Richard Sibbs, D.'D.—This most worthy divine was bom at Sudbury in Suffolk, in the year 1577, and educated in St. John's college, Cambridge; where, on account of his great learning and unblamable deportment, he was soon promoted. He took his several degrees with great applause, and was first chosen scholar, then fellow of his college. While making rapid progress in literary fame, it pleased God to awaken him to a sense of his sins, and bring him to
* Dr. Samuel Harsnet was master of Pembroke-ball, Cambridge, and snccessively bishop of Chichester and Norwich, and archbishop of York. After his preferment to the see of Chichester, a petition was presented to King James, by Pembroke-hall, exhibiting their charges against him in ftfly-teven articles, though the purport of them does not appear. The citizens of Norwich afterwards accused him to the house of commons, of putting down preaching; setting up images ; praying to the east) punishing the innocent; and some other particulars. Though he protested his own innocence of most of the charges, he does not appear to have been perfectly guiltless. He is denominated " a learned and judicious divine." —te Neve't Lives, vol. i. part ii. p. 129—135.—Biog. Britan. vol.lv. p. 25J5, 2546. Edit. 1747.
t Huntley's Usurpations of Prelates, p. 161,162.
the knowledge of the gospel, by the preaching of Mr. Paul Barnes, then lecturer at St. Andrew's church. Having obtained mercy of the Lord, he resolved to devote himself to Christ in the work of the ministry; and shortly after was chosen lecturer at Trinity church. Here his preaching was numerously attended by the scholars and townsmen, and became happily instrumental in the conversion and establishment of many souls. He appears to have been vicar of the above church, during only the two last years of his life, the celebrated Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Thomas Goodwin having resigned in his favour.
His celebrity having spread abroad, and reached the metropolis, he was, in the year 1618, chosen preacher at Gray's-inn, London, where he became remarkably popular and useful. Besides the learned lawyers, many of the nobility and gentry, as well as citizens, flocked to hear him; and great numbers had abundant cause to bless God for the benefit which they derived from his ministry. He continued in this public situation to the end of his days. Dr. William Gouge, who frequently heard him, says, " he had sometimes a little stammering in the time of preaching, but his judicious hearers always expected some rare and excellent notions from him."*
About the year 1625, he was chosen master of Katherinehall, Cambridge, which, though he was a puritan, he was enabled to keep till his death. He was, however, convened before the high commission, and deprived of his fellowship and lecture, on account of his nonconformity.t His great erudition, piety, and usefulness, were not sufficient protection against the fury of the times. As master of the above house, he was eminently useful. He found the society in a very declining state; but, through his influence and exertions, it soon obtained considerable enlargement, was stored with learned and religious fellows, and became famous for genuine piety and sound literature. Soon after the above period, he was chosen one of the feoffees for buying impropriations, for which he and the others concerned in the
fenerous undertaking were prosecuted in the star-chamber; ut the prosecution was so manifestly invidious, that it was afterwards relinquished.f This business, however, brought no small odium upon Bishop Laud, who was the sole instigator and chief promoter of the prosecution. He was
* Clark's Liies annexed to Martyrologle, p. 143, 144.
t Prynne's Cant. Doome, p. 369.—Clark's Lives, p. 108.
$ Prynne'i Cant. Doome, p. 385, 386.
VOL. II. 2 E
afterwards convened before the high commission as a notorious delinquent, only for generously promoting a private contribution for the relief of the poor afflicted ministers of the Palatinate; but what further process was entered against him, or whether he suffered any ecclesiastical censure, we have not been able to learn.*
Dr. Sibbs was remarkable for humility, always undervaluing his own performances. This he did, though others judged them to breathe the very spirit and life of God, to savour much of the upper world, and to come with authority and power to men's consciences. His great care, through the whole of his ministry, was to lay a good foundation in the heads and hearts of his hearers. As a wise masterbuilder, and among people the most eminent for learning and piety, he mostly preached on the fundamental truths of the gospel, particularly the incarnation of the Sou of God. Indeed, he is said to have preached so often on this subject, that there is scarcely one benefit flowing from it, or one holy disposition it ought to excite, which he did not sweetly unfold and apply. His thoughts and his preaching being so much directed to the humiliation of Christ, seemed to beget in himself a deep humility before God and men. He was particularly conversant with the holy scriptures, and a man of God, thoroughly furnished unto every good work. He was a zealous and faithful steward of the manifold grace of God, and one of the most celebrated preachers of his time. He enjoyed much sweet communion with God; was of a mild, quiet, and peaceable spirit; and always unwilling to provoke his superiors. He was a burning and shining light, spending himself for the profit of others. On all occasions he was very charitable to the poor of Christ's flock; and not only was his purse open to supply their temporal wants, but his very soul commiserated their spiritual necessities. During the summer season, he frequently visited persons of wealth, on which occasions he was always projecting schemes of public usefulness. By men of real worth he was uersally beloved, and was particularly intimate with persons of distinguished eminence, especially the celebrated Archbishop Usher, whom he often visited in London. Dr. Sibbs died July 5, 1635, aged .fifty-seven years.t " He was a grave and solid divine, and famous for piety, learning, devotion, and politeness.''f
• Huntley's Prelates* Usurpation?, p. 164.
♦ Clark's Live», p. 144, 145.—Baker's MS. Collec. Voi. xxxviii. p. 444. t Leigh on Religion and Learning, p. 324.
His last will and testament, now before me, breathes the spirit of true piety and generosity. He first committed'his soul' into the hands of his gracious Saviour, who redeemed it with his precious blood, and appeared in heaven to receive
thanks that he had vouchsafed him to live in the best times of the gospel, to enjoy an interest in the comforts of it, and to honour him by calling him to publish it with some degree of faithfulness. He ordered his body to be buried according to the pleasure of his executors; and he bequeathed his real and personal estates to his only brother and other near relations, with numerous legacies to his friends and connexions.*
This reverend divine was eminently distinguished for a meek and quiet spirit, being always unwilling to offend those in power. This trait in his character will appear from the following aneedote:—A fellowship being vacant in Magdalen college, for which Archbishop Laud recommended his bell-ringer at Lambeth, with an evident design of quarrelling with them if they refused, or of putting a spy upon them if they accepted, Dr. Sibbs, who was ever unwilling to provoke his superiors, told the fellows, that Lambeth-house would be obeyed; and that the person was young, and might in time prove hopeful. The fellows, therefore, consented, and the man was admitted.t
Dr. Sibbs has rendered himself famous by his numerous and excellent publications. His works, which breathe the warmest strains of evangelical piety, will transmit his fame to the latest posterity. The venerable Mr. John Dod, having perused his " Sermons of Canticles, chap, v.," in manuscript, thus observes: " I judge it altogether unmeet that such precious matter should be concealed from public use. I judge these sermons to be a very profitable and excellent help, both to the understanding of that dark and most divine scripture, and to kindle in the heart all heavenly affections towards Jesus Christ. The whole is composed with so much wisdom, piety, judgment, and experience, that it commends itself to all who are wise for their souls. And I doubt not that they will find their understandings enlightened, their temptations answered, their fainting spirits revived, and their graces confirmed; and will have cause
it to himself. He then
him humble and hearty
* Baker's MS. Collec. Tol. xxxviii. p. 444—446. T Calamy's Account, vol. ii. p. 605, 606.
to praise God for the worthy author's godly and painful labours."*
His Worm.—1. The Braised Reed, 163I.f—2. The Saints Safety in evil Times, 1633.—3. The Churches Visitation, 1634.—4. The Fountain Sealed, 1637.—5. Divine Meditations and Holy Contemplations,
1638. —6. Emanuel God with Us, 1638.—7. Light from Heaven, 1638. —8. Spiritual Jubilee, 1638.—9. Yea and Amen; or, Precious Promises and Privileges, 1638.—10. The Spiritual Man's Aim, and the Christian's Portion and Charter, 1638.—11. The Returning Backslider, 1639.—12. The Hidden Life, 1639.—13. Beams of Divine Light, 1639.—14. The Excellence of the Gospel above the Law,
1639. —15. Christ's Exaltation, 1639.—16. Evangelical Sacrifices,
1640. —17. Union betwixt Christ and his Church, 1641.—18. A Commentary on Philippians, chap. Hi., 1647.—19. The Glorious Feast of the Gospel, 1650.—20. A Commentary on 2 Corinthians, chap, i., 1655.—21. An Exposition of 2 Corinthians, chap, iv., 1656.—22. The Soul's Conflict, 1658.—23. The Saints' Cordial, 1658.—24. Christ's Conference with Mar)'.—25. The Key of Heaven; or, the Lord'» Prayer opened.—26. Sermons of Canticles, chap. v. . ''.