This is again from “The Immutability of God” , volume 1, sermon 1, the Parkstreet Pulpit. This continues at the next paragraph.
When Spurgeon comes to the next section he enlists a completely different rhetorical strategy. In this section he uses a series of repetitions at the beginning of the lines.
First, he announces the proposition:
He changes not in his attributes.
He then expands the original proposition. But note that he does not merely repeat it, but it adds some new information.
Whatever the attributes of God were of old, that they are now; and of each of them we may sing ’As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.
To underscore the point, he quotes from a familiar hymn:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son:
and to the Holy Ghost;
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be:
world without end. Amen.
Thus, the proposition attaches to something the hearer already knows. Having established the proposition, he then sets forth a series of questions which make the abstraction real:
Was he powerful?
Was he the mighty God when he spake the world out of the womb of non-existence?
Was he the Omnipotent when he piled the mountains and scooped out the hollow places for the rolling deep?
He asks three questions, which all have the implied answer “Yes”. Each question has a varied length but all questions can be said in a single breath (albeit with varied speed of speech). Note also have concrete he makes the second two question. The world comes from a womb. When it comes to mountains, he scoops them out of hollow places There is a concrete, tangible action in the physical world.
Then to avoid tedium, he makes a series of direct propositions:
Yes, he was powerful then,
and his arm is unpalsied now;
he is the same giant in his might;
the sap of his nourishment is undried,
and the strength of his soul stands the same for ever.
In this section he uses alliteration to balance the lines in sound (just as they are balanced in thought). Not the “powerful” and “unpalsied”. Then notice the “s” which ties the next lines together: “same”, “sap” “nourishment”, “strength” “soul” “stands” “same”.
We could also look at these lines as having (almost) the structure of Old English poetry (four beats, alliteration and a major pause in the middle of the lien”
Yes, he was Powerful then, and his Arm is unPalsied now
He is the Same Giant in his Might, the Sap of his Nourishment undried
And the Strength of his Soul Stand the Same forever
Spurgeon then returns to the question
Was he wise when he constituted this mighty globe,
when he laid the foundations of the universe?
Had he wisdom when he planned the way of our salvation,
and when from all eternity he marked out his awful plans?
Notice that these two questions are balanced by both having a second half of the question which begins with the word “when”.
Again following the pattern above, he answers with a “Yes”.
he is wise now
he is not less skillful,
he has not less knowledge,
his eye which seeth all things is undimned,
his ear which heareth all the cries,
sighs sobs, and groans of his people,
is not rendered heavy by the years which he hath heard their prayers.
There are three “he” and two “his”. The final line is far longer and thus signals that he has come to the end of the section.
Spurgeon now turns to a different section which repeat a propositional structure built around “he is unchanged”.
The first section contains an initial clause “he is unchanged” and three subordinate clauses which explicate the original line:
He is unchanged in his wisdom;
he knows as much now as ever, neither more nor less;
he has the same consummate skill, and the same infinite forecastings.
He is unchanged, blessed be his name, in his justice.
Notice also the relationship between this section and the preceding section. Both work upon the idea of God’s wisdom. The first section emphasizes God has skill: which is an aspect of wisdom. The skill of God expends to specific action: seeing, hearing. The second section returns to “wisdom” but emphasizes the intellectual aspect of knowing. This little section begins and ends with the same phrase “He is unchanged”.
The final unchanged aspect is “justice”, which Spurgeon turns into its own couplet:
Just and holy was he in the past,
just and holy is he now.
Then he turns to truth, which is spoken. Thus, he begins with the general “truth”, provides a concrete aspect, “promise”; provides a fulfillment; and then repeats a line at the end which summarizes and emphasizes the aspect:
He is unchanged in his truth;-
he has promised,
and he brings it to pass;
he hath said it, and it shall be done.
He then turns to the a three line section on goodness:
He varies not in the goodness,
and benevolence of his nature.
He next applies what this means:
He is not become an Almighty tyrant,
whereas he was once an Almighty Father;
but his strong love stands like a granite rock,
unmoved by the hurricanes of our iniquity.
His goodness means we are not consumed: he is a gracious father. He turns that love and patience into a remarkable image: His love is a granite rock and our sin is a hurricane of iniquity. His love cannot be altered by the monster of our sin.
He ends at last with the emphatic application of God’s love:, the sending of His Son to die. This is really a remarkable section, because it makes the love of God concrete: it stands in a covenant, ratified by His Son’s cruel death.
And blessed be his dear name, he is unchanged in his love.
When he first wrote the covenant, how full his heart was with affection to his people.
He knew that his Son must die to ratify the articles of that agreement.
He knew right well that he must rend his best beloved from his bowels,
and send him down to earth to bleed and die.
He did not hesitate to sign that mighty covenant;
nor did he shun its fulfillment.
He loves as much now as he did then;
and when suns shall cease to shine,
and moons to show their feeble light,
he still shall love on for ever and for ever.
He ends and emphasizes the point by using the same beginning emphasis, but by using a different phrase “Take any one”
Take any one attribute of God,
and I will write semper idem on it (always the same.)
Take any one thing you can say of God now,
and it may be said not only in the dark past,
but in the bright future it shall always remain the same: “I am Jehovah, I change not.”
How then could someone do this who was not Spurgeon? First, there is the initial proposition: God is immutable. Okay, in what ways is God immutable? You then make a list, and on that list of immutabilities is “God’s attributes”. What then are the attributes of God? Or we could ask, How did Spurgeon come up wit this list?
Q: What is God?
A: God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
Compare that list and order to Spurgeon’s sermon. How would the average preacher work through those aspects?
The first word here is “being”, being comes from the Greek ….. At which point the congregation knows they are in for a poorly constructed lecture designed to prove to the congregation the pastor has studied — a lot — and does nothing to make them care. Spurgeon quotes a song. He then takes the rest of the attributes and provides some concrete instance.
This would be a good exercise: What is a concrete example of the impossibilities of God? What is infinite? Maybe you would quote a math definition. But before you do that, how does the Scripture convey the idea of God’s immensity such that the writers of the Westminster Confession come up with that list? How does the Bible describe wisdom? How does it describe God’s wisdom or power? Take a look through the Psalms or Job. You will be given specific concrete images of God’s wisdom, power, holiness et cetera. Use those images.
How do you know when to answer questions and when to ask? You listen — it takes a trained ear. How did Spurgeon gain an intuitive grasp of when to shift, how many questions to ask, et cetera? He read a great deal and listened to the movement of the language. By the way, very little contemporary writing will provide any good sense of the right use of language — and the theology books provided to seminary students often seemed as if they had been written for the sole purpose of tormenting the English language and making the greatest glory of all the ages dull (I have thrown books at the wall in disgust and anger at how a teacher could make such wonders annoying.)