In the Immutability of God, Spurgeon first speaks in great praise about the immutability of God. Rather than merely saying that this is something which should excite you, he speaks in such a way, using a combination of concrete imagery and a variety of rhetorical forms of repetition (for an excellent discussion of rhetoric, and these figures see http://rhetoric.byu.edu), “Repetition is a major rhetorical strategy for producing emphasis, clarity, amplification, or emotional effect.” (You will notice such repetition on occasion, but it is usually quite stilted in the mouth of preacher — you get the sort of feeling that he is wearing someone else’s clothes and he’s terribly afraid he’ll be found out.)
But having concluded with his praise of God’s immutability, Spurgeon now raises the implicit question — is this true:
Thus having taken a great deal too much time, perhaps, in simply expanding the thought of an unchanging God, I will now try to prove that he is unchangeable, I am not much of an argumentative preacher, but one argument that I will mention is this: the very existence, and being of a God, seem to me to imply immutability.
Here is his proposition: if there is a God, then such a God must be immutable. His argument here seems to derive from Charnock’s The Existence and Attributes of God, in the chapter “On the Immutability of God” (To be fair, his first section roughly tracks Charnock’s discussion of the subject. There is certainly nothing approaching copying between Spurgeon and Charnock — but rather Spurgeon makes good use of Charnock’s masterwork and turns into propositions which could be understood from a pulpit.)
His first argument is really no more complicated that it doesn’t even make sense to say one could be God and one could change — anymore than one could be a married bachelor.
Or here is the second argument raised by Spurgeon:
Well, I think that one argument will be enough, but another good argument may be found in the fact of God’s perfection. I believe God to be a perfect being. Now, if he is a perfect being, he cannot change. Do you not see this? Suppose I am perfect to-day. If it were possible for me to change, should I be perfect tomorrow after the alteration? If I changed, I must either change from a good state to a better — and then if I could get better, I could not be perfect now-or else from a better state to a worse-and if I were worse, I should not be perfect then. If I am perfect, I cannot be altered without being imperfect. If I am perfect to-day, I must keep the same to-morrow if I am to be perfect then. So, if God is perfect, he must be the same- for change would imply imperfection now, or imperfection then.
He takes a very narrow idea: if something is perfect, it cannot be more perfect. If it could be more perfect then it wouldn’t be perfect now. This is the second argument raised by Charnock for the proof of God’s immutability, “If God were changeable, he could not be the most perfect Being.” And lest anyone think that Spurgeon was merely cribbing from Charnock it is only fair to compare Spuregon’s summary with Charnock’s original
If God were changeable, he could not be the most perfect Being. God is the most perfect Being, and possesses in himself infinite and essential goodness (Matt, v, 48): “Your heavenly Father is perfect.” If he could change from that perfection, he were not the highest exemplar and copy for us to write after. If God doth change, it must be either to a greater perfection than he had before, or to a less, mutatio ‘perfectiva vel amissiva; if he changes to acquire a perfection he had not, then he was not before the most excellent Being; necessarily, he was not what he might be; there was a defect in him, and a privation of that which is better than what he had and was; and then he was not alway the best, and so was not alway God; and being not alway God, could never be God; for to begin to be God is against the notion of God; not to a less perfection than he had; that were to change to imperfection, and to lose a perfection which he possessed before, and cease to be the best Being; for he would lose some good which he had, and acquire some evil which he was free from before. so that the sovereign perfection of God is an invincible bar to any change in him; for which way soever you cast it for a change, his supreme excellency is impaired and nulled by it: for in all change there is something from which a thing is changed, and something to which it is changed; so that on the one part there is a loss of what it had, and on the other part there is an acquisition of what it had not. If to the better, he was not perfect, and so was not God; if to the worse, he will not be perfect, and so be no longer God after that change. If God be changed, his change must be voluntary or necessary; if voluntary, he then intends the change for the better, and chose it to acquire a perfection by it; the will must be carried out to anything under the notion of some goodness in that which it desires. Since good is the object of the desire and will of the creature, evil cannot be the object of the desire and will of the Creator. And if he should be changed for the worse, when he did really intend the better, it would speak a defect of wisdom, and a mistake of that for good which was evil and imperfect in itself; and if it be for the better, it must be a motion or change for something without himself; that which he desireth is not possessed by himself, but by some other. there is, then, some good without him and above him, which is the end in this change; for nothing acts but for some end, and that end is within itself or without itself; if the end for which God changes be without himself, then there is something better than himself: besides, if he were voluntarily changed for the better, why did he not change before? If it were for want of power, he had the imperfection of weakness; if for want of knowledge of what was the best good, he had the imperfection of wisdom, he was ignorant of his own happiness; if he had both wisdom to know it, and power to effect it, it must be for want of will; he then wanted that love to himself and his own glory, which is necessary in the Supreme Being. Voluntarily he could not be changed for the worse, he could not be such an enemy to his own glory; there is nothing but would hinder its own imperfection and becoming worse. Necessarily he could not be changed, for that necessity must arise from himself, and then the difficulties spoken of before will recur, or it must arise from another; he cannot be bettered by another, because nothing hath any good but what it hath received from the hands of his bounty, and that without loss to himself, nor made worse; if anything made him worse, it would be sin, but that cannot touch his essence or obscure his glory, but in the design and nature of the sin itself (Job xxxv. 6, 7): “If thou sinnest, what dost thou against him? or if thy transgressions be multiplied, what dost thou unto him? if thou be righteous, what givest thou him; or what receives he at thy hand?” He hath no addition by the service of man, no more than the sun hath of light by a multitude of torches kindled on the earth; nor any more impair by the sins of men, than the light of the sun hath by men’s shooting arrows against it.
Spurgeon’s summary and reworking of Charnock on this point demonstrates that Spurgeon had ingested Charnock, and understood the argument well enough to teach it. He didn’t merely read Charnock, he taught Charnock.
I am going to compare this simplicity in argumentation with the rigor and logic of Manton’s preaching.