As to duties, am I to do my duty even when I have doubt? In a word, yes. I may be reluctant to do my duty but, as Sibbes describes, performing what God has laid before me allows Him to strengthen me in the doing. Additionally, as he points out: Obedience is most direct when there a nothing else to sweeten the action. Although the sacrifice is imperfect, yet the obedience with which it is offered is accepted. (pg. 54)
What are the sources of our discouragements? Certainly not from either the Father, nor the Son, nor the Holy Spirit. In contrast, each member of the Godhead encourages and strengthens His dear children. Discouragements come from us, or from Satan (pg. 57).
I am not sure that we use the word "scruples' today in the same way that Sibbes does beginning on page 57 where he says: Among other causes of discouragement, some are much vexed with scruples, even against the best duties; partly by disease of body, helped by Satan's malice in casting dust in their eyes in their way to heaven; and partly from some remainder of ignorance, which, like darkness, breeds fears- ignorance especially of this merciful disposition in Christ, the persuasion of which would easily banish false fears. To my eye, he is describing fears that we have concerning our weaknesses. To support this contention, he says later in the same paragraph: The end of Christ's coming was to free us from all such groundless fears. He then lists these:
1. Weaknesses do not break covenant with God.
2. Weaknesses do not debar us from mercy; rather they incline God to us the more (Psa. 78:39).
3. If Christ should not be merciful to our weaknesses, he should not have a people to serve him.
To end this chapter, Sibbes the pastor reminds us that before one can be troubled by "sins of infirmity" he must be in the faith. If you tell a thief or a vagrant that he is out of the way, he pays no heed, because his aim is not to walk in any particular way, except as it suits his purpose. (pg. 59) Are you troubled about your "sins of infirmity"? To Sibbes this would be seen as a sign that one is in Christ:
1. Wherever sins of infirmity are in a person, there must be the life of grace begun. There can be no weakness where there is no life. (pg. 59)
At the same time:
2. There must be a sincere and general bent to the best things.
3. There must be a right judgment, allowing of the best ways, or else the heart is rotten.
4. There must be a conjugal love to Christ, so that there are no terms on which they will change their Lord and husband, and yield themselves absolutely over to be ruled by their own lusts, or the lusts of others.
In other words, there is no place for presumption nor complacency.
Sibbes ends the chapter with these words of instruction and encouragement:
Therefore, if there be any bruised reed, let him not make an exception of himself, when Christ does not make an exception of him. `Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden' (Matt. 11:28). Why should we not make use of so gracious a disposition? We are only poor for this reason, that we do not know our riches in Christ. In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy and a murderer. (pg. 61)
I may be bruised, I may be but a smoldering wick, but I am not to despair.