Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

pilgrimage through the world!" Eqiial to Makemie in devotion to the cause, his superior, in all probability, in ardour and power over men's passions, he stands second in point of time" on the list of those whom the Presbyterian Church in Virginia delights to honour, as an apostolic missionary, east of the Blue Ridge. Makemie's labours were on the sea shore; Robinson's at the head of tide-water; we see the fruits of the former in the still existing churches of Maryland and in the organization of the mother Presbytery of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church; and of the latter in the organization of those churches in Virginia, and the introduction of that master workman that gave character to the Presbytery of Hanover and the Synod of Virginia, and left an impress that a century of years has not done away. Some account of his life cannot be unacceptable.

Born near Carlyle, England, the son of a Quaker a physician of eminence and wealth, Robinson came to the years of maturity in expectation of an inheritance from his father and an aunt in London. On a visit to this aunt, he became entangled in the dissipation of the great metropolis, and contracted debts which his aunt refused to cancel, and which he had not the hardihood to present to his father. Resolved on emigrating to the colonies, in America, to improve his condition, he obtained from his aunt her reluctant consent, and a small sum of money to pay his passage. Taking his abode in New Jersey, he commenced teaching school as an honourable means of support and regaining his character. Thus far his career had been that of many other emigrants, who had hoped for that competence in America, which the condition of their birth, or their misguided actions had rendered hopeless in the land of their fathers. But here the similarity in a great measure ends. Though disgraced by his youthful irregularities, he was not degraded; ardent in his feelings and generous in his sentiments, he was not reckless; necessarily restrained from higher indulgences, he did not, like multitudes, compensate himself in those baser gratifications within his reach; far away from the inspection or control of relatives, he did not give himself up to the habits and appetites that have carried so many emigrants to an early and unhonoured grave.

Dr. Miller, in his Life of Rodgers, gives an interesting account of his conversion, during his residence in Hopewell, now Pennington, New Jersey. Riding late one night, while the moon and stars were shining with unusual lustre, he felt the first deep impression of heavenly things. Multitudes have said with the Psalmist,—" When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest Kim." While admiring the beauty of the heavens, Mr. Robinson said to himself—" How transcendency glorious must be the Author of all this beauty aild grandeur!" With the suddenness of lightning the inquiry darted to his soul,—" but what do I know of this God?—have I ever sought his favour?—or made him my friend?" This impression, like a voice from heaven ringing in his ears, never left him till he found God reconciled to him in Christ Jesus. What he felt strongly, his ardent feelings forbid his concealing. Longing to make known the grace of that gospel in which he believed, he devoted himself to the service of God, in the Christian ministry. Being in the bounds of New Brunswick Presbytery he put himself under its care, April 1st, 1740, and on'the 27th of the following May, at Neshaminy, he was licensed to preach the gospel. On the 4th of August 1741, he was ordained at New Brunswick. The next year he declined an invitation to be successor of the Rev. William Tennent at Neshaminy, and in November was sent as supply to the people of Nottingham, Maryland.

His race as a preacher was short but glorious: his vehement desires for the salvation of men consumed his body with the flames of love; and the monuments of his usefulness excited the astonishment of even Davies, a burning spirit in an exciting age.

He was sent, as Evangelist, by the Presbytery of New Castle, in the winter of 1742-3, in consequence of the earnest solicitations of the people, to visit the Presbyterian settlements in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and on the south side of James River, in Virginia; and the numerous settlements in North Carolina, on the Haw. On entering Virginia, he was seized near Winchester by the sheriff of Orange county, which then extended to the north branch of the Potomac, and was sent on his way to Williamsburg to answer to the Governor for preaching without license. Before he had proceeded far the sheriff released him to pursue his mission. He passed the winter in Carolina, and from the exposures to which his zeal subjected him, he contracted a disease from which he never recovered. On his return he preached with great success to the Presbyterian settlements in Charlotte, Prince Edward, Campbell and Albemarle. Here he was waited upon by a deputation that persuaded him to change his contemplated route to the head of the Shenandoah Valley, and turn back to the people of Hanover. He had proceeded as far as Rockfish Gap before he turned his course.

The messengers that waited on him wTere instructed to hear him preach, before they invited him to visit their county, and not to give him an invitation unless they thought his doctrines agreed with their views of religious truth. Mr. Hunt says— "already"—that is, previous to Mr. Robinson's arrival—"difference of opinion had arisen which threatened the most serious evils. Some of their number, carrying some of the peculiar and distinguishing doctrines of the gospel to a licentious extreme, began to deny, not only the merit of good works, but their necessity—not only the efficacy of means, but their expediency, so that it was made a serious question among them, whether it was right to pray, as prayer could not, as it would be impious to desire it should, alter the divine purposes." When the delegates heard Mr. Robinson they wTere divided in opinion respecting his doctrines. "One," says Mr. Hunt, "thought that he was entirely evangelical: the other thought he dwelt too much on the necessity of works, and urged too strongly the use of means; and was afraid that thereby he at least clouded the doctrines of grace, and threw a veil over the glories of divine sovereignty in the salvation of man. But it was determined they should give him a cordial invitation in the name of the congregations." He at first declined; but their cordial and earnest invitation led him to think the call was from God, and after some deliberations in secret, he made arrangements for a visit to Hanover.

On the day appointed, Mr. Robinson, after a fatigueing journey, protracted through most of the night preceding, in order to prevent a disappointment, arrived, and found a large crowd assembled. Says Mr. Hunt — "their Reading House was soon- filled to overflowing. But a venerable spreading oak embowered with the surrounding shades, gave him and the people shelter." Mr. Morris and friends proceeded immediately on Mr. Robinson's arrival to have an interview with him in private. In this they inquired of him his denomination, his doctrinal and practical views of religion, and his method of procedure. He produced his testimonials which were full and satisfactory as it regarded his ministerial standing; and gave them his creed and views of practical religion. "Being satisfied"—says Mr. Morris,—"about the soundness of his principles, and being informed that the method of his preaching was awakening, we were very eager to hear him." In none of the few particulars that are left us, of the proceedings of Mr. Robinson, does he show himself so worthy of his office as Evangelist, as in this interview. The knowledge of human nature, of the principles of the gospel, and the practical operations of grace in the heart, producing meekness and candour,— the giving an answer about his creed to those he came to instruct, and a reason of the hope that was in him to these people that did not know what they were themselves,—these things exhibited in this interview, show .him to have been a man gifted from on high to be a teacher of babes and an instructor of wise men. It is delightful to see in this first preacher, that frankness and candour about doctrines and practice and designs in religion, that has so long characterized the ministry that have followed him in succession. May it ever be their glory, that no man that hears them often need ask,—and no stranger may inquire but once—what are their doctrinal views.

On Sabbath, July 6th, 1743, the first sermon from a Presbyterian minister, was heard in Hanover county, Virginia. The text was Luke xiii. 3,—u I tell you, nay: but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish." What a subject for a warmhearted preacher to pour into the ears and hearts of an excited people, assembled, for the first time, to hear an evangelical minister proclaim the solemn truths of the gospel. "He continued"—says Mr. Morris—"with us preaching, four days successively. The congregation was large the first day, and vastly increased the three ensuing. 'Tis hard for the liveliest imagination to form an image of the condition of the assembly on these glorious days of the Son of Man. Such of us as had been hungering for the word before, were lost in agreeable surprise and astonishment, and some could not refrain from publicly declaring their transports. We were overwhelmed with the thoughts of the unexpected goodness of God in allowing us to hear the gospel preached in a manner that surpassed our hopes. Many, that came through curiosity, were pricked to their heart; and but few of the numerous assembly on these four days appeared unaffected. They returned alarmed with apprehensions of their dangerous condition, convinced of their former entire ignorance of religion, and anxiously inquiring what they should do to be saved. And there is reason to believe, there was as much good done by these four sermons, as by all the sermons preached in these parts before or since." This statement was made in the year 1750; by "as much good," the writer probably means, as many souls hopefully converted. "Before Mr. Robinson left us,"—continues Mr. Morris—"he successfully endeavoured to correct some of our mistakes; and to bring us to carry on the worship of God more regularly at our meetings. After this we met to read good sermons, and began and concluded with prayer and signing of psalms,, which till then we had omitted." What these mistakes were, has been stated, and they were such as experienced men would expect to find in a community where religious knowledge and experience were novelties; mistakes, of which the proud are tenacious, and from which the humble are speedily delivered by faithful teaching.

After spending four days in preaching publicly, and instructing and counselling privately, Mr. Robinson was constrained to depart; his previous appointments called him on, and it was rumoured that the officers of the law were preparing to arrest him as an itinerant. The people, in part to remunerate him for fatiguing rides and incessant labours, but mostly, as an expression of gratitude, raised a considerable sum of money, and presented it to him. This, for various reasons, he refused. They pressed the matter: he, believing it to be injudicious to take any thing from them in the present condition of things, perseveringly refused.

"In this dilemma"—says Mr. Hunt—"the committee entrusted with it put it into the hands of the gentleman, with whom he was to lodge the last night of his stay in the county, with directions to convey it privately into his saddle bags, not doubting, but when, after his departure, he should find himself in possession of the money, he would appropriate it to his own use. This was accordingly done. And in the morning, Mr. Robinson having taken an affectionate leave of his kind friends, his saddle bags were handed to him, but he found them much more ponderous than when he came there. Searching for the cause, like Joseph's brethren of old, he found the money in the sack's mouth. Pleased with the benevolent artifice, he smiling said— 41 see you are resolved I shall have your money; I will take it; but as I have told you before, I do not need it; I have enough, nor will I appropriate it to my own use; but there is a young man of my acquaintance of promising talents and piety, who is now studying with a view to the ministry, but his circumstances are embarrassing, he has not funds to support and carry him on without much difficulty; this money will relieve him from his pecuniary difficulties: I will take charge of it and appropriate it to his use; and as soon as he is licensed we will send him to visit you; it may be, that you may now, by your liberality, be educating a minister for yourselves. This money was appropriated by Mr. Robinson to the education of Samuel Davies. His promise was kept; he did not live to see the reality of his anticipation; he died in 1746, and Davies came to Virginia in 1747.

"This is the reason"—said a pious old lady to Dr. Rice— "that Mr. Davies came to Hanover; for he often used to say that he was inclined to settle in another place; but that he felt under obligations to the people of Hanover." On these facts the Editor of the Literary and Evangelical Magazine, the Rev. John H. Rice, D.D., remarked—"As far as we can learn this is the first money that ever was contributed, in Virginia, for the education of poor and pious youth for the ministry of the gospel. And really it turned out so well we wonder the people have not done much more in the same way."

Thus ends Mr. Robinson's personal labours in Virginia. One short visit to a number of congregations; to a few, two visits, in the same excursion; and he passes from the sight of these

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »