Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXVI.: of labour, and idleness. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XXVI.: of labour, and idleness. - 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 labour, and idleness.
God, who would have our first father, even in innocency, and being lord of the whole world, to labour, though without pain or wearisomeness, in dressing the garden; and when he had sinned, to eat his bread with the sweat of his brows, Gen. ii. 8—15; iii. 19, would have none of his sinful posterity lead their life in idleness; no, nor without exercising themselves diligently in some lawful calling, or other. I say diligently; for as poor men play for recreation, now and then; so do rich men work. But that sufficeth not. For God who hath in the natural body appointed unto every member its office, and function, which it is constantly to exercise; would have no member in any society, or body of men ordinarily unemployed. Neither doth that man, how great or rich soever, keep a good conscience before God, who makes labour but an accessary, and not a principal, and that which takes up his ordinary time. Man is born to sore labour, in body, or mind, as the spark to fly upward. Job v. 7. In heaven is only rest without labour: in hell, restless pain and torment: and as sin makes the earth, which is between both, liker to hell, than heaven; so God for sin hath given to the sons of man sore travail to afflict them upon earth, Eccl. i. 13. And that in His most wise and gracious providence, considering the mischiefs that come by idleness: as, the weakening of the endowments of nature; whereas labour brings strength to the body, and vigour to the mind:* yea the consumption of grace, as rust consumes the iron for want of using:† yea, whereas idleness brings bodily poverty like an armed man, Prov. vi. 11: it brings not only spiritual poverty in graces with it, but withal, a legion of vices, like so many armed devils; puffing up the flesh with pride, and making the heart Satan's anvil, who is commonly least idle, when men are most, whereon to forge a thousand vanities, and sinful lusts, as having a fit opportunity to persuade men to do evil, when he finds them doing nothing;‡ that so they, who will not sweat on earth,§ either with the labour of the hand, or heart, though king Alphonsus said that God and nature had given kings hands as well as other men, might sweat in hell:|| and that .if they will not bear their part in the pains of men, they might partake in the pains of the devils.¶ Whereas, on the contrary, if we do that which is good, and well done, though with labour, and painfulness; the labour is soon over, and gone, whereas the goodness and reward thereof remain behind.**
Proud folk despise labour, and them that use it: and so it would be thought by many, far meaner than Joseph's brethren, a disgraceful question to be asked, as they were by Pharaoh; “ Of what occupation they were ?” Gen. xlvii. 3. And this difference I have observed, for the matter in hand, that whereas in plentiful countries, such as our own, it is half a shame to labour: in such others, wherein art and industry must supply nature's defects, as in the country where I have last lived, it is a shame for a man not to work, and exercise himself in some one or other lawful vocation. And, in truth, there is more comfort to a good man in that which he gets, or saves by his labour, and providence, and God's blessing thereupon, than in that which comes to him any other way. For he considers it not only as a fruit of God's love, but withal, as a reward of his obedience unto God's commandment of labour and travail to be undergone in this world of the children of men. It is a “ blessing upon every one that feareth the Lord, and walks in his ways, that he shall eat the labour of his hands.” Psa. cxxviii. 2. And, he that without his own labour either of body or mind, eats the labour of other men's hands only, and lives by their sweat, is but like unto lice, and such other vermin. Let every godly Christian, in his place, say with Christ, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.” John ix. 4. Longa quiescendi tempora fata dabunt.
It is a great blessing, when God gives a man grace and wisdom to take pains about things first lawful, and secondly profitable. The diligent in evil are but like the devil, who compasseth the earth, Job i. 7, and that “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” 1 Pet. v. 8. Such do best, when they do least.* The life of others is inquieta inertia, busying, and ofttimes troubling both themselves, and others, with things altogether unprofitable; like the kings of Egypt in building their pyramids, to the mispending of their own money, and the people's labour. I have known divers, that with the tithe of the study, and pains taken by them, had it been rightly improved, and to profitable uses, might have benefited both themselves, and others far more, than they have done, with all their diligence, and that with good meaning also.
Labour spent upon things eternal must not be counted lost, or too much: seeing temporal things of any worth are not usually obtained without it. And surely, if heaven and happiness could be had with so little pains and trouble, as the world reckons; it were strange, if they were worth the having. And yet how many might obtain the pearl of Christ promised with less pains, than they take for earthly and transitory things, which yet ofttimes they are disap pointed of !† yea, I add, than many take for hell, which their wickedness brings upon them unavoidably! “ Labour not for the meat which perisheth: but for that meat, which endureth unto eternal life,” John vi. 27, saith Christ our Lord.