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CHAPTER VI.: of equability, and perseverance in well-doing. - 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 equability, and perseverance in well-doing.
Whatsoever is done for God, saith one, is done equally: and the apostle more fully: “The grace of God teacheth us to deny ungodliness, and worldly lusts; and to live soberly,” Tit. ii. 12, in ourselves, justly towards others, and holily towards God. True goodness is comely, and well proportioned in all the parts; whereas the counterfeit is still at jar in itself, and like the patches of a beggar's cloak. A wise man should be a wise man at all times, and in all things; and so should a good man, be a good man. Otherwise when a good thing is done, specially if it be not ordinary, the goodness seems rather to arise from some other motive from without, than from within the person doing it. Besides, what strange thing is it to see a stone fall downward, or a spark fly upward? So, nor to see a fool do foolishly, or a lewd person like himself. But for a wise man to do foolishly, or a good man wickedly, is not only hateful, but monstrous.
He that hath not in him all Christian graces, in their measure, hath none; and he that hath any one truly, hath all. For, as in the first birth, the whole person is born, and not some parts, so is it in the work of regeneration, the whole person is born again, though not wholly. There is but one spirit, both of faith and hope and love and humility and patience; which all have, that are Christ's; and “if any have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Eph. iv. 5, 6; Gal. v. 22; Rom. viii. 9. This Spirit though God but drop, as it were, into some, and pour into others with a full hand, so as one Christian far exceeds another in degree of graces: yet are the habits of all graces, and that, as I conceive, equally one with another, though not equal to those in other men, infused, at once, into the same men's hearts, by that Spirit: but so as, in time, by divers occasions and means, both the habits, or graces themselves, and the exercise of them, inward, and outward, have their different increase in the same persons; till each have attained to the degree of grace allotted to him, and serving for the preparing of him for the glory prepared for him of God.
Perseverance in good is not any particular grace, or virtue,* but the consummation, and store-house of all virtue and goodness,† Evil men stand in need of all graces; the good, only of this of perseverance, “without changing, to the end, that they lose not the things which they have done, or suffered, but that they may receive a full reward, and in due season reap, if they faint not, 2 John 8; Gal. vi. 9.
Where I speak of the necessity of not changing, I mean that changing, which is either to the contrary reigning evil, or to a total want of true goodness. Otherwise, even nature, which works most necessarily, may have its most natural work interrupted, and changed, for a time, and yet not be destroyed: witness the fire in Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, Dan. iii. 21—27, which though it retained in it, both the nature and heat of fire, yet did not burn the three confessors, which were cast into it. How oft do men, though remaining, in nature, reasonable creatures, perform acts plainly unreasonable and brutish, through ignorance, or appetite ? How much more is it possible, that a man though not wholly destitute of God's grace, may, through the remainders of his corruption, ad-vantaged by occasion of temptation, practise some par ticular, and the same gross evils, out of which, in time, he recovers himself by repentance. Who, not foolish himself, will say that David was simply a fool, even when, by occasion of special temptation of Satan, he did a very foolish act, in numbering the people ? 2 Sam. xxiv. 10. We are not, therefore, to measure a person's state by some one, or few acts, done, as it were, by the way, and upon instance of some strong temptation, but according to the tenor, and course of his life. Else, what wise man should not be a fool also ? Or what fool should not be a wise man ? What Nabal should not be liberal, yea bounteous, when he makes a feast like a king ? A rebel lurking in a kingdom, may, by some advantage watched, and taken, prevail against the lawful king, in a conflict, or two; and yet, for all that, not reign in the kingdom: so may the treacherous flesh, lurking in a spiritual man, get the mastery in some combat; and yet not, therefore, drive the Lord quite out of his kingdom there. Yea, the same flesh ever lusting against the Spirit, Gal. v. 17, even in them which are led of the Spirit, and leading them into captivity to the law of sin, Rom. vii. 23, doth oft so far prevail in them, as to captive them in some particular by-paths both of judgment, and practice, not so easily discerned, all their life long. “For who can understand his errors?” Psa. xix. 12. And for these particular enormities, whether actions or courses, of godly persons, howbeit, considering them in themselves, and in their external acts, there appear in them no difference, from those of the same kind, practised by men utterly godless; yet, is there a great difference in God's eye, not only in the person of the doer, in God's account, but also in his own heart, and affection, even in the very doing of them: in which the Lord sees the inward strugglings of grace, though, alas, too weak, by the person's default, tending and bending the clean contrary way; and, therein, plainly differencing the doer from the profane contemners of God, doing the same things: in whom there is, either altogether peace without any strife and resistance, whilst the strong man keeps the house; or that resistance which is merely of natural conscience, terrifying with fear of punishment only, without the hatred of sin, which is, though too weak and feeble, in the other.
Although, it be a greater work of grace to become of vicious and evil, good and virtuous; than so to continue, or to grow therein; yet, considering the mighty, and many enemies of our salvation, and the great stumbling-stones in our way, and with these, the heavy clog of our own corruption, which we draw after us: it will be and is found a matter of no small difficulty, not to be weary of well-doing, nor to faint, before we come to reap in due time, that, which we have formerly sown to the Spirit. Gal. vi. 9. And this, the experience of all ages confirmeth; in which there are few, which do the first works, and leave not their first love, Rev. ii. 4, 5: fewer that bring forth more fruit in old age, and are fat and green. Psa. xcii. 14. And yet we know, that albeit of the labourers in the vineyard, who received each his penny, some entered sooner, and some later, and some not till the very last hour of the day, yet all continued their labour till the evening. Matt. xx. 9,10. So for ourselves we must make account, that at what time soever any begins, only he that continues to the end, shall be saved. Mark xiii. 43.
And, indeed, it is a great honour to God, when a good man, notwithstanding all discouragements either from within, or from without, perseveres in the course of goodness begun, and gives not over till he come at the goal, how tiring soever his way be.* Such a one shows, “that the Lord is faithful, and that, there is no unrighteousness with him.” Psa. xcii. 15. To which purpose the saying of Polycarp is very remarkable; who, being provoked by the Proconsul to blaspheme Christ, answered; that he had served him now eighty and six years, and had never had hurt by him in anything, why then should he speak evil of him ?† On the contrary, he that departs from the Lord in the course of godliness formerly held, greatly dishonours him, as the servant doth his master, in leaving him before his time be out. Such a one makes show, as if out of judgment and experience, he disliked goodness; and, therein, really accuseth God, as if he had found some evil in him, or at least, not that good, which he promised, and the other expected. And to that purpose, the Lord, in great indignation, expostulates with the Jews, and asks, “What iniquity they or their fathers had found in him, that they were gone from him after their vanities.” Jer. ii. 5.
It is dangerous in course of religion and godliness to fall forward by errors, preposterous zeal, or other misguidance; yet not so much so, as to fall backward by an unfaithful heart. The former may break his face thereby, and lose his comfort in a great measure both with God and men: but the latter is in danger, utterly to break the neck of his conscience, as old Eli brake his neck bodily, by falling backward from his seat, and died. Are there not many Eli's in all ages ? And as the least declension from God is dangerous; so is total, desperate: neither will God ever forgive that sin, or give repentance to any so sinning, but hath utterly excluded every such a one out of the otherwise infinite bounds of his mercy in Christ.
The preaching of the word of God is the means to beget faith and grace; but for the nourishing, and increasing thereof, we must therewith join the observation in our places of “whatsoever Christ hath appointed his apostles to teach,” Matt, xxviii. 20: in the use whereof, as the sanctified means for the obtaining of that end, we shall keep ourselves in the fear of God, and not fall from our sted-fastness; and withal, “grow in grace, and in the acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus,” 2 Pet. iii. 17; if not in bulk, yet in firmness; as when the body leaves growing in bigness, it knits better than before. Neither indeed can we be safe from being drawn away from God otherwise, than by continual drawing nearer unto him. For, our way to heaven is up a hill, and we drag a cart-load of our corruptions after us; which, except we keep going, will pull us backward, ere we be aware.
The Holy Ghost in those vehement exhortations of the faithful to perseverance, enforced with so many promises, and threatenings, both shows therein man's proneness, and danger, in himself, to fall away; and also affords the means, by which God will preserve his sanctified ones from apostasy;* using the same as evangelical conducts of grace for his working of that perseverance in them, which he requires of them, and that, rather by our being “apprehended of Christ,” Phil. iii. 12, as the apostle speaks, than by our apprehending him. As the father leading his weak child in a slippery way bids him hold him fast by his hand, lest he fall, which he also puts forth unto him, yea, wherewith he takes hold of the child, that so by communicating his strength with him, he may stand, and not fall. The Lord that saith unto his, “Seek ye my face,” Psa. xxvii. 8, and gives them a heart to answer, “Thy face, Lord, do we seek: “gives each of them also, when he warns them to stand fast, and not to fall away and the like, to answer effectually, Lord, “by these thy commandments thy servant is warned to stand fast and to beware, lest I fall away, as hypocrites do.” Psa. xix. 11. And, whensoever God either promiseth unto men, or purposeth in himself absolutely an event touching any his good work in or by them; he withal both purposes, and promises, and accordingly affords them both means convenient, and skill and will to use them; and, therewith, an answerable blessing upon them, for infallible success.
In regard of this grace of perseverance, the truly godly have an advantage above Adam in innocence. He received to himself, at the first, his portion of grace, and goodness from God, being made after his image, and full freedom, and power both to use, and increase it. But instead thereof, he soon misspent, and lost all, by transgression. God therefore, as a gracious, and wise Father, hath provided better against our misgovernment, and made Christ Jesus our Head, and Feoffer of trust for our state of grace, that he, “in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” Col. ii. 9, might still furnish, and supply us, as we have need; lest we having all put into our own hands, as Adam had, should misspend, and cast away all, as he did. And so the same Christ our Lord, and Head, partly, by his mediation and intercession with the Father; partly, by the continual supply of his Spirit assisting us in our weaknesses, and recovering us in our falls; and partly, by his Divine power restraining the enemies of our salvation, most faithfully preserves us in the grace of God; not suffering the living members of his body to be plucked from it; nor the habitation of his holy Spirit wholly, and for ever to be possessed by his, and his elect's enemy, Satan.
The Scriptures speak of men's falling from the grace of God, as they do of their receiving it. When the apostles entitle particular churches, or persons, saints, “sanctified in Christ, partakers of the heavenly calling, and such as in whom God will perfect the good work begun in them, until the day of Christ, as it is meet to speak and judge of them all,” Rom. i. 7; 1 Cor. i. 1; Phil. i. 6; Heb. iii. 1; they do not so judge and speak in respect of the inward truth of the things, as certainly being in their hearts, which they neither did, nor could ordinarily know: for “God only knoweth the hearts of all the children of men: the things of a man no man knoweth, save the spirit of a man which is in him,” 1 Kings viii. 39; 1 Cor. ii. 11; but according to the outward appearance, and profession made, in word and deed: so when they speak of the falling away of particular churches, or persons, from God; they are to be understood, as they mean.; and mean, as they know: that is, according to the outward appearance, and profession which men formerly have made, and then do make; leaving to God, and men's selves, which only know them, the inward, and hidden things of the heart: which too many causelessly make show of; sometimes deceiving themselves, and sometimes others, and sometimes both, till the time of revelation of hidden things come. And, whereas, weak Christians might unhappily stumble at the revolt from faith and holiness formerly professed by many, as if there were not that stableness, satisfaction, and comfort in the gospel, and grace thereof, which it promiseth; the Lord, in great wisdom, and mercy, removes this stone of offence out of their way, by intimating plainly, that those apostates were never, truly and thoroughly, made partakers of the gospel's grace, from the former profession whereof they had unfaithfully declined. Thus the Holy Ghost teacheth, that the ground, what show soever it made, in which the seed sown was either withered by persecution, or choked by worldly cares, Matt. xiii. 21, 22, or pleasures, and which brought not forth fruit to the harvest, was never good; but either stony, or thorny ground: that they whose faith was overthrown, were not “vessels to honour, but to dishonour,” 2 Tim. ii. 20; nor truly built upon the steady foundation of God: nor of them who had the seal of his Spirit; nor were of his known ones: that those “who fell away, and crucified to themselves the Son of God afresh,” were but formerly “as the earth which drinks in the rain, which comes oft upon it,”Heb. vi. 6, 7, and yet brings not forth herbs, but thorns and briers: that they, who “bring in damnable errors, and they who “follow their pernicious ways,” 2 Pet. ii. 1, both the one and other “departing from the holy commandment delivered unto them, and turning the grace of God into wantonness,” were, at their best, but as dogs, though having for a time cast up their stomach, and vomited; and as “swine washed from their mire" “and as Jude saith, “ungodly men of old ordained to that condemnation,” Jude 4, and crept in, to wit into the churches, unawares: and, to conclude, that they, which went out from the apostles and churches, by heresies, and profaneness, were not, to wit, truly, and indeed of them before. 1 John ii. 18. Thus God's wisdom, and mercy provides a shield of faith against the fiery darts of men's hypocrisy and perfidiousness; wherewith otherwise, the tender hearts of weak Christians might be deeply wounded by Satan.