Benjamin Ingham (1712 - 1772)



Benjamin Ingham



This web site has been produced to promote the life and work of the Oxford Methodist Benjamin Ingham (1712 - 1772).



Life


Benjamin Ingham was born in Ossett, Yorkshire on 11th June, 1712. He was educated at Batley Grammar School and in 1730, entered Queen's College, Oxford. There he met John and Charles Wesley, who along with others formed their "Holy Club" and were known as "Methodists" for their strict methodical approach to religion. After ordination in the Church of England in 1735, Ingham was appointed Reader of Public Prayers at Christ Church and St. Sepulchres, Newgate Street, London. Later that year he accompanied the Wesleys as a missionary to Georgia in America. On board ship, he came into contact with Moravians, who impressed him with their beliefs and piety.

In 1737, Ingham returned to Ossett intent on bringing his ideas to the ordinary people of Yorkshire. He began to form societies within the Church of England. This upset the established church and in June 1739, he was banned from preaching in churches in the Diocese of York. Instead, he took to preaching in private houses and barns, and drew a large number of followers.

In November 1741, Ingham married Lady Margaret Hastings, daughter of the 7th Earl of Huntingdon. His wife's sister-in-law was Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who was well known for her own Connexion of societies.

Because of his links with the Moravians, in 1742, Ingham placed the societies he had formed under Moravian control. However, already from as early as 1739 onwards, the Moravians began to advance their
"stillness doctrine," which Ingham steadfastly opposed.

In 1745, Ingham visited the Pendle Forest area, and in 1748, in response to the opposition from Anglican ministers in the area, Ingham and his supporters decided to begin to register their places of worship as "Meeting Places for Protestant Dissenters."

Towards the end of 1748, Ingham, together with William Batty, Robert Robertshaw, William Whittaker, and William Hargreaves formed a society of 99 members, and subsequently met at Watermeetings, just outside Blacko, in order to begin to subscribe to the building of a chapel, which was built at Wheatley Lane in 1750. Ingham preached the first sermon there on Chrismas Day.

By 1753, Wesley distanced his Methodists from the Moravians, and by 1754 Ingham withdrew his societies from Moravian supervision. It was proposed by Charles Wesley at the Methodist conference in 1755 that the 80 Inghamite congregations be joined with the Methodists, but this was rejected by John Wesley.

In 1754, the Wheatley society voted to declare themselves Dissenters. Like Wesley, however, Ingham wished to remain within the Church of England. In 1756 however, the final step was taken to form a separate church when Ingham ordained William Batty and James Allen as elders.

In 1761, Ingham sent Batty and Allen to Scotland to meet the Glasites, a set of independent churches formed by John Glas, with a view to joining forces with them. Allen was very positive about this, but Ingham was not. Allen eventually broke away from the Inghamites, taking most of Ingham's societies with him. He died in 1804 and is buried at Gayle, near Hawes.Only 13 societies remained under Ingham's control after this.

Ingham continued until his death on 1st December 1772, his wife having pre-deceased him by four years.

Fuller biographies can be found in the following books:

Benjamin Ingham: Preacher amongst the Dales, Forests and Fells by H. Malcolm Pickles, 152 pages, published by H. M. Pickles and printed by Pioneer Press Ltd., Skipton, 1995, ISBN 0 9526950 0 6. 

The Oxford Methodists by Rev. L. Tyreman, 1873, published by Hodder and Stoughton, 27 Paternoster Row, London. The relevant chapter is available for download here:


Extract from Tyreman's The Oxford Methodists

Download here





Theology



Benjamin Ingham thought through his faith. He most certainly did not blindly follow anyone. This is his legacy, and the sign of someone who has truly had a new heart put within him. He joined with people for a time, until he realised that their teachings did not coincide with the Word of God. As we grow in the faith, the Word of God is the most important thing we have in this world. We change as we grow in knowledge of the Scriptures, and moving on is sometimes a necessity. Ingham saw this and was not afraid to do so. During the course of his life, he:

(1) Distanced himself from the Wesleys, mainly on two issues. Firstly, he was always more friendly with George Whitfield, another original member of Oxford's "Holy Club." Wesley espoused Arminianism, whereas Whitfield was a Calvinist. Also, Ingham would have objected to Wesley's doctrine of "Perfectionism," or "entire sanctification." This is something which is, of course, not possible whilst we are still in this world.

(2) Distanced himself from the Moravians, because of their doctrine that assurance was of the essence of faith, i.e. that anything less than full assurance is no faith at all. To this end they taught their erroneous "stillness doctrine," which believed that those who lack assurance are to abstain from all means of grace (Bible reading, prayer, the Lord's Supper, etc.) until they had full assurance again. What a strange doctrine! Surely these things are meant to help us, not hinder us in our faith!

(3) Distanced himself from the Glasites. Their essential error was that they believed that saving faith is an intellectual assent to the truth only, and they dismissed the concept of an experimental knowledge of Christ in the heart. Ingham saw something in their teaching for a time at least, because it persuaded him to write his only theological treatise in 1763, "A Discourse on the Faith and Hope of the Gospel". There would have been no need for Ingham to write anything unless, in his mind, mainstream evangelical religion had something seriously wrong with it. But Ingham never embraced Glas's views fully. The Inghamite societies were split apart by this teaching, James Allen joining the Glasites, and Ingham refusing to do so.


Ingham eventually did not join the Glasites on things to do with church order rather than theology, such as:

- the non-use of the lot (Ingham believed that decisions should be either unanimous, or made by the use of the lot. No majority decisions were accepted)
- second marriages disqualifying one from the eldership
- the practice of footwashing.

But other factors were involved as well. James Allen did not like Ingham's dominating the denomination as General Overseer. The Glasites believed in each congregation being completely autonomous. Also, theologically, Ingham eventually saw the errors of the Glasite position, in that it led
directly to antinomianism, which is the belief that the law of God no longer matters to the believer any more, therefore he can now live how he likes.

But the question remains: Did Ingham embrace the wrong theology of the Glasites, as is popularly taught in evangelical circles, or not? In order to answer this question, we have to examine his only theological work, and compare it with that of John Glas, or rather his son-in-law, Robert Sandeman, who popularised their erroneous teaching.

Probably the most controversial of Ingham's statements is this one:

"Some modern divines have defined faith to be a confidence that Christ loved me and gave himself for me. But this is not a true definition of faith[A Discourse on the Faith and Hope of the Gospel (1763), p.42.]

But really, Ingham is only trying to show the difference between faith and hope, which he goes on to do in the rest of the treatise. He certainly does not go as far as Robert Sandeman (John Glas's son-in-law), who said that:

"No man can be assured, that his sins are forgiven him, but in as far as he is freed from the service of sin, and led to work righteousness; for the favour of God can only be enjoyed in studying to do those things which are well pleasing in his sight.”  [Robert Sandeman, Letters on Theron and Aspasio, addressed to the author of that work, Vol. 2, p.194.]

All Ingham was trying to do was to discern the difference between assurance of faith and assurance of hope:

"No-one hath the assurance of his eternal salvation upon his first believing the gospel, or can have it, till his faith hath wrought some time, more or less, by love. No man can be assured that he shall be eternally saved without any possibility of falling away, but by the sealing, witness, or testimony of the Holy Ghost. But that noone is sealed by the Spirit upon his first believing the gospel is proved by Ephesians 1:13.”  [A Discourse on the Faith and Hope of the Gospel (1763), p. 43.]

Ingham distanced himself from the contemporary evangelical circles of his day, but at the same time he never embraced the doctrines of Glas and Sandeman fully, like some of his evangelical critics would say.


The best thing to do, is to allow the reader judge for himself. As far as I know Ingham's work is not freely downloadable on the internet (although available for purchase through Amazon.com – at a very expensive price for a pretty poor photocopy). So I have typed it up myself for all to see and judge for themselves. It is now downloadable below:


A Discourse on the Faith and Hope of the Gospel

by Benjamin Ingham

Download here





Inghamites


The Inghamite denomination continues to this day. At the height of Ingham's influence, he had 80 societies under his wing, but after the split by James Allen, only 13 remained.

In 1813, the Inghamites agreed to unite with the Old Scots Independents. This latter denomination closed its last church building in 1833. It is recorded that 13 Inghamite congregations existed at this time, noteably the following:

Founded Closed
Kendal 1751 1971
Nottingham 1787 1844
Bulwell 1803 1817
Tadcaster ? ?
Howden 1786 1850
Leeds ? 1853
Wibsey ? 1820s
Todmorden 1792 ?
Salterforth 1754 2008
Rodhill ? 1837
Winewall 1752 1998
Wheatley 1750 open
Haslingden 1805 1851

Subsequent to this union, the following congregations are noted:

1825 - Colne Lane established (closed 1976)
1833 - Firbanks, Westmoreland established (closed ?)
1833 - Farringdon Hill, Brantford, Ontario, Canada established (still open)

1851 - The census in 1851 records 9 Inghamite chapels.

1863 - Tyreman (in The Oxford Methodists, quoting from the Wesleyan Times, December 14th, 1863) records six chapels, namely: Winewall, Wheatley, Todmorden, Kendal, Tadcaster and Leeds, but this is inaccurate as at least Salterforth and Colne Lane are missing from this list.

1886 - Nelson established (closed 1957)
1900 - Cottontree Lane established after split from Winewall (closed 1993)


Only two Inghamite congregations exist today, Wheatley Lane, Lancashire, UK and Brantford, Ontario, Canada. Both are a far cry from Ingham's original societies, and now have little to do with Inghamite distinctives in doctrine, worship and practice.



Brantford, Ontario

For further details see:

www.farringdonchurch.ca




Wheatley Lane

Wheatley Lane Inghamite Chapel

Inside the chapel at Wheatley Lane, can be found a small display about the history of the church, together with Benjamin Ingham's Bible.


This church does not have a web site, but a leaflet has been produced, as shown here:

Inghamite Leaflet 01
Inghamite Leaflet 02






Salterforth

Salterforth Inghamite ChapelSalterfroth Inghamite Chapel (interior)

Salterforth chapel closed in 2008 and has now been converted to housing.
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