Born in Manchester on 15 April 1767, he was converted at 14 and began to preach two years later. Having been one of John Wesley's travelling companions, he took a leadership role in the connexion after 1791, being twice elected President of the Conference (1812 and 1825). In 1834, when a senior minister was needed to help shape the new Hoxton Theological Institution, he was appointed 'House Governor', a post he held until his retirement in 1838. Responsible for domestic matters and the pastoral care of students, he met them weekly in class and was held in respect by them. His first wife Mary (died 1804) was the daughter of Marmaduke Pawson and the niece of John Pawson, whose Memoirs he edited. In October 1805 he was married again, to Lucy Hine. He died at Tadcaster on the night of 6/ 7 November 1841.
His son of the same name, who wrote his biography, was born at Wakefield in March 1798, entered the ministry in 1823 and died on 8 December 1864.