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only free access to the public library, but the privilege of having the books he wished to consult, conveyed to his own study. A subscription was entered into to enable the author to publish the work; and the list of subscribers proved to be numerous and respectable.
Mr. Robinson employed a considerable part of the remaining years of his life, except the last, when his health and spirits began to languish, in writing the History of Baptism, and Ecclesiastical Researches. Of the extent of his labours, and his assiduity, some estimate may be formed by his own account, as contained in letters to different friends.* The greatness of the work he had originally sketched, appears at times to have discouraged him, and he professes his incompetency for the purpose. Before he had half accomplished his task he writes to one of his friends“ I have had “ loads of books from the university, and loads “ more I must have.” The following letter from a learned and respectable baptist minister, written after perusing a specimen of the History, sent him by the author, contains a just character of the work, and a prediction respecting it which appears to been accurately founded.
“ REVEREND SIR, “From the specimen of your history of the " baptists, or rather of baptism, which you have “ honoured me with, I really think, if my opi"nion were of any worth, that the work, when
* Vol. IV. p. 235-245.
finished, will be an important acquisition to “ the republic of letters,-cast some rays of light
upon the dark regions of antiquity,--and by “stating indisputable facts, no matter whether
through the hands of Arians, Socinians, or Atha
nasians, friends, or enemies, help an honest " enquirer in his search after truth; and, at the “same time, if I may be allowed to speak my "free sentiments, without the imputation of flat
tery, (which I am very far from being inclined “to), be a lasting monument of the learned au“thor's extensive reading, indefatigable industry, “ and singular sagacity, in selecting proper mate
rials for his subject. Under this conviction, I “ heartily wish it may be laid before the public;
though my state of health for some time past “ hath been such, as to render it very uncertain, , " whether I may live to see the plan completed. " Of its general spread there seems to be little “ doubt, considered only as a book of litera
ture, to adorn the libraries of the learned and $6 curious. “ I am, Sir, “ Your Obedient Humble Servant,
“ J. THOMSON."* Clapham, June 14, 1787."
* Mr. Dyer has called Mr. Thomson, first John Thomson ; then Joshua Thomson: his christian name was Josiah.
The merits of the controversial part of the History of Baptism, as relating to the mode and the subject, I shall not attempt to discuss. Mr. Robinson considered the mode generally followed in his own denomination, of baptising transversely, by laying a person down backward under the water, a variation from the primitive mode. The latter he describes as follows :-" The administrator, “whether in or out of the water, stood on the
right side of the candidate, his face looking to " his shoulder. The candidate stood erect, and “ the administrator, while he pronounced the bap
tismal words, laid his right hand on the hind
part of the head of the candidate, and bowed " him gently forward, till he was all under water." Mr. Robinson then proceeds to shew. the figurative uses of this mode of baptism. On this part of the subject I beg leave to make one remark;How cautious should the baptists be of censuring their brethren who may differ from them respecting any exclusive mode, when they themselves cannot determine what that exclusive mode was; and when one of the most learned of their body, and who had most laboriously investigated subject, is of opinion, that the mode generally practised in their denomination was unknown to the primitive churches.
With respect to the subjects of baptism, our author has shewn much learning and ingenuity in his
endeavours to prove that the words infants and little children, mean, in the writings of the fathers, youth and minors; which, however, will not be considered as materially affecting the point in controversy, unless he had proved them to have such meaning exclusively.* Critics have remarked that he has overlooked the principal arguments urged by the best writers in favour of infant baptism.t What he has advanced appears by no means calculated to bring the controversy nearer to a conclusion. Happy, however, would it be for the christian church, if all those who hold different opinions on the subject of baptism, were like our author; who whilst he firmly maintained his own sentiments, as firmly maintained the right of his
* On the subject of Minor Baptism our author has the following excellent remarks : happy would it be for the rising generation, were they more attended to.
By those who admit the propriety of Minor Baptism in “ general (and there is nothing in it inconsistent either with “ the dignity of divine revelation, or the perfect freedom of “man, for youth upwards of sixteen are at Gears of discre" tion, and capable of judging of religion for themselves, the “discipline (1. e. mode of instruction practised in ancient
times) might be easily revived. A month in the spring " would be well employed by ministers in giving lectures to “ select assemblies of youth on the evidences of christianity, “ and parents might easily engage their families to attend As them. One would embolden another, and the most disen
gaged time of life would be granted them as the most eligie " ble to put on a profession of religion, which is now hardly “considered as a duty expected to be done in some families."
† Encyc. Britan. Art. ROBINSON,
brethren who differed from him to all the privileges of christian fellowship; justly considering the
baptism of those who profess to believe in Jesus " Christ, not a church ordinance, but a profes"sion of christianity at large,” and of course that differences of opinion on the subject of baptism ought not to form a bar to church communion.
Mr. Robinson at the close of his preface to his History, appeals to the public respecting his motives in writing it, as follows:
“I feel happy on reflection that I did not set about this work on any motives below the dig
nity of a christian, nor am I aware that I have "prostituted my pen to serve a party, or once " dipped it in gall: escapes undoubtedly there are
many, but when did any individual of my species
produce a work of absolute perfection. Such as “it is I commend it to the candid perusal of my “ brethren.
* Dr. Priestley in his Letter to an Antipædobaptist, p. 24, charges Mr. Robinson with “ maintaining that the Pelagians til denied infant baptism;" and on this account makes a serious attack on Mr. Robinson's veracity; an attack, which on examirration, proves to be as unfounded as it is cruel.
“ The inost likely opinion” says Mr. Robinson, “ is that Pes
lagius did deny the baptism, but not the salvation of in** fapts."
Speaking of Augustin he remarks—" Had he forgot himself when he taxed the Pelagians with denying infant ** baptism, and when he complains in another book of the
people who opposed it.” Hist. of Bap. p. 210, 218.
Mr. Robinson it must be acknowledged is not accurate in bis supposition respecting the opinion of either Pelagius or