Clergyman, author, social reformer, composer. He graduated from Harvard College in 1842 and Harvard Divinity School in 1846, but refused to be ordained. He took over the ministry of the Harrison Square Unitarian Church in Dorchester but left after a year due to his anti-slavery preachings. He then founded the non-sectarian Free Church in Lynn in 1853, remaining until 1870, where he gained a reputation as an ardent abolitionist. He retired from the ministry in 1870 to write "Oriental Religions," which comprised three volumes at the time of his death and were noteworthy for treating various Eastern religions and philosophies as the equal of Christianity or any other religion. He prophesied a Universal Religion, elements of which he said existed in every religion of his time.
He composed several hymns in collaboration with Samuel Longfellow, brother of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.