Acacia John Bunyan - Online Library
By J O H N.B U N Y A N of Bedford,
A Lover of Peace and Truth.
L O N D O N,
Printed for G. L., and are to be sold in
Turn-stile-alley, in Holbourn, 1674. (Year approximate.)
Published two years after John Bunyan's twelve year incarceration.
This valuable tract was first published without a date, but according to Doe's List,about the year 1674, and has never been reprinted in a separate volume; it appearedin only one edition of the collected works of John Bunyan—that with the notes byRyland and Mason; and in his select works, published in America in 1832. No man couldhave been better qualified to write upon the subject of reprobation than Bunyan.—Hisextraordinary knowledge of, and fervent attachment to, the holy oracles, peculiarlyfitted him with unwavering verity to display this doctrine of divine truth. He wasincapable of any misrepresentation with a view of concealing what fallen reason mightdeem a deformity, or to render the doctrines of the cross palatable to mankind. Hisobject is to display the truth, and then humbly to submit to the wisdom of God, andzealously to vindicate it.
There is no subject which more fully displays our fallen nature, than that of reprobation.All mankind agree in opinion, that there ever has been an elect, or good class ofsociety; and a reprobate, or worthless and bad class; varying in turpitude or ingoodness to a great extent and in almost imperceptible degrees. All must unite inascribing to God that divine foreknowledge that renders ten thousand years but asone day, or hour, or moment in his sight. All ascribe to his omnipotence the powerto ordain or decree what shall come to pass—and where is the spirit that can demonstratea shade of difference between such foreknowledge and preordination. All agree thatin the lower class of animals some of the same species pass their lives in luxuryand comfort, while others are cruelly tormented, this world comprising their wholeterm of existence; and will those who refuse to submit to the sovereignty of Godin the doctrine of election dare to arraign his conduct in leaving some out of hiselecting love?
The reprobate or worthless lose nothing by the happiness of others. It is inscrutablyhid from mankind who are the elect, until the Holy Spirit influences them with thelove of God in Christ Jesus, and this sometimes in the last moments of life. Thereis every encouragement, nay incentive, to the sinner who feels the burthen of guiltto fly for refuge to the hope set before him in the gospel. 'It is a faithful saying,and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save SINNERS';even the chief of sinners. The glad tidings are addressed to ALL sin- sick souls;and Bunyan's statement of this truth is clear, scriptural, and reasonable. Very differentis the account of the reprobation given by R. Resburie in his Stop to the Gangreneof Arminianism, 1651. 'For the reprobate God decrees the permitting of sin in orderto hardening, and their hardening in it, in order to their condemnation.' p. 69.'As election is the book of life, so reprobation of death; the names of the reprobateare there registered for destruction.' p. 73.
It is much to be regretted that sentiments like these have been too commonly uttered.It is as an antidote to such ideas that this little work was written; but, unfortunately,it has never been widely circulated and read. May the divine blessing follow thisattempt to spread these important, although to many, unpalatable, doctrines.
That there is a Reprobation.
In my discourse upon this subject, I shall study as much brevity as clearness andedification will allow me; not adding words to make the volume swell, but contractingmyself within the bounds of few lines, for the profit and commodity of those thatshall take the pains to read my labours. And though I might abundantly multiply argumentsfor the evincing and vindicating this conclusion, yet I shall content myself withsome few scripture demonstrations: the first of which I shall gather out of the ninthof the Romans, from that discourse of the apostle's, touching the children of theflesh, and the children of the promise.
1. At the beginning of this chapter, we find the apostle grievously lamenting andbemoaning of the Jews, at the consideration of their miserable state: 'I say thetruth in Christ, [saith he] I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in theHoly Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I couldwish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen accordingto the flesh': Poor hearts, saith he, they will perish; they are a miserable sadand helpless people; their eyes are darkened that they may not see, and their backis bowed down alway (Rom 11:10). Wherefore? Have they not the means of grace? Yesverily, and that in goodly measure. First they 'are Israelites; to whom pertaineththe adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and theservice of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerningthe flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.' What then shouldbe the reason? Why saith he, though they be the children of Abraham according tothe flesh, yet they are the children of Abraham BUT according to the flesh: 'Forthey are not all Israel [in the best sense] which are of Israel: neither, becausethey are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, in Isaac shall thy seedbe called.' That is, they that are the children of the flesh, they are not the childrenof God; but the children of the promise shall be counted for the seed. So then, hereyou see that they that are only the children of the flesh, as the greatest part ofIsrael were, they are those that are neither counted for the seed, the children ofpromise, nor the children of God; but are rejected, and of the reprobation. Thistherefore shall at this time serve for the first scripture-demonstration.
2. Another scripture you have in the eleventh chapter of this epistle, from thesewords, 'The election hath obtained it, and the REST were blinded' (Rom 11:7). Thesewords are shedding words, they sever between men and men; the election, the rest;the chosen, the left; the embraced, the refused: 'The election have obtained it,and the rest were blinded.' By rest here, must needs be understood those not elect,because set one in opposition to the other; and if not elect, what then but reprobate?
3. A third scripture is that in the Acts of the Apostles, 'And as many as were ordainedto eternal life, believed' (13:48). 'And as many'; by these words, as by the former,you may see how the Holy Ghost distinguisheth or divideth between men and men; thesons, and the sons of Adam. 'As many as were ordained to eternal life, believed':If by many here, we are to understand every individual, then not only the whole worldmust at least believe the gospel, of which we see the most fall short, but they mustbe ordained to eternal life; which other scriptures contradict: for there is therest, besides the elect; the stubble and chaff, as well as wheat: many thereforemust here include but some; 'For though - Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnantshall be saved' (Rom 9:27; Isa 1:9, 10:22,23).
I might here multiply many other texts, but in the mouth of two or three witnessesshall every word be established. Let these therefore for this, suffice to prove thatthere is a reprobation. For this I say, though the children of the flesh, the restbesides the election, and the like, were not mentioned in the word; yet seeing thereis such a thing as the children of the promise, the seed, the children of God, andthe like, and that too under several other phrases, as predestinated, foreknown,chosen in Christ, and written in the Book of life, and appointed unto life, withmany others: I say seeing these things are thus apparent, it is without doubt, thatthere is such a thing as a reprobation also (Rom 8; Eph 1:3,4; 1 Thess 5:9).
Nay, further, From the very word election, it followeth unavoidably; for whetheryou take it as relating to this, of distinguishing between persons as touching theworld to come, or with reference to God's acts of choosing this or that man to thisor that office, work, or employment in this world, it still signifieth such a choosing,as that but some are therein concerned, and that therefore some are thence excluded.Are all the elect, the seed, the saved, the vessels of mercy, the chosen and peculiar?Are not some, yea the most, the children of the flesh, the rest, the lost, the vesselsof wrath, of dishonour, and the children of perdition? (Rom 11:9; 1 Peter 2:8,9;Matt 10:16; 2 Sam 6:21; Psa 78:67,68; John 15:16; 2 Cor 4:3; Rom 9:21,22; John 17:12).
What Reprobation is.
Having thus shewed you that there is such a thing as a reprobation, I come now toshew you what it is. Which that I may do to your edification, I shall First shewyou what this word reprobation signifieth in the general, as it concerneth personstemporary and visibly reprobate: Second, more particularly, as it concerneth personsthat are eternally and invisibly reprobate.
First, Generally, As it concerneth persons temporarily and visibly reprobate, thus:To be reprobate is to be disapproved, void of judgment, and rejected, &c. Tobe disapproved, that is, when the word condemns them, either as touching the faithor the holiness of the gospel; the which they must needs be, that are void of spiritualand heavenly judgment in the mysteries of the kingdom; a manifest token [that] theyare rejected. And hence it is that they are said to be reprobate or void of judgmentconcerning the faith; reprobate or void of judgment touching every good work; havinga reprobate mind, to do those things that are not convenient, either as to faithor manners. And hence it is again, that they are also said to be rejected of God,cast away, and the like (2 Cor 13:6,7; 2 Tim 3:8; Titus 1:16; Rom 1:28; Jer 6:30;1 Cor 9:27).
I call this temporary visible reprobation, because these appear, and are detectedby the word as such that are found under the above-named errors, and so adjudgedwithout the grace of God. Yet it is possible for some of these, however for the presentdisapproved, through the blessed acts and dispensations of grace, not only to becomevisible saints, but also saved for ever. Who doubts but that he who now by examininghimself, concerning faith, doth find himself, though under profession, graceless,may after that, he seeing his woeful state, not only cry to God for mercy, but findgrace, and obtain mercy to help in time of need? though it is true, that for themost part the contrary is fulfilled on them.
Second, But to pass this, and more particularly to touch the eternal invisible reprobation,which I shall thus hold forth: It is to be passed by in, or left out of, God's election;yet so, as considered upright. In which position you have these four things considerable:1. The act of God's election. 2. The negative of that act. 3. The persons reachedby that negative. And, 4. Their qualification when thus reached by it.
1. For the first. This act of God in electing, it is a choosing or fore-appointingof some infallibly unto eternal life, which he also hath determined shall be broughtto pass by the means that should be made manifest and efficacious to that very end(Eph 1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:2).
2. Now the negative of this act is, a passing by, or a leaving of those not concernedin this act; a leaving of them, I say, without the bounds, and so the saving privilegesof this act; as it followeth by natural consequence, that because a man choosethbut some, therefore he chooseth not all, but leaveth, as the negative of that act,all others whatsoever. Wherefore, as I said before, those not contained within thisblessed act, are called the rest besides the election. 'The election hath obtainedit, and the rest were blinded.'
3. The persons then that are contained under the negative of this act, they are those,and those only, that pass through this wicked world without the saving grace of God'select; those, I say, that miss the most holy faith, which they in time are blestwithal, who are fore-appointed unto glory.
4. And now for the qualification they were considered under, when this act of reprobationlaid hold upon them; to wit, They were considered upright.
This is evident, From this consideration, that reprobation is God's act, even thenegative of his choosing or electing, and none of the acts of God make any man asinner. It is further evident by the similitude that is taken from the carriage ofthe potter in his making of his pots; for by this comparison the God of heaven ispleased to shew unto us the nature of his determining in the act of reprobation.'Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump?' &c. (Rom 9:21).Consider a little, and you shall see that these three things do necessarily fallin, to complete the potter's action in every pot he makes.
(1.) A determination in his own mind what pot to make of this or that piece of clay;a determination, I say, precedent to the fashion of the pot; the which is true inthe highest degree, in him that is excellent in working; he determines the end, beforethe beginning is perfected (Isa 41:22, 46:10). 'For this cause [very purpose] haveI raised thee up' (Exo 9:16).
(2.) The next thing considerable in the potter; it is the so making of the pot, evenas he determined; a vessel to honour, or a vessel to dishonour. There is no confusionnor disappointment under the hand of this eternal God, his work is perfect, and everyway doth answer to what he hath determined (Deut 32:4).
(3.) Observe again, That whether the vessel be to honour or to dishonour, yet thepotter makes it good, sound, and fit for service; his fore-determining to make thisa vessel to dishonour, hath no persuasion at all with him to break or mar the pot:Which very thing doth well resemble the state of man as under the act of eternalreprobation, for 'God made man upright' (Eccl 7:29).
From these conclusions then,
Consider, 1. That the simple act of reprobation, it is a leaving or passing by, nota cursing of the creature.
Consider, 2. Neither doth this act alienate the heart of God from the reprobate,nor tie him up from loving, favouring, or blessing of him; no, not from blessingof him with the gift of Christ, of faith, of hope, and many other benefits. It onlydenieth them that benefit, that will infallibly bring them to eternal life, and thatin despite of all opposition; it only denieth so to bless them as the elect themselvesare blessed. Abraham loved all the children he had by all his wives, and gave themportions also; but his choice blessing, as the fruit of his chiefest love, he reservedfor chosen Isaac (Gen 25:5,6).
Consider Lastly, The act of reprobation doth harm to no man, neither means him any;nay, it rather decrees him upright, lets him be made upright, and so be turned intothe world.
Of the Antiquity of Reprobation.
Having now proceeded so far as to shew you what reprobation is, it will not be amissif in this place I briefly shew you its antiquity, even when it began its rise; thewhich you may gather by these following particulars.
First, Reprobation is before the person cometh into the world, or hath done goodor evil: This is evident by that of Paul to the Romans: 'For the children being notyet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God accordingto election might stand not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto Rebecca,The elder shall serve the younger' (9:11). Here you find twain in their mother'swomb, and both receiving their destiny, not only before they had done good or evil,but before they were in a capacity to do it, they being yet unborn; their destiny,I say, the one unto, the other not unto, the blessing of eternal life; the one chose,the other refused; the one elect, the other reprobate. The same also might be saidof Ishmael and his brother Isaac, both which did also receive their destiny beforethey came into the world: for the promise that this Isaac should be the heir, itwas also before Ishmael was born, though he was elder by fourteen years, or more,than his brother (Gen 15:4,5, 16:4,5,16, 17:25, 21:5). And it is yet further evident,
1. Because election is an act of grace; 'There is a remnant according to the electionof grace' (Rom 11:5). Which act of grace saw no way so fit to discover its purityand independency, as by fastening on the object before it came into the world; thatbeing the state in which at least no good were done, either to procure good fromGod, or to eclipse and darken this precious act of grace. For though it is true thatno good thing that we have done before conversion, can obtain the grace of election;yet the grace of election then appeareth most, when it prevents our doing good,that we might be loved therefore: wherefore he saith again, 'That the purpose ofGod according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; itwas said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger' (Rom 9:11,12).
2. This is most agreeable to the nature of the promise of giving seed to Abraham;which promise, as it was made before the child was conceived, so it was fulfilledat the best time, for the discovery of the act of grace, that could have been pitchedupon: At this time will I come (saith God) 'and Sarah shall have a son' (Gen 18:14);which promise, because it carried in its bowels the very grace of electing love,therefore it left out Ishmael, with the children of Keturah: 'For in Isaac shallthy seed be called' (Rom 4:16-19, 9:7).
3. This was the best and fittest way for the decrees to receive sound bottom, evenfor God both to choose and refuse, before the creature had done good or evil, andso before they came into the world: 'That the purpose of God according to electionmight stand,' saith he, therefore before the children were yet born, or had doneany good or evil, it was said unto her, &c. God's decree would for ever wantfoundation, should it depend at all upon the goodness and holiness either of menor angels; especially if it were to stand upon that good that is wrought before conversion,yea, or after conversion either. We find, by daily experience, how hard and difficultit is, for even the holiest in the world, to bear up and maintain their faith andlove to God; yea, so hard, as not at all to do it without continual supplies fromheaven. How then is it possible for any so to carry it before God, as to lay, bythis his holiness, a foundation for election, as to maintain that foundation, andthereby to procure all those graces that infallibly saveth the sinner? But now thechoice, I say, being a choice of grace, as is manifest, it being acted before thecreature's birth; here grace hath laid the cornerstone, and determined the meansto bring the work to perfection. Thus 'the foundation of God standeth sure, havingthis seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his' (2 Tim 2:19). That is, who he hathchosen, having excluded works, both good and bad, and founded all in an unchangeableact of grace; the negative whereof, is this harmless reprobation.
Second, But secondly, To step a little backward, and so to make all sure: This actof reprobation was before the world began; which therefore must needs confirm thatwhich was said but now, that they were, before they were born, both destinated beforethey had done good or evil. This is manifest by that of Paul to the Ephesians, atthe beginning of his epistle; where, speaking of Election, whose negative is reprobation,he saith, 'God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world.' Nayfurther, if you please, consider, that as Christ was ordained to suffer before thefoundation of the world, and as we that are elected were chosen in him before thefoundation of the world; so it was also ordained we should know him, before the foundationof the world; ordained that we should be holy before him in love, before the foundationof the world; and that we in time should be created in him to good works, and ordainedbefore that we should walk in them. Wherefore reprobation also, it being the negativeof electing love; that is, because God elected but some, therefore he left the rest:these rest therefore must needs be of as ancient standing under reprobation, as thechosen are under election; both which, it is also evident, was before the world began.Which serveth yet further to prove that reprobation could not be with respect tothis or the other sin, it being only a leaving them, and that before the world, outof that free choice which he was pleased to bless the other with. Even as the claywith which the dishonourable vessel is made, did not provoke the potter, for thesake of this or that impediment, therefore to make it so; but the potter of his ownwill, of the clay of the same lump, of the clay that is full as good as that of whichhe hath made the vessel to honour, did make this and the other a vessel of dishonour,&c. (1 Peter 1:20,21; 1 Cor 2:7; Eph 1:3,4, 2:10).
Of the causes of Reprobation.
Having thus in a word or two shewed the antiquity of Reprobation, I now come in thisplace to shew you the cause thereof; for doubtless this must stand a truth, Thatwhatever God doth, there is sufficient ground therefore, whether by us apprehended,or else without our reach.
First then, It is caused from the very nature of God. There are two things in God,from which, or by the virtue of which, all things have their rise, to wit, the eternityof God in general, and the eternal perfection of every one of his attributes in particular:for as by the first, he must needs be before all things; so by virtue of the second,must all things consist. And as he is before all things, they having consistenceby him; so also is he before all states, or their causes, be they either good orbad, of continuance or otherwise, he being the first without beginning, &c.,whereas all other things, with their causes, have rise, dependance, or tolerationof being from him (Col 1:17).
Hence it follows, that nothing, either person or cause, &c., can by any meanshave a being, but first he knows thereof, allows thereof, and decrees it shall beso. 'Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?'(Lam 3:37). Now then, because that reprobation, as well as election, are subordinateto God; his will also, which is eternally perfect, being most immediately hereinconcerned; it was impossible that any should be reprobate, before God had both willedand decreed it should be so. It is not the being of a thing that administers matterof knowledge or foresight thereof to God, but the perfection of his knowledge, wisdom,and power, &c., that giveth the thing its being: God did not fore-decree thereshould be a world, because he foresaw there would be one; but there must be one,because he had before decreed there should be one. The same is true as touching thecase in hand: 'For this cause [very purpose] have I raised thee up, for to shew inthee my power' (Exo 9:16; Rom 9:17).
Second, A second cause of eternal reprobation, is the exercise of God's sovereignty;for if this is true, that there is nothing either visible or invisible, whether inheaven or earth, but hath its being from him: then it must most reasonably follow,that he is therefore sovereign Lord, &c., and may also according to his own will,as he pleaseth himself, both exercise and manifest the same; being every whit absolute;and can do and may do whatsoever his soul desireth: and indeed, good reason, forhe hath not only made them all, but 'for his pleasure they both were and are created'(Rev 4:11).
Now the very exercise of this sovereignty produceth reprobation: 'Therefore hathhe mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth' (Rom 9:18). 'Hathnot the potter power over the clay, of the same lump?' And doth he not make his potsaccording to his pleasure? Here therefore the mercy, justice, wisdom and power ofGod, take liberty to do what they will; saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I willdo all my pleasure' (Isa 46:10; Job 23:13; Dan 4:35; Isa 43:13).
Third, Another cause of eternal reprobation, is the act and working of distinguishinglove, and everlasting grace. God hath universal love, and particular love; generallove, and distinguishing love; and so accordingly doth decree, purpose, and determine:from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy: but from that love thatis distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercy: 'Was not Esau Jacob's brother?' saiththe Lord, 'yet I loved Jacob' (Mal 1:2). Yet I loved Jacob, that is, with a betterlove, or a love that is more distinguishing. As he further makes appear in his answerto our father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: 'As for Ishmael, [saithhe] I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful. Butmy covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee' (Gen 17:20,21).Touching which words, there are these things observable.
1. That God had better love for Isaac, than he had for his brother Ishmael. Yet,
2. Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.
3. This choice blessing could not be denied to Ishmael, because he had disinheritedhimself by sin; for this blessing was entailed to Isaac, before Ishmael had a beingalso (Rom 4:16-19; Gen 15:4,5, chapter 16).
4. These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishinglove and mercy, which had so cast the business, 'that the purpose of God accordingto election might stand.'
Further, Should not God decree to shew distinguishing love and mercy, as well asthat which is general and common, he must not discover his best love at all to thesons of men. Again, if he should reveal and extend his best love to all the worldin general, then there would not be such a thing as love that doth distinguish; fordistinguishing love appeareth in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob andEsau, the many called, and the few chosen. Thus by virtue of distinguishing love,some must be reprobate: for distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angelsin heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth; wherefore the decree also that dothestablish it, must needs leave some.
Fourth, Another cause of reprobation, Is God's willingness to shew his wrath, andto make his power known. This is one of those arguments that the holy apostle settethagainst the most knotty and strong objection that ever was framed against the doctrineof eternal reprobation: 'Thou wilt say then unto me, [saith he] Why doth he yet findfault?' For if it be his will that some should be rejected, hardened, and perish,why then is he offended that any sin against him; 'for who hath resisted his will?'Hold, saith the apostle; stay a little here; first remember this, Is it meet to sayunto God, What doest thou? 'Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Whyhast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump,'&c. Besides, when you have thought your worst, to wit, that the effects of reprobationmust needs be consummate in the eternal perdition of the creature; yet again consider,'What if God, willing to shew his wrath,' as well as grace and mercy? And what ifhe, that he may so do, exclude some from having share in that grace that would infallibly,against all resistance, bring us safe unto eternal life? What then? Is he thereforethe author of your perishing, or his eternal reprobation either? Do you not knowthat he may refuse to elect who he will, without abusing of them? Also that he maydeny to give them that grace that would preserve them from sin, without being guiltyof their damnation? May he not, to shew his wrath, suffer 'with much long-suffering'all that are 'the vessels of wrath,' by their own voluntary will, to fit themselvesfor wrath and for destruction? (Rom 9:19-22). Yea, might he not even in the act ofreprobation, conclude also to suffer them thus left, to fall from the state he leftthem in, that is, as they were considered upright; and when fallen, to bind themfast in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day, but he must needsbe charged foolishly? You shall see in that day what a harmony and what a glory therewill be found in all God's judgments in the overthrow of the sinner; also how clearthe Lord will shew himself of having any working hand in that which causeth eternalruin; notwithstanding he hath reprobated such, doth suffer them to sin, and thattoo, that he might shew his wrath on the vessels of his wrath; the which I also,after this next chapter, shall further clear up to you. As 'the Lord knoweth howto deliver the godly out of temptations,' without approving of their miscarriages;so he also knoweth how 'to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished'(2 Peter 2:9): yet never to deserve the least of blame for his so reserving of them;though none herein can see his way, for he alone knows how to do it.
Of the Unchangeableness of Eternal Reprobation.
Many opinions have passed through the hearts of the sons of men concerning reprobation;most of them endeavouring so to hold it forth, as therewith they might, if not healtheir conscience slightly, yet maintain their own opinion, in their judgment, ofother things; still wringing, now the word this way, and anon again that, for theirpurpose; also framing within their soul such an imagination of God and his acts ineternity, as would suit with such opinions, and so present all to the world. Andthe rather they have with greatest labour strained unweariedly at this above manyother truths, because of the grim and dreadful face it carrieth in most men's apprehensions.But none of these things, however they may please the creature, can by any meansin any measure, either cause God to undo, unsay, or undetermine what he hath concerningthis, decreed and established.
First, Because they suit not with his nature, especially in these foundation-acts:'The foundation of God standeth sure' (2 Tim 2:19), even touching reprobation, 'thatthe purpose of God according to election might stand' (Rom 9:11). 'I know [saithSolomon] that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it,nor any thing taken from it,' &c. (Eccl 3:14). 'Hath he said, and shall he notdo it? Hath he spoken, and shall not make it good?' (Num 23:19). His decrees arecomposed according to his eternal wisdom, established upon his unchangeable will,governed by his knowledge, prudence, power, justice, and mercy, and are brought toconclusion, on his part, in perfect holiness, through the abiding of his most blessedtruth and faithfulness: 'He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways arejudgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he' (Deut 32:4).
Second, This decree is made sure by the number, measure, and bounds of election;for election and reprobation do inclose all reasonable creatures; that is, eitherthe one or the other; election, those that are set apart for glory; and reprobation,those left out of this choice.
Now as touching the elect, they are by this decree confined to that limited numberof persons that must amount to the complete making up the fulness of the mysticalbody of Christ; yea so confined by this eternal purpose, that nothing can be diminishedfrom or added thereunto: and hence it is that they are called his body and membersin particular, 'the fulness of him that filleth all in all' (Eph 1:23) and 'the measureof the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Eph 4:13). Which body, considering himas the head thereof, in conclusion maketh up one perfect man, and holy temple forthe Lord. These are called Christ's substance, inheritance and lot (Psa 16); andare said to be booked, marked, and sealed with God's most excellent knowledge, approbationand liking (2 Tim 2:19). As Christ said to his Father, 'Thine eyes did see my substance,yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuancewere fashioned, when as yet there was none of them' (Psa 139:16). This being thus,I say, it is in the first place impossible that any of those members should miscarry,for 'Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' (Rom 8:33) and becausethey are as to number every way sufficient, being his body, and so by their completingto be made a perfect man: therefore all others are rejected, that the 'purpose ofGod according to election might stand' (Rom 9:11). Besides, it would not only argueweakness in the decree, but monstrousness in the body, if after this, any appointedshould miscarry, or any besides them be added to them (Matt 24:24).
Thirdly, Nay further, that all may see how punctual, exact, and to a tittle thisdecree of election is, God hath not only as to number and quantity confined the persons,but also determined and measured, and that before the world, the number of the giftsand graces that are to be bestowed on these members in general; and also what gracesand gifts to be bestowed on this or that member in particular: He 'hath blessed uswith all spiritual blessings - in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him beforethe foundation of the word' (Eph 1:3,4). And bestoweth them in time upon us, 'Accordingto the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Eph 3:11). Hehath given to the eye, the grace that belongeth to the eye; and to the hand thatwhich he also hath appointed for it. And so to every other member of the body elect,he doth deal out to them their determined measure of grace and gifts most fit fortheir place and office. Thus is the decree established, both of the saved, and alsothe non-elect (Rom 12:3; Eph 4:16; Col 2:19; Eph 4:12,13).
Fourth, But again, another thing that doth establish this decree of eternal reprobation,is the weakness that sin, in the fall, and since, hath brought all reprobates into:For though it be most true, that sin is no cause of eternal reprobation; yet seeingsin hath seized on the reprobate, it cannot be but thereby the decree must needsbe the faster fixed. If the king, for this or the other weighty reason, doth decreenot to give this or that man, who yet did never offend him, a place in his privychamber; if this man after this shall be infected with the plague, this rather fastensthan loosens the king's decree. As the angels that were left out of God's election,by reason of the sin they committed after, are so far off from being by that receivedinto God's decree, that they are therefore bound for it in chains of everlastingdarkness to the judgment of the great day.
Whether to be reprobated be the same with being appointed before-hand unto eternalcondemnation? If not, how do they differ? Also whether reprobation be the cause ofcondemnation?
It hath been the custom of ignorant men much to quarrel at eternal reprobation, concluding,for want of knowledge in the mystery of God's will, that if he reprobate any frometernity, he had as good have said, I will make this man to damn him; I will decreethis man, without any consideration, to the everlasting pains of hell. When in verydeed, for God to reprobate, and to appoint before-hand to eternal condemnation, aretwo distinct things, properly relating to two distinct attributes, arising from twodistinct causes.
First, They are two distinct things: Reprobation, a simple leaving of the creatureout of the bounds of God's election; but to appoint to condemnation is to bind themover to everlasting punishment. Now there is a great difference between my refusingto make of such a tree a pillar in my house, and of condemning it unto the fire tobe burned.
Second, As to the attributes; reprobation respects God's sovereignty; but to appointto condemnation, his justice (Rom 9:18; Gen 18:25).
Third, As to the causes; sovereignty being according to the will of God, but justiceaccording to the sin of man. For God, though he be the only sovereign Lord, and thatto the height of perfection; yet he appointeth no man to the pains of everlastingfire, merely from sovereignty, but by the rule of justice: God damneth not the manbecause he is a man, but a sinner; and fore-appoints him to that place and state,by fore-seeing of him wicked (Rom 1:18,19; Col 3:6).
Again, As reprobation is not the same with fore-appointing to eternal condemnation;so neither is it the cause thereof.
If it be the cause, then it must either, 1. Leave him infirm. Or, 2. Infuse sin intohim. Or, 3. Take from him something that otherwise would keep him upright. 4. Orboth license Satan to tempt, and the reprobate to close in with the temptation. Butit doth none of these; therefore it is not the cause of the condemnation of the creature.
That it is not the cause of sin, it is evident,
1. Because the elect are as much involved therein, as those that are passed by.
2. It leaveth him not infirm; for he is by an after-act, to wit, of creation, formedperfectly upright.
3. That reprobation infuseth no sin, appeareth, because it is the act of God.
4. That it taketh nothing, that good is, from him, is also manifest, it being onlya leaving of him.
5. And that it is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt, or the reprobateto sin, is manifest; because as Christ was tempted, so the elect fall as much intothe temptation, at least many of them, as many of those that are reprobate: whereasif these things came by reprobation, then the reprobate would be only concerned therein.All which will be further handled in these questions yet behind.
Object. From what hath been said, there is concluded this at least, That God hathinfallibly determined, and that before the world, the infallible damnation of someof his creatures: for if God hath before the world [was made] bound some over toeternal punishment, and that as you say, for sin; then this determination must eitherbe fallible or infallible; not fallible, for then your other position of the certaintyof the number of God's elect, is shaken; unless you hold that there may be a numberthat shall neither go to heaven nor hell. Well then, if God hath indeed determined,fore- determined, that some must infallibly perish; doth not this his determinationlay a necessity on the reprobate to sin, that he may be damned; for, no sin, no damnation;that is your own argument.
Ans. That God hath ordained (Jude 4), the damnation of some of his creatures, itis evident; but whether this his determination be positive and absolute, there isthe question: for the better understanding whereof, I shall open unto you the varietyof God's determinations, and their nature, as also rise.
The determinations of God touching the destruction of the creature, they are eitherordinary or extraordinary: those I count ordinary that were commonly pronounced bythe prophets and apostles, &c., in their ordinary way of preaching; to the endmen might be affected with the love of their own salvation: now these either boundor loosed, but as the condition or qualification was answered by the creature undersentence, and no otherwise (1 Sam 12:25; Isa 1:20; Matt 18:3; Luke 13:1-3; Rom 2:8,9,8:13, 11:23; 1 Cor 6:9-11).
Again, These extraordinary, though they respect the same conditions, yet they arenot grounded immediately upon them, but upon the infallible fore-knowledge and fore-sightof God, and are thus distinguished. First the ordinary determination, it stands butat best upon a supposition that the creature may continue in sin, and admits of apossibility that it may not; but the extraordinary stands upon an infallible fore-sightthat the creature will continue in sin; wherefore this must needs be positive, andas infallible as God himself.
Again, These two determinations are also distinguished thus: the ordinary is applicableto the elect as well as to the reprobate, but the other to the reprobate only. Itis proper to say even to the elect themselves, 'He that believeth shall be saved,and he that believeth not shall be damned'; but not to say to them, These are appointedto UTTER destruction, or that they shall utterly perish in their own corruptions;or that for them is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever (1 Kings 20:42; 2Peter 2:12; Jude 13).
So then, though God by these determinations doth not lay some under irrecoverablecondemnation, yet by one of them he doth; as is further made out thus:
1. God most perfectly foreseeth the final impenitency of those that so die, fromthe beginning to the end of the world (Prov 15:11; Psa 139:2; Isa 46:10).
2. Now from this infallible foresight, it is most easy and rational to conclude,and that positively, the infallible overthrow of every such creature. Did I infalliblyforesee that this or that man would cut out his heart in the morning, I might infalliblydetermine his death before night.
Object. But still the question is, Whether God by this his determination doth notlay a necessity on the creature to sin? For, no sin, no condemnation: this is trueby your own assertion.
Ans. No, by no means: for,
1. Though it be true, that sin must of absolute necessity go before the infalliblecondemnation and overthrow of the sinner; and that it must also be pre-consideredby God; yet it needs not lay a necessity upon him to sin: for let him but alone todo what he will, and the determination cannot be more infallible than the sin, whichis the cause of its execution.
2. As it needs not, so it doth not: for this positive determination is not groundedupon what God will effect, but on what the creature will; and that not through theinstigation of God, but the instigation of the devil. What? might not I, if I mostundoubtedly foresaw that such a tree in my garden would only cumber the ground, notwithstandingreasonable means, might not I, I say, from hence determine, seven years before, tocut it down, and burn it in the fire, but I must, by so determining, necessitatethis tree to be fruitless? the case in hand is the very same. God therefore may mostpositively determine the infallible damnation of his creature, and yet not at allnecessitate the creature to sin, that he might be damned.
Object. But how is this similitude pertinent? For God did not only foresee sin wouldbe the destruction of the creature, but let it come into the world, and so destroythe creature. If you, as you foresee the fruitlessness of your tree, should withalsee that which makes it so, and that too before it makes it so, and yet let the impedimentcome and make it so; are not you now the cause of the unfruitfulness of that treewhich you have before condemned to the fire to be burned? for God might have chosewhether he would have let Adam sin, and so sin to have got into the world by him.
Ans. Similitudes never answer every way; if they be pertinent to that for which theyare intended, it is enough; and to that it answereth well, being brought to proveno more but the natural consequence of a true and infallible foresight. And now asto what is objected further, as that God might have chose whether sin should havecome into the world by Adam, to the destruction of so many: to that I shall answer,
1. That sin could not have come into the world without God's permission, it is evident,both from the perfection of his foresight and power.
2. Therefore all the means, motives, and inducements thereunto, must also by himbe not only foreseen, but permitted.
3. Yet so, that God will have the timing, proceeding, bounding, and ordering thereof,at his disposal: 'Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder ofwrath shalt thou restrain' (Psa 76:10; 1 Kings 22:20-22; John 8:20; Luke 22:51,52).
4. Therefore it must needs come into the world, not without, but by the knowledgeof God; not in despite of him, but by his suffering of it.
Object. But how then is he clear from having a hand in the death of him that perisheth?
Ans. Nothing is more sure than that God could have kept sin out of the world, ifit had been his will; and this is also as true, that it never came into the worldwith his liking and compliance; and for this, you must consider that sin came intothe world by two steps:
1. By being offered. 2. By prevailing.
Touching the first of these, God without the least injury to any creature in heavenor earth, might not only suffer it, but so far countenance the same: that is, sofar forth as for trial only: as it is said of Abraham; 'God tempted Abraham' to slayhis only son (Gen 22:1), and led Christ by the Spirit into the wilderness to be temptedof the devil (Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1). This is done without any harm at all; nay, itrather produceth good; for it tends to discover sincerity, to exercise faith in,and love to his Creator; also to put him in mind of the continual need he hath ofdepending on his God for the continuation of help and strength, and to provoke toprayers to God, whenever so engaged (Deut 8:1- 3; 1 Peter 1:7; Heb 5:7; Matt 26:22,41).
Object. But God did not only admit that sin should be offered for trial, and thereto stay; but did suffer it to prevail, and overcome the world.
Ans. Well, this is granted: but yet consider,
1. God did neither suffer it, nor yet consent it should, but under this consideration;If Adam, upright Adam, gave way thereto, by forsaking his command, 'In the day thatthou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die' (Gen 2:17, 3:3). Which Adam did, not becauseGod did compel him or persuade him to it, but voluntarily of his own mind, contraryto his God's command: so then, God by suffering sin to break into the world, didit rather in judgment, as disliking Adam's act, and as a punishment to man for listeningto the tempter; and as a discovery of his anger at man's disobedience; than to provethat he is guilty of the misery of his creature.
2. Consider also, that when God permitted sin for trial, it was, when offered first,to them only who were upright, and had sufficient strength to resist it.
3. They were by God's command to the contrary, driven to no strait to tempt themto incline to Satan: 'Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely at,' saith God;only let this alone.
4. As touching the beauty and goodness that was in the object unto which they wereallured; What was it? Was it better than God? Yea, was it better than the tree oflife? For from that they were not exempted till after they had sinned. Did not Godknow best what was best to do them good?
5. Touching him that persuaded them to do this wicked act; was his word more to bevalued for truth, more to be ventured on for safety, or more to be honoured for theworthiness of him that spake, than was his that had forbad it? The one being thedevil, with a lie, and to kill them; the other being God, with his truth, and topreserve them safe.
Quest. But was not Adam unexpectedly surprised? Had he notice beforehand, and warningof the danger? For God foresaw the business.
Ans. Doubtless God was fair and faithful to his creature in this thing also; as clearlydoth appear from these considerations.
1. The very commandment that God gave him, fore- bespake him well to look about him;and did indeed insinuate that he was likely to be tempted.
2. It is yet more evident, because God doth even tell him of the danger; 'In theday that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.'
3. Nay God by speaking to him of the very tree that was to be forborn, telling himalso where it stood, that he might the better know it; did in effect expressly sayunto him, Adam, if thou be tempted, it will be about that tree, and the fruit thereof:wherefore if thou findest the tempter there, then beware thy life.
(1.) To conclude then: though sin did not come into the world without God's sufferance,yet it did without his liking: God suffered also Cain to kill his brother, and Ishmaelto mock at Isaac, but he did not like the same (Gen 4:9-11; Gal 4:30).
(2.) Therefore though God was first in concluding sin should be offered to the world;yet man was the first that consented to a being overcome thereby.
(3.) Then, Though God did fore-determine that sin should enter, yet it was not butwith respect to certain terms and conditions, which yet was not to be enforced byvirtue of the determination, but permitted to be completed by the voluntary inclinationof a perfect and upright man. And in that the determination was most perfectly infallible,it was through the foresight of the undoubted inclination of this good and uprightperson.
Quest. But might not God have kept Adam from inclining, if he would?
Ans. What more certain? But yet consider,
1. Adam being now an upright man, he was able to have kept himself, had he but lookedto it as he should and might.
2. This being so, if God had here stept in, he had either added that which had beenneedless, and so had not obtained thankfulness; or else had made the strength ofAdam useless, yea his own workmanship in so creating him, superfluous; or else byconsequence imperfect.
(3.) If he had done so, he had taken Adam from his duty, which was to trust and believehis Maker; he had also made void the end of the commandment, which was to persuadeto watchfulness, diligence, sobriety, and contentedness; yea, and by so doing wouldnot only himself have tempted Adam to transgression, even to lay aside the exerciseof that strength that God had already given him; but should have become the pattern,or the first father to all looseness, idleness, and neglect of duty. Which wouldalso not only have been an ill example to Adam to continue to neglect so reasonableand wholesome duties, but would have been to himself an argument of defence to retortupon his God, when he had come at another time to reckon with him for his misdemeanours.
Many other weighty reasons might here be further added for God's vindication in thisparticular, but at this time let these suffice.
Whether any under Eternal Reprobation have just cause to quarrel with God for notelecting of them?
That the answer to this question may be to edification, recall again what I havebefore asserted; to wit, That for a man to be left out of God's election, and tobe made a sinner, is two things; and again, For a man to be not elect, and to becondemned to hell-fire, is two things also. Now I say, if non-election makes no mana sinner, and if it appoints no man to condemnation neither, then what ground hathany reprobate to quarrel with God for not electing of him? Nay, further, reprobationconsidereth him upright, leaveth him upright, and so turneth him into the world;what wrong doth God do him, though he hath not elected him? What reason hath he thatis left in this case to quarrel against his Maker?
If thou say, because God hath not chosen them, as well as chosen others: I answer,'Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed sayto him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?' (Rom 9:20). 'Behold, as the clayis in the potter's hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel,' saith the LordGod (Jer 18:6). So then, if I should say no more but that God is the only Lord andCreator, and that by his sovereignty he hath power to dispose of them according tohis pleasure, either to choose or to refuse, according to the counsel of his ownwill, who could object against him and be guiltless? 'He giveth not account of anyof his matters' (Job 33:13). 'And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth' (Job23:13).
Again, God is wiser than man, and therefore can shew a reason for what he acts anddoes, both when and where at present thou seest none. Shall God the only wise, bearraigned at the bar of thy blind reason, and there be judged and condemned for hisacts done in eternity? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, 'or who hath beenhis counsellor?' (Rom 11:34). Do you not know that he is far more above us, thanwe are above our horse or mule that is without understanding? 'Great things doethhe, which we cannot comprehend' (Job 37:5). 'Great things and unsearchable, marvellousthings without number' (Job 5:9).
But, I say, should we take it well if our beast should call us to account for thisand the other righteous act, and judge us unrighteous, and our acts ridiculous, andall because it sees no reason for our so doing? Why, we are as beasts before God(Psa 73:22).
But again, to come yet more close to the point: the reprobate quarrels with God,because he hath not elected him; well, but is not God the master of his own love?And is not his will the only rule of his mercy? And may he not, without he give offenceto thee, lay hold by electing love and mercy on whom himself pleaseth? Must thy reason,nay, thy lust, be the ruler, orderer, and disposer of his grace? 'Is it not lawfulfor me to do what I will with mine own?' saith he, 'Is thine eye evil, because Iam good?' (Matt 20:15).
Further, What harm doth God to any reprobate, by not electing of him; he was, ashath been said, considered upright, so formed in the act of creation, and so turnedinto the world: indeed he was not elected, but hath that taken anything from him?No, verily, but leaveth him in good condition: there is good, and better, and bestof all; he that is in a good estate, though others through free grace are in a farbetter, hath not any cause to murmur either with him that gave him such a place,or at him that is placed above him. In a word, reprobation maketh no man personallya sinner, neither doth election make any man personally righteous. It is the consentingto sin that makes a man a sinner; and the imputation of grace and righteousness thatmakes [men] gospelly and personally just and holy.
But again, seeing it is God's act to leave some out of the bounds of his election,it must needs be, therefore, positively good: Is that then which is good in itselfmade sin unto thee? God forbid: God doth not evil by leaving this or that man outof his electing grace, though he choose others to eternal life, through Jesus Christour Lord. Wherefore there is not a reprobate that hath any cause, and therefore nojust cause, to quarrel with his Maker, for not electing of him.
And that, besides what hath been spoken, if you consider,
1. For God to elect, is an act of sovereign grace; but to pass by, or to refuse soto do, is an act of sovereign power, not of injustice.
2. God might therefore have chosen whether he would have elected any, or so manyor few; and also which and where he would.
3. Seeing then that all things are at his dispose, he may fasten electing mercy wherehe pleaseth; and other mercy, if he will, to whom and when he will.
4. Seeing also that the least of mercies are not deserved by the best of sinners;men, instead of quarrelling against the God of grace, because they have not whatthey list, should acknowledge they are unworthy of their breath; and also shouldconfess that God may give mercy where he pleaseth, and that too, both which or what,as also to whom, and when he will; and yet be good, and just, and very gracious still:Nay, Job saith, 'He taketh away, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, Whatdoest thou?' (Job 9:12).
The will of God is the rule of all righteousness, neither knoweth he any other wayby which he governeth and ordereth any of his actions. Whatsoever God doth, it isgood because he doth it; whether it be to give grace, or to detain it; whether inchoosing or refusing. The consideration of this, made the holy men of old ascriberighteousness to their Maker, even then when yet they could not see the reason ofhis actions. They would rather stand amazed, and wonder at the heights and depthsof his unsearchable judgments, than quarrel at the strange and most obscure of them(Job 34:10-12, 36:3, 37:23; Jer 12:1; Rom 11:33).
God did not intend that all that ever he would do, should be known to every man,no nor yet to the wise and prudent. It is as much a duty sometimes to stay ourselvesand wonder, and to confess our ignorance in many things of God, as it is to do otherthings that are duty without dispute. So then, let poor dust and ashes forbear tocondemn the Lord, because he goeth beyond them; and also they should beware theyspeak not wickedly for him, though it be, as they think, to justify his actions.'The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works' (Psa 145:17; Matt11:25; 1 Cor 2:8; Job 13:6-8).
Whether Eternal reprobation in itself, or in its doctrine, be in very deed an hindranceto any man in seeking the salvation of his soul.
In my discourse upon this question, I must entreat the reader to mind well what ispremised in the beginning of the former chapter, which is, That reprobation makesno man a sinner, appoints no man to condemnation, but leaveth him upright after all.So then, though God doth leave this most of men without the bounds of his election,his so doing is neither in itself, nor yet its doctrine, in very deed, an hindranceto any man in seeking the salvation of his soul.
First, It hindreth not in itself, as is clear by the ensuing considerations:—
1. That which hindreth him is the weakness that came upon him by reason of sin. NowGod only made the man, but man's listening to Satan made him a sinner, which is thecause of all his weakness: this therefore is it that hindreth him, and that alsodisenableth him in seeking the salvation of his soul. 'Let no man say when he istempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither temptethhe any man' (James 1:13). 'God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions'(Eccl 7:29; Eze 16:30; Hosea 13:9, 14:1; Gen 3:8-11).
2. It hindreth not in itself, for it taketh not anything from a man that would helphim, might it continue with him; it takes not away the least part of his strength,wisdom, courage, innocency, or will to good; all these were lost by the fall, inthat day when he died the death. Nay, reprobation under some consideration did ratherestablish all these upon the reprobate; for as it decrees him left, so left upright.Wherefore man's hindrance cometh on him from other means, even by the fall, and notby the simple act of eternal reprobation (Gen 3).
3. As reprobation hindreth not either of these two ways, so neither is it from thissimple act that Satan is permitted either to tempt them, that they might be tried,or that they might be overthrown.
(1.) It is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt them that they mightbe tried; because then the Son of God himself must be reached by this reprobation;he being tempted by the devil as much, if not more than any. Yea, and then must everyone of the elect be under eternal reprobation; for they also, and that after theirconversion, are greatly assaulted by him. 'Many are the troubles of the righteous,'&c. (Matt 4:1,2; Heb 2:17, 4:15).
(2.) Neither is it from the act of reprobation that sin hath entered the world, nomore than from election, because those under the power of election did not only fallat first, but do still generally as foully, before conversion, as the reprobate himself.Whereas, if either the temptation, or the fall, were by virtue of reprobation, thenthe reprobates, and they only, should have been tempted, and have fallen. The temptationthen, and the fall, doth come from other means, and so the hindrance of the reprobate,than from eternal reprobation. For the temptation, the fall and hindrance being universal,but the act of reprobation particular, the hindrance must needs come from such acause as taketh hold on all men, which indeed is the fall; the cause of which wasneither election nor reprobation, but man's voluntary listening to the tempter (Rom3:9).
(3.) It is yet far more evident that reprobation hindreth no man from seeking thesalvation of his soul: because notwithstanding all that reprobation doth, yet Godgiveth to divers of the reprobates great encouragements thereto; to wit, the tendersof the gospel in general, not excluding any; great light also to understand it, withmany a sweet taste of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come;he maketh them sometimes also to be partakers of the Holy Ghost, and admitteth manyof them into fellowship with his elect; yea, some of them to be rulers, teachers,and governors in his house: all which, without doubt, both are and ought to be greatencouragements even to the reprobates themselves, to seek the salvation of theirsouls (Matt 11:28; Rev 22:17; Heb 6:4,5; Matt 25:1,2; Acts 1:16,17).
Second, As it hindreth not in itself, so it hindreth not by its doctrine: for, allthat this doctrine saith is, that some are left out of God's election, as consideredupright. Now this doctrine cannot hinder any man. For,
1. No man still stands upright.
2. Though it saith some are left, yet it points at no man, it nameth no man, it bindsall faces in secret. So then, if it hinder, it hindreth all, even the elect as wellas reprobate; for the reprobate hath as much ground to judge himself elect, as thevery elect himself hath, before he be converted, being both alike in a state of natureand unbelief, and both alike visibly liable to the curse, for the breach of the commandment.Again, As they are equals here, so also have they ground alike to close in with Christand live; even the open, free, and full invitation of the gospel, and promise oflife and salvation, by the faith of Jesus Christ (Eph 2:1,2; Rom 3:9; John 3:16;2 Cor 5:19-21; Rev 21:6, 22:17).
3. It is evident also by experience, that this doctrine doth not, in deed, neithercan it hinder any (this doctrine I mean, when both rightly stated and rightly used)because many who have been greatly afflicted about this matter, have yet at lasthad comfort; which comfort, when they have received it, hath been to them as an argumentthat the thing they feared before, was not because of reprobation rightly stated;but its doctrine much abused was the cause of their affliction: and had they hadthe same light at first they received afterwards, their troubles then would soonhave fled, as also now they do. Wherefore discouragement comes from want of light,because they are not skilful in the word of righteousness: for had the discouragementat first been true, which yet it could not be, unless the person knew by name himselfunder eternal reprobation, which is indeed impossible, then his light would havepinched him harder; light would rather have fastened this his fear, than at all haverid him of it (Heb 5:12-14).
Indeed the scripture saith, the word is to some the savour of death unto death, whento others the savour of life unto life. But mark, it is not this doctrine in particular,if so much as some other, that doth destroy the reprobate. It was respited at whichPharaoh hardened his heart; and the grace of God that the reprobates of old did turninto lasciviousness. Yea, Christ the Saviour of the world, is a stumbling-block untosome, and a rock of offence unto others. But yet again, consider that neither HE,nor any of God's doctrines, are so simply, and in their own true natural force anddrift: for they beget no unbelief, they provoke to no wantonness, neither do theyin the least encourage to impenitency; all this comes from that ignorance and wickednessthat came by the fall: Wherefore it is by reason of that also, that they stumble,and fall, and grow weak, and are discouraged, and split themselves, either at thedoctrine of reprobation, or at any other truth of God (Exo 8:15; Jude 4:1; 1 Peter2:8).
Lastly, To conclude as I began, there is no man while in this world, that doth certainlyknow that he is left out of the electing love of the great God; neither hath he anyword in the whole bible, to persuade him so to conclude and believe; for the scriptureshold forth salvation to the greatest of sinners. Wherefore, though the act of reprobationwere far more harsh, and its doctrine also more sharp and severe, yet it cannot properlybe said to hinder any. It is a foolish thing in any to be troubled with those thingswhich they have no ground to believe concerns themselves; especially when the latitudeof their discouragement is touching their own persons only. 'The secret things belongunto the Lord our God' (Deut 29:29). Indeed every one of the words of God ought toput us upon examination, and into a serious enquiry of our present state and condition,and how we now do stand for eternity; to wit, whether we are ready to meet the Lord,or how it is with us. Yet, when search is fully made, and the worst come unto theworst, the party can find himself no more than the chief of sinners, not excludedfrom the grace of God tendered in the gospel; not from an invitation, nay a promise,to be embraced and blest, if he comes to Jesus Christ. Wherefore he hath no groundto be discouraged by the doctrine of reprobation (1 Tim 1:15; Acts 3:19; 2 Chron33; John 7:37, 6:37; Mark 2:17).
Whether God would indeed and in truth, that the gospel, with the grace thereof, shouldbe tendered to those that yet he hath bound up under Eternal Reprobation?
To this question I shall answer,
First, In the language of our Lord, 'Go preach the gospel unto every creature' (Mark16:15); and again, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved; all ye ends of the earth' (Isa45:22). 'And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely' (Rev 22:17).And the reason is, because Christ died for all, 'tasted death for every man' (2 Cor5:15; Heb 2:9); is 'the Saviour of the world' (1 John 4:14), and the propitiationfor the sins of the whole world.
Second, I gather it from those several censures that even every one goeth under,that doth not receive Christ, when offered in the general tenders of the gospel;'He that believeth not, - shall be damned' (Mark 16:16); 'He that believeth not Godhath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son'(1 John 5:10); and, Woe unto thee Capernaum, 'Woe unto thee Chorazin! woe unto theeBethsaida!' (Matt 11:21) with many other sayings, all which words, with many otherof the same nature, carry in them a very great argument to this very purpose; forif those that perish in the days of the gospel, shall have, at least, their damnationheightened, because they have neglected and refused to receive the gospel, it mustneeds be that the gospel was with all faithfulness to be tendered unto them; thewhich it could not be, unless the death of Christ did extend itself unto them (John3:16; Heb 2:3); for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God's allowance, be offeredany further than the death of Jesus Christ doth go; because if that be taken away,there is indeed no gospel, nor grace to be extended. Besides, if by every creature,and the like, should be meant only the elect, then are all the persuasions of thegospel to no effect at all; for still the unconverted, who are here condemned forrefusing of it, they return it as fast again: I do not know I am elect, and thereforedare not come to Jesus Christ; for if the death of Jesus Christ, and so the generaltender of the gospel, concern the elect alone; I, not knowing myself to be one ofthat number, am at a mighty plunge; nor know I whether is the greater sin, to believe,or to despair: for I say again, if Christ died only for the elect, &c. then,I not knowing myself to be one of that number, dare not believe the gospel, thatholds forth his blood to save me; nay, I think with safety may not, until I firstdo know I am elect of God, and appointed thereunto.
Third, God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, would have all men whatever, invitedby the gospel to lay hold of life by Christ, whether elect or reprobate; for thoughit be true, that there is such a thing as election and reprobation, yet God, by thetenders of the gospel in the ministry of his word, looks upon men under another consideration,to wit, as sinners; and as sinners invites them to believe, lay hold of, and embracethe same. He saith not to his ministers, Go preach to the elect, because they areelect; and shut out others, because they are not so: But, Go preach the gospel tosinners as sinners; and as they are such, go bid them come to me and live. And itmust needs be so, otherwise the preacher could neither speak in faith, nor the peoplehear in faith. First, the preacher could not speak in faith, because he knoweth notthe elect from the reprobate; nor they again hear in faith, because, as unconverted,they would be always ignorant of that also. So then, the minister neither knowingwhom he should offer life unto, nor yet the people which of them are to receive it;how could the word now be preached in faith with power? And how could the peoplebelieve and embrace it? But now the preacher offering mercy in the gospel to sinners,as they are sinners, here is way made for the word to be spoke in faith, becausehis hearers are sinners; yea, and encouragement also for the people to receive andclose therewith, they understanding they are sinners: 'Christ Jesus came into theworld to save sinners' (1 Tim 1:15; Luke 24:46,47).
Fourth, The gospel must be preached to sinners as they are sinners, without distinctionof elect or reprobate; because neither the one nor yet the other, as considered underthese simple acts, are fit subjects to embrace the gospel: for neither the one act,nor yet the other, doth make either of them sinners; but the gospel is to be tenderedto men as they are sinners, and personally under the curse of God for sin: whereforeto proffer grace to the elect because they are elect, it is to proffer grace andmercy to them, as not considering them as sinners. And, I say, to deny it to thereprobate, because he is not elected, it is not only a denial of grace to them thathave no need thereof, but also before occasion is given on their part, for such adispensation. And I say again, therefore, to offer Christ and grace to man elect,as simply so considered, this administers to him no comfort at all, he being hereno sinner; and so engageth not the heart at all to Jesus Christ; for that comes in,and is effected on them as they are sinners. Yea, to deny the gospel also to thereprobate, because he is not elect, it will not trouble him at all; for saith he,So I am not a sinner, and so do not need a Saviour. But now, because the elect haveno need of grace in Christ by the gospel, but as they are sinners; nor the reprobatescause to refuse it, but as they are sinners; therefore Christ by the word of thegospel, is to be proffered to both, without considering elect or reprobate, evenas they are sinners. 'The whole have no need of the physician, but they that aresick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Mark 2:17; 2Cor 5:14,15; Luke 7:47).
Thus you see the gospel is to be tendered to all in general, as well to the reprobateas to the elect, TO SINNERS AS SINNERS; and so are they to receive it, and to closewith the tenders thereof.
Seeing then that the grace of God in the gospel, is by that to be proffered to sinners,as sinners; as well to the reprobate as the elect; Is it possible for those who indeedare not elect, to receive it, and be saved?
To this question I shall answer several things: but first I shall shew you what thatgrace is, that is tendered in the gospel; and secondly, what it is to receive itand be saved.
First then, The grace that is offered to sinners as sinners, without respect to thisor that person, it is a sufficiency of righteousness, pardoning grace, and life,laid up in the person of Christ, held forth in the exhortation and word of the gospel,and promised to be theirs that receive it; yea, I say, in so universal a tender,that not one is by it excluded or checked in the least, but rather encouraged, ifhe hath the least desire to life; yea, it is held forth to beget both desires andlongings after the life thus laid up in Christ, and held forth by the gospel (John1:16; Col 1:19,23; 1 John 5:11,12; Acts 13:38,39; Rom 10:12-14, 16:25,26).
Secondly, To receive this grace thus tendered by the gospel, it is,
1. To believe it is true.
2. To receive it heartily and unfeignedly through faith. And,
3. To let it have its natural sway, course and authority in the soul, and that inthat measure, as to bring forth the fruits of good living in heart, word, and life,both before God and man.
Now then to the question.
Is it possible that this tender, thus offered to the reprobate, should by him bethus received and embraced, and he live thereby?
To which I answer in the negative. Nor yet for the elect themselves, I mean as considereddead in trespasses and sins, which is the state of all men, elect as well as reprobate.So then, though there be a sufficiency of life and righteousness laid up in Christfor all men, and this tendered by the gospel to them without exception; yet sin comingin between the soul and the tender of this grace, it hath in truth disabled all men,and so, notwithstanding this tender, they continue to be dead. For the gospel, Isay, coming in word only, saveth no man, because of man's impediment; wherefore thosethat indeed are saved by this gospel, the word comes not to them in word only, butalso in power, and in the Holy Ghost; is mixed with faith even with the faith ofthe operation of God, by whose exceeding great and mighty power they are raised fromthis death of sin, and enabled to embrace the gospel. Doubtless, all men being deadin trespasses and sins, and so captivated under the power of the devil, the curseof the law, and shut up in unbelief; it must be the power of God, yea the exceedinggreatness of that power that raiseth the soul from this condition, to receive theholy gospel (Eph 2:1-3; 1 Thess 1:5,6; Col 2:12; Heb 4:1,2; Eph 1:18,19, &c.).
For man by nature, (consider him at best), can see no more, nor do no more than whatthe principles of nature understands and helps to do; which nature being below thediscerning of things truly, spiritually, and savingly good, it must needs fall shortof receiving, loving and delighting in them. 'The natural man receiveth not the thingsof the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them,because they are spiritually discerned' (1 Cor 2:14). Now I say, if the natural manat best (for the elect before conversion are no more, if quite so much) cannot dothis, how shall they attain thereto, being now not only corrupted and infected, butdepraved, bewitched and dead; swallowed up of unbelief, ignorance, confusion, hardnessof heart, hatred of God, and the like? When a thorn by nature beareth grapes, anda thistle beareth figs, then may this thing be (Matt 7:16-18). To lay hold of andreceive the gospel by a true and saving faith, it is an act of the soul as made anew creature, which is the workmanship of God: 'Now he that hath wrought us for theself-same thing is God' (2 Cor 5:5). 'For a corrupt tree cannot bring forth goodfruit' (Luke 6:43-45). 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin?' (Jer 13:23).
But yet the cause of this impossibility.
1. Lieth not in reprobation, the elect themselves being as much unable to receiveit as the other.
2. Neither is it because the reprobate is excluded in the tender, for that is universal.
3. Neither is it because there wanteth arguments in the tenders of the gospel, forthere is not only plenty, but such as be persuasive, clear, and full of rationality.
4. Neither is it because these creatures have no need thereof, for they have brokenthe law.
5. Wherefore it is, because indeed they are by sin dead, captivated, mad, self-opposers,blind, alienated in their minds, and haters of the Lord. Behold the ruins that sinhath made!
Wherefore whoever receiveth the grace that is tendered in the gospel, they must bequickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated,their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified, and theSon of God revealed in them. Yet as I said, not because there wanteth argument inthese tenders, but because men are dead, and blind, and cannot hear the word. 'Whydo ye not understand my speech [saith Christ]; Even because ye cannot hear my word'(John 8:43; Acts 9:15, 26:9,10; Psa 110:3; Gal 1:15; Matt 11:27).
For otherwise, as I said but now, there is, 1. Rationality enough in the tendersof the gospel. 2. Persuasions of weight enough to provoke to faith. And, 3. Argumentsenough to persuade to continue therein.
1. Is it not reasonable that man should believe God in the proffer of the gospeland life by it? Is there not reason, I say, both from the truth and faithfulnessof God, from the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, as also from the freeness andfullness of the promise? What unreasonable thing doth the gospel bid thee credit?Or what falsehood doth it command thee to receive for truth? Indeed in many pointsthe gospel is above reason, but yet in never a one against it; especially in thosethings wherein it beginneth with the sinner, in order to eternal life.
2. Again, touching its persuasions to provoke to faith: With how many signs and wonders,miracles and mighty deeds, hath it been once and again confirmed, and that to thisvery end? (Heb 1:1-3; 1 Cor 14:22). With how many oaths, declarations, attestations,and proclamations, is it avouched, confirmed, and established? (Heb 6:17,18; Acts13:32; Jer 3:12; Gal 3:15). And why should not credence be given to that gospel thatis confirmed by blood, the blood of the Son of God himself? Yea, that gospel thatdid never yet fail any that in truth hath cast themselves upon it, since the foundationof the world (Heb 9:16-18, 12:1-3).
3. Again, as there is rationality enough, and persuasions sufficient, so there isalso argument most prevalent to persuade to continue therein, and that to heartily,cheerfully, and unfeignedly, unto the end: did not, as I have said, blindness, madness,deadness, and willful rebellion, carry them away in the vanity of their minds, andovercome them (Eph 4:17-19).
(1.) For, first, if they could but consider how they have sinned, how they have provokedGod, &c., if they could but consider what a dismal state the state of the damnedis, and also, that in a moment their condition is like to be the same, would theynot cleave to the gospel and live?
(2.) The enjoyment of God, and Christ, and saints, and angels, being the sweetest;the pleasures of heaven the most comfortable, and to live always in the greatestheight of light, life, joy, and gladness imaginable, one would think were enoughto persuade the very damned now in hell.
There is no man then perisheth for want of sufficient reason in the tenders of thegospel, nor any for want of persuasions to faith; nor yet because there wanteth argumentsto provoke to continue therein. But the truth is, the gospel in this hath to do withunreasonable creatures; with such as will not believe it, and that because it istruth: 'And because I tell you the truth, [saith Christ] therefore ye believe menot' (John 8:45).
Quest. Well, but if this in truth be thus, how then comes it to pass that some receiveit and live for ever? For you have said before, that the elect are as dead as thereprobate, and full as unable as they, as men, to close with these tenders, and live.
Answ. Doubtless this is true, and were the elect left to themselves, they, throughthe wickedness of their heart, would perish as do others. Neither could all the reasonablepersuasive prevalent arguments of the gospel of God in Christ, prevail to make anyreceive it, and live. Wherefore here you must consider, that as there is mercy proclaimedin the general tenders of the gospel, so there is also the grace of election; whichgrace kindly over-ruleth and winneth the spirit of the chosen, working in them thatunfeigned closing therewith, that makes it effectual to their undoubted salvation;which indeed is the cause that not only in other ages, but also to this day, thereis a remnant that receive this grace; they being appointed, I say, thereto, beforethe world began; preserved in time from that which would undo them, and enabled toembrace the glorious gospel of grace, and peace, and life (1 Kings 19:18; Rom 11:5;1 Thess 5:9).
Now there is a great difference between the grace of election, and the grace thatis wrapped up in the general tenders of the gospel a difference, I say, and thatboth as to its timing, latituding, and working.
1. Touching its timing; it is before, yea long before, there was either tender ofthe grace wrapped up in the gospel to any, or any need of such a tender (Eph 1:4,5).
2. They also differ in latitude; the tenders of grace in the gospel are common anduniversal to all, but the extension of that of election special and peculiar to some.'There is a remnant according to the election of grace' (Rom 11:5).
3. Touching the working of the grace of election; it differs much in some thingsfrom the working of the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel.As is manifest in these particulars:
(1.). The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, calleth forfaith to lay hold upon, and accept thereof; but the special grace of election, workeththat faith which doth lay hold thereof (Acts 16:31, 13:48; Phil 1:29; 2 Thess 1:11).
(2.) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, calleth forfaith, as a condition in us, without which there is no life; but the special graceof election worketh faith in us without any such condition (Mark 16:15,16; Rom 11:5,6).
(3.) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, promiseth happinessupon the condition of persevering in the faith only; but the special grace of electioncauseth this perseverance (Col 1:23; Eph 2:10; Rom 11:7; 1 Peter 1:5-7).
(4.) The grace offered in the general tenders of the gospel, when it sparkleth most,leaveth the greatest part of men behind it; but the special grace of election, whenit shineth least, doth infallibly bring every soul therein concerned to everlastinglife (Rom 10:16, 8:33-35).
(5.) A man may overcome and put out all the light and life that is begotten in himby the general tenders of the gospel; but none shall overcome, or make void, or frustratethe grace of election (Jude 4; 2 Peter 2:20-22; Matt 24:24; Rom 11:1-3, &c.).
(6.) The general tenders of the gospel, considered without a concurrence of the graceof election, helps not the elect himself, when sadly fallen. Wherefore, when I saythe grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, I mean that gracewhen offered, as not being accompanied with a special operation of God's eternallove, by way of conjunction therewith. Otherwise the grace that is tendered in thegeneral offers of the gospel, is that which saveth the sinner now, and that bringshim to everlasting life; that is, when conjoined with that grace that blesseth andmaketh this general tender effectually efficacious. The grace of election workethnot without, but by these tenders generally; neither doth the grace thus tendered,effectually work, but by and with the grace of election: 'As many as were ordainedto eternal life believed' (Acts 13:48): The word being then effectual to life, whenthe hand of the Lord is effectually therewith to that end (Mark 16:20). They 'spake[saith the text] unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of theLord was with them; and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord' (Acts11:20,21).
We must always put difference between the word of the gospel, and the power thatmanageth that word; we must put difference between the common and more special operationsof that power also; even as there is evidently a difference to be put between thosewords of Christ that were effectual to do what was said, and of those words of hiswhich were but words only, or at least not so accompanied with power. As for instance:that same Jesus that said to the Leper, 'Say nothing to any man,' said also to Lazarus,'Come forth'; yet the one obeyed, the other did not; though he that obeyed was leastin a capacity to do it, he being now dead, and stunk in his grave. Indeed unbeliefhath hindered Christ much, yet not when he putteth forth himself as Almighty, butwhen he doth suffer himself by them to be abused who are to be dealt with by ordinarymeans: Otherwise legions of devils, with ten thousand impediments, must fall downbefore him, and give way unto him. There is a speaking, and a so speaking: 'Theyso spake, that a great multitude, both of the Jews, and also of the Greeks, believed'(Acts 14:1). Even as I have hinted already, there is a difference between the comingof the word when it is in power (1 Thess 1:5), and when it is in word only. So then,the blessed grace of election chooseth this man to good, not because he is good;it chooseth him to believe, not because he doth believe; it chooseth him to persevere,not because he doth so; it fore-ordains that this man shall be created in ChristJesus unto good works (Eph 1:4-6), not if a man will create himself thereto (1 Peter1:2; Eph 2:10).
What shall we say then? Is the fault in God, if any perish? Doubtless no; nor yetin his act of eternal reprobation neither: it is grace that saveth the elect, butsin that damns the rest: it is superabundant grace that causeth the elect to closewith the tenders of life, and live; and it is the aboundings of sin that holds offthe reprobate from the rational, necessary, and absolute tenders, of grace. To concludethen; the gospel calleth for credence as a condition, and that both from the electand reprobate; but because none of them both, as dead in sin, will close therewith,and live; therefore grace, by virtue of electing love, puts forth itself to workand do for some beyond reason; and justice cuts off others, for slighting so good,so gracious, and necessary a means of salvation, so full both of kindness, mercyand reason.
Seeing [that] it is not possible that the reprobate should receive this grace andlive, and also seeing [that] this is infallibly foreseen of God; and again, seeingGod hath fore-determined to suffer it so to be; Why doth he yet will and commandthat the gospel, and so grace in the general tenders thereof, should be profferedunto them?
Why then is the gospel offered them? Well, that there is such a thing as eternalreprobation, I have shewed you; also what this eternal reprobation is, I have openedunto you: and shall now shew you also, that though these reprobates will infalliblyperish, which God not only foresaw, but fore-determined to suffer them most assuredlyso to do; yet there is reason, great reason, why the gospel, and so the grace ofGod thereby, should be tendered, and that in general terms, to them as well as others.
But before I come to lay the reasons before you, I must mind you afresh of theseparticulars:
1. That eternal reprobation makes no man a sinner.
2. That the fore-knowledge of God that the reprobate would perish makes no man asinner.
3. That God's infallibly determining upon the damnation of him that perisheth, makesno man a sinner.
4. God's patience and long-suffering, and forbearance, until the reprobate fits himselffor eternal destruction, makes no man a sinner.
So then, God may reprobate, may suffer the reprobate to sin, may pre-determine hisinfallible damnation, through the pre-consideration of him in sin, and may also forbearto work that effectual work in his soul that would infallibly bring him out of thiscondition, and yet neither be the author, contriver, nor means of man's sin and misery.
Again, God may infallibly foresee that this reprobate, when he hath sinned, willbe an unreasonable opposer of his own salvation; and may also determine to sufferhim to sin, and be thus unreasonable to the end, yet be gracious, yea very gracious,if he offer him life, and that only upon reasonable terms, which yet he denieth toclose with (Isa 1:18; 55:12).
The reasons are,
1. Because not God, but sin, hath made him unreasonable; without which, reasonableterms had done his work for him: for reasonable terms are the most equal and righteousterms that can be propounded between parties at difference; yea the terms that mostsuiteth and agreeth with a reasonable creature, such as man; nay, reasonable termsare, for terms, the most apt to work with that man whose reason is brought into andheld captive by very sense itself (Eze 18; 33).
2. God goeth yet further, he addeth promises of mercy, as those that are inseparableto the terms he offereth, even to pour forth his Spirit unto them; 'Turn at my reproof,and behold I will pour forth of my Spirit unto you, and incline your ear; come untome, hear and your soul shall live' (Prov 1:23-27).
Now then to the question itself, to wit, that seeing it is impossible the reprobateshould be saved; seeing also this is infallibly foreseen of God, and seeing alsothat God hath beforehand determined to suffer it so to be; yet I shall shew you itis requisite, yea very requisite, that he should both will and command that the gospel,and so grace in the general tenders thereof should be proffered unto them.
FIRST REASON.—And that first, to shew that this reprobation doth not in itself makeany man absolutely incapable of salvation: for if God had intended that by the actof reprobation, the persons therein concerned should also by that only act have beenmade incapable of everlasting life, then this act must also have tied up all themeans from them, that tendeth to that end; or at least have debarred the gospel'sbeing offered to them by God's command, for that intent; otherwise who is there butwould have charged the Holy One as guilty of guile, and worthy of blame, for commandingthat the gospel of grace and salvation should be offered unto this or that man, whomyet he hath made incapable to receive it, by his act of reprobation. Wherefore thisvery thing, to wit, that the gospel is yet to be tendered to these eternally reprobated,sheweth that it is not simply the act of God's reprobation, but sin, that incapacitateththe creature of life everlasting. Which sin is no branch of this reprobation, asis evident, because the elect and reprobate are both alike defiled therewith.
SECOND REASON.—God also sheweth by this, that the reprobate do not perish for wantof the offers of salvation, though he hath offended God, and that upon most righteousterms; according to what is written, 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasurein the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live' (Eze33:11, 18:31,32). 'Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn untoyou, saith the Lord of Hosts' (Zech 1:3). So then, here lieth the point between Godand the reprobate, I mean the reprobate since he hath sinned, God is willing to savehim upon reasonable terms, but not upon terms above reason; but not reasonable termswill [go] down with the reprobate, therefore he must perish for his unreasonableness.
That God is willing to save even those that perish for ever, is apparent, both fromthe consideration of the goodness of his nature (Psa 145:9), of man's being his creature,and indeed in a miserable state (Job 14:15, 3:16). But I say, as I have also saidalready, there is a great difference between his being willing to save them, throughtheir complying with these his reasonable terms, and his being resolved to save them,whether they, as men, will close therewith, or no; so only he saveth the elect themselves,even 'according to the riches of his grace' (Eph 1:7). Even 'according to his richesin glory, by Christ Jesus' (Phil 4:19). Working effectually in them, what the gospel,as a condition, calleth for from them. And hence it is that he is said to give faith(Phil 1:29), yea the most holy faith, for that is the faith of God's elect, to giverepentance (Acts 5:31), to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear thatmay keep them for ever from everlasting ruin (Eph 1:4); still engaging his mercyand goodness to follow them all the days of their lives (Jer 32:40; Eze 36:26,27),that they may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psa 23:6), and as anotherscripture saith, 'Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God' (2Cor 5:5; Rom 8:26, &c.).
But I say, his denying to do thus for every man in the world, cannot properly besaid to be because he is not heartily willing they should close with the tendersof the grace held forth in the gospel, and live. Wherefore you must consider thatthere is a distinction to be put between God's denying grace on reasonable terms,and denying it absolutely; and also that there is a difference between his withholdingfurther grace, and of hindering men from closing with the grace at present offered;also that God may withhold much, when he taketh away nothing; yea, take away much,when once abused, and yet be just and righteous still. Further, God may deny to dothis or that absolutely, when yet he hath promised to do, not only that, but more,conditionally. Which things considered, you may with ease conclude, that he may bewilling to save those not elect, upon reasonable terms, though not without them.
It is no unrighteousness in God to offer grace unto the world, though but on theseterms only, that they are also foreseen by him infallibly to reject; both becauseto reject it is unreasonable, especially the terms being so reasonable, as to believethe truth and live; and also because it is grace and mercy in God, so much as onceto offer means of reconciliation to a sinner, he being the offender; but the Lord,the God offended; they being but dust and ashes, he the heavenly Majesty. If God,when man had broke the law, had yet with all severity kept the world to the utmostcondition of it, had he then been unjust? Had he injured man at all? Was not everytittle of the law reasonable, both in the first and second table? How much more thenis he merciful and gracious, even in but mentioning terms of reconciliation? especiallyseeing he is also willing so to condescend, if they will believe his word, and receivethe love of the truth. Though the reprobate then doth voluntarily, and against allstrength of reason, run himself upon the rocks of eternal misery, and split himselfthereon, he perisheth in his own corruption, by rejecting terms of life (2 Thess2:10; 2 Peter 2:12,13).
Object. But the reprobate is not now in a capacity to fulfil these reasonable terms.
Ans. But I say, suppose it should be granted, is it because reprobation made himincapable, or sin? Not reprobation, but sin: if sin, then before he quarrel, lethim consider the case aright, where, in the result, he will find sin, being consentedto by his voluntary mind, hath thus disabled him: and because, I say, it was sinby his voluntary consent that did it, let him quarrel with himself for consenting,so as to make himself incapable to close with reasonable terms; yea, with those termsbecause reasonable, therefore most suitable, as terms, for him notwithstanding hiswickedness. And I say again, forasmuch as those reasonable terms have annexed untothem, as their inseperable companions, such wonderful mercy and grace as indeed thereis, let even them that perish, yet justify God; yea cry, 'His goodness endureth forever'; though they, through the wretchedness of their hearts, get no benefit by it.
THIRD REASON.— God may will and command that his gospel, and so the grace thereof,be tendered to those that shall never be saved, (besides what hath been said) toshew to all spectators what an enemy sin, being once embraced, is to the salvationof man. Sin, without the tenders of the grace of the gospel, could never have appearedso exceeding sinful, as by that it both hath and doth: 'If I had not come and spokenunto them, [saith Christ] they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for theirsin' (John 15:22). As sins that oppose the law, are discovered by the law, that is,by the goodness, and justness, and holiness of the law (Rom 7); so the sins thatoppose the gospel, are made manifest by that, even by the love, and mercy, and forgivenessof the gospel: If 'he that despised Moses' law died without mercy, - of how muchsorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God?' (Heb 10:28,29). Who could have thought that sin would haveopposed that which is just, but especially mercy and grace, had we not seen it withour eyes? And how could we have seen it to purpose, had not God left some to themselves?Here indeed is sin made manifest: 'For all he had done so many miracles amongst them,'(to wit, to persuade them to mercy) 'yet they believed not on him' (John 12:37).Sin, where it reigneth, is a mortal enemy to the soul; it blinds the eyes, holdsthe hands, ties the legs, and stops the ears, and makes the heart implacable to resistthe Saviour of souls. That man will neither obey the law nor the gospel, who is leftunto his sin: which also God is willing should be discovered and made manifest, thoughit cost the damnation of some: For this very purpose, saith God to Pharaoh, 'haveI raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declaredin all the earth' (Exo 9:16; Rom 9:17). For God, by raising up Pharaoh to his kingdom,and suffering him to walk to the height, according as his sin did prompt him forward,shewed unto all beholders what a dreadful thing sin is; and that without the specialassistance of his Holy Spirit, sin would neither be charmed by law nor gospel. Thisreason, though it be no profit unto those that are damned; yet it is for the honourof God, and the good of those he hath chosen.
It is for the honour of God, even for the honour of his power and mercy: for hispower is now discovered indeed, when nothing can tame sin but that; and his mercyis here seen indeed; because that doth engage him to do it. Read Romans 9:22,23.
FOURTH REASON.—God commandeth that the tender of the gospel, and the grace thereof,be in general offered to all, that means thereby might be sufficiently provided forthe elect, both to beget them to faith, and to maintain it in them to the end, inwhat place, or state, or condition soever they are (Eph 1). God, through the operationof his manifold wisdom, hath an end and an end in his acts and doings amongst thechildren of men: and, so in that he commandeth that his gospel be tendered to all,an end, I say, to leave the damned without excuse, and to provide sufficiency ofmeans for the gathering all his elect. 'Oh that God would speak, [saith Zophar] andopen his lips against thee; and -shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are doubleto that which is' (Job 11:5,6). For though God worketh with and upon the elect, otherwisethan with and upon the reprobate; yet he worketh with and upon the elect, with andby the same word he commandeth should be held forth and offered to the reprobate.Now the text thus running in most free and universal terms, the elect then hearingthereof, do through the mighty power of God close in with the tenders therein heldforth, and are saved. Thus that word that was offered to the reprobate Jews, andby them most fiercely rejected, even that word became yet effectual to the chosen,and they were saved thereby. They gladly received the word, 'and as many as wereordained to eternal life believed' (Acts 13:48). 'Not as though the word of Godhad taken none effect' (Rom 9:6). 'God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew'(11:2). The word shall accomplish the thing for which God hath sent it, even thesalvation of the few that are chosen, when tendered to all; though rejected by most,through the rebellion of their hearts (Acts 28:28; Heb 4:1-3).
Object. But if God hath elected, as you have said, what need he lay a foundationso general for the begetting faith in his chosen particulars, seeing the same Spiritthat worketh in them by such means, could also work in them by other, even by a word,excluding the most, in the first tenders thereof, amongst men?
Ans. I told you before, that though this be a principal reason of the general tendersof the grace of the gospel, yet it is not all the reason why the tender should beso general, as the three former reasons shew.
But again, in the bowels of God's decree of election, is contained the means thatare also ordained for the effectual bringing of those elected to that glory for whichthey were fore-appointed; even to gather together in one, all the children of God(John 11:52). 'Whereunto he called you, [saith Paul] by our gospel, to the obtainingof the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ' (2 Thess 2:14). God's decree of election then,destroyeth not the means which his wisdom hath prepared, it rather establisheth,yea ordains and establisheth it; and maketh that means which in the outward soundis indefinite and general, effectual to this and that man, through a special andparticular application (Gal 2:20,21): thus that Christ that in general was offeredto all, is by a special act of faith applied to Paul in particular; 'He loved me,and gave himself for me.'
Further, As the design of the Heavenly Majesty is to bring his elect to glory bymeans, so by the means thus universal and general, as most behooveful and fit; ifwe consider not only the way it doth please him to work with some of his chosen,in order to this their glory, but also the trials, temptations, and other calamitiesthey must go through thereto.
1. Touching his working with some, how invisible is it to these in whose souls itis yet begun? How is the word buried under the clods of their hearts for months,yea years together? Only thus much is discovered thereof, it sheweth the soul itssin, the which it doth also so aggravate and apply to the conscience (Jesus stillrefraining, like Joseph, to make himself known to his brethren) that were there notgeneral tenders of mercy, and that to the worst of sinners, they would soon miscarry,and perish, as do the sons of perdition. But by these the Lord upholdeth and helpeththem, that they stand, when others fall for ever (Psa 119:49).
2. And so likewise for their trials, temptations, and other calamities, because Godwill not bring them to heaven without, but by them; therefore he hath also provideda word so large, as to lie fair for the support of the soul in all conditions, thatit may not die for thirst.
3. I might add also in this place, their imperfect state after grace received, dothcall for such a word; yea, many other things which might be named: which God, onlywise, hath thought fit should accompany us to the ship, yea in the sea, to our desiredhaven.
FIFTH REASON.—God willeth and commandeth the gospel should be offered to all, thatthereby distinguishing love, as to an inward and spiritual work, might the more appearto be indeed the fruit of special and peculiar love. For in that the gospel is tenderedto all in general, when yet but some do receive it; yea, and seeing these some areas unable, unwilling, and by nature, as much averse thereto, as those that refuseit, and perish; it is evident that something more of heaven and the operation ofthe Spirit of God doth accompany the word thus tendered for their life and salvationthat enjoy it (1 Thess 1:4-7). Not now as a word barely tendered, but backed by thestrength of heaven: 'Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,that we should be called the sons of God!' (1 John 3:1) even we who believe 'accordingto the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised himfrom the dead' (Eph 1:20). This provoketh to distinguishing admiration, yea, andalso to a love like that which hath fastened on the called, the preserved, and theglorified: 'He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, theyhave not known them. Praise ye the Lord' (Psa 147:20). Now are the sacrifices boundeven to the horns of the altar, with a 'Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyselfunto us, and not unto the world!' (John 14:22). He 'sent from above, he took me;he drew me out of many waters; he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from themthat hated me; for they were too strong for me' (2 Sam 22:17; Psa 18:16).
For thus the elect considereth: though we all came alike into the world, and arethe children of wrath by nature (Eph 2:1-3); yea, though we have alike so weakenedourselves by sin (Rom 3:9), that the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint(Isa 1:5), being altogether gone out of the way, and every one become altogetherunprofitable, both to God and ourselves (Rom 3:12); yet that God should open mineeyes, convert my soul, give me faith, forgive my sins, raise me, when I fall; fetchme again, when I am gone astray; this is wonderful! (Psa 37:23). Yea, that he shouldprepare eternal mansions for me (Psa 23:6); and also keep me by his blessed and mightypower for that; and that in a way of believing, which without his assistance I amno way able to perform! (2 Cor 5:5). That he should do this notwithstanding my sins,though I had no righteousness! (Deut 9:5-7). Yea, that he should do it accordingto the riches of his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ our Lord!Even according to an everlasting covenant of grace, which yet the greatest part ofthe world are void of, and will for ever miss and fall short of! (Eze 16:60-63).Besides, that he should mollify my heart! break it, and then delight in it (Psa 51:17);put his fear in it, and then look to me (Isa 66:2; Psa 138:6), and keep me as theapple of his eye (Deut 32:10); yea, resolve to guide me with his counsel, and thenreceive me to glory! Further, that all this should be the effect of unthought of,undeserved, and undesired love! (Mal 1:2; Deut 7:7,8). That the Lord should thinkon this before he made the world (Jer 31:3), and sufficiently ordain the means beforehe had laid the foundation of the hills! For this he is worthy to be praised (1 Cor2:9): yea, 'Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord; praise ye the Lord.'
Object. But you have said before, that the reprobate is also blessed with many gospelmercies, as with the knowledge of Christ, faith, light, the gift of the Holy Ghost,and the tastes or relish of the powers of the world to come: if so, then what shouldbe the reason that yet he perisheth? Is it because the grace that he receiveth differethfrom the grace that the elect are saved by? If they differ, where lieth the difference?Whether in the nature, or in the degree, or in the management thereof?
Ans. To this objection I might answer many things; but, for brevity, take this reply:That the non-elect may travel very far both in the knowledge, faith, light, and sweetnessof Jesus Christ, and may also attain to the partaking of the Holy Ghost; yea, andby the very operation of these things also, escape the pollutions of the world, andbecome a visible saint, join in church-communion, and be as chief amongst the veryelect themselves. This the scriptures every where do shew us.
The question then is, whether the elect and reprobate receive a differing grace?To which I answer, Yes, in some respects, both as to the nature thereof, and alsothe degree.
1. To begin then with the nature of it.
(1.) The faith that the chosen are blessed with, it goeth under another name thanany faith besides, even the faith of God's elect (Titus 1:1), as of a faith belongingto them only, of which none others do partake; which faith also, for the nature ofit, is called faith most holy (Jude 20); to shew it goes beyond all other, and canbe fitly matched no where else, but with their most blessed faith who infalliblyattain eternal glory: even 'like precious faith with us,' saith Peter (2 Peter 1:1);with his elect companions. And so of other things. For if this be true, that theydiffer in their faith, they must needs therewith differ in other things: for faithbeing the mother grace, produceth all the rest according to its own nature, to wit,love that abounds, that never fails, and that is never contented till it attain theresurrection of the dead, &c. (2 Thess 1:3; 1 Cor 13:8; Phil 3).
(2.) They differ as to the nature, in this; the faith, and hope, and love, that thechosen receive, it is that which floweth from election itself; he hath blessed us'according as he hath chosen us' (Eph 1:4,5), even with those graces he set apartfor us, when he in eternity did appoint us to life before the foundation of the world:which graces, because the decree in itself is most absolute and infallible, theyalso, that they may completely answer the end, will do the work infallibly likewise,still through the management of Christ: 'I have prayed for thee, that thy faith failnot' (Luke 22:32). But,
2. As they differ in nature, they differ also in degree: for though it be true thatthe reprobate is blessed with grace, yet this is also as true, that the elect areblessed with more grace. It is the privilege only of those that are chosen, to beblessed with ALL spiritual blessings, and to have ALL the good pleasure of the goodnessof God fulfilled in and upon them. Those who are blessed with ALL spiritual blessingsmust needs be blessed with eternal life; and those in whom the Lord, not only worksall his good pleasure, but fulfilleth all the good pleasure of his goodness uponthem, they must needs be preserved to his heavenly kingdom (Eph 1:4,5; 1 Thess 1:10);but none of the non-elect have these things conferred upon them; therefore the gracebestowed upon the one, doth differ both in nature and degree from the other.
3. There is a difference as to the management also. The reprobate is principal forthe management of the grace he receiveth, but Jesus Christ is principal for the managementof the grace the elect receiveth. When I say principal, I mean chief; for thoughthe reprobate is to have the greatest hand in the management of what mercy and goodnessthe Lord bestoweth on him, yet not so as that the Lord will not help him at all;nay contrariwise he will, if first the reprobate do truly the duty that lieth onhim: 'If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? but if thou doest not well,sin lieth at the door' (Gen 4:7). Thus it was also with Saul, who was rejected ofGod upon this account (1 Sam 13:11- 14, 15:26). And I say, as to the elect themselves,though Jesus Christ our blessed Saviour be chief, as to the management of the gracebestowed on his chosen, yet not so as that he quite excludeth them from 'strivingaccording to his working, which worketh in me mightily' (Col 1:29). Nay contrariwise,if those who in truth are elect, shall yet be remiss, and do wickedly, they shallfeel the stroke of God's rod, it may be till their bones do break. But because thework doth not lie at their door to manage as chief, but as Christ's, therefore thoughhe may perform his work with much bitterness and grief to them; yet he being engagedas the principal, will perform that which concerneth them, even until the day (thecoming) of Jesus Christ (Psa 138:8; Phil 1:6).
From what hath been said, there ariseth this conclusion:
The elect are always under eternal mercy, but those not elect always under eternaljustice; for you must consider this: there is eternal mercy and eternal justice,and there is present mercy and present justice. So then, for a man to be in a stateof mercy, it may be either a state of mercy present, or both present and eternalalso. And so again for a man to be in a state under justice, it may be understoodeither of present justice only, or of both present and eternal also.
That this may yet further be opened, I shall somewhat enlarge.
I begin with present mercy and present justice. That which I call present mercy,is that faith, light, knowledge, and taste of the good word of God, that a man mayhave, and perish. This is called in scripture, Believing for a while, during fora while, and rejoicing in the light for a season (Heb 6:4,5; 2 Peter 2:20; Matt 13:22;Luke 8:13). Now I call this mercy, both because none, as men, can deserve it, andalso because the proper end thereof is to do good to those that have it. But I callit present mercy, because those that are only blessed with that, may sin it away,and perish; as did some of the Galatians, Hebrews, Alexandrians, with the Asians,and others (Gal 5:4; Heb 12:15,16; 1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:18, 1:15; Heb 12:15). Butyet observe again, I do not call this present mercy, because God hath determinedit shall last but a while absolutely; but because it is possible for man to loseit, yea determined he shall, conditionally (John 5:35; 1 Cor 12:7).
Again, as to present justice, it is that which lasteth but a while also; and as presentmercy is properly the portion of those left out of God's election, so present justicechiefly hath to do with God's beloved; who yet at that time are also under eternalmercy. This is that justice that afflicted Job (6:4), David (Psa 88, 38:3), Heman,and the godly, who notwithstanding do infallibly attain, by virtue of this mercy,eternal life and glory (Amos 3:2; 1 Cor 11:30,31; Psa 30:5, 103:9; 1 Peter 1:6).I call this justice, because in some sense God dealeth with his children accordingto the quality of their transgressions; and I call it also present justice, becausethough the hand of God for the present be never so heavy on those that are his byelection, yet it lasteth but a while; wherefore though this indeed be called wrath,yet is but a little wrath, wrath for a moment, time, or season. 'In a little wrathI hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercyon thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer' (Isa 54:8).
Thus you see there is present mercy and present justice; also that the elect maybe under present justice, when the rest may be under present mercy.
Again, As there is present mercy and present justice, so there is eternal mercy andeternal justice: and I say, as the elect may be under present justice, when the non-electmay be under present mercy; so the elect at that time are also under eternal mercy,but the other under eternal justice.
That the elect are under eternal mercy, and that when under present justice, is evidentfrom what hath been said before, namely, from their being chosen in Christ beforethe foundation of the world; as also from the consideration of their sound conversion,and safe preservation quite through this wicked world, even safe unto eternal life;as he also saith by the prophet Jeremiah, 'Yea, I have loved thee with an everlastinglove: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee' (31:3). And hence it is thathe calleth the elect his sheep (John 10:16), his children (11:52), and people (Acts18:9,10), and that before conversion; for though none of them as yet were his childrenby calling, yet were they his according to election.
Now the elect being under this eternal grace and mercy, they must needs be underit both before present justice seizeth upon them, while it seizeth them, and alsocontinueth with them longer than present justice can, it being from everlasting toeverlasting. This being so, here is the reason why no sin, nor yet temptation ofthe enemy, with any other evil, can hurt or destroy those thus elect of God: yeathis is that which maketh even those things that in themselves are the very baneof men, yet prove very much for good to those within this purpose (Rom 8:28). Andas David saith, 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted' (Psa 119:71). Andagain, 'But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not becondemned with the world' (1 Cor 11:32). Now afflictions, &c., in themselvesare not only fruitless and unprofitable, but, being unsanctified, are destructive;'I smote him, and he went on frowardly' (Isa 57:17). But now eternal mercy workingwith this or that affliction, makes it profitable to the chosen; 'I have seen hisways, and will heal him, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners' (v 18).As he saith in another place, 'Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachesthim out of thy law' (Psa 94:12). For eternal mercy doth not look on those who arethe elect and chosen of God, as poor sinful creatures only, but also as the generationwhom the Lord hath blessed, in whom he hath designed to magnify his mercy to theutmost, by pardoning the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage (1 Peter 2:9;Micah 7:18,19). 'Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christto himself, - wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved' (Eph 1:6). Wherefore,I say, the elect, as they do also receive that grace and mercy that may be sinnedaway, so they have that grace and mercy which cannot be lost, and that sin cannotdeprive them of, even mercy that abounds, and goeth beyond all sin; such mercy ashath engaged the power of God, the intercession of Christ, and the communicationof the blessed Spirit of adoption, which Spirit also engageth the heart, directsit into the love of God, that it may not depart from God after that rate as the reprobatesdo (Eph 5:29,30). 'I will make an everlasting covenant with them, [saith God] thatI will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in theirhearts, that they shall not depart from me' (Jer 32:40).
But now I say, God's dealing with the non-elect, is far otherwise, they being underthe consideration of eternal justice, even then when in the enjoyment of presentgrace and mercy. And hence it is that as to their standing before the God of heaven,they are counted dogs, and sows, and devils, even then when before the elect of Godthemselves they are counted saints and brethren: 'The dog is turned to his own vomitagain, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire' (2 Peter 2:22).And the reason is, because notwithstanding all their shew before the world, theirold nature and corruptions do still bear sway within, which in time also, accordingto the ordinary judgment of God, is suffered so to shew itself, that they are visibleto saints that are elect, as was the case of Simon Magus, and that wicked apostateJudas, who 'went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us,they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out that they might bemade manifest that they were not all of us' (1 John 2:19). They were not elect aswe, nor were they sanctified as the elect of God themselves; wherefore eternal justicecounts them the sons of perdition, when under their profession. And I say, they beingunder this eternal justice, it must needs have to do with them in the midst of theirprofession; and because also it is much offended with them for conniving with theirlust, it taketh away from them, and that most righteously, those gifts and graces,and benefits and privileges that present mercy gave them; and not only so, but cutsthem off for their iniquity, and layeth them under wrath for ever. They 'have forsakenthe right way, [saith God] - following the way of Baalam the son of Bosor; - theseare wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest'; trees whose fruitwithereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, 'for whom is reservedthe blackness of darkness for ever' (2 Peter 2:5,16,17; Jude 11-13; John 17:12; Matt13:12, 25:29; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18).
These things thus considered, you see,
1. That there is present grace and present mercy, eternal grace and eternal mercy.
2. That the elect are under eternal mercy, and THAT, when under present justice;and that the reprobate is under eternal justice, and THAT when under present mercy.
3. Thus you see again, that the non-elect perish by reason of sin, notwithstandingpresent mercy, because of eternal justice; and that the elect are preserved fromthe death, though they sin and are obnoxious to the strokes of present justice, byreason of eternal mercy. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God?God forbid: 'He hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, and compassion on whom hewill have compassion' (Rom 9:15).
 'Shedding words' means 'scattering or spreading words,' as in Acts 2:33; nowobsolete.—Ed.
 As election took place before the creation of man—all men in Adam were decreed,made and turned into the world upright.—Ed.
 'Prevents our doing good.' Few words in the English language have more alteredin their meaning than 'prevent'; it is derived from 'praevenio,' to go before. InBunyan's time, it meant 'to go before,' 'clear the way,' 'make the way easy' forour doing good. Its present meaning is 'to obstruct,' by going or standing beforeus.—Ed.
 They who diligently attend to the scriptures, will find throughout the wholea vein of election and reprobation. The holy seed may be traced in many instances,and in divers families, in the Bible, from Adam to the birth of our Saviour, whoseancestors, according to the flesh, were of the line of election or the godly; whichthose who are only born after the flesh, and not after the Spirit, namely, the reprobate,have always despised and persecuted, and will do so to the end of time—Mason andRyland.
 It is of God's mere mercy and grace that any sinners are called and admittedto the privilege of justification and adoption, upon God's own terms. The reasonwhy the sinful and unworthy heathen (of whom Britain is a part) were called to bea people, who were not a people, while the Jews were left out and cast off for theirobstinate unbelief, was not because the Gentiles were either more worthy or morewilling (for they were all dead in trespasses and sins), but from God's discriminatinggrace and mercy.—Mason and Ryland.
 The final condemnation of the wicked does not spring from God's sovereign willto destroy any of his rational creatures; this is evident from the many pressinginvitations, declarations, and promises in the word of God: for Jehovah swears byhis great self, that he desires not the death of a sinner. Our Lord assigns the causeof reprobation in these words, (John 5:40) 'Ye will not come unto me, that ye mighthave life'; wherefore Christ, the only remedy for their cure, being rejected, thesinner is condemned, and rendered the object of wrath and punishment by the law andjustice of God; because the same word of truth which says, 'Whosoever will, let himcome, and take of the water of life freely,' also says, 'The soul that sinneth [orlives and dies in sin unpardoned] shall die.' Thus sin is the object of God's hatred,and not the man, abstractedly considered. May we therefore each of us have graceto look to Christ for full and complete salvation, who hath put away sin by the sacrificeof himself, whereby he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified!—Ryland andMason.
 'Secret things belong to God, but those that are revealed belong to us.' It isa vain thing for men to cavil at the doctrine of peculiar election, and to quarrelwith God for choosing some, and passing by others. Their best way would be to assurethemselves of their own election, by using the means, and walking in the ways ofGod's appointment, as laid down in the word, and then they will find that God cannotdeny himself, but will make good to them every promise therein; and thus, by scriptureevidence, they will find that they are elected unto life, and will be thankful andhumble. They will then find that an hearty affectionate trusting in Christ for allhis salvation, as freely promised to us, hath naturally enough in it to work in oursouls a natural bent and inclination to, and ability for, the practice of all holiness.—Rylandand Mason.
 None are excluded the benefit of the great and precious salvation procured andfinished by the Lord Jesus Christ, but they, who by perverseness, unbelief, and impenitency,exclude themselves. Sinners,—miserable, helpless, and hopeless sinners, are the objectsof this salvation: whosoever is enabled to see, in the light of God's Spirit, theirwretched and forlorn state; to feel their want of Christ as a suitable Saviour, andto repent and forsake their sins, shall find mercy; for 'God is no respecter of persons'(Acts 10:34).—Ryland and Mason.
 As the same sun which softens the wax, hardens the clay, so it is with the preachedgospel, which is to some 'the savour of death unto death, and to others the savourof life unto life' (2 Cor 2:16). The gospel is ineffectual to any saving purposerespecting the reprobate; partly through pride, and in not enduring to be reprovedby it; partly through slothfulness, in not coming under the sound of it; and principallythrough cursed infidelity, in not believing the gracious message it brings. Let itbe well attended to, that all who hear the gospel, are obliged to the duty of believing,as well as to all the duties of the moral law, and that before they know their particularelection; for we cannot have a certain knowledge of our election to eternal lifebefore we do believe: it is a thing hidden in the unsearchable counsel of God, untilit be manifest by our effectual calling, and believing on Christ; therefore we mustbelieve on Christ before we know our election; or else we shall never know it, andshall never believe. All joy, peace, comfort, assurances, are communicated to thesoul in the way of believing. May the Lord give and increase saving faith!—Masonand Ryland.