“IMMORTAL LOVE, FOREVER FULL”

Wayne S. Walker

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…” (Rom. 8.35)

     INTRO.:  A song which emphasizes the everlasting love of Christ
which offers us salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life is
“Immortal Love, Forever Full.”  The text was written by John Greenleaf
Whittier (1807-1892).  Known as “the Quaker Poet,” he penned these words
as part of a larger poem of 38 stanzas entitled “Our Master” in 1866. It
was first published in his “Tent on the Beach and Other Poems” in 1867.

      Among churches of Christ, this song was included in several older
hymnbooks and is still found in some of the newer ones.   The 1925
edition of the 1921 “Great Songs of the Church” No. 1 (#140) has five
stanzas of Whittier’s poem (#’s 1, 5, 13, 14, and 15) with a tune by the
editor, Elmer L. Jorgenson (1886-1968).  This same version was located in
the 1937 “Great Songs of the Church No. 2” (#409), also edited by
Jorgenson.  And it is included in 1971 “Songs of the Church” (#221), the
1990 “Songs of the Church, 21st C. Ed.” (#397), and the 1994 “Songs of
Faith and Praise” (#741), all edited by Alton H. Howard.

      The same basic text is used with a tune (Serenity) composed in 1856
by William V. Wallace (1814-1865) and arranged in 1878 by Uzziah C.
Burnap (1834-1900), in the 1986 “Great Songs Revised” (#444) edited by
Forest M. McCann, and the 1992 “Praise for the Lord” (#326) edited by
John P. Wiegand.  It is interesting that the 1948 “Christian Hymns No. 2”
and the 1966 “Christian Hymns No. 3,” both edited by L. O. Sanderson,
used both the Jorgenson tune (#53), and beginning with the stanza, “We
May Not Climb the Heavenly Steeps,” the Wallace tune (#114).

     This hymn pictures the love of Christ in several ways.

I. To begin, Christ’s love is presented as “a never ebbing sea”
“Immortal love, for ever full, for ever flowing free,
For ever shared, for ever whole, A never-ebbing sea!”
 A. The word “immortal” means not subject to death: 1 Tim. 1.17; this is
certainly an accurate description of Christ’s love
 B. Because Christ’s love is immortal, it is “forever full, forever
flowing free”: Rom. 5.16-21; Christ’s love is not the payment of a debt,
but a free gift for our salvation
 C. Therefore, it is “a never-ebbing sea”: Psa. 104.24-25.  The word
“sea” here stands for all the oceans of the earth.  Just as great and
wide as this sea is, so is Christ’s love for us.

II. Next, Christ’s love is identified as something very near
“We may not climb the heavenly steeps To bring the Lord Christ down;
In vain we search the lowest deeps, For Him no depths can drown.”
 A. This stanza is based on a statement made by Paul: Rom. 10.6-7
 B. To find Christ’s love, we don’t have to climb up into the heavens, as
the builders of the tower of Babel sought to do: Gen. 11.1-4
 C. Nor can we escape His love even if we go to the lowest depths from
the earth: Psa. 139.7-8.  Wherever we are, He is not far from every one
of us

III. Then, Christ’s love is referred to in terms of Olivet and Galilee
“But warm, sweet, tender, even yet A present help is He;
And faith still has its Olivet, And love its Galilee.”
 A. In the Old Testament, God is pictured as a very “present help” in
time of trouble: Psa. 46.1
 B. “Olivet” refers to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus went with His
disciples just before His betrayal: Matt. 26.30
 C. And Galilee was the place where Jesus began His public ministry of
preaching and teaching: Matt. 4.12-17.  The point is that Christ’s love
was manifest in the things that He did in places like Olivet and Galilee,
and that this love is still available for us today

IV. Again, Christ’s love is described as a healing
“The healing of His seamless dress Is by our beds of pain;
We touch Him in life’s throng and press, And we are whole again.”
 A. This stanza is based on an incident in the life of Jesus where just a
touch of His garment healed a very ill woman: Matt. 9.18-22
 B. Obviously, we cannot literally touch the hem of His garment today,
but we can access the same power of healing by coming to Him in obedience
to His will: Matt. 11.27-30
 C. And when we do so, we can be healed: Jas. 5.16.  The meaning is that
just as during His earthly ministry Jesus healed those who were sick and
oppressed by the devil such as the poor woman, so because of His love for
us, He is willing to heal us from the spiritual disease of sin even now

V. Also Christ’s love is discussed as being for both the young and the
old
“Through Him the first fond prayers are said Our lips of childhood frame;
The last low whispers of our dead Are burdened with His name.”
 A. Both young and old have qualities that the Lord wants to use: Prov.
20.29; so it makes no difference to the Lord whether one is young or old
 B. We know that “Jesus loves the little children” who through Him say
their first fond
prayers of childhood: Matt. 19.13-15
 C. Yet, He also makes promises to the aged who will use the last low
whispers of their breath to praise His name: Rev. 2.10.  So we can know
that Christ’s love is applicable to young and old alike.

VI. Finally, Christ’s love is universal
“O Lord and Master of us all, What-e’er our name or sing,
We own Thy sway, we hear Thy call, We test our lives by Thine.”
 A. Jesus came to be Lord and Master of everyone: Jn. 13.13
 B. Therefore, His gospel is suited to all mankind: Matt. 28.18-20, Acts
10.34-35, Rom. 1.16, Gal. 3.28
 C. But in order for Him to be our Lord, we must test our love by His:
Eph. 5.1-2.  Christ’s love is not for just one nation or race of people,
but for everyone regardless of the name of our country or the sign of our
ethnic background; and thus, we need to have the same kind of love for
all mankind

     CONCL.:  While Jesus, because of His great love, did for us what we
could not do for ourselves, He will not do for us what we can do.  So,
just as indispensable a link in the chain of our salvation is our love
for HIm which is in response to all that He has done for us and which
motivates us to do whatever He commands us to do that we might be saved.
Yet, even this would not be possible if it were not for the equally
indispensable link of Christ’s “Immortal Love, Forever Full.”

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