John Robinson (Divine) - Encyclopedia

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JOHN ROBINSON (1575-1625), English Nonconformist divine, was born probably in Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire about 1575. He seems to have studied at Cambridge, and to have been influenced by William Perkins. He took orders and held a curacy in Norwich, but was attracted by Puritan doctrines, and finally associated himself with a Congregation meeting at Gainsborough (where the "John Robinson Memorial Church" bears witness to his work). .In 1606 the members divided into two societies, Robinson becoming minister of the one which made its headquarters at Scrooby, a neighbouring village. The increasing hostility of the authorities towards nonconformity soon forced him and his people to think of flight, and, not without difficulty, they succeeded in making their escape in detachments to Holland. Robinson settled in Amsterdam in 1608, but in the following year removed, with a large contingent, to Leiden, where he ministered to a community whose numbers gradually grew from one hundred to three hundred. In 1620 a considerable minority of these sailed for England in the "Speedwell," and ultimately crossed the Atlantic in the "Mayflower"; it was Robinson's intention to follow as soon as practicable, along with the rest of his flock, but he died before the plan could be carried out, on the 1st of March 1625.

In the early stages of the Arminian controversy he took the Calvinistic side, and even engaged in a public disputation with the famous Episcopius. He bore a high reputation even among his ecclesiastical opponents, and one of them (Robert Baillie) calls him "the most learned, polished and modest spirit that ever that sect enjoyed." He was large-minded and eminently reasonable in spirit, recognizing parish assemblies where "the pure word and discipline" prevailed as true churches of God. His sound judgment is seen in the way in which he adjusted the relations of elders and church - the most delicate practical problem of Congregationalism.

Amongst his publications may be mentioned Justification of Separation from the Church (161o), Apologia Brownistarum (1619), A Defence of the Doctrine propounded by the Synod of Dort (1624), and a volume of Essays, or Observations Divine and Moral, printed in 1625. His Works (with one exception, A Manumission to a Manduction, since published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, ser. iv., vol. i.), including a memoir, were reprinted by R. Ashton in three vols. in 1851. A summary of their contents is given in G. Punchard, History of Congregationalism (New York, 1867), iii. 300-344. See further Congregationalism, and the literature there cited; also O. S. Davis, John Robinson (Hartford, Connecticut, 1897).

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