Ingham, Benjamin (DNB00)

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INGHAM, BENJAMIN (1712–1772), the Yorkshire evangelist, born at Ossett, Yorkshire, on 11 June 1712, was son of William Ingham, who lived at one time at Dewsbury. Benjamin was educated at the grammar school, Batley, and at Queen's College, Oxford, where he matriculated on 13 Nov. 1730, and graduated B.A. in 1734. When twenty years of age he joined the little band nicknamed Methodists, which met weekly at Oxford under the leadership of John and Charles Wesley. Ingham was one of the most active members of the company. He was ordained by Bishop Potter at Christ Church in June 1735, and in October he sailed with the Wesley brothers to Georgia, which they reached in February of the following year. During the long voyage Ingham taught the children on board, and read aloud to all who would hear. After thirteen months' labour as a missionary, he returned to England, and threw himself heartily into evangelistic work at home. While abroad he had seen a good deal of the Moravians, and a visit which he paid to their headquarters at Hernhutt, and to Count Zinzendorf at Marienborn, deepened his attachment to them. Without formally separating from the Anglican church, he joined the Moravian brotherhood in England, and became a prominent member of their Missionary Society for the Furtherance of the Gospel. His adoption of some of their mystical doctrines led to a severance from the Wesleys, although the personal friendship between them remained unbroken. Ingham preached extensively in Yorkshire, Lancashire, and the midland counties, forming a large number of societies, but, unlike John Wesley, leaving to others the work of consolidating them. While carrying on his evangelistic work he became intimate with the family of the Earl of Huntingdon, whose youngest daughter, Lady Margaret Hastings, he married on 12 Nov. 1741.

From this time until his death Ingham's home was at Aberford, near Tadcaster, whence he continued his labours, often accompanied by his wife, who warmly approved and forwarded his work. A transference of his societies in Yorkshire and Lancashire to the Moravians was effected in July 1742. Ingham still laboured, like George Whitefield, as an evangelist at large, and was recognised as a chief pastor among the churches which he had founded. It was through him the Moravians obtained their settlement at Fulneck, near Pudsey, Yorkshire, in 1744. For a time they paid him a yearly rent for the land, and built upon it an extensive range of houses and shops. It was afterwards granted to them on a lease of five hundred years. After twelve years of association, Ingham found the increasing arrogance of the Moravian brethren, intolerable, and separated from them. About eighty congregations, thenceforward known as Inghamites, retained their connection with him and his fellow-labourers, James Allen, Lawrence, William, and Christopher Batty, James Hartley, and Richard Smith. Though his congregations were practically independent churches, they regarded Ingham as their head.

In 1755, when Ingham attended the annual conference of Wesley and his preachers at Leeds, he proposed to discuss with the Wesleys the amalgamation of his societies with the methodists; but while Charles, who continued through life Ingham's ardent friend, favoured the idea. John objected, and nothing came of it.

In 1760 Ingham largely adopted the hazy views of Robert Sandeman, who, with John Glas [q.v.], gained many adherents in the north. The introduction of these views led, after embittered controversy, to the disruption of many of the Inghamite churches. Without cohesion or discipline, most of them were incorporated with other sects, chiefly with the methodists. Not more than thirteen remained loyal to Ingham. The death of his wife, Lady Margaret, took place on 30 April 1768, and he died at Aberford in 1772, aged 60.

Ingham was an amiable man, zealous in all Christian work, but lacking in stable judgment. He published a collection of hymns for use in his congregations, Leeds, 1748; and wrote a small volume, 'A Discourse on the Faith and Hope of the Gospel,' Leeds, 1763, containing his views of religion as derived from Sandeman and Glas.

[Foster's Alumni Oxon.; Tyerman's Oxford Methodists, 1873.]

W. B. L.