The Immutability of Christ
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."—Hebrews 13:8
It is well that there is one person who is the same. It is well that there is one stable rock amidst the changing billows of this sea of life; for how many and how grievous have been the changes of this year? How many of you who commenced in affluence, have by the panic, which has shaken nations, been reduced almost to poverty? How many of you, who in strong health marched into this place on the first Sabbath of last year, have had to come tottering here, feeling that the breath of man is in his nostrils, and wherein is he to be accounted of? Many of you came to this hall with a numerous family, leaning upon the arm of a choice and much loved friend. Alas! for love, if thou wert all and naught beside, O earth! For ye have buried those ye loved the best. Some of you have come here childless, or widows, or fatherless, still weeping your recent affliction. Changes have taken place in your estate that have made your heart full of misery. Your cups of sweetness have been dashed with draughts of gall; your golden harvests have had tares cast into the midst of them, and you have had to reap the noxious weed along with the precious grain. Your much fine gold has become dim, and your glory has departed; the sweet frames at the commencement of last year became bitter ones at the end. Your raptures and your ecstacies were turned into depression and forebodings. Alas! for our changes, and hallelujah to him that hath no change.
But greater things have changed than we; for kingdoms have trembled in the balances. We have seen a peninsula deluged with blood, and mutiny raising its bloody war whoop. Nay, the whole world hath changed; earth hath doffed its green, and put on its somber garment of Autumn, and soon expects to wear its ermine robe of snow. All things have changed. We believe that not only in appearance but in reality, the world is growing old. The sun itself must soon grow dim with age; the folding up of the worn-out vesture has commenced; the changing of the heavens and the earth has certainly begun. They shall perish; they all shall wax old as doth a garment; but for ever blessed be him who is the same, and of whose years there is no end. The satisfaction that the mariner feels, when, after having been tossed about for many a day, he puts his foot upon the solid shore, is just the satisfaction of a Christian when, amidst all the changes of this troublous life, he plants the foot of his faith upon such a text as this—"the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." The same stability that the anchor gives the ship, when it hath at last got the grip of some immovable rock, that same stability doth our hope give to our spirits, when, like an anchor, it fixes itself in a truth so glorious as this—"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever."
I shall first try this morning to open the text by a little explanation;then I shall try to answer a few objections, which our wicked unbelief will be quite sure to raise against it; and afterward I shall try to draw a few useful, consoling, and practical lessons from the great truth of the immutability of Jesus Christ.
I. First, then, we open the text by a little EXPLANATION—"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." He is the same in his person. We change perpetually; the bloom of youth gives place to the strength of manhood, and the maturity of manhood fades away into the weakness of old age. But "Thou hast the dew of thy youth." Christ Jesus, whom we adore, thou art as young as ever! We came into this world with the ignorance of infancy; we grow up searching, studying, and learning with the diligence of youth; we attain to some little knowledge in our riper years; and then in our old age we totter back to the imbecility of our childhood. But O, our Master! thou didst perfectly foreknow all mortal or eternal things from before the foundations of the world, and thou knowest all things now, and for ever thou shalt be the same in thine omniscience. We are one day strong, and the next day weak—one day resolved, and the next day wavering—one hour constant, and the next hour unstable as water. We are one moment holy, kept by the power of God; we are the next moment sinning, led astray by our own lusts; but our Master is for ever the same; pure and never spotted; firm, and never changing—everlastingly Omnipotent, unchangeably Omniscient. From him no attribute doth pass away; to him no parallax, no tropic, ever comes; without variableness or shadow of a turning, he abideth fast and firm. Did Solomon sing concerning his best beloved, "His head is as the most fine gold: his locks are bushy and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedar?" Surely we can even now conclude the description from our own experience of him; and while we endorse every word which went before, we can end the description by saying, "His mouth is most sweet, yea he is altogether lovely. His matchless beauty is unimpaired; he is still 'the chief among ten thousand'—fairest of the sons of men." Did the divine John talk of him when he said—"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword; and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." He is the same; upon his brow there is ne'er a furrow; his locks are gray with reverence, but not with age; his feet stand as firm as when they trod the everlasting mountains in the years before the world was made—his eyes as piercing when, for the first time he looked upon a new-born world. Christ's person never changes. Should he come on earth to visit us again, as sure he will, we should find him the same Jesus; as loving, as approachable, as generous, as kind, and though arrayed in nobler garments than he wore when first he visited earth, though no more the Man of Sorrows and griefs acquaintance, yet he would be the same person, unchanged by all his glories, his triumphs, and his joys. We bless Christ that amid his heavenly splendors his person is just the same, and his nature unaffected.. "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."
Again: Jesus Christ is the same with regard to his Father as ever. He was his Father's well-beloved Son before all worlds; he was his well-beloved in the stream of baptism; he was his well-beloved on the cross; he was his well-beloved when he led captivity captive, and he is not less the object of his Father's infinite affection now than he was then. Yesterday he lay in Jehovah's bosom, God, having all power with his Father—to-day he stands on earth, man, with us, but still the same, for ever—he ascends on high, and still he is his Father's son—still by inheritance, having a more excellent name than angels—still sitting far above all principalities and powers, and every name that is named. O Christian, give him thy cause to plead; the Father will answer him as well now as he did aforetime. Doubt not the Father's grace. Go to thine Advocate. He is as near to Jehovah's heart as ever—as prevalent in his intercession. Trust him, then, and in trusting him thou mayest be sure of the Father's love to thee.
But now there is a yet sweeter thought. Jesus Christ is the same to his people as ever. We have delighted, in our happier moments, in days that have rolled away, to think of him that loved us when we had no being; we have often sung with rapture of him that loved us when we loved not him.
"Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He to save my soul from danger
Interposed his precious blood."
We have looked back, too, upon the years of our troubles and our trials; and we can bear our solemn though humble witness that he has been true to us in all our exigencies, and has never failed us once. Come, then, let us comfort ourselves with this thought—that though to-day he may distress us with a sense of sin, yet his heart is just the same to us as ever. Christ may wear masks that look black to his people, but his face is always the same; Christ may sometimes take a rod in his hand instead of a golden scepter, but the name of his saint is as much engraved upon the hand that grasps the rod as upon the palm that clasps the scepter. And oh, sweet thought that now bursts upon our mind! Beloved, can you concede how much Christ will love you when you are in heaven? Have you ever tried to fathom that bottomless sea of affection in which you shall swim, when you shall bathe yourself in seas of heavenly rest? Did you ever think of the love which Christ will manifest to you, when he shall present you without spot, or blemish, or any such thing before his Father's throne? Well, pause and remember that he loves you at this hour a. much as he will love you then; for he will be the same for ever as he is to-day, and he is the same to-day as he will be for ever. This one thing I know: if Jesus' heart is set on me he will not love me one atom better when this head wears a crown, and when this hand shall, with joyous fingers, touch the strings of golden harps, than he does now, amid all my sin and care and woe. I believe that saying which is written—"As the Father hath loved me, even so have I loved you;" and a higher degree of love we can not imagine. The Father loves his Son infinitely, and even so to-day, believer, doth the Son of God love thee. All his heart flows out to thee. All his life is thine; all his person is thine. He can not love thee more; he will not love thee less. The same yesterday, to-day, and for ever.
But let us here recollect that Jesus Christ is the same to sinners to-day as he was yesterday. It is now eight years ago since I first went to Jesus Christ. Come the sixth of this month, I shall then be eight years old in the gospel of the grace of Jesus; a child, a little child therein as yet. I recall that hour when I heard that exhortation—"Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and beside me there is none else." And I remember, how with much trembling and with a little faith I ventured to approach the Saviour's feet. I thought he would spurn me from him. "Sure," said my heart, "if thou shouldst presume to put thy trust in him as thy Saviour, it would be a presumption more damnable than all thy sins put together. Go not to him; he will spurn thee." However, I put the rope about my neck, feeling that if God destroyed me for ever, he would be just. I cast the ashes on my head, and with many a sigh I did confess my sin; and then, when I ventured to draw nigh to him, when I expected that he would frown, he stretched out his hand and said, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins." I came like the prodigal, because I was forced to come. I was starved out of that foreign country where, in riotous living I had spent my substance, and I saw my Father's house a great way off; little did I know that my Father's heart was beating high with love to me. O rapturous hour, when Jesus whispered I was his, and when my soul could say, "Jesus Christ is my salvation." And now I would refresh my own memory by reminding myself that what my Master was to me yesterday that he is to-day; and if I know that as a sinner I went to him then and he received me, if I have never so many doubts about my saintship I can not doubt but what I am a sinner; so to thy cross, O Jesus, I go again, and if thou didst receive me then, thou wilt receive me now; and believing that to be true, I turn round to my fellow-immortals, and I say, "He that received me, he that received Manasseh, he that received the thief upon the cross, is the same to-day as he was then. Oh! come and try him! Come and try him! Oh! ye that know your need of him, come ye to him; ye that have sold for nought your heritage above may have it back unbought, the gift of Jesus' love. Ye that are empty, Christ is as full today as ever. Come! fill yourselves here. Ye that are thirsty, the stream is flowing; ye that are black, the fountain still can purify; ye that are naked, the wardrobe is not empty.
"Come, guilty souls, and flee away,
To Christ, and heal your wounds;
Still 'tis the gospel's gracious day,
And now free grace abounds"
I can not pretend to enter into the fullness of my text as I could desire, but one more thought. Jesus Christ is the same to-day as he was yesterday in the teachings of his Word. They tell us in these times that the improvements of the age require improvements in theology. Why, I have heard it said that the way Luther preached would not suit this age. We are too polite! The style of preaching, they say, that did in John Bunyan's day, is not the style now. True, they honor these men; they are like the Pharisees; they build the sepulchers of the prophets that their fathers slew, and so they do confess that they are their father's own sons, and like their parents. And men that stand up to preach as those men did, with honest tongues, and know not how to use polished courtly phrases, are as much condemned now as those men were in their time; because, say they, the world is marching on, and the gospel must march on too. No, sirs, the old gospel is the same; not one of her stakes must be removed, not one of her cords must be loosened. "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus." Theology hath nothing new in it except that which is false. The preaching of Paul must be the preaching of the minister to-day. There is no advancement here. We may advance in our knowledge of it; but it stands the same, for this good reason, that it is perfect, and perfection can not be any better. The old truth that Calvin preached, that Chrysostom preached, that Paul preached, is the truth that I must preach to-day, or else be a liar to my conscience and my God. I can not shape the truth. I know of no such thing as the paring off the rough edges of a doctrine. John Knox's gospel is my gospel. That which thundered through Scotland must thunder through England again. The great mass of our ministers are sound enough in the faith, but not sound enough in the way they preach it. Election is not mentioned once in the year in many a pulpit; final perseverance is kept back; the great things of God's law are forgotten, and a kind of mongrel mixture of Arminianism and Calvinism is the delight of the present age. And hence the Lord hath forsaken many of his tabernacles and left the house of his covenant; and he will leave it till again the trumpet gives a certain sound. For wherever there is not the old gospel we shall find "Ichabod" written upon the church walls ere long. The old truth of the Covenanters, the old truth of the Puritans, the old truth of the Apostles, is the only truth that will stand the test of time, and never need to be altered to suit a wicked and ungodly generation. Christ Jesus preaches to-day the same as when he preached upon the mount; he hath not changed his doctrines; men may ridicule and laugh, but still they stand the same—semper idem written upon every one of them. They shall not be removed or altered.
Let the Christian remember that this is equally true of the promises.Let the sinner remember this is just as true of the threatenings. Let us each recollect that not one word can be added to this Sacred Book, nor one letter taken away from it; for as Christ Jesus is yet the same, so is his Gospel, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever.
I have thus briefly opened the text, not in its fullest meanings, but still enough to enable the Christian at his own leisure to see into that depth without a bottom—the immutability of Christ Jesus the Lord.
II. And now comes in one of crooked gait, with hideous aspect—one that hath as many lives as a cat, and that can not be killed any how, though many a great gun hath been shot against him. His name is old Mr. Incredulity—unbelief; and he begins his miserable oration by declaring, "How can that be true? 'Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.' Why, yesterday Christ was all sunshine to me—to-day I am in distress!" Stop, Mr. Unbelief, I beg you to remember that Christ is not changed. You have changed yourself; for you have said in your very accusation that yesterday you rejoiced, but to-day you are in distress. All that may happen, and yet there may be no change in Christ. The sun may be the same always, though one hour may be cloudy and the next bright with golden light; yet there is no proof that the sun has changed. 'Tis even so with Christ.
"If today he deigns to bless us
With a sense of pardoned sin,
He to-morrow may distress us,
Make us feel the plague within.
All to make us,
Sick of self and fond of him."
There is no change in him.
"Immutable his will,
Though dark may be my frame,
His loving heart is still
Unchangeably the same.
My soul through many changes goes,
His love no variation knows"
Your frames are no proof that Christ changes: they are only proof that you change.
But saith old Unbelief again—"Surely God has changed if you look at the old saints of ancient times. What happy men they were! How highly favored of their God! How well God provided for them! But now, sir, when I am hungry, no ravens come and bring me bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening. When I am thirsty, no water leaps out of the rock to supply my thirst. It is said of the children of Israel that their clothes waxed not old; but I have a hole in my coat today, and where I shall get another garment I know not. When they marched through the desert he suffered no man to hurt them; but, sir, I am continually beset by enemies. It is true of me as it says in the Scriptures, 'And the Ammonites distressed Israel at the coming in of the year;' for they are distressing me. Why, sir, I see my friends die in clouds; there are no fiery chariots to carry God's Elijahs to heaven now. I lost my son; no prophet lay upon him and gave him life again; no Jesus met me at the city gates, to give me back my son from the gloomy grave. No sir, these are evil times; the light of Jesus Christ has become dim; if he walks among the golden candlesticks, yet, still it is not as he used to do. And worse than that, sir, I have heard my father talk of the great men that were in the age gone by: I have heard the names of Romaine, and Toplady, and Scott; I have heard of Whitfields and of Bunyans; and even but a few years ago I heard talk of such men as Joseph Irons—solemn and earnest preachers of a full gospel. But where are those men now? Sir, we have fallen upon an age of drivellings; menhave died out, and we have only a few dwarfs left us; there are none that walk with the giant tramp and the colossal tread of the mighty fathers, like Owen, and Howe, and Baxter, and Charnock. We are all little men. Jesus Christ is not dealing with us as he did with our fathers. Stop, Unbelief, a minute: let me remind thee that the ancient people of God had their trials too. Know ye not what the apostle Paul says? "For thy sake we are killed all the day long." Now, if there be any change it is a change for the better; for you have not yet "resisted unto blood, striving against sin."
But remember that does not affect Christ; for neither nakedness, nor famine, nor sword, has separated us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is true that you have no fiery chariot; but then the angels carry you to Jesus' bosom, and that is as well. It is true no ravens bring you food; it is quite as true you get your food somehow or other. It is quite certain that no rock gushes out with water; but still your water has been sure. It is true your child has not been raised from the dead; but you remember that David had a child that was not raised any more than yours. You have the same consolation that he had: "I shall go to him; he shall not return to me." You say that you have more heart-rendings than the saints had of old. It is your ignorance that makes you say so. Holy men of old said, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Why art thou disquieted within me?" Even prophets had to say—"Thou hast made me drunken with wormwood, and broken my teeth with gravel stones." O, you are mistaken: your days are not more full of trouble than the days of Job; you are not more vexed by the wicked than was Lot of old, you have not more temptations to make you angry than had Moses; and certainly your way is not half so rough as the way of your blessed Lord. The very fact that you have troubles is a proof of his faith fulness; for you have got one half of his legacy, and you will have the other half. You know that Christ's last will and testament has two portions in it. "In the world ye shall have tribulation:" you have got that. The next clause is—"In me ye shall have peace."
You have that too. "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." That is yours also.
And then you say that you have fallen upon a bad age with regard to ministers. It may be so; but remember, the promise is true still. "Though I take away from thee bread and water, yet will I never take away thy pastors." You have still such as you have—still some that are faithful to God and to his covenant, and who do not forsake the truth, and though the day may be dark, yet it is not so dark as days have been; and besides remember, what you say to-day is just what your forefathers said. Men in the days of Toplady looked back to the days of Whitfield; men in the days of Whitfield looked back to the days of Bunyan; men in the days of Bunyan wept because of the days of Wycliffe, and Calvin, and Luther; and men then wept for the days of Augustine and Chrysostom. Men in those days wept for the days of the Apostles; and doubtless men in the days of the Apostles wept for the days of Jesus Christ; and no doubt some in the days of Jesus Christ were so blind as to wish to return to the days of prophesy, and thought more of the days of Elijah than they did of the most glorious day of Christ. Some men look more to the past than the present. Rest assured, that Jesus Christ is the same to-day as he was yesterday, and he will be the same for ever.
Mourner, be glad! I have heard of a little girl who, when her father died, saw her mother weeping immoderately. Day after day, and week after week, her mother refused to be comforted; and the little girl stepped up to her mother, and putting her little hand inside her mothers hand, looked up in her face, and said. "Mamma is God dead? Is God dead, mamma?" And her mother thought, "Surely, no." The child seemed to say, "Thy maker is thy husband; the Lord of hosts is his name. So you may dry your tears, I have a father in heaven, and you have a husband still." O! ye saints that have lost your gold and your silver; ye have got treasure in heaven, where no moth nor rust doth corrupt, where no thieves break through and steal! Ye that are sick to-day, ye that have lost health, remember the day is coming when all that shall be made up to you, and when ye shall find that the flame has not hurt you, it has but consumed your dross and refined your gold. Remember, Jesus Christ is "the same today, yesterday, and for ever."
III. And now I must be brief in drawing one or two sweet conclusions from that part of the text.
First, then, if he be the same to-day as yesterday, my soul, set not thine affections upon these changing things, but set thine heart upon him. O my heart, build not thine house upon the sandy pillars of a world that soon must pass away, but build thy hopes upon this rock, which, when the rain descends, and floods shall come, shall stand immovably secure. O my soul, I charge thee, lay up thy treasure in this secure granary. O my heart, I bid thee now put thy treasure where thou canst never lose it. Put it in Christ; put all thine affections in his person, all thy hope in his glory, all thy trust in his efficacious blood, all thy joy in his presence, and then thou wilt have put thyself and put thine all where thou canst never lose anything, because it is secure. Remember, O my heart, that the time is coming when all things must fade, and when thou must part with all. Death's gloomy night must soon put out thy sunshine; the dark flood must soon roll between thee and all thou hast. Then put thine heart with him who will never leave thee; trust thyself with him who will go with thee through the black and surging current of death's stream, and who will walk with thee up the steep hills of heaven and make thee sit together with him in heavenly places for ever. Go, tell thy secrets to that friend that sticketh closer than a brother. My heart, I charge thee, trust all thy concerns with him who never can be taken from thee, who will never leave thee, and who will never let thee leave him, even "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." That is one lesson.
Well, then, the next. If Jesus Christ be always the same, then, my soul, endeavor to imitate him. Be thou the same, too. Remember that if thou hadst more faith, thou wouldst be as happy in the furnace, as on the mountain of enjoyment. Thou wouldst be as glad in famine, as in plenty; thou wouldst rejoice in the Lord when the olive yielded no oil, as well as when the vat was bursting and overflowing its brim. If thou hadst more confidence in thy God, thou wouldst have far less of tossings up and down; and if thou hadst greater nearness to Christ thou wouldst have less vacillation. Yesterday thou couldst pray with all the power of prayer; perhaps if thou didst always live near thy Master, thou mightest always have the same power on thy knees. One time thou canst bid defiance to the rage of Satan, and thou canst face a frowning world; to-morrow thou wilt run away like a craven. But if thou didst always remember him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, thou mightest always be firm and stedfast in thy mind. Beware of being like a weathercock. Seek of God, that his law may be written on your hearts as if it were written on stone, and not as if it were written in sand. Seek, that his grace may come to you like a river, and not like a brook that fails. Seek, that you may keep your conversation always holy; that your course may be like the shining light that tarries not, but that burneth brighter and brighter, until the fullness of the day. Be ye like Christ—ever the same.
Again: if Christ be always the same, Christian, rejoice! Come what may, thou art secure.
"Let mountains from their seats be hurled
Down to the deeps, and buried there;
Convulsions shake the solid world;
Our faith shall never need to fear."
If kingdoms should go to rack, the Christian need not tremble! Just for a minute imagine a scene like this. Suppose for the next three days the sun should not rise; suppose the moon should be turned into a clot of blood, and shine no more upon the world; imagine that a darkness that might be felt, brooded over all men; imagine, next, that all the world did tremble in an earthquake, till every tower, and house, and hut fell down: imagine, next, that the sea forgot its place, and leaped upon the earth; and that the mountains ceased to stand, and began to tremble from their pedestals; conceive after that, that a blazing comet streamed across the sky—that the thunder bellowed incessantly—that the lightnings, without a moment's pause, followed one the other; conceive, then, that thou didst behold divers terrible sights, fiendish ghosts, and grim spirits; imagine, next, that a trumpet, waxing exceeding loud, did blow; that there were heard the shrieks of men dying and perishing; imagine, that in the midst of all this confusion, there wee to be a found a saint. My friend, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and for every, would keep him as secure amidst all these horrors, as we are to-day. Oh! rejoice! I have pictured the worst that can come. Then you would be secure. Come what may then, you are safe, while Jesus Christ is the same.
And now, last of all, if Jesus Christ be "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever," what sad work this is for the ungodly! Ah! sinner, when he was on earth, he said, "Their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched." When he stood upon the mount, he said, "It were better to enter life halt or maimed, than having two hands, and two eyes to be cast into hell-fire." As a man on earth, he said that the goats should be on the left, and that he would say to them, "Depart, ye cursed." Sinner, he will be as good as his word. He has said, "He that believeth not shall be damned." He will damn you if you believe not, depend upon it. He has never broken a promise yet; he will never break a threatening. That same truth which makes us confident to-day that the righteous shall go away into everlasting life, should make you quite as confident that unbelievers shall go into eternal misery. If he had broken his promise, he might break his threatening; but as he has kept one, he will keep the other. Do not hope that he will change, for change he will not. Think not that the fire which he said was unquenchable, will, after all, be extinguished. No, within a few more years, my hearer, if thou dost not repent, thou wilt find that every jot and every letter of the threatenings of Jesus will be fulfilled; and, mark thee, fulfilled in thee. Liar, he said, "All liars shall have their portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone." He will not deceive you. Drunkard, he has said, "Ye know that no drunkard hath eternal life." He will not belie his word. You shall not have eternal life. He has said, "The nations that forget God shall be cast into hell." All ye that forget religion, moral people you may be, he will keep his word to you; he will cast you into hell. O "kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little; blessed are an they that put their trust in him. Come, sinner, bow thy knee; confess thy sin and leave it; and then come to him; ask him to have mercy upon thee. He will not forget his promise—"Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." Come and try him. With all your sins about you, come to him now. "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;" for this is my Master's gospel, and I now declare it—"He that believeth and is immersed shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned. God grant you grace to believe, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.