Potentially to my shame, there are only a few Christian books which have ever had a profound effect on my faith: The Love of Christ by Richard Sibbes is one of them. If you are tired and weary of the fight of faith, downhearted and struggling, stagnating and cold, discontent and untrusting, spiritually miserable, longing in anyway to be so much more than you, feeling that you stuck in a rut and going nowhere; if you are going through hard times, tests of faith, trials and afflictions of any kind or if you are abounding in every way and knowing blessing upon blessing then this book is for you for the topic it covers is medicine to any soul and Sibbes is for good reason called the heavenly doctor.
He does not content himself with merely pointing the reader to Christ, no, he goes out of his way to win the reader to the lavish affection of Christ for his people. Mainly using chapters 4 and 5 of the Songs of Solomon he goes through the process of a Christian who is asleep to and his love Christ (“I slept but my heart was awake.” Songs 5v2) and how that Christian awakes and finds Christ again. For Sibbes Songs of Solomon was all about Christ and his Church and he applies it excellently in this regard. One of my favourite quotes was:
“Sometimes she [the Church] is all compounded of joy, vehemently desiring kisses of her beloved. She holds her beloved fast, and will not let him go; and sometimes, again, she is gone, hath lost her beloved, is in a sea of troubles, seeks and cannot find him, becomes sluggish, negligent, overtaken with self love, after which she has smarted in her omissions, as here again, she is all fire for Christ,”
It describes an experience that is all too common in the Christian life, of being cold hearted and empty towards God and then knowing a reawakening of the soul to the glories of our precious Saviour. Indeed, every time I sat down to read it then part of my soul would testify to the truth I was reading and Sibbes kindles within the reader a greater desire, a more intense longing, to know more and more of the love of Christ. He grants such an insight into the beauty and loveliness of Christ so at the end the reader can proclaim: “My beloved is radiant and ruddy, outstanding among ten thousand.” (Songs 5v10)
When reading The Love of Christ the thing that first struck me was that Sibbes had a much closer communion with Christ than anyone else I know. For he spoke so highly of Christ’s love and his book overflows with it and it made me rightly jealous to know Christ as well as that. Modern day writers may be ‘easier’ to read but they are like babies when compared to the depths that Sibbes approaches in his book. Sibbes speaks as someone who has tasted a full measure of the goodness of God and wishes to pass on his joy to others. If you are at all complacent in your Christian walk then read this book to be shown what it is truly like to know the love of Christ.
Another highlight was how he deals with the reality of sin in the Christian and the importance of keeping one eye on our sin and misery but fixing one eye on the perfect righteousness of Christ, in fact, I’ll just let Sibbes say it better:
“Here is the conquest, fight and the victory of faith in the deepest sense of sin, pollution, and defilement in ourselves, at the same time to see an absolute and perfect righteousness in Jesus Christ”
Sibbes covers so much more: the work of sanctification, trials and afflictions, mortification of sin, work of the Holy Spirit, the excellences of Christ, and so much more! But in all things his aim is not just to convey knowledge about them but to get the reader to taste and feel for themselves the abundance of joy to be found by being in Christ. Sibbes opens your eyes to the wonders of covenant love with God and the sheer hand waving, humbling, dancing, shouting, joyful, freeing, exuberance of being loved by Christ. There are time when reading this book that it can all seem like too much, the love he describes seems too great, too rich, too free to be true but then the Spirit within testifies that it is true and praise just bursts forth. I found half an hour with Sibbes to be a spiritual bath that refreshed my soul and sent my thoughts heavenward.
The book isn’t perfect, it takes effort to get into it and it doesn’t get really good until Chapter 4 onwards but I do urge you to preserve on with it for by the end I was disappointed to turn the final page and to have no more of the book to read. It is a book that will grow on you until you wonder why you found it hard to read in the first place. Please, buy the book, for it can only do you good in your spiritual life for it points to the love above all others loves and the only solution to any of a soul’s aliments: the love of Christ!
To read The Love of Christ is to place your soul in the hands of a kindly doctor who will minister to it with the best medicine of them all: that of Christ and his overflowing affection for his church. If you wish to know more of the length, breadth, depth and height of the love that Christ has towards us then read and think over this book and find yourself irresistibly drawn closer to Christ by a love beyond measuring out.
“I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine;”
Songs of Solomon 6 v 3