Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XXXVII.: of society and friendship. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XXXVII.: of society and friendship. - 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 society and friendship.
God hath made man a sociable creature; and hath not only ordained several societies, in which persons are to unite themselves for their mutual welfare; but withal so dispensed his blessings, as that no man is so barren, but hath something wherewith to profit others: nor any so furnished, but that he stands need of others to supply his wants, “ The head cannot say to the foot,” much less the foot to the head, “ I have no need of thee.” 1 Cor. xii. 15—17. And the less need thou, by reason of thine abundance of bodily or spiritual endowments, hast of others, the more need they have of thee and thy plenty. To which purpose tended his saying, who having many servants, some better, and some worse, and being moved by one to disburden himself of such as were unprofitable, and to keep the rest, answered; that he stood need of the better; and the worse, of him. “ The king himself is served by the field,” Eccl. v. 9; and stands need of the husbandman, and so doth he of many, of far meaner condition.
Some wrong human societies by being too divine; many more, and much more, by being too bestial. By the former I understand such as, in the profession of devotion towards God, swallow up and dissolve such natural and civil bonds, as wherein God hath tied them unto men, by choosing solitary and monastical lives. All Christians ought to “ have their conversation in heaven,” Phil. iii. 20, and “ to use this world, as though they used it not,” 1 Cor. vii. 31; and herein such as are called to the holy ministry, ought to be en-samples to others, and to go before them; but not to hide themselves in holes from them, as melancholic monks do. So for others; the lesser helps and provocations of grace they can have from them, with whom they are occasioned to converse, they are to be the more frequent with God in the personal exercises of piety: but so as they take heed that they wrong not father and mother by their Corban: nor make a special calling of the common works of all Christians. Others are grown more out of kind, who take greater delight in the following, and fellowship of horses and hawks and dogs, than in men's company. Such have drunk deep of the cup of Circe, by which she is said to have transformed men into beasts. That which was Nebuchadnezzar's punishment, they make their chief pleasure.
As God hath established fellowships and communities of men to procure their mutual good, and to fence them the better, on every side, against evil; so sin and wickedness being the greatest and only absolute evil, Christians are most bound by virtue of their association, to help, and assist, within the bounds of the callings in which God hath set them, their brethren, and associates against it: according to that of the philosopher; he that bears with the vices of his friend makes them his own.* Hence all Israel was punished, and is said to have sinned, for not preventing, or reforming one Achan's transgression. Josh. vii. 1, &c. The sin of another, how near soever unto me, cannot defile me, because he doth it; for then that which neither goes into a man, nor comes out of him might defile him: but when either I do something for the furthering of it, which I should not do; or neglect something which I should perform in my place for the preventing or reforming of it, by these means I become accessary either before, or after the fact; and not otherwise.
Although it is to be desired, and that, unto which we are bound, as humanity, and our special places and occasions will permit, that we converse only with such as either may make us better, which is wisdom; or which we are like to make better, which is charity: yet will a good and wise man make good use of all companies. Amongst the good he will learn to love goodness the more; amongst the evil, and most amongst the worst, the more to hate evil. But yet, notwithstanding, there is a difference. In evil company we see what to avoid, which is good: but in good, what to follow, which is better. Besides, there is danger, if, of no worse thing, lest the edge of our zeal against evil should be taken off, if we be occasioned continually to be grating against it. The Spirit of grace and goodness had need to be strong in him, that is not tired with continual strugglings and strivings with the malice of others. He that, at the first, with “ righteous Lot vexeth his righteous soul daily with the wicked deeds of them with whom he liveth,” 2 Pet. ii. 7, yet will, in time, be in danger to be vexed daily, less and less, with them, as things growing by custom more familiar to him. Also there is a second danger, lest living amongst fools, or wicked persons, we content ourselves with the little model of goodness or wisdom which we have; because we are somebody in comparison of them, as he that hath but half an eye, is a king amongst them that are blind: whereas amongst the wise and good, we have still matter of imitation, and provocation to aspire unto greater perfection in goodness. I conclude with that of the father: If men good and bad be joined together ia special bond of society, they either quickly part, or usually become alike. Friendship either takes, or makes men alike.*
Much acquaintance shows either great employment in the world, which puts men necessarily upon the acquaintance of many; or great ability and endowments, which draw the acquaintance of many to a man, for their benefit; or an ambitious heart, which seeks to be known and acknowledged by many; or an idle head, that hath little else to do, but to occupy itself in seeking or getting friends.
As many who, if they walked alone, would, by reason of their richer apparel, be thought men of better estate than they are; and others meaner than they are, by reason of their russet coats; who yet both are discerned of what condition and rank they be, by their companions and comforts: so the virtuous, or virtuous dispositions of men, are much discovered by the company which they affect, and with which they sort with most gladness and content: for like will to like, whether good or evil.
There is a difference between love, good-will, and friendship.† We may love other things besides men: bear goodwill to the persons that know us not: but we have friendship only with men, and that with mutual consent, arising from mutual love, and good-will, for our mutual good. Now, though divers other contracts be more strait in several relations, yet is there in this of friendship a kind of inwardness, arising from conformity of judgment, and affections, the conjunction of the mind being the nearest kindred,‡ by which persons are more straitly tied together than any other way. “ There is a friend,” saith. .Solomon, “ that sticketh closer than a brother,” Prov. xviii. 34: and Moses, passing from brother to child, and from child to wife, placeth her as near as the man's bosom; but a friend nearer, as reckoning him as his own soul. Deut, xiii. 6. Such a friend Jonathan was, whose love to David “passed the love of women.” 2 Sam. i. 96. Him whom we are to take so near unto us, so constantly to keep, and so freely to communicate withal, we must not lightly make choice of; nor as the manner of many is, by meeting together at a feast; or playing a game at bowls, or tables; or lodging in one inn:* but either after long experience, and having, as the proverb is, “eaten a bushel of salt together;” or upon some singular and extraordinary motive, or trial. And aa Christ “committed not himself to the Jews, because he knew their hearts,” John ii. 14; so neither are we easily to commit ourselves to men, because we know not their hearts. We are wisely to judge before, but freely to credit after, the knot of friendship is tied: yet so as we try the wisdom, secrecy, and faithfulness of our friends in smaller matters, before we trust them in greater;† as men use to try, whether their vessels will hold water, or no, before they put wine in to them.‡ And, albeit, that Christian love, “ which is the bond of perfection, and first fruits of the Spirit,” Col. iii. 14, be due to all Christians from all; yet are not all fit friends for all, of that fellowship. Gal. v. 12. David, notwithstanding the many worthies in his kingdom, had specially “ Hushai, the king's friend,” 1 Chron. xxvii. 33: and so had our Lord, whilst he lived upon earth, specially John, among all the twelve, “ the disciple whom he loved.” John xiii. 23. This special affection to one above the rest in Christ, was holy, yet human.
Many complain of the perfidiousness of friends, and how vilely they have been used by them, whom they have trusted; and not without cause; it being as vile, as common, to deceive him, whom we could not have deceived, if he had not trusted us.§ But if all things be rightly weighed, the most have most cause to complain of themselves, for making no better choice. He is but rightly served, in all men's judgments, that hath his broth running out, which he puts into a riven dish. And first, “ God is love,” 1 John iv. 16; and no marvel then, if there be no firmness in that love, which is not founded in God, and goodness. As, on the other side, if a man be deceived by such a friend as he trusts, upon the show of pity and goodness which he makes; he hath comfort with God, unto whom he had respect in trusting him. Men that trust others upon the testimony and commendation of any, and are deceived by them, use to complain to them, for whose cause they trusted them. He that looks, in his league of friendship, to the appearance of godliness and virtue which the other makes, takes his friend, after a sort, upon God's word and testimony; and if he happen to be deceived by him, may complain, and moan himself to God; as David complained of Ahithophel, the traitor, “ with whom he had taken sweet counsel, and walked into the house of God, as a friend.” Psa. Iv. 14. But, on the contrary, he that leagues himself with a vain and godless person, especially with respect and liking to any vanity, or lewd quality in him; if he be deceived by him afterwards, as like enough he will be, may go to the devil to complain, upon whose word, in effect, he took him.
Some do discover their pride and ambition by affecting acquaintance and society with their superiors, thereby, either to become, or to seem greater than they are. So do others not a little, if not more, betray their pride, by affected sorting with much meaner persons than themselves, that they may have honour, and respect from them, and domineer amongst them; which, in truth, though under an appearance of humility, shows the prouder mind. It was swelling pride in Cæsar, that he rather desired to be the first in the least village of Italy, than the second in Rome itself.
He that will thoroughly reform, and correct his faults, had need either of singular circumspection, and jealousy over himself, and his ways, for the finding out of his own failings; or of faithful friends who will seriously admonish him; in which duty, Christian friendship is specially differenced from all other; or else of bitter enemies, who will not spare, nor fail to cast his faults in his teeth, that so he may make a medicine of their malice, as physicians make treacle of venomous serpents. And as Jason had his imposthume opened, and so healed by his enemy's sword, in the wars,* which his friends the physicians could not cure; so we receive sometimes, that good by our enemies' reproaches, which our friends either cannot, or will not afford us, by their loving and faithful advertisements. A wise man makes better use of his enemies, than a fool of his friends.
To him that knows the use of true friendship, no earthly thing is more delightful, than the sweet society of wise, and honest friends, whether for recreation after study, or labour; or communication in a prosperous state; or. comfort in an afflicted. He that so esteems not this benefit, is unworthy of it. Yet, for myself, though I have ever thus valued truly loving friends; notwithstanding, considering unto how many dangers and calamities mine afflicted state hath been exposed, I have counted it a benefit, that I have not had many such, as were in danger to take excessive sorrow for my misery that hath, or could befall me.
Some friends, in this respect, have a very ill and unfriendly fashion. If any good come to them, they conceal it from their friends; if any hurt, they hasten to fill their ears with that, to the utmost. Such are more perversely childish than children. For as they will straight complain to their mothers, of any hurt that befalls them; so, on the other side, if any good come to them, though it be but an apple or nut, they will as readily run and acquaint them with it also. Such persons are commonly lovers of themselves, envious and unthankful. We, on the contrary, should rather hasten, and desire to manifest to our friends matter of gladness, when good befalls us, than of sorrow, in our crosses: and show, therein, both our love towards them, in procuring their rejoicing with us, and also our wisdom, and strength of faith, and patience, in the silent swallowing of our sorrows, without grieving our friends more than needs must. So we read of “ the woman, that had lost her piece; she lighted the candle, swept the house, and sought it diligently;” and all this she did alone: but “ when she had found it,” then “she called in her friends and neighbours to rejoice with her.” Luke xv. 8. It is best mourning alone, and best rejoicing with company.
Some friends are rather to be used than trusted; namely, such as are more able, than entire, or free-hearted. Some again are rather to be trusted, than used, save in case of necessity, and then also sparingly; and those are such, as whose truly loving affections exceed their ability. And in these considerations, the proverb ofttimes fitteth: “ Rich men's purses, and poor men's hearts.”
Wealth maketh many friends, and poverty trieth them; as the wind shows which clouds have rain in them, and which not And so, though the rich have the more friends, yet the poor's better appear to be faithful, in giving testimony that they love their friends for God, and the persons themselves: which to know is not a small privilege, that poor men have above others, who can hardly discern whether their persons or riches be loved.* “A friend,” saith the wise man, “ loveth at all times: and a brother is born for adversity,” Prov. xvii. 17. He saith not, a friend is born for prosperity, though it be one end of friendship, that we might have with whom to communicate, and rejoice in a prosperous state of things; but for adversity, this being the more principal end, specially in our sinful and sorrowful state, for which God hath linked men together in all societies; which the wiser sort of the heathen have seen by the dim light of nature, and that it appertains, specially, to the office of a true friend to ease his friend's grief by speech, to afford him counsel in doubtful cases, to drive away sadness by his cheerfulness, and to refresh him with his very presence.†
And for such persons in societies, as, in effect, make account, that they are only for other men's prosperity, and not for their afflicted state; and that others are for their help and benefit, and they, for their own: these are the very moths and caterpillars of family, church, and commonwealth; and so far from deserving the fellowship of men, as they are scarce worthy of the flocks and herds of beasts: of which, divers are helpful to their fellow, as they are able, and the other need.
As none can sin against the Holy Ghost, and irremissibly, but they, whom God hath received into some degree of fellowship with him, at least, in the knowledge of the truth: so there is no so great enmity amongst any others as amongst them, who of friends become enemies. “A brother offended is harder to be won, than a strong city,” Prov. xviii. 19: and such contentions are like the bars of a castle. A twine thread, if it be broken, is more easily knit together than a cable.‡ And the hard adamant, if it happen to be beaten in pieces with the hammer, flies into such small dust, as is scarce discernible.§ And no marvel, if, where men look for love, and kindness, they find, in truth or supposition, the contrary, and that which agrees not with a friendly affection; that there they conceive most indignation, and greatest matter of alienation. It is therefore requisite, that “a friend show himself friendly, ” Prov. xviii, 24, for the preserving inviolated that bond of amity with his friend; and avoid all make-bates,* persons or things. And of this sort, not only greater unkindnesses use to be, but even smaller also, if they be frequent: as men consume their states, many times, by small, if daily, losses, and misspendings. And if it so come to pass, that our friends become, or appear so ill, as that in their friendship there is more hurt, or danger, than in their hatred,† it is yet better we untwine, than break the cord of former friendship:‡ save where some extraordinary unworthiness suddenly breaks out, and which urgeth present renunciation. Lastly, when we are necessarily pressed either to the one or other, let us rather do it with sorrow than anger: and withal, have in us a disposition to reassume our old course of kindness, if there appear cause afterwards; as the storks, when the winter is over, do affect their former nests.§
[*]Promoters, or occasions of quarrels.