Dave Bish is one of the best and most engaged internet people I’ve come across. He works for Beeston Free Church in Nottingham (formerly for UCCF), and encourages students and the rest of us all over the UK with his tweets and blogs. A good, clear writer and thinker, he is also clearly a reader. Via the self publishing Lulu service, Dave has published a collection of the sermons of the puritan Richard Sibbes – since this first one was written another has been published and edited by him – so here I want to briefly review and encourage you to by this first book, The Sunshine of the Gospel.
The edition I bought had the cover above.
I like this cover, its simplicity with the obvious yellow-ness of the word sunshine, worked for me. Dave has since updated the book – presumably dealing with typos and other bits, and now offers the following cover instead. This latter one looks more ‘booky’, but crucially ties in with the cover of his new book, which is a collection of sermons by Richard Sibbes, on the Song of Songs. I look forward to getting my hands on that too!
Firstly, a brief note on the Lulu system – it seems to work well! I ordered my book, and got it in a week. The book felt, well, book-like, and of a high quality.
Anyway, onto the meat of the book itself. Richard Sibbes is one of those Puritans who got overlooked. Bish takes, edits (and effectively translates) seven of Sibbes’s sermons, to produce this excellent little slice of heartwarming biblical theology. It is a slim volume, but one that is well worth going back over, meditating on, and thinking about seriously. This is a book that merits reading, buying, reading again, and getting excited about. In Dave’s words, “The warmth of his writing flows from this emphasis on the heart and his clarity concerning God as Triune. The God of Richard Sibbes is one to be known personally and who knows us”. The self stated aim of Sibbes was to “kindle in the heart all heavenly affections towards Jesus Christ” – a worthy aim and something that modern Christians would do well to heed.
My basic point in this review is this: buy this book, read it, let the glorious truths of the sunshine of the Gospel dwell deeply in you, and be reminded of what it is to drink deeply of the fountain of Grace.
To make this point, I will share my thoughts on the first sermon, “How to keep your heart soft”. Bluntly, the title is a challenge in itself. Biblical imagery of hard hearts aside, how many of us Christians REALLY have soft hearts towards people? Sibbes draws upon 2 Chronicles 34:26 as his primary text for the sermon:
“And as for the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, so shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the words which you have heard, Because your heart was tender“
The sermon, drawing on this text, and referencing others, is filled with expositional, heart-warming gems that blew me away in many cases, and made me think deeply in every case. I would share a couple with you – at the risk of ramming my point home, this book is seriously worth reading.
“God’s promises are made conditionally; not that the condition on our part deserves anything at God’s hand, but when God has given the condition, he gives the thing promised“
“A tender heart yields to the word, as soon as it is spoken“
Finally, in closing, a little titbit from one of Dave’s excellent footnotes. A note on these – these are not of the scary academic variety, rather they are little gold nuggets of explanation, contextualisation, and application. “As Sibbes shows how hearts are changed, how could anyone want to keep the Scriptures from people and silence the preaching of the word? If there is no preaching, then hearts will remain unchanged“. This book is worth reading, buying, reading again, and thinking deeply upon.