In this little volume, John Bunyan, best known for his allegories Pilgrims Progress and Holy War, tackles the difficult doctrine of reprobation. Some of the Calvinist persuasion, of which Bunyan was one, have taught that God not only chose some for salvation but also elected others for damnation. Bunyan rejects this definition of reprobation and seeks to define, describe and explain its true meaning.
Reprobation, Bunyan informs us, means to exclude, to pass by or be leave out of God’s election (p. 6), but it does not mean active cursing or damning (pp. 8, 25). Reprobation makes no one a sinner (p. 7); men are sinners because they are born depraved and because they sin. The lost are excluded from the benefits of salvation not because God actively chose them to be lost but because they exclude themselves (p. 49). That God will damn the lost is true, but “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” (p. 25).
This explanation does not answer all of our questions for, as Bunyan admits, God could have stopped sin from entering the world had He chosen to do so (p. 30). But ultimately it is a waste of energy to question God, for He did not intend man to know all His ways: “The secret things belong to God” (p. 39). It is enough for us to know that it is by the grace of God that any are saved and all are not damned (p. 59).
Reprobation Asserted is a balanced approach to a hard doctrine. First published in 1694, it is not easy reading for those unfamiliar with Puritan writings but worth the effort nevertheless for those interested in this subject.