Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER IV: of the works of god, and his power, wisdom, will, goodness, etc., shining in them. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER IV: of the works of god, and his power, wisdom, will, goodness, etc., shining in them. - 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.
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of the works of god, and his power, wisdom, will, goodness, etc., shining in them.
It is a received truth in divinity, that whatsoever is in God, is God. So the will of God, considered as the foundation of that which he wills, and as inherent in him, is nothing else, but God willing; his justice nothing else, hut God just; his mercy but God merciful; and so for the rest of the Divine attributes. And as every work of God is founded in some of those attributes: and that by name, in his understanding, as judging the thing to be good; in his holy will agreeing thereunto; and in his power effecting all things: so this foundation and first cause of them all being immanent, and inherent in God, is God essentially, of what nature soever, always good, the work be without him, which his will and power effecteth. Neither is this will of God to work by his power, wrought in him by any thing without himself, for then he should receive addition of perfection from the creature moving him thereunto: though, yet it be most certain, that there are many things, which God neither in his wisdom judgeth fit to be done by him, nor wills the doing of them, nor would work or do them by his power, but upon the creature's work going before. For example: God wills, and works the condemnation of some sinners, because he judgeth fit, willeth, and will work therein the manifestation of the glory of his justice; but this condemnation, which otherwise he would not lay upon any, he both wills, and works by, and for, the creature's sin, according to his eternal, and unchangeable purpose of will in himself.
When the Scriptures speak, and we, according unto them, of any thing done by God, in respect of the creature, before the world was made; it must be understood as meant only of his foreknowledge, and decree of will, and purpose of doing. For things could be done no otherwise, than they could be; nor could be otherwise, than in God, who alone was; nor could be in God otherwise, than in his foreknowledge, and will: according to which he works them actually, in time, by his power.
These three attributes, as before I intimated, his power, will, and wisdom, do concur to the producing of all, and every one of his works. His power worketh and effecteth all things: his will sets his power a-working: his wisdom directs both the one, and other; his will in willing; and his power in working. Touching his power: “The right hand of the Lord,” Psa. cxviii. 15, 16, which, in men, is the instrument of strength, is exalted, and by it he can do what he will, and much more than he will. And whereas God cannot lie, or deny himself, or the like, it is, immediately, because he will not, and that not of impotency in him, but of potency, and perfection of excellency:* as, on the contrary, it is the power of man's weakness that he can do amiss. So, for things importing contradiction, as that the same thing should be, and not be at once, or not be that which it is, or the like; it is religiously said by some, rather, that such things cannot be done by God, than, that God cannot do them; seeing the reason of this impossibility of their so being is not in God's nature, but in theirs.
The will of God is one, as God is one. But as there is “one spirit, but diversity of manifestations,” 1 Cor. xii. 5, 6; so, this one internal will of God doth exercise, and extend itself diversely to, and upon, divers objects. This extension and exercise of this one will of God is, of us, to be considered in divers degrees. The weakest and most remiss degree is to will the suffering of evil.† For, though God, to speak properly, wills not sin, yet he willingly suffers it; not as ignorant of it, nor as neglecting it, nor as unable to prevent it, but as willingly, wittingly, and of purpose suffering that evil to be done, which he could easily hinder, if he would oppose his omnipotent power. The next degree of God's willing, stands in commanding good, and approving of it, where it is found: and thus God “wills and commands that all men should repent,” Acts xvii. 30: thus he wills, “that all should come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved,” 1 Tim. ii. 4: and thus, lastly, he would have “the wicked turn from his wickedness; and live, and not die,” Ezek. xxxiii. 11. And these things and the like he seriously wills, to wit, by way of commanding and requiring them, and of approving them, wheresoever they are found. The highest, and most intent degree of willing in God, is, when he so wills a thing, as, withal, he employs his omnipotent power for the effecting of it: and by this “he doth whatsoever he pleaseth in the heavens, and in the earth,” Psa. cxv. 3. The former will, which stands in commanding, promising, and the like, may be, and is too often resisted, and made ineffectual by men; this latter, never possibly; except men be stronger than God. By it, his power availeth to make things to be, which were not, to continue them that are, to work all good, and to order all evil unto good.
And, as the works of God's power, according to his will, are manifold, so “hath he wrought them all in wisdom,” Psa. civ. 24. For, notwithstanding both the absoluteness of his will, and infiniteness of his power, in regard whereof one saith, it is more becoming God to ascribe any power to him, than to make him impotent;* yet is he neither wilful in willing, nor unwieldy in working. By his wisdom he not only eternally, and infallibly knoweth himself, and all creatures that are, or can be, and what either he, or they, or both together will do, or can do, and that upon supposition of whatsoever can be supposed; but both willeth, and doth, in time, himself, what he willeth, and doth it also for good cause, and to good purpose, and accordingly, either, on the one side, hinders; or, on the other, sustains, effects, and orders every motion of every creature.
By exercising these attributes God worketh all his works whether immediate by himself alone, or mediate by the creatures, which he useth of all kinds, and every one according to his kind, whether good or evil, reasonable or without reason. By God's works, I mean all things whatsoever are in the world, or have any being, and existence in nature. For, “he hath made the whole world, and all things therein,” Psa. cxlvi. 6. “In him we live, and move, and have our being: he giveth all to all things,” Acts xvii. 28. “And of him, and through him, and for him are all things,” Rom. xi. 36. As he gives being unto all things that are, by communicating the effects of his being with them; so, is there nothing either so casual, in regard of men, as that he directs it not; or so voluntary, as that he determines it not; nothing so firm, but he sustains it; nor so small, but he regards it; nor so great, but he rules it; nor so evil, but he overrules it.
Neither can any of the works of God possibly be other than very good, and righteous, seeing they are all wrought by the exercising of his holy will, divine power, and godly wisdom. And, if a simple man owe the honour to him that is of greater wisdom and understanding than himself, to think, upon occasion, that the other hath reason for that which he speaks, or does, though he, in his shallowness, cannot reach unto it, how much more do all men and angels owe this honour unto God, to believe always, that whatsoever he saith is true, and whatsoever he doth, good, and righteous, though they discern not the reason of it.*
Some of the works of God are such, as we can rather admire at them, than discern of them: some again are such as, at which proud flesh is ready to repine, and murmur. Amongst the works of God's most wise and powerful providence upon bodily things, it is most admirable, that the heavenly bodies, the sun, moon, and stars, should by their influence, and operation, have such power, and effects upon the bodies here below, as to change, order, and dispose the air, earth, and water, with all things framed, and compounded of them, as they appear to do, by Scripture, sense, and experience. Yet, if we consider, besides the two “greatest lights,” Gen. i. 14; and most powerful agents, the sun and moon, the numberless number of the stars, their huge greatness, the variety and excellency of virtues, wherewith they are furnished far above the most precious pearls, or any earthly quintessence, Job xxxviii. 31—33; and with all these, the infinite power and wisdom of him that made, and constituted them; it will not seem incredible unto us, that the least, and suddenest natural change in the air, water, or other elementary bodies, should be wrought by the position, and disposition of the stars, and celestial bodies. Neither doth this at all diminish, or detract from the honour of the Lord in governing the world, but rather amplifieth it; as it adds to the honour of the skilful artificer, so at the first to frame his clock, or other work of like curious device, as that the several parts should constantly move, and order each other in infinite variety, he, as the maker and first mover moving, and ordering all. Where yet this difference must always be minded, that the artisan leaves his work, being once framed, to itself; but God by continual influx preserves, and orders both the being and motions of all creatures. Here also, we except both unnatural accidents; and specially, supernatural, and miraculous events; which are, as it were, so many particular creations, by the immediate hand of God.
In them that are made partakers of the grace of God, the remainder of corrupt reason is readiest to rise up at the work of God's providence in “the prosperity of the way of the wicked, and workers of iniquity,” Jer. xii. 1; Psa. xxxvii. 1, 35: especially, if they themselves be pressed with any singular afflictions; as we may see in David, Jeremiah, and others. But the same men of God, who were in their persons, present examples of human frailty, do in their writings, by the Holy Ghost, afford us matter sufficient for Divine comfort, and direction; as, first that, before we come to “plead with God, how his works are righteous, we know and acknowledge them all to be righteous,” Jer. xii. 1; that so we may learn how and wherein their righteousness consists. Secondly, that God is both as good to those whom he loves, in their afflictions, as in their prosperity; and as wroth with his enemies, in their momentary prosperity, as if his rod were already upon their backs. Thirdly, that he hath appointed a day, in which he will right whatsoever seemeth crooked in the meanwhile; and will fully, and for ever, recompense both the good and evil: in the expectation of which day, and of the work of the Lord in it, we should satisfy ourselves, for the present, and suspend our thoughts till the manifestation of his righteous judgment therein.
In them that desire to establish man's righteousness rather than God's either righteousness, or power, fleshly reason is most apt to quarrel, partly with that work of God's mercy, by which he freely justifies a sinner; and partly with those his just dispensations, upon which followeth the creature's sin and misery for sin. But for the former, it stands not with the riches of God's mercy, and grace, whereof he would make full manifestation in the justifying of sinners, to borrow any thing of man's merit; but well becomes his bounty, freely to bestow both the gift, and hand to receive it. For the latter, it must be considered, that God's work, so far as it is his, is good, as well in the sinful doings, or miserable sufferings of men, as in their most holy, and happy estate. The person that sinneth, with all his parts, and powers of soul, and body, is God's work: so is the preservation, and sustentation of both person, and personal abilities; so is the natural motion itself, whether within, or without the person, in which, the sin is like the halting in the horse's going; and lastly, so is, not only the voluntary permission of the sin, which he could easily hinder by his omnipotent power, if he would oppose it; but also the ordering both of sin and sinner to his own supernatural ends. For example, the act of Judah and Tamar, morally considered, was sinful, and impure; but naturally, good, and blessed of God with a son, of whom Christ came according to the flesh. So the abominable sins of Absalom were ordered of God unto most just punishments of the sins of his father David.
There is a twofold use of the world, and works of God in it: the one natural, the other supernatural.* The former is common to men with beasts; who are alike cherished with the heat and influence of the sun; alike nourished by the fruits of the earth. The other is peculiar to men with the holy angels, by which they behold the face of the Creator's power, wisdom, goodness, &c., as in a most clear looking-glass, Rom. i. 20; Psa. xix. 1—6; and are provoked accordingly to praise, and glorify him in his wonderful works: even as by beholding some curious piece of workmanship, much more, if, therewith, we have singular use of it, of a skilful artificer, we are led, in the view of the work, to the commendation of the workman.† And look how much the soul excelleth the body, yea the spiritual man the natural; so much is this use of God's creatures more excellent than the former. And so the opinion of the philosopher, who thought, he was born to look upon the sun, and heavens,* was not wide, but short; nor absurd, but defective; for he should have pierced further, even through the heavens, unto him, that made, and governs them, whose glorious power, and goodness shine in them; that so he might have glorified him as God, in his works. For, though by that glimpse of light in the creatures, we cannot attain to the knowledge of God, as our Father in Christ; yet are we both to honour him according to it, and to be provoked by it to further search, and inquiry after him, in such means of revelation, as by which he further manifests himself; which are his word and gospel of salvation: even as he, that lying in a dark dungeon spies some small glimpse of light, will grope towards it by the wall, hoping to find some door, or window, by which it comes in. Acts xvii. 27. For neglect of this, the very wisest of the heathens were left inexcusable; and not glorifying God, whom they knew in his works of creation of the world, but becoming vain in their own imaginations, and serving the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever, were given over of God to a mind void of judgment, to do the things which are inconvenient.” Rom.i. 20, 21. Now, of how much sorer punishment shall we be guilty; if together with this lesser glimpse of Divine light by the creatures, we despise also the more glorious light of the gospel, not honouring God aright either as our powerful Creator, or merciful Redeemer by Christ Jesus ? But if we so honour him, and make him great in our own hearts, and before men, what we can, as he hath manifested, and made known himself in his word, and works; he will honour us with himself for ever, in glory.