In his youth, Robert Robinson was apprenticed to a barber in London and lived a wild and reckless life. But one day he heard a sermon by George Whitefield on the stern words of John the Baptist to the Jewish leaders of his day, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Matt. 3:7). The Spirit of God convicted the wayward young man and he put his faith in Christ.
Associated with the Wesleys for a time, Robinson served as a pastor in several churches. He wrote a number of works on theology, and two hymns that we know of, Mighty God, While Angels Bless Thee, and Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing. The latter hymn begins:
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing,
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace;
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
The song is autobiographical in its confession of a proneness to wander away from the Lord. Though a man of intellectual brilliance, Robert Robinson was, in the words of Scripture, “unstable as water” (Gen. 49:4). In his later years he drifted away from God. This weakness is reflected in a later stanza of the hymn above:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.
In a spiritually backslidden condition, the author was traveling in a stage coach one day. His only companion was a young woman unknown to him. In the providence of God, and not realizing who it was she spoke with, the woman quoted Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing, saying what an encouragement it had been to her. And try as he might, Robinson could not get her to change the subject.
Finally, he said, with tears in his eyes, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who composed that hymn, many years ago. And I would give a thousand worlds, if I had them, to enjoy the feelings I then had!” Gently, she replied, “Sir, the ‘streams of mercy’ are still flowing.” He was deeply touched by that. As a result of the encounter he repented. His fellowship with the Lord was restored through the ministry of his own hymn, and a Christian’s willing witness.
(2) Today in 1834 James Thompson Born
James Oren Thompson fought with Maine’s 17th Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War, but for most of his adult life he served pastorates in a number of churches. He is known for one hymn only, a missionary prayer from 1885. (To read about the composer of the tune, James Clemm, see the second item under Today in 1837.) The song says:
Far and near the fields are teeming
With the waves of ripened grain;
Far and near their gold is gleaming
O’er the sunny slope and plain.
Lord of harvest, send forth reapers!
Hear us, Lord, to Thee we cry;
Send them now the sheaves to gather
Ere the harvest time pass by.
The refrain is based on the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew chapter 9. The Bible says, “When [Christ] saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd” (vs. 36). In response, the Lord said to His followers, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest” (vs. 37-38).