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The History of Baptism, except the recapitulation contained in the three concluding pages, and the preface, were finished a twelvemonth before the author's death; and the work was nearly printed off when that lamented event took place. Augustin. The truth appears to be as follows. Some of the adversaries of Pelagius, Augustin and his disciples, had drawn as a consequence of his opinions (on the subject of ori, ginal sin) that infants are not to be baptised. This consequence he warmly denies, and indignantly exclaims--"Se ab “ hominibus infamari quod neget parvulis baptismi sacramentum " &c.—That he had been slanderously represented by men as “ denying the sacrament of baptism to infants.” He adds “ Nunquam se, vel impium aliquem hereticum audisse qui hoc “ quod proposuit de parvulis diceret: -That he never heard, no “ not even any impious heretic, who would say that which he “ had mentioned : viz. That unbaptised infants are not liable " to the condemnation of the first man, and that they are not “ to be cleansed by the regeneration of baptism.” Pelagius used additional strong language to repel what he deemed a slanderous inference drawn from his sentiments, and imputed to him by his adversaries. See the passages quoted from Austin de pec. origin. cap. 17, 18. And de pec. & merit, cap. 6. together with a translation of them in that excellent tract---The Baptism of Infants a reasonable service, founded upon Scripture and undoubted apostolic tradition, &c. By Micaiah Towgood. 5th. ed. p. 39—41.
Mr. Robinson thus appears to have been mistaken in what he considered to be “the most likely opinion" of Pelagius, and in not attending to the difference between an opinion advanced by one writer, and an inference drawn from it by another, and which is not unfrequently, as in the instance alluded to, totally denied.
There are certain cogent reasons which ought to have made Dr. Priestley extremely cautious in attacking the veracity of another merely on account of his inaccuracy. In the first placere
The Ecclesiastical Researches, a work connected with the History of Baptism was published about two years after the death of the author. It commences with a general view of the Roman empire, and of Judea at the birth of Jesus Christ; and after an account of the new economy introduced by John the baptist, and a view of the ministry of our Saviour, proceeds to detail an history of the principal foreign churches of Christendom from their origin to the present period. This work was carried through the press by a distinguished member of the university of Cambridge, Mr. WILLIAM FREND; who had long enjoyed the friendship of our author; a man who will be held in lasting remembrance as an able champion of religious liberty, and whose persecution has entailed indelible disgrace on the once famous Whig university, the principles of which were thoroughly corrupted under the administration of its most unworthy member-WILLIAM Pitt. Mr. Frend in his corrections made no alteration in either the sentiments or the language of our author. In the preface he gives the following character of the work.
the doctor himself in this very pamphlet has committed a mistake similar to that of Mr. Robinson's. He quotes Austin as saying “ He never heard not even of any impious heretics, “who would say that baptism was not necessary to infants." Letter, &c. p. 19. whereas it appears by the quotations above cited, it was Pelagius who used this language, and not Austin. A learned friend has suggested to me as the original cause of Doctor Priestley's harsh language, a mistake which the doctor made by mis-quoting Mr. Robinson's reference, giving lib. I. instead of lib. II. It is likewise remarkable, that in the work in which the charge is brought against Mr. R. the doctor has made in the course of two pages no fewer than four mistakes in his quotations and references! Indeed it is well known to his most partial friends, that, owing to the haste in which he sometimes wrote, his references to the writings of the fathers were not always the most accurate.
It is a sad proof of the frailties to which even great and good men are subject, when they hastily advance serious charges against persons whom they habitually esteem. No man appears to have had a higher opinion of Mr. Robinson for his piety, his integrity, and his impartiality in searching after truth, than Doctor Priestley. See his Sermon preached on the death of Mr. Robinson. passim.
“ The same subjects have occupied the atten« tion of the best writers in all ages; but the pre
judices of the times in which they lived, led “ them too frequently to extol the splendour of
of an external church, and either to overlook or ill treat those sects, which under the denomination of hereticks, entertained juster notions of christianity. Our author has with indefatigable pains explored the records of antiquity, and
proved that there never have been wanting men " to stand up in defence of the gospel, and to op
pose that spirit of domination and persecution " which reigns in the romish, and the greater part “ of the protestant churches. Wherever that spi"rit appears, it is in the following pages justly reprobated. " To those who have been charmed with the unassuming grace of Mr. Robinson in the pulpit,
“ we have no doubt that this work, calling back
to their minds the liveliness of his imagination, " and the purity of his sentiments, will be highly
acceptable; and others who have heard only of “ his fame will be happy to see here faithfully de“ lineated, the character of a man who was both “ in action and principle, a zealous advocate for “ civil and religious liberty.”
Although the two last mentioned works remain as monuments of the learning, the piety, the love of truth and of liberty of our author, it is to be lamented that, owing to their bulk, their circulation should be comparatively speaking, very limited; but it is impossible, perhaps, by any abridgment to do them justice.
Will the learned world forgive me for somewhat regretting that Mr. Robinson ever engaged in these laborious performances. They left him no time for composing smaller, but, judging from his other writings, more useful pieces. It is generally understood that in composing the two quarto volumes, he impaired his intellectual
powers, lowered his spirits, injured his health, and hastened his end. Whether the cares of a numerous family, or any other circumstance might tend to accelerate this event, it is useless to enquire. It is certain that during the last year of his life he exhibited evident marks of decliné, both bodily and inental. I saw him in London for the last time about three months before his death; and he might then have addressed his friends in the same language which
he addressed to one introduced to him a day or two before the solemn event took place :-." You
are come to see only the shadow of Robert Ro« binson."
In the spring of the year 1790, Mr. Robinson engaged to preach the annual sermons for the benefit of the dissenters' charity school in Birmingham, and it was hoped that the excursion, and the company and conversation of his friends there, might have proved of service to his health and spirits. His physician did not disapprove of the journey, although, on account of the languor of his patient, he wished it could have been deferred a week or two longer. On Wednesday the second of June, he set out from Chesterton with his son in an open chaise, and travelling by easy stages, arrived at Birmingham on Saturday evening. He was so little fatigued with his journey, that on the Sabbath he preached twice; in the morning at the new, and in the afternoon at the old meeting house. His sermons it was remarked were much inferior to those preached at former periods of his life. On Monday evening he was seized with a great difficulty of breathing to which he had for some time been subject; his friends were alarmed for him: but on Tuesday he recovered, and the greater part of the day and the whole of the evening, his conversation was as easy and entertaining as usual. He ate his supper with a good appetite, and about twelve o'clock, without any complaint, retired to rest. On Wednesday morning he was found dead