Sibbes begins his fifth sermon in this series (the prior post is found here) with a recap of what has been covered so far. But he uses this recap as a sort of mini sermon. Rather than merely say, God has provided us with encouragement to repent, he in fact lays out that encouragement and provides an encouragement to repent.
The structure of this section is interesting, because he varies the rhetorical technique to underscore his conceptual point. The sort of movement between various rhetorical structures is not something can be easily formulated. There is no strict pattern of movement between structures. It is a matter of art not science. It is an ability which could only be obtained through exposure, through much listening and reading to such work.
However, by looking at he has done, one can become more consciously aware of this aspect of the sermon.
Based upon the text (Hosea 14), Sibbes makes an observation about God and uses that observation as a basis for praise. God is gracious and he cares for his miserable creatures. He demonstrates God’s care by looking to what God has done with this chapter so far. Notice, it is not a promise of God will do; rather, it is what God has done by the very words of the prophecy.
The purpose of this introduction is two-fold. First, it declares to us the nature of God and praises God. Second, it is an encouragement to us to come to God despite our sin:
The superabounding mercies and marvellous lovingkindnesses
of a gracious and loving God
to wretched and miserable sinners,
as we have heard,
is the substance and sum of this short, sweet chapter,
He then offers six benefits God has provided. Notice that he does this be means of short clauses which all begin with the word “their” followed by “is” and then a final noun. In the fifth clause, the “is” becomes “are”. In the final clause, which ends the series, the “is+noun” becomes a conjugated verb, “answered.”
their ignorance is taught,
their bashfulness is encouraged,
their deadness is quickened,
their untowardness is pardoned,
their wounds are cured,
all their objections and petitions answered;
so as a large and open passage is made unto them, and all other miserable penitent sinners, for access unto the throne of grace.
He does not state this merely once. He repeats what God has done, but this time he phrases it in terms of conditional clauses: If X is lacking, then X is supplied. This list does not precisely duplicate the six categories. In addition, the explanation for what God does is provided in more detail
If they want words,
they are taught what to say;
if discouraged for sins past,
they are encouraged that sin may be taken away;
yea, all iniquity may be taken away. ‘Take away all iniquity.’
If their unworthiness hinder them,
they are taught for this, that God is gracious.
‘Receive us graciously.’
If their by-past unthankfulness be any bar of hindrance unto them,
they are taught to promise thankfulness.
‘So will we render the calves of our lips.’
The passage also makes plain what our repentance must entail: a relinquishment of all reliance upon another other than God:
And that their repentance may appear to be sound and unfeigned,
they are brought in, making profession
of their detestation of their bosom sins,
of false confidence and idolatry.
‘Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods.’
He then ends with an encouragement to come to God in repentance:
And not only do they reject their false confidence, to cease from evil, but they do good, and pitch their affiance where it should be. For ‘in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.’
None must therefore be discouraged, or run away from God, for what they have been, for there may be a returning. God may have a time for them, who, in his wise dispensation, doth bring his children to distress, that their delivery may be so much the more admired by themselves and others, to his glory and their good. He knows us better than we ourselves.
Sibbes returns his general proposition, but this from from a third point of view. This final section is more direct, it is far less rhetorically charged. He does include short expansion of three phrases which begin with “not/nor”, but the beginning end of the section consists of rather straightforward sentences and clear propositions: God seeks to turn us to himself, alone. To do this he removes from us all things which we trust upon other than him.
How prone we are to lean upon the creature. Therefore, he is fain to take from us all our props and supports, whereupon we are forced to rely upon him.
If we could do this of ourselves, it were an excellent work, and an undoubted evidence of the child of God, that hath a weaned soul in the midst of outward supports, to enjoy them, as if he possessed them not;
not to be puffed up with present greatness,
not to swell with riches,
nor be high-minded;
to consider of things to be as they are, weak things, subordinate to God, which can help no further than as he blesseth them
But to come to the words now read