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Past and Present
A Canadian Camp-Meeting Thirty-five years ago

This was the first one held so near Toronto, and the first the writer ever attended. Every scene and circumstance was novel, and, therefore, made a deep impression on his young and susceptible mind and memory.

It was held in the summer of 1825, near Cummer’s Mills, considered at that time, the way the road went round Hogg’s Hollow, about twelve miles from town. “York and Yonge Street ” were then one circuit; and the town society interested itself very much in the coming meeting. Several young men were sent out a week beforehand, to assist in preparing the ground ; and to erect a large board tent, which they did, fifty fieet long, with every convenience. Prayer was offered to God for His presence and blessing on the meeting, for days, if not weeks beforehand. And at sunrise on the morning of the day on which it was to commence, the society of the “ Old Framed Meeting-house’’ were all on the quivive, and very soon en route to the camp-meeting. Between carts and waggons, and equestrians and pedestrians, the procession looked quite formidable. We arrived at the place about noon; and without wishing to institute any invidious comparison between “ modern ” camp-meetings and those of former days, farther than is necessary to convey correct information or to impart needed admonition, I must say it had an imposing appearance compared with many encampments of the present time. This arose from the character and necessity of the times, when there was no law for punishing the disturbers of public worship, or the sale of articles on the Lord’s-day. As you entered the ground, it sloped downward from the front gate to the “Preacher’s stand,” with “tent” attached, which stood at the-other side of the area. The seats for the congregation (of new slabs from the mill) consequently rose with a gentle elevation from the stand; and they were prepared with a view to accommodate a vast number. The ground, though thoroughly cleared of small trees and rubbish, was delightfully shaded by the wide-spreading branches and thick foliage of the straight and towering forest trees that were left standing. The whole of the cleared space was- encompassed with a strong fence tight or ten feet high, made of slabs, resting against stakes crossing each other, and driven firm in the ground. The slabs, which were also driven in the ground at an angle of forty-five degrees from the perpendicular, were sharpened at the top, thus constituting a sort of chevavx de frisey which no intruder, however bold, might dare to scale. Each of the openings for egress and ingress, whether for wood, water, or retirement, as well as the main entrance, particularly the latter, were furnished with gates strongly framed together, and secured by strong pins and massive bars. These were carefully guarded by a strong “ watch,” a sort of camp-meeting police, that relieved each other at intervals, and kept watch and ward the live-long night.

The tents were nearly all of boards, and completely encircled the ground. I would not like to attempt estimating the numbers, but the ground was alive with people from early the first day to the last. The Methodists turned out numerously from the Yonge Street and from the Toronto Township, then the nearest circuit, on which a glorious revival was in progress at the time. “ The Toronto Methodists ” were celebrated for being all alive in those days.

The meeting was superintended by the Rev. Tlios. Madden, who combined order with energy. I have often thought that he would have made a good general; and so he was, in a more glorious though bloodless conflict. The other travelling preachers were Gatchel, Culp, William Ryerson, Corson, Hey-land; and W. H. Williams and J.- Richardson, the preachers on the circuit.

The local preachers who assisted were R. Bofield, J. J. Nee-lands, C. Flummerfeldt, and D. Youmans, then in the local ranks, and Cline, a Dutchman, This meeting was character-: ised by the most extraordinary displays of God’s power, and the accomplishment of much good. The work of conversion began in the first prayer meeting held after the preaching the first night. The spirit of conviction seemed to rest on all the unconverted within the enclosure. They might be seen in little groups all over the ground, pleading with God till near the morning light. It progressed with increasing interest and power through the several stages of the meeting to its close— that is to say, from Thursday night to Monday—on which day no less than 140 persons came forward as the subjects of converting: grace. The sacramental and farewell services at the close were the most exciting and intensely affecting that I ever witnessed. And I should think such times are not often seen. The valedictory charge was delivered, at the request of the Presiding Elder, by the Rev. William Ryersfln, whose preaching at that time was characterized by a pathos and persuasiveness that seemed to bear down all before it. There was much powerful preaching at that meeting. Mr. Maddenwill be mentioned in a succeeding sketch. Rowley Heyland was at that period a thunderbolt for energy. He truly preached “ with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” May we never forget the obligations we are under to our aged ministers and departed worthies! It is too much the fashion to discard a man as soon as he begins to fail of his natural force: but it i* irreverent and ungrateful.

Tho effect of such meetings is to promote acquaintance and brotherly love between all the church, both ministers and members : and to check a tendency to secularism, and to promote heavenly-mindedness. The writer remembers the regret ho felt at going back into the world after the meeting was over. Some of his most hallowed friendships were formed at that and •imilar meetings ; friendships which have solaced him in this vale of tears from youth up to the present time, and friendships which he believes will be cemented and perpetuated,—

“Where all the ship’s company meet,
Who sailed with their Saviour beneath,
Where, with shouting, each other they greet,
And triumph o’er sorrow and death.”

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