He was born in Glasgow, where his father had been baptized by John Wesley. He began visiting the sick and dying in the Glasgow Infirmary, and in 1838 he moved to London's East End and became a local preacher in the WM chapel in Brick Lane, Spitalfields. He returned to Spitalfields as a minister in 1858 and after addressing the Conference of 1861 on the need for new initiatives in East London was appointed to the newly formed Bow Circuit and to launch the East End Mission. He was responsible for the building of new churches and the creation of five new circuits in the East End. He was President of the Conference in 1876 and was appointed General Secretary of the Home Mission Department. In retirement he travelled widely, visiting the Caribbean and Africa, where he responded generously to the plight of poor Blacks. He died at Somerset East, Cape Province, on 29 November 1890 and his heart was buried there.