A String of Pearls
The Best Things Reserved Until Last
by Thomas Brooks, June 8, 1657
Twenty motives for Christians to be willing
Ah, Christians, Christians! how justly may that father be
angry with his child who is unwilling to come home; and that husband be
angry with his wife who is unwilling to ride to him in a rainy day, or to
cross the seas to enjoy him? And is not this your case? is not this your
case? I know it is. Well, Christians! let me a little expostulate the case
with you, that if it be possible I may work your hearts into a willingness
to die, yes, to desire death, to long for death—so that you may come to a
full fruition of all that is reserved in heaven for you! And that I may,
I beseech you, Christians, tell me,
Tell me, O Christian—can death dissolve that glorious UNION which is between
you and Christ?
No! Romans 8:35-39. Why, why then are you unwilling to
die—as long as in death your union with Christ holds good? As in death Saul
and Jonathan were not parted, 2 Sam. 1:23, so in death a believer and Christ
are not parted—but more closely and firmly united. That is not death—but
life, which joins the dying man to Christ; and that is not a life—but death,
that separates the living man from Christ. As it is impossible for the
leaven that is in the dough to be separated from the dough after it is once
mixed, for it turns the nature of the dough into itself; so it is
impossible, either in life or death, for the saints ever to be separated
from Christ; for Christ, in respect of union, is in the saints as closely as
the leaven is in the very dough, so incorporated one into another as if
Christ and they were one lump, John 17:20-21; John 15:1-6. But,
[2.] For I shall but touch upon things, tell me, O
Christian, who are unwilling to die,
Whether death can dissolve or
untie that MARRIAGE-KNOT that by the Spirit on Christ's side, and by faith
on your part—is knit between Christ and your soul?
No! Death cannot untie that knot, Hosea 2:19-20. Why,
why then, O Christian, are you unwilling to die, as long as the
marriage-knot holds fast between Christ and your soul? Mat. 25:1-2; Romans
7:1-4. I readily grant that death dissolves that marriage-knot which is knit
between man and wife; but neither death nor devil can ever dissolve the
marriage-knot that is knit between Christ and the believing soul! Sin cannot
dissolve that marriage-knot that is knit between Christ and a believer; and
if sin cannot, then certainly death, which came in by sin, cannot. Though
sin can do more than death—yet sin cannot make null and void that glorious
marriage which is between Christ and the soul; therefore a Christian should
not be unwilling to die. Jer. 3:1-5, 12-14, compared. But,
Tell me, O Christian—can death, O Christian, dissolve that glorious COVENANT
that God has taken you into? No! Death
can never dissolve that covenant: Jer. 32:40, "And I will make an
everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do
them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts—that they shall not depart
from me." Though Abraham is dead—yet God is Abraham's God still, Mat.
22:30-32. By covenant, and by virtue of this everlasting covenant, Abraham
shall be raised and glorified. Oh then, why should you be afraid of death?
why should you be unwilling to die?
When David was upon his dying bed, he drew his
strongest consolation out of this well of salvation—the covenant: 2 Sam.
23:5, "Is it not true my house is with God? For He has established an
everlasting covenant with me, ordered and secured in every detail. Will He
not bring about my whole salvation and my every desire?" Dear hearts! the
covenant remains firm and good between you and the Lord, both in life and in
death; and therefore there is no reason why you should be unwilling to die.
There are three things which are impossible for God to
do, namely—to die, to lie, or deny himself, or that gracious covenant that
he has made with his people; and therefore death should be more desirable
than terrible to gracious souls. But,
Tell me, O Christian—can death dissolve that LOVE which is between the Lord
and your soul?
Psalm 116:15; Deut. 7:7-8. No, death cannot! For his
love is not founded upon any worth or excellency in me, nor upon any
work or service done by me. God's love is free—he loves
because he will love. All motives to love are taken out of that bosom which
is love and sweetness itself. His love is everlasting, it is like
himself; Jer. 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore
with loving-kindness have I drawn you;" John 13:1, "Whom he loved, he loved
to the end." "In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment, but I
will have compassion on you with everlasting love, says the Lord your
Redeemer. For this is like the days of Noah to Me: when I swore that the
waters of Noah would never flood the earth again, so I have sworn that I
will not be angry with you or rebuke you. Though the mountains move and the
hills shake, My love will not be removed from you and My covenant of
peace will not be shaken, says your compassionate Lord." Isaiah 54:8-10
The love of Jesus Christ was to Lazarus when dead (John
11:11), "Our friend Lazarus sleeps." By all which it is most evident that
death cannot dissolve that precious love which is between the Lord and his
children. Oh! why then are they afraid to die? Why then do not they long to
die—that they may be in the everlasting arms of divine love! The love
of the Lord is everlasting; it is a love which never dies, which never
decays, nor waxes cold. It is like the stone asbestos, of which
Solinus writes, that being once hot, it can never be cooled again.
Death is nothing but a bringing of a loving Christ and
loving souls together! Why, then, should not the saints rather desire
it, than fear it or be dismayed at it? But,
Can death, O you believing soul, dissolve those gracious grants, or those
grants of grace which the Lord has pledged to you?
Such as the grant of reconciliation, the grant of
acceptance, the grant of justification, the grant of adoption, the grant of
remission, etc. No! death cannot dissolve any of these gracious grants.
Romans 11:29, "for God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable." Why
then, O Christian, are you unwilling to die? Indeed, were it in the power of
death to make void any of those noble and gracious grants which God has
pledged to you, you might be afraid and unwilling to die; but that being a
work too great, and too hard for death to accomplish—why should you not, in
a holy triumphing way, say with the apostle, "O death, where is your sting?
O grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength
of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory, through
our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. 15:55-57.
A Christian, upon the account of what is laid up for him,
may and ought divinely to out-brave death, as this precious saint did: a
little before she breathed out her last into the bosom of Christ, she called
for a candle; Come, says she, and see death; and this she spoke smilingly,
out-braving death in a holy sense. Being free both from the pains of death,
and from the fear of death, she knew him in whom she had believed, 2 Tim.
1:12. She knew right well that death could not dissolve those gracious
grants which God had pledged to her; and therefore when she came to it,
she made no more of it to die—than we do to dine! But,
Tell me, Christians, did not Christ come to deliver you from the fear of
death? Yes! He did come into the world,
and did take our nature upon him—that he might deliver us from the fear of
death, Heb. 2:14-15. Why, then, should you be unwilling to die? Tell me, has
not Christ disarmed death of all its hurting power—and taken away its sting,
that it cannot harm you? Yes, he has! 1 Cor. 15:55-57. Why then should you
be unwilling to die? Tell me, souls, will not Christ be with you in that
hour? Will he not stand by you, though others should desert you? Yes! we
have it from his own word, that he will be present with us, and that he will
neither, living nor dying, leave us, nor forsake us, Psalm 23:4, Heb.
13:5-6. Why then should you be unwilling to die? Tell me, O trembling
Christians, shall death be any more to you than a change? a change of place,
a change of company, a change of employment, a change of enjoyment?
Certainly! Death to us will be but a change; yes, the happiest change that
ever we met with, Job 14:14, John 11:26, 1 Thes. 4:14. Why then should you
be unwilling to die, seeing that to die is nothing but to change earth for
heaven, rags for robes, crosses for crowns, and prisons for thrones, etc.?
Said Cyprian, Let him fear death—who is opposed to go to Christ!
But tell me once more, Christians, has not Jesus Christ,
by his lying in the grave, sanctified the grave, and perfumed and sweetened
the grave? Has he not, by his blood and death, purchased for you a soft and
easy bed in the grave? Yes! We believe he has done all this for us. Oh why
then should you be unwilling to die?
Once more, tell me, Christians, will not Jesus Christ
raise you out of the grave after you have taken a short nap? Will he not
cause you to hear his voice? Will he not call you out of that
sleeping-chamber, the grave, and bring you to immortality and glory? Yes! We
believe he will, John 6:39-40, 1 Cor 15, 1 Thes. 4:14-18. Oh why then should
you be unwilling to die? Oh why should you not, upon all these accounts,
long for it—and whenever it comes, readily and willingly, cheerfully and
sweetly, embrace it? O Christians, Christians! let but your hopes and your
hearts be more fixed upon the things that are reserved in heaven for you—and
then you will neither fear death, nor feel it when it comes! But,
Death will perfectly cure you of all physical and spiritual diseases at
once! Such as the aching head and the
unbelieving heart; the ulcerous body and the polluted soul. Now your bodies
are full of ails, full of aches, full of diseases, full of illnesses and
distempers—so that your wisest physicians know not what to say to you, nor
what to do with you, nor how to cure you. It is often with your bodies—"from
the sole of the feet, even to the crown of the head, was full of wounds,
bruises, and putrefying sores," Isaiah 1:6.
But now death will perfectly cure you of all! Death will
do that for you, which you could not do for yourselves! Death will do that
for you, which all your friends could not do for you! Death will do that for
you, which the ablest and wisest physicians could not do for you. It will
cure you of every ache, of every ailment, etc.
At Stratford-Bow, in Queen Mary's days, there was burnt a
lame man and a blind man at one stake. The lame man, after he was chained,
casting away his crutch, bade the blind man be of good comfort, for death,
said he, will cure us both—you of your blindness, and I of my lameness!
Ah, Christians! death will cure you of all your
infirmities, of all your distempers; and why, then, should you be unwilling
to die? Maecenas, the heathen, said that he had rather live with many
diseases than die; but I hope better things of you, for whom Christ has
And as death will cure all your bodily diseases, so it
will cure all your soul-distempers also! Death is not the death of the
man—but the death of his sin! Sin was the midwife which brought death into
the world—and death shall be the grave to bury sin.
What is death but the burial of vices?—Ambrose. Death
shall do that for a Christian—which all his duties could never
do—which all his graces could never do—which all his experiences
could never do—which all ordinances could never do. It shall
at once free him fully, perfectly, and perpetually from all sin—yes,
from all possibility of ever sinning again!
The Persians had a certain day in the year in which they
used to kill all serpents and venomous creatures; such a day as that will
the day of death be to their sins who are savingly interested in the Savior.
When Samson died—the Philistines also died together with him. Just so, when
a believer dies—his sins die with him. Death came in by sin, and sin goes
out by death. As the worm kills the fruit which bred it—so death kills sin
which bred it, Heb. 12:23, Romans 6:7, 1 Cor. 15:26.
And why, then, should Christians be afraid of death, or
unwilling to die, seeing death gives them ease from infirmities and
weaknesses, from all aches and pains, griefs and gripings, distempers and
diseases, both of body and soul?
Homer reports of his Achilles, that he had rather be a
servant to a poor country clown here in this world, than to be a king to all
the souls departed. The truth is, that most heathens have preferred the
meanest life on earth above all the hopes they had of a better life; but I
hope better things of you, Christians; and that upon this very ground, that
death will certainly and perfectly cure you of all bodily and soul
distempers at once! But,
not your dying day—an INEVITABLE day?
Why, yes, yes! Why, then, should you be afraid to die? Why should you be
unwilling to die, seeing that your dying day is a day which cannot be put
off? The daily spectacles of mortality which we see before our eyes clearly
evince this truth—that all must die. [Eccles. 2:16; Zech. 1:5; Heb.
9:27; Gen. 3:19; Romans 6:23.] It is a statute-law in heaven that all must
die. All men and women are made up of dust, and by the law of heaven they
must return to dust. All have sinned, and therefore all must die. The core
of that apple which Adam ate sticks in the throats of all his children, and
will at length choke them all one by one!
Masius says that when Noah went into the ark, he took the
bones of Adam with him, and that when he came out of the ark, he divided
them among his sons, giving the head, as the chief part, unto his
first-born, and therein as it were saying unto them, Let not this
delivery from the flood make you secure; behold your first parent, and the
beginning of mankind; you must all, and all who come from you, go unto the
dust to him. What day is there that passes over our heads wherein the
Lord does not, by others' mortality, preach many sermons of mortality to us?
Therefore why should we be unwilling to pay that debt that all owe, and that
all must pay, and that so many daily pay before our eyes? But,
believer's dying day is his BEST day.
Ambrose speaks of some who lamented men's births and celebrated their
deaths. Why then should he be unwilling to die? Eccles. 7:1, "A good name is
better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one's
birth." In respect of profit, pleasure, peace, safety, company, glory—a
believer's last day is his best day. Why then should a believer be unwilling
to die? But,
believer's dying day is his RESTING day.
It is his resting day from sin, from sorrow, from affliction, from
temptation, from desertion, from dissension, from vexation, from
persecution, and from all bodily labor. [Rev. 14:13, 21:4; Job 3:13-16;
Isaiah 57:1-2.] And therefore why should a believer be unwilling to die,
seeing that for him to die is no more but to rest? But of this rest I have
spoken largely before; and therefore a touch may be enough in this place.
The saints' dying day is their REAPING day.
Now they shall reap the fruit of all the prayers that ever they have
made, and of all the sermons that ever they have heard, and of all
the tears that ever they have shed, and of all the sighs and
groans that ever they have fetched, and of all the good words
that ever they have spoke, and of all the good works that ever they
have done, and of all the great things that ever they have suffered.
Yes, now they shall reap the fruit of many good services, which themselves
had forgot, 2 Cor. 9:6; Gal. 6:7-9. "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry
and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and
show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see
you sick or in prison, and visit you?" Mat. 25:34-41. They had done many
good works and forgot them—but Christ records them, remembers them, and
Some Christians have bad memories. But our Lord Jesus, as
he has a soft and tender heart, so he has an iron memory; he remembers not
only the best and greatest services—but also the least and lowest services
which have been done by his people; and he remembers them to reward them. A
bit of bread, a cup of cold water, shall not pass without a reward.
Christians, however Christ may seem to forget your labor
of love, and to take no notice, or but little, of many good services that
you have done for him, his name, his gospel, his people—yet when you die,
when you come to heaven, you shall then reap a plentiful, a glorious crop,
as the fruit of that good seed, that for a time has seemed to be buried and
lost, Proverbs 11:25; Psalm 126:5. When mortality shall put on immortality,
you shall then find that bread which long before was cast upon the waters,
Eccles. 11:1-6. Therefore be not, O Christian, afraid to die! Be not, O
Christian, unwilling to die—for your dying day will be your reaping day.
Your dying-day, O believer! will be your TRIUMPHING day!
John 11:26. Now you shall gloriously triumph over sin,
Satan, the world, your own base heart, yes, and over death itself!
I readily grant, that if you consider believers as in
union with Christ, as he was a public person, they have then already
triumphed over principalities and powers; what Christ did in his greatest
transaction, he did as a public person, representing all his chosen ones; he
suffered as a public person, representing all his elect; he died
as a public person, representing all his precious ones; he rose,
he ascended, and now he sits in heaven as a public person, representing all
his children: Eph. 2:6, "And has raised us up together, and made us sit
together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Christ has taken up his
children's rooms in heaven aforehand; Christ has already taken possession of
heaven in their names, in their steads, they do now sit together in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus. [Eph. 4:8; Col. 2:14-15; a plain allusion to the
Roman triumphs; 1 John 2:13-4; Romans 8:37; 1 John 4:4-5.] And so when Jesus
Christ spoiled "principalities and powers, and triumphed openly over them on
the cross," he did this as a public person, representing all his children
who triumphed in his triumph over all the powers of darkness; and therefore,
in this sense, believers have already triumphed. Yes, and I readily grant,
that believers, even in this life, by virtue of their union and communion
with Christ, and by virtue of his gracious presence, influence, and
assistance—they do always triumph, as the apostle speaks: 2 Cor. 2:14, "Now
thanks be unto God, which always causes us to triumph in Christ."
Believers now are more than conquerors, they are
triumphers over the world, the flesh, and the devil. Christ so
routed Satan upon the cross, says Ignatius, that he never since
either hears or sees the cross—but he falls a-shaking and trembling.
Believers, by holding forth to Satan the cross of Christ in the arms of
faith, and by their laying hold on his cross and pleading his cross, they do
easily, they do frequently overcome him and triumph over him.
But notwithstanding all this, ah! how often does the best
of saints find the world, the flesh, and the devil triumphing sadly over
them? Now a Christian triumphs over Satan, Romans 7:14-25; by and by Christ
withdraws—and then Satan triumphs over over the believer. Now the believer
leads captivity captive; at another time the believer is led captive. This
day a saint gets the topmost of Satan, and beats him quite out of the field;
the next day Satan draws forth and falls on with new forces, with new
arguments, with fresh strength, and then puts a Christian to a retreat, ay,
too often to a rout. In many a battle a Christian is whipped, and much ado
he has to come off with his life.
Oh but now death brings a Christian to a full, perfect,
complete, absolute, and perpetual triumph over the world, the flesh, and the
devil. Now a Christian shall forever have the necks of these enemies under
his feet; now these enemies shall be forever disarmed, so that they shall
never be able to make resistance more, they shall never strike stroke more,
they shall never affront a believer more, they shall never lead a believer
captive more, etc. Oh why then should believers be afraid to die, be
unwilling to die, seeing that their dying day is their triumphing day? [The
Romans in all their battles, used to lose at first, to win at last; it is so
with Christians.] But,
As a believer's dying-day is his triumphing-day, so a believer's dying-day
is his MARRIAGE-DAY. Hosea 2:19-20. In
this life we are only betrothed to Christ; in the life to come we shall be
married to Christ. Here on earth Christ and the believer are near—but death
will bring Christ and the believer nearer. Here on earth Christ and the
believer have agreed between them, only the marriage-knot must be tied in
heaven, the marriage-supper must be kept in heaven, Rev. 19:5-10. And,
therefore, several of the martyrs on their suffering-days, on their
dying-days, they have invited several to their marriage, as they have
phrased it, knowing right well, that their dying-days would be their
marriage-days to Christ! The very thoughts of which has so raised and
cheered, so warmed and inflamed their hearts, that they have made nothing of
death, that they have outbraved death, that they have, to the great joy of
their friends, and to the amazement and astonishment of their enemies, more
resolutely, friendly, and sweetly embraced death, than they have their
nearest and dearest relations! But in the
Christian's dying day is his TRANSPLANTING-DAY.
Death transplants a believer from earth to heaven; from
misery to glory, Job 14:14. Death to a saint is nothing but the taking of a
sweet flower out of this wilderness—and planting of it in the garden of
paradise! It is nothing but a taking of a lily from among thorns—and
planting of it among those sweet roses of heaven which God delights to wear
always in his bosom. Death is nothing but the taking off of a believer fully
from the stock of the first Adam—and the planting of him perfectly and
perpetually into that glorious stock, the second Adam, the Lord Jesus, who
is blessed forever. Death is nothing but the taking off the believer from a
more barren soil—and planting of him in a more fruitful soil. Here on earth
some Christians bring forth thirty, others sixty, and others a hundred-fold,
Mat. 13:8, 23; but heaven is so fruitful a soil, that there are none there
but such as abound in the fruits of righteousness and holiness—but such as
bring forth a thousand-fold, yes, many thousand-fold! Here on earth our
hearts are like the isle of Patmos, which brings forth but little fruit; but
when they shall by death be transplanted to heaven, they shall be like the
tree in Alcinous's garden, which had always blossoms, buds, and ripe fruits,
one under another.
In the island of St. Thomas, on the back side of Africa,
in the midst of it is a hill, and over that a continual cloud, wherewith the
whole island is watered and made fruitful. Such a cloud will Jesus Christ be
to all those precious souls that shall be transplanted from earth to heaven.
Oh! why, then, should believers be unwilling to die,
seeing that their dying day is but a transplanting day of their souls from
earth to heaven—from a wilderness to a paradise? But in the
[15.] As a
believer's dying day is the day of his transplantation, so his dying day is
the day of his CORONATION. Here on
earth believers are kings elected—but when they die, they are kings crowned;
now they have a crown in reversion—but then they have a crown in possession;
now they have a crown in hope—but then they shall have a crown in hand,
James 1:12, Rev. 2:10. Death will at last bring the soul—to a crown without
thorns, to a crown without mixture, to a righteous crown, to a glorious
crown, to an everlasting crown. Though a crown be the top of royalty, and
though beyond it the thoughts and wishes of mortal men extend not—yet most
may say of their earthly crowns as that king said of his: O crown! more
noble than happy! But death will set such a crown upon a believer's head
as shall always flourish, and as shall make him happy to all eternity. Here
on earth the believer, as his Savior before him, is crowned with thorns—but
death will turn that crown of thorns into a crown of pure gold! Psalm
132:18, Psalm 21:3.
Upon a triumph, the Emperor Severus' soldiers, for
the greater pomp, were to put crowns on their heads—but there was one
Christian among them who wore this crown on his arm; and it being demanded
why he did so, he answered, it does not befit a Christian to wear his crown
in this life. The truth is, a Christian's crown never sits so fast, nor
never so well befits him, as when it is put on by the hand of death. Here on
earth most princes' crowns are the fruits of unrighteousness—but death will
at last put upon the believer a crown of righteousness, or a righteous
crown, 2 Tim. 4:7-8; and so it is called, not only because it is purchased
by the righteousness of Christ—but also to difference it from those
unrighteous crowns, or crowns of unrighteousness, which the princes of this
world put upon their own heads. Earthly crowns are corruptible—but death
will put on the heads of believers, an incorruptible crown, 1 Cor. 9:25.
Worldly crowns are fading and withering.
Though king William the Conqueror was crowned three times every year during
his reign—at three different places, namely, Gloucester, Winchester, and
Westminster—yet how soon did his crown fade and wither? But death will put
such a crown upon the believer's head as shall never fade nor wither, 1 Pet.
Worldly crowns are tottering and shaking;
and all their power and policy cannot make them sit fast on both sides. But
death will put upon the heads of believers—an immortal crown, an unmoveable
crown, an everlasting crown, an eternal crown, a crown that none can shake,
that none can take, that none can conquer or overcome! 2 Cor. 4:14-18, Rev.
Oh, why then should Christians be afraid to die, or
unwilling to die, seeing that their dying day is but their coronation day?
Who would be unwilling to ride to a crown through a dirty lane or a rainy
gracious soul shall never die until his work is finished, and he prepared to
die. And why then should he be unwilling
to die when his work is done, and he prepared to go home? When God has no
more work for you to do in this world, why then should you be unwilling to
die, to go home? Until your work which God has planned out for you in this
world is finished, no power nor policy shall ever be able to cut off the
thread of your lives; in despite of all the world, and all the powers of
hell, you shall do that work, be it more or less, which God has appointed
you to do in this world. The life of Christ was very often in danger, both
among pretended friends and professed foes—but yet he still escapes all the
snares which they had laid for him, and all the pits which they have dug for
him, and that upon this very ground—that his time was not yet come, his hour
was not yet come. John 7:30, "Then they sought to take him: but no man laid
hands on him, because his hour was not yet come." John 8:20, "But he was not
arrested, because his time had not yet come."
God often bridles wicked men's malice and fury invisibly.
God can and will secure his people from the rage and malice of their enemies
by a secret and invisible hand of providence, until they have finished the
work that he has set them about in this world. David was surrounded
with enemies on all hands—but yet, in spite of them all, he keeps up until
his work was done: Acts 13:36, "David, after serving his own generation in
God’s plan, fell asleep." Though many thrust sore at him—yet he did not fall
asleep, he did not die until he had served his generation.
Bonds and afflictions waited on Paul in every
city, Acts 20:23; so in that 2 Cor. 11:23-28, "I have been put in jail more
often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again.
Five different times the Jews gave me thirty-nine lashes (the Lord commanded
that the number of strokes should not exceed forty, Deut. 25:3, and
therefore the Jews, that they might not transgress that law, gave one less).
Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was
shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have
traveled many weary miles. I have faced danger from flooded rivers and from
robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from
the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the
stormy seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be Christians but
are not. I have lived with weariness and pain and sleepless nights. Often I
have been hungry and thirsty and have gone without food. Often I have
shivered with cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm." Acts 16:23,
14:17. And yet notwithstanding all these hazards, hardships, dangers,
deaths—Paul lives, and bravely bears up until his work was done, his course
finished: 2 Tim. 4:7-8, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my
course, I have kept the faith."
And so in Rev. 11:7—the beast which ascended out of the
bottomless pit, and made war against the two witnesses, could not overcome
them, nor kill them—until they had finished their testimony. Christians
shall live to finish their testimony, and to do all that work that God has
cut out for them to do, in spite of all the beasts in the world, in spite of
hell or antichrist!
It was so with Ambrose; a certain witch sent her
minions to kill him—but they returned answer, that God had hedged him in, as
he did Job, so that they could not touch him. Another came with a sword to
his bedside to have killed him; but he could not stir his hand, until
repenting, he was by the prayer of Ambrose restored to the use of his hands
again. No means, no attempts, could cut him off until his work was done.
So for Luther, a poor friar, to stand so stoutly
against the pope—this was a great miracle; but that he should prevail
against the pope as he did, this was a greater; and that after all he should
die in his bed, notwithstanding all the enemies he had, and the many designs
they had to have destroyed him, this was the greatest of all; and yet for
all that the pope or the devil his father could do, Luther; when he had
finished his testimony, dies in his bed. Oh! why then should any Christian
be unwilling to die, seeing he shall not die until his work is done, until
his testimony be finished?
And as a believer shall not die until his work be done—so
he shall not die until he be prepared to die. A believer is always
habitually prepared to die; ay, even then when he is not actually prepared;
yet then he is habitually prepared to die, for he has not his ark to build,
nor his lamp to trim, nor his oil to buy, nor his pardon to seal, nor his
peace to make, nor his graces to get, nor his interest in Christ to seek,
nor divine favor to secure, nor a righteousness to look after, etc. That
promise is full of honey and sweetness that you have in Job 5:26, "You will
live to a good old age. You will not be harvested until the proper time!"
The farmer does not bring his corn into his barn until it is fully ripe, no
more will God take his children out of this world until they are fit for
another world; he will not transplant them from earth until they are fit,
until they are prepared for heaven.
It is with Christians as it is with the fruits of the
earth—some are ripe sooner, some later. But God will gather none until they
are ripe for glory. Some souls, like some fruits, are ripe early; other
Christians, like other fruit, are a longer time a-ripening; and so God
gathers his fruit in as they ripen, some sooner, some later—but none until
they are in a measure ripe for heaven. And why, then, should Christians be
unwilling to die, seeing they shall not die until they are prepared to die?
I do not say they shall not die until they think they are fit to die,
or until they say they are prepared to die; for they may be graciously
prepared and sweetly fitted to die, and yet may judge otherwise, by reason
of Satan's sleights, or some spiritual distemper that may hang upon them, or
from a natural fear of death, and some great unwillingness to die; but they
shall not die until they are either actually or habitually prepared to die,
until they are ripe for glory; and therefore be not, oh be not, Christians,
unwilling to die. But,
When a righteous mans dies, he shall leave a sweet savor behind him, his
name shall live when he is dead. Heb.
11. Are not the names of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and
other saints, a sweet savor to this very day? We know there is no sweet
savor compared to that which they have left behind them: Psalm 112:6, "The
righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." Proverbs 10:7, "The
memory of the just is blessed:" the Septuagint thus translates it, "The
memory of the just is with praises." Many are the praises which endure on
the name of the just when their bodies are in the dust; no scent so sweet as
that which the just man leaves behind him: Eccles. 7:1, "A good name is
better than precious ointment." He does not say a great name, a name arising
from outward greatness—but a good name, a name arising from inward goodness,
and manifested by outward holiness; that is the name which is better than
precious ointment. Ointment only reaches the nostrils—but a good name
reaches to the cheering and the warming of the heart.
The Chaldee reads this verse thus: better is the good
name which the just shall obtain in this world, than the ointment of
anointing which was poured upon the heads of the kings and priests.
Though a believer may not leave great sums of money behind him—yet he shall
leave a good name behind him, which answers to all, nay, which outweighs all
the riches, gallantry, and glory of this world! The heathen Plautus hit it
right who said, If I may but keep a good name, I have wealth enough.
It is a greater mercy to leave a good name behind us than to leave the
riches of a kingdom, yes, of a world, behind us. But,
Death is nothing but the believer's entrance into GLORY!
Death is the gate of life, it is the gate of paradise;
it is the midwife to bring eternity to birth. When Jacob saw the chariots
which were to bring him to Joseph, his spirit revived, Gen. 45:27. Ah,
Christian! death is that chariot that will bring you not only to a sight of
Jacob and Joseph—but also to a blessed sight of God, Christ, angels and the
spirits of just men made perfect! Heb. 12:23-24.
Here on earth we meet with many inlets to sin, to sorrow,
to affliction, to temptation; but death, of all inlets, is the most happy
inlet; it lets the soul into a full fruition of God, to the perfection of
grace, and to the heights of glory! Why, then, should a gracious soul be
unwilling to die? But I must hasten to a close.
[19.] Was Jesus Christ so willing to leave heaven, his
Father's bosom, his crown, his dignity, his glory, his royal attendance—to
come into this world to suffer the saddest and the heaviest things that ever
were thought of, that ever were heard of, for your sins, for your sake?
And will you be unwilling
to die, and to go to him who has suffered so much, who has paid so much, who
has prepared so much, for you? One of
the fathers longed to die—that he might see that head that was crowned with
thorns. Ah, Christian, Christian! why do you not rather reason thus with
your own soul: Did Christ die for me, that I might live with him? I will not
therefore desire to live long from him. All men go willingly to see him whom
they love, and shall I be unwilling to die, that I may see him whom my soul
loves? Oh, I will not! Oh, I dare not! Oh, I may not! Others venture through
many dangers and many deaths to see their friends and relations. And why
then should not you, O Christian! be willing to venture through death to the
Lord of life, to him who is your crown, your comfort, your head, your
husband, your heaven, your all? etc. But, in the last place,
Consider, O believer! that you always stand before God in the righteousness
of Jesus Christ—who is called the Lord our
righteousness, and who is made unto you wisdom, righteousness,
sanctification, and redemption, Jer. 23:6;
Cor. 1:30. While you live you stand before God, not in the
righteousness of your duties, nor in your gracious dispositions, which are
but weak and imperfect—but in the pure, perfect, matchless, and spotless
righteousness of Jesus Christ. And when you die you appear before God
in the same glorious righteousness, so that you may appear before God's
unspotted justice and holiness with the greatest boldness and comfort that
is imaginable, upon the account of that righteousness with which you are
Psalm 45:13, "The king's daughter is all glorious within"
(there is her inward glory; grace makes the soul glorious within); "her
clothing is of wrought gold." Some read it enameled with gold; such
as precious stones were set in, which were exceeding splendid and glorious,
and which shadowed forth the glorious righteousness of our Lord Jesus, Exod.
28:11, 14; 39:1-5, etc. This clothing of wrought gold is the glorious
righteousness of our Lord Jesus. Now, in life and in death, the believer
stands before God in the glorious golden robes of Christ's righteousness;
and hence it is that believers are said to be all beauteous, and to be
without spot or wrinkle, and to be complete in Christ, and to be without
fault before the throne of God; [Cant. 4:7; Eph. 5:27; Col. 2:10; Rev.
14:4-5.] And why then should a believer be unwilling to die and appear
before God? By reason of this clothing of wrought gold, you stand spotless,
blameless, and faultless before God! This golden clothing, this glorious
righteousness of Christ, is as truly and really the believer's, and as fully
and completely the believer's, as if it were his very own. Ah! no clothing
The costly cloak of Alcisthenes, which Dionysius sold to
the Carthaginians for a great sum, was indeed a mean and beggarly rag,
compared to this embroidered mantle which Christ puts upon all believers.
And therefore a Christian, both living and dying, should say with the
psalmist, "I will make mention of your righteousness, of your righteousness
alone," Psalm 71:15-16, 19. Let them be afraid to die, let them be unwilling
to die—who must appear before God in their sins, and in their own
righteousness, which at best is but as filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6. But as for
you, O Christian, who shall always appear before God in clothing of wrought
gold—be not afraid of death, be not unwilling to die—but rather desire it,
rather long for it! 1 Cor. 15:55-57, because you are clothed with such
righteousness as will bear you up sweetly in it, as will carry you bravely
through it, and as will make you triumph over it.
Christ's righteousness is a Christian's white raiment, in
which he stands pure before God, Rev. 3:18, and Rev. 19:7-8, "Let us be glad
and rejoice, and give glory to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come,
and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should
be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the linen is the
righteousness of saints." By the fine, clean, white linen which is here
called the righteousness, or, as the Greek has it, the righteousnesses of
saints; most understand the glorious righteousness of Christ. [Some
say—imputed and imparted righteousness.] Righteousness is an Hebraism,
noting that most perfect absolute righteousness which we have in Christ.
White is a natural color, it is a color of purity, ornament, and honor. It
was the clothing in times past, of nobles.
Now in this pure, clean, white linen all the saints are
clothed, and so presented to God by Jesus Christ; and why then should they
be unwilling to die? Here is not a speck, not a spot, to be found upon this
white linen, which is the righteousness of saints, which should make saints
rather to pursue after death, than to fly from it, or to be unwilling to
welcome it when it comes.
I am not ignorant that this unwillingness to die most
usually springs from those low and dark apprehensions men have of God, and
from weakness of faith, and from coldness of love, and from laying the
creatures too near our hearts, and from our little communion with God, and
our rare meditations on paradise, and from our not treasuring up a stock of
promises, and a stock of experiences, etc. I have also considered what a
dishonor to God, a reproach to Christ, a grief to the Spirit, a scandal to
religion, a blot to profession, a mischief to sinners, and a wrong to
saints—it is, for Christians to be unwilling to die, or to be afraid of
death, which has occasioned me to muster up these twenty considerations to
encourage you to be willing to die; and if these will not prevail with you, I
profess I do not know what will.
OBJECTION. I would be
willing to die, if I had but assurance: but that is the jewel I lack;
and therefore I am unwilling to die.
(1.) First, I answer, It may be you have assurance,
though not such a measure of assurance, such a full assurance, as you
desire. A perfect, complete, absolute, and full assurance is very
desirable on earth—but I think few attain to it until they come to heaven.
This sparkling diamond, full assurance, God hangs in few saints'
bosoms until they come to glory. But,
(2.) Secondly, I answer, The least grace, if true, is
sufficient to salvation, Mat. 5:3, 10; and therefore the sense of the
least grace, or of the least measure of grace, should be sufficient to
assurance of salvation. But,
(3.) Thirdly, The time of death is one of the most
usual seasons wherein God gives his children the sweetest and fullest
assurance of his love, of their interest in him, and of their right to glory.
When there was but a step, a stride, between Stephen and death—then he saw
heaven open, and Christ standing at the right hand of his Father, Acts
Mr. Glover, though he had been long under clouds and much
darkness—yet when he came near the fire, he cried out to his friend, He
is come, He is come! meaning the Lord, in the sweet and glorious
discoveries of his love and favor to him; and so he died, with a heart full
of joy and assurance.
I could here give you diverse examples, of a later date,
of many precious Christians who have lived close with God many years, and
have been much in seeking of assurance, and the Lord has held them off until
a few years before their death—and then he has filled their souls so full of
the sense of his love, and the assurance of their everlasting welfare, that
they have died under the power of their joys.
Assurance is a free gift of God, and God loves to give
his gifts to his children when they may most cheer them, and be of greatest
use and service to them; and when is that—but at the day of death? And
therefore Christians should not be unwilling to die for lack of assurance,
because that is a special season wherein God usually gives assurance to his
(4.) Fourthly and lastly, You may die and go to heaven
without assurance. This truth, with several others of the like import,
that may further satisfy such as are unwilling to die, I have made good in
that treatise of mine called "Heaven on Earth," and to that I refer the
reader for further satisfaction, if what is said does not satisfy.
The next inference, then, that I shall make, and so
hasten to a close, is this:
If the best things are reserved for believers—then let not Christians
mourn immoderately. 1 Thes. 4:13-14. Oh!
be not over-much afflicted and grieved for the death of husband, wife,
child, sister, friend, who dies in the Lord; for they are but gone to take
possession of those great and glorious things which are reserved in heaven
for them. This deceased saint is now gone to her home, to her heaven,
to her God who has loved her, to her Christ who has died for
her, and to her crown which was prepared for her. Abraham mourned
moderately for his dear deceased Sarah, Gen. 23:2; and that not
because she was old and over-worn—but because death to her was but an inlet
into glory! Death did but bring her to a happy fruition of all those
glorious things which God has laid up for those who love him.
Death, which seems to dispossess a Christian of all, puts
him into a possession of all; of all joys, of all comforts, of all delights,
of all contentments, of all happiness, of all blessedness! Why then should
our sorrow, our tears overflow the banks of moderation? Sorrow is good for
nothing but for sin. Now that the child is dead, therefore should I fast
and weep? said David. Grief preceding evil, if it be used for a remedy,
cannot be too much; but that which follows an evil past, cannot be too
When Ezekiel lost his wife, the delight of his eyes, he
must not weep, Ezek. 24:15-17. When Mary the mother of Jesus stood by the
cross of her only dear Son, she wept not, as Ambrose says, John 19:25-27. We
may say of our deceased friend, as the Jews of their father Jacob, he is
not dead; or as our Savior of Lazarus, "He is not dead—but sleeps,"
John 11:11; and the maid, "Why trouble yourselves? they are not
dead—but sleep." To die, in the prophet Isaiah's phrase, is but to lie
down in our beds, Isaiah 43:17; Isaiah 57:1-2. So Asa the king's coffin is
called a bed, 2 Chron. 16:14. "And when your days shall be fulfilled," says
Nathan to David, "and you shall sleep with your fathers;" or, as the
original has it, "and you shall lie down with your fathers," 2 Sam. 7:12.
Death is nothing but a sleeping with our fathers, or a
lying down in the bed with our fathers and friends, who have lain down
before us. And, therefore, when a friend, a wife, a child dies, and leaves
this world, we are to bid them but good night, as the primitive
Christians used to do, in sure and certain hope to meet them in the morning
of the resurrection.
The ancients were accustomed to call the days of their
death natalia, not dying days but birth-days. It has been the custom,
says Haymo, when a child of God departed this life, to call it not the day
of his death—but the day of his nativity. The Jews to this day stick not to
call their graves—the houses or places of the living.
The Jews' ancient custom was, as they went with the
corpse to the grave, for everyone to pluck up the grass—as if to say that
they were not sorry for the death of their friends and relations, as men
without hope—for they, like the grass, were but cropped off, and would
spring up again in due season. [The Persian kings would have no mournings,
nor mourning apparel worn in their presence.] Ah, friends! if you will needs
mourn, then mourn for yourselves, mourn for your sins, mourn for the
barrenness and baseness of your own hearts; but do not mourn, at least
excessively, for the death of any Christian friend or relation, seeing that
death gives them a quiet and full possession of all that glory and happiness
which is reserved in heaven for them!
The next use is cause of
comfort and consolation
to all the people of God. If it be so that the best
things are reserved for believers until they come to heaven—then this may
serve to comfort the people of God, and that,
(1.) First, against their poor, low, and base
condition in this world. Ah! poor Christians, what though you have
little in hand—yet you have much in hope; though you have little in
possession—yet you have much in reversion. He who has but little in present
possession—yet if he has a fair estate in reversion, he comforts himself,
and solaces himself in the thoughts of it—that there will come a day when he
shall live like a king, when he shall live bravely and sweetly; and this
makes him sing care and sorrow away. Why Christians, this is your actual
condition! You have a fine, a glorious estate in reversion, though you have
but little in possession; and therefore bear up bravely and live
comfortably, James 2:5; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; Psalm 16:6.
Christ, who was the heir of all—yet he lived poor and
died poor, Mat. 8:20. As he was born in another man's house, so he was
buried in another man's tomb. When Christ died he made no will; he had no
fine lands; only his coat was left, and that the soldiers parted among them.
If your outward condition is conformable to his, there is no reason why you
should be discouraged, for you have a rich and royal revenue that will
shortly come into your hand, and then you shall never again know poverty or
distress. And for your comfort, know, that though men despise you for
your poverty—yet the Lord does highly prize you. It was a good saying of
Basil, God pleases himself, beholding a hidden pearl in a despised and
The truth is, Christians, if there were any real
happiness in the things of this life, you would have them—but it is not in
all the wealth and pomp of this world—to make up a happiness to you.
Therefore, as the enjoyment of them should not swell the rich, so the lack
of them should not trouble the poor. The angels and saints departed in
heaven are happy, and yet they have neither silver nor gold; they are
blessed and yet they have none of the mirthful things of this life, they
have none of the gallantry and pomp of this world. You have now your worst
while on earth—your best days are to come! It will not be long before you
shall have your portion in hand; therefore live sweetly and walk comfortably
up and down this world. But,
(2.) Secondly, If the best things are reserved for
believers until they come to heaven, then this may serve to comfort them
against all outward abasements from the malignant world. What though you
are counted as the scum, the dirt, the filth, the scraping, the offscouring
of the world—by men who know not, who see not, who believe not what great
and glorious things are reserved in heaven for you? Yet at last you shall be
advanced to that dignity, and be made partakers of that felicity and glory,
which shall work amazement and astonishment in those that now despise you
and vilify you!
Those that now count you their troublers, shall be
troubled with a witness, when they shall see you with crowns upon your heads
and the royal robes of glory upon your backs, and two-edged swords in your
hands, to execute the vengeance written, Psalm 149:4-9. Men who know their
future greatness, are not troubled at reproaches; they think themselves
above reproaches; they can divinely scorn scorns and despise contempts. Ah,
Christians! how can you seriously consider of your future greatness,
happiness, and glory—and not bear up sweetly and comfortably against all the
contempt that you may meet with in this world?
And thus I have done with this subject, which of one
sermon is multiplied into several, by a good hand of heaven upon me. I shall
follow this poor piece with my weak prayers, that it may be a mercy to
hearers, readers, and writer.