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AN IMMUTABLE GOD AND A STRONG CONSOLATION


By J.C. Philpot



Preached at Gower Street Chapel, London,

on Lordís Day Evening, July 8, 1866



That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie,

we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge

to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

which hope we have as an anchor of the soul,

both sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil."

Hebrews 6:18,19




WE live in a mutable world. The revolutions of the seasons; the vicissitudes of day and night; the alternations of weather from heat to cold and from dry to wet; the growth of our own bodies from childhood up to youth and manhood, and in some cases on to advancing old age; the alterations which take place in our own minds, in our thoughts, in our views, in our feelings, and in our varied exercises, both natural and spiritual, all stamp change and mutability upon everything here below. The departure of friends one after the other-how many well-known faces of attached hearers do I miss from the congregation now before me!-tells us also how change is stamped upon the life of men. Family bereavements, vicissitudes in business, change of friends into enemies, separation by distance or local habitation from those with whom we have walked in sweet fellowship, with the forming of new acquaintances and the rising up of fresh friends, these all manifest mutability as a part of the life we live in the flesh, as regards our connection with others.


As regards ourselves, and more especially our inward feelings, the movements of our spirit God-ward, and all that we hope and believe is a part of, or closely connected with, the life of God in our soul; how subject that is to change also. If blessed one day with the right of Godís countenance, we have to walk in another in thick sensible darkness; if brought out for a time into sweet liberty, then are we again shut up, it may be for a long space, in cruel bondage; if relieved for a little while from the weight of afflictions and trials, then again we have to put our neck under the yoke and be exercised as much by them as before; if favoured sometimes with sweet access to a throne of grace, and blessed with holy liberty to pour out our heart before God, then again are we shut up in miserable dryness, deadness, coldness, sloth and indifference, so as scarcely to feel a movement of real prayer within.


Thus, whether we look at the world without or the world within, whether we fix our eyes upon men and circumstances as they pass before us, or regard the movements of divine life in our own breast, change and mutability we see stamped upon all. But them is a greater change to come than any which we have yet experienced, when the eyelids will droop in death, when the pallor of our last sleep will overspread the face, when life itself will have fled and the warm body be reduced to a heap of cold clay, to be consigned to the silent tomb, there to await the last and greatest change of all in the resurrection morn, when the Lord will change our vile body that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself. Phillippians 3:21


But what an unspeakable mercy it is amidst all these changes to have to do with One who is unchanging and unchangeable; One who says, "I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed;" One "with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning;" One who is "the same yesterday, today and for ever;" One who rests in His love and whose purposes, like Himself, stand fast for evermore. This is that foundation both of faith and hope, which the apostle brings before our eyes and heart in the words of our text, encouraging us to hold fast our profession upon the ground of Godís immutability. "That by two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us."


In opening up these words, I shall, as the Lord may enable, direct your attention,

I.- First, to the characters spoken of: They are those "who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before them."

II.- Secondly, the strong consolation, which God has provided for them.

III.- Thirdly, the pillars, the two pillars on which this strong consolation rests; the two immutable things in which it was impossible for God to lie.

IV.-And, lastly, the nature of the hope which they have laid hold of: That it is "an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and entereth into that within the veil."

I.-The main object of the apostle in this chapter, as very much generally all through the epistle, is to strengthen and confirm the faith and hope of those whom he calls the "heirs of promise." And I may observe here, by the way, that one special feature of the epistles of the New Testament is to comfort and encourage the living family of God. They are not addressed to the world, nor was it the primary intention of the inspired apostle in writing them to call sinners out of darkness into Godís marvellous light. It should be fully and clearly understood that they were written to those already called: members of the church of Christ by spiritual regeneration, and members of visible churches by profession. But being in many points imperfectly instructed, they needed to be built up on their most holy faith. They had also to endure what the apostle calls in this epistle "a great fight of afflictions." They had to be made a gazing stock or public spectacle in the reproaches and indignities cast upon them, and even to take joyfully the spoiling of their goods, as knowing in themselves that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance. They therefore needed in every way to be strengthened and encouraged, that they might not cast away their confidence, which had great recompense of reward.

Now there was no ground of strength and encouragement more suitable for those thus situated than the faithfulness of God. It is for this reason, therefore, that the apostle is continually bringing before the church the promises made to Abraham, and Godís faithfulness in fulfilling them. Thus he speaks of "Abraham being the father of all them that believe, whether Jew or Gentile," and of our "walking in the steps of his faith, to the end that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all." Romans 4:16. Now what was the peculiar character of Abrahamís faith? It was this, that "he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully persuaded that what He had promised He was able to perform." Romans 4:20,21. He would therefore encourage the heirs of promise to rest upon the security and stability of Godís everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure, and thus manifest that they were blessed with all the blessings which were given to Abraham.

But in order to guard the subject well, to preserve the professing church of Christ from the shoal of presumption, as well as the quicksand of despair; while he would on the one hand strengthen faith and hope, and yet not encourage arrogance, boasting and vain-confidence, he takes care to point out very clearly who the characters are to whom the blessings of the gospel belong. It is this peculiar feature of describing characters, and not restricting promises to persons, which establishes a connection with us and them, and I may add, between us and the Scriptures of truth; for if we find and feel in our own bosom the characters, as I may term them, of spiritual and eternal life stamped there by the hand of God, we may take courage to believe that all the blessings of the gospel are ours, that we are true children of Abraham, and, as such, heirs of promise, and as being heirs of promise, are blessed with all the blessings of our father Abraham.

The character, then, here specially pointed out in our text, as if by the finger of God is of one who has fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before him. Let us seek, as the Lord may enable, to open and elucidate this character, for it is very descriptive as well as very comprehensive. It commences with the very beginning of the work of grace upon the soul, and follows it up almost to its completion. And admire with me the wisdom of the apostle in not setting up a high standard of experience and divine teaching, but with great condescension coming down so low as to embrace all in whom the good work is begun, and who are taught and led by the blessed Spirit out of sin and self to embrace the Lord of life and glory as set forth and revealed in the gospel.

But there are two points in the characters, which will demand our special notice:

1. their fleeing;

2. their laying hold.