Born at Kidderminster, Worcestershire, the formative early influences on his religious beliefs were his sisters Hannah and Phoebe. He was later to publish Hannah's diary in 1774 as The Power and Pleasure of Divine Life. Phoebe and Richard were both correspondents of Philip Doddridge; her diary was published by the SPCK. He received his education for the ministry at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, under the famous regime of Samuel Jones, academy tutor. It is not necessarily the case, as stated in some biographies of Pearsall, that he became friends with Thomas Secker and Joseph Butler there, but their careers at the academy almost certainly overlapped, since all three studied there in the late 1710s.