Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dixon, James

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DIXON, JAMES, D.D. (1788–1871), Wesleyan minister, born in 1788 at King's Mills, a hamlet near Castle Donington in Leicestershire, became a Wesleyan minister in 1812. For some years he attracted no particular notice as a preacher, and after taking several circuits he was sent to Gibraltar, where his work was unsuccessful. It was after his return that his remarkable gifts began to be observed. Thenceforth he rose to celebrity among the leading preachers of the Wesleyan body. In 1841 he was elected president of the conference, and on that occasion he preached a sermon on ‘Methodism in its Origin, Economy, and Present Position,’ which was printed as a treatise, and is still regarded as a work of authority. In 1847 he was elected representative of the English conference to the conference of the United States, and also president of the conference of Canada. In this capacity he visited America, preaching and addressing meetings in many of the chief cities. His well-known work, ‘Methodism in America,’ was the fruit of this expedition. Dixon remained in the itinerant Wesleyan ministry without intermission for the almost unexampled space of fifty years, travelling in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, and other great towns. His preaching was entirely original, and was marked by grandeur, thought, and impassioned feeling. His reputation as a platform speaker was equally high. His speeches at the great Wesleyan missionary anniversaries, and on the slave trade, popery, and other such questions as then stirred the evangelical party in England, were celebrated; and he was selected several times to represent the methodist community at mass meetings that were held upon them. In consequence of the failure of his sight he retired from the full work of the ministry in 1862, and passed the closing years of his life in Bradford, Yorkshire. He died 28 Dec. 1871. With him might perhaps be said to expire the middle period of methodism, the period to which belong the names of Bunting, Watson (whose son-in-law he was), Lessy, and Jackson. Besides the works above mentioned, Dixon was author of a ‘Memoir of the Rev. W. E. Miller,’ and of several published sermons, charges, and lectures. He also wrote occasionally in the ‘London Quarterly Review,’ in the establishing of which he took part. But the great work of his life was preaching, and his sermons were among the most ennobling and beautiful examples of the modern evangelical pulpit.

[Personal knowledge.]

R. W. D.