James Harrison Rigg - Encyclopedia

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JAMES HARRISON RIGG (1821-1909), English Nonconformist divine, was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne on the 16th of January 1821. His father was a Wesleyan minister and sent his son to the Old Kingswood School, Bristol, where he subsequently became an assistant teacher. In 1845 he entered the Wesleyan ministry, and during the agitation of 1849-52 wrote successfully in exposition and defence of the polity of Methodism. In 1857 he published Modern Anglican Theology, an acute criticism of the writings of Coleridge, Hare, Maurice, Kingsley and Jowett. The book was timely and well received, and though Kingsley at first resented the criticism he afterwards became a cordial friend of the writer. Rigg had now become a leading figure in his own church, and in 1868 was appointed Principal of the Westminster Wesleyan Training College for day-school teachers, a post which he held with growing distinction for 35 years. In 1870 he was elected on the first School Board for London, one of the most remarkable assemblies of modern times, and took an important part in providing the syllabus of religious instruction and framing the religious settlement for teachers.

In 1873 he wrote National Education in its Social Conditions and Aspects. A resolute opponent of secular education, he maintained that the state ought not to compete with the churches, but welcome their aid in the work of national education. He was also strongly against the adoption of a rigid universal code. In 1886 he sat on the Royal Commission of Education, and was brought into close contact with Matthew Arnold, and with Dean Stanley, Bishop Temple and other Anglican prelates, who held him in high esteem. In 1877 he became chairman of the second London district of Methodism, and for fourteen years helped to make the history of his church in the home counties. In 1878 he was elected president of conference - and again in 1892. From 1881 he was ministerial treasurer of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, taking an active part in its work. He resigned his principalship in 1903 and died at Brixton on the 17th of April 1909. Dr Rigg was universally honoured as the Nestor of Wesleyan Methodism, in the development of which he had taken a foremost part for over 60 years. His Connexional Economy is a standard work, and his Living Wesley a most discriminating study of the character and work of its subject. His Oxford High Anglicanism (1895) showed how keenly he followed modern developments in the Church of England. His lifelong principle was that Methodism is "a church friendly to all, but owing allegiance to none." See Life by John Telford (London, 1909).

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