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.
f the Unchangeableness of Eternal Reprobation.
Many opinions have passed through the hearts of the sons of men concerning reprobation; most of them endeavouring so to hold it forth, as therewith they might, if not heal their conscience slightly, yet maintain their own opinion, in their judgment, of other things; still wringing, now the word this way, and anon again that, for their purpose; also framing within their soul such an imagination of God and his acts in eternity, as would suit with such opinions, and so present all to the world. And the rather they have with greatest labour strained unweariedly at this above many other truths, because of the grim and dreadful face it carrieth in most men's apprehensions. But none of these things, however they may please the creature, can by any means in any measure, either cause God to undo, unsay, or undetermine what he hath concerning this, decreed and established.
First, Because they suit not with his nature, especially in these foundation-acts: 'The foundation of God standeth sure' (2 Tim 2:19), even touching reprobation, 'that the purpose of God according to election might stand' (Rom 9:11). 'I know [saith Solomon] that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it,' &c. (Eccl 3:14). 'Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall not make it good?' (Num 23:19). His decrees are composed according to his eternal wisdom, established upon his unchangeable will, governed by his knowledge, prudence, power, justice, and mercy, and are brought to conclusion, on his part, in perfect holiness, through the abiding of his most blessed truth and faithfulness: 'He is the rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he' (Deut 32:4).
Second, This decree is made sure by the number, measure, and bounds of election; for election and reprobation do inclose all reasonable creatures; that is, either the one or the other; election, those that are set apart for glory; and reprobation, those left out of this choice.
Now as touching the elect, they are by this decree confined to that limited number of persons that must amount to the complete making up the fulness of the mystical body of Christ; yea so confined by this eternal purpose, that nothing can be diminished from or added thereunto: and hence it is that they are called his body and members in particular, 'the fulness of him that filleth all in all' (Eph 1:23) and 'the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ' (Eph 4:13). Which body, considering him as the head thereof, in conclusion maketh up one perfect man, and holy temple for the Lord. These are called Christ's substance, inheritance and lot (Psa 16); and are said to be booked, marked, and sealed with God's most excellent knowledge, approbation and liking (2 Tim 2:19). As Christ said to his Father, 'Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them' (Psa 139:16). This being thus, I say, it is in the first place impossible that any of those members should miscarry, for 'Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?' (Rom 8:33) and because they are as to number every way sufficient, being his body, and so by their completing to be made a perfect man: therefore all others are rejected, that the 'purpose of God according to election might stand' (Rom 9:11). Besides, it would not only argue weakness in the decree, but monstrousness in the body, if after this, any appointed should miscarry, or any besides them be added to them (Matt 24:24).
Thirdly, Nay further, that all may see how punctual, exact, and to a tittle this decree of election is, God hath not only as to number and quantity confined the persons, but also determined and measured, and that before the world, the number of the gifts and graces that are to be bestowed on these members in general; and also what graces and gifts to be bestowed on this or that member in particular: He 'hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings - in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the word' (Eph 1:3,4). And bestoweth them in time upon us, 'According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Eph 3:11). He hath given to the eye, the grace that belongeth to the eye; and to the hand that which he also hath appointed for it. And so to every other member of the body elect, he doth deal out to them their determined measure of grace and gifts most fit for their place and office. Thus is the decree established, both of the saved, and also the non-elect (Rom 12:3; Eph 4:16; Col 2:19; Eph 4:12,13).
Fourth, But again, another thing that doth establish this decree of eternal reprobation, is the weakness that sin, in the fall, and since, hath brought all reprobates into: For though it be most true, that sin is no cause of eternal reprobation; yet seeing sin hath seized on the reprobate, it cannot be but thereby the decree must needs be the faster fixed. If the king, for this or the other weighty reason, doth decree not to give this or that man, who yet did never offend him, a place in his privy chamber; if this man after this shall be infected with the plague, this rather fastens than loosens the king's decree. As the angels that were left out of God's election, by reason of the sin they committed after, are so far off from being by that received into God's decree, that they are therefore bound for it in chains of everlasting darkness to the judgment of the great day.