Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XVIII.: of experience. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER XVIII.: of experience. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
Only God is not taught by experience, to whose knowledge all things are present, at all times, and before all times. But there is no creature so perfect in wisdom and knowledge, but may learn something for time present and to come, by times past. The day following, saith one, is scholar to that which went before.* And the virtue, saith another, which nature denies, experience brings to wise men.† So as though it be the mistress of fools, who will learn no wisdom but that which is beaten into them with rods through a torn skin: yet are the wisest taught many things by it, and so become of commendable, admirable: as Antigonus being asked, who was the best captain in his time, answered, Pyrrhus, if he grew old.‡ And even experience teacheth, that there are many particulars, and those tending both to our natural and spiritual state, which neither our own wit, art, study, or conscience, nor the information, counsel, or example of others can teach us; which yet we learn by this dull mistress experience.
This, if it be ripe, and but joined with any indifferent capacity and diligence, to compare together events past, and present occurrences, will afford better help for direction, in doubtful cases, than any other ordinary rules: as a man can better in the dark find the way, to which he hath been used, than another that never went it can do, by the beat instructions and directions that can be given him. And it seems to have been one end why God gave our great grandfathers in the first age of the world, so long life, that by experience, and observation they might learn the skill, and art of sundry courses, specially of the stars:* the knowledge whereof otherwise, without miracle, would hardly, if at all, have been attained to. I conclude upon the premises, that men of experience, with which wit, and sometimes authority without wit, is still at jar, are not lightly to be gainsaid or neglected in their faculty: seeing experience is gotten by sense, which easily errs not in its proper object; whereas the discourse of reason is very subject to swerve in inferring and concluding of things. Yet hath this plodding guide, experience, this danger in it, that it leads men on in the beaten way to which it hath been used, without due consideration of such variable circumstances, as fall in, and make cases past and present, though alike in general nature, yet in particular application and consideration very unlike: of which differences wit and art make men more able to discern.
Though all knowledge be good in itself, as tending to perfect the understanding, yet the getting of it is not always good; as when it is gotten by experience of punishment, specially of sin, as our first parents got the knowledge of evil both ways, to their and our cost, in eating the forbidden fruit,† A man may buy gold, so may he experimental knowledge, too dear. Solomon seeking by experience to try the “delights of all things under heaven,” Eccl. i. 2, and being too bold in wading in that stream, that he might know the depth of it, fell in, and without God's special helping hand, had been drowned therein for ever. Woeful then is the experience, which is gotten by sin, and misery, our own, or other men's either: like that of Hexophilus the physician, that butchered six hundred men, that he might search into man's bodily nature: destroying man, that he might know him.*
The servants of God are sometimes so pressed with the sense of present temptations, as that their special comfort ariseth from the recourse they have to the “experience of the days of old, and years of antiquity,” Psa. lxxvii. 7, 8: considering that God casts not off for ever, nor forgets to be favourable to his any more. So some in age, and under temptations, have received more comfort from their former experience, though of a weaker measure, of grace, in their childhood, than they could of a greater, in their riper years.