by Richard Sibbes
THERE be two sorts of people always in the visible church, one that Satan keeps under with false peace, whose life is nothing but a diversion to present contentments, and a running away from God and their own hearts, which they know can speak no good unto them; these speak peace to themselves, but God speaks none. Such have nothing to do with this Scripture, Ps. 42:11; the way for these men to enjoy comfort, is to be soundly troubled. True peace arises from knowing the worst first, and then our freedom from it. It is a miserable peace that riseth from ignorance of evil. The angel ‘troubled the waters,’ John 5:4, and then it* cured those that stepped in. It is Christ’s manner to trouble our souls first, and then to come with healing in his wings.
But there is another sort of people, who being drawn out of Satan’s kingdom and within the covenant of grace, whom Satan labours to unsettle and disquiet: being the ‘god of the world,’ 2 Cor. 4:4, he is vexed to see men in the world, walk above the world. Since he cannot hinder their estate, he will trouble their peace, and damp their spirits, and cut asunder the sinews of all their endeavours. These should take themselves to task as David doth here, and labour to maintain their portion and the glory of a Christian profession. For whatsoever is in God or comes from God, is for their comfort. Himself is the God of comfort, Rom. 15:5; his Spirit most known by that office, John 14:26. Our blessed Saviour was so careful that his disciples should not be too much dejected, that he forgat his own bitter passion to comfort them, whom yet he knew would all forsake him: ‘Let not your hearts be troubled,’ saith he, John 14:1, 27. And his own soul was troubled to death, that we should not be troubled: ‘whatsoever is written is written for this end,’ 2 Cor. 2:9; every article of faith hath a special influence in comforting a believing soul. They are not only food, but cordials; yea, he put himself to his oath, that we might not only have consolation, but strong consolation, Heb. 6:18. The sacraments seal unto us all the comforts we have by the death of Christ. The exercise of religion, as prayer, hearing, reading, &c., is, that ‘our joy may be full,’ 2 John 12. The communion of saints is chiefly ordained to comfort the feeble-minded and to strengthen the weak, 1 Thess. 5:14. God’s government of his church tends to this. Why doth he sweeten our pilgrimage, and let us see so many comfortable days in the world, but that we should serve him with cheerful and good hearts? As for crosses, he doth but cast us down, to raise us up, and empty us that he may fill us, and melt us that we may be ‘vessels of glory,’ Rom. 9:23, loving us as well in the furnace, as when we are out, and standing by us all the while. ‘We are troubled, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted but not forsaken,’ 2 Cor. 4:8. If we consider from what fatherly love afflictions come, how they are not only moderated but sweetened and sanctified in the issue to us, how can it but minister matter of comfort in the greatest seeming discomforts? How then can we let the reins of our affections loose to sorrow without being injurious to God and his providence? as if we would teach him how to govern his church.
The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes, Volume 1 (Edinburgh, London; Banner of Truth; 1862) p. 122-123. Sermon: The Soul’s Conflict With Itself, And Victory Over Itself By Faith