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ORME, WILLIAM (1787–1830), congregational minister, was born at Falkirk, Stirlingshire, on 3 Feb. 1787. His parents removed to Edinburgh, where in 1792 he began his education under a schoolmaster named Waugh. On 1 July 1800 he was apprenticed for five years to a wheelwright and turner. His father died in October 1803. About this time he came under the influence of James Alexander Haldane [q. v.], whose preaching at the Tabernacle in Leith Walk, Edinburgh, had attracted him. In October 1805 he was admitted by Robert Haldane (1764–1842) [q. v.] as a student for the ministry at a seminary under George Cowie. The usual term of study was two years. Orme's periods of study, interrupted by a preaching mission in Fife (1806), amounted to little more than a year in all. On 11 March 1807 he became pastor of the congregational church at Perth, where he was ordained. About 1809 he broke with Robert Haldane, in consequence of Haldane's adoption of baptist views, and took part in the controversy hence arising. He declined a call to the congregational church at Dundee. In the development of Scottish congregationalism he took an active part, especially aiding in the formation (1813) of the ‘Congregational Union of Scotland,’ and in the establishment (1814) of a divinity hall at Glasgow. His memoirs of John Owen (1820) made his name more widely known in nonconformist circles.

On 7 Oct. 1824 he became pastor of the congregational church at Camberwell Green, Surrey, and soon afterwards was elected foreign secretary of the London Missionary Society. In both positions he exhibited great ability, and acquired much influence. He died in his prime on 8 May 1830, and was buried on 17 May at Bunhill Fields. His portrait, engraved by Thomson from a painting by Wildman, was published in the ‘Evangelical Magazine’ for January 1830. He was twice married, and left a widow.

Orme's contributions to the biographical history of the later puritanism were able and timely, and rendered an important service, not to nonconformists alone, by reviving an interest in the religious problems of the seventeenth century. Dr. Andrew Thomson has superseded him in regard to the life of John Owen, and Ivimey in that of Kiffin. His two volumes on Baxter, characterised by Sir James Stephen as ‘learned, modest, and laborious,’ retain their place as the best modern biography.

He published, in addition to separate sermons and pamphlets:

  1. ‘Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Religious Connections of John Owen, D.D.,’ &c., 1820, 8vo (portrait).
  2. ‘Remarkable Passages in the Life of William Kiffin,’ &c., 1823, 12mo (portrait).
  3. ‘Bibliotheca Biblica … List of Books on Sacred Literature, with Notices, Biographical, Critical,’ &c., Edinburgh, 1824, 8vo (a work of good erudition and judgment, still valuable).
  4. ‘Memoirs, including … Remains of John Urquhart,’ &c., 1827, 12mo, 2 vols.

Posthumous was:

  1. ‘Life and Times of Richard Baxter,’ &c., 1830, 8vo, 2 vols. (partly printed at the time of his death; edited by Thomas Russell. It accompanies an edition of Baxter's ‘Practical Works,’ begun by Orme in 1827. The second volume contains a detailed critique of Baxter's writings, digested under heads).

[Evangelical Magazine, 1830, pp. 253 seq. 289 seq.; Stephen's Essays in Ecclesiastical Biography, 1860, p. 376; Cox's Literature of the Sabbath Question, 1865, ii. 35; Waddington's Surrey Congregational History, 1866, pp. 115 seq. 171 seq.]

A. G.