A Short Biography of Robert Govett


1831-1901

Robert Govett was a brilliant English pastor, born in 1813 and died in 1901.

"Mr. Govett wrote a hundred years before his time, and the day will come when his works will be treasured as sifted gold." Charles H. Spurgeon

"One of the profoundest [works of Revelation] that I know of is the work of Robert Govett. My own opinion is that he brings to his interpretation a more thorough knowledge of the Scriptures in their bearing on the last book of the Bible than any other writer of his generation." Dr. Wilbur M. Smith

"Few men could equal Govett for originality of thought. He also possessed a well-ordered, disciplined mind. He could trace a theme through Scripture with unerring logic." Dr. Cyril J. Barber, The Minister's Library

"Reared in Staines, Middlesex, Robert Govett entered Worcester College, Oxford, in 1830, and after graduation was awarded a life fellowship in 1835.  Ordained (1836-37), he became curate at St. Stephen's Church, Norwich, where his preaching attracted great crowds until in 1844 he confessed that he had forced his conscience on the matter of infant baptism and forthwith resigned his curacy and his fellowship.  Most of the congregation left the Church of England and made Govett their pastor; services were held in Victoria Hall, Norwich, and by 1848 he had baptized 300-400 former Anglicans.  Surrey Chapel, Norwich, was opened in 1854, and Govett ministered there to the end of the century.   This nondenominational church still flourishes."

"Govett's writings are extensive, of varying quality, and often marked by a high level of scholarship, a superbly logical approach, extraordinary originality, and complete faithfulness to biblical revelation.  Much concerned with eschatology (Apocalypse, 1864, and other works), he held that much of the Book of Revelation is to be understood literally."  R. E. D. Clark, The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, J. D. Douglas, general editor, page 426.

(The following is from Gleanings from Robert Govett by Sentinel Kulp)


Robert Govett was born in England in 1813 and died at Norwich, England, in 1901.  He enrolled at Worcester College at Oxford in 1830, received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Eaton in 1834, became a Fellow of Worcester in 1836, and received his M.A. in 1837.

During the years of his ministry, he became well known because of his brilliant deductive and analytical capabilities.  There were few men who equaled him in his ability to use common practical sense (logic) to weed out any weaknesses in a point of debate, and he was fearless in pursuing a line of thinking for the purpose of bringing it to a close.  He was of the opinion that the Scriptures should always be open to a fresh scrutiny based upon new light that might have been received and, because of this, as the years passed he became independent of many of the denominational views that he had previously adhered to.

He seems to have been one of the first, if not the first, to present a clear view of the judgment seat of Christ and its purpose in relation to the millennial kingdom.  Thus, it is a point of emphasis throughout most of his writings.  Through Scripture, he clearly delineates between eternal life, the free gift that God gives to those who accept the payment His Son made, and the prize, the reward of the millennial reign, which one can attain to by producing the good works or fruits that emanate from a walk of faith.  The latter of the two is held out to all the saints by the Almighty, but it is only given to those who have submitted to the work of the Holy Spirit toward personal sanctification.

Though he started his duties in the Church of England as an Anglican minister, it was upon witnessing a full immersion baptism that he became immediately convinced of the Scriptural integrity of it, and, further, was so convicted of the error of infant sprinkling that shortly thereafter he resigned from his position within the Church of England, without knowing how he would sustain himself.   It was at this time, having been faithful to the truth shown to him, that the Lord intervened.  And, as a reward for his obedience, a pastorate was provided at an independent fellowship in Norwich.

Events such as these became a cycle that were repeated many times throughout his life.  As the Lord would faithfully reveal some new truth to him, he would respond in practice to it by correcting his views and preaching to conform to the revelation and light just received.  These were few areas within his own beliefs that were held sacred.  As a result, in his pursuit for the truth, he was open to examining the most orthodox of doctrines.  Though at times this meant being ostracized by those within Christianity who had allowed tradition to settle in and take over where once the life of the Head through the guidance of the Spirit existed, he was willing to pay the cost.  Furthermore, he was so taken up with knowing and serving a loving Lord, who was alive in his life in a very practical way, that he never married.  Rather, he remained faithful to the call that was upon his life, pastoring the flock that had been given to him at Norwich until the Lord saw fit to take him home.

There are two characteristics within his writings that are predominant, and each yields a testimony of one who had matured into an intimate walk with the Lord.  One was his ability to take the multi-facets of the types, shadows, and symbols of the Word and overlay them so as to compare them against each other: an approach he used to confirm whether his understanding of them was in line with the reasons and purpose God had given them.  For instance, if the underlying symbolism conflicted with what appeared to be the literal meaning of a portion of Scripture, he would set about to resolve the conflict.  Thus, his writings are rich in the types and shadows of the Old Testament, which he felt must be learned if one is to expect a proper understanding of their fulfillment in the New Testament.  The other, is the ability he developed to enter into the prophetic sense of the Word.  A trait which is distinctive among those who have grown sensitive in their spirit to the mind of the Spirit, to the point that they have acquired an acute ability to draw from the living Word or Rhemma.

In closing, let me quote what the great preacher Charles Spurgeon said of Robert Govett: He "wrote a hundred years before his time, and the day will come when his works will be treasured as sifted gold."   As so much of what Robert Govett taught, preached, and warned the people of his day has arrived in our time, surely that day has come.  In his day, he was an instrument used of the Lord to lead the souls of men from the milk of the word to the meat.  It is my hope and prayer that these insights gleaned from the ten-thousand-plus pages of his works will be a source for the feeding and nourishing of the saints of this generation, who, for the most part, have not had the opportunity to partake of the works of this great servant of the Lord!

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