John Bunyan, ca. 1674
Of the Antiquity of Reprobation
HAVING now proceeded so far as to show you what reprobation is, it will not be amiss in this place if I briefly show you its antiquity, even when it began its rise; the which you may gather by these following particulars:
I. Reprobation is before the person cometh into the world or hath done good or evil; this is evident by that of Paul to the Romans: "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, it was said unto Rebecca, The elder shall serve the younger." Here you find twain in their mother?s womb, and both receiving their destiny, not only before they had done good or evil, but before they were in a capacity to do it, they being yet unborn their destiny, I say, the one unto, the other not unto, the blessing of eternal life; the one chosen, the other refused; the one elect, the other reprobate. The same also might be said of Ishmael and his brother Isaac, both which. did. also receive their destiny before they came into the world. For the promise that this Isaac should be the heir, it was also before Ishmael was Born, though he was elder by fourteen years or more than his brother. And it is yet further evident ?
1. Because election is an act of grace: "There is a remnant, according to the election of grace," which act of grace saw no way so fit to discover its purity and independency as by fastening on the object before it came into the world, that being the state in which at least no good were done, either to procure good from God or to eclipse and darken this precious act of grace; for though it is true that no good thing that we have done before conversion can obtain the grace of election, yet. the grace of election then appeareth most when it; prevents our doing good, that we might be loved therefor; wherefore he saith again, "That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth, it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger."
2. This is most agreeable to the nature of the promise of giving seed to Abraham; which promise, as it was made before the child was conceived, so it was fulfilled at the best time for the discovery of the act of grace that could have been pitched upon: "At this time will I come, (saith God,) and Sarah shall have a son;" which promise, because it carried in its bowels the, very grace of electing love, therefore it left out; Ishmael, with the children of Keturah: "For in Isaac shall thy seed be called."
3. This was the best and fittest way for the decrees to receive sound bottom, even for God both to choose and refuse before the creature hath done good or evil, and so before they came into the world: "That the purpose of God, according to election, might stand, saith he, therefore before the children were yet born, or had done any good or evil, it was said unto her," etc. God?s decree would for ever want foundation should it depend at all upon the goodness and holiness either of men or angels; especially if it were to stand upon that good that is wrought before conversion, yea, or after conversion either. We find by daily experience how hard and difficult it is for even the holiest in the world to bear up and maintain their faith and love to God; yea, so hard as not at all to do it without continual supplies from heaven. How then is it possible for any so to carry it before God as to lay by this his holiness a foundation for election, as to maintain that foundation and thereby to procure all those graces that infallibly save the sinner? But now the choice, I say, being a choice of grace, as is manifest, it being acted before the creature?s birth, here grace hath laid the cornerstone and determined the means to bring the work to perfection. "Thus the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth who are his;" that is, who he hath chosen, having excluded works, both good and bad, and founded all in an unchangeable act of grace; the negative whereof is this harmless reprobation.
II. But, secondly, to step a little backward, and so to make all sure, this act of reprobation was before the world began; which therefore must needs confirm that which was said but now, that they were, before they were born, both designated before they had done good or evil. This is manifest by that of Paul to the Ephesians at the beginning of his epistle; where, speaking of election, whose negative is reprobation, he saith, "God hath chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world." Nay further, if you please, consider that as Christ was ordained to suffer before the foundation of the world, and as we that are elected were chosen in him before the foundation of the world, so it was also ordained we should know him before the foundation of the world; ordained that we should be holy before him in love before the foundation of the world; and that we in time should be created in him to good works, and ordained before that we should walk in them. Wherefore reprobation also, it being the negative of electing love; that is, because God elected but some, therefore he left the rest.; these rest therefore must needs be of as ancient standing under reprobation as the chosen are under election; both which, it is also evident, was before the world began. Which serveth yet further to prove that reprobation could not be with respect to this or the other sin, it being only a leaving them, and that before the world, out of that free choice which he was pleased to bless the other with. Even as the clay with which the dishonorable vessel is made did not provoke the potter, for the sake of this or that impediment, therefore to make it so, but the potter of his own will, of the clay of the same lump, of the clay that is full as good as that of which he hath made the vessel to honor, did make this and the other vessel to dishonor, etc.
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