Robinson, Thomas

, a late eminent divine at Leicester, the son of James Robinson, hosier of Wakefield in Yorkshire, was born Aug. 29, 1749. He was educated at the grammar-school of his native place, where he made such proficiency that his masters earnestly solicited his father to permit him to continue a learned education, instead of putting him to business, which was his original intention; and when it was determined to send him to the university, the governors of the school unanimously agreed to allow him a double exhibition. With this provision he was admitted a sizar of Trinity college, Cambridge, in Oct. 1768. Various circumstances, for which we may refer the reader to an elaborate life of him latelypublished, contributed to give his mind more serious impressions than are usual at his period of life, and his whole behaviour as a student became exemplary. He scrupulously observed all the attendances which were required of him, and quickly obtained the reputation of having made much proficiency as a scholar. His religious character too, though not yet formed to that degree of strictness | which it afterwards attained, was at least so far advanced as to make his habits, conversation, and avowed opinions widely different from those of the greater part of his contemporaries.

In his academical pursuits, he appears to have divided his attention between the classics and mathematics, relieving both occasionally by the perusal of treatises in divinity, in which he gave the preference to those of the Calvinistic kind. In April 1771 he was elected a scholar of Trinitycollege, after a strict and comprehensive examination. In December of the same year he obtained the second of Dr. Hooper’s prizes for the best English declamation. He gained great credit from his mathematical disputations in the schools, the year previous to his tirst degree. What is not very common even with the more advanced mathematical proficients, he always made his own arguments, when be kept an opponency, and these were in general skilful, as well as ably defended. In one of those disputations, he invented an argument against the doctrine of prime and ultimate ratios, as taught by one of our ablest mathematicians, which, it is said, has never yet been satisfactorily answered. Infleed, he was particularly calculated to excel in this species of exercise; as possessing a remarkable degree of acuteness, solidity, and self-possession, together with a fair share of mathematical knowledge. He was well acquainted with natural philosophy, though but little with analytics.

Accordingly he was ranked high from the schools, being placed in the first class; so as to be a competitor with those who were far his superiors in depth of reading. He stood seventh in the senate-house examination; which was considered a high degree at that time, for one who had not enjoyed the advantage of a private tutor. Dr. Tomline, the present bishop of Lincoln, the senior wrangler of the year, with whom he was engaged in this honourable competition for academical distinction, is well known to have expressed a high respect for Mr. Robinson’s character, and for his attainments as a scholar. Mr. Robinson at this time used to say that he never expected to cope with his lordship and with his other competitors, who were placed before him, in algebra and fluxions; what he knew was chiefly in philosophy. Locke’s “Essay,” and Butler’s “Analogy,” which he had studied attentively, were also of service to him in the examination. His friends, who | could duly estimate hrs talents, were anxious that be should be a candidate for one of the classical medals; hut he declined offering himself, through the determination he had formed of entering as soon as possible into the church. He was elected fellow of Trinity-college, with peculiar circumstances of distinction, Oct. 1, 1772; and in 1773 he obtained the second of the middle bachelor’s prizes for the best Latin essay on some moral subject. On this occasion he had eight competitors. Dr. James, the late head roaster of Rugby-school, who particularly excelled in writing Latin prose, gained the first prize; but Mr. Robinson was allowed to be at this time the best general scholar of his year; and his seniors, who were most competent tq decide upon his literary merits, declared that they had not known his superior. His biographer gives us an anecdote which shows, in a very striking point of view, the character he held among his contemporaries. An attempt was made, during his under-graduateship, to set aside subscription to the Thirty-nine articles. Some young men went about the university, endeavouring to prevail upon the under-graduates to sign a petition for that purpose. In Trinity-college, the first question which the undergraduates put to those persons who applied to them was, “Has Robinson signed the petition?” and they declined signing it, when they found he had not and the argument which the persons applying made use of to prevail upon Mr. Robinson to sign was, “If you will sign, all the under-graduates in Trinity-college will sign.” Mr. Robinson, it is scarcely necessary to add, refused to sign this petition.

Soon after receiving his first degree, Mr. Robinson was ordained by bishop Keene, and entered upon the curacy of Witcham, in the Isle of Ely. To this was added that of Wichford; and his performance of the duties of both was equally conscientious and successful. About two years after, he quitted this situation and accepted the curacy of St. Martin’s Leicester, under the rev. Mr. Haines: here he had considerable opposition to encounter; but at length acquired a great degree of general popularity, and the respect of many of the upper classes, who were at first prejudiced against his youth and his doctrines. He was also chosen afternoon lecturer of All Saints, and in 1774, chaplain to the Infirmary. To these labours tie added, during 4 considerable part of his life, the care of instructing s | young gentlemen in classical learning, who were preparing for the university, but in some cases at least, would accept of no pecuniary compensation. In the same year (1774) he married a lady, whose name his biographer does not mention, by whom he had a family, and who died in 1791. In 1778 a weekly lecture being founded at St. Mary’s church by Mr. Joseph Wheatley, an opulent manufacturer of Leicester, with the consent of the incumbent, and of the bishop of the diocese, Mr. Robinson was appointed first lecturer. Soon after, in the same year, on the death of the incumbent, Mr. Robinson was instituted to the living of this church, by the lord-chancellor. It was here that he preached a course of sermons on “Scripture Characters,” which has since been printed, and forms the most popular of his works, having gone through several editions, in 4 vols. 8vo.

In 1788, when a general stir was made by the dissenters, throughout the kingdom, to obtain the repeal of the Corporation and Test Acts, and when the Midland counties were made to feel the more intense flame which burned pretty widely, through the adjacent influence of Dr. Priestley, a large central meeting, for the purpose of promoting the common object, was held at Leicester, to which Mr. Robinson was earnestly invited, but be peremptorily refused, and that in language which could not be agreeable; for, among other things, he told the applicants that it was “money and power” which they wanted, and “not the means of serving God more acceptably, or of preaching his gospel more extensively.” Strong attachment to government; deference to the powers that be; an high sense of the importance and utility of a dignified hierarchy, together with cordial approbation of the forms and discipline of the church of England, not less than of her doctrines; were a sort of primary element in his mind. On the same principles, one of his last public acts was to unite with a large body of his brother clergymen, in petitioning parliament against the repeal of the remaining restrictions upon popery.

The seventh of March 1813 was the thirty-ninth anniversary of Mr. Robinson’s connection, as a preacher, with the town of Leicester. He had been vicar of St. Mary’s during thirty-four years, and by his zeal and ability in performing his pastoral duties, as well as by his pious and benevolent character in private life, had overcome all | opposition and all prejudice, when he was seized with a fit of apoplexy on the 24th of the month before-mentioned, and expired within a few hours, in his sixty-fourth year. For many minutiae of character, many illustrative anecdotes, and much discussion on his character and writings, we must refer to our authority. Besides his “Scripture Characters,” already noticed, he was the author of “A serious exhortation to the Inhabitants of Great Britain, with reference to the approaching Fast,1795; “An address to the Loyal Leicester Volunteer Infantry,1795; “The Christian System unfolded, or Essays on the Doctrines and Duties of Christianity,” 3 vols. 8vo, intended as a popular body of divinity, but drawn out in the form of Essays, instead of Sermons, in winch the subjects had been formerly discussed from the pulpit “The Parochial Minister’s address to his Parishioners” a tract “On Confirmation” “Address on the Peace of 1802;” “The Serious Call;” one or two occasional sermons, and “Prophecies on the Messiah.1

1 From “Some account of, &o. by tha Rev. Edward Thomas Vatigban, M. A< ticar of St. Martin’s and All Saints/ Leicester,” &c. 1815, 8vo.