Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVI.: of wisdom and folly. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XVI.: of wisdom and folly. - 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 wisdom and folly.
Some have been found not only contented with, but glorying in the name of irreligious and unhonest: but hardly ever any were willing to bear the note of foolish or unwise. And even of them, in whom is found some true love of virtue and goodness, how few are there, that either indeed do or would be thought to do anything, in favour thereof, which might, in the least degree, impeach the credit of their wisdom, in the eyes of the partial world? So fain would all be counted, though few in truth be, wise. The main reason of this seems to be, that whereas the want of wisdom imports impotency and inability; irreligion and dishonesty are by election and free choice. The pride of men, if God's grace correct it not, makes them more impatient of a want either inward, or outward, arguing them to be weak and impotent; than of a grosser vice in either, upon their own free election and choice of will. And hence it is, that many boast of things done by them for some particular advantage, which they know to be evil, and unlawful.
It is the first, and a great point of wisdom to know wherein true wisdom stands: specially, seeing that the thing, which God calls wisdom, and which the world calls wisdom, are as different, as heaven and earth: yea as heaven and hell. That cannot but be best, which God so valueth. It is known from the world's wisdom, by first, its object: secondly, the properties which attend it: thirdly, the school where it is learnt: fourthly, the end to which it tends. The object is Christ primarily, who “of God is made unto us wisdom,” 1 Cor. i. 30; and in whom are hidden all the treasures thereof, which the gospel, the “wisdom of God,” Col. ii. 3, openeth unto us. He that knows Christ aright in the gospel, knows both God and man, and the most gracious and glorious effects of both united in one. Secondly, “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without jangling and without hypocrisy.” James iii. 17. The other is clean contrarily qualified: thick and muddy with lusts, and monstrously compounded, arrogant, self-willing and self-loving, inexorable, quarrelsome, crafty, and cruel. Thirdly, the wisdom of God is learnt in the school of Christ, and upon the book of Holy Scriptures: the other hath so many masters, as there are corrupt either lusts within a man, or customs in the world. Lastly, the wisdom of God teacheth to provide surely for the spiritual and eternal state, though with prejudice to the bodily, and temporal: the other bids, make sure work for the flesh, and pinch not it, though the spiritual man speed hardly by it. He that will be wise to God, must be a fool to the world: which yet makes him not a fool in worldly affairs, but skilful how to order them aright, both for the spiritual life and natural also, as far as it is subordinate unto it.
The high-way to wisdom Divine or human is to observe and consider the reasons and causes of things. He that believes a thing because God affirms it, shows faith; he that does it because God commands it, obedience: but he that joins with these the reasons of the doctrine or exhortation in the word, gets into his heart the props of wisdom against the storms of temptation both of unbelief and disobedience. So in human affairs, he that minds or remembers things to be thus or thus, gets skill in the things: but he that observes and learns the reasons and causes why they come so to pass, or are so done, he takes the right course to become wise in the matter, of what kind soever.
A wise man is the same, though his outward state be changeable, yea changed from a prosperous to an afflicted or the contrary way: else he but hits right at a venture, when he doth well in either of both. His condition is rather happily fitted to him, as the hour once a day comes to the hand of the clock that stands always still, than he to it, by true wisdom.* A wise man will wish the more prosperous state, but fear the more afflicted, and use that which falls and his wisdom in it. The sailor, who wants skill, may miss his course, or drown his ship in a fair wind; but he needs most skill in a tempest: so is the wisdom of a man most seen in the right guiding of himself and his affairs in a stress of trouble and affliction, I have seen it in experience, that many, specially women, and women-like men; who have showed forth much goodness in a quiet and prosperous state of things, if any great storm of trial have happened to have overtaken them, have, through the want of wisdom's chart, and compass, lost all, and not only been altogether uncomfortable, but above measure, burdensome both to others, and themselves. The apostle by the work of the wisdom of God “knew both how to be abased, and how to abound.” Phil. iv. 12.
He that is not wise for himself first, cannot be wise for another, either in bodily or spiritual things; though he may do him good in both. But that is rather by occasion or in humour; than upon ground of true wisdom. God and nature, which teach every man to love himself most; and his neighbour, truly and heartily, as himself; teach him withal, to use his best wit and skill, for the promoting of his own welfare. By love of himself, I do not mean that ravenous self-love, which eats up all “love of God,” 2 Tim. iii. 2, and of other men, save for a man's self: but that affection of created nature, inclining every man to procure his own true welfare, to his power, every way. The former is rather hatred of a man's self in effect, Prov. xxix., whatsoever the positive affection be; but now, the question is, what this, himself, means. Himself, is not his worldly riches, nor honour nor any the like appurtenance; but his soul and body in a convenient state and constitution to perform good duties, and to obtain true happiness. He that is wise for this himself, is wise to God and for other men's true good. But for that other common, and commonly called self-love, in which men foolishly mistake, by taking that for themselves, which is not: the best that can be wished to such, is, that they have little wit and less authority: and that specially considering the deepest wisdom of such vermin is, not to care, how much and in how great things they harm others, so they may benefit themselves never so little, in comparison; like the thief, that to get the gold ring, would eat off the finger upon which it stuck close.
If the wealthiest life were the best, wisdom were not so much to be desired; considering how many mere Nabals, and rich fools the world hath. And if the merriest life were the best, it were better to be a fool, than wise. The eagle continually gnaws the heart of Prometheus: and in much wisdom, is much grief; so as “he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow,” Eccl. i. 18, saith the wise man, out of his own experience: whereas, on the contrary, natural fools, and many artificial fools also, almost always laugh and are merry; as having neither grace to mourn for sin, nor wit to be much troubled with crosses. But for all that, “wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness,” Eccl. ii. 13; yea for that, if there were nothing else: seeing “by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better,” Eccl. vii. 3; whereas “the laughter of fools is like the crackling of thorns under a pot.”
There is in truth no greater recreation in the world, than to converse with wise men. Yet many cannot make themselves merry, without a fool: though Solomon amongst all the vain delights, which he could devise, or procure, got not a fool to make him merry with.* Such companions of fools might for the most part save that charge, and say that, in earnest, which a wise man said for fashion: when at any time I would be merry with a fool, I laugh at myself.†
Solomon in his Proverbs uses to call good and godly men, wise; and wicked persons, fools: partly because there is folly and madness too, in all wickedness; partly because the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, as both making men careful to learn their duties, and having a promise of “direction in the way that they shall choose,” Psa. xxv. 4, 5, 9: and partly to free true piety and goodness from the reproach of folly, Acts xvii. 32, and simpleness cast upon them by worldly-wise men, 1 Cor. i, 18: who, as the heathen-wise counted the doctrine of the gospel foolishness, so do these worldly-wise judge all true conscience of it, and obedience unto it to arise from want of wit, and superstitious simplicity. But say men what they will, the gospel is the wisdom of God; and the obedience of it, the wisdom of God's people in his sight, and in all theirs, that judge aright: which to neglect, and true happiness in it, is the madness of folly.
We say of some that they have good wits, if wise men had them in keeping. But as wooden daggers are fitter for some, than those of iron and steel; so a blunt wit is indeed fittest for him, who wants discretion and wisdom how to use it: without which the sharp wit is as dangerous, as is the sharp knife in a child's hand, or dagger at a fool's back. And as sharp wits without wisdom are dangerous, so are they pernicious without grace: serving to make men both more incorrigible, and more inexcusable, and fitter instruments of the devil, for mischief: even as the fat soil unordered brings forth greatest plenty of thorns and weeds. “The serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field,” Gen. iii. 1: and of him before the rest the devil made choice to deceive by: who accordingly so well fitted his turn at the first, as ever since he hath well liked, and much used such subtle and serpent-like instruments for mischievous purposes. But the serpent, who was more subtle than other beasts, was also cursed by the Lord above all other beasts; and so are those serpent-like men; for whom how much better were it, if they had been born idiots, and natural fools, than to abuse God's good gifts of natural wit, to the dishonour of the giver, as they do !