Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER III.: of god's promises. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER III.: of god's promises. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1 
The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols (London: John Snow, 1851). Vol. 1.
Part of: The Works of John Robinson, Pastor of the Pilgrim Fathers, with a Memoir and Annotations by Robert Ashton, 3 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
of god's promises.
The promises of God are a kind of middle thing between his purpose, and performance of good unto them, whom he loveth. And as wicked Jezebel, 1 Kings xix. 2, could not satisfy her hatred of Elias the prophet, in intending evil to him, and executing it upon him, in time, as she could; unless withal she thundered out against him terrible threatenings in the meanwhile: so, much less can the love of our good God satisfy itself in a gracious purpose of good towards us in his heart, and actual performance of it accordingly, in due time, except withal, he make it known unto us beforehand, both for our present comfort in the knowledge thereof, and for the ground of our hope and expectation of the good things promised, and accordingly to be received at his hands, in their time: he having by his promise bound over unto us both his love, and truth, and other attributes for performance. And herein the Lord provides very graciously for his poor servants, who are ofttimes brought into that distressed state both outward and inward, as they have very little else, save the promises of God, wherewith to comfort themselves. Which yet are sufficient, if we improve them, as we ought; considering, first, his love, moving him to promise, and the unchangeableness of it: secondly, his wisdom directing him to promise nothing unfit; thirdly, his power enabling him, and fourthly, his truth binding him to all performance: in regard whereof, God hath made himself a debtor, though not by receiving from us, yet by promising unto us; promise being, as we say, due debt.*
God ever performeth what, and as, he promiseth, and not one good thing for another, as some think: no, not heavenly for earthly, nor a greater good for a less. For howsoever so to do, might stand with his bounty, and goodness; yet his truth binds him to his word, which is truth, John xvii. 17. Spiritual good things necessarily accompanying salvation he promiseth absolutely unto his; other good things, ordinarily, upon condition. Which, considering, that through our abuse of them, they may prove prejudicial to our spiritual man, if so be the Lord should promise absolutely, as the former; it were, many times, indeed, not to promise a benefit, but to threaten a hurt rather. And, truly, we may observe in the dangerous falls, and miscarriages of the wise Solomon, unto whom temporal good things were absolutely promised, in the fullest measure, and accordingly performed, how graciously our wise, and good God provides for our slippery state, in scantling his promise of good things of that kind to our spiritual skill, and care of using them, for the advantage of our true, and eternal happiness. We are, therefore, first, to beware, that we expect not absolutely temporal prosperity, lest by so doing we both wrong the Lord's truth, and our own faith in the things promised indeed, by doubting of them, because we have failed of obtaining of other things by us presumed of, but not promised by the Lord. Secondly, we must as firmly believe, and expect the performance of temporal promises, as the Lord hath made them, as of eternal. For, albeit his love do not manifest itself in like degree in promising both; yet his truth is alike bound to exhibit both, being once promised. Neither is that person in earnest with God, who pretending faith for eternal good things, yet dare not trust his word for temporal. Such as despise heavenly things, and love earthly, usually pretend their trusting of God for the former, of which they are indeed profanely secure, but will trust themselves, and their own fingers for earthly, which in truth they set by. I must therefore thus conclude with myself touching those matters, —seeing“ God hath promised all good things to them that love him,” Psa. xxxiv. 9: if this, or that bodily good thing, good in itself, be indeed for my; good, I shall receive it from him, in due time: and if I receive it not, it is a real testimony from him, that indeed it is not good for me, how much soever I desire it.
As God's goodness shines most clearly in his promises, so man's perverseness abuseth, and misapplieth them above all other parts of his Word. A great many divide God's promises from the other parts of his revealed will, and making small, or none account, that either the rules of the Word appertain unto them for direction, or the precepts for obedience, or the threatenings for restraint; yet do lay their sacrilegious hands boldly upon the promises, as their true, and undoubted right. And the reason is, because the promises contain in them things good, and pleasing to man's nature; which, because we would gladly have true, we readily believe, and apply. But, such separate what God hath joined together, and in effect, “take away from, the words of the book of God; and God will take away their part out of the book of life.” Rev. xxii. 19. Others again transform commandments into promises, with great, and dangerous error. For example; where it is said, “The priest's lips should preserve knowledge,” Mal. ii. 7, the Romish priests challenge an immunity from erring, whence they should take warning, that they err not. So, from Christ's teaching, that a city set upon an hill, cannot be hid, they will wring a promise of perpetual visibility of church and ministry from him, where he intends only an exhortation to his disciples, after, to become apostles, unto answerableness both in life, and doctrine, to the eminency of their places. Some again make conditional promises, absolute, as that, “Whose sins ye bind upon earth, they are bound in heaven,” Matt, xviii. 18: forgetting that it must be the church gathered together in Christ's name, that is, both furnished with lawful authority, and using it lawfully. Likewise, that Christ will preserve the ministry, and ministers, and “be with them to the end of the world,” Matt, xxviii. 19, 20: leaving out the condition going before, which is, that they do their duty in their places, in making disciples, and baptizing them, and teaching them to observe whatsoever he had commanded them. Lastly, how many, because God promiseth forgiveness to sinners, whensoever they repent, promise unto themselves repentance upon an hour's warning, before their death, though they go on in sin all their life long? but the saying of the ancient is memorable in this case, “He that promiseth forgiveness to him that repents, doth not promise repentance to him that sins.” But, on the contrary, as he that makes a bridge of his own shadow, cannot but fall in the water; so neither can he escape the pit of hell, who lays his own presumption, this way, in the place of God's promise.