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Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1-Chapter 10-The Knowledge of God

February 6, 2015 2 comments

CHAPTER 10-THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD

When Massillon arose to deliver the funeral oration of Louis XIV, his opening sentence was: “Only God is great.” Luther once told Erasmus that his thoughts of God were too human. A person criticized a certain preacher by saying that he did not make God big enough. We believe this is a general fault of the ministry in this, our day: we do not make God big enough in our preaching. God is great, incomprehensibly great, in every attribute. The Psalmist says that “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (#Ps 147:5).

The knowledge of God is called His omniscience, which means that His knowledge is universal, reaching to all things, to all persons, and to all events. The contrast between God and man is very marked. Man knows very little; his understanding has been darkened by sin. He begins his earthly career in almost complete ignorance, and after a lifetime of study knows nothing as he ought to know it: “And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (#1Co 8:2). While in this world the wisest of men can hardly turn over the first page in the book of knowledge. And the smarter the man is, the more he realizes his ignorance. It is the fool who thinks he knows it all. Moreover, the more valuable a truth is, the denser is the ignorance of man concerning it. The truth about God and eternal things is the most valuable of all truth, and yet the ignorance of man is more evident here than on any other subject. Moral and spiritual truths are hid to the eyes of the wise and prudent and revealed to babes: “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight” (#Lu 10:21). God hath made foolish the wisdom of this world with regard to spiritual things: “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (#1Co 1:20). The world by its own wisdom cannot know God: “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (#1Co 1:21). To be wise every man must become a fool, that is, he must renounce his own reasonings and accept God’s revelation about eternal things. “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (#Pr 3:5).

Paul preached the gospel to both Jew and Greek alike to the natural, prejudiced Jew it was a scandal, and to the natural, proud Greek it was foolishness: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;” (#1Co 1:23). Before they could see the wisdom and power of God in the gospel of Christ, they had to be called; by which call their minds were illuminated by the Holy Spirit, so that the Gospel was no longer hid to them: “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (#1Co 1:24); “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (#2Co 4:4,6).

God’s understanding is infinite: “Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite” (#Ps 147:5). The original reads, “Of His understanding there is no number.” The objects of God’s knowledge are beyond computation. The mind of man does not have a mind that can fathom the knowledge of God. David wrote concerning the knowledge of God and, after a few lines, said, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it” (#Ps 139:6).

“Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off” (#Ps 139:2). God observes us when we sit down to meditate, and when we arise to pursue the activities of life and He knows the thoughts that regulate all our ways. He knows our thoughts before we know them. Before a thought is our own, it is foreknown to God. God said of Israel, “And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware” (#De 31:21). God knew what their thoughts and actions would be before He brought them into Canaan. Christ knew what Peter’s thoughts and words would be and predicted that he would deny Him. “And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice…And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept” (#Mr 14:30,72).

“Thou compassest my path and my Iying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.” (#Ps 139:3). God knows our path and our pallet. He knows us when we awake and when we are asleep. “For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether” (#Ps 139:4). God knows our speech. He knows when men take His Name in vain, and has declared that He will not hold such a man guiltless: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (#Ex 20:7). He knows when men deny His word and “poke fun” at what He has caused to be written. And He hears the lowest whisper as well as the loudest cry. Men whisper when they wish to conceal their words, but God can hear our whispers, yea, even the mutterings of our heart.

“Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me” (#Ps 139:5). David felt himself hemmed in by God. Truly there is no escape from God! “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me” (#Ps 139:7-10). He is behind us, recording our sins; or in grace blotting them out. He is before us, knowing all our deeds, and providing for all our needs. God is a prison house of punishment to the wicked, and a haven of rest to His weary people. Every person has to have dealings with God, therefore “prepare to meet thy God.”

“O Lord, in me there lieth not but to
Thy search revealed lies;
For when I sit, Thou markest it; no less
Thou notest when I rise;
Yea, closest closet of my thought hath
Open windows to Thine eyes.”

HOW DOES GOD KNOW?

1. God does not have to acquire knowledge. His knowledge is not the result of observation, consultation, or laborious study. It is no effort for God to know. Knowledge with man is attended with much labor; with man lifetime is school time.

2. God does not increase in knowledge. He knows no more now than He did centuries ago. His understanding is infinite from all eternity. He has always had perfect knowledge of all things. God does not need to enroll in any man’s university. There are no school days with God.

3. God knows naturally. Omniscience belongs to the very nature of God; it is one of His personal perfections. Calvin defines Omniscience as “that attribute whereby God knows Himself and all other things in one eternal and most simple act.” God’s knowledge is all direct and without any intermediaries: “For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?” (#Ro 11:34).

THE OBJECTS OF GOD’S KNOWLEDGE

1. God knows Himself. Rational creatures are endowed by God with capacity to know themselves. Even fallen men know something about themselves, of the composition of their bodies, and of the faculties of the soul. And if creatures know something of themselves, then the Creator, whose understanding is infinite, must know Himself perfectly.

Moreover, there is perfect acquaintance among the three persons of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God, and can make intercession for the saints according to the will of God: “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” (#Ro 8:26,27). Jesus, speaking of God the Father, said, “Yet ye have not known him; but I know him: and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying.” (#Joh 8:55).

2. God knows His creation. He knows everything in nature. “He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their names.” (#Ps 147:4). The sparrow does not fall without His knowledge and consent.

God knows everything in the realm of human experience. He knows the thoughts of men, and the ways of men, and the words of men.

“Before men we stand as opaque bee-hives. They can see the thoughts go in and out of us, but what work they do inside of a man, they cannot tell. Before God we are as glass bee-hives, and all that our thoughts are doing within us, He perfectly sees and understands.” (Henry Ward Beecher).

God knows the deeds of men. Men can hide their deeds from one another, but they cannot hide them from God. No human eye saw Cain murder Abel, but God witnessed the crime. “And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground” (#Ge 4:9,10). Achan no doubt thought he had committed the perfect crime when he stole the wedge of gold and hid it in the earth, but God brought his sin to light. “And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done” (#Jos 7:19,20). David covered up his sin with Bathsheba, but God uncovered it, “Thou art the man!” “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; … Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (#2Sa 12:7,10). There are no secret sins to God; “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (#Heb 4:13).

God knows the sorrows and trials of His people. “And the LORD said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows;” (#Ex 3:7). Let us tell our sorrows to our Heavenly Father, for “Earth hath no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.”

God knows all events, past, present, and future. He knows all the past and never forgets. “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble” (#Ps 9:12). Here is a verse for Hitler and all other war lords. It is merciful that we can forget some things of the past. Some men brood over the past until they are driven insane. This is not the proper attitude for the believer. “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (#Php 3:13,14). There is forgiveness with God through faith in His Son, and when God forgives us He remembers our sins against us no more forever. “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back” (#Isa 38:17). “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee” (#Isa 44:22).

God knows the present and the future. He knows the future better than men can know the past. God’s perfect knowledge of the future is illustrated in the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies. Prophecy is the recording of events before they come to pass.

THE CONTEMPLATION OF GOD’S KNOWLEDGE

There is no better exercise for the soul than the contemplation of the perfection’s of God. Here is the secret of all true godliness. He who would live godly must be occupied with thoughts about God.

“The wicked hate the truth of God’s knowledge. They wish there might be no Witness of their sins, no Searcher of their hearts, no Judge of their deeds” (A. W. Pink).

The wicked fail to remember that God remembers all their wickedness: “And they consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness: now their own doings have beset them about; they are before my face” (#Ho 7:2)

The contemplation of the knowledge of God should fill the soul with adoring wonder. How great must be the One who knows all things! None of us knows what a day may bring forth, but God knows all that will take place in time and in eternity.

The infinite knowledge of God ought to fill men with holy fear. Everything we think, or say, or do, is known to Him to Whom we must give account. “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (#Mt 12:36). Meditation upon this divine perfection will be a mighty check upon the waywardness of the flesh. In times of temptation we need to say as Hagar did, “And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” (#Ge 16:13).

To be occupied with the infinite knowledge of God will fill the child of God with humility, adoration, and praise. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God” (#Ro 11:33).

The truth before us is an encouragement to prayer. There is no danger that our petitions will not be heard, or that our sighs and tears will escape the notice of God. No danger of the individual saint being overlooked amidst the throng of suppliants. An infinite Mind is capable of paying attention to millions as though only one man was seeking its attention. And we do not jeopardize our prayers by using inappropriate language, because God knows the thoughts and reads the intents of the heart. “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (#Ro 8:26).

C. D. Cole-Definitions of Doctrine-Volume 1

Chapter 11- Seeing it is not possible that the Reprobate should receive this Grace and live, and also seeing 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!

February 27, 2014 1 comment

WHY, then, is the Gospel offered them? Well, that there is such a thing as eternal reprobation I have showed you, also what this eternal reprobation is I have opened unto you; and shall now show you also that though these reprobates will infallibly perish, which God not only foresaw, but foredetermined to suffer them most assuredly to do so, 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 foreknowledge 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 foredetermine his infallible damnation, through the preconsideration 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.

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.

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.”

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 show 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

 

THE FIRST REASON

And that, first, to show 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 those eternally reprobated — showeth 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.

 

THE SECOND REASON

Secondly. God also showeth by this that the reprobate doth 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, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but that the wicked turn from his wicked way and live. Turn unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.” 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 no reasonable terms will 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, of man’s being his creature, and indeed in a miserable state. 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, even according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus 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, (yea the most holy faith, for that is the faith of God’s elect,) to give repentance, to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting ruin, still engaging his mercy and goodness to follow them all the days of their lives, that they may dwell. in the house of the Lord for ever; and as another Scripture saith, “Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God.”

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 those 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 him-. self upon the rocks of eternal misery, and split himself thereon, he perisheth in his own corruption by rejecting terms of life.

Objection. 1. But the reprobate is not now in a capacity to fulfill these reasonable terms.

Answer. 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. these reasonable terms have annexed unto them, as their inseparable 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.

 

THE THIRD REASON

Thirdly. 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 show 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 cloak for their sin.” As sins that oppose the law are discovered by the law that is, by the goodness, and justness, and holiness of the law 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’s 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?”) 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 him not.” 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 Savior 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, that I might show in thee my power, and that my name might be declared in all the earth.” 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, showed 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 honor of God and the good of those he hath chosen. It is for the honor of God, even for the honor 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.

 

THE FOURTH REASON

Fourthly. 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. 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 mouth against thee, and show thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is!” 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 sawed thereby. “They gladly received, the word, and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. Not as though the word of God had taken none effect; God hath not cast away his people whom he foreknew.” The word shall accomplish the thing for which God hat, h 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.

Objection. 2. 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?

Answer. 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 show.

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; “whereupon he called you,” saith Paul, “by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 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 sign is indefinite and general effectual to this and that man, through a special and particular application; 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 hits working with some, how Invisible is it to those 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 showeth 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.

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 that 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.

 

THE FIFTH REASON

Fifthly. 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; 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 children of God! — even we who believe according to the working of his mighty power which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead.” 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.” Now are the sacrifices bound even to the horns of the altar, with a “Lord, how is it that thou shouldst manifest thyself to us, and not unto the world? 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.”

For thus the elect considereth: Though we all came alike into the world and are the children of wrath by nature, yea, though we have alike so weakened ourselves by sin that the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint, being altogether gone out of the way, and every one become altogether unprofitable, both to God and ourselves, 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! Yea, that he should prepare eternal mansions for me, 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 in no way able to perform — that he should do this notwithstanding my sins, though I had no righteousness, 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! Besides, that he should mollify my heart, break it, and then delight in it, put his fear in it, and then look to me, and keep me as the apple of his eye; yea, resolve to guide me with his counsel, and then receive me to glory! Further, that all this should be the effect of unthoughtof, undeserved, and undesired love — that the Lord should think on this before he made the world, and sufficiently ordain the means before he had laid the foundation of the hills, — for this he is worthy to be praised; yea, “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord; praise ye the Lord.”

Objection 3. 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?

Answer. To this objection I might answer many things, but for brevity take this reply:

1. That a 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 pollution of the world and become a visible saint, join in church communion and be as chief amongst the, very elect themselves. This the Scriptures everywhere do show 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.

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, 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, to show it goes beyond all other, and can be fitly matched nowhere else but with their most blessed faith who infallibly attain eternal glory; even like precious faith with us, saith Peter, 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, ether things; for faith, being the mother of 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, etc.

They differ as to their 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, 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 grace, 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 that thy faith fail not.”

 

But secondly. 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; 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.

Thirdly. 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 do well, shalt thou not be accepted? But if not well, behold sin lieth at the door.” Thus it was also with Saul, who was rejected of God upon this account. And I say, as to the elect themselves, though Jesus Christ our blessed Savior 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 them mightily; 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 at 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.

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 state of the good word of God that a man may have and perish. This is called in Scripture “believing for awhile, during for awhile, and rejoicing in the light for a season.” 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. But yet observe again, I do not call this present mercy because God hath determined it shall last but awhile absolutely, but because it is possible for man to lose it, yea, determined he shall, conditionally.

Again. As to present justice, it is that which lasteth but awhile 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, David, Heman, and the godly, who notwithstanding do infallibly attain, by virtue of this mercy, eternal life and glory. I call this justice, because in some sense God dealeth with his children according to the quality of their transgression; 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 awhile; wherefore though this indeed be called wrath: yet this is but a little wrath — wroth 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.”

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;” and hence it is that he calleth the elect his sheep, his children, and people, 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 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; and as David saith, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted;” and again, “For when we are judged of the Lord we are chastened, that we should not be condemned with the world.” Now afflictions, etc., in themselves are not only fruitless and unprofitable, but, being unsanctified, are destructive: “I smote him, and he went on frowardly;” 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 will restore comfort to him and to his mourners;” as he saith in another place, “Blessed is the man whom thou chastisest and teachest out of thy law.” 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 name to the utmost by pardoning the transgressions of the remnant of his heritage, having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, wherein also he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 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. “I will make an everlasting covenant with them, (saith God,) that I will not turn away from them to do them good, but will put my fear in their heart, that they shall not depart from me.”

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 returned to his own vomit again, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” And the reason is, because notwithstanding all their show 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 show 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 should no doubt have continued with us; but they went out from us, that it might be manifest they were not all of us:” 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 haw to do with them in the midst of their profession; and because also it is much offended with them for conniving with their lusts, 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,) they have followed the way of Balaam, 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.”

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.”

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.

Chapter 10- Seeing, then, that the Grace of God in the Gospel is by that to be Proffered to Sinners as Sinners, as well to the Reprobate as the Elect, is it possible for those who indeed are not Elect to Receive it and be Saved?

February 20, 2014 1 comment

TO this question I shall answer several things, but first I shall show you what that grace is that is tendered in the name Gospel, and secondly, what it is to receive it and be saved.

First, then. The grace that is offered to sinners as sinners, without respect to this or that. person, it is a sufficiency of righteousness, pardoning grace, and life, laid up in the person of Christ, held forth in the exhortation and word of the Gospel, and promised to be theirs that receive it; yea, I say, in so universal a tender that not one is by it excluded or checked in the least, ‘but rather encouraged if he hath the least desire to life; yea, it is held forth to beget both desires and longings after the life thus laid up in Christ.

Secondly. To receive this grace thus tendered by the Gospel, it is —

1. To believe it is true.

2. To receive it heartily and unfeignedly through faith. And,

3. To let it have its natural: sway, course and authority in the soul, and that in that measure as to bring forth the fruits of good living in heart, word, and life, both before God and man.

Now then to the question:

Is it possible that this tender, thus offered to the reprobate, should by him be thus received and embraced and he live thereby?

To which I answer in the negative. Igor yet to the elect themselves — I mean as considered dead in trespasses and sins, which is the state of all men, elect as well as reprobate. So, then, though there be a sufficiency of life and righteousness laid up in Christ for all men, and this tendered by the Gospel to them without exception, yet sin coming in between the soul and the tender of this grace, it hath in truth disabled all men, and so, notwithstanding this tender, they continue to be dead. For the Gospel, I say, coming in word only, sayeth no man, because of man’s impediment; wherefore those that indeed are saved by this Gospel, the word comes not to them in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost is mixed with faith, even with the faith of the operation of God, by whose exceeding great and mighty power they are raised from this dearth of sin and enabled to embrace the Gospel. Doubtless, all men being dead in trespasses, and sins, and so captivated under the power of the devil, the curse of the law, and shut up in unbelief, it must be the power of God, yea, the exceeding greatness of that power, that raiseth the soul from this condition to receive the holy Gospel.

For man by nature (consider him at best) can see no more nor do no more than what the principles of nature understands and helps to do; which nature being below the discernings of things truly, spiritually, and savingly good, it must needs fall short of receiving, loving, and delighting in them. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Now, I say, if the natural man at best (for the elect before conversion are no more, if quite so much) cannot do this, how shall they attain thereto, being now not only corrupted and infected, but depraved, bewitched and dead, swallowed up of unbelief, ignorance, confusion, hardness of heart, hatred of God, and the like? When a thorn by nature beareth grapes, and a thistle beareth figs, then may this thing be. To lay hold of and receive the Gospel by a true and saving faith, it is an act of the soul, has made a new creature, which is the workmanship of God: “Now He that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God. For a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Can the Ethiopian change his skin?”

But yet the cause of this impossibility —

1. Lieth not in reprobation, the elect themselves being as much unable to receive it as the other.

2. Neither is it because the reprobate is excluded in the tender, for that is universal.

3. Neither is it because there wanteth arguments in the tenders of the Gospel, for there is not only plenty, but such as be persuasive, clear, and full of rationality.

4. Neither is it because these creatures have no need thereof, for they have broken the law.

5. Wherefore it is because indeed they are by sin dead, captivated, mad, self-opposers, blind, alienated in their minds, and haters of the Lord. Behold the ruins that sin hath made!

Wherefore, whoever receiveth the grace that is tendered, in the Gospel, they must be quickened by the power of God, their eyes must be opened, their understandings illuminated, their ears unstopped, their hearts circumcised, their wills also rectified,, and the Son of God revealed in them; yet, as I said, not because there wanteth argument in these tenders, but because men. are dead, and blind, and cannot hear the word. “Why do you not understand my speech? (saith Christ) even because you cannot hear my word.”

For otherwise, as I said but now, there is

1. Rationality enough in the tenders of the Gospel.

2. Persuasions of weight enough to provoke to faith. And,

3. Arguments enough to persuade to continue therein.

First. Is it not reasonable that man should believe God in the proffer of the Gospel and live by it?

Secondly. Is there not reason, I say, both from the truth and faithfulness of God, from the sufficiency of the merits of Christ, as also from the freeness and fullness of the promise? What unreasonable thing doth the Gospel bid thee credit? Or what falsehood doth it command thee to receive for truth? Indeed, in many points the Gospel is above reason, but yet in never a one against it, especially in those things wherein it beginneth with the sinner in order to eternal life.

Again, touching its persuasions to provoke to faith —

First. With how many signs and wonders, miracles and mighty deeds, hath it been once and again confirmed, and that to this very end!

Secondly. With how many oaths, declarations, attestations, and proclamations is it avouched, confirmed, and established!

Thirdly. And why should not credence be given to that Gospel that is confirmed by blood, the blood of the Son of God himself — yea, that Gospel that did never yet fail any that in truth have cast themselves upon it since the foundation of the world?

Again, as there is rationality enough and persuasion sufficient, so there is also argument most prevalent, to persuade to continue therein, and that too heartily, cheerfully, and unfeignedly, unto the end, did not, as I have said, blindness, madness, deadness, and willful rebellion carry them away in the vanity of their minds and overcome them.

For, first, if they could but consider how they have sinned, how they have provoked God, etc. — if they could but consider what a dismal state the state of the damned is, and also that in a moment their condition is; like to be the same — would they not cleave to the Gospel and live?

Secondly. The enjoyment of God, and Christ, and saints, and angels being the sweetest, the pleasures of heaven the most comfortable, and to live always in the height of light, life, joy, gladness imaginable, one would think were enough to persuade the very damned now in hell.

There is no man that perisheth for want of sufficient reason in the tenders of the Gospel, nor any for want; of persuasions to faith, nor yet because there wanteth arguments to provoke to continue therein. But the truth is, the Gospel in this hath to do with unreasonable creatures, with such as will not believe it, and. that because it is truth: “And because I tell you the truth,” saith Christ, (therefore) “you believe me not.”

Question. Well, but if this in truth be thus, how then comes it to pass that some receive it and live for ever? for you have said before that the elect are as bad as the reprobate, and full as unable as they (as men) to close with these tenders and live.

Answer. Doubtless this is true, and were the elect left to themselves, they, through, the wickedness of their heart, would perish as do others, Neither could all the reasonable, persuasive, prevalent arguments of the Gospel of God in Christ prevail to make any receive it and live.. Wherefore here you must consider that as there is mercy proclaimed in the general tenders of the Gospel, so there is also the grace of election; which grace kindly overruleth and winneth the spirit of the chosen, working in them that unfeigned closing therewith that makes it effectual to their undoubted salvation; which indeed is the cause that not only in other ages, but also to this day, there is a remnant that receive this grace, they being appointed, I say, thereto before the world began, preserved in time from that which would undo them: and enabled to embrace the glorious Gospel of grace, and peace, and love.

Now there is a great difference between the grace of election and the grace that is wrapped up in the general tenders of the Gospel — a difference, I say, and that both as to its timing, latituding, and working.

1. Touching its timing: it is before, yea long before, there was either tender of the grace wrapped up in the Gospel to any, or any need of such a tender.

2. They also differ in latitude: the tender of grace in the Gospel are common and universal to all, but the extension of that of election special and peculiar to some. “There is a remnant according to the election of grace.

3. Touching the working of the grace of election: it differs much in some things from the working of the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel; as is manifest in these particulars:

1. The grace that is offered in the genera tenders of the Gospel calleth for faith to lay hold upon and accept thereof, but the special grace of election worketh that faith which doth lay hold thereof.

2. The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel calleth for faith as a condition in us, without which there is no life, but the special grace of election worketh faith in us without any such conditions.

3. The grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel promiseth happiness upon the condition of persevering in the faith only, but the special grace of election causeth this perseverance.

4. The grace offered in the general tenders of the Gospel when it sparkleth most leaveth the greatest part of men behind it, but the special grace of election, when it shineth least, doth infallibly bring every soul therein concerned to everlasting life.

5. A man may overcome and put out all the light and life that is begotten in him by the general tenders of the Gospel, but none shall overcome, or make void, or frustrate the grace of election.

6. The general tenders of the Gospel, considered without a concurrence of the grace of election, help not the elect himself when sadly fallen.

Wherefore, when I say the grace that is offered in the general tenders of the Gospel, I mean that grace when offered as not being accompanied with a special operation of God’s eternal love by way of conjunction therewith. Otherwise the grace that is tendered in the general offers of the Gospel is that which saveth the sinner now and that brings him to everlasting life; that is, when conjoined with that grace that; blesseth and maketh this general tender effectually efficacious. The grace of election worketh not without, but by these tenders generally; neither doth the grace thus tendered effectually work but by and with the grace of election: “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” the word being then effectual to life, when the hand of the Lord is effectually therewith to that end. “They spoke (saith the text) unto the Grecians, preaching the Lord Jesus; and the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord.”

We must always put difference between the word of the Gospel and the power that manageth that word; we must put difference between the common and more special operations of that power also, even as there is evidently a difference to be put between those words of Christ that were effectual to do what was said, and of those words of his which were but words only, or at least not (so) accompanied with. power. As for instance: that same Jesus that said to the leper, “Say nothing to any man,” said also to Lazarus, “Come forth;” yet the one obeyed, the other did not, though he that obeyed was least in a capacity to do it, he being now dead and stunk in his grave. Indeed, unbelief hath hindered Christ much, yet not when he putteth forth himself as Almighty, but when he doth suffer himself by them to be abused who are to be dealt with by ordinary means; otherwise legions of devils, with ten thousand impediments, must fall down before him and give way unto him. There is a speaking and a (so) speaking: “They (so) spoke that a great multitude, both of the Jews and also of the Greeks, believed.” Even as I have hinted already, there is a difference between the coming of the word when it is in power and when it is in word. only. So, then, the blessed grace of election chooseth this man to good, not because he is good; it chooseth him to believe, not because he doth believe; it chooseth him to persevere, not because he doth so; it foreordains that this man shall be created in. Christ Jesus unto good works, not if a man will create himself thereto.

What shall we say then? Is the fault in God, if any perish? Doubtless, no; nor yet in his act of eternal reprobation neither; it is grace that saveth the elect, but sin that damns the rest: it is superabundant grace that canseth the elect to close with the tenders of life and live, and it is the abounding of sin that holds off the reprobate from the rational necessity and absolute tenders of grace. To conclude, then: The Gospel calleth for credence as a condition, and that both from the elect and reprobate; but because none of them both, as dead in sin, will close therewith and live, therefore grace, by virtue of electing love, puts forth itself to work and do for some beyond reason, and justice cuts off others for slighting so good, so gracious, and necessary a means of salvation, so full both of kindness, mercy, and reason.

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.

Chapter 9-Whether God would in deed and in truth that the Gospel, with the Grace thereof, should be tendered to those that yet he hath bound up under Eternal Reprobation?

February 13, 2014 1 comment

To this question I shall answer — First. In the language of our Lord, “Go preach the Gospel unto every creature,” and again: “Look unto me, all ye ends of the earth, and be ye sawed; and whosoever will let him take the water of life freely.” And the reason is, because Christ died for all, tasted death for every man, is the Savior of the world, and the propitiation for the sins of the whole world.

Secondly. 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; he that believeth not makes God a liar, because he believeth not the record that God hath given of his Son;” and, “Woe unto thee, Capernaum, woe unto thee, Corazin, woe unto thee, Bethsaida; 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; 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 elected, 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 greatest sin, to believe or to despair; for I say again, if Christ died only for the elect, etc., 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 thereto.

Thirdly. 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 be: cause they are not so.” But, “Go preach the Gospel to 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 spoken in faith, because his hearers are sinners; yea, and encouragement also for the people to receive and close therewith, the understanding they are sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Fourthly. 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 Gospels 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 deed 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 Savior.” 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 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 those that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Thus you see the Gospel is to be tendered to all in general, as well to the reprobate is to the elect, to sinners as sinners; and so are they to receive it and to close with the tenders thereof.

 

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.

Chapter 8- Whether Eternal Reprobation in itself, or in its Doctrine, be in very deed an Hindrance to any Man in seeking the Salvation of his Soul?

February 6, 2014 1 comment

IN my discourse upon this question I must entreat the reader to mind well what is premised in the beginning of the former chapter, which is, that reprobation makes no man a sinner, appoints no man to condemnation, but leaveth him upright after all. So, then, though God doth leave the most of men without the bounds of his election, his so doing is neither in itself nor yet its doctrine (in very deed) an hindrance to any man in seeking the salvation of his soul.

I. It hindereth not in itself, as is clear by the ensuing considerations:

1. That which hindereth him is the weakness that came upon hint by reason of sin. Now God only made the man, but man’s listening to Satan made him a sinner, which is the cause of all his weakness. This therefore is it that hindereth him, and that also disenableth him in seeking the salvation of his soul “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted of evil, neither tempteth he any man. God made man upright, but he hath sought out many inventions.”

2. It hindereth not in itself, for it taketh not any thing from a man that would help him might it continue with him; it takes not away the least part of his strength, wisdom, courage innocency, or will to good; all these were lost by the fall in that day when he died the death Nay, reprobation under some consideration did rather establish all these upon the reprobate; for as, it decrees him left, so it left him upright. Wherefore man’s hindrance cometh on him from other means, even by the fall, and not by the simple act of eternal reprobation.

3. As reprobation hindereth not either of these two ways, so neither is it from this simple act that Satan is permitted either to tempt them, that they might be tried or that they might be overthrown.

1. It is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt them that they might be tried, because then the Son of God himself first be reached by this reprobation, he being tempted by the devil as much if not more than any; yea, and then must every one of the elect be under eternal reprobation; for they also, and that after their conversion, are greatly assaulted by him: “Many are the troubles of the righteous,” etc.

2. Neither is it from the act of reprobation that Sill hath entered the world, no more than from election, because those under the power of election did not only fall at first, but do still generally, as foully, before conversion, as the reprobate himself. Whereas, if either the temptation or the fall were by virtue of reprobation, then the reprobates, and they only, should have been tempted and have fallen. The temptation, then, and the fall, doth come from other means, and so the hindrance of the reprobate, than from eternal reprobation. For the temptation, the fall, and hindrance being universal, but the act of reprobation particular, the hindrance must needs come from such a cause as taketh hold on all men, which indeed is the fall; the cause of which was neither election nor reprobation, but man’s voluntary listening to the tempter.

3. It is yet far more evident that reprobation hindereth no man from seeking the salvation of his soul, because, notwithstanding all that reprobation doth, yet God giveth to divers of the reprobates great encouragements thereto; to wit, the tenders of the Gospel in general, not excluding any; great light also to understand it, with many a sweet taste of the good work of God and the powers of the world to come; he maketh them sometimes also to be partakers of the Holy Ghost, and admitteth many of them into fellowship with his elect; yea, some of them to be rulers, teachers, and governors in his house; all which, without doubt, both are and ought to be great encouragements, even to the reprobates themselves, to seek the salvation of their souls.

II. As it hindereth not in itself, so it hindereth not by its” doctrine; for all that this doctrine saith is, that some are left out of God’s election, as considered upright, Now this doctrine cannot hinder any man, for —

1. No man still stands upright.

2. Though it saith some are left, yet it points at no man, it nameth no man, it binds all faces in secret. So, then, if it hinder, it hindereth all, even the elect as well as reprobate; for the reprobate hath as much ground to judge himself elect, as the very elect himself hath before he be converted, being both alike in a state of nature and unbelief, and both alike visibly liable to the curse for the breach of the commandment. Again, as they are equals here, so also have they ground alike to close in with Christ and live; even the open, free, and full invitation of the Gospel and premise of life and. salvation by the faith of Jesus Christ.

3. It is evident also by experience that this doctrine doth not; indeed, neither can it, hinder any, (this doctrine, I mean, when both rightly stated and rightly used,) because many who have been greatly afflicted about this matter have yet at last had comfort; which comfort, when they have received it, hath been to them as an argument that the thing they feared before was not because of reprobation, rightly stated, butt its doctrine much abused was. the cause of their affliction; and had they had. the same light at first they received afterwards, their troubles then would soon have fled, as also now they do. Wherefore discouragement comes from want of light, because they are not skillful in the word of righteousness; for had the discouragement at first been true, (which yet it could not be, unless the person knew by name himself under eternal reprobation, which is indeed impossible,) then his light would have pinched him harder; light would rather have fastened this his fear that at all have rid him of it.

Indeed the Scripture saith, The word is to some the savor of death unto death, when to others the savor of life unto life. But mark, it is not this doctrine in particular, if so much as some other, that doth destroy the reprobate. It was respite at which Pharaoh hardened his heart, and the grace of God that the reprobates of old did turn into lasciviousness. Yea, Christ the Savior of the world is a stumbling-block unto some and a rock of offense unto others. But yet, again, consider that neither he nor any of God’s doctrines are so simply and in their own true natural force and drift; for they beget no unbelief, they provoke to no wantonness, neither do they in the least encourage to impenitency; all this comes from that ignorance and wickedness that came by the fall. Wherefore it is by reason of that also that they stumble, and fall, and grow weak, and are discouraged, and split themselves, either at the doctrine of reprobation or at any other truth of God.

Lastly. To conclude as I began, there is no man while in this world that doth certainly know that he is left out of the electing love of the great God; neither hath he any word in the whole Bible to persuade him so to conclude and believe, for the Scriptures hold forth salvation to the greatest of sinners. Wherefore, though the act of reprobation were far more harsh, and its doctrine also more sharp and severe, yet it cannot properly be said to hinder any. It is a foolish thing in-any to be troubled with those things which they have no ground to believe concerns themselves, especially when the latitude of their discouragement is touching their own persons only: “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” Indeed every one of the words of God ought to put us upon examination, and into a serious inquiry, of our present state and condition, and how we now do stand for eternity; to wit, whether we are ready to meet the Lord, or how it is with us. Yet, when search is fully made, and the worst comes unto the worst, the party can find himself no more than the chief of sinners, not excluded from the grace of God tendered in the Gospel; not from an invitation, nay, a promise, to be embraced and blest if he comes to Jesus Christ. Wherefore he hath no ground to be discouraged by the doctrine of reprobation.

 

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.

God saved the elect to display the riches of his mercy

Chapter III

 

CONCERNING ELECTION UNTO LIFE, OR PREDESTINATION AS IT RESPECTS THE SAINTS IN PARTICULAR

HAVING considered predestination as it regards all men in general, and briefly shown that by it some are appointed to wrath and others to obtain salvation by Jesus Christ (1Th 5:9), I now come to consider, more distinctly, that branch of it which relates to the saints only, and is commonly styled election. Its definition I have given already in the close of the first chapter. What I have farther to advance, from the Scriptures, on this important subject, I shall reduce to several positions, and subjoin a short explanation and confirmation of each.

POSITION 5. -The salvation of the elect was not the only nor yet the principal end of their being chosen, but God’s grand end, in appointing them to life and happiness, was to display the riches of His own mercy, and that He might be glorified in and by the persons He had thus chosen.

For this reason the elect are styled vessels of mercy, because they were originally created, and afterwards by the Divine Spirit created anew, with this design and to this very end, that the sovereignty of the Father’s grace, the freeness of His love, and the abundance of His goodness might be manifested in their eternal happiness. Now God, as we have already more than once had occasion to observe, does nothing in time which He did not from eternity resolve within Himself to do, and if He, in time, creates and regenerates His people with a view to display His unbounded mercy, He must consequently have decreed from all eternity to do this with the same view. So that the final causes of election appear to be these two: first and principally, the glory* of God; second and subordinately, the salvation of those He has elected, from which the former arises, and by which it is illustrated and set off. So, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (Pro 16:1), and hence that of Paul, “He bath chosen us – to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph 1).

* Let it be carefully observed that when with the Scriptures we assert the glory of God to be the ultimate end of His dealings with angels and men, we do not speak this with respect to His essential glory which He has as God, and which, as it is infinite, is not susceptible of addition nor capable of diminution, but of that glory which is purely manifestative, and which Micraelius, in his Lexic. Philosoph. col. 471, defines to be, Clara rei cum laude notitia; cum nempe, ipsa sua eminentia est magna, augusta, et conspicua. And the accurate Maestricht, Celebratio ceu manifestatio (quae magis proprie glorificatio, quam gloria appellatur), qua, agnita intus eminentia, ejusque congrua aestimatio, propalatur et extollitur. – Theolog. lib. 2, cap. 22 § 8.

Jerome Zanchius-The Doctrine of Absolute Predestination Stated and Asserted-Translated by Augustus Montague Toplady

Chapter 7-Whether any under Eternal Reprobation have Just Cause to Quarrel with God for not Electing of them?

January 30, 2014 1 comment

THAT the answer to this question may be to edification, recall again what I have before asserted — to wit, that for a man to be left out of God’s election, and to be made a sinner, is two things; and again, for a man to be not elect, and to be condemned to hell-fire, is two things also. Now I say, if non-election makes no man a sinner, and if it appoints no man to condemnation neither, then what ground, hark any reprobate to quarrel with God for not electing of him? Nay, further, reprobation considereth him upright, leaveth him upright, and so turneth him into the world; what wrong doth God do him though he hath not elected him? What reason hath he that is left in this case to quarrel against his Maker?

If thou say, Because God hath not chosen them as well, as chosen others, I answer, “Say but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Behold, as the clay is in the hand, of the potter, so are ye in my hand, O house of Israel, saith the Lord God.” So then, if I should say no more but that God is the only Lord and Creator, and that by his sovereignty he hath power to dispose of them according to his pleasure, either to choose or to refuse according to the counsel of his own will, who could object against him and be guiltless? “He giveth no account of any of his ways, and what his soul desireth that doth he.”

Again, God is wiser than man, and therefore can show a reason for what he acts and does, both when and where at present thou seest none. Shall God, the only wise, be arraigned at the bar of thy blind reason: and there be judged and condemned for ills acts done in eternity? “Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or who hath been his counselor?” Do you not know that he is fax more above us than we are above our horse or mule that is without understanding? “Great things doth he that we cannot comprehend;; great things, and unsearchable and marvelous things, without number.”

But, I say, should we take it well if our beast should call us to account for this and the other righteous act, and judge us unrighteous and our acts ridiculous, and all because it sees no reason for our so doing? Why, we are as beasts before God.

But again, to come yet more close to the point, the reprobate quarrels with God because he hath not elected him; well, but is not God the master of his own love? and is not his will the only rule of his mercy? and may he not, without he give offense to thee, lay hold by electing love and mercy on whom himself pleaseth? Must thy reason, nay, thy lust, be the ruler: orderer, and disposer of his grace? “May I not do what I will with mine own? (saith he.) Is thine eye evil because mine is good?”

Further, what harm doth God to any reprobate, by not electing of him? He was, as hath been said, considered upright, so formed in the act of creation and so turned into the world; indeed he was not elected, but hath that taken anything from him? No, verily, but leaveth him in good condition; there is good, and better, and best of all; he that is in a good estate (though others through free grace are in a far better) hath not any cause to murmur either with Him that gave him such a place or at him that is placed above him. In a word, reprobation maketh no man personally a sinner, neither doth election make any man personally righteous: it is the consenting to sin that makes a man a sinner, and the imputation of grace and righteousness that makes gospelly and personally just and holy.

But again, seeing it is God’s act to leave some out of the bounds of his election, it must needs be, therefore, positively good; is that then which is good in itself made sin unto thee? God forbid! God doth not evil by leaving this or that man out of his electing grace, though he chooses others to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Wherefore there is not a reprobate that hath any cause, and therefore no just cause, to quarrel with his Maker for not electing of him.

And that, besides what hath been spoken, if you consider

1. For God to elect is an act of sovereign grace, but to pass by or to refuse so to do is an act of sovereign power, not of injustice.

2. God might therefore have chosen whether he would have elected any, or so many, or few, and also which and where he would.

3. Seeing, then, that all things are at his disposal, he may fasten electing mercy where he pleaseth, and other mercy, if he will, to whom and when he will.

4. Seeing, also, that the least of mercies are not deserved by the best of sinners, men, instead of quarrelling against the God of grace because they have not what they list, should acknowledge they are unworthy of their breath, and also should confess that God may give mercy where he pleaseth, and that, too, both which or what, as also to whom and when he will, and yet be good, and just, and very gracious still. Nay, Job saith, “He taketh away, who can hinder him? or who will say unto him, What dost thou?”

The will of God is the rule of all righteousness; neither knoweth he any other way by which he governeth and ordereth any of his actions. Whatsoever God doth, it is good because he doth it, whether it be to give grace or to detain it, whether in choosing or refusing. The; consideration of this made the holy men of old ascribe righteousness to their Maker even then when yet they could not see the reason of his actions; they would rather stand amazed and wonder at the heights and depths of his unsearchable judgments, than quarrel at the strange and most obscure of them.

God did not intend that all that ever he would do should be known to every man, no nor yet to the wise and prudent; it is as much a duty sometimes to stay ourselves and wonder, and to confess our ignorance in many things of God, as it is to do other things that are duty without dispute. So, then, let poor dust and ashes forbear to condemn the Lord because he goeth beyond them; and also they should beware they speak not wickedly for him, though. it be, as they think, to justify his actions: “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.”

 

John Bunyan-Reprobation Asserted; Or, The Doctrine Of Eternal Election And Reprobation Promiscuously Handled: In Eleven Chapters Wherein The Most Material Objections Made By The Opposers Of This Doctrine Are Fully Answered, Several Doubts Removed, And Sundry Cases Removed Conscience Resolved.