As I pondered what 'thought' to send out today I realized its been too long since I quoted a Puritan! So today I decided to rectify that!
This one comes from Richard Sibbes, from his classic work, "The Bruised Reed," published in England in 1630 (only 10 years after the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts). It has to do with what God accepts in believers, under the covenant of grace, because of the finished work of Christ.
It deals with how much grace, or how much faith, or what degree of perfection is needed for God to accept what we offer to Him. Read it and I believe you'll be surprised at his answer. It's similar to what most Puritans, saturated in grace as they were, would say -- and will hopefully dispel some of the wrong notions or caricatures people have regarding them. Read it slowly and give it much thought, it is filled with truth and gospel comfort. Enjoy. (*I have updated and clarified the language a bit!).
"In the covenant of grace, God requires the reality of grace, and not any prescribed measure. A spark of fire is as much fire as the entire flame, and therefore we must see grace in the spark as well as the flame. All believers do not have the same strong faith, though they have the same precious faith (II Pet. 1:1). And by that faith, whether strong or weak, they lay hold of, and put on, the perfect righteousness of Christ. A weak hand may receive a rich jewel as much as a strong hand. Only a few grapes are needed to show the plant is a vine, and not a thorn. It is one thing to be deficient in grace, and another thing to lack grace altogether.
God knows we have nothing of ourselves, and therefore, in the covenant of grace he requires no more than he gives, but gives what he requires, and accepts what he gives. 'If she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtle doves" (Lev. 12:8).
What is the gospel itself but a merciful moderation, in which Christ's obedience is esteemed ours, and our sins laid upon him? A gospel wherein God goes from being our judge to being our Father, pardoning our sins and accepting our obedience, though feeble and blemished. We are now brought to heaven under the covenant of grace by a way of love and mercy.
We must always remember the difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace -- between Moses and Christ. Without mercy Moses breaks all bruised reeds, and quenches all smoking flax. For the law requires personal, perpetual, and perfect obedience from the heart--and that under the most terrible curse--but it gives no strength to do what it demands. It is a severe task-master, like Pharoah's, requiring the whole quota of bricks, yet giving no straw. Yet Christ comes with blessing after blessing, even upon those whom Moses had cursed, and with healing balm for those wounds which Moses had made.
The same duties are required in both covenants, such as to love the Lord with all our hearts and with all our souls (Deut. 6:5). In the covenant of works this must be fulfilled absolutely, but under the covenant of grace it must have a gospel mitigation. A sincere endeavor proportionate to grace received is accepted. The law is sweetened by the gospel, and becomes delightful to the inner man (Rom. 7:22). Under this gracious covenant, sincerity is perfection. (This is not because God lowers his righteous standards in the new covenant, but because Christ has met those righteous standards perfectly on behalf of his people. It is not simply the justified sinner that is accepted by faith though still sinful, the deeds he offers to God are also accepted, though flawed and stained by residual sin)...
We must remember that grace is sometimes so little as to be indiscernable to us. The Spirit sometimes has secret operations in us which we are unaware of at the present, but Christ knows...
A troubled soul... is full of objections against itself, yet for the most part we may still discern something of the hidden life. We may discern the faint trace of smothered sparks."
With prayers for you in your walk with Christ,