Thompson, William

Thompson, William an eminent English Wesleyan preacher, was born in the county of Fermanagh, Ireland, in 1733. He was converted young, and in 1757 he commenced his ministry among the Methodists. In 1758 he went to England, and soon learned what kind of a work it was which he had undertaken. On one occasion, when Mr. Thompson was preaching, a mob, instigated by a minister of the Church of England, arose and carried him and the principal Methodists on board a transport which was ready to sail with a war-fleet, England then being engaged in war on the Continent. Through the exertions of lady Huntingdon, however, the government ordered their release. In 1760 Thompson labored in Scotland, but with little success. After 1782 he traveled some of the principal circuits in England. His last was Manchester. He died at Birmingham, May 1, 1799, of a disease the seeds "of which had been sown in 1764 by sleeping in a damp bed, an indiscretion which killed many of the early Methodist preachers. William Thompson was one of the men who piloted the bark of Methodism-through the troublous waters after the death of the great helmsman, Wesley. He was a man of that calmness, sagacity, and statesmanlike cast of mind which were so much needed at that time, and which led to his election as president of the first Conference (1791) after Wesley's death. He was one of the committee appointed to converse with Kilham. With the endorsement of Benson, Bradburn, Hopper, and others, he sent out the Halifax Circular, which marked out a basis for the preservation and government of the infant Church. Mather and Pawson consulted him on the state of the connection. He arbitrated in regard to the settlement of the Bristol disputes in which Benson was embroiled; he approved Mather's Letter to the Preachers; and he gave to Methodism its district meetings and Plan of Pacification. He was one of the ablest speakers and closest reasoners in the British Conference. "Fewer traces," says Bunting (in his Life of his father, Jabez Bunting, ch. vi), "are to be found of him than of any of his eminent contemporaries. My father used to speak of the old man's gravity of speech, spirit, and demeanor, and of the advantages he himself derived from his example and ministry." See Atmore, Meth. Memorial, s.v.; Minutes of Annual Conferences, 1799; Stevens, Hist. of Methodism, 3, 25, 33, 140; Memoir of Entwisle, ch. 3; Smith, Hist. of Wesl. Methodism, vol. 1, 2 (see Index, vol. 3).

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