We come to a second section of the sermon:
II. Christ’s invitation by the church to come into his garden, with the end thereof, ‘to eat his pleasant fruits.’
The principle idea here is:
Wheresoever grace is truly begun and stirred up, there is still a further desire of Christ’s presence; and approaching daily more and more near to the soul, the church, thinks him never near enough to her until she be in heaven with him.
What then causes this desire? Here Sibbes gives his understanding of the presence of Christ wrought by the Spirit. In doing this, he follows Calvin for the proposition that the Spirit conveys the presence of Christ:
Even though it seems unbelievable that Christ’s flesh, separated from us by such great distance, penetrates to us, so that it becomes our food, let us remember how far the secret power of the Holy Spirit towers above all our senses, and how foolish it is to wish to measure his immeasurableness by our measure. What, then, our mind does not comprehend, let faith conceive: that the Spirit truly unites things separated in space
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1370.
He gives two interrelated explains for this process. He first says that grace begets a desire for grace:
First, because grace helps to see our need of Christ, and so helps us to prize him the more; which high esteem breeds a hungering, earnest desire after him, and a desire of further likeness and suitableness to him.
This is the work of the Spirit to cause of see our unworthiness, our need of Christ. But that sight is not a sight of despair. Rather, a sight of need for Christ compels to seek him.
How then is this wrought? By the work of the Spirit:
the church well knows that when Christ comes to the soul he comes not alone, but with his Spirit, and his Spirit with abundance of peace and comfort.
What conclusion can we draw from Spirit compelling us to Christ for comfort? Only those who desire the presence of Christ are those who do not know Christ. In particular, Sibbes singles out “the presence of Christ in his ordinances”. If we do not think carefully, we may think Sibbes is being a sacramentalist and holding to some sort of transubstantiation; but that would incorrect. Calvin holds to a real presence of Christ in the ordinances.
For unless a man means to call God a deceiver, he would never dare assert that an empty symbol is set forth by him. Therefore, if the Lord truly represents the participation in his body through the breaking of bread, there ought not to be the least doubt that he truly presents and shows his body. And the godly ought by all means to keep this rule: whenever they see symbols appointed by the Lord, to think and be persuaded that the truth of the thing signified is surely present there. For why should the Lord put in your hand the symbol of his body, except to assure you of a true participation in it? But if it is true that a visible sign is given us to seal the gift of a thing invisible, when we have received the symbol of the body, let us no less surely trust that the body itself is also given to us.
John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1371.
This presence of Christ causes us to desire Christ:
He was now in a sort present; but the church, after it is once blown upon, is not satisfied without a further presence. It is from the Spirit that we desire more of the Spirit, and from the presence of Christ that we desire a further presence and communion with him.