A London local preacher, he trained as a printer. Arriving in Colombo in 1818 to superintend the Mission Press, he entered the ministry and devoted the rest of his life to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). As Chairman of the South Ceylon District from 1838, he gave a new impetus to an ailing mission. Despite his lack of formal education, he mastered Pali (the language in which the texts of Theravada Buddhism are written) and became an acknowledged expert on Buddhism and its literature, exposing what he perceived as its weaknesses and publishing many papers on the subject, including some of the first English translations from the Pali texts (collected edition, Colombo, 1907). Although his Sinhala work Kristiyani Prajñapti ('The Evidences and Doctrines of the Christian Religion') (1849) ushered in a new, more polemical stage of the nineteenth-century Buddhist-Christian controversy in Sri Lanka, that did not prevent T.W. Rhys Davids, founder of the Pali Text Society in Britain, declaring him to be 'the greatest Pali scholar of his age'. He died in Colombo on 6 September 1862. A collection of his writings was published in Colombo, edited by A.S. Bishop, in 1907.