“Tenderness of heart is wrought by an apprehension of tenderness and love in Christ. A soft heart is made soft by the blood of Christ.
Many say, that an adamant cannot be melted with fire, but by blood. I cannot tell whether this be true or no; but I am sure nothing will melt the hard heart of man but the blood of Christ, the passion of our blessed Saviour.
When a man considers of the love that God hath shewed him in sending of His Son, and doing such great things as He hath done, in giving of Christ to satisfy His justice, in setting us free from hell, Satan and death: the consideration of this, with the persuasion that we have interest in the same, melts the heart, and makes it become tender.
And this must needs be so, because that with the preaching of the gospel unto broken-hearted sinners cast down, there always goes the Spirit of God, which works an application of the gospel.
Christ is the first gift to the Church. When God hath given Christ, then comes the Spirit, and works in the heart a gracious acceptance of mercy offered.
The Spirit works an assurance of the love and mercy of God. Now love and mercy felt, work upon the tender heart a reflective love to God again.
What, hath the great God of heaven and earth sent Christ into the world for me?
Humbled Himself to the death of the cross for me?
And hath He let angels alone, and left many thousands in the world, to choose me?
And hath He sent His ministers to reveal unto me this assurance of the love and mercy of God?
This consideration cannot but work love to God again. For love is a kind of fire which melts the heart.
So that when our souls are persuaded that God loves us from everlasting, then we reflect our love to Him again. And then our heart says to God, ‘Speak, Lord; what wilt Thou have me to do?’
The soul is pliable for doing, for suffering, for anything God will have it. Then, ‘Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth,’ 1 Sam. 3:9.
And when the heart is thus wrought upon, and made tender by the Spirit, then afterward in the proceeding of our lives, many things will work tenderness: as the works of God, His judgments, the word and sacraments, when they are made effectual by the Spirit of God, work tenderness.
The promises of God also make the heart tender, as Rom. 12:1, ‘I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, offer up your souls and bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God.’
There is no such like argument to persuade men to tenderness of heart, as to propound the love and mercy of God.”
–Richard Sibbes, “Josiah’s Reformation,” in The Complete Works of Richard Sibbes (ed. Alexander Balloch Grosart; vol. 7; Edinburgh; London; Dublin: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson, 1863), 6: 33-34.