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, if one died for all, then we are all dead.’ If he died to redeem us from death, to what end did he die? He died for all, that they might not live to themselves, but to him that died, and rose again,’ 2 Cor. v.15. It is nothing but this in the text, we should live to him.’ Now this, that we should live to him, it is not an aim of ours only, but an effect that he works in us. He died ‘that we might live to him.’ For he died and rose that he might obtain the Spirit. By this Spirit he enableth us to live and die to God : as you have it, Rom. viii. 8, at large proved. Those that are Christ’s have the Spirit of Christ, and are led with it. Sibbes, “Christ’s Exaltation,” in Works, 5:342.

1 Tim 2:4:

1) Many give thanks here for one, St Paul, for the minister. We see here God’s end, that many should praise God, not only for themselves, but for others, especially for those by whom God conveys and derives good unto them, whether outward or spiritual good. The apostle exhorts us ‘ to pray for all men,’ 1 Tim. ii.1,2; ‘ for kings,’ yea, though they were persecuting kings at that time. And surely if we ought to pray to God for all mankind, we ought to praise God for all sorts of men, especially for governors and ministers, &c., because God by them bestows his greatest blessings. Obey the magistrate. ‘ Let every soul be subject to the higher powers; for the powers that are, are ordained of God, and he is the minister of God for thy good,’ Rom. xiii. 1. So the governors and ministers of God are for our good. We ought therefore, as to pray for them, that they may execute their office for our good, so to praise God for the good we have by them. You know David stirred up the people to mourn for Saul, though a tyrant. 1 He clothed you and your daughters,’ saith he, ‘ with scarlet,’ 2 Sam. i. 24. If they should praise God for a persecuting king, and mourn for him when he was gone, much more should we for those that are good. Sibbes, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians Chap 1, ver. 11,” in Works, 3:195.

Free offer (selection):

1) Obj. Why doth Christ by the ministry persuade all in the church for to believe in Christ, and for to believe forgiveness of sins, if Christ did not die for them all?

Ans. I answer, that in the church he calls all, that he may cull out his own. The minister speaks promiscuously both to the elect and those that are not, because God will not rob his own children of the benefit, though they are mingled with others to whom the blessed things do not belong; as it is with the rain, it rains as well upon the rocks of the sea, and upon the barren heath as upon the good ground. Why, for any good to the rocks? No, but because, Together with it, it rains upon the fruitful ground, which hath the benefit of the rain. So God rains the showers of his ordinances upon all, but the benefit thereof is only to his ground, not to the reprobates. The sun shines upon all, but who hath the comfort of that shining? Those who have eyes to see it only and use it, not the blind. But to them that believe not, they have another use. They have this benefit by Christ’s death, that there is mercy offered them, and some gifts of the Spirit. God offers and stirs up good motions in them, but they rebel against them. There be many degrees and means of faith. They use not all the means they ought, neither take all the degrees, therefore they are without all excuse, because he gives more grace, not only the means, but he is ready to give more grace than they are willing to entertain. So it is their rebellion, which is the cause of their damnation. They are said to resist the Holy Ghost, such reprobates in the church, to quench the Spirit, Acts vii. 51, which implies the Holy Ghost is ready to work more in them than they are willing to entertain. Is it not so by experience? There is a company of profane persons, that, out of the abundance of their wicked hearts, and the poison of their breeding, will not vouchsafe to hear at all; others that do come, though for some bye and carnal ends. Happily the Holy Ghost, in hearing, beats upon their consciences and awakes them. But what say their rebellions hearts? Shall I stoop to leave such and such courses that are pleasurable and gainful? Hereupon they resist the work of the Holy Ghost in the ministry, when their hearts tell them there is a readiness in the Holy Ghost, and that he is sent from Christ and the Father to work more effectually in them than they are willing to be wrought upon, and therefore it is they are damned. ‘ Thy perdition,’ saith the prophet,’ is of thyself, Israel!’ Hosea xiii. 9. Their own consciences will tell them thus much. So it is no matter what cavils they raise of Christ’s intention and God’s election. Look thou, man, to thine own heart. Doth not thy own heart tell thee thou art a rebel, and livest in profane wicked courses, in neglect of holy duties? Thou earnest thine own sentence and cause of damnation in thy breast. I appeal to the worst, who live in sins against conscience. Here is the ground of thy damnation. There be many ascents and degrees to saving faith. Thou withstandest the beginnings and the motions of the Spirit. If they come in and work upon thy heart any estrangement from sin, thy proud heart begins to rebel, and will not yield. It is the only true obedience which lays itself at the foot of Christ, and is willing to be led and persuaded in anything so far as frailty will permit, and allows itself in no evil course. This is that which brings sound comfort, which they not doing, therefore are without all excuse. Sibbes, “Salvation Applied,” in Works 5:389-390.

General Love:

1) And Christ offered himself a sacrifice for all those that he makes intercession for. The point is clear. I will not answer all the objections might be brought, only encounter with some of the main ones, which are brought by the papists against this truth. Saint Paul’s meaning, therefore, is not that he loved me with that love wherewith he loved all mankind. The apostle means a more special love, ‘He loved me so as he gave himself for me;’ that is, with a more special love than he bears to all mankind. This is a point that tends to God’s honour and man’s comfort; for God hath the more praise and thanks from his elect, and those that are redeemed by the peculiarness of it, which the more it is, the more they acknowledge themselves bound unto God and Christ. These are they that are elected, these are they for whom the Scriptures are, for whom the refuse of mankind and Christ came, Ps. cxvi.1. They love God and single him out, and the more they do so, God doth single them out to delight in. Peculiarity enhanceth and raiseth favours to higher degrees than otherwise. The fewer that are taken out of the world from the refuse of mankind, the more their hearts are inflamed to love God again. God, as the psalmist says, hath not dealt so with every nation, Ps. cxlvii. 20. When will a man be most thankful to God and give him glory, but when he can say, Thou hast not dealt so with the rest of the world; what is in me more than in the rest of mankind? I differ nothing from them but in thy peculiar love. Sibbes, “Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:389.

Contrary Opinion:

Mark Dever:

THE OTHER ISSUE arising from this discussion that could easily create pastoral problems for doubting souls was the issue of the extent of Christ’s atonement. In short, if God elected only some, not all, to salvation, then for whom did Christ die? There is some ambiguity in Sibbes’s sermons on this point, perhaps simply because of his desire to be a faithful exegete of scripture. One finds statements that “He [Christ] was a public person. Upon the cross he stood in the place of all the world, and all their sins committed, or foreseen to be committed, lay upon him.”31 Yet in context, he clearly only intended by this a reference to show that Christ’s resurrection foreshadows the resurrection to life of “every true Christian.” Consistent with his Reformed theology presented above, Sibbes taught that “when Christ is said to redeem the world, it must not be understood generally of all mankind.”32 Instead, “Christ died alone and singular in this respect; because in him dying all died that were his, that the Father gave him to die for. For they go in parallel, God’s gft and Christ’s death.”33 When Sibbes referred to “God’s secret purpose in electing some, and redeeming some,” he was not repeating himself in poetic parallelism, but was making two distinct points. God has elected only some, and that Christ, by his death, has redeemed only some.34 This was not, however, in Sibbes’s mind to introduce a smallness into consideration of the atonement. Both the extention and limitation of Christ’s atonement were matters of praise.35 In his only long discussion of this doctrine extant (in his sermon on Gal 2:20, “Salvation Applied”), Sibbes reasoned from Romans 5:10 that “the greatest part are not saved by his life, therefore they are not reconciled by his death.”36 He assumed that his opponents on this point would not be Protestants, but “papists”37 who wished to add individual merit into salvation. Yet it must be admitted that Sibbes’s affirmation of this doctrine is in most of his sermons more evident in its assumption than in its exposition.38

Mark Dever, Richard Sibbes, (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2000), 105-106. [Italics mine.]

31The Power of Christ’s Resurrection,” in Works, 5:198.

32Fountain Opened,” in Works, 5:516-17.

33“Christ’s Exaltation Purchased by Humiliation,” in Works, 5: 345. Cf. “Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:388; “Bowels Opened,” in Works, 2:179; “Judgment’s Reason,” in Works, 4:103; “Christ’s Sufferings for Man’s Sin,” in Works, 5:356. Karl Barth, in his criticism of federal or covenant theology, presented the doctrine of a “limited” atonement as being one of the necessary results. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. G. W. Bromiley (Edinbugh, 1956) vol. IV/I, 57. J. B. Torrance follows part way in this assessment, “Covenant or Contract?”Scottish Journal of Theology, vol. XXIII/l (Feb. 1970): 68-69.

34“Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:390

35“The Rich Pearl,” in Works, 7:257; “Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:38

36“Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:388; cf. “The Pattern of Purity,” in Works, 7:509.

37“Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:389,392.

38“Angels’ Acclamations,” in Works, 6:354; “Salvation Applied,” in Works, 5:389-391; “The Church’s Riches by Christ’s Poverty,” in Works, 4:525.


Editorial Note

Firstly, Regarding Dever’s claim that the unlimited sin-bearing and representation as simply for “every true Christian” is misleading. It appears rather that when he refers to “every true Christian” in the following paragraph (which is headed as “Use 1.”), he speaks to the application of the unlimited sin-bearing in the life of the true Christian. There is no suggestion that the reference to “every true Christian” limits the terms and scope of the sin-bearing in the previous paragraph, if this is what Dever is seeking to imply.

Secondly, with regard to redemption, Sibbes is not saying that the redemption of Christ has only one single respect, but that “Christ died alone and singular in this respect; because in him dying all died that were his, that the Father gave him to die for.” As from the data, Sibbes does allow for redemption of some non-elect in some other sense.

The solution which bests fits Sibbes’ own complex statements is that the sacrifice of Christ, with respect and regard to sin-bearing, entailed an unlimited sin-bearing and representation. However, when one looks at the sacrifice of Christ with respect to the intention and decree of God, Christ can be said to only die for the elect. This synthetic position is apparently picked up by such as Edward Leigh, in the latter 17th century and Robert Dabney, William Shedd and possibly Jonathan Edwards.

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