Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Puritan Reading, Bruised Reed - Chapter 6

(The whole 'Weekly Puritan" thing was going to get ridiculous, I could envision "Weekly Puritan XIII" coming soon, so I am dropping that designation.)

This chapter, "Marks of the Smoking Flax", gives Sibbes' description of how we can tell, even if the fire is more smoke than flame, that we are actually in Christ. It is best that we recount by simply extracting and listing his ten marks of that Godly fire:

First, if there be any holy fire in us, it is kindled from heaven by the Father of lights, who `commanded the light to shine out of darkness' (2 Cor. 4: 6).

Secondly, the least divine light has heat with it in some measure. Light in the understanding produces heat of love in the affections.

Thirdly, where this heavenly light is kindled, it directs in the right way.

Fourthly, where this fire is, it will sever things of diverse natures, and show a difference between such things as gold and dross.

Fifthly, so far as a man is spiritual, so far is light delightful to him.

Sixthly, fire, where it is present, is in some degree active. So the least measure of grace works, as springing from the Spirit of God, who, from his operations, is compared to fire. Even in sins, when there seems nothing active but corruption, there is a contrary principle, which breaks the force of sin, so that it is not boundlessly sinful, as in those that are carnal (Rom. 7:13).

Seventhly, fire makes metals pliable and malleable. So grace, where it is given, makes the heart pliable and ready to receive all good impressions. Obstinate spirits show that they are not so much as smoking flax.

Eighthly, fire, as much as it can, sets everything on fire. So grace labors to produce a gracious impression in others, and make as many good as it can. Grace also makes a gracious use even of natural and civil things, and spiritualizes them.

Ninthly, sparks by nature fly upwards. So the Spirit of grace carries the soul heaven ward and sets before us holy and heavenly aims.

Tenthly, fire, if it has any matter to feed on, enlarges itself and mounts higher and higher, and, the higher it rises, the purer is the flame. So where true grace is, it grows in measure and purity. Smoking flax will grow to a flame; and, as it increases, so it discards what is contrary to itself and refines itself more and more. Ignis, quo magis lucet, eo minus fumat (As fire gives more light, it gives less smoke).

In conclusion, as I stated in an earlier post, my prayer for this week is: More flame, less smoke.

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