Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER LXI.: of youth and old age. - The Works of John Robinson, vol. 1
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CHAPTER LXI.: of youth and old age. - 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 youth and old age.
That city, or commonwealth, saith one, flourisheth most, where old men's counsel, and young men's swords are in request.* And little, saith another, avail weapons abroad, and in the hands of young men, if there be not counsel at home, and in the breasts of the aged.† And as some fruits are ripe before others, and divers fit for divers seasons of the year: so God and nature hath so ordained, that the bodies of young men should be ripe in their youth, and fittest for bodily employments, by reason of their natural heat and spirits: and the counsels of old men in their age, through their long experience and observation. Things go well, where both do their parts in societies.
It is worthily said of one, that childhood should be manly, that is, not without all wisdom: and age child-like, that is, without pride and arrogancy.‡ Yet may the aged above the younger sort, challenge and use a kind of authority and confidence in their words and carriage. So is there to be permitted unto childhood that childishness, which without violence to nature and the God thereof, cannot be driven from it. Many, in pride, striving and straining to have their children men and women too soon, and ere they be full boys and girls, force them above their pace; and either cause them to tire, as discouraged; or occasion them to content themselves, in after time, with certain manly forms, without substance, unseasonably forced upon them, in their childhood. Fruits ripened by art, before their time, are neither toothsome, nor wholesome: so children made men when they should be children, prove children when they should be men. Notwithstanding, stubbornness and corruption cannot too soon be forced out of them: neither is half that liberty to be given to the younger sort, which they would take, not knowing nor being easily brought to believe, how slippery their state is, till they come to feel it by their falls: which if they did, they would not complain with the foolish young man, in the poet, that all parents keeping any hand over their children, though for their good, are injurious unto them.§
As all men are to “honour all men,” 1 Pet. ii. 17, because they are men, and made after God's image; so should the younger sort specially be trained up to a bashful and modest reverence towards all, and chiefly towards their ancients. Tit. ii. 3, 4. Which so well becomes their maiden years, as that the philosopher accounts blushing a virtue in young folks, though a fault in the aged.* Many parents desire to have their young ones trained up in such exercises and courses, as may embolden them: but they should, for the most part, provide much better for them, specially in our audacious age, if they got them held constantly in courses of modesty, and shamefacedness; that so Demetrius might have his wish in them, which was, that young folks would reverence their fathers at home, all men abroad, and themselves being alone.†
The apostle writing to Timothy warns him “to fly the lusts of youth.” 2 Tim. ii. 22. If Timothy, who was brought up in the knowledge of the Scriptures from a child, and who had profited so well therein, and whose place in the church was so eminent for the teaching and governing of others, stood in need of such advertisement and warning; what warning can be sufficient for ordinary young people to eschew and fly from such lusts and vanities, as to follow after them, and unto which the heat and heedlessness of youth carrieth them? It is indeed a great mercy of God, when young persons get over that their slippery and inexperienced state without either such public scandal, or secret wound of conscience, as the scar whereof they carry to their graves with them. How much more and greater a mercy is it, when they receive the grace to consecrate their youth and best days to God in holiness! offering their souls, and bodies as the sacrifices of young lambs unblemished, upon the Lord's altar. Wicked men, who hate goodness both in youth and age, use to say, “young saints, old devils:” but the truth is “young devils old Beelzebubs,” for the most part. To whom yet, if God, in singular grace, vouchsafe repentance in after age; what a corrosive will it be to the heart of such a convert, casting back his eyes to his youth consumed in lusts and vanity, to think how great dishonour he hath brought to God's name, and hindrance to others' salvation; which he may repent of, but cannot redeem! On the contrary, sweet is the remembrance in old age of a youth led in true virtue and godliness.
Some would enjoy both the honour of age, and liberty of youth: but curled grey hair is not comely. Either state hath its benefit and burden allotted of God. He that obtains the benefit must be content to bear the burden. Young men must be content to want the honour, which is due to the aged of their order otherwise, in regard of the image of God's eternity, which they bear: and so must the aged be content to forbear even the lawful liberty, and delights of youth.
“Multitude of years should teach wisdom,” saith young Elihu in Job, to his three ancients. Job xxxii. 4—6. And this, the younger sort should with reverence, and may with good reason look for, at their elders' hands, considering their long experience, and manifold advantages above them, for the getting of wisdom. This wisdom makes their age honourable indeed, and their “grey head a crown of glory, being found in the way of righteousness,” Prov. xvi. 31: whereas an elementary old man, having no other argument to prove that he hath lived long, but his grey hairs, and wrinkled forehead, is a contemptible, and ridiculous creature.* How many such a b c old folks are there in the world, whose grey hairs promise wisdom and knowledge; and to whom opportunity and means of attaining it, hath not been wanting; who, yet being proved and known, will appear very babes in understanding, and such as, for that skill, had need to begin to live again! This is not merely a want of wit in them, or of the love of knowledge either; but withal a curse of God upon them, usually punishing a lustful, and reckless youth with a doltish age: in whom the proverb is true, in another sense: Ab equis ad asinos: Such of young horses become old asses.
A wise man should live well in youth, and before old age come, that he may die well in age,† if it come; and may be ready for death, as the white regions are for the harvest, John iv. 35: and so may both wait for it, and even meet it the more boldly in the way of such virtuous actions, as expose unto it. For though youth and likelihood of long life should make none withdraw from any good duty, or do amiss for fear of danger of loss of life; yet age should, though in course of nature the more fearful, upon ground of good reason, wisdom and grace, make men the more venturesome of that, in a good cause, which God and destiny will deprive them of ere long, though other men let them alone: as Solon was hold upon his old age to oppose himself to Pisistratus the tyrant.* One adviseth to be old betimes, that so we may be old long.† But who would desire to he that long, which is but a long infirmity;‡ save as age, accompanied with wisdom and godliness, adds authority to the aged for the more effectual enforcing of these and the like virtues upon others.