The previous post on this work is found here:
At this point, Sibbes makes two general observations about the nature of repentance itself. The first is that repentance takes place within the whole of our relationship to God: If we are truly repentant, that will be reflected by the expression of prayer and praise toward. And, conversely, if we do not repent and yet seek to enter into this intimate relationship with God, our prayer and praise will be not accepted. Second, he stress the particularness of repentance.
But, to make way to these things, we must first observe two things for a preparative.
Doctrine. First, That reformation of life must be joined with prayer and praise.
There was prayer before, and a promise of praise; but, as here, there must be joined reformation of their sin.
This observation comes from the text of the passage. Hosea 14:1 contains the command to repent. Verse 2 provides,
Take with you words and return to the LORD;
Say to him, Take away all iniquity
Accept what is good,
And we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips.
Verse 3 containes the details of the repentance (which will be discussed, below). Notice something here about the nature of his exegesis: He is not merely looking at the text of the passage and saying, this means this. He is thinking about the context of the passage: not merely to understand the words, but to understand the reason why these matters are placed together. The passage does not expressly state the doctrine proposed by Sibbes. But, by thinking carefully about the passage, Sibbes has seen what the passage does: It contains a command, but it also provides a model.
And, so that his understanding does not become fanciful, he is able to anchor individual elements of the chain with other passages which are explicit about the relationship:
That it must be so, it appears, first, for prayer. It is said, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear my prayer,’ Ps. 66:18. And for praise, ‘The very sacrifice of the wicked (who reforms not his ways) is abominable,’ Prov. 15:8. So that, without reformation, prayer and praise is to no purpose.
Therefore, it is brought here after a promise of praise. Lord, as we mean to praise thee, so we intend a thorough reformation of former sins, whereof we were guilty. We will renounce Asshur, and confidence in horses, idols, and the like.
Notice how he does not delay application to the end of the sermon, but makes the application in his exegesis. Moreover, note the tone of the application: it is not bare command, but rather it is exhortation “let us.”
Therefore, let us, when we come to God with prayer and praise, think also of reforming what is amiss. Out with Achan, Josh. 7:19. If there be any dead fly, Eccles. 10:1, or Achan uncast out, prayer and praise is in vain.
Achan coveted gold and sinned against God’s explicit command. Eccl. 10:1 is the source of the proverbial “fly in the ointment.” Our prayer or praised mixed with unrepentant sin is nauseous. He then proves this point by citing to two other passages which are consistent with his observation:
‘Will you steal, lie, commit adultery, swear falsely, and come and stand before me,’ saith the Lord, by the prophet Jeremiah, Jer. 7:9. Will you offer to pray to me, and praise me, living in these and these sins? No; God will abhor both that prayer and praise, where there is no reformation. ‘What hast thou to do to take my name in thy mouth, since thou hatest to be reformed, and hast cast my words behind thee, saith God,’ Ps. 50:16, where he pleads with the hypocrite for this audacious boldness in severing things conjoined by God.
He returns to the original point in much the manner of a recapitulation which restates the original them but also makes use of the “development”.
Therefore, as we would not have our prayers turned back from heaven, which should bring a blessing upon all other things else: as we would not have our sacrifices abominable to God, labour to reform what is amiss, amend all, or else never think our lip-labour will prove anything but a lost labour without this reformation.
Here he makes an observation about the nature of repentance: In this he makes an interesting psychological observation. It is a common that you must repent of all sin. Sibbes unpacks what is so easily done: to reserve one sin:
A second thing, which I observe in general, before I come to the particulars, is,
Doctrine. That true repentance is, of the particular sin which we are most addicted to, and most guilty of.
The “particular” sin he takes directly from the text. If time permitted, we could tie these particular sins to their development throughout the Scripture. What strikes me at this moment is the degree to which these particular sins could be charged against contemporary Christians in N.A. There is an excessive trust in and reliance upon political means, various forms of power (on right and left). There is a commensurate lack of trust in the power of “normal means of grace,” the providence of God, the wisdom of God to the point that politics and power become idolatrous (and the idols were seen as means to obtain and expend supernatural power, which is often the way in which we view God as a charging station for our political position).
The particular sin of this people, whom God so instructs here, was their confidence in Assyria, horses, and idols.
Note the connection between the particular and the many (note also the structure of this paragraph proposition and illustration/application:
Now therefore repenting, they repent of the particular, main sins they were most guilty of; which being stricken down, all the lesser will be easy to conquer. As when Goliath himself was stricken down, all the host of the Philistines ran away, 1 Sam. 17:51. So when Goliath shall be slain in us, the reigning, ruling, domineering sin, the rest will easily be conquered.
Here, he develops the application of repenting of the particular:
Use. Therefore let us make an use of examination and trial of our repentance.
Stop and ask yourself, am I truly repentant of the particular sin(s) which most beset me? “If it be sound”: if you are truly repentant for the particular;
If it be sound, it draws with it a reformation; as in general, so especially of our particular sins. As those confess and say, ‘Above all other things we have sinned in this, in asking a king,’ 1 Sam. 12:8. We were naught, and had offended God many ways before; but herein we have been exceeding sinful, in seeking another governor, being weary of God’s gracious government over us.
True repentance of the particular sin will bring about a general reformation of the soul before God. He now makes this point with a precise description and then an illustration:
So a gracious heart will say, I have been a wretch in all other things, but in this and that sin above all other. Thus it was with the woman of Samaria, when she was put in mind by Christ of her particular grand sin, that she had been a light woman, and had had many husbands, he whom she lived with now not being her husband, John 4:18. This discovery, when Christ touched the galled part, did so work upon her conscience that it occasioned a general repentance of all her other sins whatsoever.
This exposing to us our particular sin is a great part of the work which the Spirit does when he brings conviction:
And, indeed, sound repentance of one main sin will draw with it all the rest. And, for the most part, when God brings any man home to him, he so carries our repentance, that, discovering unto us our sinfulness, he especially shews us our Delilah, Isaac, Herodias, our particular sin; which being cast out, we prevail easily against the rest.
Repentance can actually be a dodge and a cover for sin: If X is my great sin, I will happily repent of Y that I may retain X.
As the charge was given by the king of Aram against Ahab, ‘Fight neither against great nor small, but only against the king of Israel,’ 2 Chron. 18:30; kill him, and then there will be an end of the battle. So let us not stand striking at this and that sin (which we are not so much tempted to), if we will indeed prove our repentance to be sound; but at that main sin which by nature, calling, or custom we are most prone unto. Repentance for this causes repentance for all the rest; as here the church saith, ‘Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses,’ &c.
Here is something interesting: The one who retains a sin may be in the place of putting a great show of work as a means of atonement or payment for the sin which is kept.
It is a grand imposture, which carries many to hell; they will cherish themselves in some gross main sin, which pleases corrupt nature, and is advantageous to them; and by way of compensation with God, they will do many other things well, but leave a dead fly to mar all; whereas they should begin here especially.
Thus much in general, which things premised, I come to the forenamed particulars.