Assurance, Heaven, Praise, Richard Sibbes, Sacrifice, thankfulness
V. “Doct. That God’s children at all times have their sacrifices.”
Even though Christ has come and the temple sacrifices of animals and grain have been superseded, it does not mean there are no sacrifice remains for Christians. Sibbes lists five: a broken heart, “offering Christ to God,” offering a mortified life as a living sacrifice, giving alms, and praise. When it comes to praise, he will offer further elaboration.
A. Even though Christ has come we must still offer sacrifice
There is indeed one kind of sacrificing determined and finished by the coming of Christ, who was the last sacrifice of propitiation for our sins.
He specifically rejects the concept of the mass as a continuing sacrifice. The sacrifice commemorated in the Supper was the sacrifice under which which has ended.
The more to blame those who yet maintain a daily sacrifice, not of laud and praise, but of cozening and deluding the world, in saying mass for the sins of the quick and the dead; all such sacrifices being finished and closed up in him, our blessed Saviour; who, ‘by one sacrifice,’ as the apostle speaks, ‘hath perfected them that are sanctified,’ Heb. 10:14, 7:27; and that, ‘by one sacrifice, when he offered up himself,’ Heb. 10:12; when all the Jewish sacrifices ended. Since which, all ours are but a commemoration of Christ’s last sacrifice, as the fathers say: the Lord’s supper, with the rest, which remain still; and the sacrifice of praise, with a few others, I desire to name.
But there are other sacrifices:
1. First, The sacrifice of a broken heart, whereof David speaks, Ps. 51:17; which sacrifice of a wounded, broken heart, by the knife of repentance, pleaseth God wondrously well.
2. And then, a broken heart that offers Christ to God every day; who, though he were offered once for all, yet our believing in him, and daily presenting his atonement made for us, is a new offering of him. Christ is crucified and sacrificed for thee as oft as thou believest in Christ crucified.
I guess we best understand this as the application of faith to a broken heart: it is to plead Christ’s death again without claiming that we are in fact re-sacrificing Christ.
Now, upon all occasions we manifest our belief in Christ, to wash and bathe ourselves in his blood, who justifieth the ungodly. So that, upon a fresh sight of sin, with contrition for it, he continually justifieth us. Thus, when we believe, we offer him to God daily; a broken heart first, and then Christ with a broken heart.
There is also the sacrifice of the presenting our lives to service:
3. And then when we believe in Christ, we offer and sacrifice ourselves to God; in which respect we must, as it were, be killed ere we be offered. For we may not offer ourselves as we are in our lusts, but as mortified and killed by repentance. Then we offer ourselves to God as a reasonable and living sacrifice, when we offer ourselves wholly unto him, wit, understanding, judgment, affections, and endeavour; as Paul saith of the Macedonians, ‘they gave themselves to God first, and then their goods,’ 2 Cor. 8:5.
In sum, it is that sacrifice Paul speaks of, ‘to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God,’ &c., Rom. 12:1. For a Christian who believeth in the Lord Jesus is not his own, but sacrificeth himself to him that was sacrificed for him. As Christ is given to us, so he that believes in Christ gives himself back again to Christ.
This sacrifice is the measure and proof of our salvation:
Hereby a man may know if he be a true Christian, and that Christ is his, if he yields up himself to God. For ‘Christ died and rose again,’ saith the apostle, ‘that he might be Lord both of quick and dead,’ Rom. 14:9. ‘Therefore,’ saith he, ‘whether we live or die, we are not our own,’ Rom. 14:8.
Each time we suffer due to the fact that our life given up to God is conflict with the flow of this world, we are in a state of sacrifice:
What we do or suffer in the world, in all we are sacrificed. So saith a sanctified soul, My wit, my will, my life, my good, my affections are thine; of thee I received them, and I resign all to thee as a sacrifice. Thus the martyrs, to seal the truth, as a sacrifice, yielded up their blood.
In an anti-antinomian turn, Sibbes who is much of the freedom of God’s grace notes that nature of grace received is to create thankfulness which is expressed in a manner of life. This is an interesting idea: Obedience is rendered as an act of thankfulness toward God.
He that hath not obtained of himself so much as to yield himself to God, he knows not what the gospel means. For Christian religion is not only to believe in Christ for forgiveness of sin; but the same faith which takes this great benefit, renders back ourselves in lieu of thankfulness.
He presses and explicates the point:
So that, whatsoever we have, after we believe, we give all back again. Lord, I have my life, my will, my wit, and all from thee; and to thee I return all back again. For when I gave myself to believe in thy dear Son, I yielded myself and all I have to thee; and now, having nothing but by thy gift, if thou wilt have all I will return all unto thee again; if thou wilt have my life, my goods, my liberty, thou shalt have them.
Here he notes that true faith is not merely a cognitive assent to a fact “not altogether in believing in this or that”. Faith transforms the entire life, faith is such a thing:
This is the state of a Christian who hath denied himself. For we cannot believe as we should unless we deny ourselves. Christianity is not altogether in believing this and that; but the faith which moves me to believe forgiveness of sins, carries us also unto God to yield all back again to him.
Love for those whom cannot repay:
4. More especially, among the sacrifices of the New Testament are alms, as, ‘To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased,’ Heb. 13:16.
The sacrifice of prase:
5. And among the rest, the sacrifice of praise, which is in the same chapter, verse 15. First, he saith, By him, that is, by Christ, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips: which is but an exposition of this place, which, because it is especially here intended, I will a little enlarge myself in.
B. What is meant by “calves of our lips”
This idiom is at first quite difficult: calves and lips are not concordant ideas. But the use of “calf” as a metonymy for “sacrifice” leads to some sense:
He first gives an outline of how he will develop the idea: giving glory and giving thanks. One is extolling God, the other is an effusion of love for the thing received.
The ‘calves of our lips’ implies two things: Not only thankfulness to God, but glorifying of God, in setting out his praise. Otherwise to thank God for his goodness to us, or for what we hope to receive, without glorifying of him, is nothing at all worth.
1. What it means to glorify God
For in glorifying there are two things.
a. “A supposition of excellency.” For that cannot be glorified, which hath no excellency in it. Glory in sublimity hath alway excellency attending it. And
b. “The manifestation of this glory.”
Now, when all the excellencies of God, as they are, are discovered and set out, his wisdom, mercy, power, goodness, all-sufficiency, &c., then we glorify him. To praise God for his favours to us, and accordingly to glorify him, is ‘the calves of our lips;’ but especially to praise him. Whence the point is—
c. “That the yielding of praise to God is a wondrous acceptable sacrifice.”
Which is instead of all the sacrifices of the Old Testament, than which the greatest can do no more, nor the least less; for it is the sacrifice and fruit of the lips.
But to open it.
i. The speech which glorifies God has its value in the fact it springs from the understanding:
It is not the sound of the words, but the resolution of the heart which makes the speech God-glorifying.
It is not merely the sacrifice of our lips; for the praise we yield to God, it must be begotten in the heart. Hereupon the word, λογὸς [logos], speech, signifieth both reason and speech, there being one word in the learned language for both.
Reason is communicated as speech:
Because speech is nothing but that stream which issues from the spring of reason and understanding:
therefore, in thanksgiving there must not be a lip-labour only, but a thanksgiving from the lips, first begotten in the heart, coming from the inward man, as the prophet saith, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name,’ Ps. 103:1.
We know what and why we praise:
Praise must come from a sound judgment of the worth of the thing we praise for.
Praise must rise from true affection:
It must come from an affection which desires that God may have the glory, by the powers of the whole inward man, which is a hard matter, to rouse up ourselves to praise God with all the powers of our soul, ‘all that is within me, praise his holy name,’ Ps. 103:1.
In sum: There goeth judgment, resolution of the will, strength of affections, and all with it.
ii. Praise comes from the heart and then flows out into action:
Praise is an act of integrity: It begins with a true understanding and love, expressing itself in word and in conduct:
And then again, besides this, ‘the calves of our lips’ carries us to work. The oral thanksgiving must be justified by our works and deeds; or else our actions will give our tongue the lie, that we praise him with the one, but deny him in the other. This is a solecism, as if one should look to the earth, and cry, O ye heavens! So when we say, God be praised, when yet our life speaks the contrary, it is a dishonouring of God. So the praise of our lips must be made good and justified by our life, actions, and conversation. This we must suppose for the full understanding of the words, ‘We will render,’ from our hearts, ‘the calves of our lips;’ which we must make good in our lives and conversations, ever to set forth thy praise in our whole life.
C. Why this phrase?
Quest. But why doth the prophet especially mention lips, ‘the calves of our lips,’ which are our words?
Ans. 1. Partly, because Christ, who is the Word, delights in our words.
2. Because our tongue is our glory, and that whereby we glorify God.
3. And especially because our tongue is that which excites others, being a trumpet of praise, ordained of God for this purpose. Therefore, ‘the calves of our lips;’ partly, because it stirs up ourselves and others, and partly, because God delights in words, especially of his own dictating.
D. How can become the person who gives such true praise?
To come then to speak more fully of praise and thanksgiving, let us consider what a sweet, excellent, and prevailing duty this is, which the church, to bind God, promiseth unto him, ‘the calves of our lips.’ I will not be long in the point, but only come to some helps how we may come to do it.
1. We must be broken and humbled to give praise: We must think little of ourselves. He makes an important point here concerning thankfulness. A thankful person begins with an understanding of his lack of some-thing and his unworthiness to receive something. We pay money at the market and take away my apple, I am not thankful to the cashier for letting me take my apple, I have paid for it. But if that same person out of kindness gave me that apple without money, an apple I had not earned or deserved, I would be thankful:
First, this praising of God must be from an humble, broken heart. The humble soul that sees itself not worthy of any favour, and confesseth sin before God, is alway a thankful soul. ‘Take away our iniquity, and then do good to us.’ We are empty ourselves. Then will ‘we render thee the calves of our lips.’
Proof of the point
What made David so thankful a man? He was an humble man; and so Jacob, what abased him so in his own eyes? His humility: ‘Lord, I am less than the least of thy mercies,’ Gen. 32:10.
He that thinks himself unworthy of anything, will be thankful for everything; and he who thinks himself unworthy of any blessing, will be contented with the least.
Exhortation: Notice how Sibbes is continually raising application as it is appropriate. To be thankful: which is the thing sought, we first must contemplate our unworthiness. The point here is not self-centered loathing, but a realization that we do not deserve good so that we may be thankful of the good.
Therefore, let us work our hearts to humility, in consideration of our sinfulness, vileness, and unworthiness, which will make us thankful: especially of the best blessings, when we consider their greatness, and our unworthiness of them.
Here he makes a point which coheres with something I see in the Iliad (which I am currently completing), a book of extraordinarily proud men. Thankfulness is almost non-existent. The word “thank” only appears 10 times in Butler’s translation, as an ironic concept, as a means for a god to deceive someone into a committing a crime, as a basis for pride (no one thanks me for my fighting).
I wonder if our emphasis on self-esteem has contributed to unhappiness by making us unthankful: and also creating a basis for constant disappointment and frustration (I have not received what I deserved).
Another note, the broken-hearted humility is humility toward God.
A proud man can never be thankful. Therefore, that religion which teacheth pride, cannot be a thankful religion.
Popery is compounded of spiritual pride: merit of congruity, before conversion; merit of condignity, and desert of heaven, after; free will, and the like, to puff up nature. What a religion is this! Must we light a candle before the devil? Is not nature proud enough, but we must light a candle to it? To be spiritually proud is worst of all.
2. Thankfulness is paired with an evaluation of the greatness and goodness of God. The Christian who “humbles” himself can conceal pride in that humility if it is not paired with an understanding of the goodndess and greatness of God. Without this there will never be thankfulness; and there will not be true humility
And with our own unworthiness, add this: a consideration of the greatness of the thing we bless God for; setting as high a price upon it as we can, by considering what and how miserable we were without it.
He is going to raise the doctrine of Hell. The doctrine is routinely unfashionable and is often considered reprehensible. But here Sibbes asks us to consider it so that we may be thankful. Here is the misery we have earned (and that is the point which is unpalatable, perhaps you could deserve Hell, but I could not), and yet we are spared. If you narrowly avoided being killed in a fire, you would thank the fireman.
He will bless God joyfully for pardon of sin, who sees how miserable he were without it, in misery next to devils, ready to drop into hell every moment. And the more excellent we are, so much the more accursed, without the forgiveness of sins.
For the soul, by reason of the largeness thereof, is so much the more capable and comprehensible of misery; as the devils are more capable than we, therefore are most accursed. Oh, this will make us bless God for the pardon of sin!
Consider all of the good things we have received. In particular be thankful that we can see or hear or touch.
And likewise, let us set a price upon all God’s blessings, considering what we were without our senses, speech, meat, drink, rest, &c. O beloved!
we forget to praise God sufficiently for our senses.
This little spark of reason in us is an excellent thing; grace is founded upon it. If we were without reason, what were we? If we wanted sight, hearing, speech, rest, and other daily blessings, how uncomfortable were our lives! This consideration will add and set a price to their worth, and make us thankful, to consider our misery without them.
Sadly, we don’t know how many good things we have until we do not have them:
But, such is our corruption, that favours are more known by the want, than by the enjoying of them. When too late, we many times find how dark and uncomfortable we are without them; then smarting the more soundly, because in time we did not sufficiently prize, and were thankful for them.
3. If we have a good assurance that we are right before God, we will be thankful
And then, labour to get further and further assurance that we are God’s children, beloved of him.
Assurance will work in two ways: it will make me conscious of what I have – and what is coming. It will make me thankful.
This will make us thankful both for what we have and hope for.
Proof of the point by considering the opposite:
It lets out the life-blood of thankfulness, to teach doubting or falling from grace.
Why does God tell us of the good which is laid up for us? To make us hopeful and thus thankful:
What is the end, I beseech you, why the glory to come is revealed before the time? That we shall be sons and daughters, kings and queens, heirs and co-heirs with Christ, and [that] ‘all that he hath is ours?’ Rom. 8:17. Is not this knowledge revealed beforehand, that our praise and thanksgiving should beforehand be suitable to this revelation, being set with Christ in heavenly places already. Whence comes those strong phrases? ‘We are raised with Christ; sit with him in heavenly places,’ Eph. 2:6; ‘are translated from death to life,’ Col. 1:13; ‘transformed into his image;’ ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ &c., 2 Pet. 1:4.
Faith begets thankfulness. Doubting robs us of blessing. This is an important aspect of faith: it the means by which one person receives love and joy and hope from another: if I distrust you, I can never receive love from you.
If anything that can come betwixt our believing, and our sitting there, could disappoint us thereof, or unsettle us, it may as well put Christ out of heaven, for we sit with him. If we yield to the uncomfortable popish doctrine of doubting, we cannot be heartily thankful for blessings; for still there will rise in the soul surmises, I know not whether God favour me or not: it may be, I am only fatted for the day of slaughter; God gives me outward things to damn me, and make me the more inexcusable.
And if we doubt we will not give God the praise he deserves. How could one be thainkful with, maybe you’ll do me good?
What a cooler of praise is this, to be ever doubting, and to have no assurance of God’s favour! But when upon good evidence, which cannot deceive, we have somewhat wrought in us, distinct from the greater number of worldlings, God’s stamp set upon us; having evidences of the state of grace, by conformity to Christ, and walking humbly by the rule of the word in all God’s ways: then we may heartily be thankful, yea, and we shall break forth in thanksgiving; this being an estate of peace, and ‘joy unspeakable and glorious,’ 1 Pet. 1:8, wherein we take everything as an evidence of God’s love.
He restates the proposition:
Thus the assurance of our being in the state of grace makes us thankful for everything.
He restates the contrary: Notice the tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them. Particularly when delivering an oral message, repetition is critical to retention and understanding.
So by the contrary, being not in some measure assured of God’s love in Christ, we cannot be thankful for everything. For it will always come in our mind, I know not how I have these things, and what account I shall give for them.
He repeats the exhortation: Be assured of what you will receive for this will fill your heart with thankfulness:
even for the honour of God,
and that we may praise him the more cheerfully,
let us labour to have further and further evidences of the state of grace,
[this leads to]
to make us thankful both for things present and to come,
seeing faith takes to trust things to come, as if it had them in possession.
[Our faith is well-grounded]
Whereby we are assured of this, that we shall come to heaven, as sure as if we were there already. This makes us praise God beforehand for all favours; as blessed Peter begins his epistle, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which, according to his abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,’ &c., 1 Pet. 1:3, 4.
A final encouragement:
As soon as we are newborn, we are begotten to a kingdom and an inheritance. Therefore, assurance that we are God’s children will make us thankful for grace present, and that to come, as if we were in heaven already. We begin then the employment of heaven in thanksgiving here, to praise God beforehand with cherubims and angels. Let us, then, be stirred up to give God his due beforehand, to begin heaven upon earth; for we are so much in heaven already, as we abound and are conversant in thanksgiving upon earth.