John Jenkins.

Life of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins online

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went the bat, and, bowing to the very ground, the Doctor replied;
' I will be as polile as you please, Sir James,' and, thrice repeating
the action and the words, concluded with the caution, ' Take
care what you do, T carry these papers to the foot of the throne.'
Sir James, finding that he had got into an ignoble squabble, and
being anxious to get out of it, asked the Doctor peremptorily what
it was that he wanted. ' I have-told you what you would not hear,'
replied the enraged Doctor. ' They may consecrate their ground
when they please. Presbyterians will sleep as sound in consecrated
as in uncousecrated ground. It's a' ane tae Dandy. But naneo'
them will mutter an ill-mumbled mass o'er a Presbyterian grave and
ask twa dollars for the doin' o't.' The Doctor having then calmed
down, condescended to explanations, which the Governor acknow-
ledged to be reasonable. In a short time the matter was settled to


the Doctor's satisfaction, and he withdrew with the bundle of
papers under his arm, pointing to which, he addressed the astonished
Aids as he passed out : ' Now, you can consecrate the ground when
you like : I have got all that I want ; our rights are secured.' And
I believe the ground, notwithstanding the burning zeal of the
time, remains unconsecrated till this day."

It has already been said that Dr. Mathieson was introduced to
his charge in Montreal by the Rev. Archibald Connell of Martin-
town. Mr. Connell was a warm-hearted Highlander, then fresh
from the heathery hills of Argyleshire, and, being of a frank and
genial disposition, the Doctor and he soon became friends. But,
sooner or later, the best of friends must part. Before ten years
had gone round Dr. Mathieson was culled upon to preach his
friend's funeral sermon on the same day that he opened for
worship the church of Martintown, which Mr. Connell had been
instrumental in building. Upon a marble tablet on the church
wall there is a touching allusion to the occasion, penned, there is
reason to believe, by the Doctor; it reads as follows : "Within
this edifice, erected for the worship of God, his voice was only once
heard proclaiming the tidings of salvation. Assembled with hia
flock under the open canopy of heaven, to show the Lord's death,
they were driven l>y the inclemency of the day to seek shelter
within its unfinished walls. By a remarkable coincidence, on that
Same day of the month -one year afterwards his remains were
interred on the very spot where he then stood to distribute the sym-
bols of the Bread of Life, and by that solemn act, close his ministerial
labours." Mr. Connell was buried beneath the pulpit. He was
a man of genius, and in him was verified one of Shakespeare's


many striking truisms that " Great wit is to madness near allied."
He was so nervously excitable that his mind sometimes lost its
balance, leaving in the minds of his friends serious apprehensions
for the result, " Once," says Dr. Mathieson, " on a cold winter
night he arrived at my house, from Martintown, wearied and faint
from his journey and long fasting. He had eaten nothing the
whole day, nor could we persuade him to take any food then.
' Make me a bowl of tea, and be sure you make it strong,' was
his only request. It was procured, and, for a short lime after
he drank it, he raved like a maniac, and not till after he had slept
for some hours were his words coherent. I have also been told
that, after a long pedestrian excursion in Wales, he went to
Liverpool, called for ' a bowl of strong tea,' fancied he was way-
laid by enemies who sought his life, started for Scotland, and
exhibited some fantastic tricks on board the steamer. On arriving
at Glasgow he called a cab, drove straight to the college and
detailed to the Professor of Divinity such a catalogue of horrors
as nearly drove the worthy Doctor as crazy as he was himself.
He was exceedingly fond of music, and played well on the fiddle.
Once T remember, at Martintown, while playing a fine old Highland
Lament, his eyes began to roll most fearfully, he seemed to gasp
for breath, and I had to rise and stop his strains, which were too
powerful for his sensitive mind to endure. A stranger one day,
hearing him play, st pped unbidden into his room, complimented
him on his skill, and requestod ' a tune. ' Connell laid down his
fiddle, and called his servant to show ' the impudent intruder ' to
the door. But he was a noble fellow whose like we have rarely


Among the first proceedings of the Synod of 1831 a resolution
was passed, requiring the several members of the Synod, to prepare
a report of the state of religion in their several congregations and
neighbourhoods, and to transmit the same to the convener of the
Committee on a Memorial to the General Assembly, with a view
to their forwarding to Scotland detailed information respecting the
spiritual destitution existing in Canada, and the consequent need
of increased ministerial labour. A majority of the ministers Qom-
plied with the mandate some of them, a>. their leisure. The
whole Presbytery of Glcngary, however, Mr. Ketchan of Belle-
ville, and Dr. Harkness of Quebec, having neglected to comply,
were cited before the Synod and " suitably admonished." Dr.
Mathieson, unwilling to be ranked as a recusant, transmitted a
draft Report, reserving to himself the privilege of revising and
elaborating it a future time. This he did, and, in due course
prepared an exhaustive document which might have been entitled
a topographical, statistical, commercial and ecclesiastical history of
the Island of Montreal and adjacent parts, and to which was
appended a succint history of the congregation of St. Andrew's
Church, Montreal, which will form a fitting conclusion to this
chapter of reminiscences.


( Written in 1832.)

" The first authentic account of the congregation now forming
the members of St. Andrew's Church, Montreal, which I have been
able to obtain, is dated in November, 1804. 1 have been informed,
however, that for six months before that time a number of iudivid-


uals assembled for public worsbip in a large private room, under
the pastoral care of the Rev. Robert Easton, who had been pre-
viously minister of a congregation in Hawick, * Roxburghshire,
in connexion with the Associate Synod in Scotland. The papers
relative to his settlement I have not seen, nor any authentic
account of the probable number of the congregation at that period.
I am inclined to believe that they were not properly organized as
a religious body till the 2nd November, 1804. On that day the
congregation met, pursuant to notice, and elected seventeen of
their number to be a committee for managing their affairs. In
January, 1805, a petition was presented in behalf of the congrega-
tion to the different branches of the Legislature, praying that their
minister might be permitted to hold a legal register of the mar-
riages, baptisms, and burials by him performed. This petition
was refused at the time, but on what grounds I have not ascer-
tained. Mr. Easton obtained registers in 1815. It had been
the unceasing desire of the congregation from their formation, to
get a suitable place erected for public worship, and, though the
difficulties which presented themselves to this undertaking were
formidable to a poor and a little flock, they determined that a
vigorous effort should be made to accomplish their desire ;
accordingly, on the 1st February, 1805, a subscription Was opened
for that purpose. Their success was such as to give them every
encouragement to proceed. Soon afterwards the committee
appointed two of their number to look out for a suitable piece of
ground for building a church, and were empowered to conclude a

* There is reason to believe that Mr. Easton came from the Town of
Morpeth, instead of Hawick, as stated in the text.

! >J<


purchase on behalf of the congregation. This sub-committee
reported on the 10th of May that they had purchased two lots for
the sum of 180, and an annuity on the joint lives of two ladies of
50, which was to be reduced to 37 10s. on the demise of one
or either of them. One of the annuitants is still alive, (1832).

" One of these lots contained a good stone house, which has since
fallen into such decay that it will require to be rebuilt before it
can be tenantable ; the other lot, being vacant, was reserved for
building a church for the congregation. A few days after this
purchase was concluded a series of resolutions were drawn up by
the committee and a general meeting of the congregation called for
the purpose of taking the same into consideration. When the
committee of management was appointed it does not appear
that their powers were defined, nor are there any instructions to
them on record ; but it is evident from the minutes that all
matters of minor importance were transacted by their uncontrolled
official power, while we must naturally infer, from the sanction of
the congregation which was required to the above resolutions, that
all matters of greater moment had to be approved by a majority of
the whole congregation. By one of the aforesaid resolutions the
congregation declared themselves to be ' in connection with the
Associate Reformed Synod in Scotland, commonly called the
Burgher Secession.' This act, however, was never homologated
by that Reverend Body, and consequently fell to the ground. The
resolutions were indeed presented to the Synod at a meeting held
at Glasgow in 1806, together with a letter from the Elders and
Managers of the Church craving to be taken into connection with
the Synod, but nothing definite was done. The Synod delayed


deciding on the said petition, and, meanwhiie, appointed a com-
mittee of correspondence, who, it seems, never corresponded, and so
the matter was lost sight of for nearly fifteen years. About 1820
a question arose how far, and in what manner, the congregation in
Montreal stood connected with the said Associate Synod, and a
reference was made to the Synod on the subject, but no entry was
found in their minutes to show whether any decision had ever been
come to in the matter.

" On the 15th October, 1805, the foundation stone of the church
in St. Peter-street was laid, and the whole work finished in the
beginning of April, 1807, at a cost of about 1500. The walls are
substantially built. The dimensions are 70 by 51 feet, without : and,
though a plain, it is a comfortable and commodious edifice and can
contain with ease 760 persons. Galleries were erected in 1816
at an expense of 400, which was bornwed for the purpose.

" Mr. Easton's stipend, from the commencement of his ministerial
labours in Montreal, was 125. In 1816 it was advanced to 200,
and, in 1818, was further augmented to 250. In December,
1822, Mr. P^aston proposed to resign his charge in consequence of
the increasing infirmities of age and ill health, if a suitable provi-
sion was made for himself and his family. This was agreed to, and
a resolution carried, that steps should be immediately taken to pro-
cure a minister of the established Church of Scdtland ' cd none
else.' This being deemed too exclusive by many of the American
members, they withdrew altogether from the church, built a sepa-
rate place of worship, and have a minister from the United States.
Eight or ten of the most respectable of the American families
remained and are still 111 connection with the church, and I must in


justice say that, in regard for our establishment, and attendance on
divine ordinances, their conduct is truly exemplary.

" In accordance with the resolution above alluded to, a letter was
addressed to the Rev. Drs. Chalmers and Dickson, and the late
Mr. Andrew Thompson, empowering them to elect and send ou
an ordained minister to succeed Mr. Easton. This letter wag
accompanied with a bond for 200 currency per annum, as salary
No reply having been received to this letter, another was dispatched
on the 20th December, 1823, of similar import. - Choice was soon
afterwards made of Mr. John Burns, A.M., who was ordained by
the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and arrived in Montreal on the
fourth of July, 1824. Mr. Easton then formally resigned and
retired on an annuity of 150, payable from the funds of the Church,
which sum he continued to* receive till his death, which took place
in May, 1831. On the 9th July, 1824, the committee of arrange-
ments, with the consent of the congregation, made an official decla-
ration that they were ' Christians in connexion with the established
Church of Scotland, under the ministry of the Rev. John Burns,'
to whom they promised all due obedience, encouragement and sup-
port in the Lord. This document, which is entered in the books
of the committee of management and also of the session, may be
considered as the basis of the present constitution of the Church
which, however, is not very very definite. * About the same time

* At a meeting of the congregation held on the 12th of May, 1835, a
well-digested constitution and code of laws was adopted for the manage-
ment of its affairs. In 1849 the Congregation received an Act of Incorpo-
ration (12 Viet. Cap. 154;. In the following year the constitution was
revised and remodelled, and was adopted, in terms of the Act, on the


it was agreed to style the church and congregation by the nameot
St. Andrew's.

"Mr. Burns continued minister of St. Andrew's Church for
nearly two years, when, having succeeded to some landed property
in Scotland, he resigned his charge on the 10th of May, 1826, and
returned to his native country, A congregational meeting was
called to receive his resignation, when, in compliment to him for the
fidelity with which he had laboured among them, they delegated to
him power and authority to elect and send out a minister of the
Church of Scotland to be their pastor. This power was accom-
panied with a bond for 250 salary. On the 25th September fol-
lowing, he appointed to the office Alexander Mathieson, A.M., a

ILth March, 1851. It provides for an annual meeting of the congregation
to be held on the 25th December, for the purpose of receiving a statement
of all accounts and financial matters connected with the church. On the
death or removal of the minister a meeting of the proprietors, pew-holders,
and members of the church is convened, within eight days from the occur-
rence of the vacancy, when a committee of nine members in full commu-
nion is elected with full powers to take such steps as to them may seem
best adapted for speedily obtaining a minister. By article I. of the consti-
tution the congregation declare their adherence to the standards, form ol
worship, and government of the Church of Scotland. By the 18th Article
the jurisdiction of the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in
connection with the Church of Scotland is recognised. It being expressly
understood, however, that no act or declaration of the said Synod-shall
Contravene Article I. of these. By-laws The last article provides (hat every
person, pew-holder or member, proprietor or sitter, shall subscribe the
constitution before they can be competent to elect or be elected to any



licentiate of the Presbytery of Dumbarton, and residing within its

It is not necessary to continue the history of St. Andrew's con-
gregation further than to state that, having greatly, increased in
numbers and in wealth, steps were taken in 18-48 for the erection of
a new church. The finest site in the city was secured, on the brow
of Beaver Hall Hill, where was reared the finest specimen of ecclesi-
astical architecture hitherto attempted in Canada. The Cathe-
dral of Salisbury, which is perhaps the most beautiful of its order
in England, furnished the model from which Messrs. Tate and
Smith, the architects, designed this admirable structure. They
also superintended its construction, and e grafted, as it were, on
this young colony hallowed associations and pleasing memories of
the old world. The church was completed at a cost of about
$64,000, and was opened for worship on the 12th of January,

On Saturday evening, the 23rd of October, 1869, the choir met
in St. Andrew's Church as usual for practice. On their leaving, the
customary precautions were observed in regard to the fires and gas-
lights, and by the time they ha'd severally "reached their homes
a Sabbath's silence reigned in the streets of the city, unbroken,
save by the howling of the wind, which blew in fitful gusts from
the west.

In the gray dawn of the morning the great bell of the Cathedral
tolled the alarm, and the wild cry of " Fire !" " fire !" awoke the
citizens from their slumbers. Then there was a rushing to and
fro of helmeted men, hasting to the rescue with reel and hose, with
hook and ladder, each vying with the other to be the first at the


scene of the conflagration, prepared to brave danger and death in
their efforts to stay the devastation. But the devouring element had
already the mas' cry. Soon the whole of the interior was consumed J
the roof fell in with a tremendous crash ; the insatiable flames shot
tip to the skies ; they licked the gothic arches of the doors and
windows ; they enveloped the tall steeple as with a winding sheet
of fire, and illumined the whole heavens with a lurid blaze of light.
The Baptist Church, in the immediate vicinity, was several timea
in imminent danger, and was only saved from destruction by the
heroic efforts of the fire brigade. The roof of the Universalist
Church, immediately opposite, ignited, and was totally consumed.
Many members of the congregation, who had been uninformed of
the disaster, repaired on the Sabbath morning to " the place where
prayer was wont to be made," and found it a mass of smoking
ruins. Nothing remained of their " beautiful house " but the
blackened walls. Fortunately for the congregation, the church
was amply insured.

A costly and beautiful memorial window, which had been but two
weeks before placed in the Church, in memory of the late Miss
Mathieson, by the ladies of the- congregation, perished in the gen-
eral conflagration.

The revenues of St. Andrew's Church from pew rents, dona-
tions and weekly collections amounted in 1832 to 450. In
1869 the congregation contributed for all purposes connected with
the church and college the sum of $14,036, a sufficient indica-
tion of their material prosperity. The general statistics of the
congregation for the same years are, as nearly as can now be
ascertained, as follows :


1832. 1869.

Probable number of individuals j

belonging to the Congregatio 11 \ ' ' ' 1>50 1)30

Number on communion roll 250 500

Number of Sabbath-school scholars *.. GO 304

Number of Sabbath-scbool teachers... 7 31

Amount of Stipend paid.. ; 250 3,600

There were in Montreal, in 1832, but two churches in connection
with the Church of Scotland, embracing 3,144 souls. The corres-
ponding numbers now are six churches and 4,477 adherents.

The population of the city when Dr. Mathieson arrived, in 1827,
was 22,000. Now it is 150,000.

* Including the Bible Class.



BY this time the reader has formed for himself at least a gen-
eral and tolerably distinct idea of what sort of man Dr. Mathieson
was in society, and as the minister of St. Andrew's congregation.
He will have discovered the weak points of his character, at all
events, no great pains have been taken to conceal them. He
must have looked with jaundiced eyes, or, through a distorted
medium, who has not also found redeeming points in his nature
sufficient to warrant him in saying :

" He was a man, take him for all in all
I sball not look upon his like again."

In the Doctor's own words already quoted as applied to another
"No man is all sinful or all holy, all morally base or truly
great." The most luminous orb in the natural heavens, which
dazzles and blinds the beholder with its brightness and glory, when
subjected to the scrutinizing observation of the physicist is seen to
have spots on its surface, and, while human nature remains as at
present constituted, we shall never want proof that man was made
" a little lower than the


To present a faithful picture of Dr. Mathieson as a member of
the Synod, to describe his appearances, to define his principles of
church polity, to estimate the influence which he exerted upon
others, has from the commencement of this sketch been regarded
by us as that to which should be attached the highest value, and
in a proportionate degr ;e has this part of the work loomed out in
the distance, great, difficult, almost unapproachable. To be true
to nature, the brain that conceives the portraiture must be clearer
and more fertile, the hand that wields the brush must be steadier
and more skilful than his whose chief part in these preceding
pages has been the easy and congenial task of selecting and cull-
ing the flowers that lay thickly strewn around his path. But that
from which jwe thus confessedly had shrunk, another has done
for us, and this estimate of the Doctor's character is the more
valuable that it comes from a clergyman who did not always agree
with the Doctor in the church courts, and who not unfrequently
fell under his lash. Without note, comment, or reservation, we
thankfully accept this opportune contribution, and endorse every
word of it premising only that our good friend in his prefatory
remarks, overlooked the fact that what he modestly pleads as an
apology for his impromptu letter was precisely the kind of mental
discipline that he stood in need of.

" I know no one who courted popularity, for its own sake, less
than Dr. Mathieson did. Of course, like all men, he loved power
and influence, but he would never condescend to acquire it by
trimming his sails to the popular breeze. He was too outspoken,
and cared too little to conciliate those who were opposed to him in


opinion, to have his name associated with triumphant votes. Hence
he was more frequently counted with the minority.

" No face was more radiant than his, however, when he felt that
he was in sympathy with the Synod, as a whole; as for instance,
always, when reading and comni3nting upon the annual report of
the Widows' Fund, his smile was most benignant, and his eye was
filled with kindly warmth. The same was true of his treatment
of all persons who were in accord with his views when at any
time they addressed the Synod. It was really a temptation to one
to coincide with him even against better judgment and convic-
tion to obtain a hearty recognition from him. But woe to him
that roused the Doctor's wrath ! And this was not hard to do.
Let the slightest symptom of departure from what he thought the
constitutional principles and practice of the Church of Scotland be
shown and the Doctor's agitated countenance and restless attitude
became quite a study. He seemed like a proud steed held in check
with (ha brille ' champing his iron curb.' Very frequently he
would not wait until the speaker sat down to express his protest
against anything that seemed to him in the remotest way to argue
contempt of, or indifference to, the parent church ; but would inter-
rupt htm in spite of all rules and cries of ' order !' And, when
he rose in such circumstances, the hearts of common disputants
quailed before him. His lips firmly compressed, batokening the
resolution of his nature, indignation seated on his brow, and his
eyes flashing forth scornful fire particularly if the opponent hap-
pened to be in the Doctor's estimation, young and inexperienced,
and therefore presumptuous this was enough to bear the unlucky
wight to the ground ; so that it mattered not that the Doctor did



not find free utterance. Like the full bottle, the few words that
eame out of his lips in spurts, being clenched by the determined
force with which the staff was brought to the ground, were more
powerfully eloquent and effective than full flowing periods decked
out in the ordinary dress of rhetoric, but which want the subjective
reality and earnestness that characterized the Doctor.

" Dr. Mathieson did not shine in debate. He was governed

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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 8 of 18)