Robert Robinson Biography

Robert Robinson (September 27, 1735 – June 9, 1790) was a determined English Dissenter, an influential Baptist and scholar who made a lifelong study of the antiquity and history of Christian Baptism. He was also author of the hymns "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing" and "Mighty God, while angels bless Thee," the former of which he wrote at age 22 after converting to Methodism. The latter was later set to music by Dr John Randall, Music Professor at Cambridge.

Robert Robinson was born at Swaffham in Norfolk, on September 27, 1735, to Michael Robinson, a customs officer, and Mary Wilkin, who had married by license at Lakenheath, Suffolk, 28 March 1723. His father died when he was aged five, but his maternal grandfather, Robert Wilkin, a wealthy gentleman of Mildenhall, who had never reconciled himself to his daughter’s lowly marriage, disinherited his grandson, with an inheritance of ten shillings and sixpence. Robinson’s uncle, a farmer, had sponsored Robinson’s attendance at a school at Scarning, near Dereham, Norfolk, under Rev. Joseph Brett. When he was fourteen, Robinson was sent to London as apprentice to Joseph Anderson, a hairdresser of Crutched Friars; though Robinson continued an avid reader.

Robinson pursued a detailed study of the Scriptures and early Christian authors, which soon convinced him of the inefficacy of infant baptism, compared with the baptism of believing adults. This caused him some difficulty after he settled in Cambridge, and where he had a large family of twelve unbaptized children.

In 1752, Robinson was briefly converted to Evangelical Methodism on hearing the Calvinist George Whitefield, and in 1758 he spent a few months at a Calvinistic Methodist Chapel in Mildenhall. He was then invited to assist William Cudworth at the Calvinistic Methodist Norwich Tabernacle, but after a matter of weeks seceded to form a new Congregational Chapel in St. Paul's parish, Norwich. In January 1759, he moved again, to Stone-Yard Baptist Chapel, Cambridge, where he remained the rest of his life, first as Lecturer and then, from 1762, as Pastor. A new chapel was built for him in 1764. His congregation came to number more than a thousand. Robinson was able to buy an eighty-acre farm by the river at Chesterton, where he kept cattle and sheep, grew barley and wheat, and dealt as a corn and coal merchant with barges plying the Cam.