One Sunday when he was a young man, Robert Robinson and some buddies went to church…but only to make fun of the Christians gathered in worship. However, the preacher that day was the mighty George Whitefield, and Robinson ended up giving his life to Christ instead!
And that’s just one part of this hymn writer’s amazing spiritual journey.
Robert Robinson was born to lowly parents in Norfolk, England in September of 1735. Unfortunately, his father died when he was still very young, and eventually, his mother had to send him to London to study the barbering trade. While there, the boy kept rough company and fully embraced an immoral lifestyle.
The same group of scoundrels convinced Robinson to attend church with them one Sunday morning when he was 17 years old to ridicule “the poor, deluded Methodists,” but God had other ideas.
George Whitefield, arguably one of England’s greatest preachers, was teaching from Matthew 3:7 that morning. (But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”) Whitefield’s strong evangelistic style not only silenced the boys’ mockery, but also convinced Robinson to become a Christian!
It wasn’t long before Robinson joined the ministry, himself. He started preaching in the Methodist Church, but couldn’t reconcile infant baptism with Scripture, so he joined ranks with the Baptists. It was while he was among the Baptists that his reputation as a songwriter and gifted theologian grew.
Among other works, Robinson penned the famous hymn Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. In it, he admitted to being “prone to wander,” and “prone to leave the God I love.” Sadly, those lines would prove to be prophetic of his later years as Robinson backslid into sin and dabbled with various heresies.
But God wasn’t finished with Robinson.
One day, as Robinson was riding in a stagecoach, he overheard one of the female passengers humming a tune as she looked through a hymnbook. Noticing that her melody got his attention, the woman asked Robinson what he thought of the song. He immediately burst into tears and exclaimed, “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.”
Because God is a God of second chances (and 42nd chances!), He used this incredible moment to get Robinson’s attention.
How is He trying to get your attention?
101 Hymn Stories: The Inspiring True Stories Behind 101 Favorite Hymns by K. W. Osbeck. Kregel Publications, 1995, Pages 51-52.
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(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)