Robinson was converted to Separatism on hearing sermons at Cambridge by Puritan professors Lawrence Chaderton and Paul Baynes. A friend of the charismatic John Smyth, Robinson fled to Holland with the Scrooby congregation in 1608.
When they moved to Leiden, he was chosen Pastor. In 1620, when the "Mayflower" took the first settlers to New England, he stayed with the larger group still in Leiden, expecting to accompany them to New England later. Before that could happen, he died in Leiden in 1625. Several of his books and other writings have survived.