Letter to a bereaved woman, by Thomas Brooks
Beloved in our dearest Lord,
I confess the loss of your dear husband is very very great; yet to
prevent the breaking in of an irresistible torrent of sorrow and sadness
upon your drooping spirits, be pleased to consider these four things:
1. Though your loss is great, yet there are six greater
losses than yours.
(1.) First, The loss of the SOUL is a
greater loss than the loss of a husband, a child, a kinsman, etc. The loss
of the soul is an incomparable loss, it is an irreparable loss, it is an
eternal loss. Francis Xaverius, counseled John the Third, King of Portugal,
to meditate every day a quarter of an hour upon that text, What shall it
profit a man to gain the world, and lose his soul? Mat. 16:26. Of the
sadness and greatness of this loss, you may read more in the following
(2.) Secondly, The loss of CHRIST is a loss
infinitely beyond the loss of the nearest and dearest relations. This made
Luther say that he had rather live in hell with Christ, than in heaven
without him. Jesus is the greatest good, and therefore the loss of him must
needs be the greatest evil. He who has not Christ--he has lost all; for
Christ is all in all, Col. 3:11. John Ardley professed to Bonner, when he
told him of burning, that if he had as many lives as he had hairs on his
head, he would lose them all in the fire, before he would lose his Christ.
(3.) Thirdly, The loss of the GOSPEL is a
greater loss than all worldly comforts. Eli bore up sweetly until the ark
was taken--and that news broke both his heart and neck.
Luther would not take all the world for one leaf of the
Bible; nay, a gracious heart who has experienced the sweetness of the word,
will not take all the world for one line of the Bible. We must defend the
truth even to the effusion of blood, and rather lose our lives than lose the
truth. When the gospel is lost, the glory of a nation is lost; yes, the
glory of souls is lost.
(4.) Fourthly, The loss of GOD'S FAVOR is a
greater loss than any worldly loss. If his loving-kindness be better than
life, yes, than lives, as the Hebrew has it; then the loss of it is
worse than death, yes, than deaths. Augustine, upon that answer of God to
Moses, You cannot see my face and live, Exod. 33:20, makes this quick
and sweet reply, "Then, Lord! let me die, that I may see your face."
It is divine favor which makes heaven to be heaven, and it is the lack of
that which makes hell to be hell. A Christian that has been under the
shining's of God's face, had rather suffer death--yes, any death, yes, all
deaths--than to have the face of God clouded and covered.
(5.) Fifthly, The loss of PEACE of CONSCIENCE
is a greater loss than any worldly loss. If you ask those who have
experienced the sweetness of peace of conscienceóbut are now under terrors
and horrors, what is the greatest loss? they will answer, loss of peace of
conscience. If you ask them again what is the saddest loss? they will
answer, loss of peace of conscience. There is no loss which can be compared
to this loss. Said Luther, One drop of an evil conscience swallows up the
whole sea of worldly joy.
(6.) Sixthly, and lastly, The loss of ETERNITY
is a greater loss than any--than all worldly losses. No worldly loss is
to be mentioned in the day wherein the loss of eternity is named. The loss
of eternity comprises all varieties of privative miseries--the loss
of whatever we have enjoyed, and the loss of whatever we might have enjoyed;
as God, Christ, the Comforter, the society of saints, angels, the treasures
and pleasures that are at God's right hand. It was a notable saying of
Ambrose, Why will you make that which cannot be eternal for use, be
eternal for punishment? The loss of eternity is a comprehensive
loss, a loss that takes in all losses; and therefore no loss can be compared
to the loss of a happy eternity.
And thus you see, beloved, that though your loss is very
great, yet there are far greater losses than yours; and this should bear up
your spirits from fainting and sinking under this sad dispensation. Though I
have a will, yet I have not skill to express your loss and your sorrows.
Sorrows for near and dear relations are oftentimes so great, that they
cannot be expressed.
Psammeticus, king of Egypt, being prisoner to Cambyses,
king of Persia, seeing his own daughter passing before him in poor array,
being sent to draw water, at which sight his friends about him weptóbut
himself wept not; presently after his son was carried to execution before
his face, neither did this move him to show any passion; but afterwards,
when a friend of his was to suffer, then he wept, and tore his hair,
and showed great sorrow. Being demanded the reason of this his strange
behavior, he answered that the loss of a friend might be expressedóbut not
the grief for the loss of a child.
I have read of a certain painter, who attempting 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 grief and sorrow for your sad loss, yet having
proved that your loss is no loss compared with the fore-mentioned sad
losses, I cannot but hope that you will labor to bear up like those whose
hopes, whose hearts, whose treasures are in heaven, etc.
2. Consider all outward losses may be made up; nay, God
does usually one way or another make up to his people all their outward
losses. He did so to David, to Job, and many
others; nay, they were great gainers by their losses. And so were the
disciples, who, for the loss of Christ's personal presence, had abundance of
the Spirit's influence. If he takes away a husband, and he himself comes in
his place, and fills up that relation--is not the loss made up? Will not the
light and heat of the sun make up the loss of the light and heat of a
twinkling star? If he take away a son, and gives out more of himself, will
you not say he is better than ten thousand sons? 1 Sam. 1:8. If he take away
your only son, and gives out to you more of his only Son, will you not say,
that though your loss be very great, yet the great God has made it up, by
giving out more of the light, life, love, and glory of his only Son unto
you? If, in the room of an only son, God shall give you a name which is
better than sons and daughters, Isaiah 56:5, will you not say, your
loss is made up with advantage?
It was an apt saying of Tertullian, that is right and
good trading, when something is parted with to gain more. He applies it
to the martyrs' sufferings, wherein though the flesh lost something, yet the
spirit got much more. Ah! dear friends, if your fleshly losses shall be made
up in spiritual advantages, have you any cause to say, No loss to our
loss, no sorrow to our sorrow? Surely not! When that noble Zedislaus had
lost his hand in the wars of the King of Poland, the king sent him a golden
hand for it.
Ah, friends! if God gives you silver for brass, and gold
for iron; if he give you spirituals for temporals, have you not more cause
of rejoicing than of mourning?
When Paulinus Nolanus' city was taken by the barbarians,
he prayed thus to God: Lord! let me not be troubled at the loss of my
gold, silver, honor, etc., for you are all, and much more than all, these
There is nothing beyond remedy--but the tears of the
damned! Those who are in the way to paradise should not place themselves
in the condition of a little hell; and those who may or can hope for that
great all, ought not to be dejected for anything.
3. Thirdly, Consider that though your loss be great, yet
his gain is greater. "For him to live was
Christ--and to die was gain," Philip. 1:21. He has exchanged
mortality for immortality; the society of sinful men--for the society of
holy angels; the sight of friends--for the sight of God; a house made with
hands--for one eternal in the heavens; the streams--for the fountain; an
earthly father--for a heavenly Father; a careful, loving, sweet, suitable,
tender-hearted, wise, spouse--to lie in the arms, for the bosom, of a
loving, gracious, tender-hearted Savior. If you would but eye more his
crown--than your own cross; his gain--than your own loss; you would divinely
quench the burning flame of your sorrowful affections. It was a good saying
of Francisco Soyit to his adversaries: You deprive me of this life--and
promote me to a better life; which is as if you should rob me of
pennies--and furnish me with gold. Your deceased husband has exchanged
his pennies--for gold; his imperfection--for perfection; and his earthly
possession--for a heavenly possession.
4. Fourthly and lastly, Consider how sweetly, how
wisely, how bravely others have born up, when the Lord has passed the
sentence of death upon their nearest and dearest relations. Never leave
pressing those golden examples upon your own hearts, until they are brought
over sweetly and quietly to lie down in the will of God, and to say so be
it to God's amen.
When it was told Anaxagoras that his only two sons were
dead, he being nothing terrified therewith, answered, I knew I begat
mortal creatures. Ah, friends! shall a heathen bear it out thus bravely,
and shall not you much more? Pulvillus, another heathen, when he was about
to consecrate a temple to Jupiter, and news was brought to him of the death
of his son, desisted not from his enterprise; but with a composed mind gave
order for decent burial. Shall mere human nature do this, and shall not
grace do as much, nay, more? What a shame is it, says Jerome, that
faith should not be able to do that which infidelity has done! What! not
better fruit in the vineyard, in the garden of the Lord--than in the
wilderness? What! not better fruit grown upon the tree of life--than upon
the root of nature?
Your servant in the work of Christ,