Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVII.: of discretion. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XVII.: of discretion. - 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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Discretion is a skill enabling a man to improve himself in all his affairs and whatsoever he is, or hath, to best advantage, according to variable circumstances and occasions. Sapience, or wisdom stands in bare contemplation of things excellent gathered from principles and conclusions: prudence and discretion are for practice: which if we will distinguish; the latter, discretion, is to be restrained to things fit or unfit. This discretion is neither wit, nor wisdom, nor learning, nor any art liberal or illiberal; but that which shows how to govern them all conveniently and every other thing with them: like Iphicrates, who was neither legionary soldier, nor archer, nor targeter, but one that could rule, and use all these.*
And of such use is this discretion, in the whole course of our life in regard of the infinite variety of circumstances, according to which particulars are performed conveniently, or inconveniently; as that we may daily observe men of lesser means for the world, as riches, trading and skill in faculties, and yet doing well in it, yea better by discreet managing their little; than others, wanting this discretion, with far greater helps and measure of means otherwise. Yea, even in Divine matters, some of less knowledge, zeal, diligence, and other general graces, by the benefit of this particular virtue, are found more serviceable to God and profitable to men, than others wanting it, though far exceeding them in the former. Discretion is to be preferred before wit or art or learning; and only comes after goodness in worth.
As the serpent-like generation, specially where truth and honesty go with a scratched face and are in disgrace of the times, esteems men square and upright in their courses, for witless and silly: so must the more shallow-headed take heed, that they censure not discreet carriage, and handling of things, for crafty and unhonest; considering that other men may do that in good and honest discretion, which they, by defect thereof, could not do but in evil conscience. The same honesty and sincerity may continue in a man, though in discretion applying himself diversely to divers occasions: as the hand remains the same, whether closed into a fist or extended abroad,† or bended this or that way, as occasion serves.
Of all enemies this virtue hath none greater than pride; which deprives men, able otherwise, of much, and fools of all use of discretion: as making them either rash, by which they do not, or so presumptuous in themselves, as they will not restrain and humhle their understanding to due consideration of circumstances of conveniency; in the ordering whereof discretion stands. And hence it is, that proud persons above others, fall into many things uncomely and inconvenient. On the contrary, “God guides the humble,” Psa. xxv. 9, in this way of discretion, amongst others. Lastly, as the “discerning of spirits ”is one of “the gifts of God's Spirit,” 1 Cor. xii. 7—11; so are we by prayer to beg at his hands this grace, that we may be enabled to discern both of persons and “things which differ,” Phil. i. 10, so far as concerns us in our places: without which we go but by peradventures, and may do more harm than good, even when we both mean well, and do the thing which is good in itself, if unseasonably.