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Richard Sibbes :: The Sixth Sermon - Isaiah 25:6-7

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The Marriage Feast
Christ and His Church


The Sixth Sermon — Isaiah 25:6-7


And he shall swallow up death in victory, and God will wipe away tears from all faces, that the rebukes of his people may be taken away from off the earth, for the Lord hath spoken it.


You have heard heretofore of a Feast provided for God’s people, the founder of it being God himself, who only can indeed comfort (that which is specially to be comforted) the soul and the conscience, he being above the conscience. The place where the Feast is kept is Mount Zion, the Church of God. The delicacies are described by fat things, wine refined on the lees, et cetera. The best of the best that can be thought of, which is Christ with all his benefits; who is bread indeed and drink indeed, that cherishes and nourishes the soul to life everlasting. And because there should be nothing to disturb the solemnity of the feast, he promises to destroy the face of covering, to take away the veil spread over all nations, the veil of ignorance and infidelity, to shine upon the soul and fill it full of knowledge and heavenly comfort. And because there can be no comfort where death is feared, being the greatest enemy in this life; therefore he will swallow up death in victory, and all that makes way for death or attends death. And when this is taken away, all the attendants vanish with it, God will wipe away all tears from all faces. Because the best things have not the best entertainment in the world, nor the best persons, God promises that the rebukes of his people shall be taken away from off the earth; what they are they shall be known to be. These be very great matters and therefore there is a great confirmation, they have a seal, and what is that? The Lord hath spoken it.


The last day I showed that God’s children shall shed tears, and that they have cause to do it. I will now enlarge it a little.

Man since the fall is subject to sorrow; no sorrow in Paradise, nor shall any be in heaven.


It is the condition of men since the fall in Paradise before there was no cause of tears, nothing was out of joint, all in frame; there was no sin therefore no sorrow, therefore no apprehension of sorrow. And so in heaven there shall be no tears because no cause of it; they shall be as far from heaven as the cause. This life is a valley of tears, a life of misery, and therefore we shed tears here. And we want no cause of it as long as sin is in the world, and sorrow, and misery that follows sin.

The greatest cause of the godly’s mourning, sin within him


Our own sins and the sins of others, our own miseries and the miseries of others, and surely a child of God finds this the greatest cause of mourning in this world, that he hath a principle in him always molesting him in the service of God. He cannot serve God with that cheerfulness, his unfeelingness that he cannot be so sensible of God, dishonoured by himself and others is his burden. He is grieved that he cannot grieve enough; he can find tears for other things, matter of this enough, as the heathen man could say. A man loses his estate and hath tears for them, but forces tears for other things, which are the true ground of grief. A child of God hath a remainder of corruptions which puts him on to offend against God and hinders him in his service, in the liberty and cheerfulness of it. And this he complains of with Paul and others, Miserable man that I am, not for his affliction though that was much; but, who shall deliver me from this body of death (Romans 7:24).

A case about tears


I will here add a case. Some say they cannot weep, but they can grieve, whether then is it necessary or not to weep? Tears are taken for the spring of tears, grief, all grief shall be taken away. Tears are but the messengers of grief, and often times the deepest apprehension that takes things deeply cannot express it in tears. In some the passages fetching the conceit to the heart are made more tender that they can weep. Now the grief of a Christian is a judicial grief, a rational grief, not only sensible tears must have sensible grief, but a Christian’s grief is a sensible judicial grief. He hath a right judgment of things that cause sorrow, wills it, and tears are only an expression of it.

God hath no bottle for some tears


But how shall I know whether grief be right or not? There be tears God hath no bottle for: Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle (Psalm 56:8), he makes much of them, they be Vinnum Angelicum as he saith, God is an Angel to his people to wipe away their tears. But some tears God hath no bottle for, hypocritical tears: Delilah’s tears, tears of revenge and anger, Esau’s tears.

Marks of good tears, when their spring is the love of God


And therefore the true tears that God will wipe away are such as first of all follow our condition here, our misery, God will wipe them away. If we speak of tears from a judicial ground, the spring of true tears is the love of God and of Christ, and of his Church, and the love of the state of Christianity. Tears spring from love, these tears specially.


O, a Christian takes to heart that God should be so ill used in the world, that Christ the Saviour of the world should find such entertainment, that he should have anything in him that should offend such a Saviour. This unkindness stings him to the heart, he takes it grievously that God should be abused. Latitia habet suas lachrimas, there is not only grief that is the immediate cause of tears, but another cause before hand, that is love. Joy likewise hath its tears, though they be not here meant specially.

When we weep for our own sins, and sins of others


Again tears are good and sound, when we weep for our own sins, as well as the sins and miseries of others. And I will add more, we must weep for the sins of others, as well as for our own. For it is a greater sign of the truth of grace to take to heart the sins of others, more than our own. You will say this is a kind of paradox, for often a man may take to heart his own sins, as matter of terror of conscience, not his sins as contrary to God, having antipathy to him, being opposite to the state of the soul, not as sin is properly sin, but to be grieved and vexed for sin as it hath vexation and terror of conscience.

Truth of grace appears more in grieving for others sins than our own


When a man can take to heart the sins of another and that truly as it is an offence of his good God, and a crucifying again of his sweet Saviour, these be true tears indeed. It is more sign of grace, than to weep for a man’s own sins.


Some are taken up with terrors of conscience that let their children, family, and friends alone, their heart is eaten up with self love, and they be near eaten up with their own terrors of conscience. But here is true grief and a hatred of sin in a right respect, when it exercises itself upon others, as well as upon ourselves.

When our tears are shed in secret


Again tears arise from the right spring, from true grief, when we can weep in secret. O saith Jeremiah, if you do so and so, My soul shall weep in secret for your pride (Jeremiah 13:17). Here was a good soul indeed. Many will have tears of comfort in public, et cetera, but when they can weep in secret for their own sins and the sins of others, it is an evidence of a right spring of grief.

When tears tend to reformation of what they are shed for


Again, tears tend to reformation of what they grieve for or else they be steriles lachrimae, barren tears. Do they tend to reform what we weep for? Do they tend to action? Affections are then good when they carry to action as grief, love, joy, they are all for action. When we weep and grieve and reform withall, it is a good sign. I will name no more. You see then that grief is sound, when it springs from the love of God and is for the sins of others, as well as our own, and our own as well as others: when it stirs up to reformation; when it is in secret. And therefore let us examine our grief by these and the like evidences, it will be a good character of a gracious soul. Then God will carry himself as a sweet nurse, or loving mother to her child that sheds tears. God will wipe away all these tears. O the transcending love of God; his love is a tender love, the love of a mother, the love of a nurse! It is not love, but the bowels of love, the bowels of mercy and compassion. How low doth he stoop to wipe away the tears of his children! God will wipe away all tears.


I will propound one question more and then proceed. But we are bid to rejoice always, why then is it required that we weep and mourn? Can two contraries stand together?

How can a Christian joy and grieve together?


I answer, “very well.” For we may grieve as we have matter of grief and are in a condition of grief. And we may rejoice and ought to rejoice, as we look to the promise that God will wipe away all tears. When we think of the present cause we cannot but grieve; but when we look beyond all troubles, we cannot but joy, it hath influence of joy into our heart. Nay for the present we may joy and grieve, without looking to eternity sometimes. If we consider that we have offended God, done that that grieves his Spirit, that is matter of grief. But when we consider we have Christ at his right hand, that speaks peace for us and makes our peace by virtue of his mediation, that gives comfort. So that we have cause of joy and cause of grief about the same things, at the same time.


We are never in such a state of grief here, but if we look about us, look forward, look upward. A Christian, that is a good Christian, is a person that hath many things to look after that he may manage his estate of Christianity wisely. He is to look to himself and his sins, to the mercies of God in Christ, to the constancy of it, that it is answerable to the fruit of it in peace and joy here and happiness hereafter, which are constant too. His grace as himself is constant, the fruits of it constant; therefore rejoice evermore. And (saith the Apostle: I know what I say, I am well advised) evermore rejoice (Philippians 4:4). So that the life of a Christian is a mixed life; nay the ground of our joy is our sorrow and grief, and joy is sown in grief. If we will rejoice indeed, let us mourn indeed; true joy arises and springs out of sorrow.

God’s people are under rebuke and reproach


I proceed to the next. And the rebukes of his people shall be taken away from of the face off the earth. Another benefit that makes the Feast sweet and comfortable is this: He will take away the rebukes of his people. And here is the same method to be used that God’s children, his Church and people are under rebukes and under reproach.


We need not stand to prove the truth of it. It is true. First the Head of the Church and the Church itself, and every particular member, they go under rebukes. For the Head of the Church, we should spend the time to no purpose to prove it. What was Christ’s life? It was under a veil, he appeared not to be what he was. You know he was esteemed the chief of devils, an enemy to his Prince, to Caesar. I will not spend time in clear truths.


For the Church itself you see in the Book of Esther 3. There is a strange people that acknowledge no law, they be against the laws of the Prince; they pass under the imputation of rebels (Esther 3:8). The poor Church that had thoughts of peace, the meek Church of God, they counted as enemies of the state, as Christ the Head was. And so the Church in Babylon, under what rebukes was it? They reproached them, By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept, when they said sing us one of the songs of Zion (Psalm 137:1). The Church sits by the waters of Babylon all this life.


The world is a kind of Babylon to God’s people. “And then sing us one of your songs; where is now your God?” say the hearts of wretched people, when they saw the people of God in disgrace. Tully could say of the nation of the Jews, It shows how God regards it, it hath been so often overcome. Thus the heathen man could scorn the fate of God’s people. You see how the Psalmist complains in the name of particular Christians, where is his God, he trusted in him, let him save him (Psalm 22:8; Matthew 27:43). O this was daggers to David’s heart, (Psalm 42:10). It pierced to my heart, when they said where is thy God. To touch a Christian in his God, as if God had no care of him, it is more than his own grief and affliction. So it is when a child of God is rebuked and affronted, when religion must suffer by it. So that the Head of the Church, the members of the Church are under rebukes, as it may be proved, if I carry you through all stories.

This text points at the conversion of the Jews


At this day, the Church of the Jews you see what it is come to, the nation of the Jews under what reproach it is. And surely this prophecy aims partly at the conversion of the Jews; it shall be accomplished at the resurrection, when all tears shall be perfectly wiped away. But it hath relation to the conversion of the Jews in what state are they now? Are they not a word of reproach? Moses speech is verified of them; They shall be a hissing to all nations (Jeremiah 18:16). And is not it a proverb? Hated as a Jew.

There be two seeds in the world: of the Serpent, and of the woman


But what is the reason of it? Not to stand long upon the point; you know there be two seeds in the world, the seed of the Serpent and the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15). And the enmity between them is the true ground, and the antipathy in the hearts of carnal men to goodness. There is a light shines in the life of them that be good; and them that be ill hate the light, as discovering themselves to themselves and to the world, not to be that they seem to be. There is a saltiness in the truth; it is savory but it is tart, whether in the Word preached or howsoever truth lays open, what is cross to corruption.

Carnal men would have all men thought of alike


And hereupon pride and self-love in carnal men studies how to overcast all they can, the names of those that be better than themselves, with a cloud of disgrace. It is the property of vile men, to make all others vile, that they may be alike. Men cannot abide distinctions of one from another. The Scripture distinguishes the righteous man, more excellent than his neighbour, but they will not have that. The hatred of distinction is the cause they make all as bad as they can.

Men put a false veil both on godliness and wickedness


And hereupon it is that good things were never clothed in the right habit, nor ill things neither, but do pass under a veil. Take away the true garment of grace and holiness and goodness, and put a false veil upon it. It passes not under that that it is in this world because wicked men will not suffer it, but will raise up the credit of other things: of empty learning, or empty things, or vain courses, and cry up the credit of worldly things, that they may seem to be wise and not fools, that are carried to those things. The best things had never the happiness to pass under their own names, but they had other coverings. Truth goes always with a torn and scratched face; it is a stranger in the world, and hath strange entertainment.

Take heed of laying scandal on religion


If this be so we ought to take heed of laying a scandal or reproach upon religion. Salvian complains in his time, that wickedness had gotten that head, that those that were good and honourable, mali ess volunt, ne a malis abhorreantur. They that were good, studied to be vile, that they might not be vilified of others. “O” saith he, “how much is Christ beholding to the world, that those that own him, and own goodness, and own his cause, should be therefore base because they be his friends; take heed of taking scandals.”

Study to be wise that we be not misled by the misrepresentation of things


We had need be wise that we be not taken in this snare of Satan, to mistake error for truth and good for evil; Satan and his agents make things pass under contrary, representations. Superstition goes for religion, and religion for superstition, schism and heresy. It hath always been so; therefore seek wisdom to discern aright. The devil hath two properties, he is a liar and a murderer; the one makes way for the other, for he could not murder unless he did lie. The devil himself will not be an open murderer, if he can help it. The fraudulent persecution is worse than the violent. If he can bring to hell by fraud and lying, he will never do it by violence. He is a liar that he may be a murderer; for when he can raise an imputation upon the Church and children of God, that they be rebels, enemies of state, then he may cum privilegio be a murderer. When he hath tainted God’s people in the conceit of the world, then they find that entertainment not which they deserve, but which they be apprehended to deserve, when the conceit of other men towards them is poisoned. O this Sect is spoken against every where, say they to Paul (Acts 28:22).

Why it is the course of the world to slander


Therefore we had need be wise; for if the instruments of Satan led with his spirit had not hoped that slanders should take, they would never have been so skillful in that trade. But they know they shall find some shallow fools that will believe them without searching into the depth of them, and take up persons and things under prejudice. It is enough for them that this is said of them, they have neither wit nor judgment, nor so much patience from following their lusts as to examine them. And that makes them so mad as they are. Calumniare audacter aliquid haerebit, slander stoutly, something will stick they are sure of it. That which hath raised and ruined many a man is that of casting of jealousy upon those that are better than themselves. That was Haman’s trick, and so will be the practice of the wicked, as it hath been from the beginning, so to the end of the world.


Thou art not Caesar’s friend say they, and it’s enough to Pilate; thus it hath been and will be to the end of the world. Therefore we had need to be wise, that we be not misled. Men will never leave to speak ill, till they have learned to speak better, till the Spirit of God hath taught them.

Things shall be known to be as they are


Now it is said that Christ will take away the rebukes of his people. That is the promise, as they are they shall be known to be; he will set all in joint again. Harmony is a sweet thing and order is a sweet thing. Time will come when things that are now out of order to appearance, shall be all set in their due order again. Those that are basest, shall be lowest, and those that be excellent, shall be highest; this is a working and framing now. In this confusion we must look to the catastrophe, the conclusion of all, he will take away the rebukes of all. God is the Father of truth, and truth is the daughter of time; time will bring forth truth at last. And those that be honourable indeed, shall be honourable. It is as true as God is just, for goodness and holiness are beams of God; and will he suffer it always to pass under a false veil. There is not an attribute of God, but shall shine forth gloriously, even all his excellency and dignity. There is nothing shall be above him and his excellency, none, though he seems for a while not to rule in the world or have power, but suffers them to go away with it that are his enemies. He is working another thing by suffering them, he is working the glory of his children and confusion of his enemies. There is nothing in God but shall gloriously shine, and nothing in his children, no beams of God, but shall gloriously shine to the confusion of the world. They that are good, shall be known to be good, God will bring their righteousness to light. The witnesses that vexed the world and had base entertainment, they were slain and disgraced, but they rose again and were carried to heaven, as Elias. So there will be resurrection of name, a resurrection of reputation, that that is good shall be good, and that that is bad shall be bad; it shall be known to be as it is. This is for comfort.

To direct what course to take under disgrace and scandal


You hear therefore what course to take under disgrace, what shall we do when the Church passes under disgrace as it is now? A Protestant is worse than a Turk or a Jew, amongst the railing papists. Among ourselves we see under what reputation the best things go, it is too well known to speak of. And the scandal taken from hence doth extremely harden, keeps men from religion. It draws many from religion that have entered into it because they have not learned so much self-denial, as to venture upon disgrace. And surely where no self-denial is, there is no religion. Christ knew what doctrine he taught, when he taught self-denial in this respect.

Labour to be innocent


What shall we do therefore? Labour first of all for innocency, that if men will reproach, they may reproach without a cause.

Labour to be patient and courageous


Then labour for a spirit of patience to serve Christ with; great is your reward when men speak evil of you for a good cause (Matthew 5:11-12). It is the portion of a Christian in this life, to do well and suffer ill. Of all, certainly they are best that out of love to goodness are carried to goodness without looking to rewards or disgrace that follows, with an single eye. Labour therefore for patience and not only so, but for courage; for the moon goes its course and lets the dog bark. We have a course to run, let us keep our course constantly, pass through good reports and bad reports, be at a point what the world thinks, we seek applause at another theater than the world.

Be sincere


Again then, labour for sincerity under rebukes, that we have a good aim, such an aim as Paul had. If I be mad and out of my wits; he being earnest for his Master Christ, they count him out of his wits. If I be out of my wits it is for Christ. If I be sober it is for you, the love of Christ constrains me to be so (2 Corinthians 5:13-14). Get the love of Christ, and that will make a man care for nothing. If I go beyond myself, it is to God, as David said, when he was mocked by Micholl. It is to the Lord, when he danced before the Ark. Bonus ludus a good dance, where Micholl scoffs, and David danceth; where gracious men magnify God and have Micholls to scoff at them, it is bonus ludus. God will look upon them, for it is to the Lord. Labour that our aims be good, and it is no matter what the world judges of them.

Commend our credits to God by prayer


And when all will not do, commend our credits to God by prayer, as we commend our souls and conditions, so our reputations; that he would take care of them, that he would bring our righteousness to light, that it should shine out as the noonday (Psalm 37:6). So David doth: he complains to God and commends all to him; prays him to take part against his enemies, to right his cause. And when we have done that, we have done our duty, yet with all hope for better things. Be content to pass under the world as unknown men, and to be inwardly worthy and pass as unknown men. Rich men if truly rich, they will applaud themselves in their bosoms, though the world disgrace them; yet at home I am thus furnished. And so a Christian that knows his worth, that he is a child of God, heir of heaven, that he is attended upon by angels, that he is a jewel to God in his esteem, to be absolutely the best thing in the world. He knows the worth of a Christian and his own worth as being a Christian; he applauds and comforts himself, in that he knows he loath a hidden life, a state of glory hidden in Christ. Now it is covered with disgrace and disrespect in the world, scorned and reproached, but what is that to him? It is a hidden life, and for the present he knows his own excellency, and therefore can pass through good report, and bad report. I care not for man’s day saith Paul, there is another day to which I must stand (1 Corinthians 4:3-4).


And thus if we do, as Peter saith, There is a Spirit of glory shall rest upon us (1 Peter 4:14). The ground we have of comfort under rebuke and disgrace, there is a Spirit of glory, what is that? A large Spirit enlarging our hearts, with inward comfort, inward joy, inward love of God. A Spirit of glory shall rest upon you, and shall continue with you, as long as disgrace shall continue; he opposes this to all disgrace he meets with in the world.

God puts a glory upon his children under disgrace


God puts sometimes a glory and excellency upon his children under disgrace and ill usage in the world; that he will daunt the world, as Stephen’s face did shine, as the face of an angel, which came from a Spirit of glory that rested upon him, and expressed himself to be the servant of God. He that takes away from our good report, if we be good, he adds to our reward, our Saviour Christ saith as much. Blessed are you when you be ill spoken of, for great is your reward (Matthew 5:11-12).

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