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God is unchangeable,
MALACHI iii. 6.
For I am the Lord, I change not.--first clause.
In the context, great good is spoken concerning the house of Israel. God tells them what good thing he is about to accomplish for them, upon the prospect of which they are encouraged to ground their spiritual confidence and consolation. “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in : behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” This, no doubt, is a prediction of the coming of Christ, whose way was prepared by a special messenger, appearing in the spirit and power of Elias, and whose object it was to effect a reformation in
the church, that the people of God might be better fitted to receive their gracious Redeemer and Lord. After stating this matter as a future event, promising great glory and felicity to God’s kingdom on earth, the prophet goes on to intimate the reason, which all believers have to gather comfort and assurance from such a revelation. The matter of it is, in itself, most pleasing and joyful ; and that it will not fail of taking entire effect, of being brought about in its season, is a certain consequence from the unchangeableness of God. If Jehovah has declared, that he will raise up to his people a Saviour, Christ the Lord, is there danger of its being prevented by the unbelief, or other gross wickedness of those, for whom such a benefit is designed : God answers, no. And the apostle confirms it with such words as the following : “For what if some did not believe : shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none effect God forbid.” If a word has gone forth out of the mouth of the most High, it shall not return to him void. “Hath he said, and shall he not do it 2 or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good * He will not give up his own gracious purposes to be nullified and frustrated for the sake of letting loose the arm of his vengeance upon the wicked ; nor will the sins of men ever be suffered to hinder the fulfilment of those promises, which ensure blessings upon mankind or the church. If, in the word of God, blessings, of any kind or to any extent, are: promised to the people of any particular age, and they are found, when the time of the promisé draws near, to be wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly, as the men of Sodom were, this will give no reason to believe, or suspect, that the promise will fail, or that the fulfilment of it will be delayed. The seed of Abraham were in a state of great spiritual degeneracy, when their 400 years of affliction in Egypt came to an end ; but this did not hinder the fulfilment of God’s promise to appear for them and bring them out. The same may be said of their Babylonian captivity, many ages afterwards. Were it not, indeed, that God is engaged on the side of mercy ; and that his grace is immutable; that he is of one mind and none can turn him ; promises would not be a sufficient foundation of hope ; the church itself would sink into ruin, though compassed about and sheltered with the most explicit and absolute promisesof protection. That guilty creatures should have hope, rather than despair, depends solely upon sentiments like that in the text. “For I am the Lord, I change not ; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” No small share of the happiness to be derived from knowing God, and realising that we stand in a near relation to him, rests upon a persuasion of his immutability, that he is the same yesterday, to-day and forever. By the loss of this attribute his Godhead would be most essentially impaired. In such case he could not sustain the confidence of - •- “. . . . . . . ~K k , - - - 4." the creatures he has made. A being subject to change, whatever be his other excellencies, is grossly defective and imperfect; and will not be confided in, by the prudent and foreseeing, but with the utmost caution and reserve. It is impossible to calculate where the counsels of one, who is not uniform and steadfast, will conduct him. As far as experience throws light upon the subject, we are authorized in believing, that all intimacies. with such are rather dangerous than safe. In proportion to our dependence upon him, we have reason to be afraid of the consequences of instability and inconstancy in one, with whom we are united. If he proceed in an unsteady and crooked course, it is impossible to foresee where he will land us, and all those interests which we have cast upon him. On the other hand, it is with a cheerful, unsuspecting considence, that we yield: up ourselves and our concerns to the disposal of one, who is incapable of wavering, or of double-mindedness; who, in addition to. all other good qualities, possesses a consisteney, firmness, and uniformity of conduct, which brings all his measures to unite in onefinal, all-important end. If, in our commerce. with men, we have abundant reason to separate ourselves from those, who are known: to be of a fickle and alterable disposition, lest their frequent shifting and turning about. should expose us to harm ; much moreshould we have reason to dread the unhappy fruits of the least change in the counsels. of the most High, or to deprecate the thought of having all our interests, for time and eternity, lodged in the hands of one, from whom we could not expect an unvarying line of procedure from the beginning to the end of all his works. To rejoice, that - the Lord God omnipotent reigneth, we must have a full persuasion, that no contradictions, or incongruities, can have place in his reign, or, in other words, that in him there is neither variableness, nor shadow of turning. That God, as moral governor, should maintain an unimpeachable character, in point of rectitude, it is necessary that he should be absolutely unchangeable. Strip him of this attribute, and you will forever lose all assurance, that he will do right, that he will make all things. conspire to the best possible end. That we may feel it safe to lean our whole weight upon God, and cast all our burdens upon him, we have been and are still endeavouring to bring into view the true character of God; and in the course of this investigation we are now brought to the consideration of absolute immutability as necessarily pertaining to him, without which his glory would beincomplete, and it would be more a presumption, than a virtue, to trust in him. In the necessary examination of the subject, it will be incumbent on us to enquire, what is implied in absolute immutability, and also to show that this must be a necessary part of God’s char2Cter. First. In being absolutely and perfectly un