Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LV.: of fear. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER LV.: of fear. - 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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Fear hath only evil for the object; either evil in itself, as is sin; or to him that feareth; as are the effects thereof, temporal, or eternal punishment, and the anger of God inflicting them. It is a base affection, and the cognizance of the creature's infirmity, showing him to be subject to evil; from the fear whereof only the Creator is absolutely free. And so, whereas courage, and stoutness of heart, though none of the best, procure unto men a kind of respect in the eyes of others; fear, though better used, makes them more contemptible. A lion is more regarded, than many oxen; though one ox be of more use both for labour and meat, and otherwise, than many lions. But God loves rather a good, than a great heart. And in the law, God's sacrifices were to be offered of lambs and kids and doves and pigeons, fearful creatures, and innocent withal; and not of lions and eagles; though they be the kings of beasts and birds.
There is in man, a threefold fear of God, arising from a threefold apprehension of his majesty: the first, is of God, as our glorious Creator, and Governor; and this is natural: the second, as of a just, and angry Lord; which is servile: the third, as of our gracious Father in Christ, called and being filial. All these are found in the true fearers of God in this life; though the middle, least, which “perfect love driveth out,” 1 John iv. 18, and in them, the last only reigns. To fear sin more than punishment, which they of the last sort do, is to love God more than ourselves: on the contrary, to fear punishment more than sin, which the second disposition leads to, is to love ourselves more than God; considering, that by sin God is offended, and we by punishment: and that sin in the committing of it seems good to us, and ill to God; and that punishment,in the executing of it, is good in respect of God's justice, though evil to our sense.
The holy fear of God, the Scriptures put many times for the whole service of God, as being a general virtue diffusing itself into all the parts thereof. For we must trust to God with fear, love him with fear, obey him with fear: and in conscience and consideration of his excellency and our own frailty, “work out our salvation with fear and trembling,'' Phil. ii. 12; that is, do all things tending thereunto, with that affection of heart. And considering our boldness, as king Saul saith of himself, to step aside, to our destruction; it is worthily advertised by the wise man, that “he is blessed, who feareth always,” Prov. xxviii. 14: that is, who sets himself in God's.sight continually, making him the judge of all his ways and works, out of a serious consideration within himself, unto what sin and misery for sin, he is exposed, poor creature as he is. Besides, this fear of God, is called the “beginning of wisdom,” and that partly, because the true reverence of his majesty in the heart makes a man careful and studious to know and do the things which please him and to avoid the contrary: as also for that God blesseth such an affection with good understanding, and reveals his secrets to them that fear him. Psa. xxv. 14. Whereas, on the other side, a profane heart is commonly punished with a foolish head, and mind void of discerning, specially in particulars, what is good, or evil.
God would have them that hearken unto him, not only safe, but also secure, and quiet from fear of hurt, and evil. Prov. i. 24. For which purpose the Scriptures so oft both exhort them, not to fear, and propound arguments of encouragement unto them, not to exempt their hearts wholly from fear, for that were to exalt them above the condition of mortal and frail men; but so far to bring that unruly passion under the regiment of faith, as that by it a man be not drawn to do anything evil, and unlawful, nor to forbear any requisite good in his place, nor to be divided in his heart, nor to shame himself, nor to discourage others in that which is good. It is wisdom for us so far to fear an evil, as to quicken our careful use of all good means to escape it; or being a cross inevitable, to prepare us the more patiently to bear it, as not coming unlocked for: in which regard, Christ spake to his disciples, beforehand, of their approaching persecutions, that when they came, they should not be offended. John xvi. 2. And further to fear evil, is an evil both of sin and punishment; and that, of unbelief specially, if being hindered by fear we dare not do that, which appertains to our calling, or be driven by it, to do that which becomes not piety.* Otherwise, to be fearful of heart, and yet not to be overcome by it, more commends a man, than if he were without fear,† This fear though it be something excessive, if not extreme, hath this good in it, that it makes a man the more circumspect, and causeth him to call his wits, and other helps, about him, as men in danger use to do. It helps in de liberation and preparation, though it hinder something in execution. But and if it once get dominion over a man and rule in him, there is no such cruel and tyrant-like master within or without him. It makes him cruel, and a tyrant to others, from whom it may any way be suspected that danger can come unto him; and provokes to the oppression of whatsoever is in his way. Neither yet doth it exercise less tyranny over the fearful himself. It bereaves him of the use of understanding, drives sleep from his eyes which sorrow procures, disables the tongue from speaking, and all the other parts of the body from doing their office, by withdrawing the blood and spirits from them to the affrighted heart. And, whereas, men by serious consideration and thought of things in hand are holpen against most other affections, the objects of fear the more they are minded, and thought upon, are the more terrible. Some have through extremity of fear become grey-headed in a week or two, as one Mr. Baynings of London, as I have heard: and some in one night, as is testified of the Duke of Mantua's kinsman, Franciscus Gonzaga, unto whom, being committed to prison upon suspicion of treason, thought and care, in one night brought grey hair, by subduction of nourishment* And, if we would further and in another and worse kind, take knowledge of this tyrant's cruelty, in constraining even good men to do evil; we may see Abraham, for fear, denying his wife; David, his reason; Peter his master Christ in his person; and many continually in his truth, less or more. He is a man, that can overcome excessive fear by reason: but a child of God, that can overcome it, by true and sound faith in God's good providence over him.
Some, though lambs amongst lions, yet are lions amongst lambs; fierce and terrible towards their underlings, which cannot or dare not resist them; and like the young ruffian in the poet, that showed his courage in beating a silly woman and poor bond-slave, that durst not strike again.† Such believe not; or forget that they have a Master in heaven, whose terrors if they knew, with the apostle, they durst not, in such sort, be terrible unto others. Col. iv. 1; 2 Cor. v. 11. There are many governors in families and commonwealths; who, if difference arise be tween them of the last sort and their subjects; or between them of the first and, their wives, children and servants, will domineer marvellously, and be so stout and stern, as if they were made of iron and steel: whereas, on the contrary, if they have to do with such as stand upon even ground with them, especially such as have a little the higher ground; they show all cowardice, and base fear, suffering them even to play with their noses. Such a one was Rehoboam, who spake roughly to the people under him; but had no courage against the king of Egypt; and so little against Jeroboam, that rebelled against him, as that his own son Abijah taxed him of tenderness, that is, feebleness of heart, after his death. 2 Chron. x. 12, 13. Such another also was Nabal; so evil, that none of his servants or family or others of whom he was secure, might speak to him: but perceiving himself to have been in danger, though it were over, by David, whom, and whose men he had rated and reviled, in his drunken security, at the very hearing of it, his heart died in him, and he became like a stone. 1 Sam. xxv. 37, 38. These lion's paws and roarings amongst the poor beasts are odious in civil administrations; more, in domestic; most of all, in church governments, where they are found; which ought to be specially doctrinal and exemplary. Tit. i. 5, 9. Let us fear, as we ought, the doing of wrong to others, over whom we have advantage: and God will so provide, that we shall not excessively fear hurt from them who have power to hurt us. 1 Pet. v. 1—3.