III. We now come to the circumference, wherein is a distinction of three times; past, present, future. Tempora mutantur: the times change, the circumference wheels about, but the centre is ‘the same forever.’
We must resolve this triplicity into a triplicity. Christ is the same according to these three distinct terms, three distinct ways:— 1. Objective, in word; 2. Subjective, in his power; 3. Effective, in his gracious operation.
1. Objectively.—Jesus Christ is the same in his word; and that (1) Yesterday in pre-ordination; (2) To-day in incarnation; (3) Forever in application.
(1.) Yesterday in pre-ordination.—So St Peter, in his sermon, tells the Jews, that ‘he was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God,’ Acts 2:23. And in his epistle, that ‘he was verily preordained before the foundation of the world,’ 1 Pet. 1:20. He is called the ‘Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,’ Rev. 13:8. Prius profuit, quam fuit (Before something can work, it must exist). His prophets did foretell him, the types did prefigure him, God himself did promise him. Ratus ordo Dei: the decree of God is constant.
Much comfort I must here leave to your meditation. If God preordained a Saviour for man, before he had either made man, or man marred himself, —as Paul to Timothy, ‘He hath saved us according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,’ 2 Tim. 1:9;—then surely he meant that nothing should separate us from his eternal love in that Saviour, Rom. 8:39. Quos elegit increatos, redemit perditos, non deseret redemptos. Whom he chose before they were created, and when they were lost redeemed, he will not forsake while they are being sanctified.
(2.) To-day in incarnation.—’When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son made of a woman,’ Gal. 4:4. ‘The Word was made flesh’ John 1:14; which was, saith Emissenus, Non deposita, sed seposita, majestate (Not putting away but putting aside majesty). Thus he became younger than his mother, who was as eternal as his Father. He was yesterday God before all worlds, he is now made man in the world. Sanguinem, quem pro matre obtulit, antea de sanguine matris accepit. (Eusebius) The blood that he shed for his mother, he had from his mother. The same Eusebius, on the ninth of Isaiah, acutely, ‘Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given,’ Isa. 9:6. He was Datus ex Divinitate, natus ex virgine. Datus est qui erat; natus est qui non erat. He was given of the Deity, born of the Virgin. He that was given, was before; he, as born, was not before; Donum dedit Deus aequale sibi: God gave a gift equal to himself.
So he is the same yesterday and to-day, objectively in his word. Idem qui velatus in veteri, revelatus in novo. (That which was in the old concealed, is in the new revealed.) In illo praedictus, in isto praedicatus. Yesterday prefigured in the law, to-day the same manifested in the gospel.
(3.) Forever in application. He doth continually by his Spirit apply to our consciences the virtue of his death and passion. ‘As many as receive him, to them gives he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,’ John 1:12. ‘By one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified,’ Heb. 10:14. This is sure comfort to us; though he died almost 1629 years ago, his blood is not yet dry. His wounds are as fresh to do us good, as they were to those saints that beheld them bleeding on the cross. The virtue of his merits is not abated, though many hands of faith have taken large portions out of his treasury. The river of his grace, ‘which makes glad the city of God,’ runs over its banks, though infinite souls have drank hearty draughts, and satisfied their thirst. But because we cannot apprehend this for ourselves of ourselves, therefore he hath promised to send us the `Spirit of truth, who will dwell with us,’ John 14:17, and apply this to us forever. Thus you have seen the first triplicity, how he is the same objectively in his word. Now he is—
2. Subjectively, in his power the same; and that (1) Yesterday, for he made the world; (2) To-day, for he governs the world; (3) Forever, for he shall judge the world.
(1.) Yesterday in the creation. ‘All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made,’ John 1:3. ‘By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him,’ Col. 1:16. All things, even the great and fair book of the world, of three so large leaves, coelum, solum, salum; heaven, earth, and sea. The prophet calls him ‘the everlasting Father,’ Isa. 9:6; Daniel, the ‘Ancient of days,’ Dan. 7:9. Solomon says, that ‘the Lord possessed him in the beginning of his way, before his works of old,’ Prov. 8:22. So himself told the unbelieving Jews,
‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ John 8:58.
We owe, then, ourselves to Christ for our creation; but how much more for our redemption? Si totum me debeo pro me facto, quid addam jam pro me refecto? In primo opere me mihi dedit: in secundo se mihi dedit. (Bernard) If I owe him my whole self for making me, what have I left to pay him for redeeming me? In the first work, he gave myself to me; in the second, he gave himself to me. By a double right, we owe him ourselves; we are worthy of a double punishment, if we give him not his own.
(2.) To-day in the governing. ‘He upholdeth all things by the word of his power,’ Heb. 1:3. He is pater familias (the ruler of the family), and disposeth all things in this universe with greater care and providence than any householder can manage the business of his private family. He leaves it not, as the carpenter having built the frame of an house, to others to perfect it, but looks to it himself. His creation and providence are like the mother and the nurse, the one produceth, the other preserveth. His creation was a short providence; his providence a perpetual creation. The one sets up the frame of the house, the other keeps it in repair.
Neither is this a disparagement to the majesty of God, as the vain Epicures imagined, curare minima, to regard the least things, but rather an honour, curare infinita, to regard all things. Neither doth this extend only to natural things, chained together by a regular order of succession, but even to casual and contingent things. Oftentimes, cum aliud volumus, aliud agimus (though we intend one thing we do another), the event crosseth our purpose; which must content us, though it fa1l out otherwise than we purposed, because God purposed as it is fallen out. It is enough that the thing attain its own end, though it miss ours; that God’s will be done, though ours be crossed.
But let me say, Hath God care of fowls and flowers, and will he not care for you, his own image? Matt. 6:26-30. Yea, let me go further; hath God care of the wicked? Doth be pour down the happy influences of heaven on the ‘unjust man’s ground?’ Matt. 5:45. And shall the faithful go without his blessing? Doth he provide for the sons of Belial, and shall his own children lack? He may give meat and raiment to the rest, but his bounty to Benjamin shall exceed. If Moab, his wash-pot, should taste of his benefits, then Judah, the signet on his finger, cannot be forgotten. The king governs all the subjects in his dominions, but his servants that wait in his court partake of his most princely favours. God heals the sores of the very wicked; but if it be told him, ‘Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick,’ (John 11:3), it is enough, he shall be healed. The wicked may have outward blessings without inward, and that is Esau’s pottage without his birthright; but the elect have inward blessings, though they lack outward, and that is Jacob’s inheritance without his pottage.
(3.) Forever: because he shall judge the world. ‘God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained,’ Acts 17:31. ‘In the day that God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ,’ Rom. 2:16. Let the wicked flatter themselves that all is but talk of any coming to judgment; all is but terriculamenta nutricum, mere scare-babes. Scribarum pennee mendaces; they have written lies, there is no such matter. But when they shall see that Lamb ‘whom they have pierced’ and scorned (Rev. 1:7), ‘they shall cry to the mountains and rocks, Fall upon us, and cover us,’ Rev. 6:16. Now they flatter themselves with his death; Mortuus est, he is dead and gone; and Mortuum Caesarem quis metuit? Who fears even a Caesar when he is dead? But ‘He that was dead, liveth; behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen,’ Rev. 1:18. Jesus Christ, yesterday, and to-day, and forever.’ Quaesitor scelerum veniet, vindexque reorum. (The Judge of wickedness will come and punishment will be done.)
Here is matter of infallible comfort to us: ‘Lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh,’ Luke 21:28. Here we are imprisoned, martyred, tortured; but when that great assize and general jail-delivery comes, mors non erit ultra, ‘There shall be no more death nor sorrow, but all tears shall be wiped from our eyes,’ Rev. 21:4. ‘For it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you. And to you who are troubled, rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels,’ 2 Thess. 1:6, 7. We shall then find him the same;—the same Lamb that bought us shall give us a Venite beati, Come, ye blessed, receive your kingdom.’ ‘Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus,’ Rev. 22:20.