THE BRUISED REED
‘I shall never cease to be grateful to Richard Sibbes who was balm to my soul at a period in my life when I was overworked and badly overtired, and therefore subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the devil. I found at that time that Richard Sibbes, who was known in London in the early seventeenth century as “The Heavenly Doctor Sibbes” was an unfailing remedy. 'The Bruised Reed.' quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me.’ — D. MARTYN LLOYD-JONES
"In his book The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax, the Puritan preacher Richard Sibbes provides a tenderhearted, Christ-exalting exposition and application of Isaiah 42:1-3. Since its initial publication in 1630, The Bruised Reed1 has been a source of encouragement to dejected sinners and struggling saints alike.
Sibbes follows Matthew’s interpretation of this text, seeing it to be fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ (Matt. 12:18-20). His exposition breaks down into three basic parts: (1) Christ will not break the bruised reed; (2) Christ will not quench the smoking flax; (3) Christ will not do either of these things until he has sent forth judgment into victory. Sibbes explains the main text under these three headings and then intersperses searching application throughout the book.
Why should the busy pastor spend time reading a book written by a preacher in London nearly four centuries ago? Well, Sibbes did know a thing or two about preaching. He regularly wrote out his sermons and at the time of his death in 1635 he left over two million words on paper. The Bruised Reed is still considered to be a classic of Puritan devotion. Sibbes became known as the ‘heavenly Doctor Sibbes,’ due in part to his God-honouring preaching and God-fearing manner of life. A couplet was written about Sibbes after his death that captures this well:
Of that good man let this high praise be given:
Heaven was in him before he was in heaven.
According to Richard Baxter, the reading of The Bruised Reed was instrumental in his own conversion to Christ. The ‘heavenly Doctor Sibbes’ was also used of God to be an ‘unfailing remedy’ and balm to the soul of an overworked and overtired Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones wrote that during a particularly gruelling season of pastoral ministry, ‘The Bruised Reed quieted, soothed, comforted, encouraged and healed me’ (x).
I trust that you too will find The Bruised Reed to be a feast for your own soul. Richard Sibbes is a gift from Christ to his church in the way he models affectionate, Christ-centred preaching and application. What a joy it is to keep his company through his writings and to learn from him to love our Saviour more deeply and proclaim his gospel more faithfully." - NICK ROARK
"I was first introduced to Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed in 2005. I’d been slowly but surely coming out of a sustained battle with spiritual depression—a five-year season of intense inward struggle over sin, faith, and assurance—and the light was beginning to dawn. But I was experiencing particularly acute ministerial trials at the time that were threatening to overthrow the progress I’d made. I can’t recall exactly how I was introduced to it, but The Bruised Reed seemed a promising place to turn.
Known for his warm, Christ-centered preaching, Richard Sibbes (1567–1635) published The Bruised Reed in 1630 to help struggling Christians behold their Savior as the tender shepherd he truly is. An uncompromising minister—he was sentenced to banishment for speaking against the doctrinal indifference that had infected the Church of England—Sibbes is best remembered for his little book that draws from Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah who will not break a bruised reed nor snuff a faintly burning wick (Isa. 42:1–4).
Many Christians have found abiding comfort in Sibbes’s exposition and application of this passage from Isaiah. Richard Baxter (1615–1691) said he found spiritual relief from reading The Bruised Reed. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899–1981) tells of a time when, due to exhaustion, he was “subject in an unusual manner to the onslaughts of the Devil” (1972: 175). Lloyd-Jones names The Bruised Reed as the means by which God “soothed, comforted, encouraged, and healed” him (175).
Similar testimonies could be multiplied. And though there has been some recovery of Sibbes’s work among evangelicals, I would—for the comfort and perseverance of Christians the world over—like to see a renewed engagement with this little volume.
Sibbes was known in his time as the “Heavenly Dr. Sibbes.” After reading this little book, you’ll understand why. He knows how easy it is for the believing heart to turn in on itself and become blinded to the flicker of grace Christ has placed there. He recognizes we’re too easily fooled into thinking Jesus would rather take a sickle to a bruised reed than carefully attend to its restoration.
But Sibbes doesn’t merely diagnose; he prescribes the medicine. The Bruised Reed is a treasure of spiritual remedies, full of applications. I commend it to you for your progress and joy in the faith (Phil. 1:25)." - DEREK J. BROWN
Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), one of the most influential figures in the Puritan movement during the earlier years of the seventeenth century, was renowned for the rich quality of his ministry. The Bruised Reed shows why he was known among his contemporaries as ‘the sweet dropper’.
Of all Richard Sibbes’ works, The Bruised Reed has probably had the most enduring impact. It is an exposition of Matthew’s application to Jesus of the description of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 42:3 (Matt. 12:20). Sibbes’ wonderfully sensitive treatment has ministered to generations of Christians since its first publication in 1630.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1 The Reed and the Bruising
2 Christ Will Not Break the Bruised Reed
3 The Smoking Flax
4 Christ Will Not Quench the Smoking Flax 20
5 The Spirit of Mercy Should Move Us
6 Marks of the Smoking Flax
7 Help for the Weak
8 Duties and Discouragements
9 Believe Christ, Not Satan
10 Quench Not the Spirit
11 Christ’s Judgment and Victory
12 Christ’s Wise Government
13 Grace Shall Reign
14 Means to Make Grace Victorious
15 Christ’s Public Triumph
16 Through Conflict to Victory
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