Richard Sibbes (1577-1635): Christ himself is the very heaven of heaven

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I desire to depart, and to bee with Christ (Phil. 1:23).

To be with Christ that came from heaven to be here on earth with us, and descended that we should ascend, to be with him that hath done and suffered so much for us, to be with Christ that delighted to be with us, to be with Christ that emptyed himselfe, and became of no reputation, that became poore to make us rich, to be with Christ our husband now contracted here, that all may bee made up in heaven, this was the thing Paul desired.

Why doth he not say, I desire to be in heaven?

Because heaven is not heaven without Christ, it is better to be in any place with Christ than to be in heaven it selfe without him, all delicacies without Christ are but as a funerall banquet, where the master of the feast is away, there is nothing but solemnnesse: what is all, without Christ? I say the joyes of heaven are not the joyes of heaven without Christ; he is the very heaven of heaven.

True love is carryed to the person; It is adulterous love, to love the thing, or the gift more than the person, S. Paul loved the person of Christ, because hee felt sweet experience that Christ loved him; his love was but a reflection of Christ’s love first, he loved to see Christ, to embrace him, and enjoy him, that had done so much and suffered so much for his soule, that had forgiven him so many sins, &c.

The reason is, because it is best of all; To be with Christ is to be at the spring-head of all happines, it is to be in our proper element, every creature thinkes it selfe best in its owne element, that is the place it thrives in, and enjoyes its happinesse in; now Christ is the element of a Christian.

– Richard Sibbes (1577-1635), ‘Christ is Best’, The Saint’s Safetie in Evill Times (1633), 186-189.