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CHAPTER XXXIII.: of afflictions. - 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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All afflictions are for sin, as the deserving cause: for living man mourneth for the punishment of his sin. Lam. iii 39,40. Whereupon the prophet tells the Jews, that their own wickedness should correct them. Jer. ii. 19. Neither doth God punish, but where man sins, saith one. Now to set these two together orderly, is the property of a wise man, Jer, ix. 12: and accordingly in our afflictions, to mourn, for our sins, which we then rightly do, when out of the clear sight of their odiousness in God's account, we more yehemently desire the pardon of them, than the removing of the bodily punishment: as who having understanding in him, would not rather have the bodily sore healed, than the plaster, though biting, taken from it? And withal, when we acknowledge, that our afflictions are infinitely less, than our sins, which they that do not, neither know God's justice, nor their own demerits as they ought. Neither yet is it sufficient, that in such cases, we confess our sin, and how we have'walked contrary unto God, Lev. xxvi. 20; but we must withal confess our misery, and that God hath walked contrary unto us, and brought our present afflictions upon us. ln confessing our sins we shame ourselves, and declare our naughtiness: but in acknowledging ourselves justly punished for them; we honour God, as a wise, powerful, and just Judge. Josh. vii. 19.
Notwithstanding there be always the desert of sin procuring punishment: yet God doth not always principally aim at that; hut sometimes, that his power may be seen, as in the man born blind, John ix. 1—3: sometimes, for the honour of his holy name, having been blasphemed of his enemies, by the sins of his servants, as it was by David's adultery, and other mischiefs following thereupon: 2 Sam. xii. 13, 14, sometimes, for man's salvation, as we see in the sufferings of Christ: sometimes, for the confirmation of Others, by testimony given to the truth,* as in the case of Stephen, whose sufferings, saith one, exhort to the confession thereof:† sometimes, for the trial of our faith, James i. 3, seeing without afflictions neither others know us, nor we ourselves,‡ and for the shaming of the devil therein, as in the case of Job: sometimes, to draw men nearer to himself by humiliation, and repentance, which is a general end: sometimes, to wean us from the love of the world, unto which we are too much addicted, notwithstanding all the sorrows which we do find in it; and like foolish travellers, love our way, though troublesome, instead of our country:§ sometimes, to prevent some sin ready to break out in us ', as physicians let blood to prevent sickness: lastly, to make the glory which shall be showed, and whereof our afflictions are not worthy, the more glorious, 2 Cor. xii. 7—9; as the sun is, when the clouds are driven away, wherewith, for a time, it hath been darkened.|| Now, as it were to be wished, that we could always certainly know the Lord's particular ends in afflicting us, as we may gather much ordinarily, by the knowledge of his Word, observation of his dealing towards ourselves, and others, and due examination of our estate, and ways in his sight; so it is most necessary for all his people, ever to hold this general Conclusion; that in all their afflictions the justice and mercy of God meet together; and that he begins in justice, and will end in mercy, with them.
God hath, in a peculiar manner, entailed afflictions to the sincere profession of the gospel, above that of the law before Christ. The law was given by Moses, whose ministry began with killing the Egyptian, that oppressed the Israelite; and was prosecuted with leading the people out of Egypt, through the sea, and wilderness, with great might, and a strong hand; and lastly, was finished with bloody victory over Sihon, and Og the kings of Canaan. But Christ's dispensation was all of another kind: his birth mean; his life sorrowful; and his death shameful. And albeit the love of God towards his people be always the same in itself, yet is the manifestation thereof very diverse. Before Christ's coming in the flesh, in whom the grace of God appeared, God showed his love more fully in earthly blessings, and peace; and more sparingly in spiritual, and heavenly; but now, on the other side, he dealeth forth temporal blessings more sparingly; and spiritual with a fuller hand. It is not improbably gathered, that, after the destruction of the dragon, and beast, and recalling of the Jews after their long divorce from the Lord, the blessings of both kinds shall meet together, and the Church enjoy, for a time, a very graceful state upon earth both in regard of spiritual, and bodily good things.
In the meanwhile, many would fain have their worldly advantage, and the obedience of the gospel to agree together, further than they will. And when they cannot frame the world and their worldly conveniency to the gospel; they will fashion the gospel to the world, and to their carnal courses in it. Pity it is, that such men were not of the Lord's council, when he first contrived, and preached his gospel; that they might have helped him in some such discreet, and middle course, as might have served the turn both for heaven, and earth. But let the world, in its foolish wisdom, say and do what it will, or can; “the way is narrow, which leads unto life,” Matt. vii. 18, 14: and considering man's naughtiness, it is neither fit, nor hardly possible, that it should be broader.
All the afflictions which Christians suffer are not afflictions of Christ: nor all the crosses which they take up, the crosses of Christ. The afflictions of Christ may be set in three ranks. The first, and those most properly so called, are when men for Christ's cause, hate, revile, and persecute us, The second, when we suffer evils, which we might be free from, and escape, if we dared deny in word, or deed any part of Christ's truth. The third, and last sort are, such as befall us in the course of godliness, though, human, and as they do all other men; as bodily sickness, death of friends, crosses, and losses by sea, and land, and the like. If we be members of Christ our such afflictions are the afflictions of Christ; else the mercy showed, and good done to such were not done to Christ. But now, if he that in his person is a true Christian, suffer for evil doing, he takes not up the cross of Christ, but of the devil therein; and if he put himself upon needless danger, and difficulties, he takes not up Christ's cross, but his own herein: and so hath his amends in his own hands. Yet may even afflictions so coming, by our true repentance, be sanctified unto us, and we please God in their use, though not in their cause.
Both good conscience and wisdom must be used in applying such scriptures, as speak of the afflictions of Christians for well-doing: neither is all that can be said out of every text thereabout, to be applied to all times. For howsoever hardly at any time, or in any place, things go so well, especially in our days, which even they, who are none of the best themselves, will confess, yea complain to be extremely evil, but that truth goes with a scratched face, less, or more; yet the differences of times and state of things must be observed, and put this way. Yea further, though the times in general should be very evil; yet for a person, who himself is well furnished with earthly good things, well fed, and glad, and in outward peace, to dwell much upon the afflictions of Christians, specially with application to the present state of things, is not to hold decorum, but hath an appearance more orator, than preacher-like.
We are never simply to desire crosses, because they are natural evils: nor to abhor from them, because we know they work together with our election, calling, justification, and sanctification, for our good, Rom. viii 30: not as causes thereof, as the forenamed are, for the effects of sin cannot be the causes of righteousness or happiness; nor yet as means properly, as are the word, sacraments, prayer, and examples of good men: but only as occasions capable of sanctification to our use, which sins properly are not, as having no good in them, as such; whereas afflictions have a moral good in them, as they are of God, and by him inflicted. Though to speak of crosses most properly, God sanctifies us to them, in giving us grace to make a right use of them. And considering, how it is both good for us to be afflicted, and that God hath promised, that “no good thing shall be lacking to them that fear him,” Psa. xxxiv. 9; cxix. 71; we are thus to make account; that God afflicts us, as he doth, not only in justice for sin, but in faithfulness also; that is, both in mercy, and in truth of promise: and must accordingly confess with the man of God; “I know, 0 Lord, that thy judgments are righteous; and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me,” Psa. cxix. 75: and so must learn to take our several crosses at God's hands, not only patiently, but thankfully. We have cause to thank ourselves, and our sins, that wholesome things both for body and soul are for the most part bitter and grievous to our nature: and to thank God, that makes afflictions bittersweets, by turning deserved curses into fatherly corrections to us.
It is commonly received for truth, that in all adversity the greatest misery is, sometimes to have been happy.* But we must here use a distinction. If we only respect the time in which we are in misery, apart from the former time, we are both more sensible of our present misery, by remembering our former happiness,† and also more tender, and delicate, and so less able to bear it. But if we consider our whole life together; then the less time we are afflicted, the less our afflictions are, in that respect, and so must be minded of us. It is not nothing, that God hath given us to pass over some part of our days in peace and with comfort: neither must we be so unthankful, as to account it no benefit, because it is past: but we must, contrariwise, something quiet ourselves in our present affliction with the remembrance of God's goodness in our former peace; as did our “example of patience,” James v, 11, who in the extremity of his present distress said, “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil ?” Job ii. 10. Reason teacheth. this, except in a case, when God lifts up a man on high, that he may the more violently throw him down, how much more, faith, which persuades the godly man's heart, that the Lord loves him as well, and as much, in his after afficted estate, as he did before in his prosperous; as the goldsmith esteems his gold as much, though melting in the furnace, as glittering in the shop; and that the same God will both give patience, and strength of faith, according to the trial, and increase of strength if he increase the affliction; as also full deliverance in due time. “He will redeem Israel from all his trouble.” Psa. xxv. 22.
As even good men perform their whole duty to God, with some corruption mingled among: so God promiseth, and performeth accordingly, the good things of this life, with exception of the cross, and tribulation. If we could amend the one, God would leave out the other. Mark x. 30,
The Lord who tried Abraham in his son Isaac, whom he loved; and the rich young man in his riches which he loved, knows well in what vein to strike a man, that the blood may follow. The more we love any earthly thing, we are the more in danger to be crossed in, or about it. Not that God envies our delights, as one man often envies another's: but either because we do, or lest we should surfeit in affections towards it.
Most men are moved too much with their own miseries in this world, melting in them, as wax in the sun, so as they are unapt to hold any impression either of faith, or reason: but are too little moved with other men's calamities, not affording them so much as a compassionate affection. Yet may, and doth the contrary extreme of over pitying others also, prevail with some. Against both which it is good to consider, that either we, and they reap spiritual benefit by our afflictions, or no. If the former; that may, and ought to moderate the grief: if not; there is cause of greater grief for after greater afflictions to come upon us and them.
A man may much increase, or lessen a cross by the course, which he suffers his mind to run in it; seeing all crosses have some conveniences joined with them, as all commodities have some discommodities. If a man set his thoughts a work upon the inconveniences, and discommodities alone, which are in it, he shall heap sorrow upon sorrow. But if, on the contrary, he draw into consideration such conveniences, as usually fall in with their contraries; he shall always find some matter of ease: and sometimes, that “meat comes out of the eater,” Judges xiv. 14, and that, which at first seemed a cross, is rather a benefit. It is a most dangerous thing for any to deem his afflictions extraordinary; lest by so doing, he prejudice himself against ordinary comforts, which we should with readiness and thankfulness embrace, and not look for angels from heaven to comfort us, or for manna from heaven to feed us.