A String of Pearls
The Best Things Reserved Until Last
by Thomas Brooks, June 8, 1657
The Epistle Dedicatory
"The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance."
"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints."
To my honored and worthily-esteemed friends, Mr. Nicholas Blake, husband to
the late virtuous Mrs. Mary Blake; and Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Matthewes, parents to
the late deceased gentlewoman; and to the rest of her relations. All grace and
peace, all consolation and supportation from God the Father, through our Lord
This little piece had been sooner in your hands, but that my being in the
country, and some other important business that has lain hard upon my hands, has
prevented it until now.
I have read of a certain painter, who, being to express the sorrow of a
bereaved father, thought it best to present him with his face covered, that so
he might have that grief to be imagined by them, which he found himself unable
to set out to the full. I know I am not able to paint out your great grief and
sorrow for the loss of such a wife, of such a child, of such a sister, etc., and
I could wish that this piece, which is brought forth to satisfy your
importunity, may not make the wound to bleed afresh. However, if it does, thank
yourselves, blame not me. "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to
salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death." 2 Cor. 7:10
I heartily wish that all who are concerned in this sad loss, were more taken
up in minding the happy exchange that she has made—than with your present loss.
She has exchanged—earth for heaven, a wilderness for a paradise, a
prison for a palace, a house made with hands for one eternal in the heavens! 2
Cor. 5:1-2. She has exchanged imperfection for perfection, sighing for singing,
mourning for rejoicing, prayers for praises, the society of sinful mortals for
the company of God, Christ, angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect,
Heb. 12:22-24; an imperfect transient enjoyment of God for a more clear, full,
perfect, and permanent enjoyment of God. She has exchanged pain for ease,
sickness for health, a bed of weakness for a bed of spices, a complete
blessedness. She has exchanged her brass for silver, her pennies for gold, and
her earthly contentments for heavenly enjoyments.
And as I desire that one of your eyes may be fixed upon her happiness—so I
desire that the other of your eyes may be fixed upon Christ's fullness. Though
your brook be dried up, yet Christ the fountain of light, life, love, grace,
glory, comfort, joy, goodness, sweetness, and satisfaction is still at hand, and
always full and flowing, yes, overflowing! John 1:16, Col. 1:19, Col. 2:3. As
the worth and value of many pieces of silver is contracted in one piece of
gold—so all the sweetness, all the goodness, all the excellencies that are in
husbands, wives, children, friends, etc., are concentrated in Christ! Yes, all
the whole volume of perfections which is spread through heaven and earth, is
epitomized in Christ! Says Augustine, one Christ will be to you instead of
all things else, because in him are all good things to be found.
Dear friends! what wisdom, what knowledge, what love, what tenderness, what
sweetness, what goodness did you observe and find in this deceased and now
glorified saint—which is not eminently, which is not perfectly, to be enjoyed
in Christ? and if so, why do not you bear up sweetly and cheerfully, and let the
world know, and let friends see, that though you have lost her corporally, yet
you enjoy her spiritually in Jesus? The apostle Paul was so much taken with
Christ, that he was ever in his thoughts, always near his heart, and ever upon
his tongue; he names him sixteen or seventeen times in one chapter, 1 Cor. 1.
Now, oh that your hearts and thoughts were thus busied about Christ, and taken
up with Christ, and with those treasures of wisdom, knowledge, grace, goodness,
sweetness, etc., which are in him; this would very much allay your grief and
sorrow, and keep your hearts quiet and silent before the Lord; this would be
like that tree which made the bitter waters of Marah sweet, Exod. 15:23-25.
Plutarch, in the life of Phocion, tells us of a certain woman of Ionia, who
showed the wife of Phocion all the rich jewels and precious stones she had; she
answered her again, All my riches and jewels is my husband Phocion. So
should Christians say, Christ is our riches, our jewels, our treasure, our
heaven, our crown, our glory, our all. He is all comforts to us, and all
contentments to us, and all delights to us, and all relations to us. He is husband,
wife, child, father, mother, brother, sister. He is all these; yes, he is more
than all these to us, 2 Cor. 6:10, Eph. 3:8, Cant. 5:10.
I have read of one who, walking in the fields by himself, suddenly fell into
loud cries and weeping, and being asked by one who passed by and overheard him,
the cause of his lamentation. I weep, says he, to think that the
Lord Jesus should do so much for us men, and yet not one man of a thousand so
much as minds him, or thinks of him. But I hope better things of you; yes, I
hope and desire that this present counsel will take hold of your hearts, and
work as counsel works—when it is set home by the hand of heaven.
Again, friends, it is your wisdom and your glory to mind more your present
work, your present duty—than your loss, than your present calamity. David's
passion had gotten above his wisdom and discretion, when he said, "O my son
Absalom! my son, my son Absalom, would God I had died for you, O Absalom, my
son, my son!" 2 Sam. 18:33. Your present work is not to cry, O my dear wife!
O my precious child! O my loving sister! but, O my soul, submit to God!
justify God, lie down in the will of God; say so be it to God's amen. O
my soul! think well of God, and speak well of God, and carry it well towards
God, etc. This is your present work; make it but your work, and then, though
"sorrow may abide for a night—yet joy will come in the morning," Psalm 30:5.
Again, Observe how other saints have behaved under such a dispensation as you
are under—and do likewise. To that purpose read and compare these
scriptures together: Gen. 23:1-4, 8; Ezek. 24:16-18; 2 Sam. 12:17-22; 1 Sam.
3:17-19; 2 Sam. 15:25-27; Job 1:13-22. It is a more excellent, a more blessed
thing to be good at imitating the pious examples of others, than to be
good at praising of them. Stories speak of some who could not sleep when
they thought of the trophies of other worthies that went before them. The best
and highest examples should be very quickening and provoking. Pious examples
usually are more wakening than precepts; and they are more convincing
and more encouraging; and the reason is, because we see in them, that the
exercise of the most difficult points of godliness is yet possible. Other
saints' pious examples should be looking-glasses for us to dress ourselves by;
and happy are those who make such an improvement of them. Oh, happy husband! oh,
happy parents! oh, happy brethren and sisters! if you write after that blessed
copy—that this glorified saint, wife, child, sister, has set before you; which
that you may, I desire you seriously to dwell upon the following narrative.
One hint more, and then I am done. Augustine, in one of his epistles,
relates—that the very same day wherein Jerome died, Augustine was in his study,
and had got pen, ink, and paper, to write something of the glory of heaven to
Jerome. Suddenly he saw a light breaking into his study, and a sweet smell that
came unto him, and this voice he thought he heard, O Augustine! what are you
doing? Do think to put the sea into a little vessel? When the heavens shall
cease from their continual motion, then shall you be able to understand what the
glory of heaven is, and not before; except you come to partake of it, as I now
A little before this glorified saint's translation from earth to heaven, I
had thoughts and resolutions to write to her about this blessed state to which
she was hastening, but was prevented. However, in the following sermon you will
find something of that glorious state glimpsed out unto you, which now she is in
possession of. Now, dear friends, above all gettings—get a saving interest in
that glory that she is filled with, and keep up the sense of that interest in
your own souls and consciences; and then you will be happy in life, and blessed
in death, and assuredly meet her and know her, and forever enjoy her in perfect
happiness and blessedness; which, that you may, is and shall be the constant
desire and earnest prayer of
Your soul's servant,
A String of Pearls
Or, The Best Things Reserved until Last
Before I name my text, give me leave to speak a few words upon another text,
namely, the glorified saint deceased, at whose funeral we are here met.
Mary Blake was one of those dear spiritual
children that the Lord had given me, Isaiah 8:18; she was a precious seal of my
ministry, she was my living epistle, 2 Cor. 3:1-2; my walking certificate, my
letter testimonial, Philip. 4:1-2. In life she was my joy, and in the day of
Christ she will be my crown, as Paul speaks, 1 Thes. 2:19-20, "For what is our
hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even you in the presence of our
Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For you are our glory and joy." Her application
of those words of the apostle to me has been often a very great refreshing and
comfort to my soul: "For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet
have you not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the
gospel," 1 Cor. 4:15.
The work of grace upon her heart was clear, powerful, and thorough, as all
know who knew her inwardly. I would tire both myself and you, and frustrate
the end of your meeting, which is to hear a sermon, should I give you an exact
and particular account thereof: I shall therefore mention only a few things
among many—for your imitation, satisfaction, and supportation under this sad
She was a knowing woman in the things of Christ; and her knowledge was
inward, experimental, growing, humbling, transforming, and practical, Proverbs
3:18. She knew Christ in the mystery—as well as in the history; in the
spirit—as well as in the letter; experimentally—as well as notionally; she did
not only eat of the tree of knowledge, but also tasted of the tree
She was as sincere and plain a hearted Christian, I think, as anyone outside
of heaven; for plain-heartedness she was a Jacob; for uprightness she was a Job.
Sincerity is the shine, the luster, the beauty, the glory of all a
Christian's graces, and in this she did excel. A sincere soul is like a crystal
glass with a light in the midst of it, which gives light every way; and such a
one was she. A sincere soul is like the violet, which grows low, and hides
itself and its own sweetness, as much as may be, with its own leaves; and such a
one was she. She had as many choice, visible characters of sincerity and
uprightness upon her, as ever I read upon any Christian that I have had the
happiness to be acquainted with. But I must not dwell on these things; I shall
only say she was not like the actor in the comedy, who cried with his mouth,
O heaven! but pointed with his finger to the earth. Such professors there
are, but she was none of that type.
She was as rich in spiritual experiences as most that I have been
acquainted with. Ah! how often has she warmed, gladdened, and quickened my
spirit, by acquainting me with what the Lord has done for her precious soul.
Experiences in religion are beyond notions and impressions. A sanctified heart
is better than a silver tongue; and she found it so. Oh! the stories that she
was able to tell of the love of God, the presence of Christ, the breathings of
the Spirit, the exercise of grace, the sweetness of the word, the deceitfulness
of sin, and the devices and methods of Satan, etc. And though she made use of
her experiences, as crutches to lean on, yet she only made use of the
promises as a foundation to build on. As the star led the wise men to
Christ, so her experiences led her to a higher and sweeter living upon Christ;
her experiences were her sauce, but Christ was still her food.
She did drive a very great private trade towards heaven. She was much in
secret duties, in closet communion with God, and this did very much enrich her
and advance her in spiritual experiences, when she had once found the sweetness
of enjoying Christ behind the door, Cant. 2:14, Mat. 6:5-6. Oh, how inflamedly,
how abundantly was her soul carried forth in secret duties! She knew that Peter
went up upon the house-top to pray, and that Christ was often alone, Acts 10:9.
As secret meals make a fat body—so she found secret duties made a fat soul;
and this made her much in that work. It was a witty and divine speech of
Bernard, That Christ, the soul's spouse, is bashful, neither willingly comes
to his bride in the presence of a multitude; and is it not so with the bride in
her actings towards her bridegroom, Christ?
She was many times in the school of trial and temptation, which God
made to her the school of instruction. The Lord did usually so help her to
handle the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, that
she commonly triumphed over Satan's temptations, and led captivity captive.
Though that arrow-master, Satan, has shot often at her, yet her "bow still abode
in strength, her hands and heart being made strong by the hands of the mighty
God of Jacob." Augustine gave thanks to God that the heart and the temptation
did not meet together—and so has she many a time. She was good at
withstanding the beginnings of a temptation, knowing that after-remedies
often come too late.
She was a Christian all over. She was a Christian in profession, and a
Christian in practice; a Christian in lip, and a Christian in life; a Christian
in word, and a Christian in work; and a Christian in power and spirit. She was
not only for the general duties of Christianity—as hearing, praying,
etc., but also for the relative duties of religion—as to be a good wife,
a good mother, a good child, a good sister, etc. Most sincerity and holy
ingenuity shines in the relative duties of religion; and in those she was
excellent. She was also very conscientious and constant, yes, abundant in the
general duties of religion, as hearing, praying, etc. She did duties, but dared
not for a world trust to her duties—but to her Jesus; as the dove made use of
her wings to fly to the ark—but trusted not in her wings—but in the ark. In
duty, she had learned the holy art of living above duty; in the business of
acceptance with God, and justification before God, and reconciliation to God,
and salvation by God—she knew no duty but Jesus. She was as happy in denying
religious self as she was resolute in denying of sinful self. (Duties
trusted to will undo you. When trusted to, duties are but a smooth silken way to
She was, for patience and cheerfulness under her long lingering weakness, as
exemplary as any that ever I was acquainted with, James 1:2-4; 5:10-11. If at
any time she groaned, yet she blessed God, as she used to say, that
she did not grumble. Oh how quiet, how like a lamb was she under all her
trials! Oh how well would she speak of God! Oh how sweetly did she behave
towards God! Oh how much was she taken up in justifying of God throughout her
pining, wasting sicknesses!
Time and strength would fail me should I but tell you what I could concerning
her faith, her love to God, to Christ, to his ways, to his people, whether poor
or rich, weak or strong; and of her eminent humility, lowliness, and meekness.
She was very high in spiritual worth, and as meek in heart; she was clothed with
humility as with a royal robe, and with "the ornament of a meek and quiet
spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price," 1 Pet. 5:5, 3:4.
But I must hasten to my text, for I see time slides away.
If Ezekiel can commend Daniel, and match him with Noah and Job for his power
in prayer; and Peter highly praise Paul; and if the ancient church had her
public tables, wherein the people most noted for piety were recorded; nay, if
Plato called Aristotle the intelligent reader; and Aristotle set up an altar in
honor of Plato; then I hope you will not impute it to me as a transgression,
that I have presented to you the shining virtues of this glorified saint for
What eyes you read with, reader, know I not,
Mine were not dry when I this story wrote.
Upon the death of the virtuous, his dear and
never-to-be-forgotten friend, Mrs.
If that affection could but make a poet,
Could grief and sorrow help, sure I should do it;
Mary is dead, a woman whom truth and fame,
With virtue, ever shall embalm her name;
A Mary for love, a Mary for weeping,
A Mary for choice, a Mary for seeking.
With Mary she had chosen the better part;
With Mary she did lay Christ near'st her heart.
Such were her parts, her piety,
Her youth it was a full maturity.
Grave although young; who in her heart did prize
Grace, truth, and Christ her only sacrifice;
Gracious, pious, and sincere was she,
Courteous, without all court hypocrisy.
Christ was her study, his glory was her aim;
It was her heaven for to advance the same.
Within the holy treasury of her mind
Were the choice virtues of all womankind;
A knowing woman, and humble too,
Who joyed all Christians who had with her to do.
A praying woman and believing too,
Which did the praises of other saints renew:
A holy woman, and a harmless too.
In saying this, I give her but her due.
A lively Christian and thriving in grace;
Few towards heaven did ever hold her pace.
The word and ways of God were her delight,
And in the same she had a great insight.
A fixed woman, when others staggering were,
Which was the fruit of holy pains and care;
A tried Christian, whose trials were not small,
Yet faith and patience overcame them all;
She lived the sermons which on earth she heard,
And now receives the crown which was for her prepared;
A woman who had more than common worth;
I lack a tongue, enough to set it forth.
Her last precious breathings had respect
To nothing more than divine dialect;
Which she committed to her mourning friends,
In exhortations to their better ends.
Could prayers, tears, and sighs have kept her here,
She had not died, you need not to fear;
She lives, though dead, in the memory of those,
Who knew her life, and saw its holy close.
No golden letters half so long as we,
Shall keep her precious worth in memory;
No costly marble need on her be spent,
Her deathless worth is her own monument.
Now, shall I let you know what you have lost?
She was a temple of the Holy Ghost.
This we know, that though we lose her here,
Her soul does shine in a celestial sphere.
Mary is to the celestial Canaan gone,
Where as a star she shines in perfection.
Mary has chosen sure the better part,
Mary with angels sure does now partake.
But stay, needs she encomiums?
Reader, know, She joys above, while we here wail below.
But now, dear friends, let's mourn in hope and weep,
Believing this blessed saint, in Christ does sleep.
Hark, don't you hear her sweet delightful voice?
Saying, Friends, weep not—but see that you rejoice
For me, for now I am perfectly free,
From sorrow, sin, death, and mortality;
Surely you cannot doubt my happiness,
Who have beheld my faith and steadfastness;
Oh then from sorrow see that now you cease,
To interrupt my joy and your own peace.
Surely our loss to her was greatest gain,
For crowned in heaven she ever shall remain;
No sighs, no groans, now from her do come,
But everlasting joys are in their room.
She now without control, no question, sings
Eternal praises to the King of kings;
She now enjoys that ever blessed face,
In hopes whereof she has run a happy race:
She now has changed her crosses for a crown,
Her bed of weakness, for a royal throne.
Farewell! blessed saint, farewell! to you we'll haste,
For until we meet in heaven, we cannot rest.
A Word to the Reader—
Now, Reader, if you please to cast a look,
Or spend some spare time on this little book,
And in it anything that's good do view,
Then take it, for it belongs to you;
What's weak or worthless in it, that decline
And pass it by, I challenge that for mine.
"An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and which fades not away,
reserved in heaven for you." 1 Peter 1:4
I have chosen this text upon a double ground.
1. To make a diversion of immoderate sorrow and grief from my own spirit and
yours, who are most nearly concerned in this sad loss. And,
2. Because it will afford us matter most suitable to the blessed state and
condition of this glorified saint, at whose funeral we are here met.
In the inscription, verses 1 and 2, you have first a holy salutation, showing
first by whom this epistle was written, namely, Peter, an apostle of Jesus
Christ; secondly, to whom it was written. Now they are described two ways:
first, by their outward condition, "strangers, scattered throughout
Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia." There are divers opinions
about these strangers—but the most common and received opinion among the learned
is, that Peter wrote this epistle to the converted Jews, scattered through the
provinces in Asia, who met with much opposition and affliction for the gospel's
sake. Secondly, they are described by their spiritual and inward condition,
which is set forth,
(1.) By the fundamental cause of it, namely, election of God.
(2.) By the final cause, namely, sanctification of the Spirit unto
(3.) By the subservient cause, namely, reconciliation, conferred in
obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
In the third verse you have, (1.) A very stately prelude, and such as can
hardly be matched again, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ." (2.) You have regeneration or effectual calling described, and that
[1.] First, By the principal efficient cause thereof, which is, "God the
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ."
[2.] By the impulsive cause thereof, the mercy of God, which is described by
the quantity of it, "abundant."
[3.] By the immediate effect thereof, a "lively hope," the singular cause
whereof is showed to be the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 1 John
3:2-3. Now hope is called a lively hope,
[1.] Because it makes a man lively and active for God and goodness.
[2.] Because it cheers, comforts, and revives the soul. It brings, it breeds,
it feeds, it preserves spiritual life in the soul. This lively hope is like
Myrtilus' shield, which after the use he had of it in the field, having it with
him at sea, and suffering shipwreck, it served him for a boat to waft him to
shore, and so preserved his life. This lively hope is a shield ashore, and an
anchor at sea.
[3.] It is called a lively hope, in opposition to the fading, withering,
dying hopes of hypocrites, and profane people, "Whose hope is as a spider's
web," "the crackling of thorns under a pot."
A Christian's hope is not like that of Pandora, which may fly out of the box,
and bid the soul farewell; no, it is like the morning light: the least beam of
it shall commence into a complete sunshine; it shall shine forth brighter and
brighter until perfect day; but the hypocrite's hope, the presumptuous sinner's
hope is like a cloud, or the morning dew.
Now, in my text you have the object about which this "lively hope" is
exercised; and that is, "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and which
fades not away" [What these words import I shall show you when I open that
doctrine which I intend to stand upon at this time], "reserved in heaven for
There are three heavens: the first is the airy heaven, where the fowls of
heaven do fly; the second is where the stars of heaven are; the third is the
heaven of the blessed, where God appears in eminency, and where Christ shines in
glory; and this is the heaven the text speaks of.
The text will afford several points—but I shall only name one, which I intend
to stand on at this time, and that is this,
DOCTRINE. God reserves the best and greatest favors
and blessings for believers until they come to heaven.