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CHAPTER LII.: of sin, and punishment from god. - 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 sin, and punishment from god.
Whatsoever swerveth from the law of God, written in the table of the heart, or of stone, whether in our nature, or actions, either in the not being of that which should be, or being of that which should not be, which two are always joined together in original sin, and often in actual, is sim, and evil: yea, the greatest; yea, the only evil indeed. Sin is worse than the devil, as having made him evil, whom God made good: yea, than all punishments, yea, than hell itself, which God prepared, and made, and is therefore good, to punish sin and sinners by. Matt. xxv. 41. And accordingly, it was godlily said of one, that if sin and hell were set before him, the one on the one side, and the other on the other; and that he must needs go through the one of them; he would rather enter upon hell, than sin.* But blessed be God, who will assuredly keep them from hell, whose hearts are so set to keep themselves from sin, by his grace.
This sin is incident only to reasonable creatures: God the Creator being above sin; and unreasonable creatures, beneath it. For the disorders in brute beasts, they are not sin in them, to whom there is no law; but punishments of man's sin against God, who hath “subjected them to vanity,” Rom. viii. 20, thereby to testify how greatly he is offended at man's, for whom at first he made them, and all other creatures in a more excellent state,† The case of children is otherwise, as being reasonable creatures, made after God's image in Adam, and having the law written in their hearts, as a subject capable both of good, and evil, which brutes are not.
Although sin be only in reasonable creatures, yet is it a most unreasonable thing; otherwise it were not sin, save as it crosses true reason, either by lust against reason, or show of reason against truth. So for particular enormities; the more unreasonable, the more sinful: as lusts against nature; adultery in a married person; pride in a mean; prodigality in a needy; covetousness in him that abounds in riches; profaneness in a preacher; and so of all other vices.
All sins, save that first of Adam, and man's very last, are both sins in themselves, and effects of former sin, and causes of latter: and that not only by God's just, though severe judgment, in punishing one by another; but ofttimes also by a kind of natural, and necessary coherence and affinity. Sometimes one sin brings on another by provoking unto it, as rash anger unto strife, Prov. xv. 18; sometimes, to back it, as Peter's denying of Christ did his after forswearing him, Matt. xxvi. 70—74; sometimes, to conceal it, as all other evils draw on lying, and theft, and murder, many times; sometimes, to maintain it, as pride doth covetousness and oppression; and sometimes, to countenance it, that it be not disgraced, as Herod's rash oath drew after it the beheading of John the Baptist. Matt. xiv. 7—10. And of these commonly a lesser draws on a greater, as lesser sticks set the greater on fire. So also by those degrees of iniquity do men proceed in one and the same particular enormity: in which, as in a chain drawing from heaven to hell, each link moveth his next, from the one, and smaller end, to the other greater. First, there is in a man concupiscence, by which he is drawn away from God, James i. 14, unto whom he ought to cleave with the whole heart. And having once let go his hold on him, the true and unchangeable good; he is forthwith seized by some appearing and counterfeit good, and thereby enticed; as the bird by falling on the ground is taken in the snare, from which, whilst she held aloft, she was free. Upon this inveigled affection, and deceived judgment thereby, comes consent of will to have or do the thing which is evil, called by the apostle the conception of lust: which that it may bring forth sin in outward act and execution, wants nothing but opportunity. This sin perfected by a continued course therein without repentance, brings forth death unavoidably. He therefore that begins to do evil, or to forsake that which is good, in the affection of his heart, is like him that puts his feet into a pit, and lets the hold of his hands go; and without God's gracious hand catching hold of him, can never stay, till he come to the bottom of the pit of perdition. And no marvel of this progress in evil, seeing every sin, how small soever in degree, hath joined with it the contempt of God. As therefore the safest way against the flame is to quench the spark, by which it may be kindled; so against this fire of hell, to quench betimes the spark of concupiscence and lust. This is done, partly, by withdrawing from it the occasions, and incitements of, and unto sin, which are as fuel for nourishing it; as, if it be the lust of anger and revenge, not to give ear to words of provocation, Eccl. vii. 21, but to be as a deaf man that hears not, Psa. xxxviii. 13; if of uncleanness, not to look upon a maid, Job xxxi. 1; if of drunkenness, or excess that way, not to look upon the wine, when it is red, Prov. xxiii. 31, &c. The second help is by smothering the corruption in the beginning; which as fire, if it have no vent, goes out; but getting passage, breaks out into a flame. Lastly, as water, fire's contrary, quencheth it; so do the spiritual means of grace, as prayer, meditation upon God's Word, and the like, quench by degrees, the sparks of sin, and fire of hell.
The greatness of the sin is not always to be esteemed by the thing done. For, as much crookedness may be found in a small line; so may a great evil be committed in a small matter. Hereupon, he that but “gathered sticks on the Sabbath with a high hand,” viz., in contempt of Moses, and of God in him, was to be “stoned to death without mercy,” Numb. xv. 33—36. The sin is also greater, as the temptation or occasion is less; and therefore the rich man, that having many sheep of his own took his poor neighbour's lamb to entertain his stranger withal, 2 Sam. xii. 25, was adjudged worthy of death; whether we take the words, as they seemed to David, or as Nathan meant them. Likewise, the forecasting of evil exceedingly aggravates it; as with him who “devised mischief upon his hed,” Psa. xxxvi. 4, and after, set himself in a way to practise it: others are overtaken by sin, but such overtake sin, Gal. vi. 1. So doth it not a little, if men sin, that they may sin; as it seems many swear, that they may swear: and as Austin confesseth of himself, that being a boy, he stole apples, and cast them away, when he had done. He stole, that he might steal. Lastly, sin becomes more sinful, if it have scandal, and offence of men, or other damage joined with it. Yet even for the least sin; if any sin by any, being against God's infinite majesty, maybe accounted little, if God should press the same upon the conscience, and suffer Satan to urge it to the full, it would be a burden intolerable, and such as neither the heavens could bear; for the angels that sinned were cast from thence: nor paradise; for Adam for transgression was driven from thence: nor the earth; for that swallowed up Dathan and Abiram for their sins: neither could any men or angels undergo it, without being borne down into the bottom of hell by it; and there only it rests, as in its proper centre. Happy are they, who in the sense and feeling of the intolerable burden thereof, come to Christ by faith, that he may ease them ! Matt. xi. 28.
The sin against the Holy Ghost, which shall never be forgiven in this world, or the world to come, is not only committed by them who have sometimes professed the gospel; but by others also, though never coming so far, but being convinced of the truth thereof, do maliciously hate, blaspheme and persecute it, and, therein, sin against the work of the Holy Ghost in their own hearts. And this Christ insinuates against the Scribes and Pharisees, Matt. xii. 31, 32, who yet never came to profess Christianity. The reason of the irremissibleness of this sin is not any defect either in the mercy of God or merits of Christ; as though the evil in it were greater, than the good in them; but for that God hath set those bounds of his grace and mercy, that he will never vouchsafe faith and repentance to that person, who once so despiteth his Spirit, in that, its holy work. And considering how oft the Scriptures speak of this sin, not only for warning of persons in themselves, but also for direction touching others so sinning; it is to be feared, that the same is more ordinary, where the gospel is preached, than the most make account of; and that many maliciously hating and persecuting, specially after gome singular profession made and forsaken, true and conscionable gospellers, would do the same by the gospel itself, if they were not restrained by fear of men, and shame of the times. Matt. xii. 31; Mark iii. 28; 1 John v. 16; Heb. vi. 5, x. 29; 2 Pet. ii. 20; Jude 13.
The Lord often punisheth men in the same kind, wherein they have sinned, and causeth to be meted unto them with the measure, wherewith they mete to others. Matt. vii. 2. Thus he drowned Pharaoh in the sea, who had formerly drowned the Israelitish infants, Exod. i. 22, xiv. 23: and served king Adoni-bezek, as he had served other kings before. Judges i. 6, 7. And this God doth to make his justice the more conspicuous; and that men's punishments may be as glasses, wherein their sins may be seen more clearly, if not for their repentance, yet for the warning of others.
When I seriously weigh and consider the fearful and grievous punishments, which God so good and gracious hath partly executed, in this life; as upon the old world; Sodom and Gomorrah; Korah and his company; and the like: and partly threatened; as in the end of this life, in the soul; so in the end of the world, both in soul and body; and the same for measure, intolerable; and endless in continuance: Lord, think I, what sin can procure such punishment ? But when, on the contrary, I consider the horrible contempt of God and his Word, even in them to whom it is daily and diligently offered: Lord, think I, what punishment can be sufficient for such sin ? What is it then ? Man is fearfully wicked in sinning: and God fearfully just in punishing, where, by faith and repentance, mercy is not obtained. “My flesh trembleth for dread of thee: and I fear for thy judgments.” Psa. cxix. 120.