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Edward Leigh on Reprobation

August 12, 2008

In the Scriptures reprobate, and to reprobate are referred rather to the present conditions of wicked men, than God’s eternal ordination concerning them. But the Decree of Reprobation is expressed in such terms as these, “God is said “not to have given them Christ,” “not to show mercy on some,” “not to have written the name of some in the Book of Life.”

Reprobation is the purpose of God to leave the rest of men to themselves, that he may glorify his Justice in their eternal destruction. Est decretum aliquod quo destinavit alicui Deus damnationem. Twiss. See Mr Manton on the 4th verse of the Epistle of Jude.

The Schoolmen ad others distinguish between Negative and Positive, or affirmative act of Reprobation. The Negative Act is called Preterition, non-election, or a will of not giving life. The positive or Affirmative Act is called Predamnation, or a will of damning the reprobate person. So there are two parts of Election, viz. The Decree of giving grace, by which men are freed from sin by Faith and Repentance: 2. Of rewarding their Faith and Repentance with eternal life.

Preterition or negative Reprobation is an eternal Decree of God purposing within himself to deny unto the non-elect that peculiar love of his, wherewith Election is accompanied, as also that special grace which infallibly brings to glory: of which negations, permissions of sin, obduration in sin, and damnation for sin, are direct consequents. Dr Arrowsmith’s Chain of Principles, Aphor. 5. Exercit. 2.

The word Reprobation is taken three ways, says B. Davenant out of Junius:
1. For preterition and damnation jointly.
2. For the alone decree of damnation: so to be reprobated, is to be appointed to eternal torments.
3. As it is opposed contradictorily to Election, so as to be taken for Preterition only, or non-election. Daven. Dissert. de. Praedestinatione, c.7.

The object of it are some sinful men, or the greatest part of sinful men, which are called vessels of wrath fitted for destruction, Rom. 9:22, that there are more damned than saved, is proved, Matt. 20:16, Mat. 7:14.

The end of Reprobation in the Reprobate, that they rather than others are passed by of God; that is wholly from the unsearchable depths of God’s good pleasure, but that damnation whereto they are adjudged, is for their own sins.

Mr Aylesbury in his Diatribe de Aeterno, Dei decreto, cap. vii, says, the nature of reprobation is comprehended under a threefold Act.

The first, in which God has propounded his glory, and not to communicate his grace to some, which is called by some divines Preterition or non-election, by others the will of not pitying.

The second act is conversant in ordaining the permission of sin.

The third and last act is called the affirmative act of Reprobation, by others a will of condemning.

There are five dreadful consequences of Reprobation or Preterition:
1. Such whom God passes by, he never calls, or nor effectually; calling is according to purpose.
2. He deserts, leaves them so follow their own corrupt lusts.
3. Hardens them, Rom. 9.
4. They shall prove Apostates, 1 Tim. 2:18.
5. They are liable to that dreadful sentence, Matt. 25:41.

Obj. 1 Tim. 2:4, ‘Who will have all men to be saved.”

Answ. That is, God would have some of all sorts of men to be saved. So all men is taken, vers. 1, “Let prayers be made for all men, that is, all manner of men, he instances in one kind, (viz) Kings. All is likewise here to be taken, not pro singulis generum, but pro generibus singulorum. So Austin expounded this place above a thousand years since. All manner of men of all Nations and qualities. All, in this placed does not signify universally, every man in every age and condition, but All is opposed to the Jews only, All indefinitely, and that in the times of the New Testament, of which the Apostle speaks.

Object. 2 Peter 3:9. ‘Not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance:” Therefore there is not an Election of some, and Reprobation of others.

Answ. He speaks there only of the Elect; and he would have none of them to be perish. He speaks that for the comfort of the godly, and includes himself amongst them, “Long-suffering to us-ward”: therefore he means in the same condition with himself: He shows why God stays the excecution of his wrath, because all his Elect are not gathered. See 1 Pet. 2:8.

There is nothing does more set out the glory, excellency , and sufficiency of God than his Decree. O the infinite depth of the wisdom of God, which has foreseen, decreed, and determined within himself, the innumerable things that ever did or shall come to pass. We should not search into the depths of his counsels, Deut. 29:29. but in all things profess our dependance on him, and refer all to this Decree, Psal. 37:5.

They are justly blamed that ascribe anything to chance, fate, fortune, or good luck, as also such as are impatient under any cross.

Admiring the methods of God’s eternal Counsel, and the execution of it for the salvation of our souls, will be a great part of our work in Heaven.

That is a desperate inference: if I be predestined, I shall be saved, though I neglect and scoff at sanctity. God has predestined the means as well as the end; he has decreed us to be holy to save us from guilt of our sins, but to sanctify us, Titus 2:14.The Spirit of God is a Spirit of sanctification, 2 Thess. 2:13. In good things the Devil strives to sever the means from the end; in evil, the end from the means. We must not reason whether we be predestinated, but use the means, prove our Election by our calling, we should judge of our predestination, not so much ascendendo, by prying into God’s secret Counsel, as descendo, by searching our own hearts. It was good counsel that Cardinal Poole gave to one who asked him how he might profitably read the Epistle to the Romans. He advised him first to read the twelfth to the end, and then the beginning to the twelfth chapter. Because in the twelfth chapter the Apostle falls on the matter of duty and sanctification, which is the only way to attain to the knowledge of those great Mysteries handled in the beginning, of Predestination.

Take heed of abusing this Doctrine:

1. Quarrel not with God’s Justice, because he has determined not to give grace to some, Rom. 9:14. That they are saved, it is from God’s mercy, there can be no injustice in refusing, when it is the mere mercy of God to take away: as if of many Traitors the King spare some, and hang up the rest: neither have the Elect a just cause to glory, nor the Reprobate to complain; sin undeserved grace is shown to the one, due punishment inflicted on the other. It bewrays no more want of mercy in God, that he takes such, then it did want of power, because he made not many worlds, since the exercising of one and the other, is determined by his wisdom.

Edward Leigh, A System or Body of Divinity, (London: Printed by A.M. for William Lee at the Signe of the Turks-head in Fleet-street over against Fetter-lane, 1662), 276-278. [I have modernized some of the formatting and spelling, and I have not included the marginal notes. By way of note, needless to say, Leigh’s reading of 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 is not a necessary reading, nor the only viable reading within Calvinism.]

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