William Jay (1769–1853) preached the gospel from the age of 19 to 84, and was for over 60 years pastor of the Independent Argyle Chapel in Bath.
Jay was born at Tisbury in Wiltshire, England, and apprenticed as a stonemason to his father. He gave this up in 1785 in order to enter Cornelius Winter’s school at Marlborough, where his preaching powers were rapidly developed. By the age of nineteen he was preaching to London’s largest nonconformist congregation (Rowland Hill’s at the Surrey Chapel).
His first pastorate was at Christian Malford near Chippenham, where he remained for about two years. This was followed by one year at Hope Chapel, Clifton, from where he was called in January 1791 to Argyle Chapel. The city of Bath became the centre of his influence. This scene of fashion and refined worldliness was to hear him through three generations, and long before his death in 1853 Jay’s name had brought a different fame to Bath throughout the English-speaking world.
Jay’s Autobiography, prepared during the closing years of his life, combines a personal narrative of old-world charm with invaluable spiritual comment on the Christian life and ministry.