“No man is more ready to charge the church than she is to confess her infirmities. She never hideth them, she never justifieth them; she is black, she hath afflictions, she kept not her own vine, she wants knowledge, affection, discretion, love. She never denies it, but confesses all freely from her heart; she hides not her sin, but tells what she is, what she hath done, that so she may give glory to the Lord God of Israel. And indeed, it makes much for the honor of Christ, and commends His grace, that He, such a king, will set His heart and His eye upon such a deformed slut as the world deems her to be. It makes for the comfort of her poor children, and much stayeth them, when they shall hear the church in all ages, and in her Abraham, David, and Paul, saying, ‘I am black,’ I have affliction, corruption, as well as others.
It makes for the silencing of all saucy daughters that will upbraid her; an ingenuous confession, stops their mouths, and puts them all to silence. It much quickens her to the use of the means, and maketh her cry, ‘Shew me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest!’ and to seek her comfort in Christ Jesus. Oh it doth her good to receive the sentence of death, shame, poverty, damnation, in herself, that so she may be found in Christ, arrayed with the rich robes of His righteousness. Hence her plain-hearted openness in her confession.
Let us do the like, and leave it to the harlot and whore of Babylon to say herself is a queen, she is glorious, she cannot err. But let us say with the church, we are black; yea, let us see it, let us speak it with sorrow, with shame, as the saints have done, and be so affected with our estate, that it may truly humble us, and cause us to say, ‘It is the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.’ And let us so confess it in ourselves, that we pity others, and bear with them, though full of sins and miseries; so confess it, that we stir up others thereby to run, as Paul did, and use the ordinances with all diligence, to pray much, to read much, to hear, to confer, to advise, and be humble and sincere.
A verbal confession of frailties, without humility, mercy, diligence, without the use of the means, is hypocrisy. If we will speak with the church, we must feel what we say, and so well understand ourselves and our estate, that we may gain humility, mercy, and watchfulness by it.”
–Richard Sibbes, Works of Richard Sibbes, (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), Vol. 7: pp. 97-98.