The PuritansA String of Pearls by Thomas Brooks
A String of Pearls
The Best Things Reserved Until Last
by Thomas Brooks, June 8, 1657
“An inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and which fades not away, reserved in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:4.
DOCTRINE. God reserves the best and greatest favors and blessings for believers until they come to heaven. Now, I shall prove this proposition by an induction of particulars; and then give you the reasons of it. I will begin with the inheritance spoken of in the text.
I. The best INHERITANCE is reserved for believers until they come to heaven. This is clear and fair in the text, yet I shall make this further out to you thus:
(1.) First, The inheritance reserved for believers until they come to heaven, is a pure, undefiled, and incorruptible inheritance. It is an inheritance that can neither be defiled nor blemished with abuse one way or another. Other inheritances may, and often are, defiled with oaths, cruelty, blood, deceit, etc.
The Greek word signifies a precious stone, which, though it be ever so much soiled, yet it cannot be blemished nor defiled; yes, the oftener you cast it into the fire, and take it out, the more clear, bright, and shining it is. All earthly inheritances are gardens of Adonis, where we can gather nothing but trivial flowers, surrounded with many briers, thorns, and thistles, Gen. 3:18, Isaiah 23:9. Oh the hands, the hearts, the thoughts, the lives—which have been defiled, stained, and polluted with earthly inheritances! Oh the impure love, the carnal conscience, the vain boastings, the sensual joys, which earthly inheritances have filled and defiled poor souls with! All earthly inheritances, they are no better than the cities which Solomon gave to Hiram, which he called Cabul, 1 Kings 9:13, that is to say, displeasing or dirty. The world does but dirt and dust us. But,
(2.) Secondly, It is a sure, a secure, inheritance: “To an inheritance reserved in heaven for you.” The Greek word which is here rendered “reserved,” signifies to keep solicitously, to keep as with watch and ward. This inheritance is kept and secured to us by promise, by power, by blood, by oath; and therefore must needs be sure. (If this inheritance were not kept for us–it might perhaps go the same way paradise did.) Neither sin, nor Satan, nor the world can put a Christian out his inheritance. Christ has already taken possession of it in their names and in their stead; and so it is secure to them. If weakness can overcome strength, impotency omnipotency, then may a Christian be kept out of his inheritance—but not until then. But earthly inheritances, they are not sure, they are not secure. How often does might overcome right, and the weakest suffer injustice! How many are kept out, and how many are cast out, of their inheritances, by power, policy, craft, cruelty. It was a complaint of old, our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens, Lam. 5:2.
(3.) Thirdly, It is a permanent, a lasting, inheritance: “To an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and which fades not away.” The Greek word is the proper name of a flower, which is still fresh and green after it has a long time hung up in the house. It is an inheritance which shall continue as long as God himself continues. Of this inheritance there shall be no end. Though other inheritances may be lasting—yet they are not everlasting. Though sometimes it is long before they have an end—yet they have an end. Where is the glory of the Chaldean, Persian, Grecian, and Roman kingdoms? But the glory of believers shall never fade nor wither; it shall never grow old nor rusty: 1 Pet. 5:4, “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you shall receive a crown of glory, which fades not away.” A believer’s inheritance, his glory, his happiness, his blessedness—shall be as fresh and flourishing after he has been many thousand thousands of years in heaven—as it was at his first entrance into it.
Earthly inheritances are like tennis-balls, which are bandied up and down from one to another, and in time worn out, 1 Tim. 6:17. The creature is all shadow and vanity; it is like Jonah’s gourd. Man can sit under its shadow but a little, little while; it soon decays and dies; it quickly fades and withers. There is a worm at the root of all earthly inheritances, which will consume them in time. All earthly comforts and contentments are but like a fair picture which is drawn upon the ice, which continues not; or like the morning cloud, which soon passes away. But a believer’s inheritance endures forever. When this world shall be no more, when time shall be no more—the inheritance of the saints shall be fresh, flourishing, and continuing. What will that life be, or rather what will not that life be, since all good is in such a life? Light, which place cannot comprehend; voices and music, which time cannot ravish away; fragrances, which are never dissipated; a feast, which is never consumed; a blessing, which eternity bestows—but eternity shall never see at an end. So this, all this, is the heritage of all God’s spiritual Jacobs.
(4.) Fourthly, It is the freest inheritance. It is an inheritance that is free from all vexation and molestation. There shall be no sin to molest the soul, nor any devil to vex the soul. “There shall be no pricking brier nor grieving thorn unto the house of Israel,” Ezek. 28:24; there shall be no Jebusites to be “as pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides,” Num. 33:55. There shall be no crying, Oh my bones! oh the deceit of this man! oh the oppression of that man! etc. No; they shall have a crown without thorns, a rose without prickles, and an inheritance without the least encumbrance. This inheritance flows from free love, and is freely offered, though the soul has neither money nor money-worth. There is nothing, there is not the least thing about this inheritance that is purchased or paid for by us, Isaiah 55:1-2. It is all gratis, it is all free, it is all of grace.
Here is such an inheritance which no eye ever saw, which no mortal ever possessed—and all freely given! It is freely offered, and it is freely given: Acts 20:32, “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” All is mercy, all is of free mercy—that God alone may have the glory. Other inheritances they have their encumbrances. Oh the vexations, the molestations which attend them! Oh the debates, the disputes, the law-suits—which are about earthly inheritances, such as have made many a man to go with a heavy heart, an empty purse, and a thread-bare coat.
(5.) Fifthly, It is an inheritance which is universally communicable, to Jews, to Gentiles; to bond, to free; to rich, to poor; to high, to low; to male, to female: Gal. 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” “And if you be Christ’s, then are you Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise,” Romans 8:17. Among men, all sons and daughters are not heirs; yet all God’s children, be they sons, be they daughters, be they bond or free, etc.—they are all heirs, without exception. Jehoshaphat gave his younger sons “great gifts of silver and gold, and of precious things, with fenced cities—but the kingdoms gave he to Jehoram, because he was the first-born,” 2 Chron. 21:3. And Abraham gave gifts to the rest of his sons—but only Isaac had the inheritance, Gen. 25:5-6.
In some countries all children are not heirs—but sons only; and in other countries not all sons—but the eldest son alone. Usually men divide their earthly inheritances. If all the sons be heirs, some inherit one place, others others. But the whole heavenly inheritance is enjoyed by every child; here every child is an heir to all, and has right to all. In earthly inheritances, the more you divide, the less is everyone’s part; but this inheritance is not diminished by the multitude of possessors, nor impaired by the number of co-heirs; it is as much to many as to a few, and as great to one as to all. Not a room, not a mansion, not a walk, not a flower, not a jewel, not a box of myrrh—but what is common to all; not a smile, not a good word, not a sweet look, not a robe, not a dish, not a delicacy, not a pleasure, not a delight—but is universally communicable, and universally fit for all the millions of thousands who are heirs of this inheritance. If there be a thousand together, everyone sees as much of the sun, hears as much of the sound, smells as much of the sweet, as he would do, if there were no more than himself alone; so here.
(6.) Sixthly, and lastly, It is a soul-satisfying inheritance. He who has it, shall sit down and say, “I have enough, I have all.” As one master satisfies the servant, and as one father satisfies the child, and as one husband satisfies the wife, so one God, one Christ, one inheritance, satisfies the believing soul: Psalm 16:5-6, “Lord, You are my portion and my cup of blessing; You hold my future. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Will an inheritance of glory satisfy them? Why this they shall have, 1 John 3:3, Col. 3:4. Will an inheritance of power and dominion satisfy them? Why, this they shall have, 1 Cor. 3:21, “All things are yours,” etc. Mat. 19:28, 1 Cor. 6:2-3, etc. Will Abraham’s bosom satisfy you? Why—this you shall have, Luke 16:22. The bosom is the place where love lodges all her children; the bosom is the place of delight and satisfaction, and this you shall have; nay, you shall have a better, a choicer, a sweeter bosom to solace your souls in than Abraham’s—namely, the bosom of Jesus Christ, which will be a paradise of pleasure and delight to you. Will Christ’s best robe, will his own signet put upon you, satisfy you? Why! this you shall have. Will it satisfy you to be where Christ is, and to fare as Christ fares, and wear as Christ wears, and enjoy as Christ enjoys? Why! this you shall have: John 12:26, “Where I am, there shall also my servant be; if any man serves me, him will my Father honor.”
If all these things will satisfy souls, then surely the inheritance reserved in heaven for them will satisfy them; for that inheritance takes in these things, and many more. The good things that this inheritance is made up of are so many—that they exceed number; so great—that they exceed measure; so precious—that they are above all estimation; and therefore it must needs be a soul-satisfying inheritance.
But all other inheritances they cannot satisfy the heart of man: Eccles. 5:10, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” If you please, you may read the words nearer the original thus: “He who loves money, shall not be satisfied with money; and he who loves it, in the multitude of it, shall not have fruit.” It is the love of money, which is the mischief of it; it is the love of money, which makes men unsatisfied with money. Such a man will still be adding house to house, land to land, bag to bag, and heap to heap—and yet after all be still unsatisfied.
Bernard compares such a man to one that, being very hungry, gapes continually for wind, with which he may be puffed—but cannot be filled and satisfied; and so the same author elsewhere says well, the reasonable soul may be busied about other things—but it cannot be filled with them. They can no more fill up the soul than a drop of water can fill up the huge ocean; they can no more satisfy the desires of the soul than a few drops of water can satisfy the thirst of a man inflamed with a violent fever; nay, as oil increases the flame of the fire—so the more a man has of the world, the more his heart is inflamed after it. When Alexander had conquered the known part of the world, he sat down and wished for another world to conquer. Charles the Fifth, emperor of Germany, whom of all men the world judged most happy, cried out with detestation to all his honors, pleasures, trophies, riches, get you hence, let me hear no more of you! They could not satisfy him, they could not quiet him.
Such things that a fancy, a conceit, an ungrounded fear will rob a man of the comfort of, can never satisfy him; but such are all worldly enjoyments. One man will not live because his Delilah will not love; another with Ahab will be sick, and die because he cannot get his neighbor’s inheritance, 1 Kings 21; another wishes himself dead because his commodities lie dead on his hands; another with Haman can find no sweetness in all his enjoyments, because Mordecai sits at the king’s gate, Esther 5:9-14.
Those things which delude a man can never satisfy him. But the world deludes a man, and puts cheats upon him; it promises a man pleasure—and pays him with pain. It promises profit, “all this will I give you”—and pays him with loss: loss of God, of Christ, of peace of conscience, of comfort, of heaven, of happiness, of all. It promises contentment, and fills him with torment—and therefore can never satisfy the soul of man, etc.
But the inheritance reserved in heaven—that will satisfy! It will afford nothing that may offend the soul, it will yield everything that may delight the soul, that may quiet and satisfy the soul; by all which it is most evident, that the best inheritance is reserved for the saints until they come to heaven.