James Foster was born in Exeter on 16 September 1697. He was educated in Exeter at the free school and at Joseph Hallett's dissenting academy. At this time dissenters in the West Country were increasingly tending to Arianism, the resulting dispute culminating in the Salter's Hall conference of 1719, which decided that dissenting ministers did not have to subscribe to the doctrine of the Trinity. Foster's unorthodox opinions forced him to leave Exeter and he spent the next few years preaching to small congregations in the West Country. In 1724 he was chosen to be co-pastor with Jeremiah Burroughs at the Baptist chapel in the Barbican and so moved to London. In 1744 he became pastor of the Independent Church at Pinner's Hall. He was one of the greatest preachers of the day: Pope wrote ‘Let modest Foster, if he will excel / Ten Metropolitans in Preaching Well’. He attended Lord Kilmarnock in the Tower in 1746 and was present at his execution for his part in the Jacobite Rebellion. Glasgow made him DD in 1748. His health declined after a stroke in 1750 and he died three years later.
From The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy in Oxford Reference.