Continuing with Spurgeon’s Sermon, The Immutability of God
The next aspect of God’s immutability considered by Spurgeon is that God does not changes his plans. The purpose of this section of the sermon is dissuade anyone from thinking either that God does not go through with his plans, cannot go through with his plans or does not plan. To do this, he breaks up this section of his sermon along three questions. The rhetorical structure is less complex than the previous section. There are a couple of reasons for this one. One, varying up the speed of the information and density of the structure makes it easier to listen to. The rapid fire question and assertions of the previous section would quickly become overwhelming.
A second reason for the difference in structure concerns the amount of information he is trying to cover within a short period of time. The attributes of God entails everything about God. To make this point, Spurgeon asks and asserts about many attributes in clipped demanding sentences. In this section, he is considering God’s plans. Here has only one point: God makes plans and does not change them. He is not trying to lay what sort of plans God may have; only the proposition that God does not change his plans.
Spurgeon also does not consider every possible counter argument or consideration. Again, he makes a straightforward analysis: God plans and does not change his plans. Yes, of course God makes plans. God could not plan poorly and be thwarted. Therefore, God does not change his plans.
He introduces the proposition and gives a concrete example (a man planning to build); a man may build a building, but God builds planets:
Then again, God chances not in his plans. That man began to build, but was not able to finish, and therefore he changed his plan, as every wise man would do in such a case- he built upon a smaller foundation and commenced again. But has it ever been said that God began to build but was not able to finish? Nay. When he hath boundless stores at his command, and when his own right hand would create worlds as numerous as drops of morning dew, shall he ever stay because he has not power? and reverse, or alter, or disarrange his plan, because he cannot carry it out?
This introduces a technique which Spurgeon will often use, a hypothetical objector “some”. Spurgeon anticipates a question someone in his audience may have, raises and then answers the question:
“But,” say some, “perhaps God never had a plan.” Do you think God is more foolish than yourself then, sir? Do you go to work without a plan? “No,” say you, “I have always a scheme.” So has God. Every man has his plan, and God has a plan too. God is a master-mind; he arranged everything in his gigantic intellect long before he did it- and once having settled it, mark you, he never alters it. “This shall be done,” saith he, and the iron hand of destiny marks it down, and it is brought to pass. “This is my purpose,” and it stands, nor can earth or hell alter it. “This is my decree,” saith he, promulgate it angels- rend it down from the gate of heaven ye devils; but ye cannot alter the decree; it shall be done.
He argues from analogy: if even a human has a plan, how much more God. He responds to the objection with a question which undercuts the objection. He then repeats the argument in the form of an assertion: Do you use plans? Yes. How much more God. Men plan, God plans.
But not only that: God is a “master-mind”. God’s plans come to fruition and do not change. In fact, nothing could change it. The last bit reinforces the overall proposition of the section: God does not alter his plans.
Spurgeon could have raised any number of other objections than this argument. I don’t know why this particular objection seemed appropriate to him at this time.
We then come to the final third of this section of his argument: Why are even asking this question about God changing his plans. If God does plan, then what could stop it (this picks up on the last sentence – not even Hell could stop him. But here he pivots a bit: God does not have any lack which would cause him to alter his plans: he lacks neither intellect nor power.
God altereth not his plans; why should he? He is Almighty, and therefore can perform his pleasure. Why should he? He is the All-wise, and therefore cannot have planned wrongly. Why should he? He is the everlasting God, and therefore cannot die before his plan is accomplished. Why should he change?
He ends with a coda and interim application: How different is the enteral God from us. God will never change his plan — and what is his plan: to save me (which is a comfort):
Ye worthless atoms of existence, ephemera of the day! ye creeping insects upon this bay-leaf of existence! ye may change your plans, but he shall never, never change his. Then has he told me that his plan is to save me? If so, I am safe.
He concludes with a stanza from a hymn
“My name from the palms of his hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impress’d on his heart it remains,
In marks of indelible grace.”
By ending with a hymn known to the congregation, he solidifies this point in their hearts. They could even begin to hum the words to themselves as he spoke. This form of writing where someone stops to accentuate a point was quite common in the 19th Century. When I have seen done in sermons, it most often comes across as stilted and awkard. If you are going to quote a poem, be familiar with the text; practice saying it aloud. There is a great beauty in quoting some lines if it is done well. When it is done poorly, it loses the emotional benefit and just sound uncomfortable.
This hymn is “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” by Toplady:
A debtor to mercy alone, Of covenant mercy I sing; Nor fear, with Thy righteousness on, My person and offering to bring. The terrors of law and of God With me can have nothing to do; My Savior’s obedience and blood Hide all my transgressions from view
2. The work which His goodness began, The arm of His strength will complete; His promise is yea and amen, And never was forfeited yet. Things future, nor things that are now, Not all things below nor above Can make Him His purpose forego, Or sever my soul from His love.
3. My name from the palms of His hands Eternity will not erase; Impressed on His heart it remains In marks of indelible grace. Yes, I to the end shall endure, As sure as the earnest is given More happy, but not more secure, The glorified spirits in heaven.