John Angell James (1785-1859)
John Angell James was an English Nonconformist clergyman and writer.
He was born at Blandford Forum. After seven years apprenticeship to a linen-draper in Poole, Dorset, he decided to become a preacher, and in 1802 he went to David Bogue’s training institution at Gosport in Hampshire. A year and a half later, on a visit to Birmingham, his preaching was so highly esteemed by the congregation of Carrs Lane Independent chapel that they invited him to exercise his ministry amongst them; he settled there in 1805, and was ordained in May 1806. For several years his success as a preacher was comparatively small; but he became suddenly popular in about 1814, and began to attract large crowds. At the same time his religious writings, the best known of which are The Anxious Inquirer and An Earnest Ministry, acquired a wide circulation.
James was a typical Congregational preacher of the early 19th century, massive and elaborate rather than original. His preaching displayed little or nothing of Calvinism, the earlier severity of which had been modified in Birmingham by Edward Williams, one of his predecessors. He was one of the founders of the Evangelical Alliance and of the Congregational Union of England and Wales. Municipal interests appealed strongly to him, and he was also for many years chairman of Spring Hill (afterwards Mansfield) College. He was also an ardent slavery abolitionist, and is portrayed in the huge canvass depicting Clarkson’s opening address at the world’s first International Anti-Slavery Convention in 1840, in the National Portrait Gallery, London. He died in Birmingham.
A collected edition of James’s works appeared in 1860-1864.