He was born of poor parents at Wroote, Lincs, and educated at the local charity school. He became Samuel Wesley's amanuensis, transcribed his Dissertations on the Book of Job and helped with the maps and illustrations. On one occasion he saved the rector's life. Samuel tutored him in Latin and Greek and helped him to go to Oxford, where John Wesley was his tutor at Lincoln College and thought highly of his ability. In January 1734 he married Mary Wesley and her father assigned the living at Wroote to him; but she died in childbirth later the same year. A proposal that he should go out to Georgia came to nothing and his remaining years were spent at Wroote, where his association with the Wesleys was minimal.