By: John Bunyan
HAVING thus showed you that there is such a thing as a reprobation, I come now to show what it is, which, that I may do to your edification, I shall first show you what this word reprobation signifieth in the general, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate. Secondly, more particular, as it concerneth persons that are eternally and invisibly reprobate.
First generally, as it concerneth persons temporary and visibly reprobate: thus, to be reprobate is to be disapproved, void of judgment, and rejected, etc. To be disapproved, that is, when the word condemns them, either as touching the faith or the holiness of the Gospel; the which they must needs be that are void of spiritual and heavenly judgment in the mysteries of the kingdom, a manifest token they are rejected. And hence it is that they are said to be reprobate or void of judgment concerning the faith; reprobate or void of judgment touching every good work; having a reprobate mind to do those things that are not convenient either as to faith or manners. And hence it is again that they are also said to be rejected of God, cast away and the like.
I call this temporary, visible reprobation, because these appear and are detected by the word as such that are found under the above-named errors, and so adjudged without the grace of God. Yet it is possible for some of these, (however for the present disapproved,) through the blessed acts and dispensations of grace not only to become visible saints, but also saved for ever. Who doubts but that he who now by examining himself concerning faith doth find himself, though under profession, graceless, may, after that, he seeing his woeful state, not only cry to God for mercy, but find grace, and obtain mercy to help in time of need? Though it is true that for the most part the contrary is fulfilled on them.
But to pass this, and more particularly to touch the eternal, invisible reprobation, which I shall thus hold forth. It is to be passed by in or left out of God’s election, yet so as considered upright; in which position you have these four things considerable:
First. The act of God’s election.
Secondly. The negative of that act.
Thirdly. The persons reached by that negative. And,
Fourthly. Their qualification when thus reached by it.
For the first. This act of God in electing, it is a choosing or foreappointing of some. infallibly unto eternal life, which he also hath determined shall he brought to pass by the means that should be made manifest and efficacious to that very end.
Secondly. Now the negative of this act is a passing by or a leaving of those not concerned in this act-a leaving of them, I say, without the bounds and so the saving privileges of this act; as it followeth by natural consequence that because a man chooseth but some, therefore he chooseth not all, but leaveth, as the negative of that act, all others whatsoever. Wherefore, as I said before, those not contained within this blessed act are called the rest besides the election: "The election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded."
Thirdly. The persons then that are contained under the negative of this act, they are those (and those only)that pass through this wicked world without the saving grace of God’s elect; those, I say, that miss the most holy faith which they in time are blest withal who are foreappointed unto glory.
And now for the qualification they were considered under when this act of reprobation laid hold upon them – to wit, they were considered upright.
This is evident –
First, from this consideration: that reprobation is God’s act, even the negative of his choosing or electing, and none of the acts of God make any man a sinner.
Secondly. It is further evident by the similitude that is taken from the carriage of the potter in the making of his pots; for by this comparison the God of heaven is pleased to show unto us the nature of his determining in the act of reprobation. "Hath not the potter power over the clay of the same lump?" etc. Consider a little, and you shall see that these three things do necessarily fall in to complete the potter’s action in every pot he makes:
1. A determination in his own mind what pot to make of this or that piece of clay – a determination, I say, precedent to the fashion of the pot; the which is true in the highest degree in Him that is excellent in working; he determines the end before the beginning is perfected: "For this very purpose have I raised thee up."
2. The next thing considerable in the potter, it is the (so) making of the pot, even as he determined, a vessel to honor or a vessel to dishonor. There is no confusion or disappointment under the hand of this eternal God; his work is perfect and every way doth answer to what he hath determined.
3. Observe again, that whether the vessel be to honor or to dishonor, yet the potter makes it good, sound, and fit for service; his foredetermining to make this a vessel to dishonor hath no persuasion at all with him to break or mar the pot; which very thing doth well resemble the state of man as under the act of eternal reprobation, for "God made man upright."
From these conclusions then consider –
1. That the simple act of reprobation, it is a leaving or passing by, not a cursing of the creature.
2. Neither doth this act alienate the heart of God from the reprobate, nor tie him up from loving, favoring, or blessing of him; no, not from blessing of him with the gift of Christ, of faith, of hope, and many other benefits. It only denieth them that benefit that will infallibly bring them to eternal life, and that in despite of all opposition; it only denieth so to bless them as the elect themselves are blessed. Abraham loved all the children he had by all his wives, and gave them portions also; but his choice blessing, as the fruit of his chiefest love, he reserved for chosen Isaac.
Lastly. The act of reprobation doth harm to no man, neither means him any; nay, it rather decrees him upright, lets him be made upright, and so be turned into the world.