Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Adkins, Robert

ADKINS, ROBERT (1626–1685)—misspelled ‘Atkins’ in the ‘Nonconformists' Memorial’—was one of the most notable of the two thousand ejected ministers of 1662. He was born at Chard, Somersetshire, in 1626. His father intended to put him into business, but, discovering that his heart was set upon being a preacher of the gospel, he sent him to Oxford. He was entered of Wadham College, of which he became ultimately a fellow. He had for tutor the afterwards famous Bishop Wilkins. When Adkins ‘first appeared in the pulpit at St. Mary's [Oxford], being but young and looking younger than he was, from the smallness of his stature, the hearers despised him, expecting nothing worth hearing from “such a boy,” as they called him. But his discourse soon turned their contempt into admiration’ (Nonconf. Mem. ii. 32). Cromwell appointed him one of his chaplains. But, like Richard Baxter, he found the place unsuitable ‘by reason of the insolency of the sectaries.’ He is found settled at Theydon ‘as the successor of John Feriby and the predecessor of Francis Chandler.’ His ministry here extended from 1652–3 to 1657. Calamy states that ‘he found the place overrun with sects, but his solid doctrine, joyned with a free and obliging conversation, so convinced and gained them that after a while he had not one dissenter left in the parish.’ His health having given way, he removed to Exeter, at the instance of Thomas Ford, then minister of the cathedral of Exeter. Here he first preached in the parish church of St. Sidwell, while the choir of the cathedral was being prepared for him. When the alterations were completed, the choir, commonly known as East Peter's Church, was capable of accommodating a vast congregation. Adkins soon had it crowded. He was held the best preacher in the west of England. He was ejected from St. Peter's under the act of 1660, but was immediately chosen to St. John's in the same city, which was then vacant. From his plain speaking against vice he was ‘troubled’ by ‘a gentleman of great quality.’ But Bishop Gauden stood his friend. When the Act of Uniformity came, he was a second time ejected, i.e. from St. John's. In his farewell sermon, preached 17 Aug. 1662, he spoke thus memorably: ‘Let him never be accounted a sound christian that doth not fear God and honour the king. I beg that you would not suffer our nonconformity, for which we patiently bear the loss of our places, to be an act of unpeaceableness and disloyalty. We will do anything for his majesty but sin. We will hazard anything for him but our souls. We hope we could die for him, only we dare not be damned for him. We make no question, however we may be accounted of here, we shall be found loyal and obedient subjects at our appearance before God's tribunal.’ Like Baxter, he could have gained a mitre for conformity by the influence of his friend the Earl of Radnor; but ‘he was faithful to his conscience to the last.’ He remained in Exeter after his ejection. ‘Some of the magistrates, who were very severe against other dissenting ministers, yet favoured and connived at him.’ Dr. Lamplugh, bishop of Exeter, quashed all ‘procedure’ against him, and ‘spoke very honourably of Mr. Adkins for his learning and moderation.’ Notwithstanding he was called on to endure a good deal of suffering. He died 28 March 1685, aged 59. His funeral sermon was preached by George Trosse. There were published of his ‘The Sin and Danger of Popery, in six sermons’ (Exon. 1712, 8vo) and his ‘Farewell Sermon at St. John's’ (Exon. 1715, 8vo).

[Calamy's Account (1713), ii. 214; Calamy's Continuation (1727), p. 238; Calamy and Palmer's Nonconf. Mem. ii. 32–35, ed. 1802; David's Annals of Evangelical Nonconf. in Essex, 1863, pp. 524–26.]

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