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FOR JULY, 1844.
JIEMOIR OF MR. WILLIAM ROBINSON,
BY TIIE REV. WILLIAM J. SKIDNIORE.
The following memoir relates to a person who, for many years, was usefully and honourably employed in various public and religious duties; and who, in the inscrutable providence of God, was cut off in the midst of his usefulness, by one of those, lamentable occurrences. often called “accidents,” but in which the Christian perceives, and bows to, the divine will. It is humbly hoped that this account of his spiritual devotedness and practical piety,—of the saintly composure of his mind in the prospect of a sudden, and, in some respects, frightful, death,-and of the easy and happy transition of his spirit from earth to heaven,---will serve to impart increased confidence and hope to those readers who are fighting the good fight of faith, and endeavouring to “lay hold upon eternal life.”
Mr. William Robinson was born at Haslingden, in the year 1789. His parents attended the ministry of the Wesleyans; and his mother was, during part of her life, a member of their society. The early education which he received, although to a certain extent religiously imperfect, was one for which, in the subsequent part of his life, he often blessed God. During his boyhood he was taken by his mother to her class, where his tender heart was powerfully wrought upon whilst listening to the statements of the members respecting their religious experience. These services were even then of great use to him, operating as a check against the indulgence of those sins which are often so eagerly committed by youth. Of the sacred emotions realized in these hours of retirement from the world, he had a lively recollection throughout life, and often spoke of them with a heart glowing with fervent gratitude. For the Leader of this class he entertained the purest affection; frequently visiting him, that he might witness his calm journey down life's rugged hill, and hear of the blissful views which brightened as he approached the close. Little did he think that he should be the first to “ depart and be with Christ.”
Perhaps if he had remained at home, the early impressions he received might more speedily have brought about his conversion ; but VOL. XXIII. Third Series. July, 1844.
the anxiety of his father to give him a superior education removed him from the parental roof, and those particular religious privileges which he so highly esteemed. He was educated partly at an academy at Ewood-Hall, near Halifax, under the care of the late Dr. Fawcett, and partly in London, where he was placed under the tuition of a Mr. Flower, of Islington. After completing his education, he was induced to enter a mercantile establishment in the metropolis, where prospects of worldly prosperity and happiness appeared to open before him, but where his associates were “the gayest of the gay.” So fascinating and powerful were the temptations to which he was here exposed, that he might have madly plunged into the vortex of utter ruin, had not the religious impressions of his early days in some degree remained. These, for a season, checked him ; but their force was fast abating, when he was providentially led into St. Bartholomew's church, where he heard a discourse which was instrumental in awakening, with great power, the convictions of the past; and which produced such contrition for sin, and such an utter abhorrence of it, that, before he left the church, he resolved, at all hazards, to sever his connexion with the votaries of pleasure, and even to quit the promised gains, with the temptations, of the metropolis for ever. The first part of this resolution he immediately fulfilled; but it is probable that he might have continued in London, had he not been recalled by the death of his father. This event terminated his connexion with that branch of mercantile life in which he had been engaged, and fixed his abode in his native town ; where, to the day of his death, he continued to be one of its most useful inhabitants, and one of its brightest ornaments.
The death of Mr. Robinson's father was to him a painful bereavement, and one which affected his after-circumstances; yet it was the means of leading him back to the scenes of his youth, to the society of God's people, and, ultimately, to a union with the church of Christ. No sooner did he return to Haslingden, than he renewed his attendance upon the Wesleyan ministry, and endeavoured to make himself generally useful in the Sabbath-school, and other local institutions ; but he did not immediately enter into church-membership. In the
1812 he married the amiable woman who was, through life, the sharer of his joys and sorrows, and who now submissively mourns his sudden departure. Neither of them had at that time fully given their hearts to God: he had the form, but not the power, of godliness. The fear of God restrained him from much evil; but he did not seek the love of God to lead him into all good. A providential chastening led him to see and feel his deficiencies, and stirred him up to seek that faith in Christ which is connected with joy in the Holy Ghost, and peace of conscience. What he sought, he attained. His faith, indeed, was at first weak, and his joy mixed with many fears; but he prayed to be strengthened with might in the inner man; and, before long, he fully entered into the glorious liberty of the children of God. He rejoiced that the Spirit of God did bear witness with his spirit that he was a child of God.
He experienced this important change after his more intimate union with the church of Christ, and when he was in the twenty-sixth year of his age. It was an event productive of the most momentous results, both to himself and to others : to himself, as it endued him with meekness, patience, and submission to God in some very trying circumstances through which he was called to pass, and in which, had he not been thus prepared, he would very likely have fallen a prey to the craftiness of wicked men : and to others, as about that time Haslingden was separated from Bury, and became a distinct Circuit; and the official members of the society being few, they rejoiced in that accession to their numbers and strength which they experienced in Mr. Robinson. To their judicious and friendly co-operation, at that period, may be ascribed much of the present strength and importance of the Circuit.
In 1820 he was appointed a Class-Leader. This was an office for which he appeared to be eminently fitted. So humbling, however, were the views which he entertained of himself, that he shrunk from the task; and only ventured to undertake it from the conviction that it was his duty to attend, in this respect, to the voice of the church, a conviction which frequent and earnest prayer strengthened. His acceptance of this responsible office was connected with a very happy circumstance for himself. Before this important trust was undertaken by him, he candidly confessed that, through a constitutional timidity to which he had yielded, instead of resisting it, his house had not hitherto been consecrated by the erection of a domestic altar. In the neglect of this duty he acknowledged that he had been guilty of great spiritual delinquency. No one was more fully aware of this than himself. From the day of his conversion, this had been the cause of great mental anguish. All the day long did he mourn over it, and at night his couch was watered with his tears. Yet, notwithstanding this incessant ruggling, he could not break through what he felt to be his weakness. Mrs. Robinson, also, had suffered much disquietude of mind on the same subject ; so that, though unconscious of each other's feelings, they mourned over this in their punctual secret devotions, and earnestly prayed that the Lord would enable them to escape out of this snare of the wicked one. The deliverance came with his appointment to be a Class-Leader. He felt that it would not do for him to direct others, while he himself was so deficient; and although the cross had increased in weight by habitual neglect, yet he at length took it up,—resolving, with Joshua, “ As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” The blessings which followed in the train of this victory were great ; pertaining to the present life, as well as to the life upon which he has now entered. Having fully acknowledged God, he obtained confidence to invite his family and friends to “ taste and see that the Lord is gracious." His precept and example were not lost upon his children and domestics, God having given him to see many of them walking in that path in which he “ found his way to heaven.”
About this time Mr. Robinson began to keep a diary of his religious experience; not in expectation that at any future period it would be made public, but in order more indelibly to impress upon his own mind the goodness of God to his soul. He found this practice very profitable. Often in the hour of severe trial he would unfold the leaves of the past, and, upon recognising the divine mercy under similar circumstances, rejoice in the consolation. If we may be allowed to form an opinion of his spiritual path from this memorial, it was “as the shining light, shining more and more unto the perfect day." The pious reader may judge for himself in the following quotations from this unassuming, but deeply interesting, journal :
“I feel my soul happy in God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and relying upon the divine word to be filled. I want to have more of the divine image planted in my soul, that I may
be more like my Redeemer."
“This day I walk in the light as He is in the light, and have 'fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus,' through the ever-blessed Spirit.”
“O for power to express the gratitude I feel towards my Father, for his abundant grace and goodness to me! I long for more of that intimate acquaintance to which I know I am called.”
Upon examination, I hope I can say that I hold fast whereunto I have attained ; and, by grace, I intend to press towards the mark for the prize of my high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
These are not partial selections from his diary, but sentiments which represent the general state of his experience. He was not satisfied with casual intercourse with God,—with occasional assurances of the divine favour. His was the constant and settled habit of the soul,--the continued and unwavering confidence which faith inspires. His enjoyments and hopes were of that rich and elevated character which can be realized by none save those who walk with God; they did not fluctuate with his feelings; the latter constituted too fallible a test for him to depend upon. Having faith, he added unto it its legitimate works,—the fruits of the Spirit.
In this diary allusion is often made to the great benefits he derived from the more private and special means of grace which, as a Methodist, it was his privilege to enjoy. So highly did he appreciate meeting in class, that, during a membership of twenty-seven years, he never absented himself, unless distant from home, or confined by sickness. Love-feasts, covenant-meetings, and especially sacramental services, were full of instruction and blessing to his soul. He hailed their return as days of grace, and seasons of refreshing coming from the presence of the Lord. Nor did he ever retire from these holy assemblies without a confirmation of faith, an enlargement of hope, and an increase of love. On these occasions the foundations of his belief in the reality of future blessedness acquired a deeper and broader basis ; his expectation of a personal realization of the ineffable glories of futurity became more vivid and absolute; and he was enabled, sometimes triumphantly, to anticipate the repose of that blessed shore,
“ Where all the ship's company meet,
Who sail'd with the Saviour beneath."
The education, the diversified abilities, and amiable manners of Mr. Robinson qualified him for the various offices of labour and trust which are connected with the Wesleyan society. These were gladly confided to his care by the church. Besides the local offices he sustained, he was Circuit-Treasurer for the Mission and Centenary Funds. His official position was sometimes a difficult one ; yet the church had always confidence in him, knowing that his conduct was not influenced by the mere pressure of outward circumstances, but was the simple manifestation of that enlightened principle which he happily possessed, and which is the only safeguard for unflinching and invariable integrity. His attachment to Wesleyan doctrine and discipline was strong and sincere, and was often put to the test; yet he never bent beneath the breeze, nor quailed before the storm. Like the oak which has acquired strength and beauty by the blasts of years, so he stood in the garden of the Lord, adorned with power and grace.
The character of Mr. Robinson, as a man and a Christian, was not concealed from the public by the curtains of a selfish sectarianism. Although a decided Wesleyan, yet he was a member of the great community of man; and, as such, endeavoured to cause those virtues which shone so mildly in the church, to exert their influence in the world. In this he was eminently successful. He was as a “city set on a hill.” All classes of the community sought his advice, both in things temporal and things spiritual. It was not merely his natural foresight and sagacity which secured for him such a sanctified notoriety, but an adherence to the golden rule of our Saviour,—“Do ye unto others as ye would they should do unto you.” This principle actuated him in all his intercourse with the world, and procured for him an extensive influence over the minds and circumstances of his neighbours, -an influence which he consecrated to the promotion of the glory of his God. If, indeed, there were one feature more prominent than another in his character, it was his benevolence. This was a virtue which to him had peculiar charms, and which he carefully cherished. Possessing a strong power of discrimination, he visited those who were afflicted and embarrassed ; not only to counsel, but relieve, them. Nor were his charities confined to his own town, but, as far as his circumstances permitted him, extended to all ; so that the