The Unchangeable Christ
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, April 29th, 1894,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Thursday Evening, February 23rd, 1888.
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."Hebrews 13:8.
ET me read to you the verse that comes before our text. It is a good habit always to look at texts in their connection. It is wrong, I think, to lay hold of small portions of God's Word, and take them out of their connection as you might pluck feathers from a bird; it is an injury to the Word; and, sometimes, a passage of Scripture loses much of its beauty, its true teaching, and its real meaning, by being taken from the context. Nobody would think of mutilating Milton's poems so, taking a few lines out of Paradise Lost, and then imagining that he could really get at the heart of the poet's power. So, always look at texts in the connection in which they stand. The verse before our text is this, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation: Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
The Holy Ghost hath made him so."
He is; the Saviour is only for sinners. He did not come to save the righteous, he came to seek and to save the lost, and still "to you is the word of this salvation sent;" and this declaration still stands true, "This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." There is no change in this statement, "the poor have the gospel preached to them," and it comes to those who are farthest off from God and hope, and inspires them with divine power and energy.
Beloved, I can bear witness that the gospel is the same in its effects upon the hearts of men. Still it breaks, and still it makes whole; still it wounds, and still it heals; still it kills, and still it quickens; still it seems to hurl men down to hell in their terrible experience of the evil of sin, but still it lifts them up into an ecstatic joy, till they are exalted almost to heaven when they lay hold upon it, and feel its power in their souls. The gospel that was a gospel of births and deaths, of killing and making alive, in the days of John Bunyan, has just the same effect upon our hearts to this day, when it comes with the power that God has put into it by his Spirit. It produces the same results, and has the same sanctifying influence as it ever had.
Looking beyond the narrow stream of death, we can say that the eternal results produced by the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ are the same as they ever were. The promise is this day fulfilled to those who receive him as much as to any who went before; life eternal is their inheritance, they shall sit with him upon his throne; and, on the other hand, the threatening is equally sure of fulfilment: "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." "He that believeth not shall be damned." Christ has made no change in his words of promise or of threatening, nor will his followers dare to do so, for his doctrine is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
If you were to try to think over this matter, and imagine for a minute that the gospel really did shift and change with the times, it would be very extraordinary. See, here is the gospel for the first century; make a mark, and note how far it goes. Then there is a gospel for the second century; make another mark, but then remember that you must change the colour to another shade. Either these people must have altered, or else a very different effect must have been produced in the same kind of minds. In eternity, when they all get to heaven by these nineteen gospels, in the nineteen centuries, there will be nineteen sets of people, and they will sing nineteen different songs, depend upon it, and their music will not blend. Some will sing of "free grace and dying love", while others will sing of "evolution." What a discord it would be, and what a heaven it would be, too! I should decline to be a candidate for such a place. No, let me go where they praise Jesus Christ and him alone, singing, "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen." That is what the first-century saints sing; ay, and it is what the saints of every century will sing, without any exception; and there will be no change in this song for ever. The same results will flow from the same gospel till heaven and earth shall pass away, for Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
III. We may sound the same note again, for a moment, because JESUS CHRIST IS THE SAME AS TO HIS MODES OF WORKING: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
How did Jesus Christ save souls in the olden time? "It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe;" and if you will look down through church history, you will find that, wherever there has been a great revival of religion, it has been linked with the preaching of the gospel. When the Methodists began to do so much good, what did they call the men who made such a stir? "Methodist preachers", did they not say? That was always the name, "Here comes a Methodist preacher." Ah, my dear friends, the world will never be saved by Methodist doctors, or by Baptist doctors, or anything of the sort; but multitudes will be saved, by God's grace, through preachers. It is the preacher to whom God has entrusted this great work. Jesus said, "Preach the gospel to every creature." But men are getting tired of the divine plan; they are going to be saved by the priest, going to be saved by the music, going to be saved by theatricals, and nobody knows what! Well, they may try these things as long as ever they like; but nothing can ever come of the whole thing but utter disappointment and confusion, God dishonoured, the gospel travestied, hypocrites manufactured by thousands, and the church dragged down to the level of the world. Stand to your guns, brethren, and go on preaching and teaching nothing but the Word of God, for it pleases God still, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe; and this text still stands true, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
But remember that there must always be the prayers of the saints with the preaching of the gospel. You must have often noticed that passage in the Acts concerning the new converts on the Day of Pentecost, "They continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine": they thought a great deal about doctrine in those days. "And fellowship": they thought a good deal of being in church-fellowship in those days. "And in breaking of bread": they did not neglect the blessed ordinance of the Lord's supper in those days: "In breaking of bread." And then what follows? "And in prayers." Some say nowadays, that prayer-meetings are religious expedients pretty well worn out. Ah, dear me! What a religious expedient that was that brought about Pentecost, when they were assembled with one accord in one place, and when the whole church prayed, and suddenly the place was shaken, and they heard the sound as of a rushing mighty wind, that betokened the presence of the Holy Ghost! Well, you may try to do without prayer-meetings if you like; but my solemn conviction is that, as these decline, the Spirit of God will depart from you, and the preaching of the gospel will be of small account. The Lord will have the prayers of His people to go with the proclamation of his gospel if it is to be the power of God unto salvation, and there is no change in this matter since Paul's day, Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." God is still to be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them, and he still grants blessings in answer to believing prayer.
Remember, too, that the Lord Jesus Christ has always been inclined to work by the spiritual power of his servants. Nothing comes out of a man that is not first in him. You will not find God's servants doing great things for him, unless God works mightily in them, as well as by them. You must first yourself be endued with power from on high, or else the power will not manifest itself in what you do. Beloved, we want our church members to be better men and better women; we want baby-Christians to become men-Christians; and we want the men-Christians among us to be "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." God will work by his servants when they are adapted to his service; and he will make his instruments fit for his work. It is not in themselves that they have any strength; their weakness becomes the reason why his strength is seen in them. Still, there is an adaptation, there is a fitness for his service, there is a cleanness that God puts upon his instruments before he works mighty things by them; and Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," in this matter, too.
All the good that is ever done in the world is wrought by the Holy Ghost; and as the Holy Spirit honours Jesus Christ, so he puts great honour upon the Holy Spirit. If you and I try, either as a church or as individuals, to do without the Holy Spirit, God will soon do without us. Unless we reverently worship him, and believingly trust in him, we shall find that we shall be like Samson when his locks were shorn. He shook himself as he had done aforetime; but when the Philistines were upon him, he could do nothing against them. Our prayer must ever be, "Holy Spirit, dwell with me! Holy Spirit, dwell with thy servants!" We know that we are utterly dependent upon him. Such is the teaching of our Master, and Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
IV. I do not want to weary you, my dear brethren; but may I be helped, just for a few moments, to speak on a fourth point! JESUS CHRIST HAS EVER THE SAME RESOURCES, for he is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
I will repeat what I said, Jesus Christ has ever the same resources. We sit down, sometimes, very sorrowful, and we say, "The times are very dark." I do not think that we can very well exaggerate their darkness; and they are full of threatening omens, and I do not think that any of us can really exaggerate those omens, they are so terrible. But still is it true, "The Lord liveth, and blessed be my rock."
Does the Church feel her need of faithful men? The Lord can send us as many as ever. When the Pope ruled everywhere, nobody thought, I should imagine, that the first man to speak out for the old faith would be a monk; they thought they had taken stock of all the men that God had at his command, and they certainly did not think that he had one of the leaders of the Reformation in a monastery; but there was Martin Luther, "the monk that shook the world," and though men dreamed not what he would do, God knew all about him. There was Calvin, also, writing that famous book of his Institutes. He was a man full of disease, I think he had sixty diseases at once in his body, and he suffered greatly. Look at his portrait, pale and wan; and as a young man he was very timid. He went to Geneva, and he thought he was called to write books; but Farel said to him, "You are called to lead us in preaching the gospel here in Geneva." "No," said Calvin, for he shrank from the task; but Farel said, "The blast of the Almighty God will rest upon you unless you come out, and take your proper place." Beneath the threat of that brave old man, John Calvin took his place, prompt and sincere in the work of God, in life and in death never faltering. Then there was Zwingle over there at Zurich, he had come out, too, and Oecolampadius, and Melancthon, and their fellows,who ever expected them to do what they did? Nobody. "The Lord gave the word, great was the company of them that published it." And so, to-day, he has only to give the word, and you shall see starting up all over the world earnest preachers of the everlasting gospel, for he has the same resources as ever. He is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
He has also the same resources of grace. The Holy Spirit is quite as able to convert men, to quicken, enlighten, sanctify, and instruct. There is nothing which he has done which he cannot do again; the treasures of God are as full and as running over now as they were in the beginning of the Christian age. If we do not see such great things, where lies the restraining force? It is in our unbelief. "If thou believest, all things are possible to him that believeth." Ere this year has gone, God can make a wave of revival break over England, Scotland, and Ireland, from one end to the other, ay, and he can deluge the whole world with the gospel if we will but cry to him for it, and he wills to do it, for he is "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever," in the resources of his grace.
V. So I close my sermon with this fifth head, on which I will be very short indeed, JESUS CHRIST IS EVER THE SAME TO ME: "yesterday, and to day, and for ever." I will not talk about myself except to help you to think about yourselves. How long have you known the Lord Jesus Christ? Perhaps, only a short time; possibly, many years. Do you remember when you first knew him? Can you point out the spot of ground where Jesus met you? Now, what was he to you at first? I will tell you what he was to me.
Jesus was to me at first my only trust. I leaned on him very hard then, for I had such a load to carry. I laid myself and my load down at his feet; he was all in all to me. I had not a shred of hope outside of him, nor any trust beyond himself, crucified and risen for me. Now, dear brothers and sisters, have you got any further than that? I hope not; I know that I have not. I have not a shadow of a shade of confidence anywhere but in Christ's blood and righteousness. I leaned on him very hard at the first; but I lean harder now. Sometimes, I faint away into his arms; I have died into his life; I am lost in his fulness, he is all my salvation and all my desire. I am speaking for myself; but I think that I am speaking for many of you, too, when I say that Jesus Christ is to me "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." His cross, before my failing eyes, shall be my dying comfort as it is my living strength.
What was Jesus Christ to me at the first? He was the object of my warmest love; was it not so with you also? Was he not chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely? What charms, what beauties, were there in that dear face of his! And what a freshness, what a novelty, what a delight, which set all our passions on a flame! It was so in those early days when we went after him into the wilderness. Though all the world around was barren, he was all in all to us. Very well, what is he to-day? He is fairer to us now than ever he was. He is the one gem that we possess; our other jewels have all turned out to be but glass, and we have flung them from the casket, but he is the Koh-i-noor that our souls delights in; all perfections joined together to make one absolute perfection; all the graces adorning him, and overflowing to us. Is not that what we say of him? "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
What was Jesus Christ to me at the first? Well, he was my highest joy. In my young days, how my heart did dance at the sound of his name! Was it not so with many of you? We may be huskier in voice, and heavier in body, and slower in moving our limbs, but his name has as much charm for us as ever it had. There was a trumpet that nobody could blow but one who was the true heir, and there is nobody who can ever fetch the true music out of us but our Lord to whom we belong. When he sets me to his lips, you would think that I was one of the trumpets of the seven angels; but there is no one else who can make me sound like that. I cannot produce such music as that by myself; and there is no theme that can ravish my heart, there is no subject that can stir my soul, until I get to him. I think it is with me as it was with Rutherford, when the Duke of Argyle called out, as he began to preach about Christ, "Now, man, you are on the right string, keep to that." The Lord Jesus Christ knows every key in our souls, and he can wake up our whole being to harmonies of music which shall set the world ringing with his praises. Yes, he is our joy, our everything, "the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever."
Let us go forward, then, to the unchanging Saviour, through the changing things of time and sense; and we shall meet him soon in the glory, and he will be unchanged even there, as compassionate and loving to us when we shall get home to him, and see him in his splendour, as he was to his poor disciples when he himself had not where to lay his head, and was a sufferer amongst them.
Oh, do you know him? Do you know him? Do you know him? If not, may he this night reveal himself to you, for his sweet mercy's sake! Amen.