ham under Robert Kell, presbyterian minister, he was apprenticed in 1798 to a linendraper at Poole, Dorset. In 1802 he was admitted, with a bursary of 30l. a year, on Robert Haldane's foundation, as a student for the ministry in the Gosport academy, Hampshire, under David Bogue [q. v.] At Gosport James was baptised and admitted to communion. He qualified at Winchester on 18 July 1803 as a dissenting preacher under the Toleration Act; his first sermon was at Ryde, Isle of Wight. He accepted Carr's Lane Chapel, Birmingham, on 11 Jan. 1805. For seven years his ministry was attended with no great success. During the winter 1812–13 his chapel was closed for improvements, and he was granted the use of the Old Meeting House. This gave him publicity, and his popularity began. On 12 May 1819 he preached at Surrey Chapel on behalf of the London Missionary Society. His sermon, which lasted two hours, was delivered from memory. Carr's Lane Chapel was now rebuilt, at a cost of 11,000l., and on a scale of more than double its former size; the new building was opened in August 1820; schools and lecture room were subsequently added, and six other chapels were erected in the town and suburbs as offshoots of the congregation. He took considerable part in the public business of the town; it has been said that from 1817 to 1844 he was the only public man among the evangelical nonconformist ministers of Birmingham. From the foundation in 1838 of Spring Hill College, Birmingham (now Mansfield College, Oxford), till his death, James was chairman of its board of education. In May 1842 he was one of the leading projectors of the Evangelical Alliance. A sum of 500l. presented to him on the jubilee of his pastorate (1855) was made by him the nucleus of a pastors' retiring fund.
James was a man of abstemious habits and much simplicity of character. The honorary degree of D.D. was sent him by Glasgow University, as well as by the American colleges of Princeton, New Jersey, and Jefferson, but he declined to use the title. His early preaching was somewhat overloaded in style, but he gained in naturalness; his numerous writings owe their widespread influence to his power of direct personal appeal. His ‘Anxious Enquirer’ is his best-known book; it was in consequence of having met with his ‘Christian Charity’ that Wordsworth went to hear him preach, and afterwards introduced himself. A Calvinist in creed, James dwelt more on Christian duty than on doctrinal niceties. His rugged features indicated his strength of purpose more fully than his benevolence of heart. He retained much of his vigour to the last. James died on Saturday, 1 Oct. 1859, and was buried on 7 Oct. in a vault before the pulpit at Carr's Lane Chapel. He married first, on 7 July 1806, Frances Charlotte Smith (d. 27 Jan. 1819), a physician's daughter of some independent fortune, who had formerly been a member of the established church, and had a son, Thomas Smith James (see below), and two daughters, one of whom died in infancy; secondly, on 19 Feb. 1822, Anna Maria (d. 3 June 1841), the rich widow of Benjamin Neale, whom she had married in 1812.
He published, besides single sermons (1810–59) and pastoral letters:
- ‘The Sunday School Teacher's Guide,’ &c., 1816, 12mo.
- ‘Christian Fellowship,’ &c., 1822, 12mo.
- ‘The Christian Father's Present,’ &c., 1824, 12mo.
- ‘The Family Monitor,’ &c., 1828, 12mo.
- ‘Christian Charity, or the Influence of Religion upon the Temper,’ &c., 1829, 12mo (see above).
- ‘Dissent and the Church of England,’ &c., 1830, 8vo; 2nd edition, 1831, 8vo.
- ‘The Importance of Doing Good,’ &c., 1832, 8vo.
- ‘The Anxious Enquirer after Salvation,’ &c., Birmingham, 1834, 8vo (two editions same year, often reprinted, and translated into Welsh, Gaelic, and Malagasy; a sequel to it appeared with the title ‘Christian Progress’).
- ‘Protestant Nonconformity,’ &c., 1849, 8vo (an historical work, dealing especially with nonconformity in Birmingham).
- ‘The Church in Earnest,’ &c., 4th edition, 1851, 12mo.
- ‘Female Piety,’ &c., Birmingham, 1853, 12mo.
- ‘Autobiography,’ 1864, 8vo; begun 1858, and published, with additions by his son, as the seventeenth and last volume of his collected ‘Works,’ 1860–4, 8vo.
James, Thomas Smith (1809–1874), son of the above, was a solicitor in Birmingham. He edited his father's works, and defended his view of justification in additions to the autobiography. He published ‘The History of the Litigation and Legislation respecting Presbyterian Chapels and Charities in England and Ireland,’ &c., 1867, 8vo. A very valuable portion of this work was earlier issued with the title ‘Lists and Classifications of Presbyterian and Independent Ministers, 1717–31,’ &c., 1866, 8vo; an ‘Addendum’ , 8vo, deals with the criticisms of John Gordon. The work has many errors of transcription or of the press; but it contains ‘Dr. Evans's List’ (1715–1729), rather incorrectly transcribed, from the original in Dr. Williams's Library, Gordon Square, W. C. James was twice married and left issue, and died on 3 Feb. 1874.