Robert Robinson (hymnist)


Early Life and Conversion

Robert Robinson's father died when he was young, and he turned to a life of recklessness and hooliganism. Fearful of a young gypsy's prediction that he would have a long life, and how his mode of behavior would impact future offspring, he attended a service pastored by George Whitefield, and was struck with dread at the wrath of God against sinners. At the age of twenty, he reformed his ways and became a Methodist preacher.

Ministry and Later Life

Robinson is best known today for his authorship of "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", a hymn which has remained popular in Protestant churches. He also wrote the lesser known "Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee" in 1774.

He was accused of converting to Unitarianism later in life, partly because of his friendship with Joseph Priestly. He, however, seemed to rebuff the notion that he doubted the full divinity of Jesus Christ, a doctrine held by the Unitarian Church. A story, possibly apocryphal, is sometimes told of Robinson that one day in a stagecoach a lady asked him what he thought of the hymn "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing." He responded, "Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I had then." [ [ Did Robert Robinson Wander?] ]

After his dismissal from Dob End Lane Chapel in Failsworth, he moved to Barrack Hill Farm in Bredbury in the 1770's. Robinson died on June 9, 1790. He was buried in a field near his house, where the place was enclosed by a wall. The enclosure was a square red-brick structure below School Brow, out of which elder bushes grew.


It was reputed that he was laid in a coffin with a glass panel over his face. James Cocks, in the Memorials of Hatherlow, gives alternative reasons for his mode of disposal. One is that he had a horror of premature burial, and his relatives were instructed to visit his grave periodically to check that he was still dead. An alternative explanation is that he feared the attention of the "resurrection men". A further account is that he had for many years protested against the indecent manner in which funerals were commonly conducted, and so was prompted to prepare a private cemetery on his own land.

However, it appears that the disposal was without ceremony, at break of day, eight days after his death, which gives some credence to another explanation that, because of his disputatious life, his body was not acceptable to the controllers of consecrated ground.

At one time anyone could see the coffin, and large numbers came out of morbid curiosity, especially on Sundays, so that eventually because of the scandal the place was enclosed by a wall.


ee also

*Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

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