Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXIX.: of riches and poverty. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XXIX.: of riches and poverty. - 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 riches and poverty.
It is the first degree of riches to have what is necessary; the next to have what is enough.* And, indeed, he is a rich man, who wants no outward means, wherewith to maintain himself, and his, plentifully, in that state of life in which God hath set him, whether high, or low: and he poor, on the contrary, to whom that proportion is wanting. And, hence, it comes to pass, that there are poor kings and rich cobblers; poor landlords and rich tenants: as there are warm days in winter and cold in summer; respecting the season of the year.
Besides, if a person have the possession, and not the use of riches, and be sick of that disease which Solomon saw, and experience of all ages confirms to be common among men; namely of a man, to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul, of all that he desireth: and yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, Eccl. vi. 2; I would not call him, but rather his chests and storehouses rich; seeing, he as well wants that which he hath, in regard of its use and end, as that which he hath not.†
A friend of mine in the University was wont to tell me merrily and wittily, that surely there was something in this money, more and better, than he and I saw; seeing such a great, wise, and learned man, whom he would name, loved it so well; and such another, as wise and learned as he, as well as he; and so a third, and a fourth. He knew well enough, it was not any good in it, which we saw not; but lust, and filthy covetousness in them, whose learning and wisdom should have taught them to despise and hate such base mindedness. And in truth, if in any other thing, baseness of mind is seen in the love of money, and so they are justly contemned in the eyes of others, that are enamoured of it. Some do make their belly their God, Phil, iii. 19; and those are men of an abject spirit: others their riches, for covetousness is idolatry, Eph. v. 5; and that in a special work of devotion, by trusting to them, which no man doth to his belly: yet is the covetous, of the two, the more vile, and serves the baser god: for the life, and belly, for which food is, are better than food; and yet food for the belly is the best part of riches, and that of which alone Adam in innocency stood need. If men were not above measure infatuated with sensuality, they, who know inward good things, would not affect outward, inordinately. That fools and idiots, that know no better things, should love money, is not strange: for oxen love grass; and swine draff; and every creature naturally the best thing which it knows: but that wise and learned men, and they who know the good things of the mind, specially the good things of God in his Word, should so doat upon it, is most vile, and monstrous. Some love money for itself, and for the bare possession of it, and because they delight to tell their pence: but that is the case of few of learning, or wisdom. But as moles by digging in the earth raise up hills; so do they hope to climb up by this baseness; as being set a work, this way, by ambition, for the most part, which too often breeds in the breasts of men rarely endowed; as the canker doth in sweet flowers. For such men esteeming themselves worthy of account in the world for their excellency: and perceiving riches the readiest way to procure it, or make way for it, they lay hold thereof with both hands: and being seduced with the love of money for that end, do for the getting and keeping of it, pierce themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. vi. 10.
“ The blessing of the Lord maketh rich.” Prov. x. 22. If wealth come by inheritance; it is God's blessing that a man is born of rich friends, and not of beggars: if by means of free gift; it is his blessing, that hath made them able and willing to do us good: if goods be gotten by industry, providence, and skill; it is God's blessing that both gives the faculty, and the use of it, and the success unto it. And as riches are in themselves God's blessings, so are we to desire them of him, and to use lawful diligence to get them: for. the comfortable course of our natural, and civil state: for though we are to be able to bear poverty, if God send it, yet should we rather desire riches; as a man, though he can go afoot, yet will rather choose to ride.* Secondly, to free us from such temptations unto sin, as poverty puts many upon. Prov. xxx. 8, 9. Thirdly, that they may minister unto us and ours, more plentiful matter of exercising virtue and goodness.† especially of mercy towards the poor, and them in need. God could, if he would, either have made men's states more equal, or have given every one sufficient of his own: but he hath rather chosen to make some rich, and some poor, that one might stand in need of another, and help another, Deut. xv. 7, 11; that so he might try the mercy and goodness of them that are able, in supplying the wants of the rest. And the richer sort that make not this account, know not wherefore God hath given them their goods; and are as poor in grace, as rich in the world.
Both poverty and riches, if they be in any extremity, have their temptations, and those not small: in which regard Agur prays to God to give him neither of both, but to feed him with food convenient for him. Prov. xxx. 8, 9. And, in truth, the middle state is freest from the greatest danger either of sin, or misery, in the world: as Icarus's father told him, that the middle way was safest for his waxen wings, neither to be moistened with the water, nor molten with the heat of the sun.‡ And of the two states, the wise man insinuates in that his prayer to the Lord, that the temptations of riches are the more dangerous. Poverty may drive a man to steal, or deal unjustly with others; and after to lie, or, it may be, and, as the Holy Ghost insinuates, by swearing to “take the name of God in vain,” to cover it: but if a man be rich, and full, he is in danger to deny God, and to say in pride, and contempt of him in effect, as Pharaoh did, “ who is the Lord?” For hardly doth anything cause the mind to swell more with pride, than riches; both by reason of the ease and plenty of worldly good things, which they bring with them: as also of the credit, which rich men, or their purses, have in the world; and both those specially, if they have gotten their wealth by their own art, or industry. He that is proud in a poor estate, would in a rich, be intolerable before men, as he is, in the meanwhile, abominable in God's sight: he that is humble in a prosperous, is a good scholar of Christ, and hath taken out a hard lesson, which the apostle would have Timothy to charge the rich withal; which is, that they should “ not be high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches.” 1 Tim. vi. 17. From rich men's pride in themselves ariseth, commonly, contempt of others, specially of the poor. I have known Nabals, who, in my conscience, have thought, that all that were not rich, were fools, notwithstanding any eminency in them of gifts, or graces. But thus to mock, or despise the poor, is to “reproach God that made him so,” Prov. xvii. 5: and besides, if the person be wise and godly, as he may well be, for any bar that his poverty puts against him; it is withal, to despise the image of God's wisdom and goodness in him. Eccl. ix. 16. But for us; considering how the truly wise, by the Spirit of God, pronounceth that “ the poor who walketh in his uprightness, is better than he that is perverse in his way though rich,” Prov. xxviii. 6; as also, that “a poor and wise child is better than an old and foolish king,” Eccl. iv. 13; we should have that strength of faith against sense, and carnal reason, as, in all resolvedness, to prefer an honest, or wise poor man before a rich Nabal. Besides, though still the “ rich man be,” and will be “ wise in his own eyes; yet the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out,” Prov. xxviii. 11: and by searching often finds, that little wit, being employed wholly thereabout, and less grace, serves to get wealth with. A poor and plain person seeing a Dives ruffle in silks, and glitter in gold, and silver, is half ready to worship him, as a petty god, many times: but after finds by his speech, and other carriage, by which a fool and wise man are differenced, that if he had so done, he had but worshipped a golden calf.
God sends poverty upon men to humble them, both in the want of bodily comforts, and, specially, in regard of the contempt, which it ever casts upon men in the world's eye.* And blessed indeed are they, who by poverty, and other worldly crosses, are humbled so as to become “poor in spirit,” Matt. v. 3: not being of those, of whom the complaint is, that they are humiliati, not humiles. As if a rich man be humble, he is not of the rich of the world:* so if a poor man be proud, he is not of the Lord's poor, and blessed ones,† Some are of opinion, that none but rich folks can be proud. But the pride of many, as was said of Diogenes, may be seen through their rags. And who ever saw any prouder, than some such worms, as in whom no others could discern anything outward or inward, saving the devil, that should make them so ? God in his good and wise providence many times sends poverty, and other calamities upon such, to restrain them; whose overswellings of pride, if they enjoyed a prosperous state, would make them both odious and troublesome to all societies.
There be some, who out of a kind of natural diligence, patience, parsimony, and contentment with mean things, seem so fitted for a poor and mean state, as that if they were ever pressed with want, they would ever be good, and virtuous; but being rich and wealthy, are either baseminded, or arrogant, in the eyes of all men. There are also, who, by their kind and courteous disposition, seem so fitted for prosperity, and plenty, that if they ever enjoyed it, they would be no meanly good people; and yet falling into a poor and needy condition, they appear not only impatient, but unconscionable also. But the truth is, that howsoever some be fitter for the one estate than the other, and so carry it better to the world; yet he that is not, in his measure, fit for either, is indeed fit for neither. The apostle had learned, and so must all good Christians with him, “ both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need.” Phil. iv. 12. He that is “not faithful in a little, would not be faithful in a great deal,” Luke xvi. 8—10; and so, for the contrary. He that is impatient, or unhonest in poverty, would be and is wanton, or arrogant, or otherwise faulty, though, more closely, in abundance: neither is any broken with an afflicted state, save he who is too much inveigled with a prosperous.‡ He again, whose course is either too high, or too low, in plenty, would never keep a mean in want.
The over-valuation of riches drives divers men to divers, yea, contrary appearances: some to “ make themselves rich, though they have nothing:” and others, “ to make show of poverty, though they have all abundance.” Prov. xiii. 7. The former so much esteem of riches, and think them so much esteemed of by others, as that, if they seem not to the world to have them, their life is a death unto them: and therefore they will be sure to make a fair outside, and appear rich, though they be nothing less. The other esteeming themselves happy in having, and keeping them; conceal and spare that their treasure, what they can; lest by having it known, they should be occasioned, one way or other, to diminish it. Both are injurious to God, to other men, and to themselves. To God, in belying him; the former, as if he had given them that which he hath not: the latter, as not having given them that which he hath.* To others; the former, in getting into their hands the riches, which they cannot satisfy for; or credit, which they deserve not: the latter by withholding both from God and men their due. To themselves; the former, in frustrating the occasion of humiliation, unto which the Lord by poverty calls them, James i. 9, 10: the latter, by preventing, or quenching the provocations unto thankfulness to God for his plenty bestowed upon them, besides other comfortable effects thereof.
The apostle points at some Christians, so called, that “will be rich,” 1 Tim. vi. 9, even, whether God will, or no; and say he what he will, and almost do he what he can, to hinder it, they will be rich, if it may be, keeping faith and good conscience in outward profession; if that will not be, they will be rich without them; and rather lose their own souls than not gain the world. Matt. xvi. 16. But “ woe be unto them; for they run greedily after the error of Balaam,” Jude 11; and will have God also run with them, otherwise, he is not for their company.