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.
eeing [that] it is not possible that the reprobate should receive this grace and live, and also seeing [that] this is infallibly foreseen of God; and again, seeing God hath fore-determined to suffer it so to be; Why doth he yet will and command that the gospel, and so grace in the general tenders thereof, should be proffered unto them?
Why then is the gospel offered them? Well, that there is such a thing as eternal reprobation, I have shewed 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 fore-knowledge 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 pre-determine his infallible damnation, through the pre-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 (Isa 1:18; 55:12).
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 (Eze 18; 33).
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 1:23-27).
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 shew 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 these eternally reprobated, sheweth that it is not simply the act of God's reprobation, but sin, that incapacitateth the creature of life 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' (Eze 33:11, 18:31,32). 'Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts' (Zech 1:3). 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 not 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 (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 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 1:7). Even 'according to his riches in 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 give repentance (Acts 5:31), to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting ruin (Eph 1:4); still engaging his mercy and 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 another scripture saith, 'Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God' (2 Cor 5:5; Rom 8:26, &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 Thess 2:10; 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 him incapable, or sin? Not reprobation, but sin: if sin, then before he quarrel, let him consider the case aright, where, 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 inseperable 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 shew 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' (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 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 10:28,29). 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' (John 12:37). 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' (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 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 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 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 1). 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 11:5,6). 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 13:48). 'Not as though the word of God had 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 the salvation 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 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 (John 11:52). 'Whereunto he called you, [saith Paul] by our gospel, to the obtaining of 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 sound is indefinite and general, effectual to this and that man, through a special and particular application (Gal 2:20,21): 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 these 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 (Psa 119:49).
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 Thess 1:4-7). 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 John 3:1) 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 1:20). 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' (Psa 147:20). 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!' (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 them that 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 are the children of wrath by nature (Eph 2:1-3); yea, though we have alike so weakened ourselves 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 altogether unprofitable, both to God and ourselves (Rom 3:12); 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! (Psa 37:23). Yea, that he should prepare eternal mansions for me (Psa 23:6); 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 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 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! (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 the apple of his eye (Deut 32:10); 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 1:2; Deut 7:7,8). That the Lord should think on this before he made the world (Jer 31:3), and sufficiently ordain the means before he had laid the foundation of the hills! For this he is worthy to be praised (1 Cor 2:9): 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 1:1), 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 Peter 1:1); 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 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 the chosen 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 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' (Luke 22:32). 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 1:4,5; 1 Thess 1:10); 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 4:7). Thus it was also with Saul, who was rejected of God 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 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 1:29). 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 (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 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 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, 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 5:4; Heb 12:15,16; 1 Tim 1:20; 2 Tim 2:18, 1:15; Heb 12:15). 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 (John 5:35; 1 Cor 12:7).
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 (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 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' (Isa 54:8).
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' (31:3). And hence it is that he calleth the elect his sheep (John 10:16), his children (11:52), and people (Acts 18:9,10), 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 8:28). And as David saith, 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted' (Psa 119:71). And again, 'But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world' (1 Cor 11:32). Now afflictions, &c., in themselves are not only fruitless and unprofitable, but, being unsanctified, are destructive; 'I smote him, and he went on frowardly' (Isa 57:17). 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' (v 18). As he saith in another place, 'Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest him out of thy law' (Psa 94:12). 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 Peter 2:9; Micah 7:18,19). 'Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, - wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved' (Eph 1:6). 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 5:29,30). '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 32:40).
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 Peter 2:22). 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 be made manifest that they were not all of us' (1 John 2:19). 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 Peter 2:5,16,17; Jude 11-13; John 17:12; Matt 13:12, 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, 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 9:15).