That there is a Reprobation.
IN my discourse upon this subject, I shall study as much brevity as clearness and edification will allow me; not adding words to make the volume swell, but contracting myself within the bounds of few lines, for the profit and commodity of those that shall take the pains to read my labours. And though I might abundantly multiply arguments for the evincing and vindicating this conclusion, yet I shall content myself with some few scripture demonstrations: the first of which I shall gather out of the ninth of the Romans, from that discourse of the apostle’s, touching the children of the flesh, and the children of the promise.
2. Another scripture you have in the eleventh chapter of this epistle, from these words, ‘The election hath obtained it, and the REST were blinded.’ Rom. xi. 7. These words 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 ordained to eternal life, believed.’ xiii. 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; the sons, 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 world must at least believe the gospel, of which we see the most fall short, but they must be ordained to eternal life; which other scriptures contradict: for there is the rest, besides the elect; the stubble and chaff, as well as wheat: many therefore must here include but some; ‘For though - Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved.’ Rom. ix. 27. Is. i. 9. and x. 22, 23.
I might here multiply many other texts, but in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established. Let these therefore for this, suffice to prove that there is a reprobation. For this I say, though the children of the flesh, the rest besides the election, and the like, were not mentioned in the word; yet seeing there is such a thing as the children of the promise, the seed, the children of God, and the 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, with many others: I say seeing these things are thus apparent, it is without doubt, that there is such a thing as a reprobation also. Rom. viii., Eph. i. 3, 4., 1 Th. v. 9.
Nay, further, From the very word election, it followeth unavoidably; for whether you take it as relating to this, of distinguishing between persons as touching the world to come, or with reference to God’s acts of choosing this or that mart to this or 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 vessels of wrath, of dishonour, and the children of perdition? Rom. xi. 9., 1 Pet. ii. 8, 9., Mat. x. 16., 2 Sam. vi. 21., Ps. lxxviii. 67. 68., Jn. xv. 16., 2 Cor. iv., 3. Rom. ix. 21, 22., Jn. xvi. 12.
* ‘Shedding words’ means ‘scattering or spreading words,’ as in Acts ii. 83; now obsolete.—ED.
What Reprobation is.
Having thus shewed you that there is such a thing as a reprobation, I come now to shew you what it is. Which that I may do to your edification, I shall First shew you what this word reprobation signifieth in the general, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate: Second, more particularly, as it concerneth persons that are eternally and invisibly reprobate.
I call this temporary visible reprobation, because these appear, and are detected by the word as such that are found under the above-named errors, and so adjudged without the grace of God. Yet it is possible for some of these, however for the present disapproved, through the blessed acts and dispensations of grace, not only to become visible saints, but also saved for ever. Who doubts but that he who now by examining himself, 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 find grace, and obtain mercy to help in time of need? though it is true, that for the most 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 reached by 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-appointing of some infallibly unto eternal life, which he also hath determined shall be brought to pass by the means that should be made manifest and efficacious to that very end. Eph. i. 3-5., 1 Pet. i. 2.
2. Now the negative of this act is, a passing by, or a leaving of those not concerned in this act; a leaving of them, I say, without the bounds, and so the saving privileges of this act; as it followeth by natural consequence, that because a man chooseth but 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 this blessed act, are called the rest besides the election. ‘The election hath obtained it, 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’s elect; those, I say, that miss the most holy faith, which they in time are blest withal, who are fore-appointed unto glory.
4. And now for the qualification they were considered under, when this act of reprobation laid hold upon them, to wit, They were considered upright.
This is evident, From this consideration, that reprobation is God’s act, even the negative of his choosing or electing, and none of the acts of God make any man a sinner. It is further evident by the similitude that is taken from the carriage of the potter in his making of his pots; for by this comparison the God of heaven is pleased 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. ix. 21. Consider a little, and you shall see that these three things do necessarily fall in, 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 in the highest degree, in him that is excellent in working; he determines the end, before the beginning is perfected: Is. xli. 22., xlvi. 10. ‘For this cause (very purpose) have I raised thee up.’ Ex. ix. 16.
(2.) The next thing considerable in the potter; it is the so making of the pot, even as he determined; a vessel to honour, or a vessel to dishonour. There is no confusion nor disappointment under the hand of this eternal God, his work is perfect, and every way doth answer to what he hath determined. Deut. xxxii. 4.
(3.) Observe again, That whether the vessel be to honour or to dishonour, yet the potter makes it good, sound, and fit for service; his fore-determining to make this a 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 eternal reprobation, for ‘God made man upright.’ Eccl. vii. 29.
From these conclusions then,
Consider, 1. That the simple act of reprobation, it is a leaving or passing by, not a 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 blessing of him with the gift of Christ, of faith, of hope, and many other benefits. It only denieth them that benefit, that will infallibly bring them to eternal life, and that in despite of all opposition; it only denieth so to bless them as the elect themselves are blessed. Abraham loved all the children he had by all his wives, and gave them portions also; but his choice blessing, as the fruit of his chiefest love, he reserved for chosen Isaac. Gen. xxv. 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 into the world.*
* As election took place before the creation of man—all men in Adam were decreed, made and turned into the world upright.—ED.
Of the Antiquity of Reprobation.
Having now proceeded so far as to shew you what reprobation is, it will not be amiss if in this place I briefly shew you its antiquity, even when it began its rise; the which you may gather by these following particulars.
And it is yet further evident,
1. Because election is an act of grace; ‘There is a remnant according to the election of grace.’ Rom. xi. 5. Which act of grace saw no way so fit to discover its purity and independency, as by fastening on the object before it came into the world; that being the state in which at least no good were done, either to procure good from God, or to eclipse and darken this precious act of grace. For though it is true that no 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 of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. Rom. ix. 11, 13.
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 fulfilled at the best time, for the discovery of the act of grace, that could have been pitched upon: At this tune will I come (saith God) ‘and Sarah shall have a son;’ Gen. xviii. 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 shall thy seed be called.’ Rom. iv. 16-19; ix. 7.
3. This was the best and fittest way for the decrees to receive sound bottom, even for God both to choose and refuse, before the creature had done good or evil, and so before they came into the world: ‘That the purpose of God according to election might stand,’ saith he, therefore before the children were yet born, or had done any good or evil, it was said unto her, &c. God’s decree would for ever want foundation, should it depend at all upon the goodness and holiness either of men or 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 difficult it is, for even the holiest in the world, to bear up and maintain their faith and love to God; yea, so hard, as not at all to do it without continual supplies from heaven. How then is it possible for any so to carry it before God, as to lay, by this his holiness, a foundation for election, as to maintain that foundation, and thereby to procure all those graces that infallibly saveth the sinner? But now the choice, I say, being a choice of grace, as is manifest, it being acted before the creature’s birth; here grace hath laid the corner-stone, and determined the means to bring the work to perfection. Thus ‘the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.’ 2 Tim. ii. 19. That is, who he hath chosen, having excluded works, both good and bad, and founded all in an unchangeable act of grace; the negative whereof, is this harmless reprobation.
Second, But secondly, To step a little backward, and so to make all sure: This act of reprobation was before the world began; which therefore must needs, confirm that which was said but now, that they were, before they were born, both destinated before they had done good or evil. This is manifest by that of Paul to the Ephesians, at the 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.’ Nay further, if you please, consider, that as Christ was ordained to suffer before the foundation of the world, and as we that are elected were chosen in him before the foundation of the world; so it was also ordained we should know him, before the foundation of the world; ordained that we should be holy before him in love, before the foundation of the world; and that we in time should be created in him to good works, and ordained before that we should walk in them. Wherefore reprobation also, it being the negative of 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 the chosen 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 to this or the other sin, it being only a leaving them, and that before the world, out of that free choice which he was pleased to bless the other with. Even as the clay with which the dishonourable vessel is made, did not provoke the potter, for the sake of this or that impediment, therefore to make it so; but the potter of his own will, of the clay of the same lump, of the clay that is full as good as that of which he hath made the vessel to honour, did make this and the other a vessel of dishonour, &c. 1 Pet. i. 20, 21., 1 Cor. ii. 7. Eph. i. 3, 4; ii. l0.†
* ‘Prevents our doing good.’ Few words in the English language have more altered in their meaning than ‘prevent;’ it is derived from ‘prævenio,’ to go before. In Bunyan’s time, it meant ‘to go before,’ ‘clear the way,’ ‘make the way easy’ for our doing good. Its present meaning is ‘to obstruct,’ by going or standing before us.—ED.
† They who diligently attend to the scriptures, will find throughout the whole a 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, whose ancestors, according to the flesh, were of the line of election or the godly; which those 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 and Ryland.
John Bunyan, born in humble circumstances near Bedford, England, in 1628, received little formal schooling. Yet, today, almost three centuries after he wrote Pilgrim's Progress, it continues to be a best seller in many languages. During Bunyan's youth he experienced great battles in his soul. His early marriage to a pious Christian woman aided in his victory over Satan. He began boldly to preach the Gospel, for which he was imprisoned. During the years he spent in prison, he wrote Grace Abounding, Defense of Justification by Faith, The Holy War, Pilgrim's Progress, and several other lesser works. After his release, he was appointed pastor of Bedford Church, where he served until his death in 1688.