Of the causes of Reprobation.
Having thus in a word or two shewed the antiquity of Reprobation, I now come in this place to shew you the cause thereof; for doubtless this must stand a truth, That whatever God doth, there is sufficient ground therefore, whether by us apprehended, or else without our reach.
Hence it follows, that nothing, either person or cause, &c., can by any means have a being, but first he knows thereof, allows thereof, and decrees it shall be so. ‘Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not?’ Lam. iii. 37. Now then, because that reprobation, as well as election, are subordinate to God; his will also, which is eternally perfect, being most immediately herein concerned; it was impossible that any should be reprobate, before God had both willed and decreed it should be so. It is not the being of a thing that administers matter of knowledge or foresight thereof to God, but the perfection of his knowledge, wisdom, and power, &c., that giveth the thing its being: God did not fore-decree there should be a world, because he foresaw there would be one; but there must be one, because he had before decreed there should be one. The same is true as touching the case in hand: ‘For this cause [very purpose] have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power.’ Ex. ix. 16., Rom. ix. 17.
Second, A second cause of eternal reprobation, is the exercise of God’s sovereignty; for if this is true, that there is nothing either visible or invisible, whether in heaven or earth, but hath its being from him: then it must most reasonably follow, that he is therefore sovereign Lord, &c., and may also according to his own will, as he pleaseth himself, both exercise and manifest the same; being every whit absolute; and can do and may do whatsoever his soul desireth: and indeed, good reason, for he hath not only made them all, but ‘for his pleasure they both were and are created.’ Rev. iv. 11.
Now the very exercise of this sovereignty produceth reprobation: ‘Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.’ Rom. ix. 18. ‘Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump?’ And doth he not make his pots according to his pleasure? Here therefore the mercy, justice, wisdom and power of God, take liberty to do what they will; saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.’ Is. xlvi. 10., Job xxiii. 13., Dan. iv. 35., Is. xliii 13.
Third, Another cause of eternal reprobation, is the act and working of distinguishing love, and everlasting grace. God hath universal love, and particular love; general love, and distinguishing love; and so accordingly doth decree, purpose, and determine: from general love, the extension of general grace and mercy: but from that love that is distinguishing, peculiar grace and mercy: ‘Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?’ saith the Lord, ‘yet I loved Jacob.’ Mal. i. 2. Yet I loved Jacob, that is, with a better love, or a love that is more distinguishing. As he further makes appear in his answer to our father Abraham, when he prayed to God for Ishmael: ‘As for Ishmael, (saith he,) I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee.’ Gen. xvii. 20, 21. Touching which words, there are these things observable.
1. That God had better love for Isaac, than he had for his brother Ishmael. Yet,
2. Not because Isaac had done more worthy and goodly deeds, for Isaac was yet unborn.
3. This choice blessing could not be denied to Ishmael, because he had disinherited himself by sin; for this blessing was entailed to Isaac, before Ishmael had a being also. Rom. iv. 16-19. Gen. xv. 4,5; xvi.
4. These things therefore must needs fall out through the working of distinguishing love and mercy, which had so cast the business, ‘that the purpose of God according to election might stand.’
Further, Should not God decree to shew distinguishing love and mercy, as well as that which is general and common, he must not discover his best love at all to the sons of men. Again, if he should reveal and extend his best love to all the world in general, then there would not be such a thing as love that doth distinguish; for distinguishing love appeareth in separating between Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, the many called, and the few chosen. Thus by virtue of distinguishing love, some must be reprobate: for distinguishing love must leave some, both of the angels in heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth; wherefore the decree also that doth establish it, must needs leave some.
Fourth, Another cause of reprobation, Is God’s willingness to shew his wrath, and to make his power known. This is one of those arguments that the holy apostle setteth against the most knotty and strong objection that ever was framed against the doctrine of eternal reprobation: ‘Thou wilt say then unto me, (saith he,) Why doth he yet find fault?’ For if it be his will that some should be rejected, hardened, and perish, why then is he offended that any sin against him; ‘for who hath resisted his will?’ Hold, saith the apostle; stay a little here; first remember this, Is it meet to say unto God, What doest thou? ‘Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump,’ &c. Besides, when you have thought your worst, to wit, that the effects of reprobation must needs be consummate in the eternal perdition of the creature; yet again consider, ‘ What if God, willing to shew his wrath,’ as well as grace and mercy? And what if he, that he may so do, exclude some from having share in that grace that would infallibly, against all resistance, bring us safe unto eternal life? What then? Is he therefore the author of your perishing, or his eternal reprobation either? Do you not know that he may refuse to elect who he will, without abusing of them? Also that he may deny to give them that grace that would preserve them from sin, without being guilty of their damnation? May he not, to shew his wrath, suffer ‘with much Long-suffering’ all that are ‘the vessels of wrath,’ by their own voluntary will, to fit themselves for wrath and for destruction? Rom. ix. 19-22. Yea, might he not even in the act of reprobation, conclude also to suffer them thus left, to fall from the state he left them in, that is, as they were considered upright; and when fallen, to bind them fast in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day, but he must needs be charged foolishly? You shall see in that day what a harmony and what a glory there will be found in all God’s judgments in the overthrow of the sinner; also how clear the Lord will shew himself of having any working hand in that which causeth eternal ruin; notwithstanding he hath reprobated such, doth suffer them to sin, and that too, that he might shew his wrath on the vessels of his wrath; the which I also, after this next chapter, shall further clear up to you. As ‘the Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations,’ without approving of their miscarriages; so he also knoweth how ‘to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:’ 2 Pet. ii. 9. yet never to deserve the least of blame for his so reserving of them; though none herein can see his way, for he alone knows how to do it.*
* 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.
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.
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. i. 23. and ‘the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.’ Eph. iv. 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; Ps. xvi. and are said to be booked, marked, and sealed with God’s most excellent knowledge, approbation and liking. 2 Tim. ii. 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.’ Ps. cxxxix. 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. viii. 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. ix. 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. Mat. xxiv. 24.
Third, 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. i. 3,4. And bestoweth them in time upon us, ‘According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:’ Eph. iii. 11. He Lath 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.
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.
It hath been the custom of ignorant men much to quarrel at eternal reprobation, concluding, for want of knowledge in the mystery of God’s will, that if he reprobate any from eternity, he had as good have said, I will make this man to damn him; I will decree this man, without any consideration, to the everlasting pains of hell. When in very deed, for God to reprobate, and to appoint before-hand to eternal condemnation, are two distinct things, properly relating to two distinct attributes, arising from two distinct causes.
Second, As to the attributes; reprobation respects God’s sovereignty; but to appoint to condemnation, his justice. Rom. ix. 15. Gen. xviii. 25.
Third, As to the causes; sovereignty being according to the will of God, but justice according to the sin of man. For God, though he be the only sovereign Lord, and that to the height of perfection; yet he appointeth no man to the pains of everlasting fire, merely from sovereignty, but by the rule of justice: God damneth not the man because he is a man, but a sinner; and fore-appoints him to that place and state, by fore-seeing of him wicked. Rom. i. 18, 19., Col. iii. 6.
Again, As reprobation is not the same with fore-appointing to eternal condemnation; so neither is it the cause thereof.
If it be the cause, then it must either, 1. Leave him infirm. Or, 2. Infuse sin into him. Or, 3. Take from him something that otherwise would keep him upright. 4. Or both license Satan to tempt, and the reprobate to close in with the temptation. But it doth none of these; therefore it is not the cause of the condemnation of the creature.
That it is not the cause of sin, it is evident,
1. Because the elect are as much involved therein, as those that are passed by.
2. It leaveth him not infirm; for he is by an after-act, to wit, of creation, formed perfectly upright.
3. That reprobation infuseth no sin, appeareth, because it is the act of God.
4. That it taketh nothing, that good is, from him, is also manifest, it being only a leaving of him.
5. And that it is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt, or the reprobate to sin, is manifest; because as Christ was tempted, so the elect fall as much into the temptation, at least many of them, as many of those that are reprobate: whereas if these things came by reprobation, then the reprobate would be only concerned therein. All which will be further handled in these questions yet behind.
Object. From what hath been said, there is concluded this at least, That God hath infallibly determined, and that before the world, the infallible damnation of some of his creatures for if God hath before the world [was made] bound some over to eternal punishments and that as you say, for sin; then this determination must either be fallible or infallible; not fallible, for then your other position of the certainty of the number of God’s elect, is shaken; unless you hold that there may be a number that shall neither go to heaven nor hell. Well then, if God hath indeed determined, fore-determined, that some must infallibly perish; doth not this his determination lay a necessity on the reprobate to sin, that he may be damned; for, no sin, no damnation; that is your own argument.
Ans. That God hath ordained, (Jude 4.) the damnation of some of his creatures, it is evident; but whether this his determination be positive and absolute, there is the question: for the better understanding whereof, I shall open unto you the variety of God’s determinations, and their nature, as also rise.
The determinations of God touching the destruction of the creature, they are either ordinary or extraordinary: those I count ordinary that were commonly pronounced by the prophets and apostles, &c., in their ordinary way of preaching; to the end men might be affected with the love of their own salvation: now these either bound or loosed, but as the condition or qualification was answered by the creature under sentence, and no otherwise. 1 Sam. xii. 25., Is. i. 20., Mat. xviii. 3., Lk. xiii. 1, 2. 3., Rom. ii. 8, 9; viii. 13; xi. 23., 1 Cor. vi. 9-11.
Again, These extraordinary, though they respect the same conditions, yet they are not grounded immediately upon them. but upon the infallible fore-knowledge and fore-sight of God, and are thus distinguished. First the ordinary determination, it stands but at best upon a supposition that the creature may continue in sin, and admits of a possibility that it may not; but the extraordinary stands upon an infallible fore-sight that the creature will continue in sin; wherefore this must needs be positive, and as infallible as God himself.
Again, These two determinations are also distinguished thus: the ordinary is applicable to the elect as well as to the reprobate, but the other to the reprobate only. It is proper to say even to the elect themselves, ‘He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned;’ but not to say to them, These are appointed to UTTER destruction, or that they shall utterly perish in their own corruptions; or that for them is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. 1 Ki. xx. 42., 2 Pet. ii. 12., Jude 13.
So then, though God by these determinations doth not lay some under irrecoverable condemnation, yet by one of them he doth; as is further made out thus:
1. God most perfectly foreseeth the final impenitency of those that so die, from the beginning to the end of the world. Prov. xv. 11., Ps. cxxxix. 2., Is. xlvi. 10.
2. Now from this infallible foresight, it is most easy and rational to conclude, and that positively, the infallible overthrow of every such creature. Did I infallibly foresee that this or that man would cut out his heart in the morning, I might infallibly determine his death before night.
Object. But still the question is, Whether God by this his determination doth not lay a necessity on the creature to sin? For, no sin, no condemnation: this is true by your own assertion.
Ans. No, by no means: for,
1. Though it be true, that sin must of absolute necessity go before the infallible condemnation and overthrow of the sinner; and that it must also be pre-considered by God; yet it needs not lay a necessity upon him to sin: for let him but alone to do what he will, and the determination cannot be more infallible than the sin, which is the cause of its execution.
2. As it needs not, so it doth not: for this positive determination is not grounded upon what God will effect, but on what the creature will; and that not through the instigation of God, but the instigation of the devil. What? might not I, if I most undoubtedly foresaw that such a tree in my garden would only cumber the ground, notwithstanding reasonable means, might not I, I say, from hence determine, seven years before, to cut it down, and burn it in the fire, but I must, by so determining, necessitate this tree to be fruitless? the case in hand is the very same. God therefore may most positively determine the infallible damnation of his creature, and yet not at all necessitate the creature to sin, that he might be damned.
Object. But how is this similitude pertinent? For God did not only foresee sin would be the destruction of the creature, but let it come into the world, and so destroy the creature. If you, as you foresee the fruitlessness of your tree, should withal see that which makes it so, and that too before it makes it so, and yet let the impediment come and make it so; are not you now the cause of the unfruitfulness of that tree which you have before condemned to the fire to be burned? for God might have chose whether he would have let Adam sin, and so sin to have got into the world by him.
Ans. Similitudes never answer every way; if they be pertinent to that for which they are intended, it is enough; and to that it answereth well, being brought to prove no more but the natural consequence of a true and infallible foresight. And now as to what is objected further, as that God might have chose whether sin should have come into the world by Adam, to the destruction of so many: to that I shall answer,
1. That sin could not have come into the world without God’s permission, it is evident, both from the perfection of his foresight and power.
2. Therefore all the means, motives, and inducements thereunto, must also by him be not only foreseen, but permitted.
3. Yet so, that God will have the timing, proceeding, bounding, and ordering thereof, at his disposal: ‘Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.’ Ps. lxxvi. 10., 1 Ki. xxii. 20-22., Jn. viii. 20. Lk. xxii. 51, 52.
4. Therefore it must needs come into the world, not without, but by the knowledge of God; not in despite of him, but by his suffering of it.
Object. But how then is he clear from having a hand in the death of him that perisheth?
Ans. Nothing is more sure than that God could have kept sin out of the world, if it had been his will; and this is also as true, that it never came into the world with his liking and compliance; and for this, you must consider that sin came into the world by two steps:
1. By being offered. 2. By prevailing.
Touching the first of these, God without the least injury to any creature in heaven or earth, might not only suffer it, but so far countenance the same: that is, so far forth as for trial only: as it is said of Abraham; ‘God tempted Abraham’ to slay his only son, Gen. xxii. 1. and led Christ by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Mk. i. 12., Lk. iv. 1. This is done without any harm at all; nay, it rather produceth good; for it tends to discover sincerity, to exercise faith in, and love to his Creator; also to put him in mind of the continual need he hath of depending on his God for the continuation of help and strength, and to provoke to prayers to God, whenever so engaged. Deut. vii;. 1—3. 1 Pet. i. 7. Heb. v. 7. Mat. xxvi. 22, 41.
Object. But God did not only admit that sin should be offered for trial, and there to stay; but did suffer it to prevail, and overcome the world.
Ans. Well, this is granted: but yet consider,
1. God did neither suffer it, nor yet consent it should, but under this consideration; If Adam, upright Adam, gave way thereto, by forsaking his command, ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ Gen. ii. 17; iii. 3. Which Adam did, not because God did compel him or persuade him to it, but voluntarily of his own mind, contrary to his God’s command: so then, God by suffering sin to break into the world, did it rather in judgment, as disliking Adam’s act, and as a punishment to man for listening to the tempter; and as a discovery of his anger at man’s disobedience; than to prove that he is guilty of the misery of his creature.
2. Consider also, that when God permitted sin for trial, it was, when offered first, to them only who were upright, and had sufficient strength to resist it.
3. They were by God’s command to the contrary, driven to no strait to tempt them to incline to Satan: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat,’ saith God; only let this alone.
4. As touching the beauty and goodness that was in the object unto which they were allured; What was it? Was it better than God? Yea, was it better than the tree of life? For from that they were not exempted till after they had sinned. Did not God know best what was best to do them good?
5. Touching him that persuaded them to do this wicked act; was his word more to be valued for truth, more to be ventured on for safety, or more to be honoured for the worthiness of him that spake, than was his that had forbad it? The one being the devil, with a lie, and to kill them; the other being God, with his truth, and to preserve them safe.
Quest. But was not Adam unexpectedly surprised? Had he notice beforehand, and warning of the danger? For God foresaw the business.
Ans. Doubtless God was fair and faithful to his creature in this thing also; as clearly doth appear from these considerations.
1. The very commandment that God gave him, fore-bespake him well to look about him; and did indeed insinuate that he was likely to be tempted.
2. It is yet more evident, because God doth even tell him of the danger; ‘In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’
3. Nay God by speaking to him of the very tree that was to be forborn, telling him also where it stood, that he might the better know it; did in effect expressly say unto him, Adam, if thou be tempted, it will be about that tree, and the fruit thereof: wherefore if thou findest the tempter there, then beware thy life.
(1.)To conclude then: though sin did not come into the world without God’s sufferance, yet it did without his liking: God suffered also Cain to kill his brother, and Ishmael to mock at Isaac, but he did not like the same. Gen. iv. 9-11. Gal. iv. 30.
(2.) Therefore though God was first in concluding sin should be offered to the world; yet man was the first that consented to a being overcome thereby.
(3.) Then, Though God did fore-determine that sin should enter, yet it was not but with respect to certain terms and conditions, which yet was not to be enforced by virtue of the determination, but permitted to be completed by the voluntary inclination of a perfect and upright man. And in that the determination was most perfectly infallible, it was through the foresight of the undoubted inclination of this good and upright person.
Quest. But might not God have kept Adam from inclining, if he would?
Ans. What more certain? But yet consider,
1. Adam being now an upright man, he was able to have kept himself, had he but looked to it as he should and might.
2. This being so, if God had here stept in, he had either added that which had been needless, and so had not obtained thankfulness; or else had made the strength of Adam useless, yea his own workmanship in so creating him, superfluous; or else by consequence imperfect.
(3.) If he had done so, he had taken Adam from his duty, which was to trust and believe his Maker; he had also made void the end of the commandment, which was to persuade to watchfulness, diligence, sobriety, and contentedness; yea, and by so doing would not only himself have tempted Adam to transgression, even to lay aside the exercise of that strength that God had already given him; but should have become the pattern, or the first father to all looseness, idleness, and neglect of duty. Which would also not only have been an ill example to Adam to continue to neglect so reasonable and wholesome duties, but would have been to himself an argument of defence to retort upon his God, when he had come at another time to reckon with him for his misdemeanours.*
Many other weighty reasons might here be further added for God’s vindication in this particular, but at this time let these suffice.
* 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 v. 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.
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.