I. The Attributes of God.

The attributes of God are distinguished by Theologians under a variety of classifications.

1. Negative and Positive Attributes.

Distinctions are sometimes made between the “negative” and “positive” attributes. The Negative Attributes are such as remove from God whatever is imperfect in creatures—since God is not finite, mutable and mortal, so He is infinite, immutable and immortal. The Positive, or Affirmative Attributes, are such as assert a perfection in God, which is in and of Himself—if these attributes are in any measure true of the creatures, such as wisdom, goodness, justice, holiness, &c., they are derived from God. Some discard this classification of attributes, for though it is easier to say what God is not, than what He is, yet in all negative attributes, some positive excellency is found.

2. Essential and Analogical Attributes.

Another arrangement is to distribute the attributes into a “twofold order”—the first and second. The essential properties of the “first order”, declare the essence of God as in Himself, such as His simplicity, perfection, infinity and immutability. These perfections are not found in the creatures. The essential properties of the “second order”, declare the essence of God as in Himself, but are also found in the creatures, such as life, immortality, blessedness and glory. It is said that these attributes of the “second order” are found in creatures in an analogical sense, but are in a more excellent manner primarily, properly, naturally and infinitely in God.

3. Absolute and Relative Attributes.

The divine perfections are at other times distinguished between “absolute” and “negative” attributes. The Absolute Attributes are such as eternally agree with the essence of God, without respect to His creatures—these are expressed by His names, Jehovah, Jah, &c. The Relative Attributes are such as agree with God in time, with some certain respect to His creatures—these are expressed by His being their Creator, Governor, Preserver, Redeemer, &c.

4. Proper and Figurative Attributes.

Some have distinguished the attributes as “proper” and “figurative”. The Proper Attributes are those concrete perfections afore mentioned—infinity, immutability, wisdom, goodness, justice, &c. The Figurative Attributes are signified by the parts of the human body, and the affections of the mind, &c.—hand, finger, eyes, ears, heart, &c.

5. Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes.

The more commonly received distinction of the divine perfections, is, into the “communicable” and “incommunicable” attributes. The Incommunicable Attributes are such as there is no appearance or shadow of them in creatures—independence, immutability, immensity and eternity. The Communicable Attributes are such as are true of God, and also have some resemblance in men—goodness, holiness, justice and wisdom. However, of these it may be said, that they are incommunicable, inasmuch as they are in God infinitely, and cannot in this sense be communicated to finite creatures—none but God is essentially, originally, underivatively, perfectly and infinitely good, holy, just and wise.

6. Characteristics Attributed to God as a Spirit.

Another less common way of distinguishing between the attributes of God is to identify them in connection with that definition given of God in John 4:24: “God is a Spirit”. It is in this way I shall endeavour to arrange the divine perfections and attributes. (1) God, as a Spirit, is Uncreated—He is therefore spiritual, simple, immutable, infinite, immense, omnipresent and eternal; (2) God, as a Spirit, is Active—He is therefore living and omnipotent; (3) God, as a Spirit, is Rational—He is therefore omniscient and wise; (4) God, as a Spirit, is Volitional—He is therefore sovereign in all His acts; (5) God, as a Spirit, is Affectionate—He is therefore loving, gracious, merciful, patient, long suffering, as well as hating and angry; (6) God, as a Spirit, is Virtuous—He is therefore good, holy, just, true and faithful; (7) God, as a Spirit, is Majestic—it is this which complements the whole, and declares Him to be perfect, all-sufficient, glorious and blessed. It is in this order I shall proceed to consider the attributes of God.

II. The Immutability of God.

The Immutability of God is closely connected with His spirituality and simplicity—it is that which is necessary to Him as a spiritual, simple and uncompounded Being. As the spirituality and simplicity of God have already been considered in the second chapter, “The Nature of God”, we shall now look at His immutability.

1. The Meaning of God’s Immutability.

Immutability is an attribute claimed by God, and peculiar to Himself—Malachi 3:6: “I am the Lord, I change not”. Whereas mutability belongs to creatures, immutability belongs only to God—creatures change, but He does not. Consider,

(1) The Heavens and the Earth are Mutable.

While the heavens and the earth are not always the same, yet He who made them “is the same for ever”.

1. The Heavens.

This change is evident in the visible heavens. The sky is sometimes clear and bright, and at other times covered with clouds and darkness; sometimes it is serene and calm, and at other times filled with meteors, snow, rain and hail.

2. The Earth.

The face of the earth is also subject to vast changes. Its appearance is different at various seasons of the year, and is particularly renewed every spring. Not only has it undergone one great change by a flood, but will undergo another by fire—2 Peter 3:10-13: “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up…wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat…” Whereupon, a “new heavens” and a “new earth” shall succeed, which clearly demonstrates the opposing nature between the changeableness of the world and the unchangeableness of God—Psalm 102:25-27: “Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”

3. The Sun.

The sun in the firmament is not without its variations. It has its parallaxes, or various appearances, at morning, noon and evening. It never rises and sets at the same point in the heavens one day of the year, but always varies a little. At certain seasons of the year, it passes from one tropic, and enters into another, as well as casts shadows on the earth. Now, God is compared to this great luminary, and fountain of light and heat, and is called “the Father of lights”. However, “with” God “is no variableness”, or parallax; with God there is “no shadow of turning”, of a trope, or tropic—there is no mutation nor turning in Him, nor any shadow. (Js 1:17; Job 23:13)

(2) The Inhabitants of the Heavens and the Earth are Mutable.

Consider the changeableness of the most excellent of all the creatures—angels and men.

1. The Angelic Host.

In their original nature and state, angels were subject to change. This is evident by the apostasy of a great company of the heavenly body—both their state and place were changed. They “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation”, being obliged to the latter, because of the former. Having sinned against God, they were hurled out of heaven, and “cast down to hell, and delivered into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (Jude 6; 2 Pet 2:4). And, even the angels which stood when the rest fell are subject to change. For, although they have now become impeccable, and firmly settled in their state of integrity, yet this is not owing to their own nature, but to the electing grace of God, in Christ, and to the confirming grace of Christ, their head, who is the “head of all principality and power” (1 Tim 5:21; Col 2:10).

2. The Human Race.

First, man, at his very best estate—his estate of innocence, and integrity—was “altogether vanity”.

For although he was not sinful, yet being mutable, and left to the mutability of his will, fell into sin when tempted—(1) Although made upright, he lost the rectitude of his nature; (2) Although made after the image of God, he soon came short of that glory; (3) Although given dominion over the creatures, he abode not long, but became like those he had the power over; (4) And, although placed in the most delightful and fruitful spot in all the globe, yet after rebelling against his Maker and Benefactor, was driven out from thence by Him.

Second, man, subsequent to his sin, is made subject to innumerable changes in life.

(1) Physical Affairs—diseases of various kinds seize his body, changing his beauty and strength, and death at last turns him to corruption and dust. He is like the changeable grass of the field—flourishing for a while, but is then cut down, and withers away; (2) Spiritual Affairs—those born of the Spirit are subject to great change in the frames of their minds, in the affections of their souls, in the exercise of grace, in their devotion and obedience to God, and in their worship of Him; (3) Temporal Affairs—just consider the mutability of Job, in his estate, family, health and friends. Well might he say, “changes and war are against me” (Job 10:17), and at length came to his great and last change, death; (4) Eternal Affairs—in the future state, the elect of God will be no more subject to change. Their spirits will be made perfect—they will sin no more, neither shall they sorrow any more; their bodies, when raised, will remain immortal, incorruptible, spiritual, powerful and glorious. However, this immutability in their future state is to be credited to the unchangeable grace and power of God, and not to the inherent nature of man. Indeed, God only is in and of Himself immutable—He is unchangeable in His nature, perfections, purposes, covenant, blessings, promises, love to His people and threatenings to His enemies. God and His “word endure for ever” the same (1 Pet 1:24,25).

2. The Characteristics of God’s Immutability.

(1) God is Immutable in His Nature and Essence.

1. The Doctrine Affirmed.

(1) The Immutability of God is Affirmed by His Simplicity.

It has afore been proved (see chapter 2) that the nature and essence of God is “simple”—that is, He is devoid of all composition. And, since the more simple and free from mixture and composition anything is, the less subject to change. Take, for instance, gold and silver—these are the purest and freest of all metals from composition, and are not so alterable as others. Again, consider the human constitution—as the soul is uncompounded, not consisting of parts, so it is not so changeable as the body. Henceforth, since God is an infinite and uncreated Spirit, and therefore free from composition in every sense, so He is entirely and perfectly immutable. From this truth proceeds a strong argument for the immutability of God: If any change is made in Him, it must be either from somewhat within Him, or from somewhat without Him. First, if from within, He must consist of parts. There must be “another” and “another” in Him—the one which is active, working upon the other, and the other which is passive, who is wrought upon. This scenario necessarily denies the “simplicity” of God’s essence. A Jew well argues this point—(1) what necessarily exists of itself, has no other cause by which it can be changed; (2) nor can that which changes, and that which is changed, be together; (3) for so there would be in it two: one which changes, and another which is changed, and so would be compounded. Henceforth, there can be no change made in God, from something or someone within Him, for He is an uncompounded Being. Second, if from without, then there must be a superior to Him—someone who is able to move and change Him. But He is the most high God, and there is none in heaven nor in earth above Him. Henceforth, there can be no change made in Him, from something or someone without Him, for He is “God over all, blessed for ever”.

(2) The Immutability of God is Affirmed by His Eternity.

Since God is eternal, there can be no change of time with Him. Time only belongs to a creature, which is the measure of its duration. Time only began when a creature began to be, and not before. But since God is before all creatures, as they are made by Him, so He is before time. He was the same before the day was as now, and now as He was before—”even the same today, yesterday, and for ever”. Although He is “the ancient of days”, He does not become older and older. God is no older now than He was millions of ages ago, nor will be millions of ages to come. His eternity is an everlasting and unchangeable “now”—“He is the same, and His years shall have no end”. (Ps 102:27; Heb 13:8)

(3) The Immutability of God is Affirmed by His Infinity, Immensity and Omnipresence.

Seeing God is infinite, immense and omnipresent, there can be no change of place with Him. Since He “fills heaven and earth” with His presence, He is everywhere, and cannot change or move from place to place. Therefore, when He is said to “come done” on earth, or to “depart” from men, it is not to be understood of local motion, or change of place. Rather, it is a reference to some uncommon exertion of His power, and demonstration of His presence, or of the withdrawal of some benefit from them. However, this will be considered more largely under the attribute of omnipresence, in its proper place.

(4) The Immutability of God is Affirmed by His Perfection.

God is the “most perfect” Being, and therefore can admit of no change in His nature, neither of increase nor decrease, of addition nor diminution. If He changes, it must be either for the better or the worse—if for the better, then He was imperfect before, and so not God; if for the worse, then He becomes perfect, and so not God. Plato, along with another ancient philosopher, uses a similar line of reasoning. It is asserted that God is good, impassable and unchangeable. He argues that whatsoever is changed, is either for the better or the worse—if for the worse, it becomes bad; and if for the better, it was bad at first. Again, the argument is advanced that if God changes from an infinitely perfect state, to another equally so, then there must be more infinites than one, which is a contradiction.

2. The Doctrine Defended.

Objection 1: The Creation of the World—“Since God passed from Being a non-agent, to becoming an agent, whereby He acquired a new relation as Creator, so this suggests some change in the nature of God.”

Let it be observed, that God had from all eternity the same creative power, and would have had, if He had never created any thing. When He put forth this creative power in time, it was according to His unchangeable will in eternity, and produced no change in Him. The change was in the creatures made, not in God the Maker. And, though a relation results from hence, and which is real in creatures, yet it is only nominal in the Creator, for there is no essential change in His nature.

Objection 2: The Incarnation of Christ—“Since Christ, a divine Person, possessed of the divine nature, was “made flesh”, or became man, so this suggests some change in the nature of God.”

The divine nature in Christ was not changed into the human nature; nor was the human nature changed into the divine nature; nor was a third nature made out of them both. If this were the case, the divine nature would have been changeable, but none of these changes occurred at the incarnation of Christ. It has been commonly said—“Christ remained what He was, and assumed what He was not”. What Christ assumed added nothing to His divine person, for He was only “manifest in the flesh”. He neither received any perfection, nor imperfection, from the human nature. However, the human nature did receive dignity and honour by its union to Christ, was adorned with the gifts and graces of the Spirit without measure and is now advanced at the right hand of God. In the same vein, it should be stated that no change occurred in the divine nature by the sufferings of Christ. The divine nature is incapable of suffering, and is one reason why Christ assumed the human nature, that He might be capable of suffering and dying in the room and stead of His people. Now, it is true that the Lord of life and glory was crucified, and God purchased the church with His own blood, and the blood of Christ is called the blood of the Son of God. However, Christ was crucified in the human nature only, and His blood was shed only in the human nature, to which the divine person gave virtue and efficacy, through its union to it. Nevertheless, no change to the divine nature was received by all this.

(2) God is Immutable in His Attributes.

It has been pointed out in chapter 2 that the attributes of God are essentially one with Himself. However, it is required by our finite minds to consider the perfection of God under the headings of separate attributes. These attributes serve to illustrate the unchangeableness of God’s Being.

1. There is no change in His power.

God is the same in His power. Although His omnipotence has been displayed in various instances, such as creation, providence, &c., yet it is not exhausted, nor in the least diminished. His hand is not shortened, His strength is everlasting, His power eternal and invariably the same.

2. There is no change in His understanding.

God is the same in knowledge and His understanding is infinite—they cannot be increased nor lessened. The knowledge of angels and men increases gradually, but not so the knowledge of God. He knows no more now that He did from all eternity, and He knew as much then as He does now. This is necessarily so, for He knows and sees all things together, and at once, in His vast eternal mind, and not one thing after another, as they appear in time. Things past, present and to come, are all beheld by Him in one view. However, this is true only with respect to creatures, for with Him there is no such consideration.

3. There is no change in His goodness.

God is the same in goodness—His grace and mercy are immutable. Though there has been such a profusion of His goodness to His creatures, and so many good and perfect gifts have been bestowed on them, it is still the same in Him, without any abatement. He is abundant in goodness, and it endures continually the same. This is true also of His grace, which has been exceedingly abundant, for He is as gracious and merciful as ever—“His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting, to them that fear Him.”

4. There is no change in His faithfulness.

God is the same in faithfulness. Even though men believe not, He abides faithful. And, the unbelief of men cannot make the faith or faithfulness of God without effect.

5. There is no change in His holiness.

God is glorious in holiness, and is forthwith the same therein. This perfection never receives any tarnish, can never be sullied, but is always illustriously the same. There is no unrighteousness in God—He cannot change from holiness to unholiness, from righteousness to unrighteousness. He is the just one, that neither can nor will do iniquity.

And so, in every attribute of God may be seen the immutability of His Being.

(3) God is Immutable in His Decrees.

1. The Doctrine Affirmed.

God is unchangeable in His purposes and decrees—there is a purpose for everything, and a time for that purpose. God has determined all that ever was, is or shall be. All things come to pass according to the counsel of His will, and all His decrees are unchangeable. Like the laws of the Medes and Persians, so are the unalterable decrees of God, yet even more so. His decrees are the mountains of brass Zechariah saw in a vision, from whence proceed the providences of God, and the executioners of them (Zech 6:1). They are called “mountains” because of their immovableness—they are mountains of “brass” to denote their greater firmness and stability. Henceforth, the counsel of God is expressly spoken of as immutable (Heb 6:17). There are some invariable characteristics concerning the purposes of God:

(1) The purposes of God are always carried into execution.

They are never frustrated—it is not in the power of men and devils to disannul them. Whatever devices and counter workings men and devils frame and form against God’s purposes, they are of no avail—“the counsel of the Lord stands for ever”. (Ps 33:11; Prov 19:21; 21:30; Is 14:24,27; 46:10)

(2) The purposes of God are within Himself (Eph 1:9).

And, what is in Himself, is Himself. He can as soon cease to be as to alter His mind, or change His counsels.

(3) The purposes of God are eternal (Eph 3:11).

No new thoughts arise in His mind. No new resolutions are formed in His breast. No new decrees are made by Him. His counsels are “of old”.

(4) The purposes of God are called “counsels”.

When men wisely form designs, it is with consultation and upon mature deliberation. Such are the decrees of God. They are made with the highest wisdom by Him, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working, and so are unchangeable.

(5) The purposes of God are all-knowing.

He sees and declares the end from the beginning. Nothing unforeseen ever can hinder the execution of His intentions and determinations, which is sometimes the case with men.

(6) The purposes of God are certain.

He is able to perform whatever He resolves upon. There is no lack of wisdom, nor of power in Him, as often is in men.

(7) The purposes of God are true.

He is faithful to Himself, His purposes and decrees. His “counsels of old are faithfulness and truth”. Or, they are truly and faithfully performed.

2. The Doctrine Defended.

Objection 1: The Providence of God—“The providential orderings of the Lord in time are unsearchable and past finding out—because they are many and various, and sometimes seem to differ from and clash with one another, there does appear to be changeableness in the purposes and decrees of God.”

Let it be observed that all the changes in providence, whether with respect to the world in general, or with respect to individuals, are according to God’s unchangeable will. Take, for instance, the life of Job. This man’s story is a remarkable example of changes in providence, and yet he was fully persuaded of the unchangeable will of God in them. This he strongly expressed in Job 23:13,14: “But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me: and many such things are with him.”

Objection 2: The Dispensations of Law and Gospel—“The declarations of the will of God at different intervals of history suggest God is changeable in His purposes and decrees—this is particularly noticeable between the different dispensations of law and gospel.”

It should be noted, that God, by Moses, ordered the children of Israel to observe certain laws, rites and ceremonies, until the time of reformation, and then there was a disannulling of them. The heavens and earth were shaken, that is, the whole Mosaic economy and dispensation, whereby these laws, rites and ceremonies were removed and laid aside as useless. In their place, other ordinances were fixed, to remain till Christ’s second coming. Now, the delivery of the law—the time of its continuance, and the abolition of it; and the delivery of the gospel—the settlement of its ordinances to remain to the end of the world; is all according to the unchangeable will of God.

Objection 3: The Prayers of God’s People—“The petitions of God’s people throughout the ages have often been granted by the Lord—these answers to prayer appear to change the course of history, which otherwise would have been very different if the people of God had not prayed.”

When God bestows blessings on a praying people, it is not for the sake of their prayers, as if He was inclined and turned by them, but for His own sake, and of His own sovereign will and pleasure. The most fervent and importunate prayers of those who have the greatest interest in the Lord (Jer 15:1) cannot turn the mind of God from His purposes and decrees. Should it be asked, ’To what purpose then is prayer?” It is answered, this is the way and means God has appointed, for the communication of the blessings of His goodness to His people. For, though He has purposed, provided and promised them, yet He will be sought unto, that His people might receive them. It is, therefore, their duty and privilege to ask these blessings of Him. And, when they are blessed with a spirit of prayer, it forebodes well, and looks as if God intended to bestow good things asked. However, such petitions should always be sought with submission to the will of God, saying, “not my will, but thine be done”.

(4) God is Immutable in His Love to His People.

The love and affection of God to His people is unchangeable—“His love to them is from everlasting to everlasting.” There is no variation in His own heart, however different the manifestations of it may be to them. As He is love itself, so it is as unchangeable as Himself—“the same today, yesterday and for ever.” He ever rests in His love, and not only does it never alter, but nothing can ever separate from it.

1. The Fall of Mankind does not Change God’s Love for His People.

Although the special objects of God’s love fell with Adam in his transgression, yet this did not hinder His continued love for them. Even while they were yet sinners, He commended His love toward them, giving full proof and demonstration of it, manifested by the sending of His Son to be the propitiation for their sins. Henceforth, the love of God for His people, though they be in the depths of sin and misery, is unchanging, as the delivery of Christ to death for them affirms.

2. The Sinful Nature and Condition before Conversion does not Change God’s Love for His People.

Never so debased is the state of their sinful nature, or the decadent deportment of their sinful condition, from birth to conversion, that any alteration is made therefrom in the love of God for His people. In fact, notwithstanding all their depravity, for the great love with which He loves them, He “quickens them when dead in trespasses and sins”. He looks upon them in all the impurity of their natural state, and says to them, “Live!” And, as it is at this time life is imparted to the soul, so it is at this time God unveils His love to His people. (Eh 2:4,5; Ez 16:6-8; Tit 3:3-5)

3. The Corruptions of the Heart after Conversion do not Change God’s Love for His People.

Afflictions are common means by which God chastens His wayward children. However, this mode of discipline is no evidence of a change of affection God has for His people. Although He may thoroughly chastise them, and, as they may think, severely, yet He deals with them but as children. Like Ephraim, they are His dear sons and daughters, and pleasant children, in whom He takes the utmost complacency and delight. Chastenings are rather proofs of sonship, that arguments against it. God’s rebukes of them are rebukes in love, and not in wrath and hot displeasure. Though He visits their transgressions with a rod and stripes, He does not utterly, nor at all, take away His lovingkindness in Christ from them. (Jer 31:18,20; Heb 12:6-8; Rev 3:19; Ps 89:32,33) On this point, there are two recurrent fears nurtured by many of God’s children which warrant a response:

(1) Is the love of God to His people altered when He is said to be angry with them, and then to turn away His anger from them? (Is 12:1)

No, for this is said after the manner of men, and according to our apprehension of things—the Lord doing somewhat similar to men when they are angry, who frown and turn away. So, when God frowns in His providence, and deserts His people for a while, they judge He is angry, when it only shows His discipline at their sins, but not at their persons. And, when He smiles upon them again, and manifests His pardoning grace and mercy, they conclude He has turned Himself from the fierceness of His anger. (Ps 85:2,3) In no wise are we to conclude the love of God changes in accordance with the administration of His disciplinary measures. Jacob was angry with his beloved Rachel, and a father may be angry with his beloved child, and love him not the less. In any case, anger is not the opposite of love—wrath and hatred are opposed to love, which are never in the heart of God towards His beloved ones.

(2) Is the love of God to His people altered when He withdraws a sense of His presence from them?

No, for though He hides His face from them, and forsakes them for a moment, yet with great mercies He gathers them again to Himself, in the most tender manner, and with lovingkindness, has mercy on them. The hiding of His face is only another mode of corrective discipline, whereby He shows His people His resentment at their sins, causing them to be brought to a sense of them, and bringing them to humbly bow and to seek His face and favour. Indeed, this type of discipline only serves to strengthen their faith in His love, knowing He will not be wroth with them and that His lovingkindness is more immoveable than hills and mountains. (Is 54:7-10)

(5) God is Immutable in His Covenant of Grace.

The Covenant of Grace was made with Christ from everlasting, and stands fast with Him—it is as immoveable as a rock, and can never be broken. (1) The blessings of the Covenant are “sure mercies”, flowing from the sovereign grace and mercy of God. They are sure and firm, being according to His unchangeable will. And, being once bestowed, they are irreversible and never taken away. Such as are blessed with them are always blessed—God never repents of them, nor revokes; neither is it in the power of men and devils to reverse them (Rom 11:29; 8:30). (2) The promises of the Covenant, which are gone out of His mouth and lips, are unalterable. What has been said of purposes, may be said of promised—they were made before the world was; they were made by God, who cannot lie and who is all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful and faithful to perform them. Indeed, “all the promises are yea and amen in Christ”. Nay, God is unchangeable even in His threatenings—He watches to bring the evil He has threatened, as well as the good He has promised. Yes, He assuredly performs the one as the other (Dan 9:14; Is 1:20; Jer 23:20).

There are two objections that are sometimes raised against the unalterable oath of God:

Objection 1: The Repentance of God—“The word of God is alterable since repentance is ascribed to Him.”

From an eternal standpoint, repentance is absolutely denied of God (Num 23:19; 1 Sam 15:29). However, from man’s point of view, it appears God sometimes threatens, and then withdraws; or that He will promise a blessing, but then withholds. Henceforth, when repentance is ascribed to God, it is to be understood in a limited sense—improperly and figuratively, or after the manner of men. For instance, as a potter, when he does not like a vessel he has made, breaks it to pieces—so when it repented God that He had made man on earth, and Saul king (Gen 6:6; 1 Sam 15:11), He destroyed man from off the earth, who He had created; and took away the kingdom from Saul and his family, giving it to another. These reversible actions are not instances of God changing His eternal and immutable mind, but rather, they are His providential operations in time, bringing to pass all that He has purposed and decreed from eternity.

Objection 2: The Unfulfilled Promises of God—“The word of God is alterable since the good which He promises and the evil which He threatens, are not always done.”

There are two types of promises and threatenings: the first is that which is given absolutely and unconditionally, and the second is that which is given with a condition. Now, there is nothing that is promised or threatened absolutely and unconditionally, but is always carried out according to its exact measure. However, if God gives a promise or makes a threat with a condition, and that condition is not performed, then the change will appear in men, and not in God. In all such cases where God does not what He said He would do, a condition is either expressed or implied (Jer 18:8-10). Consider, (1) The Children of Israel. God promised not only that He would dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem, in the temple, and there should be His “rest for ever” (Ps 132:13,14), but also that the people of Israel should dwell in their land, and eat the good of it. However, this promise was contingent on their obedience to God—that they abide in His service and worship, keeping His laws and ordinances (Is 1:19). Subsequently, when they failed therein, He departed from them, suffering them to be carried captive. Henceforth, while this was a change of His dispensations, yet not of His will. (2) The Ninevites. God threatened the Ninevites with the destruction of their city within forty days, that is, unless they repented. They did repent, and were saved from ruin, God repenting of what He had threatened. Although there was a change of His outward conduct towards them, yet there was no change of His will, for both their repentance, and their deliverance, were according to His unchangeable will (Jn 3:4,10). (3) Hezekiah. God gave the outward declaration that Hezekiah should “die and not live”. This was expected to be done quickly, according to the nature of second causes, his disease being mortal. However, the secret will of God was, that he should live “fifteen years” longer, as he did. This implies neither contradiction nor change, for the outward declaration was made to humble Hezekiah, to set him a praying, and to make use of means; whereby the unchangeable will of God was accomplished.


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