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Centennial of Canadian Methodism
Historical Sketch of the Primitive Methodist Church in Canada


By Rev. J. Cooper Antliff, D.D.

THE Primitive Methodist Connexion was born in the first decade of the present century in the county of Stafford, England, and its founders, under God, were Hugh Bourne and William Clowes. Both these godly men were originally local preachers in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, but were expelled because they persisted in holding field-meetings contrary to the decision of the Church courts to which they were amenable. In adopting and carrying forward their aggressive plans of Christian work, they were moved purely by their fervent desires to save the multitudes, who were living in utter disregard of the services held in the buildings dedicated to divine worship. They were greatly influenced by the example of Lorenzo Dow, an eccentric minister from America, who visited England in 1807, and held camp-meetings in Cheshire and Staffordshire with great success. The first camp-meeting held by Hugh Bourne was on May 31st, 1807, and was a season of much spiritual blessing; the next was modelled after the American type, and lasted three days; but the length of time was found inconvenient, and subsequently the service was not extended beyond a day. The converts of these new evangelists were urged to join such classes as were convenientto them in the Wesleyan Societies of the neighbourhood in which they lived, and this was done, till the Superintendent minister of the Burslem Circuit refused to accept as members some ten persons, who had been converted under the labours of Hugh Bourne and his co-workers, unless they pledged themselves to have no connection with those who had been the agents of their conversion. To these severe terms they would not consent, and the result was they formed the nucleus of a new denomination, much to the regret at the time of Hugh Bourne himself, who, like the venerable founder of Methodism, John Wesley, had no thoughts whatever in the beginning of his work of founding a separate denomination. This first class was formed at the village of Standley, in March, 1810; after this the number of Societies rapidly increased, and in September of the same year their united membership amounted to 136. In February, 1812, the first printed plan was issued, and the name Primitive Methodist taken ; all the Societies were included in the Tunstall Circuit till the year 1816, when it was divided, and Derby became the head of a separate circuit, which, however, was superseded shortly afterwards by Nottingham. In 1818 Loughborough was made a separate circuit. The work of God spread with amazing rapidity, for in the space of a year and nine months not less than seventy-five towns and villages were missioned in the counties of Nottingham and Leicester, and societies formed.

In 1819 a meeting was held in Nottingham to consider the advisability of holding a Conference, and the following year the first Conference of the denomination was held in Hull. The following year, at the Conference held in Tunstall, it was found the Connexion contained sixteen circuits, and the number of members was 16,394, having more than doubled during the year. This Conference, among other wise resolutions, decided to establish a book room and printing office, which were shortly afterwards commenced at Bemersley, where they continued till 1843, when the Connexional publishing establishment was removed to London. In the following year, 1822, the good work spread on all sides, and amongst other places reached Brampton, in Cumberland. Here was living at the time Mr. William Lawson, a local preacher, class-leader and steward of the Wesleyan Society in the place. A friend of Mr. Lawson, James Johnson, of Carlisle, a Primitive Methodist, had written him a letter about the work tKis infant denomination was doing, and also had enclosed a copy of the church polity, and offered to send a Primitive Methodist missionary to preach at Brampton if desired. This offer was accepted, but as the preacher that was to take the appointment could not fill it, Mr. Johnson went himself. He was accompanied to the service held in the open-air by Mr. Lawson. At this service, which was marked by much spiritual power, several professed conversion. For attending this meeting, Mr. Lawson was, the following Tuesday, expelled from Society; but this action of the Superintendent minister not being sustained at the preachers’ meeting held the following day, a deputation waited on Mr. Lawson to request his re-acceptance of the official books he had surrendered; but he declined to accede to the request, and connected himself with the Primitive Methodist Connexion. Shortly afterwards the Rev. Wm. Clowes visited Brampton, and his mighty preaching moved the village and all the country round. The year 1825 was one of much suffering in England on account^of the failure of the crops, and Mr. Lawson found the year following one of much anxiety in his business— that of a tailor—and consequently he decided in 1827 to emigrate. One of the preachers of the infant Church, the ' Rev. John J Flesher, who afterwards attained great eminence in the Connexion, in passing through Brampton, stayed a night at Mr. Lawson’s, and was informed of the purpose of his host. He endeavoured to dissuade him, but after retiring he laid the matter before God in prayer, when his mind was changed, and he saw in a vision the safe arrival and peaceful settlement of his friend and family in Canada. When the itinerant related this to Mr. Lawson and his household, it was a great help and comfort to them; and when he promised to endeavour to get a' missionary sent if there were an opening, the light on their pathway seemed to get still clearer.

On April 14th, 1829, Mr. Lawson with his wife and six young children sailed from Maryport for Quebec. There were on board about a hundred passengers, to whom Mr. Lawson preached every Sabbath, when possible. They landed on May 29th, and continuing their journey, reached Little York, now Toronto, on June 11th. Mr. Lawson’s zeal was not injured by his new surroundings, and in July he commenced preaching in the open air in the market square of the town in which h s lot had been providentially cast. One cannot help admiring such devotedness, and in such conduct we are reminded of apostolic history, in which we read, “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” The open-air services were continued till the following October, when a small school-house on Duke Street was secured for the services. This was the first building in which Primitive Methodist services were held in Canada. But it was found too small for the increasing congregation, and the school-house of Mr. Thompson, who had belonged to the Primitive Methodist Society at Duffield, Yorkshire, was obtained for the services. But while preaching and labouring to get sinners converted, steps were wisely taken to conserve the fruits secured, and a class-meeting was commenced in Mr. Lawson’s house. As was fitting, the members elected Mr. Lawson the leader, while the choice for assistant fell on Mr. Robert Walker, who had been in the leader’s employment in England, and indeed, had lived in his house. Mr. Walker, who was convinced of sin under the preaching of Mr. Johnson, on one of his visits to Brampton, had emigrated in the year 1828, and after a year’s residence in Quebec, had pushed farther west to Little York, where he met his former friend and employer, and with whom he heartily co-operated in laying the foundation of the new denomination. We thus find three worthy laymen—Messrs. Lawson, Walker and Thompson — in the first class-meeting ; and from that day to this the families they represent have been well reported of in the Methodism of our land.

As the Church was growing rapidly, the need of a regular minister was felt, and a letter was forwarded to the English Conference, asking that one might be sent. In August, 1830, the request was granted, and Mr. R. Watkins arrived from New York. That he came from the United States is accounted for by the fact that in 1829 the English Conference had sent Mr. Watkins, with three other travelling preachers, to the United States, to care for those of the denomination who had gone to America to find new homes, and to gather in those who were living in disregard of spiritual things. Instead, therefore, of sending another minister from England, Mr. Watkins was requested to visit Toronto, and take charge of the infant Church. This minister, writing under date of October 27th, 1830, says :—

“I found a small society of sixteen persons, chiefly immigrants, who had belonged to us and the Wesleyans in England. Two or three of them were local preachers. They held their meetings in a school-house in the suburbs. Since my arrival the Society has augmented to thirty-four members, and the congregations are large and attentive.’’

Mr. Watkins opened several places in the surrounding country and formed three societies, but his stay was very brief, for in the following year he removed to Albany. Itis place in Canada was taken by Mr. Summersides, another of the four missionaries who had been sent to America in 1828. Mr. Summersides arrived from Philadelphia in October, 1831, and was received with open arms by Mr. Lawson and the rest of the Society. He soon proceeded to the places opened in the country, and was encouraged with the prospect of good. At the Quarterly Meeting held in December, the number of members was found to be upwards of a hundred. Mr. Summersides was full of zeal, and did not spare himself in his consecrated toil. That he endured hardship as a good soldier, the following extract from his journal testifies :—

“February 2nd, 1832.—The last thirteen days I have preached sixteen times, led two classes, ridden fifty miles, and walked seventy. The cold has been very severe. At nights everything around us has been frozen, and the white rime and frost have lain very thick upon the beds in the morning.”

The good cause, however, was making progress, and at the Quarterly Meeting held on March 1st, the number of members was 132. On the plan were the names of twelve local preachers and four exhorters, and the preaching places were the following: York, Woodells, Scarborough, Blue Bells, Smith’s, Centre Road, Churchville, Streetsville, Switzer’s school-house, Four Corners, Claridge’s, Paisley, Don Mills, Wallace’s, Hoggs’ Mills, Thornhill, Nicholls’, Humber and Halton—in all, some twenty appointments.

At the English Conference of 1832, a report of the work in Canada was presented, and it was decided to place the promising mission under the care of Hull Circuit. At this time the General Missionary Committee had not been organized, and it was, therefore, customary for the stronger English circuits to take under their charge mission stations. On the 3rd of September, at the Quarterly Meeting, the number of members had increased to 195, the financial affairs had also improved, and fresh openings presented themselves for the extension of the mission. The 21st of the following month was a day of great rejoicing, for it witnessed the dedication of the new church on Bay Street, which could accommodate almost six hundred persons, and had cost about $3,800 ; nearly one-third of this amount was collected, leaving the balance a somewhat serious encumbrance on the premises. Though the financial pressure was injurious to the Church, and involved much struggling, it was ultimately overcome by the generosity of the people.

In 1833 the Hull Circuit sent Rev. Joseph Partington to assist in the further development of the work. In the same year the same circuit sent another missionary, whose name in Canadian Methodism is as ointment poured forth—William Lyle, for many years known as Father Lyle, a name indicative of the love and reverence in which he was held. He was a man of good figure, commanding presence and an open countenance. William Clowes had met him and had been struck with his gifts and graces. He joined the Wesleyan Church when twenty-one years of age, but afterwards became a travelling preacher in the Bible Christian Church* which he left on account of a trifling irregularity in relation to his marriage. After this he taught school till he became a Primitive Methodist preacher in the year 1826. The Hull Circuit sent him to London, and, after travelling in several English circuits, he was sent to Canada in 1833. He was stationed at Markham, one of the outlying appointments in the Toronto Circuit; afterwards at Churchville in 1835, and in 1837 in Etobicoke. Amidst much discouragement he laboured with success. He seemed to have but one aim—to save souls ; and his heart’s desire was abundantly granted him. His last circuit was Laskay, which, under his superintendency, was blessed with an increase of one hundred members. He superannuated in 1863, and died ten years afterwards. The first words he uttered when converted, in 1816, were, “Glory! glory! glory!” and amongst his last words when dying were, “ Christ is all in all.” His was a blessed life and a triumphant death.

But, returning to the thread of our narrative, we find in 1833, in addition to the accessions to the ministerial ranks from England, that Messrs. Berry, Lowden and Arthur were employed as travelling preachers, so that altogether six missionaries were in the field. In the month of September Messrs. Summersides and Berry visited Niagara, and organized a station there. From the report of Hull Circuit for 1835, we learn there was an increase for the past year of one hundred members in the Canadian missions. In the Minutes of Conference for 1838, we find that Toronto had been divided into two circuits, Brampton being the head of the new one, so that, with Niagara, there were now three circuits. Messrs. Summersides and Jolley were appointed for Toronto, Mr. Lyle to Brampton, and a missionary was wanted for Niagara. The returns of members were :— Toronto, 192; Brampton, 163; and Niagara, 20; total, 375. During the next four years Niagara was given up, but Markham was made the head of a new circuit, so that the number of circuits remained the same. The period was one of healthy growth. In the months of January and February, 1841, a great revival took place on Toronto Circuit, and about 200 were converted. The membership in 1842 was 663, and two preachers were stationed to each circuit. The three circuits were made into a district similar to the districts in England, and empowered to hold a yearly meeting for the management of its affairs. A District Committee was also appointed to be governed by the same rules as the District Committees in England.

In 1843 an increase was reported of 242 members. This year an important step was taken in England by the formation of a Connexional Committee, called the General Missionary Committee, which took charge of the missionary operations of the Connexion instead of leaving them to the more powerful circuits ; consequently the Canadian Church passed from the fostering care of the Hull Circuit, which for twelve years had tendered help both by sending men and means. The newly organized committee was empowered to send additional missionaries, and to arrange for the reception of monthly accounts of the progress of the work. Directions were also given for a Missionary Society to be organized in Canada, in order to raise funds for enlarged missionary operations ; and to prevent financial embarrassment, it was arranged that no missions should be undertaken without the consent of the Canadian District Committee. These arrangements had beneficial results, and in 1844, the report of the Canadian work, which is more extended than those of former years, indicates rapid advancement. The statistics were :—10 travelling preachers, 83 local preachers, 1,004 members and 172 on trial; 12 churches, 4 Sunday-schools, 43 teachers and 269 scholars.

At the English Conference of 1844, held at Lynn, Norfolk, Canada received much prayerful consideration. The possibilities of the Connexion in this new land seemed to be profoundly felt, and it was thought advisable that the venerable Hugh Bourne himself should visit the infant churches that he might, by his counsel and public addresses, consolidate and extend the work. There were some who dissented from the proposal; and when it is remembered that Mr. Bourne was seventy-three years of age and was far from robust, it must be admitted that the appointment involved considerable risk. He was to stay as long as he deemed it necessary, and he was “ under the joint'direction of the General Missionary Committee and the Canadian District Committee, which were required to arrange matters so as to render his mission that of an adviser in carrying out the purposes of the committees respecting the missionary work.” His name appeared in the English Minutes for the year as “ Adviser from the English Conference.” After making necessary arrangements for the journey, he sailed from Liverpool on July 3rd, and reached Quebec on August 24th. On the voyage he had a slight accident, in which one of his legs was hurt through a plank falling on it, and he suffered so severely from sea-sickness that it was feared he would die; but when able to walk around the ship he strove to impress upon the sailors the importance of spiritual things. In his journal he says, “ Before leaving the Oberon, on which I had come to Quebec, I spoke to the sailors to say how heavenly it was for sailors to be at places of worship on Sunday and Sunday nights compared to what it was to sit at ale-houses, hurting their minds, injuring their bodies, rendering themselves unfit for work on Monday mornings, spending their money, hurting their families and so on. I trust these sailors will keep up their stroke of piety, and I trust my labour among them will not be in vain in the Lord.” As he landed in Quebec on the Sabbath morning, he attended the Wesleyan Church in the morning and the Scotch Church in the evening.

On Monday, he started for Montreal by steamer, arriving on Tuesday afternoon, where he spent two weeks with a nephew and niece. On Sunday, September 1st, he worshipped in the New Connexion Church in the morning, and in the Wesleyan Church in the evening. On the 8th, he says: uAt Montreal; attended a Wesleyan chapel. The preacher published for another preacher to preach to the Sunday-school children in the afternoon, so at the close of the service I went and put into his hands my treatise on preaching to children. I did this quite as a stranger. At night 1 attended at the same place.” The following Thursday he took the boat for Toronto. On the Saturday evening he was much delighted with a gorgeous sunset, and describes it in eloquent terms. The Sabbath found him preaching, morning and evening, to his fellow-passengers, and he appears to have had a good day. On Friday, the 20th, he writes : “ I landed at Toronto, and was met at the wharf by Mr. Lawson and one or two of his sons, and some others ; of this I was glad.”

He commenced work the following day in Bay Street Church by teaching in the Sabbath-school. and then preaching to the children—for in all his travels and preachings children were specially cared for. He then threw himself into the work with his characteristic zeal, and 'visited the various circuits as opportunity served. He did more than a due regard to his physical well-being would have warranted, and probably the disease, from which he died eight years afterwards, was partly brought on by his long journeys, which he usually made on foot. Let the following serve as a sample of his travels. He writes: “January 1st, 1845.—I rose at four, and set off without breakfast; walked eleven miles to Lambton, and took breakfast; then, about eight miles to Toronto—near or about nineteen miles in all.” In the spring of 1845 he visited Niagara, and crossed over the line to Buffalo, and from thence returned to Toronto. On Tuesday, August 15th, 1845, he heard from England that a decrease of eight hundred members had been reported at the Conference. This was a great grief to him, and he decided to return to England for the Conference of 1846. He therefore left Canada a few days afterwards, intending to spend a few months in visiting the Primitive Methodist Churches in the United States. The following March, he embarked at New York in the Montezuma, and with his usual economy, travelled as a steerage passenger. After a passage of twenty-four days, he safely reached Liverpool, when he writes, “ Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift. So now I am again on English ground, and in good health, except the hurt on my right leg.” ‘

In 1845, and also in the following year, there was a slight decrease in the members on the Canadian missions, but the tide of prosperity returned in 1847, and the number of members was reported as 1,246. The Rev. John Petty, in his history of the Connexion, says of this period : “ During the ensuing year several new churches were erected and placed in easy circumstances; some of the missions were extended, and an encouraging addition was made to the number of members. The report for 1848, contained eight principal stations, fourteen missions, twenty-three Connexional churches, fifteen Sabbath-schools, 764 scholars, 128 teachers, *and 1,343 members of society. The next succeeding year was one of greater progress, the number of members having risen to 1,526. In 1850, the number reported was 1630, about 1,000 more than in 1840. Could the urgent calls for missionaries have been promptly met, a much greater increase would doubtless have been realized. During the period in question Messrs. T. Adams, J. Fowler, William Gledhill and J. Davison were sent from the ranks of the regular ministry in England, and rendered good service to the stations in Canada. Mr. Davison’s age, experience and wisdom enabled him to afford valuable assistance in the committees of management. But could the supply of missionaries have been quadrupled, much larger accessions would have been made to the mission churches, and the cause in Canada would have been both greatly strengthened and widely extended.”

The names mentioned by Mr. Petty are still held in loving remembrance by great numbers in Canada, and especially did Thomas Adams and John Davison render eminent services to the Canadian work. The former joined the Primitive Methodist Church in 1819, when about nineteen years of age, and entered the ministry four years afterwards. He laboured with great success in various parts of England, in the North of Ireland, and Wales. He appears to have got the impression that Canada offered a large sphere for usefulness, and, therefore, offered himself to the General Missionary Committee for Canada, lie was accepted, and came to this country in 1844. His circuits were: Toronto, Etobicoke, Brampton, Reach, Guelph, Galt and Blenheim. He was honoured *>y being elected President of Conference, and his brethren loved him and reposed the utmost confidence in his piety and sound judgment. He was superannuated in 1865, and spent the last years of his life in Galt, and died in great triumph on November 26th, 1880.

John Davison was born near Newcastle-on-Tyne, in 1790. and was converted by the agency of William Norris, a Staffordshire potter, who had gone to Newcastle, and who was an earnest local preacher of the Primitive Methodist Church. Mr. Davison joined the first society formed in Newcastle, and shortly began to exercise his gifts in calling sinners to repentance in the surrounding villages. In 1823, he was called to the ministry by the Hull Quarterly Meet ing, and the following twenty-four years were spent on some of the most important circuits in the north of England. In 1810 he was requested to go to Australia as Superintendent of Missions, but declined. When, however, a similar request was preferred in reference to the Canadian Mission, in 1847, he complied. He reached Toronto in August, 1847. After residing three years in the city, he was stationed on the following circuits : Grand River, Hamilton, Brampton, Galt and Guelph Union Mission. In 1857 he was appointed General Missionary Secretary and Book Steward, which brought him again to Toronto, where he continued to reside until his death, in 1884. In 1866 he was superannuated, after being engaged in the active work forty-three years. He not only tried to do good with his tongue, but also with his pen ; in 1840 he compiled the journals of William Clowes, and in 1854, published the life of the same eminent evangelist, who, under God, ranks with Hugh Bourne, as .one of the founders of the Connexion. It may be remarked in passing, that Mr. Davison married the step-daughter of William Clowes, on October 11th, 1825. On coming to Canada, Mr. Davison found no denominational periodical, and he therefore ventured, on his own responsibility, to commence a monthly paper, the Evangelist, which had a good circulation ; but was afterwards merged into the Christian Journal, which was started at the Conference of 1858, with Mr. Davison as its editor. This position he held till his superannuation. He also compiled the first book of discipline. Outside his own denomination he was loved and esteemed, and the confidence of the general public in him was shown by his appointment by the Government to a place on the Senate of Toronto University, which he held from 1863 to 1873. Amongst the last words this venerable servant of God uttered when dying, were : “ I have done what I could for the Church and the world; my work is done.” And we doubt not the Master greeted him on his entrance into His presence with “Well done !”

Turning now to the progress of the Connexion, we find from the year 1850 steady progress. In 1851 there were reported twelve stations, nineteen missionaries, and 1,739 members, and some of the stations were self-supporting. In the following year there was an increase of one station, and also one missionary. In 1853 there were fifteen stations twenty-three preachers, and 2,326 members. In 1854 the stations were reported m two districts—Toronto and Hamilton—the number of stations had risen to nineteen, the preachers to thirty-seven, the members to 2,671. In 1855 the stations were twenty-five, the preachers thirty-seven, the members 2,902. In 1856 the stations were twenty-eight, the preachers thirty-seven, and members 3,039. So the numbers kept growing till, in 1860, the number of principal stations was thirty-two ; missions and missionaries, forty, and members of society, 4,274.

During the past decade a very important step was taken in the organization of the work—the inauguration of a Canadian Conference. This Connexional court was formed in 1854. For some time previous to this it had been found inconvenient to be in the position of an outlying dependency of the English Conference ; and though the English authorities were wishful to do their utmost to promote the wellbeing of the Canadian work, still a larger measure of home-rule was desired. The Canadian authorities in 1853 requested Mr. Wm. Lawson to goto the English Conference, held that year in the ancient city of York, to lay the matter before it. He complied with the desire of his brethren, and was successful in obtaining the consent required. Mr. Lawson, with his customary generosity, gave the money allowed for his expenses to a benevolent object. When the Canadian Conference met the following year, he was appointed its Secretary, and was also appointed Secretary of the Connexional General Committee, which office he filled till 1858, when the Rev. John Davison took the position. By the arrangement made with the English Conference, the Canadian Conference stationed its own preachers and conducted its own missionary operations. It had the right of appointing two representatives to the English Conference— one minister and one layman—who were chosen either from brethren in England or in Canada as was found convenient. The following matters were laid before the English Conference : Special and important business, a full report of the numerical and financial state of the Canadian work, the stations of the ministers, the names of ministers ordained and received as probationers. When these matters passed through the Conference they were published in the English Minutes, the same as their own business, the Church in Canada being regarded as an integral part of the Connexion. A grant of money was annually made, which was put into the hands of the Canadian Missionary Committee to distribute as it deemed best.

By the Conference of 1859 Brampton was made the head of a new district, so that now there were three districts : Toronto, Brampton and Hamilton. The following year the districts were again rearranged, and three new ones made—Guelph, London and Kingston. Barrie was, some years afterwards, added to the list, making a total of seven. This number there was at the Union of 1883. The success realized during the years 1850-1860 was obtained by God’s blessing on faithful work and enterprising zeal. The message of salvation was carried to the pioneer settlers in parts of the country being newly opened, but where now are to be found prosperous communities and strong churches, who in their turn are providing means to send forth the Gospel to the regions beyond. To accomplish this aggressive work, an increased number of regular ministers was required, and, as is shown by the statistics, the number was increased almost threefold. Some of these ministers were sent from England by the General Missionary Committee, and others were called to the work by the Canadian Conference. Amongst these brethren, several of whom have occupied the highest positions in the gift of the Church, and who were still working for the Master when the union took place, may be mentioned, the Revs. R. Cade, J. Milner, J. Markham, George Wood, John Garner, Wm. Bee, J. Smith, J. Goodman, Wm. Herridge, and W. S. Hughan.

At the Conference of 1860 it was decided to station the preachers by a Stationing Committee, composed of an equal number of ministers and laymen ; heretofore this business had been done at the May District Meetings, which plan, on account of the small number of ministers in each district, was found inconvenient and unsatisfactory. In the year 1860 the jubilee of the whole Connexion was celebrated ; Canada joined in this celebration and devoted the monetary proceeds chiefly to commencing a new mission called the “Jubilee Mission,” which afterwards developed into three circuits: Wingham, St. Helens, and Grey.

The following table shows the progress of the cause since 1860 ; the first column gives the number in 1870, and the second in 1883—the last Conference held before the consummation of union :—

 

1870.

1883.

Travelling Preachers.........

....... 81

98

Local Preachers.............

....... 263

214

Class Leaders...............

....... 320

299

Members of Society..........

....... 6,432

8,090

Sabbath-schools............

....... 130

152

Scholars ...................

......7,833

9,065

Connexional Churches.......

....... 193

231

Other places of Worship.....

....... 167

58

Parsonages.................

....... 25

50

Value of Church Property. . . ,

$188,925

$403,346

Debt on “ “ ....

-

60,298

During this period, 1860-1883, the work of consolidation and extension made progress, if not rapidly, yet surely.

Owing to the migratory habits of the people, large numbers who were converted and influenced for good removed to parts of the Dominion in which there were no Primitive Methodist Societies, and consequently other evangelical churches were benefited by their adhesion. The want of an educational establishment for the training of young ministers was keenly felt, and the Rev. Thomas Crompton commenced a Theological Institution in a humble way; but after doing good work for a year or two, it was given up. When the Jubilee of the introduction of the denomination in Canada was celebrated, in 1879, a fund, amounting to several thousand dollars, was raised for the assistance of burdened trusts, and to assist in building new churches and parsonages. As grants and loans were made conditionally on the trustees and friends connected with needy churches making increased efforts to help themselves, the operation of the fund was highly beneficial. In 1873 a catastrophe happened the Connexion, by the burning down of the church on Alice Street, Toronto, a large and beautiful building, which had taken the place some years previously of the old Church on Bay Street. Under the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Guttery, who had come from England in 1871, this church had been abundantly blessed, and the very week before the fire occurred a meeting had been held to consider the subject of its second enlargement. But the misfortune was overruled for good, for the trustees took steps to erect on a better site a building more suited to the needs of the growing church, and the result was that Carlton Street Church was erected, at a cost of about $50,000, and an organ worth about $6,000 was placed in the new building. The school-rooms attached to the Carlton Street Church were large, and well adapted to the purpose, and the Rev. Dr. Rice pronounced them the best arranged for their purpose of any in Canada. Thus, the Mother Church of the Connexion in Canada, had for its steward for many years Mr. Robert Walker, who continued in unbioken membership with it from the organization of the first class, in 1830, till his death, in 1885. By his labours and his means he did not a little to gain for himself the universal love and respect of the whole of the Church in the Dominion, which looked up to him as a father. His efforts to promote the cause of God were earnestly seconded by his family. His eldest son, John, was an official of the church for several years before his death, which occurred in Manchester, England, by being thrown from a horse. He passed away at the age of thirty, singing a hymn of holy triumph. His secoi-d son, R. Irving Walker, was a worker in the Sunday-school, and also a class-leader and local preacher. He succeeded, on his father’s death, to the place of Church Steward, which he retained till the time of his too early death, at the age of fifty-one, which occurred in March, 1890.

The Connexion has had amongst its laity men of whom any church might well be proud. Amongst a number too large to name may be mentioned: W. Marshall, of Brampton; J. Green, of Orangeville; Wm. Wilkins, of Galt; Isaac Wilson, of Albion: Lewis W. Purdy, of Sydenham; Wm. Trebilcock, of London; and T.M. Edmondson, Jos. Kent and John Bugg, of Toronto. Most of these honoured brethren have passed over the river, though some remain to this day. The good man, whose name has so often occurred in this sketch, Mr. Wm. Lawson, after laying the foundation of the Connexion in Toronto, removed in 1834 to Brampton, which was named by him after his English home. He purchased a farm, and carried on a country store. In 1847 he removed to Hamilton, where, with his two sons, he carried on a large clothing business. Here again he was the chief agent in organizing a Primitive Methodist Church. The last Conference he attended was that of 1873. As he had not been at Conference for several years previously, his presence was cordially greeted by his old friends. He took a conspicuous part in the business, and showed himself the “Rupert of debate.” One who was present says: “The power and earnestness with which he spoke surprised even his most intimate friends, and greatly delighted them.” But his end was drawing near. On January 31st, 1875, he attended the sacramental service in the Hamilton Church, and, by request of the pastor, he offered the closing prayer. On February 11th he was taken sick at the home of his daughter, in Hamilton, and on the 16th of the same month he departed to be with Christ, being in his eighty-second year. His name will long live in the memory of the Church, and the hundreds to whom he was a spiritual father, and who were “his crown of rejoicing.”

Perhaps it is but right to add a few words concerning the ministers who have held positions of especial prominence in the denomination ; and on this list an honoured place should be given to the Rev. Robert Boyle, who, after a remarkably successful ministry, was superannuated, on account of failing health, in 1878. Mr. Boyle, who was converted when a youth from the Roman Catholic faith, has held the highest positions in the gift of his brethren, and his name is beloved in all parts of Ontario in which he has ministered the Word of God. The Rev. James Edgar, M.D., in the early years of his ministry, which commenced in 1848, was a mighty preacher at camp-meetings. He was a man of refined tastes and gentle disposition. After his superannuation he practised as a physician in Toronto, and was a blessing in the homes of many, especially the poor, to whom he became “the beloved physician.” He died suddenly in 1882.

Amongst the ministers who have served the Connexion in connection with the Book Boom and Christian Journal may be mentioned the Rev. William Rowe, who was for many years the chief executive officer of the Church. He returned to England in 1872, on account of ill-health. The Rev. Thomas Guttery, who came from the English Conference in 1871, and returned to England in 1879, was pastor of the Mother Church in Toronto for five years, and afterwards of the Yorkville Church. He edited the Christian Journal with ability, and was an eloquent preacher. The Rev. Thomas Crompton, who came to Canada in the prime of his manhood from the English Conference about the year 1853, ably served some of the best circuits ; he was editor for a term. He was superannuated in 1872, and died in Hamilton, in 1885. No minister of the denomination has been honoured with official position for the same length of time as the Rev. William Bee, who filled the office of editor for several years, and was the Book Steward from 1872 till the union; in addition to these offices he also filled those of Secretary of the Connexional Committee and General Missionary Secretary. The Rev. J. C. Antliff, D.D., was editor from 1879 till 1883, when the Christian Journal was merged into the Christian Guardian. He was the minister of Carlton Street Church from 1878 till 1884, and was honoured by being elected Secretary of the General Conference of the United Church at Belleville, 1883.

The following ministers filled the presidental chair for the last years of the denomination: The venerable George Lamb, 1876; William Bee, 1877 ; H. Harris, 1878; James Smith, 1879; W. S. Hughan, 1880; M. H. Matthews, who died a triumphant death during his year of office, 1881; John Goodman, 1882; W. Herridge, 1883, and at the final Conference, Thomas Griffith, M.A.

In concluding this sketch, it only remains to say that when proposals for the organic union of the Methodist denominations began to be considered, there was a widespread feeling in the Primitive Methodist Church that the time had come in God’s providence for the Methodism of the Dominion to become a unit.

The Conference of 1882, by resolution affirmed, “The desirability and possibility of the unification of Methodism in this land, and appointed a Committee to meet and confer with any Committee appointed by other Methodist Churches to prepare a basis of union.” After a basis had been formulated, it was submitted to the societies throughout the Connexion, and was approved by a large majority. The English Conference of 1883 had the matter laid before it, and with expressions of good-will consented to what was so manifestly according to God’s will. During the spring of 1884, the Rev. William Bee being in England, was desired by the Canadian Missionary Committee to close up the missionary business with the English Committee. He was treated by the Committee with the utmost consideration and kindness, and some of the leading spirits of English Primitive Methodism as the Rev. C. C. McKechnie (Editor), and T. Penrose—spoke cordially and hopefully of the future of the United Church, and their kind sentiments were endorsed by all present. There were other financial matters to be arranged, and the writer of this was deputed to visit the English Conference of 1884, held at Tunstall, to arrange for the equitable claims of the Canadian ministers to be paid on their withdrawal from the Itinerant Preachers’ Friendly Society. This was accordingly done, and the Canadian brethren, by complimentary vote, expressed their satisfaction on his return, with the arrangement he had made. The Connexion had laid before it the matter of “ levelling up” as it was termed, and in response nearly $14,000 was subscribed, and over $5,000 given from Connexions! funds to enable the ministers of the body to be put on a level with those of the older branch of the Church in their claims on the funds of the Superannuation Fund and their property in the Book Room establishment.

Although it was not without a pang that the denomination lost its distinctive name and separate position in the country, on Whit Sunday, 1884, yet almost all felt it was for the good of Methodism as a whole, and also of the Church of Christ generally in this land; and subsequent blessing on the United Church has abundantly justified the hopes then entertained. May the union, as peacefully consummated, become a still increasing blessing as the years roll by.


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