Hymn Story

Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Hymn lists
by book of Bible

God chooses whom God chooses— usually a less than obvious candidate.  He chose Moses, who had no gift for public speaking, to tell Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”  He chose David, a mere boy, to deliver his people from the giant, Goliath.  And he chose Robert Robinson to write this hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”—a hymn that has blessed people for more than two centuries.

Robinson was an unlikely candidate for ministry.  As a teenager, he was a member of a street gang.  One night they plied a fortuneteller with alcohol in the hope of getting their fortunes told for free —hardly an auspicious occasion for the work of the Holy Spirit.  But the fortuneteller told Robinson, “You will live to see your children and your grandchildren”—and that comment made Robinson decide to clean up his act.

Inviting his gang to mock Methodists, Robinson persuaded them to visit a revival meeting being conducted by the great evangelist, George Whitfield.  Whitfield preached on the text, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” and convinced Robinson that he was speaking to him personally.  It took three more years, but Robinson became a Christian.

Robinson never got the proper education expected of a minister, but he became one nevertheless —a minister so competent that he attracted learned people to his congregation in the great university town of Cambridge, England.

To my knowledge, Robinson wrote only two hymns, and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is the only one that remains popular today.  But it is popular indeed, being found in practically every hymnbook.  It is a hymn of praise to God for the blessings that he has bestowed on us—and a prayer that God will seal our hearts “for Thy courts above!”

The original version of the hymn uses the word “Ebenezer,” a word unfamiliar to most people.  It refers to a place where Samuel erected a stone memorial to honor victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:12). The wording has been changed in many modern hymnals.

Copyright 2006, Richard Niell Donovan