Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Egerton Ryerson
Chapter IV - A Methodist Press and a Methodist College

DURING these years iti which he was engaged in this first controversy, Mr. Ryerson was still a young preacher, not yet admitted to the full responsibilities of the Christian ministry. At the conference of 1829 he was ordained an elder, being then twenty-six years of age. From this time forward he takes a prominent place in the councils of the church. But even on this occasion the powerful impulse which his writings had given to the thoughts and energies of Methodism was seen in two important actions of the conference. At the conference of 1824 the Canadian Methodists had felt and expressed the desire for an independent organization which would free them from the reproach of being subject to the jurisdiction of a church belonging to a foreign country. At that date they were constituted a distinct conference but still connected with and under the jurisdiction of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. In 1828 they had been erected into an independent Canadian Church with the full consent of their American brethren. This action was creditable to the Christian spirit and patriotism of both parties. The American Church recognized the obligations which rested on the Canadians as citizens of another country; the Canadians recognized their obligations to the parent church, through whose missionary zeal their churches had been planted, and both recognized that the work of God should not be hindered or prejudiced by any political complications. The separation was with mutual good will and affection, a voluntary sacrifice of personal feelings and historic sentiment to the higher interests of religion and citizenship. No refutation of the slander that Canadian Methodism was disloyal could be more complete than that which was afforded by this action. Nor was it without important results for the political future of Upper Canada. An independent Canadian Methodism has been no small factor in the creation of a united Canadian national spirit, as a part of the British Empire.

The new Canadian Methodist Church was now free to develop a thoroughly Canadian policy in founding church enterprises adapted to its distinctive Canadian needs. The first of these was a Methodist press. At the conference of 1829 steps were taken for the establishment of a weekly paper, to be called The Christian Guardian and Mr. Ryerson was elected editor and stationed at York. Henceforth this journal was to be the exponent of the views of Methodism on the great questions which agitated both the religious and the political sentiment of the country, and in the hands of Mr. Ryerson was shortly to be acknowledged by the lieutenant-governor himself as the leading paper of the province, whose influence was of the highest importance in the critical times which even then were so close at hand. The editorial chair was the official recognition by the Canadian Methodist Church of Mr. Ryerson's leadership in the great issues which were agitating the country and the churches. The financial side of The Guardian was characteristic of the self-denying spirit and enterprise of this heroic age. Stock to the amount of §2,000 in 100 shares of §20 each was subscribed, the greater part of it by the fifty-four ministers and preachers who composed the conference of that year. The first number was issued on November 21st, 1829. The spirit and attitude of the paper may be judged from the following extract, quoted from an editorial in the first volume in Dr. Webster's excellent history of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Canada: "The constitution of a Church and State establishment is not suited to the atmosphere of Canada. Such a monster, whether with one, two or three heads, must very soon share the fate in this country which he has lately met with in France; for the unobstructed air of free discussion is his mortal poison, and never can he long maintain a successful contest against the deathly piercings of that triple sword of truth, justice and Puritan independence, which is turning every way, guarding the intellectual citadels of the good people of Canada against his blasphemous approach. 'Many are running to and fro, and knowledge is increasing,' and it is too late in the day to attempt to introduce into British North America the policy of Portugal and Spain, or that of Charles the Tenth." .

The second important interest to which the attention of the Methodist conference was directed at this early period was that of education. The entire question, not only of religious instruction in the fundamental doctrines of religion, but also the broader question of higher education for ministers and people occupied the attention of the conference. At that date the other churches differed as widely from Methodism in theology as they did in their quality and methods of work. The conference of 1829 organized a Sunday School Union, the first in Upper Canada, and the foundation of a Sunday School organization which is to-day by far the largest and most influential in our country. In 1880 the first formal steps were taken for the establishment of a Seminary of Learning. Mr. Ryerson's name does not appear on the first committee as he was still a junior member of the conference, but before the project was carried into successful operation, he was to become a foremost worker in the labours by which its almost insuperable difficulties were overcome. But a Methodist college, truly Christian in its educational influence, yet broadly liberal in its constitution and work, as became the doctrines and spirit of Methodism, was an essential part of the far-seeing and aggressive policy which he had marked out for Methodism. This policy had not been propounded in any conventional platform. It had scarcely been expressed in words, perhaps not formulated to his own mind in very definite propositions. It was a spirit which found expression in deeds as well as words. This spirit fired his own youthful impetuosity, and it was thoroughly contagious, and the whole Methodist Church felt its influence. Its voice was, we will submit to no ecclesiastical domination, we will acknowledge ourselves inferior to no other body of people, we will assert our rightful place and influence as citizens on an equality with every other citizen of this free new country. Rut it was a spirit of wisdom as well as of manly independence, and that wisdom clearly indicated that to hold their own in this struggle for their rights, the young Methodists must be as well educated and as thoroughly Intelligent as their neighbours. In the pursuit, of this noble policy Mr. Ryerson had already led the way by the example of his own young hfe. Since his conversion no opportunity of gaining knowledge had been allowed to pass unimproved. He had devoured both the English and the ancient classics with a greedy appetite. He had become thoroughly at home in the history of ancient and modern times, he had studied the jurisprudence of Blackstone and the philosophy of Paley as well as the best English divines, and at twenty-six he was perhaps the "best informed" man of his years in the country. His example, his ambitions, as well as his words thus aroused the whole Methodist ministry and people to the importance of the most ample learning in ministers and laity if they were to assert their rights against supercilious arrogance. Victoria College was thus born out of the struggle for religious liberty and equal civil rights. Rut before entering upon the consideration of Mr. Ryerson's active part in this new enterprise, we must give our attention to another development of the great struggle in which he was now so thoroughly engaged.

We have seen that in his address before the legislative council, in March, 1828, Dr. Strachan made a bid not only for the aid of the Old Kirk Presbyterians, but also for that of the English Weslevan missionaries, a few of whom w ere already in Upper Canada. The action of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal church in the United States providing for the independence of the Canadian Methodists was taken a very few weeks after the delivery of this address, and the fact that this was in contemplation was already well known and is referred to by Dr. Strachan. But another important circumstance was not so well known, though possibly known to Dr. Strachan even at this date. What that circumstance was appears from the evidence of Dr. Alder before the select committee of the English House of Commons in July, 1828, a few months after Dr. Strachan's address, and three months before the independence of the Canadian Methodist church was formally completed, but two months after the action of the American conference which provided for it. In that evidence Dr. Alder reveals these important facts:

1. That the English Methodist authorities were already looking forward to the annexation of Upper Canadian Methodism as a part of their work.

2. That for this purpose they were looking to securing a share in the clergy reserves.

3. That this policy, if not based upon and originated by, was at least associated with communications which they had received from the Governor-General, and communications to the colonial office from Sir Peregrine Mainland, with which Dr. Alder had evidently become acquainted. The references in the evidence to these documents is as follows:—"This is the opinion of the Governor-General, from whose letter to me (which I received a few days before I left the province) I beg permission to read an extract. 'We all know,' His Lordship observes, 'that the Established Church cannot provide clergymen at all places where they are required and desired; in that difficulty the Wesleyan ministers have rendered most valuable services, and I think they are qualified and capable to render much greater services under the protection and encouragement which they desire from His Majesty's government.' Do you conceive that the colonial government has manifested any desire for the extension of the British Wesleyan Methodists in that province? I believe there art; documents in the colonial office addressed to Earl Bathurst and to Mr. Huskisson from Sir Peregrine Maitland which will show that His Excellency is very anxious that the number of British Methodist ministers should be increased as far as possible in Upper Canada; and I understand that he wrote home a short time ago recommending that pecuniary aid might be allowed us for that purpose." One further extract in answer to the claim of Methodists on the clergy reserves will serve to make clear the whole situation. "There is a difference of opinion among us on this subject; but the general opinion of our ministers in Lower Canada, I believe, is this, that if the reserves be appropriated to the sole use of the Church of England, we shall offer no objection to it; but if the Presbyterians are to have any part of these reserves, then we conceive that we have at least an equally good claim with them; and we should be very much dissatisfied if our claims were disallowed."

This new factor, which speedily developed into more definite form, introduced an entirely new problem into the struggles in which the Methodists and Mr. Ryerson were engaged. They were now called to meet not only the ecclesiastical and political influences which opposed them from without, but also the possibility of weakness and division from within. There appear to be good grounds for the belief that this difficulty was itself brought about by the insidious plans of the dominant party. They expected, and with good reason, that the English Wesleyans, who up to this time in the mother land had always been politically subservient to the established church, would here also be willing to yield to their claims. In looking back now this should not be ascribed as a reproach to these English Wesleyans. As yet they, with the great body of the people of England, had not been awakened to a sense of political responsibilities and rights. It seemed to them quite right and uatural that the institutions of the old land should without change be transplanted to Canada.

Notwithstanding the anticipations of Dr. Alder in 1828 that "the Methodists of Upper Canada will soon be brought to act under the direction of the British conference," they held on their way with increasing influence and prosperity for four years. In May, 1832, a communication was received from Dr. Alder that the Wesleyan Missionary Committee in London had again resolved to send missionaries to Upper Canada, and that Dr. Alder and twelve missionaries would sail shortly. "This announcement," says Mr. John Ryerson, then president of the Canada Conference Missionary Society, "was to us like a thunderclap. For eight or nine years our church had been wading through deep waters of affliction, and enduring fightings without and fears within, while contending for the right to hold property on which to erect places of worship and in which to bury our dead, for right to solemnize matrimony, against the clergy reserve monopoly, and for equal rights and privileges before the law with the Church of England, in effecting by mutual consent our separation from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, and our organization into an independent church, preceded and followed as it was by the tumults and schisms of Ryanism. And now when peace and quiet had apparently returned, and when expectations of increased prosperity were beginning to cheer us, to receive such an announcement was disheartening and crushing beyond what can be expressed. It was easy to predict what would be the result of rival Methodist congregations in every town and principal neighbourhood, and the rival congregations served by able ministers from England."

This resolution of the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee was not, however, altogether sudden. As we have seen, it was foreshadowed as a plan of absorption by Dr. Alder four years before; and during a visit of Mr. Case and Peter Jones to England in 1831, it had been intimated to them that the London committee purposed undertaking missions to the Indians and new settlers in Upper Canada. On his return home Mr. Case laid the matter before his own missionary committee; and an earnest appeal was made to the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee against such unfortunate rivalry of work, as contrary to the agreement of 1820, in which the English Wesleyans agreed to confine their labours to Lower Canada, and the American missionaries to limit theirs to Upper Canada, the town of Kingston, as a military station, being made an exception. The reply to this remonstrance was that this agreement was made with the Methodist Episcopal Church of the United States, and not with the now independent Methodist Episcopal Church of Canada, a reply wliich was valid neither in law, equity, nor Christian charity.

It is not surprising that United Empire Loyalists, who, for loyalty's sake, had just severed themselves from their parent, church, and who had just entered upon the onerous task of building up a loyal Canadian Methodism ixi the face of great difficulties, should feel deeply wounded and discouraged by such treatment from their English brethren, who refused to them as Canadians the consideration accorded to the Methodist Church of the United States. The difficulty of their position was enhanced by another circumstance. Their Indian missions providently placed in their hands by the remarkable conversion of over a thousand pagan Indians since 1824, were a heavy financial burden. Up to the time of their independence, and for two or three years after, they had received aid from the United States. In 1831 they were induced to make an appeal to England, with the result that they received the intimation already referred to and a gift of £300. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee was at this time under other influence than that which Dr. Carroll so charitably assigns, the belief "that, the provincial conference had more missionary ground than it had men and means to occupy." But setting this question aside, the Canadian Methodists, after serious deliberation over the situation, first in their missionary committee and subsequently in their conference, resolved to seek a union with the English Wesleyans. By the terms of this union the identity of their conference and church was to be preserved, and to be related to the British conference after the model of the Irish Wesleyan conference. But their missions, including both the Indian missions and missions to the new settlements, were handed over to <he London Wesleyan Missionary Committee to be controlled by a superintendent appointed from England. This arrangement seemingly retained for the Canadian conference the control of its own work, and granted to the English Methodism what it sought, the new mission field. It also relieved the Canadian conference of the heavy financial responsibility of the missionary work, which was entirely undertaken by the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee, to winch the Canadian conference contributed its missionary funds.

Up to this point the basis of union seems reasonable and just from the standpoint of both bodies, and most likely to result, in the best interests of Methodism and religion. But there were two ominous facts behind the entire arrangement which were portentous of future trouble. One was the fact that the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee were already committed to a subsidy from the colonial office of the British government. The other was the fact that the Canadian Methodist conference was most decidedly, by public conference action, committed to opposition to the government policy on the questions of an established state church and the clergy reserves. These questions were not referred to ;n the articles of union. Both parties were aware of the facts, for the previous correspondence indicates such knowledge on the part of the English committee, and that correspondence was afterwards pleaded as if it were a stipulation of the union. There is nothing to shew that it was so intended or understood. On the other hand there is nothing to shew that the Canadian conference protested against the position of the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee. If these difficulties were at all referred to in the negotiations, the reference was verbal, and would seem to have amounted to a tacit understanding that the unpleasant facts would be ignored, each body being responsible for its own action. If such was the case the hope was illusory, the unpleasant facts would not disappear, and to no one did they cause more trouble than to Mr. Ryerson himself.

Further difficulties arose from two provisions of the basis of union adopting the English form of church government and an English presidency. These soon became the occasion of' serious trouble. Of Mr. Ryerson's personal relations to the preliminary negotiations we have no record. Probably as a younger man he deferred to his seniors. Rut his attitude seems clear from the subsequent history. At the close of the negotiations with Dr. Alder at the conference of 1832, he at first refused to allow his name to be put in nomination for editor Later he assented, but James Richardson was elected editor. Mr. Ryerson was elected representative to England for the purpose of the negotiations with the British conference. In those negotiations he was entirely bound by the articles of union to which his conference had agreed. Six years later, when the difficulties arising from the union were approaching a crisis, it was claimed that he was bound by other matters of verbal agreement between Mr. Alder and the leading representatives of the Canadian conference. That there had been conversation on the two points of the political relations of The Christian Guardian, and on the grant from the British government to the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee of a subsidy from the casual and territorial revenue, there seems to be no room for doubt. That the Canadians assented to the general principle that The Guardian should not intermeddle in politics is probably also correct; as also that they agreed to leave the responsibility of accepting aid from the government entirely to the British conference without interference on their part. But the evidence seems clear that they reserved their right to independent action on the questions of a state church and the clergy reserves, as these were not merely political but also religious questions. That this was the exact position of affairs appears, first of all, from the fact that before the British conference, when presenting the Canadian case, Mr. Ryerson made a full historic statement vindicating the action of the Canadian conference and Methodist people, as well as the course of The Guardian on these points. It is further confirmed by the fact that when in England Mr. Ryerson presented to the secretary of state for the colonies the complete case for the Canadian opponents of an established and endowed church in Canada. In this presentation he sets forth that the English Church is not the established church in Canada; replies to the petition of the English Church in Canada; defends the Methodists as to their loyalty, work and numbers, and concludes by pressing that the reserves be not invested in the home government; that they be not given to the English Church; that they be not divided among the Canadian Protestant churches, but that they be sold and the proceeds applied for education. Before this presentation was sent to the colonial secretary, it was endorsed by at least one of the English missionary secretaries.

Again, after his return to Canada, Mr. Ryerson was elected once more to the editorial chair. Almost his first work was the publication of this presentation in The Guardian. At the same time he claims that his views on these great questions are unchanged, and that he will maintain them as consistently as ever. These facts seem to prove that the clergy reserve question and the state church question in Canada were reserved in the general understanding that the Canadian conference and The Guardian were to refrain from interference in politics. Mr. Ryerson's subsequent course, resulting finally in the disruption of the union, is further confirmation of this. Possibly these facts as they became generally known to the friends of reform, and especially to the Methodist people, would have quieted the fears that their political freedom had been betrayed by union, but for another product of Mr. Ryerson's facile pen which appeared at the same time. And yet this was perhaps no less conducive to the best interests of the country than his previous battle for equal civil rights.

While in England, from March to August, he had abundant opportunities of becoming acquainted with English institutions and people. The results he gave to the readers of The Guardian in a series of articles entitled "Impressions." The first of these dealt with political parties and leaders in England. These he divided into ultra-Tories, whom he described as tyrants and bigots; moderate Tories, whom he praises as men distinguished for justice, conscientiousness and religion; Whigs, who act from expediency, whom he describes as including the infidels and soeinians, and as being republicans with a king instead of a president, and as an obstacle to true reforms. There can be no doubt that in this article Mr. Ryerson's true political sympathies appear. As a United Empire Loyalist he was himself a moderate Conservative, and already Canadian reform was developing a radical wing with which he could have 110 affinity. It is not. at all impossible that he already discerned that the goal of thi« radical tendency was rebellion or annexation, and that the articles were written to awaken the loyal fears of Methodists that they might not be led into a compromising political position. If so they served their purpose, and it was his boast in later times that not a member of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Canada was implicated in the rebellion.

But the "Impressions" fell like a spark in a tinder box among the Canadian radicals, and the next issue of Mr. Mackenzie's Colonial Advocate contained the following: "The Christian Guardian, under the management of our reverend neighbour Egerton Ryerson, has gone over to the enemy, press, types and all, and hoisted the colours of a cruel and vindictive Tory priesthood. His brother George, when sent to London, became an easy convert to the same cause, and it appears that the parent stock were of those who fought to uphold unjust taxation, stamp acts and Toryism in the United States. The contents of The Guardian to-night tell us in language too plain, too intelligible to be misunderstood that a deadly blow has been struck in England at the liberties of the people of Tipper Canada by as subtle and ungrateful an adversary in the guise of an old and familiar friend as ever crossed the Atlantic. The Americans had their Arnold, and the Canadians have their Egerton Ryerson." It is quite unnecessary to follow the political storm, of which this is a first gust, through all its tempestuous course during the next three years. It resulted as Mr. Ryerson had partially foreseen and predicted, in a check to the reform movement in 1836, in the rebellion in 1837, and in the final triumph of constitutional reform in 1840.

Rut before we turn our attention to these final results, we must take note of an ecclesiastical tempest scarcely less violent, and much more extended in its results. In fact, say what men would, and do what they could to prevent it, at this period religion and polities were inevitably intermingled. The party in power was an ecclesiastical as well as a political party, and its policy was an ecclesiastical as well as a political polity, and men could not contend for their political rights without religious feeling, nor could they defend their religious liberties without political weapons. But at this time the most violent animosities were to be found in the political arena, and to a large number their political rights were quite as dear as any other. (But there were purely ecclesiastical questions which were to co-operate with the political suspicions already aroused in creating the new struggle. It not infrequently happens that a progressive spirit associated by the-conservative^spirit in religious or ecclesiastical matters. Mr. Gladstone affords .a good example. The Methodist union involved a large change in the polity of the church. Into its particulars it is by no means necessary that we should now enter. It is sufficient to say that the change raised a number of questions as to the constitution of Methodism, the rights of the laity, the orders of the ministry and so forth, which the subsequent progress of the church to a higher ground has completely left behind. They are many of them now ecclesiastical antiquities. Others involved fundamental principles of religious liberty which are now fully recognized under the new constitution of the reunited church. Before the union of Canadian and British Methodism had been in existence two years, these forces brought about a schism, which lett the main body in 1835 just about where it stood in 1832.

But this was not to be the end of ecclesiastical disaster to Methodism. Immediately after the rebellion, Mr. Ryerson, after an interval of three years, one-half of which had been spent in England on college matters, was again called in 1838 to the editorial chair of The Guardian. It was the juncture at which the great constitutional and religious questions which had been pending for years in Upper Canada were about to be settled, and it was admitted by all that at this time his influence should once more be felt through the official journal of the church. With all his former earnestness of purpose and vigour of argument he applied himself to the question of the clergy reserves, which was now the centre of the religious or ecclesiastical side of the matter. The Guardian was used with great power as of old, and a new volume of letters, addressed to the Hon. W. H. Draper, discussed the entire question in its legal and historical aspects, supported distinctly the voluntary system as the only religious system suitable to a country like Canada, and advocated the application of the clergy reserves to the purposes, of education. In the progress of affairs towards what, seemed to promise a settlement, but which was finally found to be a delusive hope, it was proposed to divide the reserves between the several Protestant bodies, allowing all to use their share for such purposes as they might judge right. Under this proposal the representatives of the London Wesleyan Missionary Committee insisted that as this settlement was to terminate all religious grants from other sources, and they had been the recipients of a grant from the casual and territorial revenue of the British crown, they should be the recipients, of the apportionment of the clergy reserves. Mr. Ryerson, on the other hand, insisted that as this was a Canadian question, and the apportionment to Canadian churches of a fund derived from the sale of Canadian lands, the Canadian conference should receive and control the apportionment, which he proposed to devote to the work of education. In a few months the dispute led to another schism in Canadian Methodism, and at the census of 1842 Methodism stood divided between three major bodies and a minor group, as follows:—

Canadian Wesleyan Methodists 32,313
British Wesleyan Methodists ....23,342
Episcopal Methodists ..............20,125
Other Methodist Bodies .. .........7,141

Such an outcome of the policy and convulsions of ten years can scarcely be regarded in any other 1 ght than as a disaster. It was the very outcome which in 1832 all parties were seeking by right methods or wrong to prevent, viz., a divided and weakened Methodism. The question is natural — what were the causes of such a result? A further question is almost unavoidable—where lay the mis take, and who was to blame?

The causes of this misfortune lay in no single circumstance, nor yet in the action of any single individual. They lay in the meeting at various points of institutions and ideas which had grown up on opposite sides of the Atlantic, and embodied in the life of this young country thoroughly antagonistic elements. Between these elements, whether in the political or the religious field, a conflict was inevitable. Well meant efforts at compromise might postpone it for a little, but they scarcely secured even a truce. Peace could be secured only by victory, and that victory was certain to be 011 the side of the young free, life of the new world, before which the effete and already corrupting ideas and forms of the old world must certainly go down. Crown colony absolutism must inevitably disappear before the sturdy Anglo-Saxon capacity for self-government. Aristocratic, officialism must certainly give way before the rising spirit of independence and the asserted rights of the people. And in the religious field the voluntary principle full of spiritual zeal and life and appealing to the religious conscience and intelligence for its support, could not fail to displace all forms dependent on state aid and endowment for support. The English Church was only saved from utter failure by being forced back upon the powers of its own spiritual life. The conflict of fifty years, through which our young 102 country passed, was inevitable, and its unfortunate results were a part of the price of our political and religious liberties.

If we ask where was the mistake, the answer is: the first mistake was in the attempt to transplant to this new world the decadent institutions of the old world. Whether that mistake was made on the larger scale in the Constitutional Act of 1701; or on a minor scale in the policy and ambitions of English Methodism, it was only a mistake. English Methodism has long since rectified that mistake at home, and now almost unanimously casts in her lot with the free churches of England. The subserviency to and dependence upon the established church which prevailed there seventy years ago have given place to an independent church life, independent politically as well as financially and spiritually. This result was not reached without sore conflict, and before the demon was exorcised, English Methodism was well-nigh as sorely riven as Canadian Methodism.

The second mistake lay in either a partial compromise or an unconscious compromise of the young life of progress with the opposing forces. That compromise was probably disguised even from those who made it. They were seeking not loaves and fishes, as they were sometimes slanderously said to be doing, but, as they supposed, the unity and peace of the church and the furtherance of the gospel. They thought that their responsibility was discharged by asserting the voluntary principle for themselves; and permitting others to act according to their own convictions of right. In seven short years the development of circumstances made such a working arrangement impossible, and the union became a rope of sand. In the meantime all those whose convictions were such that no compromise was possible had also separated and formed a third Methodist Church.

Who was to blame? In one sense no one was altogether blameworthy. It must be borne in mind that the fundamental principles which appear so clear to us through the development of subsequent history were two generations ago but very imperfectly apprehended even by the clearest minds. Men were convinced of them rather by an instinctive feeling than by reason. They felt injustice, revolted against submission to arrogance, were spurred on to action by manly independence and generous ambition, before they understood the great ethical principles towards which they were making progress. And they moved towards these results, as the world of humanity has ever moved, in two grand divisions, the one restless, inpatient, eager, impetuous, dissatisfied with the past, impatient for the lifting of the veil of the future; the other cautious, and timid, clinging to the seen and tried, and even asserting that it alone is eternal, immutable and divine. It is not given to mortals in such historic, movements to be infallible; and in J 04 awarding praise or blame we must credit their good intentions.

But, on the other hand, all were more or less to blame, inasmuch as the individual passions and frailties of humanity added fuel to the fire, and so aggravated the evils which are inseparable from such a conflict of moral forces. But after we have said this, as we see such men as William Case, James Richardson and Egerton Ryerson stand at the parting of the ways, those of us who knew them all will most heartily acknowledge that few men of any age could have acquitted themselves better under the circumstances. As this later mistake was the mistake of Methodism, so Methodism alone was the sufferer. The healing of her schisms was to take nearly half a century, and was not to be accomplished till all the actors in the original struggle had passed away. But her misfortunes tended on the whole to the political redemption of the country, Methodism has, in fact, been closely identified with every forward step in the history of Upper Canada. She was present at its foundations as the chief agency for the maintenance of moral and religious life among the first settlers. Her people formed the first influential body to protest against the incubus which threatened her civil and religious liberty. Her self-sacrifice of early religious attachments rendered permanent the attachment of the colony to the British empire. And now her very divisions were to be made subservient in the Sorder of an over-ruling Providence to the more perfect establishment of civil and religious liberty in the country. The introduction of British Methodism was a conservative influence at a point where a conservative influence was essentially necessary. The later growth to extensive influence of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the severance of the Canadian Wesleyans from the British once more reinforced the ranks of reform and progress at a point when powerful forces in this direction were needed; and thus a divided Methodism, while the least political of all our Canadian churches, has been most potential in the political advancement of the province. But this will appear more fully as we turn back for a few years to follow up another chapter in the life work of Mr. Ryerson as one of the makers of Canada.

Return to Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.