A String of Pearls

The Best Things Reserved Until Last

by Thomas Brooks, June 8, 1657

The best and choicest presence of God and Christ is reserved until last.

(1.) In heaven saints shall have the GREATEST and the FULLEST presence of God. No man in this world has so complete and full a presence of God but he may have a fuller one; but in heaven the presence of God shall be so full and complete, as that nothing can be added to it to make it more complete. Sometimes sin, sometimes Satan, sometimes the world, sometimes resting in duties, sometimes the weakness of our graces--hinder us from enjoying a full presence of God here on earth; but in heaven there shall be nothing to interpose between God and us; there shall be nothing to hinder us from enjoying a full and complete presence of God. It is this full presence of God, which is the heaven of heaven, the glory of all our glory. An imperfect and incomplete presence of God in heaven would darken all the glory of that state. It is the full and perfect presence of God in heaven, which is the most sparkling diamond in the ring of glory; and this you shall have. But,

(2.) They shall have a SOUL-SATISFYING presence of God in heaven. They shall be so satisfied with the presence of God in heaven, that they shall say, We have enough, we have all, because we enjoy that presence which is virtually all, which is eminently all, which is all light, all life, all love, all heaven, all happiness, all comforts, all contentments, etc. Psalm 17:15, "As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness."

Though the spiritual and gracious presence of God with the saints in this world does much cheer and comfort them—yet it does not satisfy them. They are still crying out, More of this blessed presence! oh more of this presence! Lord, less money will serve, so we may but have more of your presence! less of the creature will serve, so we may have but more of your presence! Psalm 42:1-2, Psalm 63:1-3. As the king of Sodom said unto Abraham, "Give me the people, and take the goods to yourself," Gen. 14:21, so say gracious souls, Give us more and more of the presence of Godand let the men of the world take the world and divide it among themselves.

Divine presence is very inflaming; a soul who has but tasted the sweetness of it cannot but long for more of it; as those who had tasted of the grapes of Canaan longed to be in Canaan; and as the Gauls, who, when they had tasted of the sweet wine which was made of the grapes that grew in Italy, they were very eager after Italy, crying out, "O Italy! Italy!" So precious souls that have experienced the sweetness of divine presence, they cannot be satisfied with a little of it—but in every prayer this is the language of their souls—Lord! more of your presence! and in every sermon they hear—Lord! let us have more of your presence! and in every sacrament they receive—Lord! give to us more of your presence!

Nay, this gracious presence of God, which they enjoy here on earth makes them very earnest in their desires and longings after a celestial, a glorious presence of God and Christ in heaven--which presence alone can satisfy their souls. Look! as the espoused maid longs for the marriage day; the apprentice for his freedom; the captive for his ransom; the traveler for his inn; and the mariner for his haven--so do souls that are under the power and sweet of God's gracious presence long to enjoy his glorious presence in heaven, which alone can fill and satisfy their immortal souls.

So says Bernard, As what I have, if offered to you, pleases not you without myself, so, O Lord; the good things we have from you, though they refresh us—yet they satisfy us not without yourself Lord! I am willing to die, to have a further discovery of yourself.

And so says Augustine, You have made us, O Lord, for yourself, and our hearts are unquiet until they come unto you.

And so when Modestus, the emperor's lieutenant, threatened to kill the pious Basil, he answered, If that be all, I fear not; yes, your master cannot more pleasure me than in sending me unto my heavenly Father, to whom I now live, and to whom I desire to hasten.

And says another, Let all the devils in hell beset me round, let fasting macerate my body, let sorrows oppress my mind, let pains consume my flesh, or heat scorch me, or cold freeze me; let all these, and whatever can come, happen unto me--just so that I may enjoy my Savior.

Augustine wishing that he might have seen three things, Rome flourishing, Paul preaching, and Christ conversing with men upon the earth; Bede comes after, and correcting this last wish, says, Yes—but let me see the King in his beauty, Christ in his heavenly kingdom; by all which you see that it is not a spiritual presence—but the glorious presence of God and Christ in heaven, which can satisfy the souls of the saints. It was a great mercy for Christ to be with Paul on earth—but it was a greater mercy, and a more satisfying mercy, for Paul to be with Christ in heaven, Philip. 1:23. They enjoy much, who enjoy the presence of God on earth—but they enjoy more who enjoy the presence of God in heaven; and no presence below this presence can satisfy a believing soul. But,

(3.) Thirdly, As they shall enjoy a satisfying presence of God in heaven, so they shall enjoy a CONSTANT, a PERMANENT presence of God in heaven. Here on earth God comes and goes—but in heaven the King of glory will be always present: 1 Thes. 4:17-18, "Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we be ever with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." It is the constant presence of God in heaven, that makes a heaven of comfort to blessed souls. Should this sun ever set, should this presence ever fail--heaven would be as dark as hell, yes, heaven would be another hell.

Here on earth, Jonah complains that he was cast out of God's presence, and the church complains, that he who should comfort her soul, stands afar off. No saint enjoys the gracious presence of God at all times alike. Those who enjoy most of this presence may say of it, as Jacob spoke of Laban's countenance, I see, said he, your Father's countenance is not towards me as before, Gen. 31:5; so may they say, Oh we see, Oh we feel, that the presence of God is not with us as before! Oh what a warming, what a cheering, what a quickening, what an enlivening, what a comforting, what a melting, what an encouraging, what an assisting presence of God we once had! Oh but it is not so now with us! we who used always to be upon Christ's knee, or in his arms--are now at a distance from him; he who used to lie day and night as a bundle of myrrh between our breasts--has now covered himself with a cloud, Cant. 1:13. Oh we cannot see his face, we cannot hear his voice, as in the days of old! etc.

But now in heaven, saints shall enjoy a constant presence of God; there shall not be one moment in all eternity, wherein they shall not enjoy the glorious presence of God. Indeed, it is this constant presence of God in heaven, which puts a glory upon all the saints' glory. Heaven, without this constant presence of God, would be but as a court without a king, or as the sky without the sun. And thus you see that the best and choicest presence of God and Christ is reserved for heaven!