Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXIV.: of good intentions. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XXIV.: of good intentions. - 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 good intentions.
A good meaning no more sufficeth to make a good action, than a fair mark doth to make a good shot, by an unskilful archer. This hath been fully verified in the Jews, who out of no less good end, than the zeal of God, and desire, such as it was, to do him pleasing service,persecuted Christ and his disciples to the death. What intention could be better, or action worse? We must not therefore take the sanctuary of fools by good meanings, without knowledge: but first setting our faces towards heaven by meaning well, must further so far honour God, and humble ourselves to him, as to resign our whole man also into his hands, to be guided by him in the way thither: joining our prayers with his, who had less need to fear stepping aside that way, than we, and yet said, “With mine whole heart have I sought thee; O let me not wander from thy commandments.” Psa. cxix. 10.
And yet albeit a good end alone sufficeth not: yet there is nothing either good, or tolerable without it, no, not though it have never so good success.* Although the good meaning excuse not wholly, yet the evil wholly condemns.† This good intention and end is the first, and last in every lawful action. It is the first, and that which sets the agent a-work to do what he doth, whether working reasonably, or naturally. It is the last, and so the best, and that at which he aims, as the perfection of his work.
And this, where it is found God so much regardeth, as he sometimes prevents an evil action in him, in whom he sees a good intention; as is to be seen in Abimelech, king of Gerar, whom God kept from sinning against him, and suffered not to touch Sarah, Abraham's wife, because he had taken her into his house, in the integrity of his heart. Gen. xx. 3—6. Sometimes also God rewards the good purpose, yea though he refuse the work intended, as incompetent, for some special cause; as in David, when he would have built the Lord an house. 2 Sam. vii. 23. Always, he that means well, yea though the work be evil, which he doth, makes the devil, after a sort, serve God in it. He that doth that, which is good in itself for an evil end, makes God serve Satan: he that doth that, which is evil for a good end, makes Satan therein, though not warrantably, serve God; as the means serve the end. And considering how little truly good doing there is amongst men, in comparison; it were well there were more good meaning, yea though it were without knowledge. By which both fewer mischiefs would be done, and they that are done would therein be less heinous. We measure things, saith one, and it is true, in a respect, by the ends of goodness; and so better miss, and we shall miss less, in the means, than in the end.* He who hath the mark in his eye, and aims at it, will hardly miss so much, as he that takes a wrong mark to shoot at. And for true goodness; he who gets this general grace, to have his heart indeed, and seriously bent upon the course of piety towards God, and innocency towards men, the Lord will not so far suffer to err in his way, as to miss of heaven in the end, notwithstanding his particular aberration of human frailty; which God will cover under the veil of his rich mercy, by the person's sincere faith, and general repentance.