A String of Pearls

The Best Things Reserved Until Last

by Thomas Brooks, June 8, 1657

The best SIGHT and KNOWLEDGE OF GOD is reserved for believers until they come to heaven.

I readily grant that even in this world the saints do know the Lord, inwardly, spiritually, powerfully, feelingly, experimentally, transformingly, practically; but yet, notwithstanding all this, the best knowledge of God is reserved for heaven, which I shall evidence by an induction of particulars, thus:

(1.) First, They shall have the CLEAREST knowledge and revelation of God in heaven. Here on earth our visions of God are not clear; and this makes many a child of light to sit and sigh in darkness, Lam. 3:44. God veils himself, he covers himself with a cloud. Man, when he is silent concerning God, seems to be somethingóbut when he begins to speak of God, it plainly appears that he is nothing.

Simonides being asked by Hiero, the tyrant, what God was, asked a day to deliberate about an answer; but the more he sought into the nature of God, the more difficult he found it to express; therefore, the next day after being questioned, he asked two days, the third day he asked four, and so from that time forth doubled the number; and being asked why he did so, he answered, that the more he studied, the less he was able to define what God was, so incomprehensible is his nature.

Our visions of God here on earth are dark and obscure. Augustine, asking the question, what God is? gives in this answer: Surely it is he, who, when he is spoken of cannot be spoken of; who, when he is considered of cannot be considered of; who, when he is compared to anything cannot be compared; and when he is defined, grows greater by defining of him. It is observable, that it was not the Lord which the prophet Ezekiel saw, it was only a vision, Ezek. 1:28. In the vision it was not the glory of the Lord which he sawóbut the likeness of it; nay, it was not the likeness of itóbut the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord, which made him to fall on his face, as not being able to behold it. Sin has so weakened, dazzled, and darkened the eye of our soulsóthat we cannot bear the sight of the glory of the Lord, nor the likeness of it, no! nor the appearance of the likeness, of it.

But when believers come to heaven, then they shall have a more clear vision and sight of God: 1 Cor. 13:12, "Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now." Now we see God obscurely, as in a poor mirroróbut then we shall see him distinctly, clearly, immediately; we shall then apprehend him clearly, though, even then, we cannot comprehend him fully. Some sense those words, just as God knows me now, thus: Look, as God knows me after a manner agreeable to his infinite excellency, so shall I know God according to my capacity, not obscurelyóbut perfectly, as it were, face to face; and this is the greatest height of blessedness and happiness.

Then, all veils shall be taken off, and we shall have a clear prospect of God's excellency and glory, of his blessedness and fullness, of his loveliness and sweetness. All masks, clouds, and curtains, shall be drawn forever, that saints may clearly see the breadth, length, depth, and height of divine love, and that they may clearly see into the mystery of the Trinity, the mystery of Christ's incarnation, the mystery of man's redemption, the mystery of providences, the mystery of prophesies; and all those mysteries which relate to the nature, substances, offices, orders, and excellencies of the angels, those princes of glory, who still keep their standings in the court of heaven; and all those mysteries that concern the nature, immortality, spirituality, excellency, and activity of our own souls; beside a world of other mysteries which respect the decrees and counsels of God, the creation of the world, the fall of Adam, and the fall of angels.

Now the most knowing men in the world are much in the dark about these things; but when we come to heaven, we shall have a close and a clear sight and knowledge of them. Then we shall knowóas we are known; we shall see God face to face. Oh blessed sight! to behold the King of angels, the Holy of holies, the God of heaven, the Ruler of the earth, the Father of the living! Oh blessed vision and contemplation, wherein we shall see God in himself, God in us, and ourselves in God! But,

(2.) Secondly, As in heaven they shall have the clearest knowledge of God, so in heaven they shall have the FULLEST knowledge of God. Here on earth our knowledge of God is weak, as well as darkóbut in heaven it shall be full and complete. "Here we know but in part; but there we shall know as we are known," 1 Cor. 13:12. As the apostle speaks, here on earth we are able to take in but little of God. Either sin or Satan, or else fears, doubts, and scruples, or else the pleasures or profits, the comforts or contentments of this worldódo so defile the soul, and so fill the soul, that it is able to take in but very little of God. "How little a portion," says Job, "is heard of him!" Job 26:14. It is but a portion, a little portion, that we can conceive of him. The Hebrew is a little bit, nay, it is said, a little piece of a word, or particulam alicujus, a little piece of something, that we do hear of him.

"I have many things to say unto you," says Christ, "but you cannot bear them now," John 16:12. Man is a poor, low, weak creature, and is not able to bear any great or full discoveries of God. As weak shoulders cannot bear heavy burdens, nor weak stomachs digest strong meats; no more were they able to bear the revelation of many high, spiritual, precious, and glorious truthsówhich Christ was willing to discover to them. Those who have weak eyes, or who have a defect in their eyes, cannot discern things aright. Now we have all weak eyes, we have all one defect or another in our eye, which hinders us from a full sight and knowledge of God, and of his excellency and glory.

Oh! but in heaven, we shall have a full and perfect knowledge of God; there shall be no sore eyes, no clouds, no mists to hinder us from a full sight of the Sun of righteousness. In heaven, our understandings shall be full of the knowledge of God, our minds full of the wisdom of God, our wills full of the righteousness and holiness of God, and our affections full of the love and delights of God.

Here on earth we have but weak and shallow apprehensions of Godóbut there, as Bernard speaks sweetly, God will fill the soul with light of wisdom, the heart with righteousness, and the mind with perfect tranquility.

If a man did dwell within the body of the sun, surely he would be full of light; if a man did dwell in the midst of a fountain, surely he would be filled with that fountain; so when the saints come to heaven, they shall dwell as it were in the body of the Sun of righteousness; and therefore they cannot be but full of light; they shall dwell in the midst of the fountain of life; and therefore they shall surely be full of the fountain. But,

(3.) Thirdly, The sight and knowledge that we shall have of God in heaven, will be IMMEDIATE, 1 Cor. 13:12. Here on earth our knowledge of God is mediate; here on earth we see himóbut it is either through the mirror of his word, or the mirror of his works. Sometimes through the mirror of his word God shows himself; sometimes through the mirror of prayer God gives some representation of himself to his people; sometimes through the mirror of the Lord's supper he reveals some rays and beams of his glory. All the sight and knowledge that we have of God in this world is through some mirror or other. Now there is a vast difference between seeing an object directly, immediately, and in its own proper colorsóand beholding it through a mirror. The sight of an object through a mirror is very weak and unsatisfying. One direct view of the Lord, one immediate sight of God, will infinitely transcend all those sights and views that we have had in this world, either through the mirror of his word, or the mirror of his works, either through the mirror of ordinances, or the mirror of the promises, or the mirror of providences, Mat. 5:8.

One real direct sight of a friend or relation, does more cheer, quiet, and satisfy us, than a thousand representations of them in pictures. In heaven we shall see God face to face, without the interposition of men or means; and this direct and immediate sight of God, is that which makes heaven to be heaven to the saints. All the glory of heaven would be but a poor low thing in the eye of a saint, had he not a direct and immediate sight of God there. In heaven all mediums shall be removed, all mirrors shall be broken, and the glorified saint shall behold God with open face; all curtains being forever withdrawn from between God and the soul. The redeemed in heaven are like the holy angels, who are still beholding the face of God, Mat. 18:10. As God is still a-looking upon them as the jewels of his crown, so they are still crying and looking upon God as their heaven, yes, as their great all, and that by a direct and immediate act of their souls. But,

(4.) Fourthly and lastly, The sight and knowledge that they shall have of God in heaven, shall be PERMANENT and CONSTANT. While on earth, saints have a happy sight of God, and at another time they have lost it; this hour they have a precious sight of God in the mount, and the next hour they have lost this sight. "Behold, he who should comfort my soul stands afar off," Lam. 1:16; and "he has covered himself with a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass through," Lam. 3:44. Our visions of God here on earth are transient and vanishing. The visions, the glimpses of majesty and glory which Moses and Peter saw in the mount, were not permanent but transient; their sun was quickly clouded, and both of them soon after were found walking in the dark; and therefore well says Augustine, Happiness may be obtained hereóbut here on earth we cannot have permanent happiness.

Oh but in heaven, our sight of God, our knowledge of God shall be permanent, it shall be lasting; there shall be no sin, no cloud, no mist, no curtain, to hinder us from a constant sight and vision of God; there we shall see God clearly, fully, eternally! The spouse's question, "Did you see him whom my soul loves?" Cant. 3:3, shall never be heard in heaven, because God shall be always in their eye, and still upon their hearts; nor Job's complaint, "But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold." Job 23:8-10. Heaven would not be heaven, were not God always present with the soul. Did not the soul live in a constant sight and apprehension of Godóall the glory of heaven could not make a heaven to a glorified soul.