John Bunyan, ca. 1674
Of the Unchangeableness of Eternal Reprobation.
MANY opinions have passed through the hearts of the sons of men concerning reprobation, most of them endeavoring so to hold it forth as therewith they might, if not heal their conscience slightly, yet maintain their own opinion in their judgment of other things; still wringing now the word this way, and anon again that, for their purpose; also framing within their soul such an imagination of God and his acts in eternity as would suit with, such opinions, and so present all to the world. And the rather they have with greatest labor strained unweariedly at this above many other truths because of the grim and dreadful face it carrieth in most men?s apprehensions. But none of these things:, however they may please the creature, can by any means in any measure either cause God to undo, unsay, or undetermine what he hath concerning this decreed and established.
First. Because they suit not with his nature, especially in these foundation acts. The foundation of God standeth sure, even touching reprobation, that the purpose of God according to election might, stand. "I know (saith Solomon) that whatsoever the Lord doth, it abideth for ever; nothing can be put unto it nor anything taken from it, etc. Hath he said it, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he; not bring it to pass?" His decrees are composed according to his eternal wisdom, established upon his unchangeable will, governed by his knowledge, prudence, power, justice, and mercy, and are brought to conclusion (on his part) in perfect holiness, through the abiding of his most blessed truth and faithfulness: "He is a rock, his way is perfect, for all his works are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he."
Secondly. This decree is made sure by the number, measure, and bounds of election, for election and reprobation do enclose all reasonable creatures; that is, either the one or the other ? election, those that are set apart for glory; and reprobation, those left out of this choice.
Now as touching the elect, they are by this decree confined to that, limited number of persons that must amount; to the complete making up the fullness of the mystical body of Christ; yea, so confined by his eternal purpose that nothing can be diminished from or added thereunto; and hence it is that they are called his body and members in particular, the fullness of Him that fills all in all, and the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; which body, considering him as the Head thereof, in conclusion maketh up one perfect mart and holy temple for the Lord. These are Christ?s substance, inheritance, and lot; and are said to be booked, marked, and sealed with God?s most excellent knowledge, approbation, and liking. As Christ said to his Father, "Thine eyes did see my substance yet being imperfect, and in thy book are all my members written, which in continuance were fashioned when as yet there was none of them." This being thus, I say it is in the first place impossible that any of those members should miscarry, "for who shall lay anything to the charge of God?s elect?" And because they are as to number every way sufficient, being his body and so by their completing to be made a perfect man, therefore all others are rejected, that the "purpose of God according to election might stand." Besides, it would not only argue weakness in the decree, but monstrousness in the body, if after this any appointed should miscarry or any besides them be added to them.
Thirdly. Nay, further, that all may see how punctual, exact and to a tittle this degree of election is, God hath not only as to number and quantity confined the persons, but also determined and measured, and that before the world, the number of the gifts and graces that are to be bestowed on these members in general, and also what graces and gifts to be bestowed on this or that member in particular: "He hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ, according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world;" and bestoweth them in time upon us, "according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord." he hath given to the eye the grace that belongeth to the eye, and to the hand that which he also hath appointed for it; and so to every other member of the body elect he doth deal out to them their determined measures of grace and gifts most fit for their place and office. Thus is the decree established both of the saved and also of the non-elect.
Fourthly. But again, another thing that doth establish this decree of eternal reprobation is the weakness that sin in the fall and since hath brought all reprobates into; for though it he most true that sin is no cause of eternal reprobation, yet seeing sin hath seized on the reprobate, it cannot be but thereby the decree must needs be the faster fixed. If the king, for this or the other weighty reason, doth decree not to give this or that man who yet did never offend him) a place in his privy chamber, if this man after this shall be infected with the plague, this rather fastens than loosens the king?s decree; as the angels that were left out of God?s election, by reason of the sin they committed after, are so far off from being by that received into God?s decree that they are therefore bound for it in chains of everlasting darkness to the judgment of the great day.
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