That the answer to this question may be to edification, recall again what I have before asserted; to wit, That for a man to be left out of God’s election, and to be made a sinner, is two things; and again, For a man to be not elect, and to be condemned to hell-fire, is two things also. Now I say, if non-election makes no man a sinner, and if it appoints no man to condemnation neither, then what ground hath any reprobate to quarrel with God for not electing of him? Nay, further, reprobation considereth 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 that is 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 say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?’ Rom. ix. 20. ‘Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel,’ saith the Lord God. Jer. viii. 6. So then, if I should say no more but that God is the only Lord and Creator, and that by his sovereignty he hath power to dispose of them according to his pleasure, either to choose or to refuse, according to the counsel of his own will, who could object against him and be guiltless? ‘He giveth not account of any of his matters.’ Job xxxiii. 13. ‘And what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.’ Job xxiii. 13.
Again, God is wiser than man, and therefore can shew a reason for what he acts and does, both when and where at present thou seest none. Shall God the only wise, be arraigned at the bar of thy blind reason, and there be judged and condemned for his acts done in eternity? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, ‘or who hath been his counsellor?’ Rom. xi 34. Do you not know that he is far more above us, than we are above our horse or mule that is without understanding? ‘Great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.’ Job. xxxvii. 5. ‘Great things and unsearchable, marvellous things without number.’ Job v. 9.
But, I say, should we take it well if our beast should call us to account for this and the other righteous act, and judge us unrighteous, and our acts ridiculous, and all because it sees no reason for our so doing? Why, we are as beasts before God. Ps. lxxiii. 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 ho give offence to 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 lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?’ saith he, ‘Is thine eye evil, because I am good?’ Mat.. xx. 13.
Further, What harm doth God to any reprobate, by not electing of him; he was, as hath been said, considered upright, so formed in the act of creation, and so turned into 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 best of all; lie that is in a good estate, though others through free grace are in a far better, 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 personally a sinner, neither doth election make any man personally righteous. It is the consenting to sin that makes a man a sinner; and the imputation of grace and righteousness that makes [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 itself made sin unto thee? God forbid: God doth not evil by leaving this, or that man out of his electing grace, though he choose others to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Wherefore there is not a reprobate that hath any cause, and therefore no just 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 so to do, is an act of sovereign power, not of injustice.
2. God might therefore have chosen whether he would have elected any, or so many or few; and also which and where he would.
3. Seeing then that all things are at his dispose, he may fasten electing mercy where he 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 what they list, should acknowledge they are unworthy of their breath; and also should confess 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 he good, and just, and very gracious still: Nay, Job saith, ‘He taketh away, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?’ Job ix.12.
The will of God is the rule of all righteousness, neither knoweth he any other way by which he governeth and ordereth any of his actions. Whatsoever God doth, it is good because he doth it; whether it be to give grace, or to detain it; whether in choosing or refusing. The consideration of this, made the holy men of old ascribe righteousness to their Maker, even then when yet they could not see the reason of his actions. They would rather stand amazed, and wonder at the heighths and depths of his unsearchable judgments, than quarrel at the strange and most obscure of them. Job xxxiv. 10-12; xxxvi. 3; xxxvii. 23., Jer. xii. 1. Rom. xi. 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 ourselves and wonder, and to confess our ignorance in many things of God, as it is to do other things that are duty without dispute. So then, let poor dust and ashes forbear to condemn the Lord, because he goeth beyond them; and also they should beware they speak 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.’ * Ps. cxiv. 17., Mat. xi. 23., 1 Cor. ii. 8., Job xiii 6-8.
* ‘Secret things belong to God, but those that are revealed belong to us.’ It is a vain thing for men to cavil at the doctrine of peculiar election, and to quarrel with God for choosing some, and passing by others. Their best way would be to assure themselves of their own election, by using the means, and walking in the ways of God’s appointment, as laid down in the word, and then they will find that God cannot deny himself, but will make good to them every promise therein; and thus, by scripture evidence, they will find that they are elected unto life, and will be thankful and humble. They will then find that an hearty affectionate trusting in Christ for all his salvation, as freely promised to us, hath naturally enough in it to work in our souls a natural beat and inclination to, and ability for, the practice of all holiness.—Ryland and Mason.
In my discourse upon this question, I must entreat the reader to mind well what is premised in the beginning of the former chapter, which is, That reprobation makes no man a sinner, appoints no man to condemnation, but leaveth him upright after all. So then, though God doth leave the most of men without the bounds of his election, his so doing is neither in itself, nor yet its doctrine, in very deed, an hindrance to any man in seeking the salvation of his soul.
That which hindereth him is the weakness that came upon him by reason of sin. Now God only made the man, but man’s listening to Satan made him a sinner, which is the cause of all his weakness: this therefore is it that hindereth him, and that also disenableth him in seeking the salvation of his soul. ‘Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. Jam. i. 13. ‘God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.’ Eccl. vii, 29., Eze. xvi. 30. Hos. xiii. 9; xiv. 1., Gen. iii. 8-11.
2. It hindereth not in itself, for it taketh not anything from a man that would help him, 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, in that day when he died the death. Nay, reprobation under some consideration did rather establish 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 not by the simple act of eternal reprobation. Gen. iii.
3. As reprobation hindereth not either of these two ways, so neither is it from this simple 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 might be 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 every one of the elect be under eternal reprobation; for they also, and that after their conversion, are greatly assaulted by him. ‘Many are the troubles of the righteous,’ &c. Mat. iv. 1,2., Heb. ii. 17; iv. 15.
(2.) Neither is it from the act of reprobation that sin hath entered the world, no more than from election, because those under the power of election did not only fall at 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, then the reprobates, and they only, should have been tempted, and have fallen. The temptation then, and the fall, doth come from other means, and so the hinderance of the reprobate, than from eternal reprobation. For the temptation, the fall and hinderance being universal, but the act of reprobation particular, the hinderance must needs come from such a cause as taketh hold on all men, which indeed is the fall; the cause of which was neither election nor reprobation, but man’s voluntary listening to the tempter. Rom. iii. 9.
(3.) It is yet far more evident that reprobation hindereth no man from seeking the salvation of his soul: because notwithstanding all that reprobation doth. yet God giveth to divers of the reprobates great encouragements thereto; to wit, the tenders of the gospel in general, not excluding any; great light also to understand it, with many 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 many of 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 great encouragements even to the reprobates themselves, to seek the salvation of their souls. Mat. xi. 28., Rev. xxii. 17., Heb. vi. 4, 5. Mat. xxv. 1, 2., Acts. i. 16, 17.
Second, As it hindereth not in itself, so it hindereth not by its doctrine: for, all that this doctrine saith is, that some are left out of God’s election, as considered upright. 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 binds all faces in secret. So then, if it hinder, it hindereth all, even the elect as well as reprobate; for the reprobate hath as much ground to judge himself elect, as the very elect himself hath, before he be converted, being both alike in a state of nature and 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 Christ and live; even the open, free, and full invitation of the gospel, and promise of life and salvation, by the faith of Jesus Christ. Eph. ii. 1, 2., Rom. iii. 9., Jn. iii. 16., 2 Cor. v. 19-21., Rev. xxi. 6; xxii. 17.
3. It is evident also by experience, that this doctrine doth not, in deed, neither can 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 last had comfort; which comfort, when they have received it, hath been to them as an argument that 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 had the same light at first they received afterwards, their troubles then would soon have 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 discouragement at first been true, which yet it could not be, unless the person knew by name himself under eternal reprobation, which is indeed impossible, then his light would have pinched him harder; light would rather have fastened this his fear, than at all have rid him of it. Heb. v.12-14.
Indeed the scripture saith, the word is to some the savour of death unto death, when to 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 respite at which Pharaoh hardened his heart; and the grace of God that the reprobates of old did turn into lasciviousness. Yea, Christ the Saviour of the world, is a stumbling-block unto some, and a rock of offence unto others. But yet again, consider that neither HE, not any of God’s doctrines, are so simply, and in their own true natural force and drift: for they beget no unbelief, they provoke to no wantonness, neither do they in the least encourage to impenitency; all this comes from that ignorance and wickedness that 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 the doctrine of reprobation, or at any other truth of God. Ex. viii. 15., Jude iv. 1., 1 Pet. ii. 8.
Lastly, To conclude as I began, there is no man while in this world, that doth certainly know, that he is left out of the electing love of the great God; neither hath he any word in the whole bible, to persuade him so to conclude and believe; for the scriptures hold forth salvation to the greatest of sinners. Wherefore, though the act of reprobation were far more harsh, and its doctrine also more sharp and severe, yet it cannot properly be said to hinder any. It is a foolish thing in any to be troubled with those things which they have no ground to believe concerns themselves; especially when the latitude of their discouragement is touching their own persons only. ‘The secret things belong unto the Lord our God.’ Deut. xxix. 29. Indeed every one of the words of God ought to put 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 the worst, the party can find himself no more than the chief of sinners, not excluded from 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 ground to be discouraged by the doctrine of reprobation. 1 Tim. i. 15., Acts. iii. 19., 2 Chron. xxxiii. Jam. vii. 37; vi. 37., Mk. ii. 17.
To this question I shall answer,
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;’ Mk. xvi. 16. ‘He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son;’ 1 Jn. v. 10. and, Woe unto thee Capernaum, ‘Woe unto thee Chorazin! woe unto thee Bethsaida!’ Mat. xi. 21. with many other sayings, all which words, with many other of the same nature, carry in them a very great argument to this very purpose; for if those that perish in the days of the gospel, shall have, at least, their damnation heightened, because they have neglected and refused to receive the gospel, it must needs be that the gospel was with all faithfulness to be tendered unto them; the which it could not be, unless the death of Christ did extend itself unto them; Jn. iii. 16., Heb. ii. 3. for the offer of the gospel cannot, with God’s allowance, be offered any 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 the gospel to no effect at all; for still the unconverted, who are here condemned for refusing of it, they return it as fast again: I do not know I am elect, and therefore dare not come to Jesus Christ; for if the death of Jesus Christ, and so the general tender of the gospel, concern the elect alone; I, not knowing myself to be one of that 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, that holds forth his blood to save me; nay, I think with safety may not, until I first do know I am elect of God, and appointed thereunto.
Third, God the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son, would have all men whatever, invited by the gospel to lay hold of life by Christ, whether elect or reprobate; for though it be true, that there is such a thing as election and reprobation, yet God, by the tenders 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 embrace the same. He saith not to his ministers, Go preach to the elect, because they are elect; and shut out others, because they are not so: But, Go preach the gospel to sinners as sinners; and as they are such, go bid them come to me and live. And it must needs be so, otherwise the preacher could neither speak in faith, nor the people hear in faith. First, the preacher could not speak in faiths, because he knoweth not the elect from the reprobate; nor they again hear in faiths, because, as unconverted, they would be always ignorant of that also. So then, the minister neither knowing whom 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 people believe 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, because his hearers are sinners; yea, and encouragement also for the people to receive and close therewith, they understanding they are sinners: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ 1 Tim. i. 15. Lk. xxiv. 46, 47.
Fourth, The gospel must be preached to sinners as they are sinners, without distinction of elect or reprobate; because neither the one nor yet the other, as considered under these 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 tendered to men as they are sinners, and personally under the curse of God for sin: wherefore to proffer grace to the elect because they are elect, it is to proffer grace and mercy to them, as not considering them as sinners. And, I say, to deny it to the reprobate, because he is not elected, it is not only a denial of grace to them that have no need thereof, but also before occasion is given on their part, for such a dispensation. 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 here no 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 the reprobate, 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 have no need of grace in Christ by the gospel, but as they are sinners; nor the reprobates cause to refuse it, but as they are sinners; therefore Christ by the word of the gospel, is to be proffered to both, without considering elect or reprobate, even as they are sinners. ‘The whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Mk. ii. 17., 2 Cor. v. 14, 15., Lk. vii. 47.
Thus you see the gospel is to be tendered to all in general, as well to the reprobate as to the elect, TO SINNERS AS SINNERS; and so are they to receive it, and to close with the tenders thereof.*
* None are excluded the benefit of the great and precious salvation procured and finished by the Lord Jesus Christ, but they, who by perverseness, unbelief, and impenitency, exclude themselves. Sinners,—miserable, helpless, and hopeless sinners, are the objects of this salvation: whosoever is enabled to see, in the light of God’s Spirit, their wretched and forlorn state; to fed their want of Christ as a suitable Saviour, and to repent and forsake their sins, shall find mercy; for ‘God is no respecter of persons,’ Acts x. 34. —Ryland and Mason.
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.