"IMMORTAL LOVE, FOREVER FULL"
"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. Several arrangements of stanzas from this poem have been used as hymns by various hymnbook editors at different times.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, this song was included in several older ones and is still found in some of the newer ones. The 1925 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) had five stanzas of Whittier’s poem (#’s 1, 5, 13, 14, and 15) with a tune by the editor, Elmer L. Jorgenson (1886-1968); and this same version was used in the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2, also edited by Jorgenson. Today, it is found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; in addition to the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The same basic text, with a tune (Serenity) composed in 1856 by William V. Wallace (1814-1865) and arranged in 1878 by Uzziah C. Burnap (1834-1900), is found in the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann, and the 1992 Praise for the Lord 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, and beginning with the stanza, "We May Not Climb the Heavenly Steeps," the Wallace tune. There are enough stanzas to use both tunes and make two different hymns.
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 portrayed as something within us
"Our outward lips confess the name All other names above;
Love only knoweth whence it came, And comprehendeth love."
A. We must confess with our outward lips the name of Christ: Rom. 10.9-10
B. This is because His name is above all other names: Phil. 2.9-11
C. However, it is only by love in our hearts that we can comprehend the width, length, breadth, and height: Eph. 3.17-19
III. 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
IV. Finally, Christ’s love is universal
"O Lord and Master of us all, What-e’er our name or sign,
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."