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Centennial of Canadian Methodism
Historical Sketch of the Methodist New Connexion Church in Canada

By the Rev. William Williams, D.D.

IT is gratifying to know that no division has ever been created in Methodism by controversies in relation to Christian doctrine. Under the illuminating and guiding influence of the Spirit of God the learned and logical mind of John Wesley so accurately interpreted the Holy Scriptures, so carefully formulated their teachings, and ko wisely provided for their perpetuation among the “ people called Methodists,” that his followers throughout the world remain substantially one in their creed. The fact that questions of polity and administration have been the only occasions of division, has rendered, and will continue to render, the organic union of the scattered sections of Methodism not only a practicable, but a comparatively easy task. In reaching the results in this direction that have already been secured, the work has been promoted by the tendency of all the uniting bodies to adapt themselves to the advancing requirements of an enlightened Christian civilization. The leadings of 'Divine Providence have been carefully followed. All the sections of Methodism in this country are now united in one strong and prosperous organization. Questions that at one time were considered of great importance have been answered by the logic of events, and points of difference that once were prominent have disappeared. It is to be hoped that what has taken place in Canada may be realize! in every land, and that the Great Head of the Church will “ gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.”


We must glance for a moment at this community as one of the most important of the sources which have supplied the stream of our connexional history in Canada. Scarcely had the venerable “Founder of Methodism” passed to his glorious reward, before the difficulties arose that led to the first organized secession from the parent body. In the year 1797, the Methodist New Connexion was established. We need not dwell upon the causes that led to this result, nor need we express an opinion as to the expediency of the struggle. Such movements frequently get beyond the control of those who set them in motion, their momentum carries them farther than it was intended they should go. Christian charity does not violate historical fidelity when it says that the controversialists on every side of the questions at issue were actuated by pure motives and a desire to reach the best results. The leading actors in those stirring scenes were men of faith and prayer. Whether the results sought for might not have been as surely, though more slowly, reached by patient waiting, without causing division, is a question we need not discuss. The liberal polity that is now almost universal in Methodism declares the later wisdom of the many, while it vindicates the earlier and farsighted sagacity of the seceding few.

The points that led to this division and the establishment of the Methodist New Connexion were as follows :—

1. “The right of the people to hold their public religious worship at such hours as were most convenient, without their being restricted to the mere intervals of the hours appointed for service in the Established Church.”

2. “The right of the people to receive the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper from the hands of their own ministers and in their own places of worship.”

3. “The right of the people to a representation in the district meetings and in the Annual Conference, and thereby to assist in the government of the community and in the appropriation of its funds.”

4. “The right of the Church to have a voice, through its local business meetings, in the reception and expulsion of members, the choice of local officers, and in the calling of candidates for the ministry.”

Our space will not allow us to trace, in detail, the history of the Methodist New Connexion in England, nor would it comport with the design of this paper. Suffice it to say that after it had overcome the difficulties attendant upon the formation of a new organization, it prospered to such a degree, that in the year 1824 the resources of the growing Church were considered sufficiently large to justify the establishment of a mission in Ireland. But at a still earlier date there was a strong conviction in the Conference that Canada should be included in its missionary operations. Mr. William Ridgway, a wealthy and influential layman, visited this country, and was convinced that it had strong claims upon the sympathies of British Christians. Shortly afterwards, one of the ministers, who had retired from the active work, was so far influenced by his representations as to settle in Canada, that he might preach to the people among whom he came to reside, so far as his strength would permit. In the year 1832, Mr. Joseph Clementson, a local preacher resident in Hanley, Staffordshire, being in Toronto on business, visited some parts of the country, preached to the people, and upon his return to England, represented them as being in many localities destitute of the ordinances of religion. About the same time very urgent and affecting appeals reached the Mother Country from the Baptist and Congregational Colonial Churches. All these things combined to intensify the conviction in the minds of the home authorities that this country was an inviting field for missionary operations. Accordingly, the Conference of 1837 “ determined to open a mission in Canada, and appointed the Rev. John Addyman to enter upon this important and arduous undertaking.” Two years later the Rev. Henry 0. Crofts was sent out to assist him, and shortly afterwards a series of circumstances, evidently providential, led to the formation of a union between the Methodist New Connexion in Canada and another branch of the Methodist family, resembling them in their polity and administration. This community we must now briefly notice.


The history of the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church is closely connected with the name of the Rev. Henry Ryan. This remarkable man was, according to the most reliable authorities, born in Massachusetts, April 22nd, 1775. His parents were Irish Roman Catholics. They provided their son with the best education the locality in which they resided could afford. At the age of sixteen he was converted to God. Upon his return to his home his father met him at the door and refused to admit him, unless he returned at once to the faith of his parents. This, the sturdy young convert could not do. He was disowned and turned away. Within two years from that time he became a Methodist preacher. In the year 1805 he came as a missionary to Canada, was appointed to the Bay of Quinte Circuit, and had for a colleague the no less distinguished William Case. Bishop Hedding, who, when a young man, was also under his superintendency for a year, thus describes him: “He was in that day a very pious man, a man of great love for the cause of Christ, and great zeal in his work as a minister. A man who laboured as if the judgment thunders were to follow each sermon.” From.other sources we learn that he was a man of fine appearance, great physical strength, dauntless courage, and more than usual decision of character. Though impetuous and impatient of control, he had great command of himself. These qualities, combined with his wonderful faculty of influencing the common mind, eminently fitted him to be a leader of men. Such brave and earnest spirits were needed in that day. When war broke out between Great Britain and the United States, this country became the battle-field. The fact that many of the early Methodist missionaries were natives of the country with which we were at war, and received their appointments from a Conference that met in the United States, was taken advantage of to injure the work and imperil the workmen. Every American missionary was ordered to leave Canada. But Henry Ryan, then a presiding elder over the Upper Canada District, remained in this country, rallied his men around him, carried on the work as best he could, and kept the societies from being scattered. The Rev. William Case, writing from Albany, N.Y., stated, from information received in a letter from Canada, “That Mr. Ryan and others were travelling, and doing all they could for God and souls.” At the Genesee Conference that met on July 9th, 1813, “no preacher from Canada was present; but the preachers met together and made their own arrangements for the work.” The Minutes also say that “ no returns were received from Canada of either preachers or members. The state of the country prevented the usual movement of preachers, and no appointments for Canada were made by the Bishop.” Canadian Methodism owes much to the intrepid conduct of Elder Ryan and his compeers during that trying period. But with the return of peace the persecutions to which the Methodists were subjected did not cease. The Genesee Conference continued its control over the Canadian societies, and the cry of disloyalty was raised more loudly and persisteutly against them. Weary of this strife, doubting the possibility of silencing these accusations while their relations to the Methodism of the United States were so. close, and despairing of obtaining the right to hold church property and celebrate matrimony while under the jurisdiction of a foreign religious court, Elder Ryan and others sought for separation and independence. The impetuosity of some leading ministers and the undue resistance of others to a measure that all felt the value and importance of, complicated the situation. Personal elements mingled themselves with the controversy, and created greater divergencies of feeling and action, and the result was the formation of a separate and independent organization which was known as the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church. This event took place in the year 1829. As in all similar cases, a large number of ministers and members who sympathized with the views of the leaders of this movement, declined to follow them into a separate community. The polity of the new Church was a liberal and equitable one. It provided for lay representation in all of its courts; and though the organization was not as complete in its arrangements as it afterwards became, it did effective work for God, and brought prominently before the public mind principles of Church government which are now universally recognized as equitable and fair.

The first few years of the history of the young community were far from encouraging. With connexional machinery that required great administrative ability to make it effective, with a large amount of popular prejudice to meet and overcome, with material to work with that was as yet crude and untried, without adequate funds to meet the emergencies of the hour and develop the resources that were at hand, without parsonages for the preachers, or places of worship for the people, the strength and endurance of these pioneers in the cause of liberty were severely tried. To increase their difficulties, before the little Church had been four years in existence, the Rev. Henry Ryan, who had been, humanly speaking, the life and soul of the movement, was called to his reward. He died in great peace at Gainsborough, Upper Canada, at the early age of fifty-eight years. His remains lie in a little cemetery on the mountain, about three miles to the south east of the now celebrated Grimsby Camp Ground, where they await the resurrection of the just.

The difficulties we have indicated, so severely tried the faith and fortitude of the ministers, that some, despairing of success, retired from the work, while others found in the ministry of sister Churches the support for themselves and families which they could not find in their own. Others, who were compelled by their circumstances to follow secular pursuits through the week, filled their appointments faithfully every Sabbath. But a devoted few pursued their sacred calling with undivided attention and untiring energy, and were rewarded by the success that attended their labours. The earliest numerical returns to which we have access are those of 1835. The Church then comprised thirteen circuits, upon which there were twenty-one ministers, forty-two local preachers, and 2,481 members. In 1841, the membership, which three years before had sunk to 1,801, rose to 1,915. The Minutes of Conference in those early days gave no returns of connexional property. The resources of the country as well as those of the churches were small and imperfectly developed, but many of the advantages we now enjoy had their origin in the fidelity and self-denial of these earnest and devoted men of God.


When the Rev. John Addyman was sent to Canada, by the Methodist New Connexion Conference of 1837, he was specially instructed to establish a mission in the Western Province. Though favourable circumstances led him to commence operations in the East, he did not forget the terms of his commission, but as soon as possible he began his researches in Upper Canada. While there, he met with a number of the leading ministers and members of the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church, and finding that the principles and polity of the two bodies closely resembled each other, a union between them was proposed. The Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Conference, which met in Cavan, June 9th, 1840, carefully discussed the whole subject. An equitable and satisfactory Basis of Union was adopted, and sent down to the Quarterly Boards, and also laid before the Executive Committee of the Methodist New Connexion in England. The address of that Conference to the members of the Church contains the following reference to it:—

“Having in view the prosperity of the Church by establishing our system more permanently, and extending our labours more widely, we have, during this session of Conference, deliberately considered the proposed union with the Methodist New Connexion; as appears from the foregoing resolutions. We discovered, by a critical investigation of their principles, and by comparing their Discipline with ours, that we need not sacrifice any fundamental principle, nor violate any general rule of our Discipline, in order to effect an union with them ; inasmuch as the economy of their Church is founded on the design of imparting to the societies the sacred privileges of the Gospel by granting the admission of lay representation into every department of the Church. Under these circumstances we have agreed on the terms of union ; leaving it open for your investigation, and also for the consideration of the Executive Committee of the Methodist New Connexion in England.”

The action of all parties concerned was such as to secure the adoption of the following resolution by the Canadian Conference of 1841:—

“The expressed opinion from the Circuits, on the proposed union of the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church with the Methodist New Connexion in England being so decidedly favourable, and the articles of union being approved of by the Conference of the Methodist New Connexion, this Conference unanimously resolves,—That the union now be consummated upon the principles laid down in the Minutes of Conference for 1840.”

The following is the Basis of Union as finally adopted by the uniting bodies :—

1. “That the local preachers now in the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Church be entitled to stand in the same relation to the united body, and enjoy the same privileges they now do in the Canadian Wesleyan Church; and all local preachers hereafter received shall submit to the rules, and graduate according to the regulations of the Methodist New Connexion, and enjoy such privileges as it provides.”

2. “That the forms for sacraments, marriages, and ordination of Elders used among the Canadian Wesleyans be retained.”

3. “That the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist Circuit preachers be received into the united body according to their various standings in that community.”

4. “That for the present the name of the united body be the Canadian Wesleyan Methodist New Connexion.”

5. “That twenty pounds per annum (subject to future alteration, as the case may require) be allowed from the English Missionary Fund towards the support of a married, and twelve pounds per annum towards the support of a single, preacher. These sums to form the maximum of allowance, and that it be left to the discretion of the Superintendent of Missions, with the assistance of the Conference, to apportion the grants, with a due regard to economy and the necessities of each particular case.”

6. “That a Paternal and Beneficent Fund be established, for the encouragement of which the Missionary Society agree to grant the sum of thirty pounds annually to each Fund, until, in the judgment of the Conference, it shall not be longer necessary.”

7. “The Canadian Conference to have the direction of the work in Canada, assisted by the representative of the Methodist New Connexion in England, as the Superintendent of the Mission, who shall be a member of the Canadian Conference, ex officio, and corresponding member of the Annual Committee. It will be the duty of said representative, or General Superintendent, to see that all engagements connected with claims on the Mission Fund are faithfully performed, and to assist the Conference to carry out the benevolent plans contemplated by the union.”

8. “That to ensure, so far as prudential means can accomplish the object, a supply of suitable preachers for the wants of the united body, the Wesleyville Institution be established to afford the means of instruction for a limited period. And that in the first instance suitable young men, connected with the religious community in Canada, be selected, or young men recommended from England by the Missionary Committee.”

9. “That the stations of the Methodist New Connexion in the eastern part of this Province, formerly called Lower Canada, be united with the Canadian Conference.”

10. “As missionary exertions are employed to gather precious souls into the Church of Christ, and extend the Redeemer’s kingdom, so the exertions of the English Methodist New Connexion Missionary Society will be directed to the establishment of an active, prosperous, and permanent distinct community in Canada; that, as this end is attained by the formation of circuits, the introduction of the system, and the missionary stations becoming so many parts of the body, in that proportion the influence of the English Connexion shall cease in its concerns, and the body in Canada shall become a distinct religious community, united only to the brethren in England in Christian love; and in those kind offices which will always be proper and acceptable.”

The union of 1841 was exceedingly beneficial to the united community. It wTas a fair and honourable arrangement. It involved no fundamental changes on either side. Virtually, the functions of legislation and administration were exercised as freely after the union as before it. The two communities had simply united their energies and resources for the more effective prosecution of the work of God. Provision was also made to some extent for the children of ministers in the active work, by the establishment of the “Paternal Fund,” which was maintained as long as the Connexion continued as a separate organization. The “Beneficent Fund,” afterwards the “Superannuated Ministers’ Fund,” provided an allowance for worn-out ministers, their widows and orphaned children. Great improvements were made in thr constitution of this Fund by later legislation, and its efficiency was largely increased. The name of the Church was also changed by the Conference of 1864, so as to read, “The Methodist New Connexion Church in Canada.” Though the clause referring to the Wesleyville Institution was not carried out in the form originally proposed, a Theological Institute was organized; the Rev. William McClure was appointed Tutor, and an Educational Board elected to co-operate with him. Mr. McClure filled this important position with great efficiency till his lamented death, and at one time as many as thirty young men, in different stages of their probation, were under his instruction and direction.

Though the union of 1841, by providing for the payment of annual grants of money from the English Missionary Fund to the labourers on Canadian missions, and constituting the representative of the English Conference Superintendent of those missions, and ex officio member of the Canadian Conference, and corresponding member of its Executive Committee, necessarily brought the Canadian Connexion very largely under the influence of the Methodist New Connexion in England, it expressly provided for the ultimate and complete independence of the Canadian Church. The terms of union declared, that “the exertions of the English Methodist New Connexion Missionary Society will be directed to the establishment of an active, prosperous, and permanent distinct community in Canada; that, as this end is attained by the formation of circuits, the introduction of the system, and the missionary stations becoming so many parts of the body, in that proportion the influence of the English Connexion shall cease in its concerns, and the body in Canada shall become a distinct religious community, united only to the brethren in England in Christian love, and in those kind offices which will always be proper and acceptable.” The student of Canadian church history will see that this important clause must have exerted a great influence upon the union movement of 1874, inasmuch as it provided for the complete emancipation of the Connexion from all outside c ntrol as soon as it ceased to be a missionary church, or became able to sustain its own missions from Canadian resources. It is easy to see that a Church that could secure complete control over its own future, by a mere change of financial relations, must be left very largely to its own conclusions as to so important a movement as that of union with the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada.


In tracing the history of the Connexion from 1841 to 1874, it may be proper for us to follow it first along the line of its statistics.

In 1842, there were in the active work 20 ministers and preachers and 2,484 members. The first report of contributions to the Mission Fund was made at the Conference of 1844, when they amounted to $773.78.

In 1852, there were 50 ministers and preachers and 4,496 members; contributions to the Mission Fund amounted to $1,988.07.

In 1862, the returns included 90 effective ministers and preachers and 8,001 members; the contributions to the Mission Fund reached the sum of $5,428.44.

In 1872, there were 117 effective ministers and preachers and 8,312 members ; contributions to the Mission Fund $8,352.14.

At the time of the union of 1874, the estimated value of church and parsonage property was $288,340.

The returns were somewhat unfavourably affected during the years 1873 and 1874, by the unsettled condition of the Connexion during the union agitation, and while the work was being rearranged; but the declension was much less than there was reason to expect, in connection with a movement which, though generally regarded with satisfaction, was not acceptable to all.

In tracing the history of the Methodist New Connexion in Canada along the line of its transactions, many interesting and suggestive facts present themselves. At the Conference of 1843, a union was formed with the Protestant Methodists of Eastern Canada—a community whose membership numbered 550. This accession, with a total numerical increase for the year of 1,576, greatly cheered the Church, and was justly regarded “as a special indication of the smile of Providence upon the union, and as a pledge of future prosperity.” All the preliminary arrangements relating to this union had been completed at Bolton, in Eastern Canada, on May 5th of that year, and a delegate was duly appointed to represent them at the Conference which ratified it. At the same Conference, the Missionary Society of the Canadian Connexion was organized, and arrangements were made for the holding of missionary services at all the principal appointments. The results of these services, as reported to the following Conference, were very encouraging, and this society grew through the succeeding years of the history of the Connexion, until in one year the contributions reached nearly $9,000. The Conference of 1843 sent the Rev. James Jackson"as a deputation to the missionary meetings of the English Connexion. He travelled during the year throughout the length and breadth of that field, and such were the results of his soul-stirring addresses that the missionary revenue was increased fully one-third.

The Conference of 1844 was marked by arrangements which resulted in the publication of a Connexional organ, called the Christian Messenger. One of the resolutions concerning it was, “ That all political discussions and controversial matter be excluded from it* pages,” and another, “That every minister on probation write an original article for the Messenger at least every six months,” a rule which must have aided the intellectual development of the probationers and given freshness at least to the mental make-up of the paper.

The Conference of 1845 was called to part with the Rev. John Addyman, who, during the previous eight years, had done valuable work in the country. His devoted piety and amiable disposition, joined with great administrative ability, had made his presence in the councils and services of the Connexion a benediction. He had taken a leading part in forming the union of 1841, and had from the time of the completion of that arrangement represented the English Conference in Canada. His return to England, which the exigencies of the work in that country required, was much regretted; but an able successor, the Rev. Henry O. Crofts, was appointed in his stead, and the work moved on. The Rev. William McClure was sent into the Canadian work, with the title of Assistant Superintendent of Missions, and from that time aided the brethren with his wise counsels and impressive public utterances.

It was not until the year 1849 that the Canadian work was divided into districts, chairmen appointed, and their functions and powers defined. The Toronto, Hamilton, London, Cavan, Johnstown, and Canada East Districts were formed. It was decided that the Chairmen of Districts should be ministers in full connexion, who should reside within the bounds of their respective districts, and should be chosen annually by the Stationing Committee; that they should hold two District Meetings in the year, which should consist of an equal number of ministers and laymen, inquire into and report upon the state of the work, give advice in case of difficulties and aid in adjusting them should they be referred to them, and otherwise stimulate to effort, and promote the spirituality of the membership. They were not to preside at the Quarterly Meetings within the bounds of their districts, except those of the circuit or station to which they were appointed, unless by special request of the society and with the concurrence of the superintendent preacher, nor were they allowed to receive any remuneration for their services as chairmen.

The Conference of 1851 was marked by the return to England of the Rev. H. O. Crofts, who for twelve years had been closely connected with the work in Canada. He had actively promoted the union of the two bodies in 1840 and 1841; the Conference had called him to the presidential chair four times, he had fulfilled the duties of the general superintendency with great zeal, energy and success; his pulpit ministrations were of such a high order as to draw large congregations, and his executive abilities were such as to meet without failure all the demands made upon them. His portly form, sonorous voice, ready quotations of scripture—for he was almost a living concordance—his kindly imperiousness of manner, and his ready, racy wit, made his presence in any locality something to be remembered. He soon reached a commanding position in the Connexion in England, after his return, and used his experiences of Canadian life with great effect in his missionary efforts. A published volume of his sermons remains as a memorial of his ministerial life in London, Canada West.

The Rev. II. O. Crofts was succeeded in the general superintendency by the Rev. J. H. Robinson, who, by the direction of the Methodist New Connexion Conference in England, removed from Sheffield to Canada. He was one of the most able and popular ministers of the English Connexion. He had been appointed to some of their best stations, including Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Halifax, Chester, Liverpool and Sheffield. He filled the office of Superintendent of Missions in this country with great ability and acceptance during a period of fifteen years, and was elected four times to fill the presidential chair. As the previous connexional organ had become defunct, he established the Evangelical Witness in 1854, of which he remained the editor till 1870. No man ever did more to make the Canadian Connexion a success than he did. He managed its finances with masterly skill. The Evangelical Witness in his hands was an instrument of intellectual and moral power. His ready wit, massive facts, and skill in using every passing incident for the promotion of his purpose, gave him great ascendency in the Conference and throughout the Connexion. His sermons were inspirations, and he was never more at home in preaching than when among his brethren in the ministry.

In 1870, Mr. Robinson was elected by the English Conference editor of the Methodist New Connexion Magazine, and manager of their publishing interests, a position which he successfully filled during four years, and in 1872 he was, by the votes of his brethren, made the President of the Conference in England. In 1874 he was again appointed to Canada. He accepted the appointment under the impression that a very large minority of the ministers and members of the Canadian Connexion would decline to enter into the proposed union, and that it was his duty to co-operate with the Superintendent of Missions, the Rev. John Medicraft, in caring for that minority. He soon saw that the struggle against the union movement was a hopeless one, and so represented it to the authorities in England. He had been so long and intimately associated with the Connexion in Canada that as soon as he had permission from the English Conference to do so he entered into the union and became a member of the London Conference, in which relation he still remains.

A short time after the close of the Conference the Rev. James Jackson passed to his reward one years. He had been closely associated with Henry Ryan in the organization of the Canadian Methodist Church, and was in 1835 elected President of the Conference. He also filled the presidential chair of the Conference at which the union with the Methodist New Connexion was consummated, and again in 1848. He visited the English Connexion as a missionary deputation in 1843. In 1846 he became a supernumerary, and continued in that relation till his death, which took place at his residence, in the county of Norfolk, July 6th, 1851. The “ Minute” adopted by the Conference said of him, “Deeply imbued with love to God and love to immortal souls, James Jackson well sustained the character of a Christian missionary.”

From the earliest period of its history the Methodist New Connexion took a decided stand in opposition to all grants from the State to any of the institutions of the church. This policy was adhered to as rigidly by the Canadian Conference as by their English brethren. In 1850 a resolution was adopted, appointing a committee to prepare a petition for both Houses of the Legislature, to be signed by the President and Secretary of the Conference, opposing any grants from the State for church purposes, and in favor of the secularization of the Clergy Reserves.

On the same subject, the Canadian Conference of 1854 adopted the following resolution :—

“That the question of the Clergy Reserves being still unsettled, and the occasion of protracted controversy in the Province, and there being much misapprehension throughout the entire community as to the position of several of the Christian Churches on the matter, this Conference avails itself of the opportunity of expressing its decided disapprobation of any division of these funds among the religious bodies; on the contrary, it desires an absolute and entire secularization.”

This position was reaffirmed in two resolutions passed by the Conference of 1863 :—

“That we, as a Conference, cannot but deplore the recant act of our late Government in extending the privileges given to Roman Catholics in the Separate School Bill, thus giving encouragement to the encroachments of Catholicism and aiding denominations in securing sectarian college endowments.”

“That this Conference views with alarm and grief the persistent efforts of several religious sects respectively participants in the late Clergy Reserve in Canada West, to pervert the funds of Toronto University from their original and legitimate to a sectarian purpose, and by dividing its endowment, to restrict its usefulness in imparting university advantages to the youths of Canada ; and moreover, by transferring immunities now a common blessing to rival sects, the advantages are sought to be conferred upon certain separate communities, which belong to the public. We therefore pledge ourselves in every legitimate way to oppose such an act of spoliation upon this institution, which we regard as the honour of our Province and the bulwark of its educational institutions.”

The convictions of the ministers and members of the Methodist New Connexion upon this subject were as deep and strong as they were upon the prohibition of the liquor traffic, slavery, the Sabbath, and other related questions of public interest, upon which resolutions of an unm stakable character were repeatedly placed on record in the Minutes of Conference.

In 1866, the period arrived when the Rev. J. H. Robinson felt it to be his duty to retire from the Superintendency of Missions, after fifteen years of service in that capacity. He continued, however, to serve the Connexion as Editor, Book Steward and Treasurer for four years longer, when he was recalled to England. The Rev. William Cocker, D.D., became the General Superintendent, and fulfilled the duties of that office with general acceptance through a term of six years. His position as representative of the English Conference during the progress of the union movement, was an extremely embarrassing one, but he performed his important duties with fidelity and ability. He was twice elected to the chair of the Canadian Conference, and was, for a short time, Editor of the Evangelical Witness.

The Conference of 1871, was called upon to mourn the death of the Rev. William McClure. He was born in Ireland, in 1803. His father, the Rev. John McClure, was the first minister of the Methodist New Connexion in Ireland. William was the oldest of five children, and at the age of fourteen was left without father or mother. Through some very severe experiences, he reached the years of manhood. One day, as he sat by the sea-side reading his Bible, the truth was brought home to his heart, and he went on his way a rejoicing Christian. After exercising his gifts in the class-meetings, pra) er-meetings and other social services, he was led into the ministry in 1830. For seventeen years he did good work as a pastor and preacher of the Gospel in his native land. He was then appointed to Canada as Assistant Superintendent of Missions, being left, however, available for circuit work. He was at three separate times appointed to Toronto. Montreal, London and Hamilton also enjoyed his services. He was President of Conference in 1849, 1855 and 1858; Secretary of Conference in 1853, and was Theological Tutor from 1860 to 1870. He was also a member of the Senate of Toronto University. His death was sudden. Retiring to rest, on the evening of February 17th, he complained of headache ; the next morning he was found unconscious, and on Sunday evening, February 19th, 1871, he passed away. His rich and ripe scholarship, his large fund of apt illustrations, his wide and varied experience, his meek and quiet, yet earnestly devout, spirit, made him popular as a preacher and endeared him to his friends. No minister of the Canadian Connexion was so widely known outside of his own community. His death, especially at that critical juncture, was felt to be a great Connexional loss. His biography, by the Rev. David Savage, is a comprehensive and beautiful presentation of his life and character.

The Conference of 1872 was made peculiarly interesting and impressive by the presence of the Rev. William Cooke, D.D., of the English Methodist New Connexion Conference, who was on a visit to this country. The following resolution, which was adopted with great heartiness, expressed the feeling of the Conference in relation to him—a feeling which was rendered more intense by his well-known sympathy with the union movement then in progress :—

“That this Conference has learned with much pleasure of the arrival in this country ot' the Rev. Dr. William Cooke—a name honoured not alone in the records of the denomination of which he has been for so many years a faithful and devoted minister, but whose lofty Christian spirit, gifts of intellect, and reputation in circles of religious literature are so universally acknowledged. It is resolved, that Dr. Cooke be invited to visit our Conference; and whilst we understand that the hurried circumstances of his departure for this country have precluded the opportunity of an official commendation of our distinguished guest from the authorities of the Methodist New Connexion in England, we none the less gladly and heartily welcome Dr. Cooke amongst us, looking for the benefit of any counsel and co-operation he may feel it consistent with the time he has at his disposal, and the objects of his visit to Canada, to place at our service. That the Rev. Dr. Cooke be respectfully invited to conduct divine worship in this church, in connection with the Conference services, on Sabbath morning next.”

The same Conference bade farewell to the Rev. W. Cocker, D.D., who returned to England. The Rev. John Medicraft was his successor in office, and came to this country in consequence of representations having been made in England to the effect that a very large minority, if not a majority, of the ministers and members of the Canadian Connexion would not consent to the contemplated union, and would require as a continued separate body, the care and aid of the English Conference. He soon saw that these representations were incorrect, and that the struggle against the union was a hopeless one; accordingly he returned to England in 1874. He remained in Canada, however, long enough to win for himself personally the esteem and affection of his brethren in the ministry, who, though they could not aid him in carrying into effect the purpose he came to accomplish, respected his fidelity to the interests he represented, and the commission with which he had been entrusted. In the meantime the Rev. David Savage had been appointed Editor of the Evangelical Witness, fulfilling the duties of that position with great acceptability until that publication was merged in the Christian Guardian.

The Rev. S. B. Gundy, who had been called to the Presidential chair at the Conference of 1873, died on the 12th of November, in the same year. In the “ notice ” of his death, adopted by the Conference, it was well said, “that never was that high position filled with greater dignity, urbanity and ability. During his ministry he was appointed to some of our best circuits and stations, and everywhere inspired confidence, admiration and love. He was a clear, forcible, often eloquent, preacher of the Gospel, a wise and loving pastor, and a faithful and prudent administrator. His death was a singularly happy and triumphant one.”


As the “union movement” in its general aspects and relations will be fully and exhaustively treated in another article, we need only trace the action of the Methodist New Connexion in relation to that movement, so far as it culminated in the union of 1874. The history of the Connexion in Canada is the history of a succession of unions. The amalgamation of the Canadian Wesleyan Methodists with the Methodist New Connexion, which took place in 1841, was followed, in 1843, by a union of the Protestant Methodists of Eastern Canada with the united body, thus completing an arrangement which united in one organized Church three communities which had been rivals and competitors. These facts indicate the disposition of this Church toward union. As early as 1863, the Rev. J. H. Robinson, in an editorial, in relation to a general union among the Methodists, said, “ If we cannot at once, or soon, unite, let us each work as we are doing for awhile, and under the same name and British relations, having as now our Annual Conferences, and establish a General Conference to be held every four years. The first of these General Conferences would be one for neutral brotherly intercourse, and interchange of sentiment rather than for any legislation. We should thus become better acquainted.

Christian hearts are ever sympathetic, and sympathy would ripen into brotherly love and attachment, and facilitate our ultimate amalgamation.” With almost prophetic foresight the results were thus anticipated that were reached eleven years later. This was the first of many of the same kind. In the Methodist New Connexion Magazine of January, 1870, the Rev. Samuel Hulme closed a noble article, in which he reviewed the action of both the English and Canadian Connexions on the subject of union, in the following words: “Under this view we deem the steps taken by the Methodist New Connexion, with a view to heal the breaches of Methodism, as honourable to its intelligence and Christian principles. Our resolutions and proceedings in reference to Methodist union will be cited in years to come, as the first definite movement toward a policy of healing and conciliation.”

From year to year the Conference continued to record resolutions favourable to union among the Methodist bodies in Canada, and appoint committees composed of the leading ministers and laymen of the Connexion, to meet committees so appointed by the other Methodist Churches; but for a length of time no practical results followed. In February and March, 1871, however, important conferences between these committees took place, in the Mechanics’ Institute Buildings, Toronto, which led to the adoption of a series of general recommendations, setting forth the desirability of union, and recommending a basis that included a General Conference consisting of ministerial and lay representatives in equal numbers; Annual Conferences, composed of ministers only; District Meetings, in which laymen should be present, except during the examination of ministers’ characters, etc. In these meetings no one betrayed his denomination, no one was recreant to his principles, but the desire for union was general. The spirit of the meetings was candid, cordial and generous. The recommendations were referred to the several Conferences, and elicited a variety of responses. The position taken by the Methodist New Connexion Conference was one of general approval, as expressed in the second of the five resolutions adopted on the subject: “That this Conference accepts, in the main, the Basis of Union proposed, as moderate and fair to all branches of the Methodist Church, as it recognizes the representative position of the laity in the legislative courts of the Church.” But in the third resolution it was “recommended to the joint committee that may be hereafter appointed by this and other Conferences, that the latter clause of resolution sixth of the proposed scheme*be so altered as to make no distinction in the class of business to be taken up by District Meetings, composed, as laid down, of equal numbers of ministers and laymen.”

But as time went on, the negotiations were continued only between the Wesleyan Methodists on the one hand and the Methodist New Connexion on the other; the negotiations between the former body and the Conference of Eastern British America having for their object a rearrangement of the work in the same denomination, rather than a union of churches which were not already one people. The report, substantially embodying the terms of,union, was brought before the Conferences concerned, as “ The Report of the Union Committees appointed respectively by the Wesleyan Methodist Conference and the Methodist New Connexion Conference of Canada, agreed to at the several meetings of said Committees held in the Metropolitan Church, Toronto, on the 1st and 2nd days of October, 1872; on the 30th and 31st days of January, 1873; and on the 9th and 10th of April, 1873.” Though the representatives of the other Methodist bodies were invited to meet at the same time, the two Churches mentioned were the only ones whose committees met. The Basis of Union, as prepared and submitted to the Conferences of the negotiating bodies, was that which, with a few important modifications—the principal one substituting the election of a President of the General Conference for the appointment of “ General Superintendents, one or more,” rendering it still more acceptable to the Methodist New Connexion—was finally adopted by all the contracting communities. The Methodist New Connexion Conference, that met at Dunnville on June 4th, 1873, after a debate of four days, adopted unanimously the following resolutions on the subject as brought before them in the report:— “Whereas a committee of thirteen in numberwas appointed by the Hespeler Conference, to confer with committees appointed by the Wesleyan or other Methodist Churches, and said committee having reported to the Conference that they conferred with a large committee of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, the result of which was the adoption of the report which has been laid before this Conference : Resolved, that the said report be adopted, subject to the sanction of a majority of our November Quarterly Meetings, and that this Conference appoints a deputation of one or more, to be hereafter named, to proceed to England for the purpose of laying a full statement of the whole matter before the Conference of that body, and that the report of such deputation, with the decision of the Quarterly Meetings, be laid before our next Conference.”

The next Conference was called by the Executive to meet on May 20th, 1874, when, the reports from the Quarterly Meetings having been received, the following resolutions were adopted:—

“Whereas a majority of the Quarterly Meetings have adopted the basis of the proposed union submitted by our last Conference: Resolved, that this Conference hereby ratifies and adopts the said Basis of Union, provided that our interpretation of the twenty-third clause in the Basis of Union be approved by the Wesleyan Conference, viz.: ‘Any act of the General Conference affecting the rights and privileges of the Annual Conferences shall become law only when it secures a majority of two-thirds of the members of the General Conference who may be present and vote thereon; provided also that such act be not disapproved of by a majority of the next ensuing Annual Conference.*. Also, that a respectful statement, by deputation or otherwise, of the whole case be submitted to the English Conference, soliciting their approval of our action ; also, that a deputation be appointed to the next Wesle) an Conference, soliciting their approval of our interpretation of the said twenty third clause.’ ”

“That this Conference appoints a committee consisting of the President, Revs. J. Caswell and W. Tindall, with Bro. A. Ferguson, to draft a memorial, submitting the recent action of the Canadian Conference on the subject of union to the consideration of the English Conference, and to request their acquiescence therewith.”

“That the Rev. W. Williams and R. Wilkes, M.P., be appointed as a deputation to attend the next sessi n of the English Conference, for the purposes prescribed in the report of the Committee on the State of the Connexion, etc.”

“That the deputation to the next Conference of the Wesleyan Church in Hamilton be Revs. J. McAlister, W. Tindall and G. Buggin, and Bro T. Mitchell.”

The Conference having adjourned to give time for the deputations to visit the Conferences to which they were appointed, met again at Milton, August 12th, 1874. Immediately after the Conference was organized, the deputation appointed to attend the English Conference presented their report, which was followed by the report of the deputation to the Wesleyan Conference, held at Hamilton, Ont. The resolutions of the Methodist New Connexion Conference, held at Hanley, Staffordshire, England, were as follows :—

1. “That having received from the Rev. John Medicraft, General Superintendent of our Canadian Mission, and the Rev. J. H. Robinson, the deputation to our late Conference, held at Milton on the 20th of May, a report of the proceedings of the said Conference on the projected union of our Mission with the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada, and having heard from the Rev. W. Williams, and R. Wilkes, M.P., the deputation from our Church in Canada, an exposition of the modifications which the Methodist New Connexion and Wesleyan Methodist Conferences have made in the twenty-third article of the Basis of Union; it is resolved that this Conference sees no reason to alter the judgment already pronounced on the Basis of Union, as the modifications made herein do not remove the main grounds of our objections to it as set forth in the resolutions of our last Conference.”

2. “That inasmuch as a large majority of the Quarterly Meetings in Canada have accepted the Basis of Union, and as their deliverances have been ratified and adopted by our Canadian Conference, which now asks our formal consent thereto, this Conference, in view of these facts, deems it undesirable further to oppose the union, and should the Canadian Conference, adjourned to the call of the President for the final consideration of this question, after receiving our resolutions, resolve to consummate the union on the terms proposed, this Conference accepts such decision, in the hope that the proposed union will be overruled by the Great Head of the Church to the establishment and extension of liberal Methodism in the Dominion of Canada, and to the advancement of the principles and blessings of the kingdom of Christ in the world.”

We cannot close this record in better terms than those expressed in the report of the committee on the above resolutions, which was unanimously adopted by the Conference:

“That this Conference has listened with much satisfaction to the statements made by our deputation to the English Methodist New Connexion Conference, respecting the spirit in which that honoured body has met the overtures which, during our sessions of May last, we commissioned these brethren to submit. We hereby put on record our sense of the faithfulness with which our deputation have fulfilled the delicate and important trust we placed in their hands. We rejoice also to know that our brethren in England have found it consistent with their views of what is due to themselves to accept the action of the Canadian Connexion on the question of the union of our denomination with that of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada, as that action is found embodied in the expressions of our Quarterly Boards, as also of our Conference at its recent sessions.”

“We would also recognize the overruling of a wis-e and gracious Providence in conducting the complicated negotiations through which we have been led from year to year to a consummation thus satisfactorily reached. This Conference, however, cannot allow the close and cordial relations that have subsisted for so many years between the parent Methodist New Connexion in England and ourselves to come to a close without expressing our profound sense of indebtedness to our brethren there for the large and uninterrupted liberality which has distinguished their policy towards the Canadian Mission, and trust that in the fraternal relations to be continued in the future, we may have frequent opportunities of intercourse as pleasant and mutually profitable as in the past. We would also most fervently pray that the guiding and sustaining presence of our common Father and God may be vouchsafed to His servants in the prosecution of their entire work at home and abroad. Further, be it

“Resolved, that as this Conference at its former session, held in Milton on May 23rd, 1874, did agree to adopt the Basis of Union on condition that the Wesleyan Methodist Conference of Canada, the Wesleyan Conference of Eastern British America, and the Methodist New Connexion Conference of England would accept our declaration of union, with the interpretation of clause twenty-three in the basis then agreed to ; and whereas these conditions have since been fulfilled by all the contracting parties, this Conference hereby declares its final acceptance of the terms of union between the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada and the Methodist New Connexion Church of Canada; all necessary legal provisions to be determined by the General Conference of the United Wesleyan Methodist Church of Canada.”

So ends the history of the Methodist New Connexion in Canada, as a distinct organization. Communities may disappear and men may pass away, but principles never die. So the great principle of lay representation lives in the Methodism of Canada, and the Methodism of the world; and men are learning that in the Church, as well as the State, all righteous government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

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