Before the Reed

C.S. Lewis often spoke of the importance of reading old books. I think I'm seeing what he means.

Huw Williams | 11:21, Friday 17 January 2014 | Turin, Italy 

I'm not usually one for reading prefaces to books, unless something grabs me quickly, I tend to go straight for chapter one. But when my Dad and Mum gave me volume one of the complete works of Richard Sibbes as a Christmas present a few weeks ago, I turned straight to The Bruised Reed, and for some reason was drawn to his preface "To the General Reader." And it was here, just a few lines in, that I read the following:-

"Ministers by their calling are friends of the Bride, and to bring Christ and his Spouse together, and therefore ought, upon all good occasions, to lay open all the excellencies of Christ, and amongst others, as that he is highly born, mighty, One ‘in whom all the treasures of wisdom are hid,’ [Col. 2:3]... so likewise gentle, and of a good nature, and of a gracious disposition. It cannot but cheer the heart of the spouse, to consider, in all her infirmities and miseries she is subject to, that she hath a husband of a kind disposition, that knows how to give the honour of mild usage to the weaker vessel, that will be so far from rejecting her, because she is weak, that he will pity her the more. And as he is kind at all times, so especially when it is most seasonable; he will speak to her heart, ‘especially in the wilderness,’

There's something here that hit me with a power and a freshness that I hadn't seen for a long time.

There's something here that hit me with a power and a freshness that I hadn't seen for a long time. I don't think it's just the old-fashioned, elegant prose, there's a tender compassion here for the bride of Christ - not to mention a deep love for the Bridegroom himself - that I haven't come across in plenty of recent reading on the church and pastoral theology. As the 'wisdom' of big business encroaches more and more into the Western church, as programmes, people and budgets are handled alike in terms of productivity and technique, I can't help feeling that reading Sibbes is going to be like drawing deep breaths of fresh air. 

I'm not usually one for making New Year's resolutions either, but if it's not too late, I might pin this quote up somewhere and make a habit of reading it every week or so.

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