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THE PREFACE. - John Robinson, The Works of John Robinson, vol. 3 
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. 3.
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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There passed out, some while since, a defamatory libel, under the names of Charles Lawne and three other, his brethren in evil;* but certainly penned by some other persons, whose greater knowledge did arm their cruel hatred the more to hurt: making them fathers of that “generation whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the afflicted from off the earth, and the poor from among men.” Prov. xxx. 14. Against whom and whose friends, durst I use the same liberty, in publishing to the world their personal corruptions which I know, and could soon learn by the testimony of honester men than these informers, they who have written of others what hath pleased them, should read that which would not please them, of their own, if not of themselves. But God forbid! My desire is rather to pacify than to alienate affections; remembering Christ's instruction unto his disciples, to “bless those that curse them,” “to do good to those that harm them,” and “to pray for those that persecute them.” Matt. v. 44. Besides, in following their course, I should, for the faults of a few corrupter persons, wrong the credit of many honest and innocent men; for whose sakes, I would rather cover the others' failings, than for them blemish the credit of the rest. But herein special respect is to be had to the common truths of the Lord Jesus, by them and us acknowledged; upon the ‘honour whereof, had they been but half so bent as upon our disgrace, they would not thus have gratified the common adversaries thereof, even theirs and ours, and with them the atheists and epicures in the land, by whom their book is most affected; blessing themselves in their professed contempt of God, and of all religion, by the sayings of those, whether truly or falsely suggested they regard not, who profess his more special fear and service; and concluding that all others are as ill as themselves, though more covertly. It is the spider's disposition, so she may entangle the silly flies in her web, to weave out her own bowels.
This libel it hath pleased divers persons of note for learning and zeal to countenance, with their writings of divers kinds. Amongst the rest, Mr. W. Ames, fearing belike lest either it should want credit, or I discredit, by the acccusations in it against the persons of other men in other churches, (which, though they were all true, as I know some of them to be wholly false, and others impudently published by such as were themselves chief agents in them, yet did no more concern me and the church with me, than did the abuses in the church of Corinth, the church at Rome; or those in some of the seven churches in Asia, the rest which were free from them,) hath published to the world, in the body of that book, without my consent, privity, or least suspicion of such dealing, certain private letters,* passing between him and me, about private communion betwixt the members of the true visible church, and others; though he take advantage and occasion, by certain general words of mine, to alter the state of the question. The occasion of which passages, if I should also publish, I am sure he would not like it, nor have cause.
Now, as I neither am, nor would be thought, insensible of this unchristian enmity, and violent opposition by them against us, in the practice of those things which themselves, as their writings testify,† do so far approve; so I think a preface very convenient for my present purpose, to communicate with others, such grounds as upon which they seem, to raise the same.
And, first, all oppositions in religion are carried usually with violence, as wherein men have special persuasion they please God in that, their special work of conscience and zeal for him and his truth. And, as men are in danger to mistake error for truth, so to prosecute the same with wrath and indignation, instead of the true zeal of God. And I do much intreat and warn those men, in the fear of the Lord, to beware that instead of zeal against our supposed errors, they nourish not in their hearts wrath and hatred against our persons; which is a great iniquity where it is found, and most contrary unto love, and so unto God, who is love, 1 John iv. 16, and the breaking of the whole law, which love fulfilleth. Gal. v. 14.
But, besides this general, they take more special occasion of offence at us, and our separation, by which we carry our differences; as wherein we do not only in word, but even really and indeed reprove their state and standing, as unlawful; and such, as we rather choose all calamities by loss of country, friends, riches, credit, liberty, yea and life itself, than by continuance therein to withhold the truth of God in unrighteousness, and uphold the chair of apostacy, and so to pull down wrath from heaven upon our heads. Which our sequestration is yet the more offensive unto them, by how much the nearer we were, and yet are in many things, united: the contentions of brethren being as the bars of a castle, Prov. xviii. 19; as also for that their party, for the reformation of their pretended national Judah, is thereby weakened. And as any, according to the proverb, may easily find a staff to beat a dog withal, so do men easily take occasion, to lay load upon us, who are, for our fewness in number and meanness of condition, so contemptible in their eyes; and against whom they have all advantages for treading upon us (save the truth) which they can desire. But the Lord Jesus, in teaching that “the way to life is narrow, which few find,” and that “to the poor the gospel is preached,” and thereupon that “he is blessed who is not offended at him,” doth plainly forewarn all his servants of this offence. Matt. vii. 14; xi. 5, 6. Others there are, also, who, whatsoever they boast of the Scriptures, have for the most part a traditional faith and religion; and, as Naaman, the Syrian, would not believe that there could be any better waters than the rivers of Damascus, 2 Kings v. 12, so neither do they think it possible that there should be any purer manner of worshiping God, than that to which they have been always used; unto which they are so superstitiously addicted, as that they are ready to think it an heretical way for any man to step out of the beaten trod of their teachers' traditionary religion.
There are also besides all these, that have their politic ends, and respects, for which they affect opposition against us. Some, of the prelates' faction, to gratify their lords and masters, at whose devotion they stand, and against whom we principally witness: others, though they like not the bishops, yet think it a point of their wisdom to take and hold up professed opposition against us, that under it as a buckler they may cover their own irregularity, and make their jealous masters believe, that they cannot but be indifferently well affected towards them, being so vehemently bent against us. Yea, others perceiving that their own grounds do in the judgment of others, wise and impartial, directly lead to the way, in which we walk, and yet seeing it not to be for their purposes to have the world so to esteem of them, do undoubtedly strain and wring the neck of their consciences, and courses, to look the contrary way, that they may not be thought to have their faces towards us.
Lastly, there are, who fearing belike to be overcome of the truth we profess, if with quiet and calm thoughts they come to consider of it, and not having hearts to embrace it, do set themselves against it tumultuously; like those cowards, who fearing the force of their adversaries, do think by debasing and reviling of them, to encourage their own faint and feeble hearts against them.
But good had it been for the truth, if at it, offences had only been taken by the adversaries thereof, and not also given by them, who have professed it: and those both so public, as they cannot be concealed, and so great, as they can receive no sufficient excuse. Yet are there notwithstanding. divers things, and those such as will seem, I doubt not, of weight, to the wise in heart, which both justly may, and necessarily must be observed about those matters: whether offensive contentions, or other personal evils, laid to our charge, and published to the world against us.
First then, and in the general; the publishers of those accusations cannot be unsuspected of any reasonable man: being such generally, as are both enemies to our profession, and have either for their unfaithful apostacy. or other scandalous sins, or both, been cast out of the church and excommunicated.* Now as for the former, it is truly and commonly said, that no person running away from his master, will easily speak well of him: so doth experience confirm it, for the latter, that scarce any condemned in any court, how justly soever, but will complain either of the malice of the evidence, or ignorance of the jury, or injustice of the judge. Condemned persons must repair their own, by ruinating the credits of their judges.
More especially: and first, of the contentions which have fallen out amongst the professors of this way. As Paul complaineth, that sin taking occasion by the law, wrought in him all manner of concupiscence, Rom. vii. 8: so indeed hath the malice of Satan, and man's corruption taken occasion to work much evil of this kind, by sundry good things specially found in the professors of this truth; as 1, by their knowledge, 2, zeal, and 3, liberty of the gospel. Knowledge, saith the apostle, puffeth up, 1 Cor. xiii. 1; i. 5, 7, 11; iii. 3: and hence was it, that the same church to which he so writes, exceeding other churches in knowledge, did also pass them in contentions, and strifes. So the churches this way, which I may truly speak, and without boasting, going before other ordinary assemblies in knowledge, are the more in danger of contentions, without special modesty, and watchfulness. Ignorant persons, and peoples, are for the most part, easily ruled, as being content to trust other men with their faith and religion: neither was there ever so great peace in the Christian world, as it is called, as in the deepest darkness of popery. 2ndly, as the greatest zeal for God is rightly found amongst God's people, so is peace and agreement greatly endangered thereby, if it be not tempered with much wisdom, moderation, and brotherly forbearance: and that they consider not aright, that both themselves and others are frail men, and compassed about with much ignorance, and infirmity otherwise: who are therefore to study, not only how to have that which they like, but also how to bear that in other men (if not intolerable) which they like not: otherwise, whilst men think by their zeal to warm the house, they will burn it over their own, and other men's heads. 3rdly, and lastly, they only, who enjoy liberty, know how hard a thing it is to use it aright. And when I see them in England wondering at the dissensions in this way, methinks I see two prisoners, being themselves fast chained and manacled together by feet, and hands, wondering to see that other men, at liberty, walk not closer together than they do. Their thraldom makes them unequal censurers of the abuse of our liberty. How many thousands are there, whose very hearts are fretted with the chains of their spiritual bondage! Yea, how many several factions of ministers are there, whose differences, if by servile fear they were not nipped in the bud, would bring forth no small both dissensions and divisions: as at this day woeful experience teacheth in the reformed, churches, whose dissensions do infinitely exceed all that ever have been amongst us! As ignorance begot, so tyranny maintained the greatest peace and unity, when popish iniquity most prevailed.
Now for personal offences; as we profess, and avow before all men, that, for ourselves, we neither receive, nor keep amongst us any persons not sanctified in their measure (in our discerning:) so do we not think ourselves any way privileged, either from the common infirmities of God's more worthy servants in all ages, or from the malice of Satan in thrusting upon us false brethren unawares, Jude 4: whose hypocrisy, and profane usurpation of the Lord's covenant, and holy things, unto which they have no right, he often punisheth with scandalous sins, and so leadeth them out amongst the workers of iniquity. Which scandals we could yet cover from the eyes of the world in a great measure, if we durst, as others do, either let sin rest upon our brethren, Lev. xix. 17: or smother in a consistory such offences, as are either public, of their own nature, or so made by the offender's private impenitence, 1 Tim. v. 20: which because we dare not do, nor but rebuke him openly, which so sinneth, and so judge both his sin and person, in which our proceedings and dealings, new offences are also added oftentimes, we do thereby lay open our own shame in the eyes of the world: and so walking in our simplicity, because we dare not be wise against the Lord Jesus Christ, his order and ordinances, we have in so great a measure our faults written in our foreheads, and are a wonder and offence unto others, who are far better acquainted with our failings, than with their own.
But besides, if not above the rest, great offence hath been taken, by many, at our extreme straitness in respect of the order wherein we walk: and more especially for refusing communion in the private and personal exercises of religion with the better sort in the assemblies; as wherein we have not only made a separation from the wicked, and from the godly also in things unlawful, or unlawfully performed, but even in their lawful actions. This Mr. Ames calls the bitterness of separation: and for it, as it seems, thinks it lawful to cast upon me the reproach of the sins of other churches and persons, whether truly, or falsely laid to their charge, he knoweth not; as also to insinuate against me, that I despise the writings of Junius,* and so of other learned men:† as justly as others have laid to his charge the contempt of all ancient writers: wherein if men deal unjustly with him, and his friends, let him see whether God deal not justly, in rewarding him as he hath served others.
For the matter of his letters, if I would strive with him about the arguments, with whom I agree in the question, I could manifest, I doubt not, how he hath not dealt sufficiently in it. Whether or no there were in the assemblies faithful and godly persons, and the same so appearing unto men, I never called into question, nor could without sinning greatly against mine own conscience:* the thing I feared, was the violation, and breach of order in the communion between the members of the true visible church, and others out of that order, or in the contrary. Mine objection hereabout Mr. A. answereth not, but only makes light account of it, as a strange order, which is broken by saying amen to a godly man's prayer. But all men know, that to set light by an argument is no sufficient answer unto it. And many cases may be put in which order may be sinfully broken in communicating even with a godly man's prayers; either privately, as if he will professedly offer up the prayers of an excommunicate, detected heretic, or other ungodly person: or publicly, if he perform the same without a true, or by a false calling. Here was use of a distinction of religious actions, into personal and church actions:† which if either Mr. A. had observed unto me, or I myself then conceived of, would have cleared the question to my conscience: and with which I did wholly satisfy myself in this matter, when God gave me once to observe it.
My judgment therein, and the reasons of it, I have set down in the first part of the book: unto which I bind no man further to assent, than he sees ground from the Scriptures. In it I oppose no article of our Confession:‡ neither was it the author's meaning, as it seemeth, further to conclude and profess separation than from communion in the public worship, and administrations there:§ neither do I herein oppose any set order of any church this way, to my knowledge. I myself, and the people with me generally, did separate from the formal state of the parish assemblies, in this persuasion, and so practised all the -while we abode in England as some there continuing, have done to this day: there having been also sundry passages between Mr. Smyth, and me about it; with whom I also refused to join, because I would use my liberty, in this point: and for which I was, by some of the people with him, excepted against, when I was chosen into office in this church. Indeed afterwards finding them of other churches, with whom I was most nearly joined, otherwise minded for the most part, I did through my vehement desire of peace, and weakness withal, remit and lose of my former resolution: and did, to speak as the truth is, forget some of my former grounds; and so have passed out upon occasion, some arguments against this practice. Which yet notwithstanding I have, in the same place, so set down, as all may see I was therein far from that certainty of persuasion, which I had and have of the common grounds of our separation: of which I think this no part at all. But had my persuasion in it been fuller than ever it was, I profess myself always one of them, who still desire to learn further, or better, what the good will of God is. And I beseech the Lord from mine heart, that there may be in the men, (towards whom I desire in all things lawful to enlarge myself) the like readiness of mind to forsake every evil way, and faithfully to embrace and walk in the truth they do, or may see, as by the mercy of God, there is in me; which as I trust it shall be mine, so do I wish it may be their comfort also in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Vide title of Lawne's book, page 83, supra.
Vide Letters between Mr. Ames and Mr. Robinson, pp. 85 —89, supra.
Vide Admonition to the Parliament. M. Ch. Sermon, upon Rom, xii., (supposed to refer to the Rev. Lawrence Chadderton, D.D., First Master of Emanuel College, Cambridge.) M. Cart. English Puritanism, &c. (Rev. Thos. Cartwright, B.D.) the distinguished Puritan and Presbyterian, but opponent of the Brownists and Separatists.
Lawne was excommunicated July 23, 1611.
Francis Junius, a learned French Protestant divine, was born at Bourges in 1545. He was successively minister of the Walloon Church at Antwerp, Chaplain to the army of the Prince of Orange, Professor at Heidelberg, and Divinity reader at Leyden, where he died of the plague in 1602, about three months after he had published his “Letters” against the “Confession of Faith, and certain English people living in the Low Countries.” He wrote Commentaries on the Scriptures, but is best known by his Latin version of the Bible, jointly with Tremellius.
Grotius against the English Puritans.
Vide Vol. ii., A Justification, &c.,
See p. 1 of following Treatise.
“The Confession of Faith,” referred to in p. 101, note, published at Amsterdam, 1598; reprinted, 1607.