Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXII.: of health and physic. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XXXII.: of health and physic. - 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 health and physic.
Health is the greatest bodily blessing, which God bestows upon any in this life, yet is it one of the least regarded: partly, by reason of its commonness to all sorts of people, poor and rich, fools and wise, the vilest and most excellent otherwise: partly, for that it is a natural good thing, which we bring, for the most part, into the world with us, and so often preserve, without any sensible change, and accordingly, we see, that no man is the more honoured for his health, which can scarce be said of any other good thing whatsoever. The benefit of this most sweet sauce of all other goods is scarcely discerned by them that enjoy it, till sickness come: for then only Orpheus's, song, but much more our own experience, teacheth us, that nothing is available to men without health: * neither riches, nor honour, nor the greatest delights for belly, or back, which the earth can afford. This blessing therefore, where it is, may be set alone against many other wants: and God acknowledged to deal graciously with us in bestowing it, though with the want of many other outward good things: which, though others enjoy, yet without it, they want the comfortable use of them; and have less joy of their lives by far, than we by it, without them.
The best rule in physic is to preserve health by the use of things wholesome, and eschewing what is noxious, and hurtful, either in matter, or manner, or measure: and that betimes, and before distempers have taken too deep root, or that the strength of nature be too much impaired by the inordinate appetites and licentiousness of unadvised youth. We say in the proverb, “At forty years every man is either a fool, or a physician.” But, because most are fools so long before, and that in their best years; it is too late for them to become physicians at this age, and the after years are constrained to bear the manifold infirmities and diseases which are owing to inordinate youth. And a happy thing it were, considering how few young folks will regard or believe these things till they be taught them by miserable experience, that wise parents and governors would so show their care over their children, pupils, and servants, that, where they cannot dissuade the affection, they might yet prevent the using of those unwholesome and hurtful youth-banes, unto which inordinate appetite carries young folk headlong.
I have marvelled oft at the averseness of many, specially of the meaner sort, from physic, in time of sickness: but more at their unreasonable choice of physicians, when they use it. How ordinary a thing is it with a number, that if but their horse or cow be sick, or but in danger, they will let them blood, or get them a mash, or run to a leech for them ! who yet for themselves, or their nearest friends will neither seek, nor willingly be persuaded to use the counsel or help of a physician. The reasons, hereof, I conceive to be, either, for that men are prone, and ready to persuade themselves, and to be persuaded by their friends, that they shall do well enough without such helps, and that many times out of a superstitious presumption of God's special help, where man's is neglected; or, on the contrary, when they are heartless, and despair of good thereby, But yet more strange is the choice which many make, when they “use means. For though in all other courses, men seek for Such, as are most skilful; yet in this they are not only more ready to believe any that professeth himself a physician, than of any other faculty;* but also choose rather to trust their bodies and lives in the hands of ignorant empirics, men or women, than of the most expert, and learned physicians that are. Which I speak not, as esteeming the counsel or help of the meanest to be neglected, specially where either the more skilful cannot well become by, or that the danger is not great, but for that all things are to be done reasonably, and for the best advantaging and likelihood of good, that may be. The causes of this are on the empirics' part, that they are more officious about their patients; the other being many times supercilious, and neglective of meaner persons: secondly, that they are more bold boasters of their own doings, than the other, whose learning makes them modest: thirdly, their affording their counsel and pains at a cheaper rate than the other do, who, very likely, and as experience teacheth in other countries, if they would descend to that rule of equity in other cases, a pennyworth for a penny, would find, that lighter gains coming thicker, would make heavier purses. Fourthly, their administering of medicines usually less offensive, and loathsome unto nature, which, it may be, the other's skill, and care, if custom made not men less compassionate than they should be, might much correct: though it cannot be denied, that by God's providence, and for man's sin, the most wholesome things either naturally or morally, are bitter and unpleasing. On the patient's part this arises commonly; 1. from the suspicion, lest they being mean and plain persons should either be overreached, or neglected by the learned; 2. from envy, which the learned's arrogancy also often occasions; 3. from an ambitious desire in them, to advance those of their own order; as of old, the citizens of Rome would have their chief officers, even the Consuls, and Dictators, created and chosen out of their rank.* And lastly, for that, if any cure be, or seem to be wrought by them, which want art, men are therein ready to conceive of a special divine assistance, and helping hand of God.
One special use of a skilful artist, is to discern aright of the variety of circumstances that fall in. Simple men and women have many times the same medicines, or simples, at least, with the most skilful doctors: but wanting art, and skill to temper and apply them, according to the diversity of the estates of patients, and variety of accidents within and without the sick, they either profit not; or hurt one way, what they profit another. To which purpose it was wittily answered of the physician, who having prescribed a. medicine to his patient, and thereby cured him; and being asked by him afterwards, why the same medicine, Which the same person, falling into the same disease again, took himself, did not avail him, as before, that the reason was, because he (the physician) gave it him not. Neither is the use greater of the skilful in this consideration, than of the experienced.
Physicians, saith one, and truly, have this advantage above them of other professions, that the sun beholds their cures, and the earth covers their failings.* They that die under their hands, or by their default, are past complaining of them: they that recover and survive, though, sometimes, by the benefit of nature alone, under God's providence, will repute, and report them the means of their recovery. Which consideration makes not the honest, and conscionable the more secure; but the more careful of their account to be given unto God, from whose eyes nothing is covered.