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not to a less perfection than he had ; that were to change to imper-
fection, 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 imjDaired 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 some-
thing 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 \s ere
for want of power, he had the im^jerfection of weakness; if for
want of knowledge of what was the best good, he had the imper-
fection 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 be
fiould not be changed for the worse, he could not be such an enemy



S82 CHAENOCK ON THE ATTEIBUTES

to his own glorj ; there is nothing but would hinder its own imper
fection 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 can-
not 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) : " K 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.

8. God were not the most simple being if he were not immutable.'
There is in everj'thing that is mutable a composition either essen-
tial or accidental; and in all changes, something of the thing
changed remains, and something of it ceaseth and is done away ;
as for example, in an accidental change, if a white wall be made
black, it loses its white color ; but the wall itself, which was the
subject of that color, remains and loses nothing of its substance :
likewise in a substantial change, as when wood is burnt, the sub-
stantial part of wood is lost, the earthly part is changed into ashes,
the airy part ascends in smoke, the watery part is changed into
air b}^ the fire : there is not an annihilation of it, but a resolution
of it into those parts whereof it was compounded ; and this change
doth evidence that it was compounded of several parts distinct
from one another. If there were any change in God, it is by sep-
arating something from him, or adding something to him ; if by
separating something from him, then he was compounded of some-
thing distinct from himself; for if it were not distinct from himself
it could not be separated from him without loss of his being ; if by
adding anything to him, then it is a compounding of him, either
substantially or accidentall3\ Mutability is absolutely inconsistent
with simplicity, whether the change come from an internal or exter-
nal principle. K a change be wrought by something without, it
supposeth either contrary or various parts in the thing so changed,
whereof it doth consist ; if it be wrought by anything within, it sup-
poseth that the thing so changed doth consist of one part that doth
change it, and another part that is changed, and so it would not be
a simple being. If God could be changed by anything within him-
self, all in God would not be God ; his essence would depend upon
some parts, whereof some would l3e superior to others ; if one part
were able to change or destroy another, that which doth change
would be God, that which is changed would not be God; so God
would be made up of a Deity and a non-Deity, and part of God
would depend upon God ; part would be dependent, and part would
be independent ; part would be mutable, part immutable • so that

• Gainaeb. in prim, pai't. Aquiu. qu. 9. c. 1. pai't. 72.



ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD. o33

mutability is against tlie notion of God's indeiDondency as well as his
simplicity. God is the most simple being ; for that wliicli is first in
nature, having nothing beyond it, cannot by any means be thought
to be compounded; for whatsoever is so, dej)ends upon the parts
whereof it is compounded, and so is not the first being : now God
being infinitely simple, hath nothing in himself which is not himself,
and therefore cannot will any change in himself, he being his own
essence and existence.'^

4. God were not eternal if he were mutable. In all change there
is something that perishes, either substantially or accidentally. All
change is a kind of death, or imitation of death ; that which was dies,
and begins to be what it was not. The soul of man, though it ceas-
eth not to be and exist, yet when it ceaseth to be in quality what it
was, is said to die. Adam died when he changed from integrity to
corruption, though both his soul and body were in being (Gen. ii.
17) ; and the soul of a regenerate man is said to "die to sin," when
it is changed from sin to grace (Eom. vi. 11). In all change there is
a resemblance of death ; so the notion of mutability is against the
eternity of God. If anything be acquired by a change, then that
which is acquired was not from eternity, and so he was not wholly
eternal ; if anything be lost which was from eternity, he is not wholly
everlasting; if he did decrease by the change, something in him
which had no beginning would have an end ; if he did increase by
that change, something in him would have a beginning that might
have no end. What is changed doth not remain, and what doth not
remain is not eternal.^ Though God alway remains in regard of
existence, he would be immortal, and live alway; yet if he should
suft'er any change, he could not properly be eternal, because he
would not alway be the same, and would not in every part be eter-
nal ; for all change is finished in time, one moment preceding, another
moment following ; but that which is before time cannot be changed
by time. God cannot be eternally what he was ; that is, he cannot
have a true eternity, if he had a new knowledge, a new purpose, a
new essence ; if he were sometimes this and sometimes that, some-
times know this and sometimes know that, sometimes purpose this
and afterwards hath a new pur230se ; he would be partly temporary
and partly eternal, not truly and universally eternal. He that hath
anything of newness, hath not properly and truly an entire eternity.
Again, by the same reason that God could in the least cease to be
what he was, he might also cease Avholly to be ; and no reason can
be rendered why God might not cease wholly to be, as well as cease
to be entirely and uniformly what he was. All changeableness
implies a corruj^tibility.

5. If God were changeable, he were not infinite and almighty.
All change ends in addition or diminution ; if anything be added,
he was not infinite before, if anything be diminished, he is not in-
finite after. All change implies bounds and hmits to that which is
changed ; but God is infinite ; " His gTcatness is unsearchable :"™
we can add number to number without any end, and can conceive

■ Ficiuus Zachar. mityleu in Peta. Tom. I. p. 169.

• Austiu iu Pet Toiu. I. p. '201. "^ Ps. cxlv. 3, ""SlM HN no end, no term.



384 CHARNOCK ON THE ATTRIBUTES.

an infinite number ; yet tlie greatness of God is beyond all our con-
ceptions. But if there could be an}^ change in his greatness for the
better, it would not be unsearchable before that change ; if for the
worse, it would not be unsearchable after that change. Whatsoever
hath limits and is changeable, is conceivable and searchable ; but
God is not only not known, but impossible in his own nature to be
known and searched out, and, therefore, impossible to have any
diminution in his nature. All that which is changed arrives to some-
thing which it was not before, or ceaseth in part to be what it was
before. He would not also be almighty. What is omnipotent can-
not be made worse ; for to be made worse, is in part to be corrupted.
If he be made better, he was not almighty before ; somethmg of
power was wanting to him. If there should be any change, it must
proceed from himself or from another ; if from himself, it would be an
inability to preserve himself in the perfection of his nature ; if from
another, he would be inferior in strength, knowledge, and power, to
that which changes him, either in his nature, knowledge, or will ; in
both an inability ; an inability in him to continue the same, or an
inability in him to resist the power of another,

6. The world could not be ordered and governed but by some
Principle or Being which were immutable. Principles are alway
more fixed and stable than things which proceed from those princi-
ples ; and this is true both in morals and naturals. Principles in
conscience, whereby men are governed, remain firmly engraven in
their minds. The root lies firmly in the earth, while branches are
shaken with the wind. The heavens, the cause of generation, are
more firm and stable than those things which are wrought by their
influence. All things in the world are moved by some power and
virtue which is stable ; and unless it were so, no order would be ob-
served in motion, no motion could be regularly continued. He could
not be a full satisfaction to the infinite desire of the souls of his
people. Nothing can truly satisfy the soul of man but rest ; and
nothing can give it rest but that which is perfect and immutably per-
fect ; for else it would be subject to those agitations and variations
which the being it depends upon is subject to. The principle of all
things must be immutable," which is described by some by a unity,
the principle of number, wherein there is a resemblance of God's
unchangeableness. A unit is not variable ; it continues in its own
nature immutably a unit. It never varies from itself; it cannot be
changed from itself ; but is, as it were, so omnipotent towards others,
that it changes all numbers. If j^ou add any number, it is the be-
ginning of that number, but the unit is not increased by it ; a new
number ariseth fi'om that addition, but the unit still remains the
same, and adds value to other figures, but receives none from them.

III. The third thing to speak to is, that immutability is proper to
God, and incommunicable to any creature. Mutability is natural to
every creature as a creature, and immutability is the sole perfection
of God. He only is infinite wisdom, able to foreknow future events ;
lie only is infinitely powerful, able to call forth all means to effect ;
so that wanting neither wisdom to contrive, nor streng1;h to execut^i^

» Fotherby Atheomastix, p. 308. Gerhard loc. com.



ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD. 33£

he cannot alter his counsel. Xoue being above him. c-jching in him
contrary to him, and being defective in no blessedness and perfec-
tion, he cannot vary in his essence and nature. Had not immuta-
bility as well as eternity been a property solely pertaining to the
Divine nature, as well as creative po\^er and eternal duration, the
apostle's argument to prove Christ to be God from this perpetual
sameness, had come short of any convincing strength. These words
of the text he applies to Christ (Heb. i. 10-12) : " They shall be
changed, but thou art the same." There had been no strength in
the reason, if immutability by nature did belong to any creature.
The changeableness of all creatures is evident :

1. Of corporeal creatures it is evident to sense. All plants and
finimals, as they have their duration bounded in certain limits ; so
while they do exist, they proceed from their rise to their fall. They
pass through many sensible alterations, from one degree of growth
to another, from buds to blossoms, from blossoms to flowers and
fruits. They come to their pitch that nature had set them, and re-
turn back to the state from whence they sprung ; there is not a day
but they make some acquisition, or suffer some loss. They die and
spring up every day ; nothing in them more certain than their in-
constancy : " The creature is subject to vanity" (Rom. viii. 20). The
heavenly bodies are changing their place ; the sun every day is run-
ning his race, and stays not in the same point ; and though they are
not changed in their essence, yet they are in their place. Some, in-
deed, say there is a continual generation of light in the sun, as there
is a loss of light by the casting out its beams, as in a fountain there
is a flowing out of the streams, and a continual generation of supply.
And though these heavenly bodies have kept their standing and
motion from the time of their creation, yet both the sun s standing
still in Joshua's time, and its going back in Hezekiah's thne, show
that they are changeable at the pleasure of God. But in man the
change is perpetually visible ; every day there is a change from
ignorance to knowledge, from one will to another, from passion to
passion, sometimes sad and sometimes cheerful, sometimes craving
this, and presently nauseating it ; his body changes from health to
sickness, or from weakness to strength ; some alteration there is
either in body or mind. Man, who is the noblest creature, the sub-
ordinate end of the creation of other things, cannot assure himself
of a consistency and fixedness in anything the short space of a day,
no, not of a minute. All his months are months of vanity (Job vii.
3) ; whence the Psalmist calls man at the " best estate altogether
vanity," a mere heap of vanity (Ps. xxxv.) As he contains in his
nature the nature of all creatures, so he inherits in his nature the
vanity of all creatures. A little world, the centre of the world and
of the vanity of the world ; yea, " lighter tlian vanity" (Ps. Ixii. 9),
more movable than a feather ; tossed between passion and passion,
daily changing his end, and changing the means ; an image of
nothing.

2. Spiritual natures, as angels. They change not m their being,
but that is from the indulgence of God. They change not in their
goodness, but that is not fr-^m their nature, but divine grace in theii



336 CHARNOCK ON" THE ATTRIBUTES.

confirmation ; but they cliange in their knowledge ; they know more
by Christ ihiui they did by creation (1 Tim. iii. 16). They have an
addition of knowledge every day, by the providential dispensations
of God to his church (Eph. iii. 10) ; and the increase of their aston-
ishment and love i-j according to the increase of their knowledge and
insight. They canuut have a new discovery without new admira-
tions of what is discovered to them : there is a change in theii- joy
when there is a change in a sinner (Luke xv. 10). They were
changed in their essence, when they were made such glorious spirits
of nothing ; some of them were changed in their will, when of holy
they became impure. The good angels were changed in their under-
standings, when the glories of God in Christ were presented to their
view ; and all can be changed in their essence again ; and as they
were made of nothing, so by the power of God may be reduced to
notlnng again So glorified souls shall have an unchanged opera-
tion about God, for they shall behold his face without any grief or
fear of loss, without vagrant thoughts; but they can never be un-
changeable in their nature, because they can never pass from finitfj
to infinite.

No creatnie can be unchangeable in its nature : — 1. Because every
creature rose from nothing. As they rose from nothing, so they
tend to nothing, unless they are preserved by God. The notion of
a creature speaks changeableness ; because to be a creature is to be
made something of nothing, and, therefore, creation is a change of
nothing into something. The being of a creature begins froni
change, and, therefore, the essence of a creature is subject to change.
God only is uncreated, and, therefore, unchangeable. If he were,
made he could not be immutable ; for the very making is a change
of not being into being. All creatures we"^e made good, as they
were the fruits of God's goodness and power ; but must needs be
mutable, because they were the extracts of nothing. 2. Because
every creature depends purely upon the will of God. They depend
not upon themselves, but upon another for their being. As they
received their being from the word of his mouth and the arm of hi 3
power, so by the same word they can be cancelled into nothing, au d
return into as little significancy as when they were nothing. He th'it
created them by a word, can by a word destroy them: if God shou'd
^' take away their breath, they die, and return into their dust" (Ps.
civ. 29). As it was in the power of the Creator that things migdt
be, before they actually were, so it is in the power of the Creator
that things after they are may cease to be what they are ; and they
are, in their own nature, as reducible to nothing as they were pro-
ducible by the power of God from nothing ; for there needs no
more than an act of God's will to null them, as there needed only
an act of God's will to make them. Creatures are all subject to a
higher cause : they are all reputed as nothing. " He doth accord-
ing to his will in the armies of heaven, and among the inhabitants
of the earth, and none can stay his hand, or say unto him. What
dost thou ?" (Dan. iv. 35.) But God is unchangeable, because he is
the highest good ; none above him, all below him ; all dependent on
liini ; himself upon none. 3. No creature is absolutely perfect. Nc



ON THE IMMUTABILITY OF GOD. 337

creature can be so jDcrfect, or can ever be, but sometliing by the in-
finite power of God may be added to it ; for whatsoever is finite
may receive greater additions, and, therefore, a change. No creature
you can imagine, but in yonr thoughts you may fancy him capable
of greater perfections than you know he hath, or than really he
hath. The perfections of all creatures are searchable ; the perfec-
tion of God is only unsearchable (Job xi. 6), and, therefore, he only
immutable. God only is always the same. Time makes no addition
to him, nor diminisheth anything of him. His nature and essence,
his wisdom and will, have always been the same from eternity, and
shall be the same to eternity, without any variation.

IV. The fourth thing propounded is, Some propositions to clear
this unchangeableness of God from anything that seems contrary
to it.

Prop. I. There was no change in God when he began to create
the world in time. The creation was a real change, but the change
was not subjectively in God, but in the creature ; the creature began
to be what it was not before. Creation is considered as active or
passive." Active creation is the will and power of God to create.
This is from eternity, because God willed from eternity to create in
time ; this never had beginning, for God never began in time to un-
derstand anything, to will anything, or to be able to do anything ;
but he alway understood and alway willed those things which he
determined from eternity to produce in time. The decree of God
may be taken for the act decreeing, that is eternal and the same,
or for the object decreed, that is in time ; so that there may be a
change in the object, but not in the will whereby the object doth
exist.

1. There was no change in God by the act of creation, because
there was no new will in him. There was no new act of his will
which was not before. The creation began in time, but the will of
creating was from eternity. The work was new, but the decree
whence that new work sprung was as ancient as the Ancient of
Days. When the time of creating came, God was not made ex no-
lente volens, as we are ; for whatsoever God willed to be now done,
he willed from eternity to be done; but he Avilled also that it
should not be done till such an instant of time, and that it should
not exist before such a time. If God had willed the creation of
the world only at that time when the world was produced, and
not before, then, indeed, God had been changeable. But though
God spake that word which he had not spoke before, whereby the
world was brought into act ; yet he did not will that will he willed
not before. God did not create by a new counsel or new will, but
by that which was from eternitj^ (Eph. i. 9). All things are wrought
according to that "purpose in himself," and according to " the coun-
sel of his will" (ver. 11); and as the holiness of the elect is the fruit
of his eternal will " before the foundation of the world" (ver. 4), so,
likewise, is the existence of things, and of those persons whom he
did elect. As when an artificer frames a house or a temple according
to that model he had in his mind some years before, there is no change

» Ganiach. ia Part I. Aquia. Q 9. c. i. p. 72.
VOL. I.- — •'•2



888 CHARNOCK ON THE ATTEIBUTES.

in the model in his mind ; the artificer is the same, though the work
is produced by him some time after he had framed that copy of it in
his own mind, but there is a change of the thing produced by him
according to that model. Or, when a rich man intends, four or live
years hence, if he lives, to build a hospital, is there any change in
will, when, after the expiration of that time, he builds and endows it ?
Though it be after his will, yet it is the fruit of his precedent will.
So God, from all eternity, did will and command that the creatures
should exist in such a part of time ; and, by his eternal will, all
things, whether past, present, or to come, did, do, and shall exist,
at that point of time which that will did appoint for them : not, as
though God had a new will when things stood up in being, but only
that which was prepared in his immutable counsel and will from
eternity, doth then appear. There can be no instant fixed from eter-
nity, wherein it can be said, God did not will the creation of the
world ; for had the will of God for the shortest moment been unde-
termined to the creation of the world, and afterwards resolved upon
it, there had been a moral change in God from not willing to willing ;
but this there was not, for God executes nothing in time which he
had not ordained from eternity, and appointed all the means and
circumstances whereby it should be brought about. As the deter-
mination of our Saviour to suffer was not a new will, but an eternal
counsel, and wrought no change in God (Acts ii. 23).

2. There is no change in God by the act of creation, because there
was no new power in God. Had God had a will at the time of ere
ation which he had not before, there had been a moral change in
him ; so had there been in him a power only to create then and not
before, there had been a physical change in him from weakness to
ability. There can be no more new power in God, than there can be
a new will in God ; for his will is his power, and what he willeth to



Online LibraryStephen CharnockDiscourses upon the existence and attributes of God → online text (page 45 of 82)