Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LIV.: of the affections of the mind. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER LIV.: of the affections of the mind. - 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 the affections of the mind.
Our affections, as love, sorrow, fear, and the rest, are common to us with brute beasts; which therefore the understanding must order, that they be not brutish; and with them, the will, for its yielding of consent to their motions or withholding it from them. But as the little sticks set the greater wood a-burning: so do they most what set the understanding and will a-working in sensual objects. For example. One sees a naturally pleasing good thing, but belonging to another, or not to him; as Achan's wedge of gold: his affection of love and appetite is inordinately carried unto it, and is ready to solicit the will to consent to the getting, and enjoying of it. But now, if the understanding do its duty, it steps in, represseth the affection, and restraineth the will, by discerning and discovering, that the good thing desired is another's, and therefore not to be desired, or had by him. But as the fumes arising from a corrupt stomach darken and dim the bodily eyes: so in sensual persons the understanding is commonly, besides its own inherent blindness, so corrupted with partial and brutish affections, as that it neglecteth all due search, and disquisition; and unadvisedly judgeth that good, which is pleasing to appetite, and sense: and so being swayed, and led by the affections, as a foolish wagoner by his horses, draws with it the will's consent; which obtained, the evil is done in God's account, and wants only opportunity for outward effect.
Although the seat of the affections be the soul, whose motions they are, and not the body's; yet do they more or less vehemently and efficaciously act, and exercise themselves, as the blood, and spirits, the soul's immediate instruments, are more or less fitted to their hand. Hence is it, that anger in the heart moved by some occasion, is so vehement in a choleric body; sorrow, or fear in a melancholic; and so for the rest.
These our affections are either merely natural in us; or sanctified by grace; or morally corrupt and inordinate. Nature, and so natural affection, is content with a little: corruption not with a great deal: as the thirst, which is natural, is quenched with a draught, or two; but that which is unnatural and aguish, not with a whole vessel of drink. This and the reason of it he lays down wittily, that saith, natural desires are finite, but those arising from false opinion have no limits: as he that goes his right way, hath some end of his journey; he that wanders, none.* And as for sanctified affections, they, alas, are too feeble in us: and as Jehu was known by his furious marching; so may they be, by their soft and lazy pace: neither, if they were excessive, were they sanctified, that is, directed by grace, and good reason: nor are they easily so, if they be anything vehement; but have commonly too much flesh mingled with them. And no marvel: for setting our “affections above, where Christ is,” Col. iii. 2, and whither the Spirit of grace advanceth them, we climb up the hill, and withal draw after us the clog of our flesh, lusting the contrary way, Gal. v. 17: whereas sensual men led by their lusts, go down the hill, and are carried headlong to evil. Besides, sensual objects are present to the outward senses, by which the affections are moved: but things spiritual are seen afar off, 2 Pet. i. 9, as needing the direction and discourse of faith for provoking of affection unto them; which makes their work in this case more weak and slow. Yet being created faculties, they are the greater the better, if rightly ordered. And so it is not improbably said by some, that Christ had the greatest fear, sorrow, anger, &c. upon him, that ever man had, or could have. But as the stronger the horses in the wagon are, though the better, yet the more dangerous; so are those horses of the soul in us, lest by misguidance they overthrow all.*
And as for violent, and inordinate affections; the person, in whom they are found, how wise, or well meaning soever otherwise, or howsoever bent upon some good course, is no more to be trusted to; than the chariot drawn by unbroken horses, going, for the present, quietly on, and in a good way, but which will quickly take a toy, and endanger the overthrow of all.
As in a tempestuous sea, the waves, in the same place, are sometimes lifted up; and the depths, at other times, disclosed: so in an unmortified, and passionate heart, one unlawful, and inordinate passion often breaks into the contrary, as evil, and inordinate, as it: as did Amnon's inordinate love to his sister Tamar into as excessive hatred. 2 Sam. xiii. 2. So some of extremely prodigal, become extremely covetous; of credulous, suspicious; of madmerry, sad without measure. The cause is, for that such persons are not led by the lore of reason, or conscience; but carried headlong by pangs of passion; and withal driven by the devil, and so must needs go, and run to; though up and down the same way; and forward and backward, after his will.
As in a fish-pond some one great pike devours both the lesser fish of other kinds, and of its own also; so in divers, some one affection is so predominate, as it eats up not only reason and conscience, but with them, almost all other affections. Many are so soured with discontentment and sorrow, that they appear to have place left for nothing else in their heart: some are set upon so merry a pin, as if they had the image of laughter which Lycurgus set up for the Lacedemonians ever before them. Others again are so overgrown with anger, as they seem to have no blood but choler running in their veins. If any danger be coming towards them, which all reason would teach them to fear specially, they will pick a quarrel at something in or about it, to set anger, and indignation a-work. If God send grievous crosses upon them, and thereby call them to mourning; it shall go hard but they will find what to be angry at, in some person, or other, to turn the stream that way.
It is some disparagement ordinarily to the government of a wise man, specially in their eyes who have no share in the motive, to make great manifestation of affection, one or other: and therefore Joseph when he would make himself known affectionately to his brethren, commanded all the Egyptians out of the place. Gen. xlv. 1. So Zechariah foretelling the extreme mourning, which shall be by the families in Jerusalem, when God shall pour upon them the Spirit of grace, shows, that every family shall mourn apart, and their wives apart. Zech. xii. 10. Yet are there cases, in which it stands as well with wisdom to manifest great affections, as with grace or nature to have them. And this David prudently considered, and practised, at Abner's funeral. 2 Sam. iii. 31.
We should order our affections before we have any special provocations; and set down with ourselves, what may be, beforehand, that if such or such a thing come to pass, we will allow it such and such a measure of its compatible affection, and no more: that as fierce dogs, though provoked by other men's voices, yet are quieted by their master's voice, to which they are used; so the fierce motions of the mind may be, by reason's voice, with which they are formerly acquainted, for that purpose, made still, and quiet.*
These motions and affections are well ordered, when they rise and fall according to the variety, and weight of objects.† To be greatly affected with small occurrences, is womanlike weakness: little, with great matters, stoical blockishness. And methinks, he that hath a life to lose and considers it well, should not easily come to fear excessively the loss of his goods: nor he the loss of his bodily life, who hath a soul to lose, or save for ever. And therefore Christ our Lord bids, “Fear not him that can kill the body,” and then hath shot his sting, and can hurt no more; but “fear him, who can cast both body and soul into hell.” Matt. x. 28.
As physicians fearing a man's over bleeding at the nose, open a vein in the arm, thereby to turn the course of the blood another way: so we, finding one affection, or other inordinate in us, and like to overflow; if we cannot so rule and repress it, as is meet, by good reason, shall do well to set some other affection a-working, by some moving and lawful object; that so the stream being turned another way, we may disappoint the passion, which we cannot so well order. For example: If a man find himself in danger of exorbitancy in anger, it is good for him to set a-foot sorrow, or fear, by some such lawful object, as God offers him: and so for other passions of the mind. Or if the stream of the affection happen to run so strong, as that we cannot well turn it another way; it is wisdom to get it upon some such object in the same way, as wherein it may freely take its scope: as the horse that cannot be stayed, yet may be guided into such a way, as in which there is no great danger, how fast soever he runs; which may also be so heavy, as will keep him from running fast in it.
Thus, if sorrow, fear or anger be like to work inordinately in us, let us set them upon our sins; and so the danger of all excess will soon be over, for the most part. And, indeed, it is no small point of Christian wisdom, for a man to provide fit matter for his affections especially predominant in him,'to be exercised in. “Is any among you afflicted ?” saith the apostle, “let him pray. Is any merry ? let him sing psalms.” James v. 13. And by this means he shall neither lose his own advantage for good; nor further Satan's for evil, by any passion or affection in him.