One of my favorite Puritan authors is Richard Sibbes. While I have benefited from the works of many Christian theologians, philosophers, and counselors through the years, the Heavenly Dr. Sibbes, as Spurgeon called him, continually reorients my calling by reminding me that counseling, for all that it is, is ultimately a pastoral function. Technically, he was neither a psychologist nor a counselor, but a shepherd. And as a shepherd, he serves as the antithesis of the faithless shepherds of Israel (Ezek 34). For in Sibbes’ writings, his readers always come away with the feeling that he feeds (v. 2), strengthens (v. 3), heals (v. 3), binds up (v. 4), seeks (v. 4), and brings (v. 4) them back to the safety found only in the Good Shepherd. As such, Sibbes serves as an exemplar of biblical soul care.
Central to Sibbes’ psychology is his understanding of the inner workings of the human heart. In his book, Josiah’s Reformation, he provides the rudiments (or first principles) of a biblically-focused motivational theory, a relevant, Christocentric depth psychology that counselors can study and and use to improve the redemptive focus in their own clinical practices. Combining Solomonic insight with Davidic sensitivity, he ably describes the heart, its functions, its pathology, and its cure. Over the next several entries, I am going to journey through this text, reflecting on specific passages and how they might relate to contemporary soul care. I invite you to join me on the journey with the Heavenly Dr. Sibbes.