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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Jay, William

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a very distinguished English Independent minister, was born at Tisbtry, county of Wilts, May 8,1769. He was the son of a poor stonecutter, and obtained his education by the influence and charity of friends he made as a youth, distinguishing himself even then by great natural abilities and ready acquisition. When not quite sixteen years of age he began preaching, and before he had passed his minority he is said to have delivered no less than 1000 sermons. Like Wesley, he often preached out-doors; and he himself relates the history of his early life thus: "In the milder seasons which would allow of it, we often addressed large numbers out of doors; and many a clear and calm evening I have preached down the day on the corner of a common, or upon the green turf before the cottage door. These neighborhoods were supplied sometimes weekly and sometimes fortnightly, both on the weekdays and on the Sabbaths. We always on the Sabbaths avoided, if possible, the church hours; and on week-days we commonly omitted the services during the hay and corn harvest, that we might not give reasonable offence to the farmers, or entice the peasants away from their labor before their usual time.

I would also remark that we did not always, in these efforts, encounter much opposition; indeed, I remember only a few instances in which we suffered persecution from violence or rudeness." Jan. 31, 1791, he was made preacher of Argyle Chapel, Bath, and here he labored for sixty-two years with great distinction. Jay was not excelled even by the greatest of pulpit orators for which England has been so justly celebrated within the last 100 years. John Foster calls him the "prince of preachers;" Sheridan pronounced him "the most natural orator" he had ever heard; Dr. James Hamilton as a preacher who filled him "with wonder and delight;" and Beckford as possessing a mind like "a clear, transparent stream, flowing so freely as to impress us with the idea of its being inexhaustible." He died Dec. 27, 1853, "beloved and trusted by religious professors of all sects" (London. Athenaeum, Sept. 30,1854). "Mr. Jay was not only a pious and eminently successful preacher, but a very genial and interesting man; a sagacious observer, yet of childlike simplicity in taste and disposition; possessed of a fine, though sometimes quaint humor; a most instructive and pleasant companion, rich in anecdote and reminiscence, and able, from personal knowledge, to give living sketches of most of the eminent men who had appeared in the religious world, high-flying bigots excepted, during the latter part of the 18th and the earlier part of the present century. He was not a strict Calvinist, for he did not believe in the exclusive' part of the Calvinistic creed in any form. He believed in two grand truths' that if we are saved, it is entirely of God's grace; and if we are lost, it will be entirely from ourselves.' He held to these firmly, though he might not see the connection between them.

The connection,' he says, is like a chain across the river; I can see the two ends, but not the middle; not because there is no real union, but because it is under water.' As to Church polity, Mr. Jay inclined, on the whole, to Presbyterianism, with a special leaning, perhaps, on one point-that of mutual ministerial oversight and responsibility to Wesleyan Methodism. But-he did not believe any particular form of polity to be of divine authority" (London Quart. Review, 1854, p. 553 sq.). Best known of his varied and extensive writings are Morning and Evening Exercises (vol. 1-4 of the collective edition of his Works, ed., of 1842): The Christian contemplated (vol. 6 of his Works): Mornings with Jesus (1854, 8vo). His Works were published entire (Bath, 1842-44, 12 vols. 8vo; New York, 3 vols. 8vo). See Autobiography of the Rev. William Jay, with Reminiscences of some distinguished Contemporaries, Selections from his Correspondence, etc., edited by George Redford, D.D., LL.D., and John Angell James (Lond. 1854, 8vo-; 3rd ed. 1855); Wilson, Memoir of Jay (1854, 8vo); Wallace. Portraiture of Jay (1852, 12mo); Allibone, Dict. of Authors, i, 857; Princeton Review, 5, 369 sq.; Meth. Quart. Review 5, 335. (J. H.W.)

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jay, William'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/jay-william.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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