John Bunyan, ca. 1674
Whether any under Eternal Reprobation have Just Cause to Quarrel with God for not Electing of them?
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."
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