To this question I shall answer several things: but first I shall shew you what that grace is, that is tendered in the gospel; and secondly, what it is to receive it and be saved.
First then, The grace that is offered to sinners as sinners, without respect to this or 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, if he hath the least desire to life; yea, it is held forth to beget both desires and longings after the life thus laid up in Christ, and held forth by the gospel. Jn. i. 16., Col. i. 19, 23., 1 Jn. v. 11, 12., Acts. xiii. 38, 39., Rom. x. 12-14.; xvi. 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 in that 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 be thus received and embraced, and he live thereby?
To which I answer in the negative. Nor yet for the elect themselves, I mean as considered dead 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 Christ for all men, and this tendered by the gospel to them without exception; yet sin coming in 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, I say, coming in word only, saveth no man, because of man’s impediment; wherefore those that indeed are saved by this gospel, the word comes not to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost; is mixed with faith, even with the faith of the operation of God, by whose exceeding great and mighty power they are raised from this death of sin, and enabled to embrace the gospel. Doubtless, all men being dead in trespasses and sins, and so captivated under the power of the devil, the curse of the law, and shut up in unbelief; it must be the power of God, yea the exceeding greatness of that power that raiseth the soul from this condition, to receive the holy gospel. Eph,. ii. 1-3., 1 Th. i. 5,6., Col. ii. 12. Heb. iv. 1, 2. Eph. i. 18, 19. &c.
For man by nature, (consider him at best), can see no more, nor do no more than what the principles of nature understands and helps to do; which nature being below the discerning of things truly, spiritually, and savingly good, it must needs fall short of receiving, loving and delighting in them. ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.’ 1 Cor. ii. 14. Now I say, if the natural man at best (for the elect before conversion are no more, if quite so much) cannot do this, how shall they attain thereto, being now not only corrupted and infected, but depraved, bewitched and dead; swallowed up of unbelief, ignorance, confusion, hardness of heart, hatred of God, and the like? When a thorn by nature beareth grapes, and a thistle beareth figs, then may this thing be. Mat. vii. 16-18. To lay hold of and receive the gospel by a true and saving faith, it is an act of the soul as made a new creature, which is the workmanship of God: ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the self-same thing is God.’ 2 Cor. v. 5. ‘For a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit.’ Lk. vi. 43-45. ‘Can the Ethiopian change his skin? Jer. xiii. 23.
But yet the cause of this impossibility.
1. Lieth not in reprobation, the elect themselves being as much unable to receive it 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, for there 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 broken the 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 sin hath made!
Wherefore whoever receiveth the grace that is tendered in the gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified, and the Son of God revealed in them. Yet as I said, not because there wanteth argument in these tenders, but because men are dead, and blind, and cannot hear the word. ‘Why do ye not understand my speech (saith Christ): Even because ye cannot hear my word.’ Jn. viii. 43., Acts. ix. 15; xxvi. 9.10., Ps. cx. 3., Gal. i. 15., Mat. xi. 27.
For otherwise, as I said but now, there is, 1. Rationality enough in the tenders of the gospel. 2. Persuasions of weight enough to provoke to faith. And, 3. Arguments enough to persuade to continue therein.
1. Is it not reasonable that man should believe God in the proffer of the gospel and life by it? Is there not reason, I say, both from the truth and faithfulness of God, from the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, as also from the freeness and fullness of the promise? What unreasonable timing doth the gospel bid thee credit? Or what falsehood doth it command thee to receive for truth? Indeed in many points the gospel is above reason, but yet in never a one against it; especially in those things 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 this very end? Heb. i. 1-3., 1 Cor. xiv. 22. With how many oaths, declarations, attestations, and proclamations, is it avouched, confirmed, and established? Heb. vi. 17, 18., Acts. xiii. 32., Jer. iii. 12., Gal. iii. 15. And why should not credence be given to that gospel that is confirmed by blood, the blood of the Son of God himself? Yea, that gospel that did never yet fail any that in truth hath cast themselves upon it, since the foundation of the world. Heb. ix. 16-18. and xii. 1-3.
3. Again, as there is rationality enough, and persuasions sufficient, so there is also 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 wilful rebellion, carry them away in time vanity of their minds, and overcome them. Eph. iv. 17-19.
(1.) For, first, if they could but consider how they have sinned, how they have provoked God, &c., if they could but consider what a dismal state the state of the damned is, and also, that in a moment their condition is like to be the same, would they not 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 greatest height of light, life, joy, and gladness imaginable, one would think were enough to persuade the very damned now in hell.
There is no man then perisheth for want of sufficient reason in the tenders of the gospel, nor any for want of persuasions to faith; nor yet because there wanteth arguments to provoke to continue therein. But the truth is, the gospel in this hath to do with unreasonable creatures; with such as will not believe it, and that because it is truth: ‘And because I tell you the truth, (saith Christ,) therefore ye believe me not.’ Jn. viii. 45.
Quest. Well, but if this in truth be thus, how then comes it to pass that some receive it and live for ever? For you have said before, that the elect are as dead as the reprobate, and full as unable as they, as men, to close with these tenders, and live.
Ans.. Doubtless this is true, and were the elect left to themselves, they, through the wickedness of their heart, would perish as do others. Neither could all the reasonable persuasive prevalent arguments of the gospel of God in Christ, prevail to make any receive it, and live. Wherefore here you must consider, that as there is mercy proclaimed in the general tenders of the gospel, so there is also the grace of election; which grace kindly overruleth and winneth the spirit of the chosen, working in them that unfeigned 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, there is a remnant that receive this grace; they being appointed, I say, thereto, before the world began; preserved in time from that which would undo them, and enabled to embrace the glorious gospel of grace, and peace, and life. I Ki. xix. 18., Rom. xi. 5., 1 Th. v. 9.
Now there is a great difference between the grace of election, and the grace that is wrapped up in the general tenders of the gospel; a difference, I say, and that both as to its timing, latituding, and working.
1. Touching its timing; it is before, yea long before, there was either tender of the grace wrapped up in the gospel to any, or any need of such a tender. Eph. i. 4, 5.
2. They also differ in latitude; the tenders of grace in the gospel are common and universal 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. xi. 5.
3. Touching the working of the grace of election; it differs much in some things from 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 for faith to lay hold upon, and accept thereof; but the special grace of election, worketh that faith which doth lay hold thereof. Acts. xvi. 31; xiii. 48., Phil 1. 29., 2 Th. i. 11.
(2.) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, calleth for faith as a condition in us, without which there is no life ; but the special grace of election worketh faith in us without any such condition. Mk. xvi. 15, 16., Rom. xi. 5, 6.
(3.) The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, promiseth happiness upon the condition of persevering in the faith only; but the special grace of election causeth this perseverance. Col. i. 23., Eph. ii. 10., Rom. xi. 7., 1 Pet. 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, when it shineth least, doth infallibly bring every soul therein concerned to everlasting life. Rom. x. 16. viii. 33-35.
(5.) A man may overcome and put out all the light and life that is begotten in him by the general tenders of the gospel; but none shall overcome, or make void, or frustrate the grace of election. Jude 4., 2 Pet. ii. 20-22., Mat. xxiv. 24., Rom. xi. 1-3, &c.
(6.) The general tenders of the gospel, considered without a concurrence of time grace of election, helps not the elect himself, when sadly fallen. Wherefore, when I say the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the gospel, I mean that grace when offered, as not being accompanied with a special operation of God’s eternal love, by way of conjunction therewith. Otherwise the grace that is tendered in the general offers of the gospel, is that which saveth the sinner now, and that brings him to everlasting life; that is, when conjoined with that grace that blesseth and maketh this general tender effectually efficacious. The grace of election worketh not 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 ordained to eternal life believed:’ Acts. xiii. 48. The word being then effectual to life, when the hand of time Lord is effectually therewith to that end. Mk. xvi. 20. They ‘spake (saith the text) unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them; and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.’ Acts. xi. 20, 21.
We must always put difference between the word of the gospel, and the power that manageth that word; we must put difference between the common and more special operations of that power also; even as there is evidently a difference to be put between those words of Christ that were effectual to do what was said, and of those words of his which 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 least in a capacity to do it, he being now dead, and stunk in his grave. Indeed unbelief hath hindered Christ much, yet not when he putteth forth himself as Almighty, but when he doth suffer himself by them to be abused who are to be dealt with by ordinary means: Otherwise legions of devils, with ten thousand impediments, must fall down before him, and give way unto him. There is a speaking, and a so speaking: ‘They so spake, that a great multitude, both of the Jews, and also of the Greeks, believed.’ Acts xiv. 1. Even as I have hinted already, there is a difference between time coming of the word when it is in power, 1 Th. i. 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 Christ Jesus unto good works, Eph. i. 4-6. not if a man will create himself thereto. 1 Pet. i. 2., Eph. ii. 10.
What shall we say then? Is the fault in God, if any perish? Doubtless no; nor yet in his act of eternal reprobation neither: it is grace that saveth the elect, but sin that damns the rest: it is superabundant grace that causeth the elect to close with the tenders of life, and live; and it is the aboundings of sin that holds off the reprobate from the rational, necessary, amid absolute tenders, of grace. To conclude then; the gospel calleth for credence as a condition, and that both from the elect and. 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 work and do for some beyond reason; amid justice cuts off others, for slighting so good, so gracious, and necessary a means of salvation, so full both of kindness, mercy and reason.
Why then is the gospel offered them? Well, that there is such a tiling as eternal reprobation, [ have showed you; also what this eternal reprobation is, I have opened unto you: and shall now shew you also, that though these reprobates will infallibly perish, which God not only foresaw, but fore-determined to suffer them most assuredly so to do; yet there is reason, great reason, why the gospel, and so the grace of God 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 these particulars:
1. That eternal reprobation makes no man a sinner.
2. That the foreknowledge of God that the reprobate would perish makes no man a sinner.
3. That God’s infallibly determining upon the damnation of him that perisheth, makes no man a sinner.
4. God’s patience and long-suffering, and forbearance, until the reprobate fits himself for eternal destruction, makes no man a sinner.
So then, God may reprobate, may suffer the reprobate to sin, may fore-determine his infallible damnation, through the pro-consideration of him in sin, and may also forbear to work that effectual work in his soul that would infallibly bring him out of this condition, 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, will be an unreasonable opposer of his own salvation; and. may also determine to suffer him 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 to close with. Is. i. 18; lv. 12.
The reasons are,
1. Because not God, but sin, hath made him unreasonable; without which, reasonable terms had done his work for him: for reasonable terms are the most equal and righteous terms that can be propounded between parties at difference; yea the terms that most suiteth and agreeth with a reasonable creature, such as man; nay, reasonable terms are, for terms, the most apt to work with that man whose reason is brought into and held captive by very sense itself. Ezek. xviii; xxxiii.
2. God goeth yet further, he addeth promises of mercy, as those that are inseparable to 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 unto me, hear and your soul shall live.’ Prov. i. 23-27.
Now then to the question itself, to wit, that seeing it is impossible the reprobate should be saved; seeing also this is infallibly foreseen of God, and seeing also that God hath beforehand determined to suffer it so to be; yet I shall shew you it is 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 show that this reprobation doth not in itself make any man absolutely incapable of salvation: for if God had intended that by the act of reprobation, the persons therein concerned should also by that only act have been made incapable of everlasting life, then this act must also have tied up all the means from them, that tendeth to that end; or at least have debarred the gospel’s being offered to them by God’s command, for that intent; otherwise who is there but would have charged the holy One as guilty of guile, and worthy of blame, for commanding that the gospel of grace and salvation should be offered unto this or that man, whom yet he hath made incapable to receive it, by his act of reprobation. Wherefore this very thing, to wit, that the gospel is yet to be tendered to those eternally reprobated, sheweth that it is not simply the act of God’s reprobation, but sin, that incapacitateth the creature of live everlasting. Which sin is no branch of this reprobation, as is 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 want of the offers of salvation, though he hath offended God, and that upon most righteous terms; according to what is written, ‘As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live.’ Ezek. xxxiii. 11; xviii. 31, 82. ‘Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts.’ Zec. i. 3. So then, here lieth the point between God and the reprobate, I mean the reprobate since he hath sinned, God is willing to save him upon reasonable terms, but not upon terms above reason; but no reasonable terms will [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 from the consideration of the goodness of his nature, Ps. cxlv. 9. of man’s being his creature, and indeed in a miserable state. Job xiv. 15; iii. 16. But I say, as I have also said already, there is a great difference between his being willing to save them, through their 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. i. 7. Even ‘according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus.’ Phil. iv. 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. i. 29. yea the most holy faith, for that is the faith of God’s elect, to give repentance, Acts. v. 31. to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting ruin; Eph. i. 4. still engaging his mercy and goodness to follow them all the days of their lives, Jer. xxxii. 40., Ezek. xxxvi. 28, 27. that they may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, Ps. xxiii. 6. and as another scripture saith, ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God.’ 2 Cor. v. 5. Rom. viii. 28, &c.
But I say, his denying to do thus for every man in the world, cannot properly be said to be because he is not heartily willing they should close with the tenders of the grace held forth in the gospel, and live. Wherefore you must consider that there 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 withholding further 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 do this 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 be willing 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 these terms only, that they are also foreseen by him infallibly to reject; both because to reject it is unreasonable, especially the terms being so reasonable, as to believe the truth and live; and also because it is grace and mercy in God, so much as once to 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 utmost condition of it, had he then been unjust? had he injured man at all? Was not every tittle of the law reasonable, both in the first and second table? How much more then is he merciful and gracious,’ even in but mentioning terms of reconciliation? especially seeing he is also willing so to condescend, if they will believe his word, and receive the love of the truth. Though the reprobate then doth voluntarily, and against all strength of reason, run himself upon the rocks of eternal misery, and split himself thereon, he perisheth in his own corruption, by rejecting terms of life. 2 Th. ii 10., 2 Pet. ii. 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 him incapable, or sin? Not reprobation, but sin: if sin, then before he quarrel, let him consider the case aright, there, in the result, he will find sin, being consented to by his voluntary mind, hath thus disabled him: and because, I say, it was sin by 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 terms because reasonable, therefore most suitable, as terms, for him notwithstanding his wickedness. And I say again, forasmuch as those reasonable terms have annexed unto them, as their inseparable companions, such wonderful mercy and grace as indeed there is, let even them that perish, yet justify God; yea cry, ‘his goodness endureth for ever;’ 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) to show to all spectators what an enemy sin, being once embraced, is to the salvation of man. Sin, without the tenders of the grace of the gospel, could never have appeared so exceeding sinful, as by that it both hath and doth; ‘If I had not come and spoken unto them, (saith Christ) they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.’ Jn. xv. 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. vii. so the sins that oppose the gospel, are made manifest by that, even by the love, and mercy, and forgiveness of the gospel: If ‘he that despised Moses’ law died without mercy, - of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?’ Heb. x. 25, 29. Who could have thought that sin would have opposed that which is just, but especially mercy and grace, had we not seen it with our 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.’ Jn. xii 37. Sin, where it reigneth, is a mortal enemy to the soul; it blinds the eyes, holds the hands, ties the legs, and stops the ears, and makes the heart implacable to resist the Saviour of souls. That man will neither obey the law nor the gospel, who is left unto his sin: which also God is willing should be discovered and made manifest, though it cost the damnation of some: For this very purpose, saith God to Pharaoh, ‘have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared in all the earth.’ Ex. ix. 16., Rom. ix. 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 special assistance of his Holy Spirit, sin would neither be charmed by law nor gospel. This reason, though it be no profit unto those that are damned; yet it is for the honour of 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 his power is now discovered indeed, when nothing can tame sin but that and his mercy is here seen indeed; because that doth engage him to do it. Read Rom. ix. 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 for the elect, both to beget them to faith, and to maintain it in them to the end, in what place, or state, or condition soever they are. Eph. i. God, through the operation of his manifold wisdom, hath an end and an end in his acts and doings amongst the children 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 of means for the gathering all his elect ‘Oh that God would speak, (saith Zophar,) and open his lips against thee; and - shew thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is.’ Job xi. 5,8. For though God worketh with and upon the elect, otherwise than with and upon the reprobate; yet he worketh with and upon the elect, with and by 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 hearing thereof, do through the mighty power of God close in with the tenders therein held forth, and are saved. Thus that word that was offered to the reprobate Jews, and by 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 were ordained to eternal life believed.’ Acts. xiii. 48.* ‘Not as though the word of God had taken none effect.’ Rom. ix. 6. ‘God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew.’ xi. 2. The word shall accomplish the thing for which God hath sent it, even the salvation of the few that are chosen, when tendered to all; though rejected by most, through the rebellion of their hearts. Acts. xxviii. 25. Heb. iv. 1-3.
Object. But if God hath elected, as you have said, what need he lay a foundation so general for the begetting faith in his chosen particulars, seeing the same Spirit that 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 tenders of the grace of the gospel, yet it is not all the reason why the tender should be so general, as the three former reasons shew.
But again, in the bowels of God’s decree of election, is contained the means that are also ordained for the effectual bringing of those elected to that glory for which they were fore-appointed; even to gather together in one, all the children of God. Jn. xi 52. ‘Whereunto he called you, (saith Paul,) by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 2 Th. ii. 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 sound is indefinite and general, effectual to this and that man, through a special and particular application: Gal. ii. 20, 21. thus that Christ that in general was offered to 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 by means, so by the means thus universal and general, as most behooveful and fit; if we 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 calamities they must go through thereto.
1. Touching his working with some, how invisible is it to those in whose souls it is 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 its sin, the which it doth also so aggravate and apply to the conscience (Jesus still refraining, like Joseph, to make himself known to his brethren) that were there not general 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 helpeth them, that, they stand, when others fall for ever. Ps. cxix. 49.
2. And so likewise for their trials, temptations, and other calamities, because God will not bring them to heaven without, but by them; therefore he hath also provided a word so large, as to lie fair for the support of the soul in all conditions, that it may not die for thirst.
3. I might add also in this place, their imperfect state after grace received, doth call for such a word; yea, many other things which might be named: which God, only wise, hath thought fit should accompany us to the ship, yea in the sea, to our desired haven.
FIFTH REASON.—God willeth and commandeth the gospel should be offered to all, that thereby distinguishing love, as to an inward and spiritual work, might the more appear to be indeed the fruit of special and peculiar love. For in that the gospel is tendered to all in general, when yet but some do receive it; yea, and seeing these some are as unable, unwilling, and by nature, as much averse thereto, as those that refuse it, and perish; it is evident that something more of heaven and the operation of the Spirit of God doth accompany the word thus tendered for their life and salvation that enjoy it. 1 Th. i. 4-7. Not now as a word barely tendered, but backed by the strength of heaven: ‘Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!’ 1 Jn. iii. 1. even we who believe ‘according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.’ Eph. i. 20. This provoketh to distinguishing admiration, yea, and also to a love like that which hath fastened on the called, the preserved, and the glorified: ‘He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord.’ Ps. cxlvii. 20. Now are the sacrifices bound even to the horns of the altar, with a ‘Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world!’ Jn. xiv. 22. He ‘sent from above, he took me; he drew me out of many waters; he delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them that hated me; for they were too strong for me.’ 2 Sam. xxii. 17., Ps. xviii. 16.
For thus the elect considereth: though we all came alike into the world, and are the children of wrath by nature; Eph. ii. 1-3. yea, though we have alike so weakened ourselves by sin, Rom. iii. 9. that the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint, Is. i. 5. being altogether gone out of the way, and every one become altogether unprofitable, both to God and ourselves; Rom. iii. 12. yet that God should open mine eyes, convert my soul, give me faith, forgive my sins, raise me, when I fall; fetch me again, when I am gone astray; this is wonderful! Ps. xxxvii. 23. Yea, that he should prepare eternal mansions for me; Ps. xxiii. 6. and also keep me by his blessed and mighty power for that; and that in a way of believing, which without his assistance I am no way able to perform! 2 Cor. v. 5. That he should do this notwithstanding my sins, though I had no righteousness! Deut. ix. 5—7. Yea, that he should do it according to 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 of the world are void of, and will for ever miss and fall short of! Ezek. xvi. 60-63. Besides, that he should mollify my heart! break it, and then delight in it; Ps. li. 17. put his fear in it, and then look to me, Is. lxvi. 2. Ps. cxxxviii. 6. and keep me as the apple of his eye; Deut. xxxii. 10. yea, resolve to guide me with his counsel, and then receive me to glory! Further, that all this should be the effect of unthought of, undeserved, and undesired love! Mal. i. 2. Deut. iii. 7,8. That the Lord should think on this before he made the world, Jer. xxxi. 3. and sufficiently ordain the means before he had laid the foundation of the hills I For this he is worthy to be praised: 1 Cor. ii. 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 gospel mercies, 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 should be the reason that yet he perisheth? Is it because the grace that he receiveth differeth from 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 sweetness of Jesus Christ, and may also attain to the partaking of the Holy Ghost; yea, and by the very operation of these things also, escape the pollutions of the world, and become a visible saint, join in church communion, and be as chief amongst the very elect 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 also the degree.
1. To begin then with the nature of it.
(1.) The faith that the chosen are blessed with, it goeth under another name than any faith besides, even the faith of God’s elect, Titus i. i. as of a faith belonging to them only, of which none others do partake; which faith also, for the nature of it, is called faith most holy; Jude 20. to shew it goes beyond all other, and can be fitly matched no where else, but with their most blessed faith who infallibly attain eternal glory: even ‘like precious faith with us,’ saith Peter; 2 Pet. i. i. with his elect companions. And so of other things. For if this be true, that they differ in their faith, they must needs therewith differ in other things: for faith being 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 the resurrection of the dead, &c. 2 Th. i. 3., 1 Cor. xiii. 8., Phi. iii.
(2.) They differ as to the nature, in this; the faith, and hope, and love, that the chosen receive, it is that which floweth from election itself; he hath blessed us ‘according as he hath chosen us, Eph. i. 4, 5. even with those graces he set apart for 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, they also, 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 fail not’ Lk. xxii. 32. But,
2. As they differ in nature, they differ also in degree: for though it be true that the reprobate is blessed with grace, yet this is also as true, that the elect are blessed with more grace. It is the privilege only of those that are chosen, to be blessed with ALL spiritual blessings, and to have ALL the good pleasure of the goodness of God fulfilled in and upon them. Those who are blessed with ALL spiritual blessings must needs be blessed with eternal life; and those in whom the Lord, not only works all his good pleasure, but fulfilleth all the good pleasure of his goodness upon them, they must needs be preserved to his heavenly kingdom; Eph. ii 4. 5. 1 Th. i. 10. but none of the non-elect have these things conferred upon them; therefore the grace bestowed 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 for the management of the grace he receiveth, but Jesus Christ is principal for the management of the grace the elect receiveth. When I say principal, I mean chief; for though the reprobate is to have the greatest hand in the management of what mercy and goodness the 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 on him: ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? but if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.’ Gen. iv. 7. Thus it was also with Saul, who was rejected of God upon this account. 1 Sam. xiii. 11-14; xv. 26. And I say, as to the elect themselves, though Jesus Christ our blessed Saviour be chief, as to the management of the grace bestowed on his chosen, yet not so as that he quite excludeth them from ‘striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.’ Col. i. 29. Nay contrariwise, if those who in truth are elect, shall yet be remiss, and do wickedly, they shall feel the stroke of God’s rod, it may be till their bones do break. But because the work doth not lie at their door to manage as chief, but as Christ’s, therefore though he may perform his work with much bitterness and grief to them; yet he being engaged as the principal, will perform that which concerneth them, even until the day (the coming) of Jesus Christ. Ps. cxxxviii. 8., Phi. i. 6.
From what hath been said, there ariseth this conclusion:
The elect are always under eternal mercy, but those not elect always under eternal justice; 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 state of mercy, it may be either a state of mercy present, or both present and eternal also. And so again for a man to be in a state under justice, it may be understood either 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 may have, and perish. This is called in scripture, Believing for a while, during for a while, and rejoicing in the light for a season. Heb. vi. 4, 5., 2 Pet. ii. 20., Mat. xiii. 22., Lk. viii. 13. Now I call this mercy, both because none, as men, can deserve it, and also because the proper end thereof is to do good to those that have it. But I call it 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. v. 4., Heb. xii. 15, 16., 1 Tim. i. 20., 2 Tim. ii. 18; i. 15. Heb. iii. 15. But yet observe again, I do not call this present mercy, because God hath determined it shall last but a while absolutely; but because it is possible for man to lose it, yea determined he shall, conditionally. Jn. v. 35., 1 Cor. xii. 7.
Again, as to present justice, it is that which lasteth but a while also; and as present mercy is properly the portion of those left out of God’s election, so present justice chiefly hath to do with God’s beloved; who yet at that time are also under eternal mercy. This is that justice that afflicted Job, ch. vi. 4. David, Ps. lxxxviii.; xxxviii. 3. Heman, and the godly, who notwithstanding do infallibly attain, by virtue of this mercy, eternal life and glory. Amos. iii. 2., 1 Cor. xi. 30, 31., Ps. xxx. 5; ciii. 2., 1 Pet. i. 6. I call this justice, because in some sense God dealeth with his children according to the quality of their transgressions; and I call it also present justice, because though the hand of God for the present be never so heavy on those that are his by election, 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 wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.’ Is. liv. 8.
Thus you see there is present mercy and present justice; also that the elect may be 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 and eternal justice: and I say, as the elect may be under present justice, when the non-elect may 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 evident from what hath been said before, namely, from their being chosen in Christ before the 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 everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee.’ ch. xxxi. 3. And hence it is that he calleth the elect his sheep, Jn. x. 16. his children, xi. 52. and people, Acts. xviii. 9, 10. and that before conversion; for though none of them as yet were his children by calling, yet were they his according to election.
Now the elect being under this eternal grace and mercy, they must needs be under it both before present justice seizeth upon them, while it seizeth them, and also continueth with them longer than present justice can, it being from everlasting to everlasting. This being so, here is the reason why no sin, nor yet temptation of the enemy, with any other evil, can hurt or destroy those thus elect of God: yea this is that which maketh even those things that in themselves are the very bane of men, yet prove very much for good to those within this purpose; Rom. viii. 28. And as David saith, ‘It is good for me that I have been afflicted.’ Ps. cxix. 71. And again, ‘But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.’ 1 Cor. xi. 32. Now afflictions, &c., in themselves are not only fruitless and unprofitable, but, being unsanctified, are destructive; ‘I smote him, and he went on frowardly:’ Is. lvii. 17. But now eternal mercy working with this or that affliction, makes it profitable to the chosen; ‘I have seen his ways, and will heal him, and restore comforts unto him and to his mourners.’ ver. 18. As he saith in another place, ‘Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest him out of thy law.’ Ps. xciv. 12. For eternal mercy doth not look on those who are the elect and chosen of God, as poor sinful creatures only, but also as the generation whom the Lord hath blessed, in whom he hath designed to magnify his mercy to the utmost, by pardoning the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage. 1 Pet. ii. 9., Mic. vii. 18, 19. ‘Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, - wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.’ Eph. i. 6. Wherefore, I say, the elect, as they do also receive that grace and mercy that may be sinned away, so they have that grace and mercy which cannot be lost, and that sin cannot deprive them of, even mercy that abounds, and goeth beyond all sin; such mercy as hath engaged the power of God, the intercession of Christ, and the communication of the blessed Spirit of adoption, which Spirit also engageth the heart, directs it into the love of God, that it may not depart from God after that rate as the reprobates do. Eph. v. 29, so. ‘I will make an everlasting covenant with them, (saith God) that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Jer. xxxii. 40.
But now I say, God’s dealing with the non-elect, is far otherwise, they being under the consideration of eternal justice, even then when in the enjoyment of present grace 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 God themselves they are counted saints and brethren: ‘The dog is turned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. 2 Pet. ii. 22. And the reason is, because notwithstanding all their shew before the world, their old nature and corruptions do still bear sway within, which in time also, according to the ordinary judgment of God, is suffered so to shew itself, that they are visible to saints that are elect, as was the case of Simon Magus, and that wicked apostate Judas, 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 he made manifest that they were not all of us:’ 1 Jn. ii. 19. They were not elect as we, nor were they sanctified as the elect of God themselves; wherefore eternal justice counts them the sons of perdition, when under their profession. And I say, they being under this eternal justice, it must needs have to do with them in the midst of their profession; and because also it is much offended with them for conniving with their lust, 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 cuts them off for their iniquity, and layeth them under wrath for ever. They ‘have forsaken the right way, (saith God) - following the way of Baalam the son of Bosor; - these are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest;’ trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots, ‘for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.’ 2 Pet. ii. 5, 16, 17., Jude 11-15., Jn. xvii. 12., Mat. xiii. 12; xxv. 29. Mk. iv. 25., Lk. viii. 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, notwithstanding present mercy, because of eternal justice; and that the elect are preserved from the death, though they sin and are obnoxious to the strokes of present justice, by reason 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 he will have compassion.’ Rom. ix. 15.
* As the same sun which softens the wax, hardens the clay, so it is with the preached gospel, which is to some ‘the savour of death unto death, and to others the savour of life unto life,’ 2 Cor. ii. 16. The gospel is ineffectual to any saving purpose respecting the reprobate; partly through pride, and in not enduring to be reproved by it; partly through slothfulness, in not coming under the sound of it; and principally through cursed infidelity, in not believing the gracious message it brings. Let it be 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 particular election; for we cannot have a certain knowledge of our election to eternal life before we do believe: it is a thing hidden in the unsearchable counsel of God, until it be manifest by our effectual calling, and believing on Christ; therefore we must believe on Christ before we know our election; or else we shall never know it, and shall never believe. All joy, peace, comfort, assurances, are communicated to the soul in the way of believing. May the Lord give and increase saving faith!—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.