Richard Sibbes (1577 – 1635) was an influential English Puritan leader during the early years of the seventeenth century. Above all, he was known as a great preacher. The following excerpt comes from his exposition of Philippians 3:18. Sibbes encourages his hearers to realize that affections, or passions, are necessary for God’s children. He goes on to expound one particular affection, compassion, which is an outgrowth of a redeemed life.
Affections therefore are lawful, yea, necessary in God’s children. All actions in God’s worship are esteemed according to the affections that they are done with. We are as we love, not as we know. What is the life of a Christian but the performance of things with courage, delight, and joy? And therefore the strongest Christians have strongest affections. For religion doth not harden the heart, but mollifies [softens] it; and regeneration doth not take affections away, but restores them sanctified and pure.
But to come particularly to the matter here. He is compassionate, and so compassionate as his natural constitution will admit; he expresseth this with tears, which ariseth from grief for something within ourselves, or by reason of sympathy with others for some danger that they are in, or like to fall into.
Reason 1. The reasons hereof are, because they are led by the Spirit of Christ, who was all made of compassion…
Reason 2. Secondly, The saints have clear sanctified judgments to apprehend true causes of remorse…
Reason 3. Thirdly, The saints have their hearts broken with sense and feeling of Christ’s compassion in their hearts, and so are mollified, expressing it outwardly towards their brethren…1
1 Richard Sibbes, “An Exposition of the Third Chapter of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Philippians,” in Works of Richard Sibbes, vol. 5, ed. Alexander B. Grosart (1862-1864; repr., Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2001), 125-126.