He worked as a pastor at Trinity Congregational Church, Arundel after graduating from the University of Aberdeen. He was an unpopular minister, however, as a result of his sermons on universal salvation and the unconditional love of God.
He mentored Lewis Carroll, convincing him to publish the famous work, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
In 1851, he married Louisa Powell. The couple subsequently had eleven children.
While traveling to America, he met and befriended the renowned poet, Walt Whitman.