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.
hether God would indeed and in truth, that the gospel, with the grace thereof, should be tendered to those that yet he hath bound up under Eternal Reprobation?
To this question I shall answer,
First, In the language of our Lord, 'Go preach the gospel unto every creature' (Mark 16:15); and again, 'Look unto me, and be ye saved; all ye ends of the earth' (Isa 45:22). 'And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely' (Rev 22:17). And the reason is, because Christ died for all, 'tasted death for every man' (2 Cor 5:15; Heb 2:9); is 'the Saviour of the world' (1 John 4:14), and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.
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' (Mark 16:16); 'He that believeth not God hath made him a liar, because he believeth not the record that God gave of his son' (1 John 5:10); and, Woe unto thee Capernaum, 'Woe unto thee Chorazin! woe unto thee Bethsaida!' (Matt 11:21) 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 (John 3:16; Heb 2:3); 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 faith, because he knoweth not the elect from the reprobate; nor they again hear in faith, 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 1:15; Luke 24:46,47).
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' (Mark 2:17; 2 Cor 5:14,15; Luke 7:47).
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.