Reprobation Asserted; or, The Doctrine of Eternal Election and Reprobation Promiscuously Handled
by John Bunyan
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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).[9] '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).


[1] 'Shedding words' means 'scattering or spreading words,' as in Acts 2:33; now obsolete.—Ed.

[2] As election took place before the creation of man—all men in Adam were decreed, made and turned into the world upright.—Ed.

[3] 'Prevents our doing good.' Few words in the English language have more altered in their meaning than 'prevent'; it is derived from 'praevenio,' to go before. In Bunyan's time, it meant 'to go before,' 'clear the way,' 'make the way easy' for our doing good. Its present meaning is 'to obstruct,' by going or standing before us.—Ed.

[4] They who diligently attend to the scriptures, will find throughout the whole a vein of election and reprobation. The holy seed may be traced in many instances, and in divers families, in the Bible, from Adam to the birth of our Saviour, whose ancestors, according to the flesh, were of the line of election or the godly; which those who are only born after the flesh, and not after the Spirit, namely, the reprobate, have always despised and persecuted, and will do so to the end of time—Mason and Ryland.

[5] It is of God's mere mercy and grace that any sinners are called and admitted to the privilege of justification and adoption, upon God's own terms. The reason why the sinful and unworthy heathen (of whom Britain is a part) were called to be a people, who were not a people, while the Jews were left out and cast off for their obstinate unbelief, was not because the Gentiles were either more worthy or more willing (for they were all dead in trespasses and sins), but from God's discriminating grace and mercy.—Mason and Ryland.

[6] The final condemnation of the wicked does not spring from God's sovereign will to destroy any of his rational creatures; this is evident from the many pressing invitations, declarations, and promises in the word of God: for Jehovah swears by his great self, that he desires not the death of a sinner. Our Lord assigns the cause of reprobation in these words, (John 5:40) 'Ye will not come unto me, that ye might have life'; wherefore Christ, the only remedy for their cure, being rejected, the sinner is condemned, and rendered the object of wrath and punishment by the law and justice of God; because the same word of truth which says, 'Whosoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely,' also says, 'The soul that sinneth [or lives and dies in sin unpardoned] shall die.' Thus sin is the object of God's hatred, and not the man, abstractedly considered. May we therefore each of us have grace to look to Christ for full and complete salvation, who hath put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, whereby he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified!—Ryland and Mason.

[7] 'Secret things belong to God, but those that are revealed belong to us.' It is a vain thing for men to cavil at the doctrine of peculiar election, and to quarrel with God for choosing some, and passing by others. Their best way would be to assure themselves of their own election, by using the means, and walking in the ways of God's appointment, as laid down in the word, and then they will find that God cannot deny himself, but will make good to them every promise therein; and thus, by scripture evidence, they will find that they are elected unto life, and will be thankful and humble. They will then find that an hearty affectionate trusting in Christ for all his salvation, as freely promised to us, hath naturally enough in it to work in our souls a natural bent and inclination to, and ability for, the practice of all holiness.—Ryland and Mason.

[8] None are excluded the benefit of the great and precious salvation procured and finished by the Lord Jesus Christ, but they, who by perverseness, unbelief, and impenitency, exclude themselves. Sinners,—miserable, helpless, and hopeless sinners, are the objects of this salvation: whosoever is enabled to see, in the light of God's Spirit, their wretched and forlorn state; to feel their want of Christ as a suitable Saviour, and to repent and forsake their sins, shall find mercy; for 'God is no respecter of persons' (Acts 10:34).—Ryland and Mason.

[9] 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 2:16). 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.


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