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Robert Robinson, 1735-1790.
British Baptist Minister

      Julian's account of R. Robinson goes as follows:

      Robert Robinson, the author of "Come Thou Fount of every blessing" and "Mighty God, while angels bless Thee", was born at Swaffham in Norfolk, on September 27th. 1735 (usually misgiven in spite of his own authority as January 8th.) of lowly parentage. Whilst in his eighth year the family migrated to Scarning in the same county. He lost his father a few years after this removal. His widowed mother was left in dire straits. The universal testimony is that she was a godly woman, and far above her circumstances. Her ambition was to see her son a clergyman in the Church of England, but poverty forbade, and the boy (in his 15th year) was indentured to a barber and hair-dresser in London. It was an uncongenial position for a bookish and thoughtful lad. His master found him more given to reading than to his profession. Still he appears to have nearly completed his apprenticeship when he was released from his indentures. In 1752 came an epoch-making event. Out on a frolic one Sunday with like-minded companions, he joined with them in sportively rendering a fortune-telling old woman drunk and incapable that they might hear and laugh at her predictions concerning them. The poor woman told Robinson that he would live to see his children and grandchildren. This set him a-thinking and he resolved more than ever to "give himself to reading". Coincidentally he went to hear George Whitefield. The text was Matthew 3:7 and the great evangelist's searching sermon on the wrath to come haunted him, blessedly. He wrote to the preacher six years later penitently and pathetically. For well nigh three years he walked in darkness and fear, but in his 20th year found "peace in believing". Hidden away on a blank leaf of one of his books is the following record of his spiritual experience, the Latin doubtless having been used to hold it modestly private: "Robertus Michaelis Mariaeque Robinson filius, natus Swaffham, comitatu Norfolkiae, Saturni Die Sept 27.1735. Renatus Sabbati Die, Maii 24, 1752 per predicationem potentem Georgii Whitefield, et gustatis Doloribus renovationis duos annosque septem absolutionem plenam gratuitamque, per sanguinem pretiosum Jesu Christi, inveni (Tuesday, December 10, 1755) Cui sit honor et gloria in secula seculoru, Amen".

      Robinson remained in London until 1758, attending assiduously on the ministry of Gill, Wesley and other evangelical preachers. Early in this year he was invited as a Calvinistic Methodist to the oversight of a chapel at Mildenhall, Norfolk. Thence he removed within the year to Norwich, where he was settled over an Independent congregation. In 1759, having been invited by a Baptist church at Cambridge (afterwards made historically famous by Robert Hall, John Foster and others) he accepted the call and preached his first sermon there on January 8th 1759, having been previously baptized by immersion. The "call" was simply "to supply the pulpit", but he soon won such regard and popularity that the congregation again and again requested him to accept the full pastoral charge. This he acceded to in 1761, after persuading the people to "open communion". In 1770 he commenced his abundant authorship by publishing a translation from Saurius' sermons, afterwards completed. In 1774 appeared his masculine and unanswerable "Arcana, or the Principles of the Late Petitioners to Parliament for Relief in the Matter of Subscription". In 1776 was published "A Plea for the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ in a Pastoral Letter to a Congregation of Protestant Dissenters at Cambridge". Dignatories and clergymen of the Church of England united with Noncomformists in lauding this exceptionally able, scholarly and pungently written book. In 1777 followed his "History and Mystery of Good Friday". The former work brought him urgent invitations to enter the ministry of the Church of England, but he never wavered in his nonconformity. In 1781 he was asked by the Baptists of London to prepare a history of their denomination. This resulted in 1790 in his "History of Baptism and Baptists", and in 1792 in his "Ecclesiastical Researches". Other theological works are included in the several collective editions of his writings. He was prematurely worn out. He retired in 1790 to Birmingham, where he was somehow brought into contact with Dr. Priestly, and Unitarians have made much of this, on exceedingly slender grounds. He died June 9th 1790. His life has been fully written by Dyer and by William Robinson respectively, both with a bias against orthodoxy. His three changes of ecclesiastical relationship show that he was somewhat unstable and impulsive. His hymns are terse yet melodious, evangelical but not sentimental, and on the whole well wrought.

      Robinson has two hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' and both hymns are well proved favourites: No.179. "Brightness of the eternal glory, shall Thy praise unuttered lie?" and No. 354. "Come, Thou Fount of every blessing".

      Julian has an account of a controversy regarding the authorship of "Come Thou Fount of every blessing". The hymn was claimed for the Countess of Huntingdon. After examining all the available evidence, Julian claims that there is no doubt that Robinson is the author of the hymn.

      Both hymns are found in all the editions of the Little Flock Hymn Book from 1856-1978. There are many variations of No. 179. In the 1856 edition it is rendered this:

Brightness of eternal glory,
Shall Thy praise unuttered lie?
Who would hush the boundless story
Of the One Who came to die.

Came from off the throne eternal,
Down to Calvary's depth of woe,
Came to crush the powers infernal;
Streams of praises ceaseless flow.

Sing His blest triumphant rising;
Sing Him on the Father's throne;
Sing - till heaven and earth surprising,


[From; via the Internet. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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