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CHAPTER V.: of created goodness. - 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 created goodness.
Every thing that is, and hath being, is in that regard good, and of God. Rom. xi. 36; Psa. clxvi.; Acts xiv. 17; xvii. 24—28. The natural parts and powers of body and soul of most wicked men remain in themselves, notwithstanding all infection of evil in them, God's good creatures: so do the natural acts and motions of those parts and powers, in themselves considered, notwithstanding any moral accessory of evil in them, arising either from the evil affection wherewith, or unlawful object, upon which they are performed. There can be no evil in the work, which is not first in the worker, as the cause. And so, a wicked person being worse than a wicked action, if the sin prevail not so far, as to make the part or faculty of the person in which it is, to cease to be apart, or power created of God; neither doth it so far prevail in the action, or work, as to make it cease to he, in itself, a created motion, and, therein, a natural good thing.
God is, and so, by all, is to be acknowledged for the giver of every good gift, James i. 17, that is, of everything save sin: which sin is nothing that hath being in nature, but an absence of, and crossness to that which should be; as darkness is of, and unto light. And so the good father would not say, that his mother gave him milk, but God by her.* And though the good which we enjoy, come to us by never so ready, and ample means, yet must we always religiously mind, that both the means are of God's raising, and ordering; and the blessing upon them, for our good. And if Job saw by faith, Job i. 21, 22, that all the evils and harms that came unto him and his, though by the devil's, and wicked men's means, were from the Lord, as supreme orderer of all things; how much more should we look upon God, as the author, and worker of all the good that befalleth us ?
Notwithstanding, if God so far honour any persons, as to make them hands, and instruments (specially voluntary) for the reaching of any blessing unto us from himself; we also, and that, even therefore, are to love and honour them: as David not only blessed the Lord as the author, but Abigail also, as the minister of the good counsel which she gave him, for the not avenging of himself upon Nabal. 1 Sam. xxv. 32, 33.
Actions, besides their natural entity, or being, are by one distinguished, and that aptly, according to a four-fold goodness,† First, An action is sometimes “good in itself, and to them to whom it is done, but not to the doer; as works of mercy done, but not for God. Secondly, Good in itself, and in the doer, but not to him, to whom it is done; as the preaching of the word to them that despise it. Thirdly, Good in itself, and the doers, and to whom it is done; as the same preaching to him that receives it. Fourthly, Though neither good in itself, nor in the doer, nor for him to whom it is done, as an evil, or injury; yet good, as it is ordered by God to an end supernaturally good.” “Who,” as saith another, “would not suffer evil, but as knowing how to work good out of it? “* In actions of the third kind only, goodness is entire in all its parts and relations.
A man should never glory in that good, how great soever, which is common to a beast with him; nor a wise man in that, which is common to a fool with him, no, nor a good man in that, which is common to a wicked man with him; seeing, notwithstanding it, the person may be out of God's favour, and accursed. And therefore Christ our Lord would not have his disciples rejoice, or, glory that the devils were subject unto them (which was, though much, yet common to the workers of iniquity, Matt. vii. 23, with them), but that their names were written in heaven. Luke x. 20.
Many so measure the good which they afford others, by the list of their own will, as they deceive themselves in the whole piece of their goodness, by the bad list that goes about it. They will do what good they list, and when they list, and where they list, and as they list; as though their goodness were not due debt, though not immediately to men, yet to God, and so to men, for, and according unto God: for whom, even they owe love to all men, Rom. xii. 10, who owe nothing else to any; and the same upon bill, and therefore to be payed, in law, whensoever, and by whomsoever the Lord will call for it, and not when, and as pleaseth them. These conditions are requisite, that we may do well, in doing good. First, We must do things in obedience to God's commandments, and in honour of his name, and gospel; and must ever have that end in our eye, as archers have their mark. Secondly, That we do it at all times, as we have opportunity; “sowing our seed in the morning, and in the evening not holding our hand.” Eccl. xi. 6. We must beware of that agueish goodness, which comes by fits only, and when men are pleased: for so, they say, the devil is good.
Thirdly, We must do good readily, and whilst we have opportunity; “not saying to our neighbour, Go, and come again to-morrow, and we will do it,” if it be in our power to-day. Gal. vi. 10; Prov. iii. 28. For who knoweth what a day will bring forth, and whether the opportunity of doing good, will continue till to-morrow, or no ? He that giveth, or doth other good, readily, giveth twice;* he scarce once, or at all, that doth it slackly: he rather, in truth, suffers a good turn to be drawn from him, than doeth it. Living springs send out streams of water; dead pits must have all that they afford, drawn out with buckets. We should, therefore, have the mind.† though we want the ability, of Theodosius the emperor, who did much good, upon request; but more of his own accord and unasked: and so meet, as one saith, a just request in the teeth, and grant it before it be made; as God many times doth ours. Isa. lxv. 24. He that defers a good turn, loseth two things: the time, and manifestation of a loving affection.‡ Both which, are precious. And without which loving affection, all the kindnesses, which we show to any, are but so many false witnesses to the unbelieving and unkind heart.
Fourthly, According to our ability; knowing, that as our receivings are from God, greater or less, so must our accounts be, for good doing. It is true, that God looks to the heart of the doer, and measures the work by the will, as men measure the will by the work: but this, according, to that which a man hath. 2 Cor. viii. 12. Else, albeit poor men may love as much as the richer, though they have not so much money to do good withal; yet is not the will good, except they do the good they are able.§ And this our ability we must not measure according to our wantonness, and unbelief, but, according to the truth of the thing, and equity of the case: which is, that our superfluities give way to our brethren's conveniences: our conveniences to their necessities: yea even our, though great, necessities to their extremities, for the supplying of them. 2 Cor. viii. 12—15.
Fifthly, we must have respect to men's present wants; and not only consider, what we can best spare, but withal, what they stand most need of; as having learned of our Lord and Master, in his Gospel, that our duty is to “feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick,” Matt. xxv. 35, 36, &c., as their need is: whereby we may do a great good turn in a small matter: even one loaf, yea a shive,* to him that is hungry, and the showing of a spring of water to him that is thirsty, being a benefit.†
Sixthly, “we must do good to all,” Gal. vi. 10, knowing, that wheresoever a man is, there is a place for a good turn:‡ but, more specially, to some, according to the singular bond, natural, civil, or religious, wherewith God hath tied us together. To good men we must do good because they do deserve it; to strangers, because they may deserve it, and do stand in need of it; to all men, because God deserves it at our hands, for them; to our friends, because we owe it them; and to our enemies to heap coals of fire upon their heads—the coals of charity to thaw, and soften their hardness, if it may be. and at which we must aim: or else the coals of anger from God for their unplacableness towards us. Matt. x. 42; Luke x. 32—37; Matt. v. 44; Rom. xii. 20.
Lastly, a good man, how gracious soever, and ready to do good, “guideth his affairs with discretion,” Psa. cxii. 5; not sowing his seed in barren ground, by bestowing favours without difference; for that is rather to throw away, than to bestow a benefit.§ And it is not the least difference between man's good nature, and God's good grace, that, whereas the former makes men much-what alike kind to all, the latter, though also to all, yet with great difference put between person and person; as men sow their seed diversely in soils that differ.
Although, this good nature, and the grace of God be as different as heaven and earth: the one being of ourselves, that is, of nature created; and the other the gift of God by supernatural grace: and that a man be neither the nearer God for his good nature, where the grace of God is wanting; nor the further off for his ill, where it pleaseth God to use Ms all-sufficient work of grace: yet the sweet and kind natural disposition in some, much advantageth the manifestation of their smaller measure, which an ill nature, as we speak, so much obscures, as it can scarce be seen of other men; though the Lord's eye pierces through all such human prejudices.
It is the main order, which God hath set both in grace, and nature, that the superior should do good to the inferior. So, God doth good to all, and receives good from none: our “goodness reacheth not to him.” Psa. xvi. 2. The sun and stars give their light, and influence to the earth, Psa. cxxxvi. 8, 9, but receive nothing back from it: “parents lay up for their children, not children for their parents.” 2 Cor, xii. 14. And for this end God bestows good things, both inward and outward, upon some above others, in ample measure, that their abundance might supply the others want. It were good for other men, that the mighty of the earth, duly, considered this; but better for themselves, as it is better to do good to others, than to receive good from them. But this most wise and equal order of God is perverted everywhere, by man's iniquity; and they who are less able, must still be adding to the greater's heap:* so as, if accounts were diligently kept, it would be found in most places of the world, that the meaner sort bestow more on the better able, then these of them.
When I consider, what good the rich and mighty otherwise in the world, might easily do, if they had hearts answerable; and how little they do, for the most part; it seems horrible unthankfulness, and iniquity in them, and matter of indignation against them: but then, on the other side, when I consider, how little good I myself do, in my meanness, and others my like, to that which I should, and might do, if I did my utmost; I find reason to be most angry at myself, and mine own unprofitableness; and to be glad, and thankful, that so much good is done by the other, as is.
In benefits and good turns done, and received, it is the best, and right order, that he, who doth them, should forget, and conceal them; and he remember, and speak of them, that receives them.† And, therefore, the first of the three graces is so ordered, as ever to look forward for the doing of more good, and never backward, to upbraid with good done: which, where it is used, takes away the grace of the kindness; and is as unpleasing, as the after upbraiding of meat in the stomach, eaten with delight. The other two ever look towards the first, to signify, in how continual remembrance, benefits received should be born. Which accordingly to acknowledge with thankfulness, is a ready way to procure further good; as from God, who specially delights in a thankful heart, and would have a reflux of his blessings to keep them sweet, as waters are by flowing to, and fro;* so likewise from such men, as either are, or would seem to be like unto God, in goodness, and bounty.
To use to speak much of men's unthankfulness, even where there hath been great fault that way, for benefits received, both argues a mind not so free in well-doing, as is meet; and that looks too much for thanks from men, and too little, for reward from God: and is, withal, a course for a man to quench his own charity and forwardness, in other men's unthankfulness.
It is a more blessed, that is, both, a more comfortable thing, and that, wherein a good work is more properly performed, to give, than to take; Acts xx. 35, to do, than to receive good: and so all good men should strive both to be able, and willing, so to do. Yet should a good, and wise man, as God sends occasion, be indifferent to either. Neither can he, in truth, do kindness, as he ought, that is not willing to receive kindness, as he needs. It comes partly from a suspicious, but specially, from a vain-glorious heart, that some, who are forward in affording kindness, can yet scarce, though there be just occasion, have the like fastened upon them. Such desire to be too like unto God, who doth good to all, but receives none back again from any: but the very greatest must remember that he is not God, but man, and so stands need of other men. “The head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee.” 1 Cor. xii. 15. Besides, to refuse a kindness offered is to shame it, as a ball ill sent, and let fall to the ground.† Neither hath a true Christian any cause to be ashamed of his condition in receiving good from others: seeing that, as in doing good, he is in God's place; so, in receiving it, in Christ's stead. Matt. xxv. 35—40.