Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER XLIV.: of appearances. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER XLIV.: of appearances. - 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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It is the royal prerogative of God's infinite wisdom to judge of persons and things, as in truth, they are. It is men's, yea angels' imperfect condition, in comparison, under which God hath humbled them, to judge of one and other, according to outward appearances; leaving to him alone and the persons themselves, the hidden things of the heart. To appear evil to a righteous judgment, is always evil, whether the person be evil, or good: if evil, his evil appearance is but his inward evil manifested to be, as it is, and his inside turned outward: if good, he slanders himself in appearing evil. He that makes an ill show, we may well account evil and corrupt, ordinarily; seeing all, save in the case of some special temptation, desire to seem, as good, as they are, and to put the fairest side outward.
He that is once well known to me for good and virtuous, I will always esteem so, except I come to take certain knowledge of his after declining to evil. So, on the contrary, if I have once rightly and certainly branded a man for evil, I shall not easily come to think good of him, except his atter repentance as plainly appear to me. The reason is, because bare time makes none of evil, good; or of good, evil; but only confirms men in that which they are ' whether the one, or other.
Although it be not, simply, a sufficient warrsat for our answerable judgment of, or carriage toward persons, or things, that they appear good or evil unto us, because we often err in our judgments about them, through ignorance, negligence, or partiality: yet is it a certain rule, that we must never proceed, either in judgment, or practice against appearances: for in so doing, we condemn ourselves in the thing, which we approve, if it appear good, and yet we condemn it; so do we also in the thing which we condemn, by holding any course of approbation towards that, which seems evil unto us. Notwithstanding, such is the force of outward appearances, as that, in cases, they bind us in conscience, both for judgment, and practice, to that which indeed is not true, nor due; but wherein we are altogether deceived. As when we receive a matter for truth, which yet indeed is not so, upon the clear testimony of two, or three witnesses worthy of credit, so far as we can discern; or when we esteem an hypocrite cunningly dissembling, for good and godly, as did Philip, Simon Magus, Acts viii. 13. It is a fortunate sin to suspect him, without apparent cause, that dissembles: and an unfortunate virtue to be deceived in him.
The appearance of evil, by the apostle's prescript, is to be abstained from. 1 Thess. v. 22. Which yet we must not understand absolutely of whatsoever seems evil unto others; for then we should abstain from all, or the most good; whereof there is little, but some, or other misdeem it. But the meaning is properly, that, in prophesying, of which the apostle speaks, as we are to hold that which is good, and proved so to be; so if anything be delivered, of which we have a sinister suspicion, as fearing that some poison cleaveth to it, though not plainly so discerned by us, we withhold our assent, till by faith we can receive it.* And in the general, that, if a thing appear amiss, and evil unto others, especially unto weaker brethren, though it be not such of itself, yet we forbear it; except either on science of duty simply bind us unto it, or that some greater conveniency appear in doing it, than is the ineon-veniency of, or to others, in misconceiving of us, and our doings.
If it be a good thing to appear good, how much more to be so indeed ? It is also the readiest way, and most compendious for any to appear, and be thought wise, virtuous or godly, to be, in truth, such. For God will both, so far, as it stands with his glory, and the person's good, give occasion of manifestation of that good which is; and also provide, that others may accordingly take knowledge of it. And though many things be secret in the mean while; yet, when the Lord shall come, he will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every one have praise of God. 1 Cor. iv. 5.
The Lord bestoweth his graces upon men not only for their own good, but for the good of others also: and that, as otherwise, so for the manifesting, and showing forth the virtues of him, who hath “called them out of darkness, into his marvellous light.” 1 Pet. ii. 9. Who must therefore provide carefully, both to be, as they appear, for their own comfort; and to appear, as they are, to the glory of God, and good of men. Yet so as their first, and greatest care herein be, that their appearances be not above their existences, and that they make show of no more than they have. As in the outward estate, it is the highway to poverty, or worse, for a man's expenses to exceed his receipts; and his layings out his comings in: so in the spiritual course, to overstrain in outward manifestions is a way tending to all impudent, and desperate hypocrisy, under a form of godliness, without the power thereof. And for other gifts, as knowledge, wisdom, learning, eloquence, or the like; he that in the manifestation of them will strain above his reach, may easily crack his credit, and make himself ridiculous to others; like the stage-player, who with too much wiping of his borrowed beard pulls it from his face, and so betrays his bare chin. And though a forth-putting man play his part so well, as many do, that he not only satisfy, but draw into admiration his simple spectators, who cannot discern between shadow, and body; yet shall he hardly, or not at all, escape the censure of vain-glorious and arrogant, by more judicious men.
We are often angry, and offended at others, for wronging us, by conceiving a worse opinion of us, than, we deserve: whereas, in right, we should be angry at ourselves, for giving them occasion so to judge, by our ill, and suspicious appearances. For, albeit thereby, he, whose heart, and way is upright in God's sight, lose not his comfort with him, who sees the heart: yet by his misappearances made in word, or deed, he may justly forfeit his credit with men; to whom it appertains to judge of the tree by the fruit, or leaves, or any other outward mark, or note, rather than by the sap. Cunning naughtiness hath often more credit in the world, than unadvised honesty.