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William Romaine (1714-95)

William Romaine was born at Hartlepool, County Durham, the son of a corn merchant of French Protestant ancestry. Romaine was educated at Houghton-le-Spring Grammar School and Christ Church Oxford, where Charles Wesley was a tutor.

Romaine was ordained into the Anglican priesthood in 1738 and at first served as a curate in Surrey. In 1739 he engaged in a bitter controversy concerning the views of William Warburton, part of which dispute found its way into the press.

In 1741 Romaine was appointed chaplain to the Lord Mayor of London. He underwent an evangelical conversion in about 1748 and the following year was appointed afternoon lecturer at St Dunstan-in-the-West. Romaine used this opportunity to preach evangelical doctrine to large crowds despite the opposition of church officials. He was soon generally acknowledged to be the principal preacher in the capital and in 1750 was afforded a further opportunity to evangelise, when he was appointed assistant morning preacher at fashionable St George's Church in the West End of London. In 1751 he also accepted for a short period the professorship of astronomy at Gresham College.

From 1756 Romaine served as a curate and morning preacher at St Olave's in Southwark while retaining his position at St Dunstan's. He also exercised an itinerant ministry, preaching as far afield as Yorkshire and the West Country, and served as one of the Countess of Huntingdon's chaplains. In 1766, following a long dispute concerning his election, he was finally allowed to take up a position as the Rector of St Anne's, Blackfriars. For fourteen years Romaine was the only beneficed evangelical in the city and his parish was a focus for evangelical activity, attracting large congregations.

In addition to his ministry, and place after Whitefield as the leading Anglican exponent of Calvinism, Romaine was an important Hebrew scholar. He published a four volume revision of Marios de Calasio's Hebrew dictionary and concordance between 1747 and 1749.

Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)

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