Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XIX.: of examples. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XIX.: of examples. - 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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The rules in some sciences, especially speculative, and for truth only, are grounded upon examples, and gathered by wise observation, and induction of particulars: but so are not Divine and moral rules. Neither is anything to be reputed good and just in itself, and so exemplary to us, because such and such men have done it: but they have done it, if doing their duty therein, because it is good, just, and lawful: and so are unto us examples of faith, patience, mercy, and the like, as they in their particular courses expressed these, and the like virtues; and not otherwise. Only he, that can do nothing but good, is our absolute example in things which concern us.
Particular facts commended in Holy Scripture are general examples, and bind to imitation, when either the same thing is elsewhere commanded in general; or where either the ground, or drift, or equity of the thing in general.† And thus the very both miraculous and meritorious works of Christ, though in their particular nature, causes, and ends inimitable, are so far forth our examples, and to be followed by us, as the holy virtues of faith, patience, and obedience. towards God, and of love, and compassion towards men shine forth in them.
Moral examples serve first for confirmation, and commendation unto others of the truth and goodness contained in precepts, and are therefore called by some the pledges of rules.* Secondly, for direction in particulars agreeable unto precepts, but not expressed in them. Thirdly, to tole† men on in obedience active, or passive; for even lazy travellers will hold out with good company, which beat the path before them. And this help examples specially afford, by taking away the excuse of frailty, that we are ready to make, against the obedience, which yet we confess, and are convinced that we owe.‡ Now the precedents and examples of godly men, as of “Abraham the father of the faithful in believing under hope against hope,” Rom. iv. 18; and of Job in keeping patience in extremity of trials, and the like, are as a “cloud of witnesses,” James v. 11, going before us, as did “the pillar of cloud,” Heb. xii. 1, before the Israelites in the wilderness to show them the way: and do testify against our withdrawing hearts, that other frail men, as we are, by the power of the same grace of God, whereof we are made partakers, have performed due obedience unto God, in such and greater trials than ours are. So that as in the precepts we have the Word of God, and his will in it to direct us; so in those patterns of godliness we have his work, and, as it were his visible hand reached down from heaven to lead us in the way, which by his Word we are appointed to walk in. By which if we profit not, we take the name of our God in vain both in his word and works, in which he makes himself known for our good.
He who makes another his ensample, really acknowledgeth both the want and the desire of that perfection in himself, which he imitates in the other. And so Parmeno in his, how artificial soever, imitating of the grunting of a sow, aimed at but a swinish perfection.§ The like is to be said of children's playing of bulls and bears and horses. To which purpose tendeth the saying of a great lord, that women's imitation of men, as their perfection, in apparel, gesture and the like, might better be borne, than men's effeminate and degenerate imitation of women.|| Which also the practice of Lycurgus confirmed in training up maids in manly exercises, and making them thereby, after a sort, masculine; whereas usually by riot and wantonness, men are transformed into women, and made feminine.*
Many think themselves good enough, if there be any worse than they. But we should not strive with the worst, but with the best rather; making apace, and as fast as we can, after them, though we come never so far behind them, in wisdom and goodness: as the apostle exhorts the Corinthians to “be followers of him, as he was of Christ.” 1 Cor. xi. 1. Yea, further, as Eupompus would imitate nature and no workman in painting:† so neither should we stint our endeavours and desires absolutely at the degree of goodness, to which any mere man is come before us: but should aim at the very perfection, which the law of God requires. Men in shooting aim at the white, though sometimes they miss the butt. Only “the law of God,” Psa. xix., which only is perfect, must be made by us the absolute rule of our life and ways.
As landmarks are set up by the sea-shore not only to teach men which way to take, but sometimes also which to leave: so are sundry examples even of good men propounded in Holy Scripture not for imitation, but for warning. And a very preposterous course it is to follow good men, wherein they do evil: which they that use, are like unto apes and dotterels, that are aptest to imitate men in their mops and mows‡ and unseemly gestures. And if it were folly in the Persians to esteem such men the fairest, as had hooked noses, because Cyrus their king had such a one;§ it is mere madness in Christians to deem vices, virtues; and errors, truths, or either the one or other to be embraced, through superstitious admiration of some men's persons, in which they are found. But as the “Egyptians following the Israelites with the dark part of the' cloud towards them, were drowned in the sea,” Exod. xiv. 23, which the other passed through safely, so they who follow good men in their failings, and not in their virtues, shall surely be punished, when the other escape. Notwithstanding, although examples of others great and ancient cannot make sins to be no sins; yet doth it something lessen their blame, who are misled by such guides; as it was in the polygamy of the patriarchs;* and both hath been, and is in other the like traditional evils.
Some pretend the examples of good men in their failings for the excuse of the evils, which they themselves have a mind to do and would do, though none ever had done them before them or should do them after them: others, are indeed misled by their aberrations. In both the devil shows himself his crafts-master. And hardly can he more improve evil, than when he so works, that a good or great man's virtues, which he cannot abolish, should countenance and commend his vices to others. By how much therefore the more any person excelleth in knowledge, wisdom, virtue, or authority; by so much the carefuller must he be, that he furnish not from thence the enemy of God's glory, and man's salvation, with weapons of advantage for evil, from whence the special means of his overthrow therein, are to be taken, as, by God's appointment, they are, from great, and good men. And if anything possibly could, surely this would make the very saints in heaven sorrowful for their failings upon earth, that others having by their example, or other provocations, been drawn to evil, whereof they never repenting, as the principals did, do for the same suffer the eternal wrath of God, which they by true repentance have escaped.
Examples of superiors are strong cords to draw on others, either to good or evil: in which regard, it is rightly said, that great men have no small either virtues or vices: with which that of Austin consorts, the joy for the great, is great, if they be good, because it is not for them alone.† So on the contrary, when Peter “dissembled for fear of them of the circumcision; not only the other Jews dis sembled likewise with him, but Barnabas also was carried away with that their dissimulation.” Gal. ii. 11. How good were it for inferiors, that superiors minded this, as they ought! How much better for themselves! That they might be warned to take heed, that they increase not the guilt, and extent of their personal sins by making them exemplary. He that having many standing under him, falls from aloft, may easily bruise others besides himself, with his fall. And if the blind do lead the blind, though both “fall into the ditch,” Matt. xv. 14; yet the guide falls under; and so is pressed, besides his own, with the other's burden, that falls after and upon him. As, on the contrary, he that furthers others by his holy example, in virtue and godliness, hath his part in their goodness also both in the eyes of God and men.
[†]To invite, or draw by allurement.
[‡]In making mouths.