Past and Present
The Old Framed Meeting House


"Mother,” said a white-haired urchin of some nine years old, who had just returned from an errand, “Mother, when I was in at Mr. Cafrey’s store, a man came in and said, they were going to raise the new meeting-house to-day, and that they wanted hands to help in putting up the frame. He said they did not mean to have any rum or whisky at the ‘raisin’, but only some beer and cakes!” The announcement that there^ Was to be no rum or whiskey at the raising, and only some beer, was the declaration of a purpose so singular for the place arid period, that the little boy’s mother, who piqued herself on the possession of some little wit, and who, at that time, had anything but a good opinion of the Methodists, remarked, somewhat derisively, “ Oh, I suppose they intend to have it like Solomon’s Temple, without the sound of an axe or a hammer’!” The building referred to was the first Methodist chapel in the then town of York, the present city of Toronto.

Ilt was the second place of worship erected in the capital, and must have been erected in the summer and fall of 1818. At that time there was not a Methodist in town. The preachers had preached occasionally in private houses, taverns, &c., but the seed sown had been lost. Elder Ryan, for so many years so distinguished for his zeal, labours, and heroism in the cause, With his characteristic boldness, determined to have “ ground whereon to stand ’’ in the capital of the Province; and, it was said, mortgaged his farm for a sum to erect the church, and afterwards appealed for indemnification to the Methodist people scattered throughout the length and breadth of the land. One of these, from the country, came and built the church. He was the person the little boy had seen in the store on the morning of the day on which it was raised. Early in the autumn of that season, the chapel was used for preaching. Under the second sermon, a man of intelligence and influence was converted, who became the first Leader ; and was for many years an efficient and hearty friend of the cause. And, some few Sundays after it was opened, the woman who had made herself merry at the abstemiousness practiced at the raising, attended the preaching—was so much impressed that she stopped to the class, and joined the society; and in a few weeks afterwards, in that same delightful means of grace, while a hymn was being sung, entered into the liberty of the children of God, receiving the Spirit of adoption by which she* could cry Abba Father. The first time the little boy alluded to, in company with many others, entered the house (it was the first time he had been in any place of worship,) was during the following winter, on the occasion of the opening of a Sunday School, oiganized by that indefatigable friend of the young, the late Rev. Thaddeus Osgood. It was the first ever opened in our Western capital; and it is likely, the first in Upper Canada. It was a day of no*small bustle, among big and little in the new meeting-house. The three gentlemen the most active in conducting and sustaining it—the distinction between superintendent, secretary, and librarian, was but little known—were Messrs. Jesse Ketchum, W. P. Patrick, and the late Dr. Morrison.

The writer remembers that the new Meeting-house, which stood on the south side of King-street, about half-way between Bay and Yonge-streets, had no house nearer than Mr. Jordan Post’s, on the corner of the square, and that gentleman’s watch-maker-shop on the other. It was then without a fence around it—unpainted—and stood up from the ground on some blocks,, which supplied the place of foundation, while the wind whistled and howled underneath. The Society for several months augmented very fast; but was again diminished by the formation of a rival one in the Masonic Hall, by Missionaries from. England. The controversy occasioned by this measure, we may suppose, had no beneficial effect on either society. Happily, this stumbling-block was taken away, by the arrangement entered into between the General Conference in America, and the English Conference, in 1820, which resulted in the removal of the European preachers from the Upper Province. Few,, however, of the society they gathered, took the advice of their pastors on leaving, which was to connect themselves with the other.. The original society soon recovered its loss, and in about eight years afterwards, numbered two- hundred. And the congregation was so much increased as to require an addition of thirty feet to the building. In this interval, the whiteheaded boy had been converted—‘joined society—and risen through the successive grades of leader and exhorter, and at this period was sent out to supply a vacancy upon a circuit, as the old Presiding Elder said, u as an experiment to see whether he would make a preacher.” About two years after this, the spacious and elegantly symmetrical brick church in Alelaide-street was erected. A decade, recounted backwards from the last-mentioned event, was the most prosperous period connected with the Society in the Old Framed Meeting-house: a period during which they enjoyed the able ministrations of a Richardson, a Metcalf, a Win. Smith, an Irvine, and the three Ryer-sons—William, John, and Egerton—then in the zenith of their popularity. The Society, during this period, was the most conspicuous for non-conformity to the world, love to each other, and zeal for God, that the writer had ever the happiness of knowing. Although Methodism has passed through several trying scenes from that time to this, it has weathered all the storms; and the Old Framed Meeting-house is succeeded by five elegant churches, supplied by six Ministers, while the Wesleyan Church in the two city circuits comprises the large number of one thousand Jive hundred and thirty-nine members1 To God be all the glory!


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