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

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in his views more by instinct and feeling rather than by a
strict acquiescence with the laws and requirements of the
Church of Canada, and thus had to speak everything that
occurred to him, when it did so occur, whether it was in order
to do so or not, sometimes rising half a dozen times in a single
debate. Nevertheless he was very influential, though not pos-
sessing the qualities needful in a leader. His personal presence
and bearing were much in his favour men of meaner exterior
felt themselves at a disadvantage when arrayed in opposition to
hiim.. Of late years, too, the remembrance of his long and
faithful services added weight to his views, while his well-known
loyalty to the church gave him a hold on the sympathies of all
who had a spark of chivalry in their nature, so that even those
whom he took to task in no honeyed words could not help respecfc-
in"- him as an earnest, honest man. It cannot be doubted that all
through our church's history his views helped to mould the legis-
lation of the church if they did not control it giving to it a
conservative tone ; so that on the whole, the Synod was the arena
on which he appeared to greatest advantage."

To the above apposite and comprehensive sketch we have nothing
to add, and it only remains to glean from the minutes of Synod a


few of the more prominent subjects of discussion that arose in the
church during the thirty-eight years in which Doctor Mathieson
was a member of the Court, During that time we venture to say
that no one man ever approached him in the number of dissents,
protests and appeals entered in his name. In fact, he was never
known to submit to an adverse vote upon an important question
without insisting on tin* privilege, which was usually recorded in this
way. " Against this decision Mr. Alexander Mathieson entered his
dissent for reasons to be given in due time, taking instruments in
the clerk's hands and craving extracts." This " taking instru-
ments" simply means the handing the clerk the sum of one shilling
for every protest taken, a part which the Doctor used to perform with
great gusto, and with such a pressure of the thumb as almost to
leave the impress of the coin on the table. " Craving extracts "
implies a demand for a copy of such part of the proceedings as may
be asked for, and which is furnished on payment of the usual fee.
Whether it was the case of an individual minister or of a body
of ministers belonging to another denomination that knocked at the
door of the Kirk in Canada, seeking admittance, it seemed to be
the Doctor's peculiar prerogative to make sure that their declara-
tion of adherence to the Confession of Faith arid Formula lacked
nothing of the minutest punctilio. If it were a minister of the
Church of Scotland who had come to Canada asking to be
" received" he was met on the threshold by the Doctor, insisting
upon a sight of his " Presbyterial certificate." In this regard the
Doctor was not exceeded by the old parish minister, who emphati-
cally declared that he would not have allowed the Apostle Paul
himself to preach in his pulpit " until he had produced his Presby-


tergal certificate." It has already been said that at the time of the
formation of our Synod, in 1831, there existed in Canada a body
of Presbyterians, known as the "United Synod of Upper Canada,"
composed chiefly of seceders. Negotiations were early commenced
with a view to their joining theJSynod in connection with the
Church of Scotland. By reason of the opposition, however, of
the party who acknowledged Doctor Mathieson as their leader and
mouth-piece this union was delayed until the year 1840, when, in
amendment to the resolution to receive the members of the said
Synod, it was moved by Doctor Mathieson that a committee be
appointed to confer with the United Synod and to report on the
evidecce laid before them of the ministerial character, the literary
acquirements, and the soundness in the faith of these dissenting
brethren, &c., &c. After long reasoning the motion was carried
by thirty-five, to three, Doctor Mathieson as usual entering his
dissent, " for reasons then given in, and for other reasons which he
may give in in due time." It is but right to add that the satis-
faction of having done " his duty" was sufficient to console the
Doctor under such circumstances, and that his subsequent inter-
course with the brethren was always kindly and courteous.

It was in 1834 that Doctor Mathieson overtured the Synod to
take into consideration the propriety of establishing public schools
in Canada after the manner and pattern of the Scottish parochial
schools, but, if the proposal was seriously entertained by the
S^nod at the time, it does not appear to have led to any practical
results. From the year 1831 up to 1840 the adjustment of the
Clergy ReSt-rvesof Canada was thequcestio vexata which occupied by
far the largest portion of the time and deliberations of the Synod.


This was a subject that afforded Doctor Mathieson full scope for
displaying to good advantage the determination and indomitable
perseverance of his nature. It was not a favour that his Church was
seeking it was " a right'' that was to be demanded and, if need
be, fought for to the death. Although the chief credit must be
awarded to the late Hon. William Morris for the ultimate recog-
nition of the claims of this Church to an equal share in the
Reserves with the Church of England, upon the ground that in
terms of the treaty of union between England and Scotland the
one Colonial Church had as good a right to be designated an
Established Church as the other, there can be no doubt that
Doctor Mathieson's unwearied efforts were largely conducive to the
settlement of the question. The correspondence which during these
ye:irs he maintained with the Earl of Durham, Lord Glenelg,
Sir George Grey and other officials of Her Majesty's Imperial Gov-
erment, as well as with the Governors General of Canada, would of
itself fill a volume, and sufficiently attest the Doctor's claim on the
gratitude of the whole church. The only fee, however, that the
Doctor received for these services, so far as we know, was tlie
honourable, but somewhat onerous, appointment to a seat on the
Board for the management of the Fund which his energy had
been instrumental in creating : a position that he held till the
close of hi? life, and to the duties of which l:e always applied him-
self with exemplary zeal and fidelity.

That period in the history of the Church commonly known as
" the Disruption." and which culminated in 1844 by the with-
drawal of twenty-four ministers who at that time declared their
sympathies with the Free Protesting Church of Scotland, and


erected themselves into a separate communion, was the cause of a
painful and life-long regret to the Doctor, who never could forgive
" the Frees" for their defection from the Auld Mother Kirk which
he himself loved so well.

The disruption of the Church of Canada followed, as an inevit-
able consequence, the disruption in Scotland. There are those
who maintain that whatever cause there was for the division that
took place in Scotland there was none in Canada. If patronage
was a grievance there, it never existed in Canadn. If it was wrong
for the civil power to intermeddle with ecclesiastic polity, or
interfere with its jurisdiction, such exercise of the secular pre-
rogative was unknown in Canada. Why should a church thus
happily free from these creative elements of discord seek to be
mixed up in a quarrel not of their own making, and to make sacrifices
for principles which could have no bearing on their own practice
and procedures? After a lapse of six and twenty years it is easy
and natural to argue after that fashion, but the fallacy involved is
none the less apparent. " Cesium -non animum mutant qui trans
mare currant.*" When it shall become a law of nature for
a mother to forget her child, or the child its mother, then will the
withholding of sympathy be accounted a virtue. The disruption
in Canada was purely a matter of sympathy, the avowal of which,
on either hand, became tantamount to an espousal of the cause.
If we say it was uncalled for, we stultify the men who were the
chief actors in it, and that we do not wish to do. More than that,
we can afford now, to say, " it was all for the best." But these were

* They who cross the sea change their sky but not their affections.


stormy days in the Synod', from the third to the tenth of July, 1844,
when it was sought to define the relations that did, or should,
exist been the Presbyterian Church in Canada and the Church of
Scotland. By some it was thought a division would be obviated,
without the compromise of principle, by simply dropping the words,
from the designation of the Church, " in connection with the Church
of /Scotland." Doctor Mathieson would never consent to that, but
gave in a protest, on behalf of himself and certain others, to the effect
" that their taking part in the discussion should not be held as an
admission on their part that such discussion was not in its nature
unconstitutional, incompetent, or ultra vires, and, in particular, that
their so taking part and voting should not invalidate their right to
remain and continue to be the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of
Canada, in connection with the Church of Scotland, and to enjoy
all the privileges belonging to the same. The Doctor's sentiments
prevailed, and without having altered its designation the Synod
adjourned, to meet again on the 18th of September, which day it
accordingly met, minus the nineteen ministers and eighteen elders
who had given their adherence to the protest and dissent of Mr.

Bayne, of Gait, who had previously moved a resolution that the

obnoxious words should be struck out, and that the Church,

thenceforth, should be designated the Presbyterian Church of

In all the subsequent missionary and benevolent operations
of the church, Doctor Mathieson's counsels and co-operation were
sought and freely tendered. He was the principal promoter, and,
for many years, the active convener of the French Mission Com-
mittee. He was a member of the committee for the management


of the Ministers' Widows' and Orphans' Fund from its commence-
ment, and was its chairman and guiding spirit as long as he lived.
At the foundation of Queen's College, in 1840, Doctor Mathieson
was among the first to be named a trustee, and, during the thirty
years in which he was a member of the Board, no one was more
regular in attending its meetings, nor more earnest in promoting the
best interests of the College. In consequence of the unhappy
suit in the Court of Chancery which followed the removal of a pro-
fessor from the College, in 1864, Doctor Mythicson's name obtained
a wide celebrity, during several years, in law circles, both as defen-
dant and plaintiff, in the actions of" Wier versus Mathieson," and
" Mathieson versus Wier," the several pleadings and judgments in
which were regarded by the profession with peculiir interest, as
involving an important precedent in determining whether the pro-
fessor's tenure of office was, ad vitam aut culj) im, or, during the
pleasure only of those who appointed him. The decree of Chancery
affirmed that the professor had been improperly " removed," and that
the trustees consenting thereto were personally liable for the costs
incurred in the case. In May, 1865, Doctor Mathieson thus refers
to the decision: " you have heard the decree of Chancery amercing
individuals in costs, Doctor Urquhart and I have resolved to go to
jail rather than submit to such an iniquitous judgment. I have
no hope that our appeal on the main question will be successful,
whatever be the after proceedings; but, that a body of nien }
oratuitously discharging an important duty and acting from the
conscientious conviction of saving the Institution from ruin, and'
without a particle of ill-will to the dismissed, should be thus dealt
with is an outrageous violation of common sense ; but I hope we


shall all at least be " Merry Martyrs." In the Court of Error
and Appeal, to which the case was carried, the decree was reversed,
and the D >ctor became jubilant as the visions of prison doors and
grated windows vanished from his imagination.

There was no duty ever assigned" to Dr. Mathieson that he dis-
charged with more satisfaction to himself and credit to the Church
than the visit which he paid to the churches in the Maritime Pro-
vinces, as a delegate from the Canadian Synod, in the year 1855. He
returned from tint visit impressed with the depth and solemnity of
the piety that pervaied the various congregations with which he
was brought into contact, and which reminded him of the religious
character of the rural parishes of his loved native land. From an
admirable report* of the intercourse he then had with the brethren
of Nova Scotia the following extract may be given :

" Your deputation met with the kindest reception from the lay
members of the congregations of Halifax, and, indeed, wherever
they wont, while the Synod welcomed them with joy, as a prelude
to more frequent intercourse and co-operation, and invited them to
take seats as members of the court, and a part in all its delibera-
tions, after having expressed in the warmest terms, through the
Moderator, ' gratitude to the Church of Scotland in Canada for
having sent a deputation of their number to them, and to the
members of the deputation themselves for executing the commis-
sion, and coming from so great a distance to visit them.' Having
sojourned a few days at Halifax we proceeded to Pictou, staying
one day at Truro, around which the country spreads out in fertile

Sjnod Minutes of, 1856., pp. 45, 63.



vales, watered by fine streams. On Sabbath the pulpit at Pictou was
supplied by Mr. McKid, and at Roger's Hill by Dr. Mathieson.
Large and attentive audiences wore assembled in both places. In
the evening Dr. Mathieson preached to a large congregation in
the Rev. Mr. Bain's church, reciprocating the kind feelings with
which your deputation was invariably received by their United
Presbyterian brethren ; on Monday, took part in a very interest-
ing missionary meeting in Mr. Bain's Church, and listened with
much pleasure to the interesting details of their Mission in New
Hebrides ; on Tuesday we visited New Glasgow, where the Rev.
Allan Pollok is settled over a large and flourishing congregation.
It is hardly possible to speak in too strong terms of the earnest
missionary spirit, of their devotedness to their work, and the emi-
nent success of the young ministers that have been recently sent
from Scotland to fill the deserted pulpits of Nova Scotia. Snod-
grass, Sprott, McKay, Pollok, McLean, and Herdman, are names
that will be remembered as zealous preachers of the Gospel of sal-
vation, long after they shall have passed away from the scenes of
their labours.

" In the afternoon we visited Mr. McGillivray, of McLennan's
Mountain. At the time of the Schism in 18-43, he, only, ' faith-
ful among many faithless, found.' Several ministers left their charges
for more lucrative appointments in Scotland, or joined the Free
Church. Their deserted people were like sheep without a shepherd,
Mr. McGillivray alone remaining to watch for their spiritual

interests, and plead the cause of the Church of Scotland On

one occasion, both the scene and the circumstances were of the
tnost interesting nature, one of your deputation, being engaged to


assist at the dispensation of the Lord's Supper, had nearly thirty
miles to travel, he accordingly gave instructions that the per-
son who was to convey him to the ground should come at nine
o'clock A.M., but, instead of that hour, he came at six, and
every moment was impatient to start. We set out at half-past
nine at a rapid trot, and having driven a considerable distance,
found a relay of horses, that greater speed might be obtained.
Ignorant of the driver's purpose, he was frequently exhorted to
slacken rein ; but the only reply was we will be late, and another
admonition to the noble animal to renewed speed. At length the
mystery of our rapid flight was unveiled. About three o'clock P.M.
\ve came to a beautiful sylvan spot where we- found a congregation
of from 1500 to 2000, listening with profound attention to ' the
men' who, one after another, at the call of their minister, address-
ed the people on the topic which had been announced for discus-
sion in the morning. The congregation took little notice of our
arrival, but observed the same riveted attention to the speakers.
Not a movement was made, nor a sound heard but the wind among
the trees, and the voice of the speaker echoing through the deep
forest a voice which in prayer was empassioned fervour, chastened
into tones of reverence and deep humility. And the Psalm, Oh that
Psalin ! as it rose, in wild irregular notes, from two thousand voices,
it struck home to our hearts and Christian sympathies with a power
that can never be forgotten. It was now five in the afternoon, and
thus had it been with them since eleven in the morning. Previous
to our witnessing this interesting spectacle we confess to having
cherished a rooted prejudice against such systematized lay instruc-
tions, as being fraught with danger to the peace of congregations


and conducive to spiritual pride; but we cannot help thinking that
such patriarchs as these are invaluable helps to the Christian Min-
istry. In after conversation we found them to be men of the right
stamp.... The same devotional stillness and decorum characterized
all the days of their solemnities, and on the Sabbath, as the symbols
of the Bread of Life were spread out on rude planks, covered
over with linen of snowy whiteness, and surrounded by blooming
youth and gray -haired pilgrims, may we not hope that that green
spot in the forest was but a type of a greener spot in the vale of
life, where the pilgrims to the heavenly Jerusalem shall rest and
find themselves refreshed from the wells of salvation . . . We also
learned that many young men might b3 found hereof a true spirit,
who might be induced to enter on a course of preparatory study
for the Ministry. Indeed, we were impressed with the conviction
that it is from Nova Scotia that \ve must look for the supply of
Gaelic-speaking students. The specimens you already have in
Queen's College do credit fr> their country and their church."
The recollection of this tour in the Lower Provinces was a
theme on which the Doctor ever delighted to dwell, and he has
been heard to remark, that in all his journeys he was accom-
panied by his most valued friend, Mr. William E linonstone, " who
displayed a reverend zeal in the cause, and was apparently as
anxious about getting good ministers, and making suitable provision
for them, as he was for the proper equipment of his ships." This
pilgrimage continued till the last, to be a green spot in tha Doctor's

But the most characteristic of all Doctor Mathieson's appearances
as a member of the Synod remains to be told. In 1860 it had


become known that these British North American colonies were to be
honoured by a visit from His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales,
and everywhere preparations were set on foot for giving him a
right loyal and hearty welcome. The Synod of the Church of
Scotland must join with other corporations in presenting through
its Moderator an address ; and who &o well fitted as ' the father
of the Church" to be spokesman o;i the august occasion ! Doctor
Matliieson was already an ex-Moderator. He had been elevated to
that dignity in 1832, and, though the procedure was an exceptional
one, he was now reinvested with the highest office which it w;is in the
power of the Synod to bestow, and, with him, Dr. Cook, Dr. Barclay,
the Clerk. Met-srs. John Greenshields and Alexander Morris, were
appointed a committee to make ail the necessary arrangements for
the presentation of the address. The Governor General was
informed by letter that the Synod had prepared an address to His
Royal Highness, and information was asked for in regard to the
arrangements that would be allowed for its presentation, and the
hope expressed that the ministers and ciders might be invited to
be present. The reply of the Governor's Secretary contained these
words : " The address to His Royal Highness should be presented
at one of the levees which he will hold during his visit to Canada."
A copy of the address was next forwarded to the Governor's Sec-
retary along with the intimation that the committee would be
glad to receive further instructions for their guidance. '' I pre-
sume," was the Secretary's reply, " that the Synod of the Presby-
terian Church of Canada may select any of the places named in
the Gazette of August the 4th at which levees will be held for the
presentation of addresses." Montreal was one of the places so



named, and it was resolved that the address should be presented
there. But as to the particular time and formalities to be
observed, the committee were kept in profound and perplexing
ignorance. The only information they felt warranted in making
to the members of the Synod was, that the address would probably
be presented in Montreal on Monday, the 27th instant. A few
days after the circulation of this notice, it was generally under-
stood that the levee would be held in the afternoon of the 29th.
It was therefore supposed that the committee might safely call a
meeting of ministers and elders to be held in St. Andrew's Church
at noon of that day. A notice to that effect was accordingly issued
on the 21st of August. Meanwhile the Synod clerk, Mr. Sriod-
grass, did his best to get an audience of the Governor's Secretary,
between his arrival in Montreal and the 27th August, if possible,
to obtain more definite information as to the course of procedure
likely to be followed.

On making enquiry at the St. Lawrence Hall, he was told
that " the Governor's Secretary was taking his tea." He wrote
him a letter, but was coolly informed that no answer would be
given that night (Saturday, the 24th.) To make matters worse,
it was now made public that the levee was to begin at eleven.
o'clock, forenoon, instead of in the afternoon as formerly announced
By this time the Moderator had become prodigiously indig-
nant over themuddelling unsatisfactory nature of the negotiations,
and, accompanied by Dr. Barclay, proceeded in person to the
hotel, and demanded an interview of the Provincial Secretary,
Colonel Irvine. He was courteously received, but learned noth-
ing definite respecting the presentation of the address, but, from



the conversation, was led to suppose that it would be presented in
the same manner and at the same time as that of the Church of
England. The reply of the Governor's Secretary to the clerk of
Synod's letter of Saturday evening was put into Dr. Mathieson's
hand as he was departing : it was to the effect that the number of
addresses being so great, and the pressure such, there would not be
time to read them at the levee, but that the bearer of eich
address, on being presented to his Royal Highness, should hand to
the Prince the address with which he was charged, and pass on,
an'l that written answers would subsequently be sent to all
addresses presented. After reading this letter the two Doctors in
Divinity were put to a stand as to how they should act in the case.
In passing along the hall of the hotel, they opportunely met Mr.
Pennifather, the Secretary, and entered into conversation with
him on the subject. He candidly admitted that he had foreseen
the difficulty that was likely to arise, but saw no way of counter-
acting it. He knew that there was no answer prepared. Dr.
Barclay immediately put to him the question, whether the address
from the Church of England was to be read in presence of His
Royal Highness, and he replied, he believed it was : when the
Moderator said, " under these circumstances that from the
Church of Scotland could not be presented." The situation had
now become a most embarrassing one. There was not a moment

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Online LibraryJohn JenkinsLife of the Rev. Alex. Mathieson, D.D. / with a funeral sermon by John Jenkins → online text (page 9 of 18)