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Richard Sibbes :: The Fifth Sermon - Isaiah 25:8

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THE GLORIOUS FEAST OF THE GOSPEL
The Marriage Feast
Between
Christ and His Church

 


The Fifth Sermon — Isaiah 25:8

 

And all tears shall be wiped away from all faces.

Not only death shall be swallowed up in victory, but God will wipe away all tears from all eyes. Religion shall be religion, good things shall be good things, nothing shall go under false notions, all tears shall be wiped away. We have now many causes of tears. In the world there is continual raising of clouds that distill into drops of tears; had we nothing without us to raise a vapour to be distilled in tears, we are able to raise up mists from our own mists, from our own doubts and conflicts within.

Good men are easy to weep

 

As we should weep for our own sins, so for the sins of others; as we may see in Jeremiah, where the Prophet saith, O that my head were a fountain of tears, that I might weep continually for the sins of my people (Jeremiah 9:1). And indeed good men are easy to weep, as the heathen man observeth, they are easy to lament not only for their own sins, but the sins and misery of another.

 

Our blessed Saviour himself, we never read that he laughed, we have heard that he wept and for his very enemies, O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. He shed tears for them that shed his blood. Tears were main evidences of Christ’s sweetness of disposition; as that he would become man and a curse, and die for us. And that he would make so much of little children and call all to him that were weary and heavy laden that he never refuted any that came to him. He that wept specially for the miseries and afflictions, this showed his gracious and sweet disposition.

Christ in heaven not without compassion

 

And that in heaven, he is so full of sympathies in glory that when Paul persecuted the Church, Why dost thou persecute me? (Acts 26:14). So though he is free from passion in heaven, he is not free from compassion, from sympathy with his Church. And so every child of God is ready, not only to grieve for his own sins and the misery that follows them, but the sins and miseries of others. Mine eyes gush out with rivers of tears (Psalm 119:136), saith the Prophet David, when he saw that men break the law of God, whom he loved.

 

A true natural child takes to heart the disgrace of his father. If we be not grieved to see our father disgraced, we are bastards, not sons. They that make a sport of sin what are they? Alas, they have not one spark of the Spirit of adoption. They are not children, who rejoice at that at which they should grieve.

 

So Saint Paul, I have told you often, and now tell you weeping, there be many enemies of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18). When he saw some men preach against and others enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is damnation, he tells them of it weeping.

We have cause to weep for the sins of others

 

We have cause therefore to mourn for the sins of others, and for the miseries of others; whether we respect God, or the Church, or ourselves.

From our love to God; From love to the Church and our brethren

 

First, the love of God moves us to weep when we see him dishonored. If we love the Church, we should mourn for any sins that may prejudice their salvation. Doth it not pity any man to see an ox go to slaughter; to see a man of parts otherwise by sinning against conscience going to slaughter; to see an ordinary swearer, an unclean person, a prophane wretch covering himself with pride as a garment, scorning God and the world and all. Can a Christian look upon this, see flesh and blood like himself under the Gospel, under a cursed condition unavoidable, without serious repentance, and not be affected with it? Can a man see a poor ass fall under a burden, and not help to take it up, and yet see man falling to hell and not be affected with it? Thus we see we have cause enough of tears. And as there is cause, so we should be sensible; we ought to take to heart the afflictions of Joseph. He is a deadman that hath not sense in this kind. If we go to the body and state or anything about a man, there is cause of grief; hath not every member many diseases? And is not our lives a kind of hospital, some sick of one thing, some of another? But as there is cause we should be sensible of it, we are flesh and not stones; therefore it is a sottish opinion to be stockish and brutish, as if to outface sorrow and grief were a glory.

To condemn stoicism

 

When our Saviour was sent into the world, Christi dolor, dolor maximus, there were no patience without sensibleness; away then with that iron that flinty philosophy, that thinks it a virtue to be stupid. And as the Apostle saith, (Romans 1:31) without natural affections. He counts it the greatest judgment of God upon the soul, yet they would have it a virtue. Why should I smite them any more saith God? They have no sense, no feeling (Isaiah 1:5).

 

The proud philosopher thought it was not philisophical to weep; a proud stoical humor, but Christians desire it.

The best men most apt to grieve

 

And therefore we ought to labour to be more sensible that we might make our peace, and reverence the justice of God, and be more sensible of him afterwards. It is most true that Sapiens miser, plus miser; the more wise any man is the more sensible of misery. And therefore of all men, the best men have most grief because they have most quick senses, they be not stupified with insensibility and resoluteness to bear it bravely as the world; but they apprehend with grief, the cause of grief. And as they have a more sanctified judgment than other men, so they have a more wise affection of love, and a quicker life of grace. Where life is there is sense; and where there is a clear sight or cause of grief, there is most grief. Therefore the best men have most grief because they be most judicious, most loving.

 

Then they have most grace to bear it out of all others; therefore considering there is cause in ourselves and in others of grief continually, we ought to labour to be sensible of it, else it were no favour to have tears wiped away.

 

So that there is cause of tears, and tears is a duty of Christians, sensible of the cause both of sin and misery, upon one and another.

It is good we do grieve

 

And as it is an unavoidable grief, so it is good we should grieve. We must stoop to God’s course, we must bring our hearts to it and pray (that since our necessities and sins do call for this dispensation that we must under correction, he will make us sensible of his rod) that he would make good his Covenant of grace, to take away our stoney hearts, and give us hearts of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26) that we may be sensible.

 

Most of graces are founded upon affection, and all graces are but affections sanctified. What would become of grace if we had not affections? Therefore as there is cause of grief, and tears from grief, we ought to grieve. It is a condition and a duty; a condition following misery, and a duty following our condition.

Avoid what hinders sensibleness

 

Take heed of that which hinders sensibleness of troubles and judgment, that is: hardness of heart, forgetfullness, studying to put away sorrow with sin. For we ought to be sensible and ought to labour to be sensible, to know the meaning of every cross in ourselves and others.

 

But suppose we have crosses and we must be sensible of them, then it follows, God will wipe away all tears from our eyes (Isaiah 28:25). Is there nothing for the present, no ground of comfort? Yes. As we ought to be sensible of grief, so we ought to be sensible of matter of joy for the present, specially if we consider the time to come.

The life of a Christian is a mixture of joy and sorrow

 

The life of a Christian is a strange kind of life, he ought to grieve and he ought to joy. He hath occasion of both, and he ought to entertain both; for that that we ought to aim at specially is joy. And if we grieve, it is that afterwards we might joy. We must be sensible of any affliction that we might joy afterwards, and we ought to labour for it. For is not the joy of the Lord, our strength? (Nehemiah 8:10). Are not we fit to do service when our spirits are most enlarged? And is it not a credit to religion when we walk in comfort of the Holy Ghost? Is it not a scandal, when we droop under the cross? We ought to be sensible, yet not so as to forget matter of joy and comfort.

We should pick matter of comfort out of grief

 

And therefore as we ought to grieve, so we ought when we have grieved, to keep up the soul with consideration of joy for the present as much as we can, yea, to pick out matter of comfort from the very cross. That is the heart of a Christian, not only to joy in other matters, but to pick comfort out of grief. God suffers me to fall into this or that condition, it is a fruit of his fatherly love. He might suffer me to run the broad way, to be given up to a reprobate sense and hard heart, but he doth not do so. Pick out matter of comfort from grief.

 

Then consider the presence of God in it; indeed I have matter of grief, but I find God moderating it. It might be far worse, it is his mercy I am not consumed (Lamentations 3:22). I find God by it doing me good; I find myself better by it, I cannot well be without it. Who would not labour to be sensible of a cross when he looks up to God’s cross, and justice, and mercy; he hath rather cause to joy, than to grieve in the very cross itself.

 

But specially mark what the Holy Ghost saith here, we ought not to be cast down overmuch with any cross, considering God will wipe away all tears from our eyes, that is all natural tears and the miseries of this life. There shall be no more misery, no more sickness, no more trouble.

 

And then all tears that arise from consideration of sin and misery following sin, death is the accomplishment of all mortification. It is a comfort that we shall not always lead this conflicting life, but the war between the flesh and spirit will be taken up; the sense will be removed, we shall be out of Satan’s reach, and the world’s reach one day, which is a great comfort to consider.

All causes of sorrow shall be removed

 

Whatsoever the cause is, the cause shall be removed ere long. If the cause be desertion, for that God leaves us comfortless, we shall be forever hereafter with the Lord. If the cause be separation from friends, why we shall all meet together ere long, and be forever in heaven. If the cause be our own sins, we shall cease hereafter to offend God, and Christ will be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28). Now sin is almost all in all, sin and corruption bear a great sway in us. If the matter of our grief be the sins of others, and the afflictions of others, there is no sin in heaven, no unclean thing shall enter there. The souls of perfect men are there and all are of one mind. There is no opposition to goodness, there all shall go one way, there (howsoever they cannot agree here) all shall have mutual solace and contentment in one another; they in us and we in them, and that forever. You cannot name them or imagine a cause of tears, but it shall be removed there.

The more tears here, the more joy hereafter

 

Nay, the more tears we have shed here, the more comfort we shall have. As our troubles are increased here, our consolation shall increase. That we suffer here, if for a good cause, will work our eternal and exceeding weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17). We say April showers, bring forth May flowers, it is a common speech from experience of common life. It is true in religion, the more tears we shed in the April of our lives, the more sweet comfort we shall have hereafter. If no tears are to be shed here, no showers are to be gathered there. And therefore besides deliverance from trouble, here is comfort, God will take away all cause of grief and all kinds of grief whatsoever.

 

And therefore thus think of it.

First shed tears and then have them wiped away; our own necessity

 

The next thing to be considered is the order. First, we must shed tears, and then they must be wiped away. After a storm, a calm; after sowing in tears, comes reaping in joy (Psalm 126:5). What is the reason of that order? The reason is our own necessity. We are in such a frame and condition since the fall that we cannot be put into a good frame of grace without much pain. The truths of God must cross us, and afflictions must join with them. For the sins contracted by pleasure must be dissolved by pain. Repentance must cost us tears; we may thank ourselves if we have brought ourselves to a sinful course. For the necessity of this order, a diseased person must not be cured till he feel some smart of the wounds.

For the increase of our comfort

 

Again, consider it is for our increase of comfort afterwards that God will have us shed tears; and then to have our tears wiped away because we be more sensible of joy, and comfort after sorrow. We cannot be sensible of the joys of heaven, unless we seize the contrary here. And therefore of all men, heaven will be the most heaven to them that have had their portion of crosses and afflictions here. First therefore shed tears, and then they must be wiped away because joy is most sensible. As it is with the wickedest of all men, they be most miserable that have been happiest because their soul is enlarged by their happiness, to apprehend sorrow more quickly and sensibly. So they that have been most miserable here shall have most joy hereafter.

Take notice of the tender mercy of God in this that he will wipe away tears

 

Now for Use: Here is not only the mercies of God in Christ, but the tender mercy that whereas our life is full of tears, which we have brought upon ourselves, yet God stoops so low as to wipe our eyes. Like a father or mother, his mercy is a sweet and tender mercy. And as the Psalmist saith, When we are sick he makes our beds in our sickness (Psalm 41:3). Christ will come and serve them that watch and serve him; nay he will attend them and sup with them. He is not only mercy and goodness, but there be in him bowels of mercy. He not only gives matter of joy and comfort, but he will do like a tender-hearted mother, wiping away all tears from our eyes. We cannot apprehend the bowels in God’s love, the pity and mercy of God towards them that be his, and afflicted in the world, specially in a good cause. Though they be never so many, if they be penitent tears, he will wipe them all away.

Judge not by sight, for the godly here mourn most

 

And whereas we must shed tears here that we may be comforted hereafter, take heed that we do not in this life judge by sight, but by faith. If we live by sight, we are of all men most wretched. In the world the children of God are most miserable, and of the children of God, the best saints. Who hath more cause of tears than the best saints? It is but seed time here; while seed time continues, there be tears. The husbandman while it is seed time cannot do his office but with trouble. The minister cannot do his office, but he is forced to take to heart the sins of the times, to see his work go backward. Governors of families and such, they carry their seed weeping; yea, the best men cannot do good sometimes, but they do it with trouble in themselves, and with conflict of corruptions. There is no good sown here, but it is sown in tears; yet take no scandal at this, God will wipe away all tears.

 

The Head of the Church our blessed Saviour and all his gracious Apostles, what a life did they live? The glorious martyrs that sealed the truth with their blood and therefore as the Apostle saith, If our happiness were here only, we were of all men most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:19). If we judge by sight, we shall condemn the generation of the righteous. We live by sight when we see any cast down with sight of sin, sense of temptation, distress of conscience, we think him forlorn. O take heed of that. For those that shed tears here, God will wipe them all away. Woe to them that laugh now, for they shall mourn hereafter (Luke 6:25). Though we weep here, yet matter of joy enough shall spring up hereafter. Afflictions will yield a quiet fruit of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby, (Hebrews 12:11). We may not see their fruits presently, but afterwards.

Be not discouraged for our own or the church’s causes of grief

 

And therefore be not discouraged for anything we can suffer here or for the Church, if we see her under pressure. As darkness is sown for the wicked, the foundation of their eternal torment is laid in their joy. So the ground and foundation of all a godly man’s joy is laid in tears. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4). Yet for the present there is more matter of joy than grief, if we look with both eyes, as we ought to have double eyes; one to be sensible of our grief as we must be, the other of our comfort, that we may not be surprised with grief.

Christians have more cause of joy than grief, and they ought to eye both

 

There is a sorrow to death, an overmuch sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10). It is unthankfullness to God to forget our comforts, as it is stupidity to forget our sorrow. Take us at the worst, have not we more cause of joy than sorrow? Being justified by faith, we have peace with God (Romans 5:1), and rejoice under hope of glory. Nay afterwards, saith he, we rejoice in tribulations: And why? upon what ground? Knowing that tribulations bring experience, and experience hope, and hope makes not ashamed (Romans 5:3-5). Now we rejoice in God reconciled in Christ. So that as we ought to look with one eye upon the grief, that we may have ground to exercise grace, which we are not capable of without sensibleness; so we must look to grounds of joy. Our life is woven of matter of sorrow and joy, and as it is woven of both. Affections should be sensible of both, that they may be more apprehensive of the grounds of comforts.

This is comfortable while we live and when we die

 

When the day of persecution approaches, this will make us comfortable, for our life is a valley of tears; and shall not we go through this valley of tears to this mount where all tears shall be wiped away from all eyes? When we be dejected with the loss of any friend, they say as Christ said to the woman, “weep not for me” (Luke 23:28). They be happy and all tears are wiped away from their eyes. And therefore as it is matter of comfort while we live, so a ground of comfort when we die. For there is occasion of sorrow in death, parting with friends and comforts of this world, then tears are shed in more abundance, and then we bethink ourselves of former sins, and there is renewing of repentance more than at other times. Yet then are we near the time of joy, and nearest the accomplishment of the promise that all tears shall be wiped away.

A carnal man is all joy or all sorrow

 

And so you have the whole state of a Christian life, an afflicted condition, but it is a comfortable condition. The more afflictions here, the more comfort here, but specially hereafter. The life of a carnal man is all in misery; if he falls to joy, he is all joy, if to sorrow, he is all sorrow. He hath nothing to support him, he is like a Nabal, he sinks like a piece of lead to the bottom of the sea. Like Ahithophel down he goes; when he is upon the merry pin, he is nothing but joy.

The godly have a mixed condition and should have mixed disposition

 

But a Christian’s state and disposition are both mixed, he hath ground of sorrow for his own sins, and for the sins and miseries of the times. So he hath matter of comfort and miseries of the times. So he hath matter of comfort for the present, in the favour of God, in the pardoning of sins, in the presence of God, in delivering him from trouble. He hath special ground of joy in hope of glory in time to come. Therefore as we have a mixed state, labour for a mixed disposition and labour to be in a joyful frame, so to grieve, as out of it to raise matter of joy. And when we would joy, grieve before, for joy is sown in grief. The best method of joy is for to take away all that disturbs our joy; search the bottom of the heart, see what sin is unconfessed, unrepented of, spread it before God, desire God to pardon it, to seal the pardon. When our souls are searched to the bottom, then out of that sorrow springs joy: and out of these sighs, and groans that cannot be expressed, comes joy unspeakable, and full of glory (1 Peter 1:8). If a man will be joyful, let him labour to weep first, that the matter that interrupts his joy may be taken away. Those that will be joyful and not search to the bottom, must needs with shame be brought back to sorrow. When we will joy to purpose, let us judge ourselves, that we may not be judged of the Lord. Mourn for our sins and then lay hold upon the promise, that all they that mourn for sin shall be comforted (Mathew 5:4). And blessed are they that shed tears here, for all tears shall be wiped away.

 

We are subject to wrong ourselves both good and bad; for the good think if they be in misery they shall be ever so; the bad if they be in prosperity they shall always be so, and they bless themselves in it. Now the joy of the hypocrites is as the crackling of thorns, and the grief of the godly is but short. And therefore let not the wicked fool themselves with groundless hopes, nor the godly vex themselves with needless fears; but put off conceitedness of the long continuance of troubles. Time is but short, and ere long God will wipe away all tears from our eyes. No mists, no clouds, shall be extended to heaven. The state in heaven shall be like the state of heaven and there is no cloud there but all pure, all serene.

Ways are to be esteemed by their end

 

Therefore in Christianity consider not their beginning but their ends. Mark the end of the upright, for the end of the upright is peace (Psalm 37:37). Ways have their commendation from the tame in which they end. If by any means I may attain the resurrection of the dead saith Paul (Philippians 3:11). Through thick and thin, fair and foul, rugged winds, dry, or bloody death, if by any means I may come to the resurrection of the dead, the first degree of glory, all is well; it’s a good way that ends well. Non qua, fed quo; consider not what way he brings us to heaven, but whither he brings us. If he bring us to heaven through a valley of tears, it’s no matter, for in heaven all tears shall be wiped from our eyes. And therefore Christianity is called wisdom. And this wisdom is justified of her children (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35). What is the chiefest point of wisdom? To look home to the end and to direct all means to that end. He is wise that is wise for eternity. The wicked will have their payment here. But woe to them that laugh, for they shall mourn, saith Christ (Luke 6:25). They will not stay for ground of joy hereafter, but will have present payment. But though the ways of Christians be foul and wet with tears, yet blessed are they, for God will wipe away all tears from their eyes. Comfort one another with these words.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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