Tag Archives: James 1:17

“Our safety lieth in God’s immutability” by Thomas Manton

“The Lord is unchangeable in holiness and glory. He is a sun that shineth always with a like brightness.

God, and all that is in God, is unchangeable; for this is an attribute that, like a silken string through a chain of pearl, runneth through all the rest:

His mercy is unchangeable, ‘His mercy endureth forever,’ (Ps. 100:5).

So His strength, and therefore He is called ‘The Rock of ages,’ (Isa. 36:4).

So His counsel, Mutat sententiam, sed non decretum (as Bradwardine); He may change His sentence, the outward threatening or promise, but not His inward decree; He may will a change, but not change His will.

So His love is immutable; His heart is the same to us in the diversity of outward conditions: we are changed in estate and opinion, but God, He is not changed.

Well, then,—

1. The more mutable you are, the less you are like God. Oh! how should you loathe yourselves when you are so fickle in your purposes, so changeable in your resolutions!

God is immutably holy, but you have a heart that loveth to wander. He is always the same, but you are soon removed, (Gal. 1:6); ‘soon shaken in mind,’(2 Thess. 2:2); whirried with every blast, (Eph. 4:14), borne down with every new emergency and temptation.

The more you do ‘continue in the good that you have learned and been assured of,’ (2 Tim. 3:14), the more do you resemble the divine perfection.

2. Go to Him to establish and settle your spirits. God, that is unchangeable in Himself, can bring you into an immutable estate of grace, against which all the gates of hell cannot prevail; therefore be not quiet, till you have gotten such gifts from him as are without repentance, the fruits of eternal grace, and the pledges of eternal glory.

3. Carry yourselves to Him as unto an immutable good; in the greatest change of things see Him always the same: when there is little in the creature, there is as much in God as ever: (Ps. 102:26-27), ‘They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; they shall all wax old as a garment: Thou art the same for ever, and Thy years have no end.’

All creatures vanish, not only like a piece of cloth, but like a garment. Cloth would rot of itself, or be eaten out by moths; but a garment is worn and wasted every day.

But God doth not change; there is no wrinkle upon the brow of eternity; the arm of mercy is not dried up, nor do His bowels of love waste and spend themselves.

And truly this is the church’s comfort in the saddest condition, that however the face of the creatures be changed to them, God will be still the same. It is said somewhere, that ‘the name of God is as an ointment poured out.’ (Song of Solomon 1:3)

Certainly this name of God’s immutability is as an ointment poured out, the best cordial to refresh a fainting soul. When the Israelites were in distress, all the letters of credence that God would give Moses were those, (Exod. 3:14), ‘I AM that I AM hath sent me unto you.’

That was comfort enough to the Israelites, that their God remained in the same tenor and glory of the divine essence; He could still say I AM. With God is no change, no past or present; He remaineth in the same indivisible point of eternity; and therefore saith, I AM.

So the prophet (Malachi 3:6), ἔγω κύριος, οὐκ ἠλλοίωμαι, ‘I am the Lord, that change not’ (or am not changed); ‘therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’

Our safety lieth in God’s immutability; we cannot perish utterly, because He cannot change.”

–Thomas Manton, “Commentary on the Epistle of James,” The Works of Thomas Manton, Vol. 4 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1871/2020), 4: 113-114. Manton is commenting on James 1:17.

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“God’s goodness is His glory” by Stephen Charnock

“The goodness of God is the most pleasant perfection of the Divine nature.

His creating power amazes us. His conducting wisdom astonisheth us. His goodness, as furnishing us with all conveniences, delights us and renders both His amazing power, and astonishing wisdom, delightful to us.

Just as the sun, by effecting things, is an emblem of God’s power, so also by discovering things to us, it is an emblem of His wisdom. But by refreshing and comforting us, the sun is an emblem of His goodness.

And without this refreshing virtue it communicates to us, we should take no pleasure in the creatures it produceth, nor in the beauties it discovers.

As God is great and powerful, He is the object of our understanding. But as good and bountiful, He is the object of our love and desire.

The goodness of God comprehends all His attributes. All the acts of God are nothing else but the streams of His goodness, distinguished by several names, according to the objects it is exercised about.

As the sea, though it be one mass of water, yet we distinguish it by several names, according to the shores it washeth, and beats upon. When Moses longed to see His glory, God tells him, He would give him a prospect of His goodness (Ex. 33:19): ‘I will make all My goodness to pass before thee.’

His goodness is His glory and Godhead, as much as is delightfully visible to His creatures, and whereby He doth benefit man: ‘I will cause My goodness,’ or ‘comeliness,’ as Calvin renders it, ‘to pass before thee.’

What is this, but the train of all His lovely perfections springing from His goodness? The whole catalogue of mercy, grace, long-suffering, abundance of truth, summed up in this one word (Ex. 34:6). All are streams from this fountain. He could be none of this, were He not first good.

When it confers happiness without merit, it is grace.

When it bestows happiness against merit, it is mercy.

When he bears with provoking rebels, it is long-suffering.

When he performs His promise, it is truth.

When it meets with a person to whom it is not obliged, it is grace.

When He meets with a person in the world, to which He hath obliged himself by promise, it is truth.

When it commiserates a distressed person, it is pity.

When it supplies an indigent person, it is bounty.

When it succors an innocent person, it is righteousness.

And when it pardons a penitent person, it is mercy. All summed up in this one name of goodness.

And the Psalmist expresseth the same sentiment in the same words (Psalm 145:7, 8): ‘They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great mercy; the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over his works.’

He is first good, and then compasssionate. Righteousness is often in Scripture taken, not for justice, but charitableness. This attribute, saith one, is so full of God, that it doth deify all the rest, and verify the adorableness of Him.

His wisdom might contrive against us, His power bear too hard upon us. One might be too hard for an ignorant, and the other too mighty for an impotent creature.

His holiness would scare an impure and guilty creature, but His goodness conducts them all for us, and makes them all amiable to us.

Whatever comeliness they have in the eye of a creature, whatever comfort they afford to the heart of a creature, we are obliged for all to His goodness. This puts all the rest upon a delightful exercise.

This makes His wisdom design for us, and this makes His power to act for us. This veils His holiness from affrighting us, and this spirits His mercy to relieve us.

All His acts towards man, are but the workmanship of this. What moved Him at first to create the world out of nothing, and erect so noble a creature as man, endowed with such excellent gifts? Was it not His goodness?

What made Him separate His Son to be a sacrifice for us, after we had endeavored to erase the first marks of His favor? Was it not a strong bubbling of goodness?

What moves Him to reduce a fallen creature to the due sense of his duty, and at last bring him to an eternal felicity? Is it not, only His goodness?

This is the captain attribute that leads the rest to act. This attends them, and spirits them in all His ways of acting. This is the complement and perfection of all His works.

Had it not been for this, which set all the rest on work, nothing of His wonders would have been seen in creation, nothing of His compassions would have been seen in redemption.”

–Stephen Charnock, “Discourse XII: On the Goodness of God,” in The Existence and Attributes of God, Vol. 2 (Robert Carter & Brothers, 1853), 219-220.

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