For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, said the LORD…
I. WE SHALL LOOK AT SEVERAL CAUSES TO WHICH IT IS NOT DUE: but to which, on a superficial view, it might be ascribed.
1. It is not owing to strength borrowed from governments, the Church grew without help from the government; it grew also in spite of long efforts of the government to destroy it.
2. For is the stability of the Church due to the stability of its forms of discipline and order. These have passed through a great variety of changes, from the times of the nascent Church, when there was little of established order, down through the ages of hierarchy, to our times, when the Church thrives in a great variety of forms, and with varied theories of government.
3. Nor yet is the stability of the Church owing to the stability of theological systems. It grew, it almost reigned, before any received dogmatic statements of its sacred truth were current. It has outlived theories and expositions innumerable, and indeed nothing connected with Christianity has been more changing than the scientific arrangements of its truths.
4. Nor can the stability of the Church be explained by saying that it got the control of opinion and kept thought in leading strings, so that when science was emancipated, new conditions full of danger to the Church began. It arose in spite of a reigning heathen opinion and philosophy, which it overthrew and put another in the place. It has in its healthiest state favoured all knowledge in the confidence of being itself together with every other true thing from God.
5. Nor can the stability of the Church be attributed to the condescending patronage of large-minded men, who saw in its justice and humanity a help for the world to be found nowhere else, but yet did not believe in it themselves.
II. TO WHAT, THEN, IS THE STABILITY OF THE CHURCH DUE? To this question it is no sufficient answer that the Holy Spirit is ever in and with the Church. For the Spirit's office is to act on men according to the laws of character by Divine realities. It is due —
1. To this: that the Gospel, on which the Church is built, works out some of the great problems which lie on the heart of man, in a way to give lasting peace and satisfaction to the soul. I refer to practical rather than to intellectual problems, although even the restless questionings of the mind either meet with an answer from the Divine oracles, or are carried up into a higher realm of truth. The power inherent in Christianity itself, as a way of reconciling God and man, and of raising man above sin by great truths and great hopes, is a real and permanent power. It is suited to all natures and capacities, to all races and times.
2. To those permanent features of the Gospel, which bind men together in a brotherhood pervaded by the spirit of love and fellowship.
3. To its self-reforming capacity. The human and the Divine have ever mingled and will ever mingle in the historical progress of Christianity, as they mingle in the development of a Christian life. There are unavoidable sources of corruption in the revolutions of society, in the growth of wealth, in the love of self-gratification, in the increase of worldly comforts. There are other sources in the ignorance of untrained Christians, in the ambition of the clergy and their love of dominion, in the rewards offered within the Church to the aspiring, in formalism, in a dead orthodoxy. At the lowest ebb of Christian life and knowledge there remain within the reach of the Church the sources of a better spiritual state, so that it can reform itself as it has done more than once.
(1) As long as the Bible is acknowledged as an authority, there is an appeal to it from all other authorities, from popes, and councils, and philosophers, and the current opinion of the time.
(2) There are at the times of greatest declension men who arc somehow led, .as we believe, by the Divine Spirit concurring with the Word, into a deeper experience; they rise above their times, they reach convictions which are irrepressible, they must proclaim to the world at any cost what they found out as the resting-places of their souls; they become the starting-points of a reform which sweeps over all Christian nations.
4. The stability of the Church is ensured by the stability of Christ. "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever." Doubt is of to day, but He is of all time. He is a permanent possession for the soul. He does not wear out in a lifetime. He is the permanent possession of the Church in all its ages and changes He does not wear out while there are men to long for redemption.
(T. D. Woolsey.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain.
WEB: "For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me," says Yahweh, "so your seed and your name shall remain.