WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853), English Nonconformist divine, was born at Tisbury in Wiltshire on the 6th of May 1769. He adopted his father's trade of stone-mason, but gave it up in 1785 in order to enter the Rev. Cornelius Winter's school at Marlborough. During the three years that Jay spent there, his preaching powers were rapidly developed. Before he was twenty-one he had preached nearly a thousand times, and in 1788 he had for a while occupied Rowland Hill's pulpit in London. Wishing to continue his reading he accepted the humble pastorate of Christian Malford, near Chippenham, where he remained about two years. After one year at Hope chapel, Clifton, he was called to the ministry of Argyle Independent chapel in Bath; and on the 30th of January 1791 he began the work of his life there, attracting hearers of every religious denomination and of every rank, and winning for himself a wide reputation as a brilliant pulpit orator, an earnest religious author, and a friendly counsellor. Sheridan declared him to be the most manly orator he had ever heard. A long and honourable connexion of sixtytwo years came to an end in January 1853, and he died on the 27th of December following.
The best-known of Jay's works are his Morning and Evening Exercises: The Christian contemplated: The Domestic Minister's Assistant; and his Discourses. He also wrote a Life of Rev. Cornelius Winter, and Memoirs of Rev. John Clarke. An edition of Jay's Works in 12 vols., 8vo, revised by himself, was issued in 1842-1844, and again in 1856. A new edition, in 8 vols., 8vo, was published in 1876. See Autobiography (1854); S. Wilson's Memoir of Jay (1854); S. Newth in Pulpit Memorials (1878).
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