It is an unfortunate turn of events when a young boy is forced to grow up without a loving father. Thus was Robert Robinson’s fate. His dad passed away when he was only eight years of age. Robert was born on Sept. 27, 1735, to Mary Wilkin and Michael Robinson, a customs officer, in Swaffam in the county of Norfolk, a market town and civil parish in the English countryside.
To make Roberts’ circumstances much more difficult, his maternal grandfather, Robert Wilkin, a wealthy man, who had never reconciled himself to his daughter’s lowly marriage, disinherited his grandson and provided an inheritance for him of only ten shillings and sixpence.
As soon as Robert was old enough, he secured a job as an apprentice to a barber. Even in his youth he endured the hardship of having to be the breadwinner for his widowed mother and himself. His formal education was limited. However, his knowledge was varied and extensive because he spent many hours in study. There was an adult-like quality deeply ingrained in him, and it allowed him to accept the responsibilities of adulthood, even as a teenager.
As he grew older, he came under the influence of the famed evangelist, George Whitfield. On Dec. 10, 1755, Robinson could not push from his mind a particular phrase used by Mr. Whitfield in one of his sermons: “Oh, my hearers! the wrath to come! the wrath to come!” He was wondrously converted and became a minister of the gospel; first, in a Baptist church, then in a Methodist church, and later in other denominations.
In one location his congregation grew to 1,000 in attendance.
Unfortunately, and for some unexplained reason, he became altogether unstable and unhappy. His Christian beliefs and training seemed of little importance to him.
On one occasion, years later, he found himself the fellow passenger of a young lady on a stagecoach. It is reported that she began to sing to break the monotony of the trip. And what did she sing?
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.
O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be.
Let Thy goodness like a fetter,
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
As she finished singing the young woman asked Roberts what he thought about the song. His startling reply was: “Madam, I am the unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago; and, I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, if I could feel now as I felt then.”
Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. – Psalm 37:4