February 5, 2008

A Richard Sibbes (1577–1635) Comment on Christ's Death and Offers of Salvation

Whereto then shall I liken the men of this generation? and what are they like?—LUKE VII. 31-35.

CHRIST in the former verses had commended St John's ministry, and in the verse next going afore he speaketh of the different success it found in the publicans, from that it found in the pharisees, who rejected the counsel of God. Now in the verses following he shews what success his own ministry had amongst them, and thus he doth by way of comparison or parable. And this he brings by way of asking a question, which implies admiration and indignation, both shewing a deep passion, as it is in Isa.: 'What shall I do for my vineyard? Isa. v. 4; and this shews in general, that the refractory disposition of man is a matter of indignation and of admiration, especially if we consider what it despiseth, and whom.

First, They despise the word of God, the saving word, the counsel and wisdom of God; nay, secondly, they despise God clothed in flesh, that was born and died for their sakes, and thereby offers salvation to them, and life everlasting; yet all this to the obdurate heart of man is as lightning that dazzleth the eyes and helps not the sight a whit; and therefore, Isa. vi. 10, the prophet is bidden 'to make the heart of the people fat.' Go tell this people, hearing they shall not understand, &c.: and therefore no marvel if God bears indignation against such. 'Whereto shall I liken the men of this generation,' Luke vii. 31; this generation of vipers, that are worse than any of the generations fore-passed, by how much they have had more means to be better.
Richard Sibbes, "The Success of the Gospel," in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1864), 7:280.



I am not yet prepared to say that Sibbes held the view that Christ suffered for the sin of the non-elect. However, I do think the above quote shows that Christ, at least, died so that the offer of salvation could be made to some who ultimately rejected him. Sibbes seems very reserved in his language respecting God's revealed will, but the above quote is not the sort of thing many Calvinists are willing to say today.

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