by Richard Sibbes
Delivered in diverse sermons upon Isaiah 25:6-9
So much of late hath been written about the times, that Spiritual Discourses are now almost out of season. Men's minds are so hurried up and down, that it is to be feared, they are much discomposed to think furiously as they ought, of their eternal concernments: Alas! Christians have lost much of their communion with Christ and his saints; (the heaven upon earth) whilst they have woefully disputed away, and dispirited the life of religion and the power of godliness into dry and sapless Controversies about Government of Church and State. To recover therefore thy spiritual relish of savory practical truths, these sermons of that excellent man of God, of precious memory, are published: Wherein thou art presented the principal subjects handled in these sermons.
(1.) Of the Marriage Feast between Christ and His Church:
With an invitation to a great and wonderful Feast, the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, an admirable Feast indeed, wherein Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God is the Bridegroom, where every believer that hath put on the Lord Jesus, (the wedding garment) is not only the Guest, but the Spouse of Christ, and the Bride at this wedding supper. Here Jesus Christ is the Master of the Feast, and the Cheer and Provision too. He is the Lamb of God, the Ram caught in the thicket. He is the Fatted Calf, when he was sacrificed. Wisdom killed her beasts, (Proverbs 9:2). At his death, the oxen and fatlings were killed (Matthew 22:3). His flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. And that thou mayest be fully delighted at this Feast, Christ is the Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley; he is a bundle of Myrrh, a Cluster of Camphor, his name is an ointment poured out, and his love is better than wine.
In Christ are all things ready, for Christ is all in all (Colossians 3:11). And great is the Feast that Christ makes for believers; for it is the Marriage Feast which the great King makes for his Son. The great design and aim of the Gospel being to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, and give him a name above every name (Philippians 2:9). Great is the company that are bid, (Luke 14:6) Jews and Gentiles. God keeps open house; Lo every one that thirsts come, and whosoever will let him come and freely take of the water of life (Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17). Great is the cheer that is provided; every guest here hath Asher's portion, royal dainties, and bread of fatness (Genesis 49:20). Here's all excellent, best wine, wine on the lees well refined. Here's fat things, yea fat things full of marrow. Here's the hidden Manna, the water of life, and the fruit of the tree of life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God (Revelation 22:2). All that is at this Feast is of the best, yea the best of the best. Here's variety and plenty too, here's bread enough and to spare. Caligula and Heliogabalus their Feasts, who ransacked the earth, air, and sea to furnish their tables, were nothing to this. And above all, here's welcome for every hungry thirsty soul. He that bids thee come, will bid thee welcome, he will not say eat, when his heart is not with thee. The invitation is free, the preparation great, and the entertainment at this Feast, suiting the magnificence of the great King, is full and bountiful. All which is at large treated of in these excellent Sermons, which are therefore deservedly entitled, The Marriage Feast between Christ and His Church.
We read of a Philosopher, that having prepared an excellent treatise of happiness, and presenting it unto a great King, the King answered him, "Keep your Book to yourself, I am not now at leisure." Here is an excellent treasure put into thy hand, do not answer us, "I am not now at leisure." O do not let Christ stand knocking at thy heart, who will come and sup with thee, and bring his cheer with him. O let not a deceived heart turn thee any longer aside to feed upon ashes, feed no longer with swine upon husks, while thou mayest be filled and satisfied with bread in thy father's house (Luke 15:11-23).
But this is not all, if thou wilt be pleased to peruse this book, thou wilt find there are many other useful, seasonable, and excellent subjects handled besides the Marriage Feast.
(2.) Of the veil of ignorance and unbelief, and the removal of it:
Jesus Christ hath not only provided a Feast but, because he is desirous that all those for whom it is provided should come to it (which only they do that believe), he takes away the veil of ignorance and unbelief from off their hearts. And here you shall find this skillful preacher hath excellently discoursed, what this veil is, how it naturally lies upon all, and is only removed by the Spirit of GOD. And if the Lord hath destroyed this covering from off thy heart, we doubt not, but the truth of this heavenly doctrine will shine comfortably into thy soul.
(3.) Of Christ's conquest over death:
Jesus Christ to make his bounty and mercy further appear in this Feast, he hath given his guests the Bread of Life, and hath secured them from the fear of death. They need not fear, there's no Mors in olla at this Feast, we may Feast without fear. Jesus Christ by his tasting of death hath swallowed it up in victory (1 Corinthians 15:54). Christ doth not make his people such a Feast, as it is reported Dionysius the Tyrant once made for his flatterer Damocles, who set him at a princely table, but hanged a drawn sword in a small thread over his head.
But Christ would have us triumph over the King of Fears, who was slain by the death of Christ, and we thereby delivered from the bondage of the fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15). At other Feasts they were wont of old, to have a death's bread served in amongst other dishes, to mind them in the midst of all their mirth of their mortality (which practice of the heathens condemns the ranting jollity of some loose professors in these times). But here, Christ serves in death's head, (as David the head of Goliath) the head of a slain and conquered death. Our Sampson by his own death hath destroyed death, and hath thereby ransomed us from the hand of the grave, and hath redeemed us from death, and the slavish of it. All which is at large handled in these following sermons for thy comfort and joy, that thou mayest triumph in his love through whom thou art more than conqueror (Romans 8:37).
(4.) Of the Christian's tears, and the wiping them away:
Because it is a merry heart that makes a continual Feast (Proverbs 15:15), and that this Feast might be a Gaudy-day indeed unto thy soul, Christ doth here promise, to wipe away all tears from off the faces of his people. The Gospel hath comforts enough to make glad the hearts of the saints and people of God. The light of God's countenance will refresh them with joy unspeakable, and glorious in the midst of the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4). A truely godly person can weep for his sins, though the world smile never so much upon him; and though he be never so much afflicted in the world, yet he can and will rejoice in the God of his salvation. In these sermons thou hast this Gospel promise sweetly opened and applied; wherein thou shalt find directions when and for what to mourn and weep, and the blessedness of all true mourners, whose sorrows shall be turned into joy.
(5.) Of the rebukes and reproaches of God's people, and the taking of them away:
In these sermons you shall further find that though Jesus Christ respect his people highly and entertains them bountifully; yet they have but course usage in the world, who are wont to revile them as fools and madmen, as seditious rebels, troublers of Israel, proud and hypocritical persons. But blessed are they that do not stumble at this Stone of offence, that wear the reproaches of Christ as their crown, and by well-doing put to silence the ignorance of foolish men (1 Peter 2:15); for let the world load them with all their revilings, yet the Spirit of glory rests upon them (1 Peter 4:14), and in due time he will roll away their reproach, and bring forth their judgement as the light, and their righteousness as the noon-day (Psalm 37:6).
(6.) Of the promises:
And because a Christian here hath more in hope than in hand, more in reversion than in possession, walks by faith rather than sense, and lives by the Word of God, and not by bread alone. Thou shalt have here (Christian reader) a sweet discourse of the precious promises of Christ, which he hath left us here to slay the stomach of the soul, till we come to that Feast of Feasts in heaven. That by this glimpse we might in part know the greatness of that glory which shall be revealed (Isaiah 40:5), that the first fruits might be a pawn of the harvest and the earnest of the Spirit a pledge of that full reward we shall have in heaven, where we shall be brimfull of those pleasures that are at God's right hand forever (Psalm 16:11). Christ hath given us promises to uphold our faith and hope, till faith be perfected in fruition, and hope end in vision; till Jesus Christ, who is here the object of our faith, be the reward of our faith forever.
(7.) Of the Holy Scriptures, and the Divine Authority of them:
Now because the comfort of the promises is grounded in the faithfulness of him that hath promised, this godly and learned man, hath strongly asserted the Divine Authority of the Holy Scriptures, proving that they are theopneustos, that they are the very Word of God, that they are autopistos and aksopistos, worthy of all acceptation, and betide, for their own sakes. A truth very seasonable for these times to Antidote thee against the poison-full errors of blasphemous Antiscripturists.
(8.) Of waiting upon God:
Lastly, because that God often takes a long day for performance of the promise, thou shalt find herein the doctrine of waiting upon God excellently handled. A duty which we earnestly commend unto thy practice, as suitable to these sad times. Say, O say, with the Church, In the way of thy judgements, O Lord, we have waited for thee: (Isaiah 26:8) and with the Prophet, I will wait upon the Lord that hides his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. (Isaiah 8:17) And rest assured that none of the seed of Jacob shall seek him in vain; he will not disappoint their hope nor make their faces ashamed that wait for him.
Thus we have given you a short prospect of the whole, a brief sum of that treasure which these sermons contain. We need say nothing of the author, his former labours sufficiently speak for him in the gates, his memory is highly honoured amongst the godly learned. He that enjoys the glory of heaven, needs not the praise of men upon earth. If any should doubt of these sermons, as if they should not be truly his, whose Name they bear, let him but observe the style, and the excellent and spiritual matter herein contained, and he will hopefully be satisfied. Besides, there are many ear-witnesses yet living, who can clear them from any shadow of imposture. They come forth without any alteration, save only some repetitions (which the pulpit did well bear) are here omitted.
The Lord make these, and all other the labors of his servants profitable to his Church. And the Lord so destroy the veil from off thy heart, that thou mayest believe, and by faith come to this Feast, the joy and comfort whereof may swallow up all the slavish fear of death, dry up thy tears, and roll away all reproach. And the Lord give thee a waiting heart, to slay thy soul upon the name of the Lord, to believe his Word, and his faithful promises, that in due time thou mayest rejoice in the God of thy salvation. This is the earnest prayer of:
London: April 19, 1650