January 30, 2008

John Bunyan (1628-1688) on God's Grace, Goodness, Offers and Saving Will

Statue of John Bunyan in Bedford

"God also sheweth by this, that the reprobate do not perish for want of the offers of salvation, though he hath offended God, and that upon most righteous terms; according to what is written,
‘As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way, and live’(Eze. 33:11, 18:31, 32).
‘Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts’ (Zec. 1: 3). So then, here lieth the point between God and the reprobate, I mean the reprobate since he hath sinned, God is willing to save him upon reasonable terms, but not upon terms above reason; but not reasonable terms will [go] down with the reprobate, therefore he must perish for his unreasonableness.

That God is willing to save even those that perish for ever, is apparent, both from the consideration of the goodness of his nature (Psa. 145:9), of man’s being his creature, and indeed in a miserable state (Job. 14:15, 3:16). But I say, as I have also said already, there is a great difference between his being willing to save them, through their complying with these his reasonable terms, and his being resolved to save them, whether they, as men, will close therewith, or no; so only he saveth the elect themselves, even ‘according to the riches of his grace’ (Eph. 1: 7). Even ‘according to his riches in glory, by Christ Jesus’ (Php. 4:19). Working effectually in them, what the gospel, as a condition, calleth for from them. And hence it is that he is said to give faith (Php. 1:29), yea the most holy faith, for that is the faith of God’s elect, to give repentance (Act. 5:31), to give a new heart, to give his fear, even that fear that may keep them for ever from everlasting ruin (Eph. 1: 4); still engaging his mercy and goodness to follow them all the days of their lives (Jer. 32:40; Eze. 36:26, 27), that they may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever (Psa. 23: 6), and as another scripture saith, ‘Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing, is God’ (2Co. 5: 5; Rom. 8:26, &c.).

But I say, his denying to do thus for every man in the world, cannot properly be said to be because he is not heartily willing they should close with the tenders of the grace held forth in the gospel, and live. Wherefore you must consider that there is a distinction to be put between God’s denying grace on reasonable terms, and denying it absolutely; and also that there is a difference between his withholding further grace, and of hindering men from closing with the grace at present offered; also that God may withhold much, when he taketh away nothing; yea, take away much, when once abused, and yet be just and righteous still. Further, God may deny to do this or that absolutely, when yet he hath promised to do, not only that, but more, conditionally. Which things considered, you may with ease conclude, that he may be willing to save those not elect, upon reasonable terms, though not without them.

It is no unrighteousness in God to offer grace unto the world, though but on these terms only, that they are also foreseen by him infallibly to reject; both because to reject it is unreasonable, especially the terms being so reasonable, as to believe the truth and live; and also because it is grace and mercy in God, so much as once to offer means of reconciliation to a sinner, he being the offender; but the Lord, the God offended; they being but dust and ashes, he the heavenly Majesty. If God, when man had broke the law, had yet with all severity kept the world to the utmost condition of it, had he then been unjust? Had he injured man at all? Was not every tittle of the law reasonable, both in the first and second table? How much more then is he merciful and gracious, even in but mentioning terms of reconciliation? especially seeing he is also willing so to condescend, if they will believe his word, and receive the love of the truth. Though the reprobate then doth voluntarily, and against all strength of reason, run himself upon the rocks of eternal misery, and split himself thereon, he perisheth in his own corruption, by rejecting terms of life (2Th. 2:10; 2Pe. 2:12, 13)."
John Bunyan, The Works of John Bunyan (London: Blackie & Sons, 1862), 2:353. Also in John Bunyan, "Reprobation Asserted," in The Works of John Bunyan (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), 2:353. Archive.org has volume 2 of his Works HERE as well.

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