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

By the Rev. S. G. Stone, D.D.

THAT it is believed to be the child of Providence, is not among the least of those impulses to which Methodism has always and everywhere owed the devotion of those moral heroes, who, in all periods of its history, have gone forth into known or unknown regions, preaching its soul-saving doctrines, with as little doubt of success as they have had of their own being. They have not only felt the inspiration common to all who have intelligently, and with a due sense of their responsibility, consecrated themselves to the promulgation of the Gospel, but they have believed with intense conviction that God had raised up and sent forth this special form of evangelism for the purpose, not only of saving men directly through its instrumentality, but also for the quickening of other agencies engaged in the same work. Whatever their views of the doctrine of foreordination in its Calvinistic sense, they have, at all events, had as little doubt of success in their mission of evangelism as they would have had if they had received their allotted fields of labour directly from the hands of God.

It was not without reason that they had this confidence. The very existence of the Methodist Church, as such, was of God. Certainly neither Mr. Wesley nor those who were associated with him ever contemplated the establishment of a separate communion until it was providentially laid upon him. Even in the American colonies, where the circumstances of the Methodist societies were such as to almost imperatively demand distinct organization, his scruples against it prevented such organization until the absolute destitution of the sacraments forbade further delay. Thus, whether with or without organization, Methodism has arisen to meet a demand which no other agency was adapted to supply. Always the child of Providence, borne onward and outward upon her mission of love, in a very large degree, to the masses who otherwise were not reached at all, or, if reached, by a cold formalism in which they saw little of hope, and less of the Lord Jesus Christ. The same divine superintendence is not wanting* in the introduction of organized Methodism into Canada, toward the celebration of the Centennial of which this volume is contributed. In the year of 1789-90, the Rev. Freeborn Garretson sent William Losee, with David Kendall as his colleague, to pioneer what was called the Lake Champlain Circuit—a portion of the State of New York—which, either by reason of the sparseness of its settlements, or because it was settled, where settled at all, by people already attached to another communion, presented no adequate inducements to their continuance of the mission they had undertaken. Their journeys had, however, brought them in sight of Canada, whither their feet had doubtless been led by that Providence which sees beyond the plans of men, and, in January, 1790, Mr. Losee, who had relations in Canada, and who, it is supposed, received a roving commission from his presiding Elder, crossed the St. Lawrence, probably near St. Regis, preached at various places as he journeyed westward, sought out his friends in Adolphustown, began preaching among them, “and thus became, so far as the regular ministry is concerned, the apostle of Methodism in Upper Canada.”

If, however, the epoch of organized Methodism in our country, it was not the epoch of Methodism itself. As early as 1774, the Heck family, and others associated with them, seeing the approaching outburst of the American revolution, and being ardently attached to British institutions, emigrated to Canada—first to a part of Lower Canada, near Montreal, and, subsequently, to Augusta, where, in 1778, without the superintendence of a preacher or other ecclesiastical authority, they organized a class composed of Paul and Barbara Heck, of sainted memory, their three sons, John, Jacob and Samuel, John and Catharine Lawrence (the widow of Philip Embury), Samuel Embury and others. The home of Mr. Lawrence became their place of worship, and Samuel Embury was appointed leader. This little band, in the midst of a wilderness often echoing to the whoop of warlike tribes hastening to join in the conflict which raged over the American colonies, kept alive that religious zeal for which their leaders had been so distinguished, and did what they could for the promotion of godliness for years before it was possible to send missionaries to their aid. In 1780, a local preacher, by the name of Tuffy—a commissary of a British regiment in Quebec—seeing the religious destitution around him, embraced such opportunities as he had for preaching the Gospel during a period of three years, and leaving as the fruit of his zeal not a few who were subsequently among the first to open their homes for religious services. To him is accorded the honour of being the first Methodist preacher in Canada.

In 1786, George Neal, who had been major of a British cavalry regiment, in Georgia, but who had retired from the service during the war, crossed the Niagara river, and immediately began to preach to the destitute people he found in that vicinity, commencing his labours at Queens-ton, where he was much encouraged by a Mr. Cope, who had been a Methodist in the States, and others who were in sympathy with his work. At first he was much opposed by the officer in command at Queenston, who ordered him to desist from preaching, the reason given being that he was usurping functions which belonged exclusively to the Established Church. Having other views of his privileges, Mr. Neal continued to preach, meeting with much success, founding societies, and being everywhere esteemed as a man of genuine worth and of high religious character. Dr. Bangs says of him: “ He was a holy man of God, and an able minister of the New Testament. His word was blessed to the awakening and conversion of many souls, and he was always spoken of by the people with great affection and veneration as the pioneer of Methodism in that country.”

It will thus be seen that Methodism was first introduced into this country, in both the east and west, by men who had learned to face danger and difficulty in another sort of warfare, fit forerunners of those messengers of the cross who, with not less heroic courage, were to carry the standard forward. In the meantime (1788) an exhorter by the name of Lyons came from the United States and opened a school in Adolphustown, and “not neglecting the gift that was in him,” gathered the people together on Sabbath days in different parts of the country adjacent to his school, and exhorted


them to flee from the wrath to come. About the same time, James McCarty, an Irishman, who had been converted under Whitefield’s ministry, came over from the States, and reaching Ernestown, found there a number of lay Methodists who gladly opened their log cabins to the people who gathered to hear him preach. His services were instrumental in the conversion of many souls, but this, instead of commending him to the clergy of the Church of England, excited their hostility.

Under an edict passed by the Legislative Council, “that all vagabond characters should be banished from the Province,” McCarty was arrested by certain zealots of the Church of England, and, after being treated as though he were a common felon, was tried and convicted as a vagabond —the only cause of complaint being that he was preaching the Gospel without the sanction of the Church of England —and was sentenced to solitary confinement upon one of the Thousand Islands. Four Frenchmen were selected to convey him to the place assigned, but they, being more merciful than their employers, put him ashore upon the mainland, from whence he immediately made his way back to Ernestown, to his wife and family. On the following Sabbath he again held service in the house of Mr. Robert Perry, when he was again arrested, but released on bail, to appear in Kingston the next day. He did so, was immediately placed in the cells, and shortly afterwards sentenced to transportation. His family never saw him again; and, whether the unsupported testimony of one man that he recognized the clothes of a murdered man near Kingston as those of Mr. McCarty, be true or not, it is certain he died a martyr to that spirit of intolerance which still manifests itself in that petty but arrogant exclusiveness so common to the successors of the cruel ecclesiasticism of former days. The death of McCarty was not unavenged. The captain most active in the persecution, in an agony of remorse, wrote a confession of his crime, and subsequently became insane. The engineer closed his career within a few days, and another of the band died in less than a month.

“But though God buries His workmen, He carries on His work.” Zealous laymen did their best to supply the lack of other agencies, and thus kept alive the flame of religious life. It will thus be seen that the power of selfpropagation—the sure evidence of life—had prepared the way for organized effort when Losee made his appearance in Canada in the winter of 1790. The result of his labours during the year was a petition from the people to the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, urging that body to send ministers into Canada. The petition was cordially received, and Mr. Losee was ordained deacon and stationed at Kingston, reaching his circuit in February, 1791. On the 20th of the same month he organized his first class, another on the following Sunday, and yet another on Wednesday, the 2nd of March, the day on which John Wesley went home to his reward. This was the commencement of organized Methodism in Canada. It is true that classes had before this been organized both in Augusta in the east and Stamford in the west, but such organization was one of expediency—a mere banding together of Christians, formerly members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, or converted by the instrumentality of those who had been connected with that Church in the States. They had no ecclesiastical connection with each other, nor with the Methodist Church either in England or America. No return is made in the Minutes of the New York Conference of any members in Canada previous to Mr. Losee’s appointment to Kingston, for the reason stated—no one had been authorized to enrol them. The following year there is a return of 165 members for Cataraqui Circuit—the name Kingston being dropped— this number including the results of the labours of Heck and Embury in Augusta, and Lyons and McCarty 011 the shores of the Bay of Quinte.

At this time Mr. Losee was a young man but twenty-seven years of age, an able preacher and full of holy zeal for his Master. He threw all his energies into this work, to which he seemed in a special and marked manner to have been providentially called, and powerful revivals followed his labours. As the first representative of a Methodist itinerancy in Canada, he laboured most assiduously and zealously for the spread of the Gospel, and, like a flaming evangel, preached in demonstration of the Spirit and with power. The first Methodist chapel in Canada was built in Adolphustown in 1792. In the same month a second was begun in Ernestown for the eastern end of the circuit, each building being thirty-six feet by thirty, two stories high, with galleries—small beginnings, but full of promise for the future. Losee returned to Conference bearing cheering reports of his year’s work. His vast circuit was divided into two, and, with Darius Dunham as his colleague, he hastened back to his beloved people. The new circuit, called Oswegatchie, embraced the country east of Kingston, and Cataraqui that to the west, Losee taking the former and Dunham the latter. After the return of Mr. Losee with his colleague, the first Quarterly Meeting held in Canada was convened by Mr. Dunham, he being an Elder—the presiding Elder, Mr. Garretson, not being able to visit the country. It was held in Ernestown in a barn owned by Mr. Parrott, and was a glad day to those who had so long been without the sacraments of the Church of their choice.

What is it that has been lost • out of these occasions in these later days which gave them such attraction in the earlier history of Methodism % Then, and long afterwards, they gathered, not only from the centre, but from the remotest corners of those vast circuits, travelling in many in stances with ox-teams over rough roads, or on foot over a forest path. Men, women and children gathering on Saturday for the afternoon sermon and evening prayer-meeting, and remaining over Sunday for its rich and varied services. These were times of power, and this first one was the prediction of after days. The Holy Spirit fell upon the people, and from many lips the prayer for salvation went up to God. Many of those who were gathered at this service were U. E. Loyalists, who had been Methodists in the States, or in the motherland before they emigrated to this western world, and to them this was an occasion rich in memory of a former experience. It meant, too, that the dark past had disappeared, and that they should no longer be as sheep without shepherds. It was a glad dawn of the successes which followed, through which almost the whole country embraced by these circuits has been given to Methodism. At the close of the year, Mr. Losee returns ninety members for his circuit, and Mr. Dunham 259 for his, an increase of more than 100 per cent, upon the returns of the ' previous year.

At the Conference of 1794 Canada was constituted a district, with Mr. Dunham as Presiding Elder; James Coleman and Elijah Woolsey having charge of what were now called by change of name the Upper and the Lower Circuits. Learning of the work of Mr. Neal in the West, Mr. Dunham visited that section in the fall of 1794, and was received with great gladness by Mr. Neal and those he had gathered around him, and great were the rejoicings of the people when they were permitted to enjoy the sacraments at the hands of a Methodist minister. The following year Mr. Dunham was appointed to Niagara Circuit, and Messrs. Coleman and Woolsey returned to their former circuits, Mr. Woolsey having as a colleague Sylvanus Keeler. For purposes of administration the Canadian work was under the superintendence of Rev. John Merrick, Presiding Elder, whose district embraced within its bounds all of Canada and Philadelphia, with the intervening country. When it is remembered that there were no macadamized roads, no railroads, few turnpikes, few bridges, little entertainment except of the roughest class, it will be seen how much the Methodism of our day owes to those heroic men and the kindred spirits which succeeded them; men whose zeal for Christ took little thought of personal comfort, the amount of salary they should receive, or little else than how they could best win men and women to the cross of Christ.

The returns to the Conference in 1801 gave 1,159 members with Joseph Jewell as Presiding Elder, and Keeler, Sawyer, Anson, Herron, and Pickett in the field. In 1805 the membership was 1,787, and the eight circuits were manned by Samuel Coate, Presiding Elder; Pearse, Pickett, Bishop, Thomas Madden, Robt. Perry, Wm. Case, Henry Ryan, Nathan Bangs, Sylvanus Keeler, names honoured in Canadian Methodism. In 1808 Samuel Coate was Presiding Elder of the Lower Canada District, and Joseph Sawyer of the Upper Canada. With them, besides most of those named above, were Thomas Whitehead, John Reynolds, Cephas Hulburt, and others. In 1810 Joseph Samson and Henry Ryan were Presiding Elders, with whom, beside the foregoing names, we find Joseph Lockwood, Andrew Prindle, Joseph Gatchell, Ninian Holmes, James Mitchell, and others. Bishop Asbury, who visited the Canadian work that year, writes : “Our prospects are great in those provinces, and I must, if possible, extend my labours.” The increase of the year was 572. The war of 1812-15 seriously interrupted the progress of the work, reduced the membership by one half, and deprived the societies of many of their; preachers, who were largely from the United States. During that stormy period the dauntless Henry Ryan held the ground as best he could, travelling as Presiding Elder from Montreal to Sandwich, and having under him David Culp, David Youmans, William Brown and Ezra Adams. On reorganization, at the close of the war in 1815,. and renewed recognition of the field by the New York Conference, William Case and Henry Ryan were Presiding Elders of the Upper and Lower Canada Districts respectively, and Culp, Adams, Whitehead, Youmans, Brown, Madden, Prindle, Chamberlayne and others were the preachers. In 1816 the membership was 2,730. The political feelings stirred by the war brought in, through their operations in Nova Scotia, British missionaries, especially to Quebec and Montreal. This excited strife, which the Genera* Conference of 1816 failed to allay, but which was largely quieted by a compact in 1820, that the British missionaries should have the East, and the Methodist Episcopal Church the rural sections and the West. In 1824 the Canada work, which had previously been first a part of the New York Conference, then of the General Conference, was organized as an Annual Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In this year (1824) there were in Lower Canada eleven British Wesleyan missionaries and 1,113 members. In Upper Canada, embraced in the Canada Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, there were thirty-six ministers and 6,150 members.

The limits of this paper forbid a detailed recital of the growth of Canadian Methodism. Thus far we have been particular that the readers of these pages may possibly discern the hand of God in the planting and growth of the .Church whose interests all Methodists should love and do their utmost to promote. We must hasten to later periods and events preceding which the work had spread over the whole of Upper Canada occupied by the white settlers, and among various tribes of Indians as well. In 1828, the membership had increased to 9,678, there having been added during the last year 690 whites and 343 Indians. The work was divided into thirty-two circuits and missions, occupied by forty-seven travelling and seven superannuated ministers. Such was the position of Methodism in Upper Canada in the year cited above, when an event occurred which marked a new epoch in its history. In 1824, the General Conference meeting at Baltimore, Md., at the request of Messrs. Wyatt, Chamberlain and I. B. Smith, the Canadian delegates, organized the Canada Conference, the territorial limits of which were the boundaries of Upper Canada. The causes which led to this were various, but chiefly in view of the prejudice which existed in many places against such ministers as were citizens of the United States, a prejudice largely excited and promoted by the ecclesiastics of the Church of England, led by Bishop Strachan, whose influence with the Government was very great.

Although outnumbering the communicants of the Church of England, the Methodists were harassed by every possible method the representatives of that Church could invent, and such was the power they exercised over the Family Compact, that Methodist ministers were not allowed the right to marry, even when the parties were of their own communion. Some of them, presuming that by virtue of their ordination they had the right to do so, had celebrated the rite of matrimony in certain cases, but the Government refused to admit the legality of such marriages; and although in 1823 the Legislature passed an Act giving them the necessary authority, the council, under the influence above cited, threw out the bill. Rev. Joseph Sawyer, though a regularly ordained minister, and the Presiding Elder of a district, and although there was no law of Canada forbidding his celebrating the rite of matrimony, was so violently assailed for doing so that he was obliged to leave the country. Rev. Henry Ryan was also sentenced to banishment by a judge, sharing the prejudices of his Church, for a similar offence. Rev. Isaac B. Smith, having married a couple on his circuit, was prosecuted in the courts ; but after a most able defence, conducted by himself, though opposed by the ablest legal counsel available to the prosecution, was acquitted by the jury to which the case was submitted. In the face of certain legal prosecution, and unprepared to bear the expense, and unwilling to endure the annoyance which were sure to follow, Methodist ministers determined to abstain from the assertion of this privilege until they could secure protection by the Legislature. The fate of the bill introduced for that purpose has been already indicated.

All this did not, however, prevent their success in the great work to which their sanctified energies were devoted.

New societies were continually being organized, existing societies increased in strength, and the influence of the denomination was soon to be too powerful to be resisted by either the Legislature or the Government. Their opponents might embarrass, but could not arrest the rapid spread of the great work in which they were engaged, and in the absence of the right of their own ministers to marry them, many, rather than submit to the arrogant assumptions of the clergy of the Established Church, made the necessary journey of fourteen miles from the residence of a Church of England minister to be married by a magistrate.

Another incident which contributed to the desire for a separation from the Mother Church, was the position taken by Rev. Henry Ryan, who, during the war of 1812 and for some years afterwards, had been practically at the head of the Church, and its bold and loyal defender. Others, also indignant at the charge of disloyalty made against the Methodists, were much influenced to change the relations yet sustained toward the Church in the United States. Mr. Ryan finally decided to use all his influence in favour of a complete separation from that body. It is not necessary to assume, as has been done, that personal ambition was at all a factor in the case, or that any other motive decided him but a sincere desire to relieve the Methodists of Canada from the disadvantage of being suspected of political leanings towards the United States. This opinion was not at that time shared by the great body of the Methodist people, who desired only that a Conference should be organized in Canada to be under the jurisdiction of the General Conference of the Methodist Church. A petition to this effect was forwarded to that body by the hands of Messrs. Chamberlain and Smith, and after due consideration was granted by the General Conference. Accordingly, on the 24th of August, 1824, the Canada Conference was duly organized under the presidency of Bishops George and Hedding, both of whom were present. The Conference numbered but thirty-six preachers, including those received on trial, yet within this small circle were embraced men of stalwart merit, to whom were added at the Conference of 1825, two candidates who were destined to occupy the most conspicuous positions in the future of Canadian Methodism, viz., James Richardson and Egerton Ryerson, who were stationed together the following year on Yonge Street Circuit, Mr. Richardson being in charge.

Mr. Richardson had been an officer in the navy in 1812, losing an arm in the bombardment of Oswego, an engagement in which he had been conspicuous for his heroism. Both were excellent preachers, and each, early in its history, was editor of the Christian Guardian. Both, also, lived to a good old age, and died full of honours—Mr. Ryerson placing a nation under tribute to his memory for the invaluable services he performed in laying the foundations of the public school system, which is to-day the pride of our country. .

The organization of the Canada Conference did not, however, satisfy Mr. Ryan, nor did it lessen the hostility of Dr. Strachan, who, in a sermon preached upon the death of Bishop Mountain, grossly misrepresented the position and numerical strength of Methodism in Canada; and also proceeded to England, where he so grossly libelled the ministers of the Methodist Church, that the insinuations contained in his letters and statements became a subject of inquiry before the Provincial Assembly, the result of which was not only a complete vindication of their loyalty, but also a most complimentary admission or declaration of the obligations under which they had laid the country by the zealous and valuable services they had rendered to the cause of religion and public morality, a copy of which was forwarded, with an address from the Assembly to King George IV., advising against the establishment of the Church of England in Canada; the object for which Dr. Strachan was most assiduously, and with such unscrupulousness, working. In view of this continued opposition, the defection of Mr. Ryan and others who were endeavouring to divide the Church upon the question of independence and other proposed changes in methods of government, and also by reason of the fact that Methodist ministers were not authorized by law to celebrate matrimony, nor had the Church any such legal status as gave security to its possession of the numerous chapels which had been erected, and hoping that by securing independence these disabilities might the more easily be removed, and also by reason of other difficulties which had arisen, it was thought best to urge upon the General Conference of 1828 the separation of the Canada Conference from the parent body. A memorial to that effect having been drawn up four years previously, the several Conferences had become familiar with the reasons upon which the proposition was based, and therefore it was cordially agreed that, the General Conference being satisfied of the desire on the part of the Methodists of Canada to organize themselves into a Methodist Episcopal Church, they should have that liberty. Documents to that effect were, therefore, prepared and adopted, the separation was completed, and at the session of the Canada Conference held in Ernestown in the October following, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada was duly organized, the Rev. William Case being elected General Superintendent pro tem. It is significant of the important position Methodism had achieved, that even before the separation from the Methodist Episcopal Church was completed, a bill came into effect entitling the Methodists in Canada to hold church property; and it is equally significant of the persistent hostility of the Church of England, that in order to secure the right of Methodist ministers to celebrate matrimony, they had to apply for the royal assent to a bill for that purpose, the Provincial Executive, in which Dr. Strachan’s influence was paramount, withholding its consent, and using all its influence against it.

It was not long after the organization of Methodism in Canada as an independent Church, with the Episcopal form of government, that fresh difficulties arose. The Wesleyan Methodists of England no longer felt that they were bound by the arrangement hitherto existing between them and the Methodist Episcopal Church to abstain from pushing their work into Upper Canada, and without discussing the influences contributing to such a decision, it was decided by the English Conference to station ministers at certain points in this Province, and to otherwise establish themselves therein. As a matter of course, it was seen that such a decision would involve a collision between the two bodies, and therefore at a meeting of the Missionary Board in 1832, at which the Wesleyan missionaries were present by invitation, a plan of union was proposed which, with some modifications, was accepted by the Conference, meeting in Hallowell, in August of the same year, and ratified by the Conference of the following year, the terms of which constituted a complete change in the polity of the Methodist Episcopal Church—surrendering, as it did, those particular features of church government distinguishing the Methodist Episcopal Church from the Wesleyan Methodist Church, and also constituting it a part of the latter body. It will serve no good purpose to discuss the methods employed to bring about this Union, nor to imply even that any but the most conscientious motives actuated the parties thereto. This Union did not take place, however, without protest, nor when consummated did it meet with the unanimous approval of the whole Church.

To that system of government under which Methodism in Canada had made such rapid strides in the face of the most unscrupulous opposition, a very respectable minority were so warmly attached that they determined to oppose its sacrifice by all proper methods, contending that the discipline of the Church made no provision for its complete destruction, and that the restrictive rules had been violated in the method of procedure, and, therefore, they could not submit to the said Union. As stated above, it is not necessary to our present purpose to go over a field of controversy in which there may have been wanting at times, at least, all that exhibition of Christian charity which might with reason have been expected, even when they differed so far in opinion that they could not coalesce, from parties who had for so long worked in such harmony together, and had side by side made such achievements for Methodism in Canada. Men cannot change their opinions at will, nor be forced to such an issue by the weight of numbers ; and, therefore, let it be admitted without controversy that those who were determined to continue their allegiance to Episcopal Methodism set about the reorganization, as some say, or the maintenance and continuance, as others say, of the Methodist Episcopal Church with not less honesty of conviction and singleness of purpose than those who promoted the union in which the independence of Canadian Methodism was somewhat lost sight of.

Possibly if the same prudent methods had been adopted which were observed in the Union of 1883, much trouble might have been avoided. At this later Union all the parties, lay and clerical, were duly consulted, and even after an overwhelming majority in both cases had agreed upon the terms of Union, it was decided that the General Conference convened for that purpose could not legally transfer the property of the several contracting parties until the Legislatures had been consulted, before which as disinterested and impartial bodies any number of discontents could appear in their own cause, and that to attempt to consummate the Union before this was done would be to hazard the Union itself. As it was, there was, doubtless, in 1833 too much precipitancy and too much of the element of coercion, with too little of effort at conciliation. After conventions had been held in several places in the Province, it was decided to call a Conference, to be held at Cummer’s Church, Yonge Street, now Willowdale, to meet on the 25th of June, 1834. Doubtless the expectations of those who had thus decided were disappointed when the day arrived. If it had been expected that any considerable number of the ministers in the active work would abandon the new order of things, it must have been without sufficient assurance. All, or nearly all, had voted for the Union, and therefore, when the date of the Yonge Street Conference arrived, there were present of ordained Elders—Joseph Gatchell, David Culp and Daniel Pickett only, and of Deacons—J. W. Byam. Rev. John Reynolds, also an Elder, and J. H. Huston, Deacon, were not present, but had engaged to take work. There was also a number of local preachers present, some of whom had travelled more or less extensively, and a number of others who were received on trial and appointed to circuits ; the whole number present and admitted on trial, including Messrs. Reynolds and Huston, being eleven, corresponding in number and orders very closely to Mr. Wesley’s Conference in 1744, in London.

In the following year, in February, the Conference met in Belleville, to which time and place it had adjourned, when it was decided to call a General Conference. Rev. John Reynolds was appointed General Superintendent pro term, and the General Conference was called to meet at what is now called Palermo, on the 10th of June, 1835; but owing to a misunderstanding on the part of some of the preachers as to date, those who had assembled adjourned to meet again on the 27th, when, after due deliberation, Rev. John Reynolds was elected to the office of General Superintendent, and on the following Sabbath was ordained by the imposition of hands by the elders present.

The Annual Conference had met at the same place on the 25th of the same month, the Minutes of Conference showing that the Church at this time embraced twenty-one preachers in all, and a membership of 1,243.

The next Conference was held in Belleville, convening on the 16th of June, 1836, Bishop Reynolds presiding. The year had been one of severe toil to the pastors, but it had also been one of great success. The number of ministers had increased to twenty-four, and the membership to 2,390, a gain of 1,147, or nearly one hundred per cent. The work had been carried on under the most trying circumstances. Without churches or parsonages, and with a widely-scattered membership, it must have been in the exercise of heroic zeal that such achievements were made. But the blessing of God attended their labours ; kind friends opened their homes for preaching, and, regardless of the difficulties everywhere confronting them, with the most limited salaries, they went forth preaching the Gospel, and winning souls to the cross of Christ. In the meantime, a suit was instituted by the Trustees of the Waterloo Chapel to recover possession, the premises having been occupied since the Union by the Wesleyans. The case was tried in the Court of Queen’s Bench, and a decision obtained in favour of the plaintiffs, which decision was confirmed by the Court of Judges, Judge Robinson alone dissenting. Soon after, the Trustees of the Belleville Church instituted a similar suit, with a like verdict by the jury in their favour. From this decision the defendants appealed, and a change having been made in the Court by the retirement of one of the judges and the appointment of others, the decision was reversed, confirming the Wesleyans in their possession of the property. A new suit was also granted in the Waterloo Chapel case, and though Judge Macauley reaffirmed his opinion that the property by right belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church, he felt himself obliged to yield to the decision of the higher court, and, therefore, the Wesleyans were again put in possession of that church also. That much bitterness of feeling prevailed under such circumstances is not a matter of surprise, and that they should involve the mutual recriminations which characterized this period of Methodist history in Canada, and many years afterward, was, doubtless, also deeply regetted by the more devout members of both denominations. We will not enlarge upon a subject which was as satisfactory to the enemies of Methodism as it was injurious to themselves.

Happily these days have long since passed away, and it is hoped their bad consequences, in so far as they affected the relations of the two churches, are fully and forever obliterated. Sad as they were, they did not dampen the zeal or weaken the devotion of the great body of ministers who went forth bearing the precious truths of the Gospel to the congregations awaiting them, or which they gathered together throughout the land. Though opposed to each other, and often in much bitterness of spirit, Christian charity, and that veneration their successes and pureness of life have won for them, demands the belief that they were honest in their convictions, and, therefore, without malice in their differences of opinion. On both sides there was much to justify the tenaciousness with which each contended for the righteousness of its cause. On the one hand, there was all the force of sentiment which a connection with the Wesleyanism of England, with its record of grand achievement and its long line of illustrious heroes, could inspire. The system of government was also more in harmony with the preferences of both ministers and members, and immigrants also, who had been accustomed to the views entertained in this regard by the Mother Church in England. Doubtless, too, it was a factor of no inconsiderable consequence to many who had been accustomed to look upon the advantages which the patronage of the State gave to the Establishment in England, to find under the new order of things some measure of that patronage dropping into their own hands. The grants made by the Government gave important facilities to the expansion of missionary enterprise, both among the Indians and pioneer settlements, to which interests the societies in England also contributed with a generous hand.

Neither was the Methodist Episcopal Church without strong incentives to hold fast the principles upon which their polity was based. If under the Presbyterian polity adopted in England the societies had multiplied their strength and risen to a position of great influence and prosperity, not less significant had been the advancement of Methodism under that form of episcopacy prevailing on this continent, and which it was not without the most positive reasons believed represented Mr. Wesley’s preferences. Moreover, there were other great principles beside those involved in the form of church government to which they adhered, and which they were resolved to maintain, which constituted strong reasons why they should maintain their independence. It was believed that no Church could receive the patronage of the State, and more especially when it was administered, not under statute, but by the executive of the party in power, without unconsciously or willingly becoming more or less subject to party influence. To such a principle great prominence had been given in the ante-union period of their history, and they felt that its sacrifice was a matter of too much consequence to be passed over with indifference. They believed that they who preached the Gospel should look to the voluntary responses of the people as the only safe system of support, both for their ministry and their institutions, and it would be less than justice to the self-denying, laborious men who, at immense personal sacrifice, refused to abandon this principle, to deny that only under the impulse of convictions which entitle them to the respect of those even who differ from them, could they have sustained the laborious zeal which distinguished their usefulness.

It was a fact of history that “it was when religious establishments were first contemplated that the Church of Christ began to degenerate from her primitive purity; that it was when religious establishments commenced their existence, that popish and corrupt doctrines received their countenance and support in the Church; that it was when religious establishments got the vogue, that papal domination, which had crimsoned the Christian world from age to age, commenced her infernal sway.” That all these evil consequences would follow the patronage of the State might be prevented by a gracious providence operating upon an age of more enlightened conscience, but that such was its tendency they held with sufficient conviction to hold them aloof from it. The first ministers of the Gospel had been supported by the free-will offerings of Christians. So would they. The apostles had found it inexpedient to traffic with the powers of this world, and they would follow their example; and it is no small compliment to their sense of the propriety of the several branches of the Christian Church depending upon the loyalty of their own followers, that at the present time there are few in either Church or State in this the most prosperous of all the Provinces, who would favour a return to a system of state patronage, now happily abolished, under which so much of the public revenue was applied to the support of sectarian institutions. The decisiou of the courts having been adverse to their claim to the Church property held before the Union, there was nothing left them to do but to build anew for their accommodation, and to such a purpose—though most of their members and adherents were comparatively poor— they responded with the utmost generosity.

The Conference of 1837 met at Cummer’s Church, Yonge Street, on the 21st of June, Bishop Reynolds presiding. The increase in membership during the year had been 1,132, making a total of 3,522. The number of preachers stationed by the Conference was thirty-four. These statistics give results to the labours of the comparatively s’mall number of workers which, in the face of the difficulties with which they had to contend, afford no insignificant comment upon their zeal and fidelity. The next Conference met on the 4th of September, at Sophiasburg, Bishop Reynolds presiding, Rev. James Richardson, afterwards Bishop Richardson, being elected Secretary. At this Conference three of the preachers were granted a superannuated and three a supernumerary relation. The membership reported was 4,591, an increase of 414, a large number of the members having emigrated to the United States during the year. The General Conference was convened at the sau e time. The principal business transacted was in preparation for the celebration of the centennial of Methodism. The following year was one of much success ; the membership reported at the Conference held in September, 1840, being 5,325, an increase of 734. The next year, 1841, the Conference met at Palermo, reporting a membership of 6,049, an increase of 724 ; and in 1842 at Yonge Street, when a membership of 7,555 was reported, an increase during the year of 1,506. This and the following year were seaso. s of great revival. Throughout the Church the spirit of awakening had spread, the labours of the Church being owned and blessed of God everywhere. At the Conference of 1843, held at Sidney, twelve candidates were admitted on trial, and an increase in the membership of 1,324 was reported, making a total membership of 8,880. The General Conference was convened at the same place and time, the Annual Conference adjourning to allow the necessary business of the General Conference to be transacted. After due deliberation it was decided, for good and sufficient reasons, to divide the Conference, the western part of the work being named Niagara, and thee astern, Bay of Quinte.

Two important events took place in the year 1845. Rev. J. Alley, of the Black River Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, having made the acquaintance of a number of the ministers of the Church during a visit to Canada the year previous, and having won their admiration, was invited, in view of the advanced years and infirm health of Bishop Reynolds, to accept the episcopal office, to which he was duly elected at the General Conference, held in Grove Church, in the township of Hope, in October, 1845, and on the Sabbath following was duly ordained by the imposition of hands of Bishop Reynolds, David Culp and Philander Smith. His genial manners, fervent piety and great ability as a preacher gave promise of much usefulness to the Church, but the high expectations entertained at his election were destined to an early disappointment. While preparing for his removal from his home in the United States he contracted a severe cold, from the effects of which he never fully recovered. During the session of the Belleville Conference he had the misfortune to break his leg, and bone disease setting in he was prostrated for months, during which he experienced the most intense sufferings, from which he was released by death in the early part of June, 1847, less than two years after his election to the episcopacy.

It was in the same year, 1845, that Rev. Thomas Webster and Joseph Leonard issued the first number of the Canada Christian Advocate, which was purchased by the General Conference in 1847, thus becoming the organ of the Church. It was at first published by Messrs. Webster and Leonard in Gobourg, but upon its purchase by the General Conference, the office of publication was removed to Hamilton, where it was published from the Book Room until amalgamated with the Christian Guardian upon the consummation of the Union in July, 1884.

The question of higher education is one in which Methodism had always shown an interest worthy of its great founder, whose indefatigable labours for the diffusion of intelligence among the masses were only exceeded—if exceeded at all—by his zeal for their evangelization. In England, in the United States, and in Canada, at the earliest possible date the zeal and liberality of both ministers and laymen founded seminaries and colleges, where, under the control of men devoted to the doctrines and usages of the Methodist Church, her sons and daughters were given the advantage of broader culture without being exposed to the influence of those in other institutions who, if not directly hostile to her growth, were not likely to contribute anything to her advancement. The Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada was no exception to this distinguishing feature of our common Methodism, and, therefore, even in the weakest period of her history, never lost sight of her mission in this regard. The future establishment of a seminary, to be under her control and to be available to both sexes, was, therefore, for many years kept before her people, and became a fixed fact in 1857, when an Act of Incorporation was obtained from the Parliament of Canada, giving it a corporate existence as “Belleville Seminary.”

The financial crisis which swept over the country at this time was seriously felt by the institution, whose resources were thereby much impaired; but adversity only the more stimulated the zeal which had given the institution its birth, hence, notwithstanding the embarrassment which followed and impeded its progress, the institution made steady progress, and soon demonstrated the wisdom of its founders and its value to the Church. Though feeling the need of increased income, and having the same right as other denominational institutions to avail itself of the willingness of the Government to confer an annual grant out of the public funds, the Board of Management, from the first, determined that the institution should survive or fall by the principle of voluntary support, thus disclaiming the right— as it doubted the expediency—of churches as such, to accept grants from the State out of the public revenue, for the support of institutions not subject to its management or control, and established for denominational purposes as well as for the promotion of higher education. Doubtless its professors might have had better remuneration for their services, and the institution been saved from much embarrassment, if the Board had availed itself of the government assistance, obtainable for the asking, but the Church could not stultify itself by departing from a principle for which it had contended during its whole history.

In 1860, it was affiliated with Toronto University as Belleville College, the ladies’ department taking the name of Alexandra College, its students having all the advantage of the course prescribed by the students of Belleville College. In 1866, a charter in Arts was procured, constituting the institution a university, enlarged in 1870 to all the faculties, in which capacity it did an invaluable service to both the Church and the country, its degrees commanding respect, and its graduates advancing to positions of influence and usefulness in the learned professions, and in the various stations in life to which they devoted themselves. At the Union of 1884 its charter was amalgamated with that of Victoria University, since which period it has been conducted as a collegiate institution, of much value and importance to the Church.

The death of Bishop Alley, in 1847, rendered the appointment of a successor necessary, and the choice of the succeeding General Conference fell upon Rev. Philander Smith, whose earnest piety, administrative ability and acknowledged eminence as a preacher distinguished him, not only in his own Church, but in public estimation, as a man in every sense worthy of the high office to which he was elected. He served the Church with much self-denying zeal until 1870, when he was called to his reward. He was elected to the episcopal office in 1847, and served in that capacity twenty-three years. At the General Conference held at St. David’s in 1858, Rev. James Richardson was elected as his colleague, and though never accepting remuneration, gave his eminent abilities and service to the Church, until he, too, was called home at the advanced age of eighty-three years, dying in the year 1875, full of honours, and leaving to his family, the Church and country a memory fragrant with all those virtues which constitute a great and good man. At the General Conference held in Napanee, 1874, in view of the decease of Bishop Smith, and the advanced age of Bishop Richardson, it was decided to elect one of younger age to bear the duties and honours of the episcopal office, the choice falling upon Rev. Albert Carman, M.A., whose distinguished success as President of Albert University had for many years given him prominence before the Church and country. With scholarly attainments, apostolic zeal and peerless executive ability, his life has been one of most exemplary devotion to the cause of God. With a constitution at all times suggesting the danger of exposure and unremitting zeal, he is yet, after a toilsome service for many years as President of Albert University, during which time he never seemed to think it possible he could wear out, and since his election to the office of Bishop, and later on as General Superintendent of the Methodist Church—full of vigour, with the promise of many years of usefulness before him.

In a large measure growing out of the (Ecumenical Conference held in London, England, in 1881, the agitation for a union of all the Methodist Churches—neither of which can justly claim to have been first—pressed itself upon the several bodies for their consideration. Fraternal delegations by an interchange of courtesy had done much to reconcile the differences which had hitherto separated the several branches of the Methodist family in Canada. In the autumn of 1882, the General Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church and of the Methodist Church of Canada met in Hamilton, and the question of union became a live question, which could no longer find expression in the passing of meaningless resolutions. The question had also been before the Conferences of the Primitive Methodist and Bible Christian Conferences. Arrangements were made for a meeting of the Standing Committees of these several bodies, which, after some informal Conferences, at which not much of importance was acccomplished, it was decided to adjourn to a given date for a further Conference to be held in the Carlton Street Primitive Methodist Church, Toronto, with a view to a basis of union if such an issue should appear practicable.

The meeting was held, and after deliberations, presided over by Bishop Carman, in which there was the evident presence of the Divine Spirit inducing a spirit of fraternity, before which all obstacles disappeared, a basis of union was agreed upon, conceding to each denomination in a fair degree the central principles of its polity. This basis of union was subsequently submitted to the Quarterly Official Boards throughout the Dominion, and with remarkable unanimity was by them approved. It was then submitted to the higher courts of the contracting bodies—approved and consummated at the Union General Conference, held in Belleville in the fall of 1883. It did not take effect, however, until July 1st, 1884, it being thought incompetent for this body to convey the property of the various churches to the united body, inasmuch as the constitutions of neither of the contracting bodies provided for its own dissolution, and therefore dangerous to attempt it in view of possible litigation. In the meantime the matter was laid before the several Provincial Legislatures and before the Dominion Parliament, thus giving to any persons who might be opposed to the Union an opportunity to appear before these bodies in defence of their rights. No such opposition was, however, made, and therefore the necessary Acts of Parliament were passed, and the Union legally consummated.

At the time of Union the several Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church embraced 228 ministers, 25,671 members, 23,968 Sunday-school scholars, with church property valued at $1,523,514, most of which, excepting educational institutions, and a few of the churches recently built in centres of population, was free from debt.

At the consummation of union, Bishop Carman was elected one of the General Superintendents of the Methodist Church, and Rev. Dr. Stone, who had been for eight years editor of the Canada Christian Advocate, and for a longer period agent of the Book Room at Hamilton, was elected associate editor of the Christian Guardian.

In the foregoing, in view of the limited space allowed, it has not been practicable to trace from year to year the growth of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but enough has been stated to show that her progress had been marked with signal success; and at no time in her history was she in a better position to maintain her position and advance her growth than when in the providence of God, and we believe for the best interests of both Methodism and Canada, the wounds of division were healed and her resources consolidated.

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