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CHAPTER X.: op faith, hope, and love: reason, and sense. - 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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op faith, hope, and love: reason, and sense.
Faith, in general, is a firm assent upon knowledge to an affirmation, for the credit or authority of him that affirmeth a thing, whether God, or angel, or man.* To some things we assent by sense, and natural light: to some for certain proof of reason: but the assent of faith rests upon the fidelity of the speaker, and not upon the sense or reason of the thing, how agreeable to either soever it be. Yet, so as the more reasonable the thing related is, the more readily we believe it to be true. The thing believed, faith apprehends primarily, as a matter of truth, and, therein, hath its seat in the understanding. Divine faith assents to the revealed will of God, for the authority and truth of God, which cannot deceive. That faith, or act of faith by which we are justified is a due assent to, and application of the promises of the gospel, as made, and appertaining to us in particular: the general promise upon condition of application duly, and rightly made, being as much for certainty, as either extraordinary revelation, or particular nomination of person. This application of God's promises in Christ hath evermore affiance necessarily, and immediately joined with it. For, being by the Spirit of God, and word of the gospel, persuaded of God's love in Christ, we cannot but trust unto him, rest, and repose ourselves upon him, and expect accordingly from him, all good. But as we must lay hold of the stay or prop before we can rest upon it, so must faith go before affiance in order of causes, and we lay hold of God's love before we can repose ourselves upon it.
“Hope is the expectation of the good things promised,† having faith for its ‘foundation.” Heb. xi. 1. These two, faith and hope, have many the same objects, yet neither all, nor any in the same respect. We believe things past, present, and to come: but hope for things to come only. We believe both promises, and threatenings; both rewards, and punishments, in the order set by God: but hope only for things desirable. And for the very same things in themselves believed, and hoped for, as for example, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, we believe them as present in God's promises, which faith applies unto us; but hope for them as absent, and to come in performance, unto which hope carrieth us.
“Faith begets hope,” Rom. v. 4, 5; for, by believing the forgiveness of our sins, and God's promises, for the present, we are encouraged to expect, and hope for all future good. And hope, again, as a good child, helps to relieve its father, faith, in time of need: whereupon the apostle saith of the faithful, that “if they had hope only in this life, they were of all men the most miserable.” 1 Cor. xv. 19. For what availeth it a man in misery to believe eternal life, if he had not hope in time to obtain it, and therewith freedom and redemption from distress ? But we have therefore comfort in believing, because we have hope of enjoying in due time.
Love is the affection of union in regard of the loving; and of wellwishing, in regard of the creature loved.* And Divine love is the affection of union with God in his grace and glory, in which man's happiness consists; and with the creature, according unto God. Faith is the root, and love the sap spreading forth itself, for the fruits of good works, throughout all the branches of our lives: faith the beginning, and love the end of our conversation.† “By faith we live the life of the Son of God,” Gal. ii. 20, and receive all good from him, by love we are moved, and persuaded, to use what we have to the good of men, and praise of God.‡ And whereas faith makes a man some great thing, richer than the richest, and lord of the whole world,§ love makes him a “servant unto all men,” 1 Cor. ix. 19, in humbling, and applying himself unto them, in all lawful things, for their good. Now, albeit love have these two prerogatives; first, that it persuades most effectually, and immediately, to the use, and employment of all the good things which we have received from God, to the benefit of others; and secondly, that, whereas faith and hope are determined formally in this life, and ended in sight in the life to come, love abideth there also, 1 Cor. xii. 13; and that, in these two respects the apostle ascribes an excellency, and chiefness to love above the other: yet herein faith hath this singular pre-eminence, that whereas by love we, and what we are, become God's; and men's for God: by faith, not only all other things, but even God himself becomes ours for all-sufficient good unto us: as he saith, “I am thy God all-sufficient.” Gen. xvii. 1. By it, the will and word of God is ours for our instruction, and direction; his righteousness ours, for our justification; his Spirit for our sanctification; his power for our protection; and his glory for our happiness in the fruition thereof.
This faith in Christ is a gift supernatural, not only in regard of nature corrupted, but even created;* which, therefore, is not so properly repaired in men by grace, as are some other virtues, but, after a sort, new built from the ground; as directing to that attribute in God primarily for its object, whereof Adam in innocence had no need; which is, mercy through Christ, against the misery of sin, and punishment. Unto this faith most precious promises are made, and most excellent things affirmed of it: and that, not only for the excellence of the grace in itself, which yet is great, and greatly honoureth God; in his truth, which it believeth; in his power, as able; and love, as willing to bestow all good things upon us: but specially for an attractive, and applying faculty which it hath above other virtues, to make God ours, and all creatures with him, according unto God, as is aforesaid. To believe in Christ is to receive him, and the promises touching him. And hereupon it is said of that cloud of witnesses, that “by faith they quenched the violence of fire, stopped the mouth of lions, put to flight the armies of aliens,” &c. John i. 12; Heb. xi. 1; xii. 1. The reason whereof seems to be, for that, as by justifying faith they applied the righteousness of God, to salvation; so by the faith of miracles, they apprehended, and applied the infinite power of God, to the producing of those supernatural effects.
The strength of true Christian faith, the devil knows to his cost; as that, by which he, the prince, with his whole army, the world, hath been so often foiled, and overcome. Eph. ii. 2; 1 John v. 19. For, being by faith persuaded, that in doing, or suffering according to the will of God, we please him, and are under his protection, and blessing, we stedfastly persevere in. well-doing, and patiently endure all things for his name's sake: whereupon he, especially in the day of their distress, assaults the faith of the godly, that that might fail Luke xxii. 32; as knowing that if the root of faith be shaken loose, the fruit of good works will wither. Faith, therefore, must as a welcome passenger be well carried, and conveyed through the sea of temptations in the vessel of a “good conscience,” 1 Tim. i. 5, that it suffer not shipwreck by the leaks of an evil; directed by the chart of God's word, and promises rightly understood, that it run not a wrong course; and having ever in a readiness the sure and stedfast anchor of hope against a stress: and continually gathering into the outspread sails of a heart enlarged by prayer, and meditation, the sweet and prosperous gusts of God's Holy Spirit, to drive it to the desired haven.
This faith, if it be not grounded upon God's word, is fancy: if it receive not the same word in every part, but where it lists, it is sauciness: if it work not as well, yea more, in an afflicted state, as in a prosperous, it is nothing but fleshly presumption: if it be not fruitful in all good works, as we have opportunity, and are able, it is dead; and will in the end, like the faith of the devils, afford only matter of trembling. James ii. 19. Lastly, it must be firm, and not ambiguous, or going by peradventures; else it is not faith, but opinion.*
Yet are we not here to imagine an idea of faith, free, in this infirmity of our flesh, from doubting.† The tree may stand, and grow also, though shaken, and bended with the wind: so may faith hold its both standing, and life, notwithstanding such doubtings, as the flesh, ever lusting against the spirit, mingleth with it. Against which weakness and imperfection of our faith we have this firm comfort, that we are not saved for, no, nor by the perfection of the instrument, which faith is, but of the object, Christ, which it apprehendeth, and so may with a true, though palsy hand of faith receive, and keep both Christ, and all his benefits.‡ This weakness and disease of faith we must not .commend, as Papists do; nor nourish like secure persons; but cure, with all diligence, by the holy and diligent use of the ministrations sanctified of God, and given by Christ, ‘ for the perfecting of the saints, and edifying of the body, till we attain in the unity of faith, and acknowledgment of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, according to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” Eph. iv. 12, 13. Also, we must nourish faith by frequent meditations of God's love, and promises in Christ, and of the gracious effects of them; and must, as the prophet and apostle teach us, “live by it,” Habak. ii. 4; Heb. x. 38: both doing in faith and assurance of acceptance at God's hands, what we do, not only in the works of his worship, but, in those also of our conversation with men; and puting ourselves in all our ways, under his protection, and that specially in the time of distress, or danger; that as the bodily hand gets, and gathers strength by being diligently used in works competent, so may also the spiritual hand do, which faith is.
Now, as, for our successful “wrestling against the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickednesses in high places,” Eph. vi. 12, we must put on, amongst other parcels of the armour of God, the shield of faith; so must we not forget the helmet of salvation, hope, whose strength is great to bear off all blows of temptation, and that with cheerfulness. For what burdens of afflictions, and temptations will not he cheerfully undergo, that expects, undoubtedly, their speedy ending in endless happiness ? Alexander the Great meaning to invade Asia, and giving away his riches aforehand, being asked, what he would reserve for himself, answered, Hope.* But what is the shadow to the substance ?, He hoped for the kingdom of Persia, we, of heaven. And what if his hope stretched itself to the monarchy of the whole world ? It was but to this world, wherein also it was frustrated, and perished with him. But “the anchor of our hope is cast within the veil,” Heb. vi. 19, and extendeth to the world to come; being also firm, and steadfast, and which cannot be disappointed, nor shall have other end than in being perfected in the end of all, the full fruition, and eternal possession of happiness with God. “Were it not for hope, the heart would break: but we having this hope, faint not, but hold fast the possession thereof without wavering; yea even glory in afflictions under the hope of the glory of God.” Heb. x. 23; Rom. v. 3.
Lastly, touching love; as it is the affection of union, so it makes, after a sort, the loving and loved, one: such being the force thereof, as that, he that loveth suffereth a kind of conversion into that which he loveth, and by frequent meditation of it, uniteth it with his understanding, and affection.* Thus, to love God is to become godly, and to have the mind, after a sort, deified, “being made partakers of the Divine nature,” 1 Pet. i. 4, in its effects: to love the world is to become a worldling; and so of the rest. Thus, in the parable of the tares, the children of the kingdom are called good seed, Matt. xiii. 24, and wheat, as growing, and becoming wheat of the wheat, or seed sown in them, as the wheat ear groweth of the wheat corn: as on the contrary, ungodly men are said to “have eyes full of adultery,” 2 Pet. ii. 14, and the like; and not only to be sinful, but “sin, unrighteousness, darkness, and Belial,” 2 Cor. vi. 15; as being even metamorphosed and transformed into the evils which they love, and delight in. O ! how happy is that man, who by the sweet feeling of “the love of God shed abroad into his heart by the Holy Ghost, which is given him,” Rom. v. 5, is thereby, as by the most strong cords of heaven, drawn effectually, and with all the heart, to love God again, who hath loved him first; and so becomes one with him, and rests upon him, for all good, and happiness.
For this our love to God, there is required, not only the positive affection of the heart aspiring unto union with God, upon knowledge of him,† as the chiefest good, both in himself, and to us in Christ, and a contentation in him so known, and obtained; but withal, that we exercise, prove, and approve, that, our love to him, in our love to such good persons, and things, as unto which he hath imparted some sparks of his goodness; especially to his good children, and good word, and ordinances. He cannot love him that begetteth, saith the Apostle, 1 John v. 1; iv. 7—10, who loveth not him, and that in deed and truth, who is begotten, in truth of affection, and in deed of action, for his comfort; and this with greater bent of both, as the graces of God are more eminent in him. Neither loves he God, that loves not his word, and that, both in affection of heart, and effect of ready obedience to all his commandments. Psa. cxix. 6; John xiv. 15. We must take heed of a shadowish love of goodness and piety only, in the abstract; and must love it in the concrete, where both the person, and good in him, are visible; in whom hypocrites, for the most part, hate and persecute it. He but pretends to others, the love of goodness, or imagines it in himself, that loves not good men for it. Lastly, “he that loves not his brother whom he sees, how can he love God whom he sees not ?” 1 John iv. 20. Not, but that there is. matter of love infinitely more than in any, or all men; but because for the loving of God, we want the advantage of sense, and motive of compassion, by which our love to our distressed brethren is helped.
This “love is the fulfilling of the law,” Rom. xiii. 10; the love of God being the greatest commandment; and the love of our neighbour like unto it. It is also that to which the gospel in the end leads us: by which gospel, or “new covenant,” Heb. viii. 8, God writes his laws in the mind and heart of his: and so perfects the one in the other. And so natural to Christians is this brotherly love, as that the apostle makes account he needs not write to the churches, to teach them that which God taught them so many ways. 1 Thess. iv. 9. By this “we know ourselves to be raised from death to life,” 1 John iii. 14, by it all others know us to be Christ's disciples, if we love one .another. John xiii. 35. “, See,” said the heathens, pointing at the Christians, “how they love one another !”* and See, said the Christians of them, how they hate one another. Oh that heathens could not now say of Christians, as they sometimes said of them !
If we were perfect in this love, we needed no other law to rule us, either in the duties towards God, or our neighbours, no more than do the angels in heaven, and souls of the faithful men departed, who by the law of love alone, do live both most perfect, and most happy lives. And, indeed, to love as we ought, is a very happy thing, wherein we resemble God, and the angels: as by the contrary, wo complice* with the devil, and wicked men, who live “in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Titus iii. 3. And, howsoever naturally we desire rather to be beloved, than to love; yet is it incomparably a more both excellent and blessed thing to love, than to be beloved; as it is “to give rather than to receive.” Acts xx. 35.
Besides, love is the loadstone of love: and the most ready, and compendious way to be beloved of others is to love them first. They taking knowledge thereof, will be effectually drawn to answerable good-will, if they be not harder than iron, and such as have cast off the chains and bonds of common humanity: for even “publicans and sinners love those that love them.” Matt. v. 46. Yea, admit thy love of them never come to their knowledge, yet will God by the invisible hand of his providence, bend their hearts, by mutual affection unto thee, at least, so far as is good for thee: and wherein they are inflexible, and defective, he will make supply out of the abundance of his love, and goodness; that so it may be verified which is written; “with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again.” Luke vi. 38. To conclude this point: let the grace of God herein specially triumph over our corruption: that, whereas, by nature, we would be loved of them whom we hate, by grace we may “love them which hate us.” Matt. v. 44. And this is a great work of grace indeed; and yet most necessary for all Christ's disciples. We must not be like the pharisees who instead of enlarging their own affections, straitened the law of loving their neighbours, unto such as loved them, or dwelt within a certain compass of them: but we must account all our neighbours that need pity or help from us: and our Christian neighbours, and brethren also, if the Lord have received them, though they be neither minded in all things as we are; nor towards us as we are towards them.
Lastly, as faith is to rule love, that it prove not lust; and hope, that it prove not presumption: so also must it, reason and sense in all their operations, which it no way abolisheth, but orders, and sanctifies. Luke x. 27. And as in nature, the denomination is from the predominant quality, so is it in our course of life. To live by reason is to live the life of a man; to live by sense is to live the life of a beast: but to “live by faith is to live the life of the Son of God,” Gal. ii. 20, and to be, in its effects, “partakers of the Divine nature,” 1 Pet. i. 4; and that, not only in the reasonable, but in the sensitive faculties also. For these three, faith, reason, and sense, being all God's works in a man, cannot be contrary, in their right use, one to another: neither can anything be true in one, which is false in another: neither doth, or can any one of them destroy another, but use, order, and perfect it: reason, sense; and faith, both sense and reason. For “faith comes by hearing,” Rom. x. 17, at the first, and is nourished, and increased both by hearing, and seeing, and by the benefit of all other senses afterwards. Neither can it possibly either be begot, or nourished, or increased, but by the discourse of reason ordered and sanctified by the Spirit of God. Which Spirit's work is so effectual, as it makes even the meanest powers of nature created in a man to serve effectually for the furthering of the highest works of supernatural grace. Sweet is the harmony of all the powers and parts both of the soul and body of a sanctified person! Reason is that wherein man goes before all other earthly creatures* and comes after God only, and the angels in heaven. For whereas God and nature hath furnished other creatures, some with horns, some with hoofs, others with other instruments, and weapons both defensive, and offensive; man is left naked, and destitute of all those, but may comfort himself in that one endowment of reason, and providence, whereby he is enabled to govern them'all.† Now, who would not strive to excel other men in that, wherein men excel all other creatures? How much more, in that, to which few men attain, true faith and the life thereof?
[*]Are accomplices with.