By: John Bunyan
IT hath been the custom of ignorant men much to quarrel at eternal reprobation, concluding (for want of knowledge in the mystery of God’s will) that if he reprobate any from eternity he had as good as said, "I wilt make this man to damn him; I will decree this man, without, any consideration, to the everlasting pains of hell," when, in very deed, for God to reprobate, and to appoint beforehand to eternal condemnation, axe two distinct things, properly relating to two distinct attributes, arising, from two distinct causes.
First. They are two distinct things. Reprobation is a simple leaving of the creature out of the bounds of God’s election, but to appoint to condemnation is to bind them over to, everlasting punishment. Now, there is a great difference between my refusing to make of such a tree a pillar in my house and of condemning it unto the fire to be burned.
Secondly. As to the attributes. Reprobation respects God’s sovereignty, but to appoint to condemnation, his justice.
Thirdly. As to the causes. Sovereignty being according to the will of God, but justice according to the sin of man. For God, though he be the only sovereign Lord, and that to the height of perfection, yet he appointeth no man to the pains of everlasting fire merely from sovereignty, but by the rule of justice. God damneth not the man because he is a man, but a sinner, and foreappoints him to that place and state by foreseeing of hint wicked.
Again, as reprobation is not the same with foreappointing to eternal condemnation, so neither is it the cause thereof.
If it be the cause, then it must either –
1. Leave him infirm; or,
2. Infuse sin into him; or,
3. Take from him something that otherwise would keep him upright; or,
4. Or both license Satan to tempt and the reprobate to close in with the temptation. But it doth none of these; there,)re it is not the cause of the condemnation of the creature.
That it is not the cause of sin it is evident –
1. Because the elect are as much involved therein as those that are passed by.
2. It leaveth him not infirm; for he is by an after act – to wit, of creation – formed perfectly upright.
3. That reprobation infuseth no sin appeareth, because it is the act of God.
4. That it taketh nothing (that good is) from him is also manifest, it being only a leaving of him.
5. And that it is not by this act that Satan is permitted to tempt or the reprobate to sin is manifest; because as Christ was tempted, so the elect fall as much into the temptation, at least many of them, as many of those that are reprobate; whereas if these things came by reprobation, then the reprobate would be only concerned therein. All which will be further handled in these questions yet behind.
Objection. From what hath been said, there is concluded this at least, that God hath infallibly determined, and that before the world, the infallible damnation of some of his creatures; for if God hath before the world bound some over to eternal punishment, and that, as you say, for sin, then this determination must either be fallible or infallible; not fallible, for then your other position of the certainty of the number of God’s elect is shaken, unless you hold that there may be a number that shall neither go to heaven or hell. Well, then, if God hath indeed determined, foredetermined, that some must infallibly perish, doth not this his determination lay a necessity on the reprobate to sin, that he may be damned? for no sin, no damnation. That is your own argument.
Answer. That God hath ordained (Jude 4) the damnation of some of his creatures is evident; but whether this his determination be positive and absolute, there is the question; for the better understanding whereof I shall open unto you the variety of God’s determinations and their nature, as also rise.
The determinations of God touching the destruction of the creature, they are either ordinary or extraordinary; those I count ordinary that were commonly pronounced by the prophets and apostles, etc., in their ordinary way of preaching, to the end men might be affected with the love of their own salvation; now these are either bound or loosed but as the condition or qualification was answered by the creature under sentence, and no otherwise.
Again. These extraordinary, though they respect the same conditions, yet they are not grounded immediately upon them, but upon the infallible foreknowledge and foresight of God, and are thus distinguished: first, the ordinary determination; it stands but at best upon a supposition that the creature may continue in sin, and admits of a possibility that it may not, but the extraordinary stands upon an infallible foresight that the creature will continue in sin; wherefore this must needs be positive and as infallible as God himself.
Again. These two determinations are also distinguished thus: the ordinary is applicable to the elect as well as to the reprobate, but the other to the reprobate only; it is proper to say, even to the elect themselves, "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned;" but not to say to them, These are appointed to utter destruction, or that they shall utterly perish in their own corruptions, or that for them is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
So, then, though God by these determinations doth not lay some under irrecoverable condemnation, yet by one of them he doth, as is further made out thus:
1. God most perfectly foreseeth the final impenitency of those that do sin from the beginning to the end of the world.
2. Now from this infallible foresight it is most easy and rational to conclude, and that positively, the infallible overthrow of every such creature. Did I infallibly foresee that this or that man would cut out his heart in the morning, I might infallibly determine his death before night.
Objection. But still the question is, Whether God by this his determination doth not lay a necessity on the creature to sin? for no sin, no condemnation. This is true by your own assertion.
Answer. No, by no means, for
1. Though it be true that sin must of absolute necessity go before the infallible condemnation and overthrow of the sinner, and that it must also be preconsidered by God, yet it needs not lay a necessity upon him to sin; for let him but alone to do what he will, and the determination cannot be more infallible than the sin which is the cause of its execution.
2. As it needs not, so it doth not; for this determination is not grounded upon what God will effect, but on what the creature will; and that not through the instigation of God, but the instigation of the devil. What! might not I, if I most undoubtedly foresaw that such a tree in my garden would only cumber the ground, (notwithstanding reasonable means,) – might not I, I say, from hence determine (seven years before) to cut it down and burn it in the fire, but I must, by so determining, necessitate this tree to be fruitless? The case in hand is the very same. God therefore may most positively determine the infallible damnation of his creature, and yet not at all necessitate the creature to sin that he might be damned.
Objection. But how is this similitude pertinent? For God did not only foresee sin would be the destruction of the creature, but let it come into the world and so destroy the creature. If you, as you foresee the fruitlessness of your tree, should withal see that which makes it so, and that too before it makes it so, and yet let the impediment come and make it so, are not you now the cause of the unfruitfulness of that tree which you hive before condemned to the fire to be burned? for God might have chosen whether he ‘would have let Adam sin, and so sin to have got into the world by him.
Answer. Similitudes never answer every way: if they be pertinent to that for which they are intended, it is enough; and to that it; answereth well, being brought to prove no more but the natural consequence of a true and infallible foresight. And now as to what is objected further, as that God might have chosen whether sin should have come into the world by Adam to the destruction of so many, to that I shall answer –
1. That sin could not have come into the world without God’s permission, it is evident both from the perfection of his foresight and power.
2. Therefore all the means, motives, and inducements thereunto must also by him be not only foreseen, but permitted.
3. Yet so that God will have the tinting, proceeding, bounding, and ordering thereof at his disposal: "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, and the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain."
4. Therefore it must needs come into the world, not without, but by the knowledge of God; not in despite of him, but by his suffering of it.
Objection. But how then is he clear from having’ a hand in the death of him that perisheth?
Answer. Nothing is more sure than that God could have kept sin out of the world if it had been his will; and this is also as true, that it never came into the world with his liking and compliance; and for this you must consider that sin came into the world by two steps –
1. By being offered.
2. By prevailing.
Touching the first of these, God, without the least injury to any creature in heaven or earth, might not only suffer it, but so far countenance the same that is so far forth as for trial only, as it is said of Abraham "God tempted Abraham to slay his only son, and led Christ by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." This is done without any harm at all; nay, it rather produceth good, for it tends to discover sincerity, to exercise faith in and love to his Creator, also to put him in mind of the continual need he hath of depending on his God for the continuation of help and strength, and to provoke to prayers to God whenever so engaged.
Objection. But God did not Only admit that sin should be offered for trial, and there to stay, but did suffer it to prevail and overcome the world.
Answer. Well, this is granted; but, yet consider –
1. God did neither suffer it nor yet consent it should, but under this consideration: if Adam, upright Adam, gate way thereto by forsaking his command, "in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die" – which Adam did, not because God did compel him or persuade him to it, but voluntarily of his own mind, contrary to his God’s command – so, then, God, by suffering sin to break into the world, did it rather in judgment, as disliking Adam’s act, and as a punishment to man for listening to the tempter, and as a discovery of his anger at man’s disobedience, than to prove that he is guilty of the misery of his creature.
2. Consider also that when God permitted sin for trial, it was, when offered first, to them only who were upright and had sufficient strength to resist it.
3. They were by God’s command to the contrary driven to no strait to tempt them to incline to Satan: "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, saith God; only let this alone."
4. As touching the beauty and goodness that was in the object unto which they were allured, what was it? Was it better than God? yea, was it better than the tree of life, for from that they were not exempted till after they had sinned? Did not God know best what was to do them good?
2. Touching him that persuaded them to do this wicked act: was his word more to be valued for truth, more to be ventured on for safety, or more to be honored for the worthiness of him that spoke, than was His that had forbade it; the one being the devil, with a lie, and to kill them; the other being God, with his truth, and to preserve them safe?
Question. But was not Adam unexpectedly surprised? Had he notice beforehand and warning of the danger, for God foresaw the business?
Answer. Doubtless God was; fair and faithful to his creature in this thing also, as clearly doth appear from these considerations:
1. The very commandment that God gave him forebespake him well to look about him, and did indeed insinuate that he was likely to be tempted.
2. It is yet more evident, because God doth even tell him of the danger: "In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
3. Nay, God by speaking to him of the very tree that was to be forborne, telling him also where it stood, that he might the better know it, did in effect expressly say to him, "Adam, if thou be tempted, it will be about that tree and the fruit thereof: wherefore, if thou findest the tempter there, then beware thy life."
To conclude, then. Though sins did not come into the world without God’s sufferance, yet it did without his liking; God suffered also Cain to kill his ‘brother, and Ishmael to mock at Isaac, but he did not like the same.
Secondly. Therefore though God was first in concluding sin should be offered to the world, yet man was the first that consented to a being overcome thereby.
Thirdly, then. Though God did foredetermine that sin should enter, yet it was not but with respect to certain terms and conditions, which yet were not to be enforced by virtue of the determination, bat permitted to be completed by the voluntary inclination of a perfect and upright man. And in that the determination was most perfectly infallible it was through the foresight of the undoubted inclination of this good and upright person.
Question. But might not God have kept Adam from inclining if he would?
Answer. What more certain? But yet consider
1. Adam being now an upright man, he was able to have kept himself had he but looked to it as he should and might.
2. This being so, if God had here stepped in, he had either added that which had been needless, and so had not obtained thankfulness, or else had made the strength of Adam useless, yea his own workmanship in so creating him superfluous, or else, by consequence, imperfect.
3. If he bad done so, he had taken Adam from his duty, which was to trust and believe his Maker; he had also made void the end of the commandment, which was to persuade to watchfulness, diligence, sobriety, and contentedness; yea, and by so doing would not only himself have, tempted Adam to transgression, even to lay aside the exercise of that strength that God had already given him, but should have become the pattern or the first father to all looseness, idleness and neglect of duty; which would also not only have-been an ill example to Adam to continue to neglect so reasonable and wholesome duties, but would have been to himself an argument of defense to retort upon his God when he had come another time to reckon with him for his misdemeanors.
Many other weighty reasons might here be further added for God’s vindication in this particular, but at this time let these suffice.