The author of today’s hymn, Robert Robinson, was born in Swaffham, Norfolk, England in 1735 of humble parentage. His father passed away while Robert was still a young boy. His mother, a godly woman, desired that Robert become a minister in the Church of England, but being impoverished he was instead indentured to a London barber in 1749.
As it turned out the profession of barbering was not suitable for Robert who loved to study and read. His apprenticeship ended just before he would have completed his indenture, however. One day Robert and some of his friends (some say his fellow thugs) were out and about one Sunday when they encountered a fortune-teller who they proceeded to ply with liquor and make her drunk, this in order to convince her to tell their fortunes for free and have a good laugh.
Whether on that day or another, the story goes that Robert and his friends made their way to an evangelistic meeting where renowned preacher George Whitefield was speaking – presumably so that could also make light of his message.
Instead, Whitefield’s text from Matthew 3:7 regarding “the wrath to come” set Robert on a path of turmoil and fear for the next three years. By the time he was twenty years old, Robert had found “peace by believing” on December 10, 1755. He recorded the event, curiously in Latin, on the leaf of one of his books:
Robertus, Michaelis Mariseque Robinson filius. Natus Swaffhami, comitatu Norfolciae, 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 seculorum. Amen.
Until 1758 he remained in London, sitting under the ministries of men like John Wesley and John Gill. That same year he also penned the words to the hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing to accompany a sermon he preached at a Methodist church. The tune, entitled Nettleton, was composed several years later in 1813 by John Wyeth, named for Reverend Asahel Nettleton.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.
Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood;
How His kindness yet pursues me
Mortal tongue can never tell,
Clothed in flesh, till death shall loose me
I cannot proclaim it well.
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
O that day when freed from sinning,
I shall see Thy lovely face;
Clothed then in blood washed linen
How I’ll sing Thy sovereign grace;
Come, my Lord, no longer tarry,
Take my ransomed soul away;
Send thine angels now to carry
Me to realms of endless day.
In 1759 Robert was invited to serve at Stone Yard Baptist Church in Cambridge where he preached his first sermon on January 8, 1759, of course after he had been baptized by immersion as was the custom of Baptists. Although he had been called only to fill in, his popularity amongst the congregants grew until in 1761 he heeded their call and became the full-time pastor. He began to write and publish scholarly works in 1770 and in 1781 was asked by the Baptists of London to write their history. The History of Baptists was published in 1790 and Robert Robinson died that same year on June 9.
Some believe that Robinson later forsook his Baptist faith and leaned more toward Unitarianism. More than one source purports that Robinson lapsed into sin occasionally (“prone to wander”), although it appears that he served faithfully for several years as pastor at Stone Yard. Given the record of his ministry and scholarly writings, it does seem a bit far-fetched as it has been noted that after the accusation he preached a sermon where he declared, “Christ in Himself is a person infinitely lovely as both God and man.”
Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!
© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.