I’m reading Richard Sibbes’s The Bruised Reed and Smoking Flax, based on Matthew 12:20. When Sibbes comes to the explanation of the smoking flax, he explains that the “smoke” coming from the wick is that portion of its output which is not wished for. What is wished for is light, not smoke. Yet Christ overlooks and purifies the smoke, for the sake of the little light that he has lit there.
Sibbes applies this lesson to Christians when he says:
Here see the opposite dispostition between the holy nature of Christ, and the impure nature of man. Man for a little smoke will quench the light; Christ ever we see cherisheth even the least beginnings. How bare [bore] he with the many imperfections of his poor disciples. If he did sharply check them, it was in love, and that they might shine the brighter. Can we have a better pattern to follow than this of him by whom we hope to be saved? ‘We that are strong ought to bear with the infirmities of the weak,’ Rom 15:1. ‘I became all things to all men, that I may win some,’ 1 Cor 9:22. O that this winning disposition were more in many! Many, so far as in us lieth, are lost for want of encouragement. . . . It is not the best way to fall foul presently with young beginners for some lesser vanities, but show them a more excellent way, and breed them up in positive grounds, and other things will be quickly out of credit with them. . . . It were [would be] a good strife among Christians, one to labour to give no offense, and the other to labour to take none. The best men are severe to themselves, tender over others. (Works, vol 1, 51-52)