Richard Sibbes always sought to get under the superficial layer of his listeners’ behaviour and deal with their hearts. He knew that the outward acts of sin spring from the inner desires of the heart. Merely to alter a person’s behavior without dealing with those desires would cultivate hypocrisy, the self-righteous cloak for a cold and vicious heart. Sibbes believed that hearts must be turned, and evil desires eclipsed by stronger ones for Christ.
This book is as relevant today as when it was first published in 1629. Our busyness and activism so easily degenerate into a hypocrisy in which we keep up all the appearance of holiness without the heart of it. Christians even use Christ as a package to pass on to others, instead of enjoying him first and foremost as their own Savior. But true reformation must begin in the heart, with love for Christ. And that can only come when the free grace of God in Christ Jesus is preached.
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Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), English Puritan, was appointed a lecturer at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge in 1610. Later, through the influence of friends, he was chosen to be the preacher at Gray’s Inn, London, and he remained there until 1626. In that year he returned to Cambridge as Master of St Catherine’s Hall, and later returned to Holy Trinity, this time as its vicar. He was granted a Doctorate in Divinity in 1627, and was thereafter frequently referred to as ‘the heavenly Doctor Sibbes’. He continued to exercise his ministry at Gray’s Inn, London, and Holy Trinity, Cambridge, until his death on 6 July 1635 at the age of 58.