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The Life of James Robertson
THE CHURCH AND MANSE BUILDING FUND


TO the General Assembly of 1881 were sent from the Presbytery of Manitoba two overtures big with potentialities for the cause of Presbyterianism and of religion in Western Canada. One of these overtures received the approval of the Assembly and resulted in the appointment of the Rev. James Robertson, Minister of Knox Church, Winnipeg, as Superintendent of Missions for Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. The fate of the other overture hung in the balance for some months. It was an overture to authorize the creation of a fund to aid in the erection of churches and manses in the West.

The origin of this overture was to be found in the experience of the minister of Knox Church, Winnipeg, while acting as Convener of the Presbytery’s Home Mission Committee. During his various missionary tours it was pressed upon his mind with painful insistence that the missionaries in charge of the outposts of our Church were called upon to suffer what seemed to him unnecessary privation from the lack of comfortable homes, and that congregations were seriously retarded in their development from the lack of suitable buildings in which to worship.

For men and women of culture and of fine instincts to be forced to live in mud-roofed shacks, or board with families in houses of a single room, where all the domestic activities were carried on, could not fail to seriously impair the efficiency of their service. Nor was there much hope of a permanent settlement being effected in a congregation till a home could be found for the minister and his family. Further than this, while so large a proportion of the settlers were young men, unmarried and living wretchedly uncomfortable lives, it was not difficult to imagine how great an impetus would be given to the work of the Church and how vastly increased would be the hold of the minister upon his flock, had he a comfortable home into which he might welcome the stranger and the homeless of his congregation.

Mr. Robertson had often experienced, too, the depressing effect of uncongenial surroundings in connection with public worship. He had been forced to preach to the people in curious places, in shacks through whose sod roofs the rain trickled in muddy streams upon the head and down the face of the preacher. He tells us how, upon entering a sod-roofed shack during a rain-storm one day, he found the children arranged like soldiers on parade along the centre of the little room. Closer observation revealed the wisdom of this arrangement, for the only dry place in the little shack was the line underneath a wide beam that formed the ridge pole of the roof.

Another time, while the missionary was nearing the climax of his sermon, from under the bed whereon a portion of the audience had found sittings, there came the premonitory clucks of a hen indicative of a virtuous sense of duty fulfilled. At once there ensued a struggle for the attention of the audience between the zealous missionary and the industrious fowl. More and more eloquent waxed the missionary’s periods, louder and louder the cluckings of the hen, till finally emerging into the open, with a few surprised if not indignant clucks at the unwonted invasion of her privacy, and then with a wild volley of frantic clucks and cluckoos, she flew through the open door, leaving the vanquished missionary to gather up the scattered members of his body of divinity and the shattered attention of his audience.

In buildings of all kinds and devoted to all purposes religious services were held, in schoolhouses, where there were any, in unfinished stores, in blacksmith shops, in granaries, hay-lofts and stables, often redolent of other than the odour of sanctity. Liberal use, too, was made of the offer of its station-houses on the part of the Canadian Pacific Railway. But often the effect of the sermon and of the whole service was marred by uncongenial and incongruous surroundings. This was notably the case when the only available spot for service happened to be the bar of a hotel. Once Mr. Robertson, coming to a settlement late on a Saturday evening, where the largest building was the hotel and the largest room the bar, inquired of the hotel man

"Is there any place where I can hold a service to-morrow?"

"Service?"

"Yes, a preaching service."

"Preaching? Oh, yes, I’ll get you one," he replied with genial heartiness.

Next day Mr. Robertson came into the bar which was crowded with men.

"Well, have you found a room for my service ?" he inquired of his genial host.

"Here you are, boss, right here. Get in behind that bar and here’s your crowd. Give it to ‘em. God knows they need it."

Mr. Robertson caught the wink intended for the "boys" only. Behind the bar were bottles and kegs and other implements of the trade; before it men standing up for their drinks, chaffing, laughing, swearing. The atmosphere could hardly be called congenial, but the missionary was "onto his job," as the boys afterwards admiringly said. He gave out a hymn. Some of the men took off their hats and joined in the singing, one or two whistling an accompaniment. As he was getting into his sermon one of the men, evidently the smart one of the company, broke in.

"Say, boss," he drawled, "I like yer nerve, but I don’t believe yer talk."

"All right," replied Mr. Robertson, "give me a chance. When I get through you can ask any questions you like. If I can I will answer them, if I can’t, I’ll do my best."

The reply appealed to the sense of fair play in the crowd. They speedily shut up their companion and told the missionary to "fire ahead," which he did and to such good purpose that when he had finished there was no one ready to gibe or question. After the service was closed, however, one of them observed earnestly: "I believe every word you said, sir. I haven’t heard anything like that since I was a kid, from my Sunday-school teacher. I guess I gave her a pretty hard time. But, look here, can’t you send us a missionary for ourselves? We’ll all chip in, won’t we, boys?"

A missionary was sent in and it was not long till a strong congregation was established in that community. But in the hands of a weaker man such a result was hardly likely to follow the services conducted in the barroom.

In pressing the overture upon the attention of the Presbytery of Manitoba, Mr. Robertson urged the necessity of such a fund, not only in the interests of a more harmonious and effective preaching service and a greater efficiency in Church work generally, but upon a ground which he crystallized in a great phrase that has become historically associated with the memory of its creator.

He urged the importance of a church building as giving "visibility and permanence" to the cause of religion. That phrase, "visibility and permanence," became a battle-cry on his lips during his campaign for this fund, and a great battle-cry it proved. Those who have lived their lives within sight of a church and within sound of a church bell, will find it diflicult, if not impossible, to estimate at full value the ethical effect of the mere building upon the moral life of the community. But men of the frontier have learned by experience how great this effect is.

A missionary writing in regard to the change wrought in the mind of the community by the building of a church says:

"Before the church was built in this village only the decidedly religious people could be got to attend service. The store was open, the bar was full, the ordinary business of the week went on as usual. But the very day the church was opened all this was changed. The store closed up, the bar was empty of all except a few recognized and well-seasoned ‘toughs,’ the ordinary work of the week stopped, and many came to church who would not think of coming to the service in the shack. The silent appeal of that building with the Gothic windows was a more powerful sermon than any I had ever preached. "

But Mr. Robertson was not at the Assembly of 1881 to press his overture. The Assembly was doubtful. A money scheme to many of the fathers and brethren is ever a suspicious innovation. Opposition developed. The overture was in the hands of Professor Bryce and the Western representatives. So serious did the opposition become that its supporters lost heart and a motion was proposed by Mr. W. T. Wilkins, seconded by Professor Bryce, asking leave to withdraw the overture. But to the rescue came the venerable Dr. Reid, seconded by that always champion of Western Canada, Principal Grant, with an amendment to remit the overture to the Home Mission Committee. The amendment carried, and the Church and Manse Building scheme was saved for the time being.

In the Home Mission Committee, however, there was opposition, but here Mr. Robertson, now become Superintendent, was able to show the large advantage that would accrue to Home Mission work from such a fund. He was further able to report that already a considerable amount had been promised for the fund. The first contribution, to the amount of one thousand dollars, had come from a friend in Newfoundland. Presbyterians in the West had promised support. The Home Mission Committee, still uncertain as to the ultimate effect of a canvass for a new fund upon their Home Mission revenue, were still unwilling to bestow their benediction, but allowed the Superintendent to go on with the canvass.

With all the concentrated energy of his being, the new Superintendent "goes on," putting his hand to a work, the magnitude of which not even he has begun to estimate. With shrewd foresight he begins in the West. His old congregation in Winnipeg backs him up with a handsome contribution; other congregations subscribe in proportion. Leading Presbyterians of the West, catching the spirit of the Superintendent, give largely. Then to the East he proceeds, sowing broadcast over the Church a Catechism on the Church and Manse Building Fund. It was not, indeed, the Shorter Catechism of high and honourable fame, but a new edition of the Mother’s Catechism, as one said, "for it was in the interest of the boys." Wherever he can get an opening he pleads his cause. On every hand he meets opposition, from lethargic pastors, from penurious congregations, from men with rival schemes, but with unfailing good humour and with indomitable perseverance he keeps pushing the Church and Manse Building scheme.

Writing from Cobourg, under date March 7th, 1882, to his wife, he, as always, takes her fully into his confidence: "To-night I have no meeting. I tried to arrange and the telegraph failed me. Came here last night and had a good meeting, collections $34.46. But the congregation is without a pastor and in a bad state. Tried to do something for our Church Building Fund, but met with little success. Got only about $190, but have promises of more. Hope to make it $500. Peterboro I was not able to canvass. Several things promised and I am going back there some time. I think $1,500 or $1,800 could be got there. This part of the country is not very hopeful and the young people are leaving. To-morrow I go to Madoc I am vexed at being sent to a place so little likely to do anything for our cause, but I must go." He is labouring under the direction of his Committee, and apparently not altogether unhampered.

Again from Kingston he writes: "Got here Saturday afternoon and am with Dr. Smith. He met me at the hotel. Called on McQuaig and Rev. Andrew Neilson about services. Preached for McOuaig yesterday morning. Congregation not large, but I understand that his is the most wealthy in Kingston. I did not get him to give a collection for the Home Mission Committee. Took tea there, however. He is soured at something about the Home Mission Committee. Which indisposition, however, is only temporary, his good sense coming to his aid. Preached for Neilson in the evening. There was a good deal of interest manifested, and I trust good will be done. But no collection was taken up for our fund. Last evening Principal Grant came to Dr. Smith’s and we had a chat on matters. He goes to Ottawa to attend the Legislature anent the Union Act. The anti-Unionists are doing all they can to defeat the measure and Sir Hugh Allan, Hickson of the Grand Trunk, etc., are lobbying with the Antis. But the bill will go through, I think.

"This morning I was trying to get men out to our meeting to-night so as to get them interested in our Church Building scheme. They fight shy of the measure, but several promised to be there. Dr. D—. went with me. We are going out this afternoon again. Belleville gave but little for our fund, but I trust to go back there again and we will do better. I address the students here to-morrow. We want as many as possible of them out there—of the right kind. The desire to go out is general, and I hope we may get the right men."

"Money and men !" He does not know it, but he has entered upon his life-long hunt. Ever as he tramps the streets of these Ontario towns and drives his long drives against storm and sleet, he is thinking of the little homeless congregations on the prairie and of the homeless missionaries and missionaries’ wives he is trying to settle in those homeless congregations. And, therefore, he cannot yield to discouragement, and no matter who or what may oppose, he presses hard upon his mission.

From Brockville on this same tour, under date March 22d, 1882, he writes:

"I have just got down-stairs to write you a note before I leave for Ottawa. I got here last evening and held a meeting. The day was very stormy and my attendance somewhat slim. The collection ‘ditto.’ I called on several before the meeting and they all appeared to be interested, but the night was such as would deter people from going out. I have no time to wait this morning to call on any for the Church and Manse Building Fund, but think that I will call here again. They think that $1,000 can be got, at any rate. I saw ex-Governor Morris at Ottawa and got $1,000 from him! I never expected the half of it." Though it is safe to say he never allowed His Honour to suspect any such modesty in his canvasser. "But I had a regular ‘set to’ with him in Toronto and hence he came down handsomely. Dr. Schultz promised me land to between $500 and $1,000, and I got $300 from Senator Sutherland. I am going to see some of the other men in Ottawa to-day and hope to do something. I must go to Montreal for to-morrow evening. Our meeting in Ottawa was large on Monday evening. Principal Grant, Macdonnell, and myself spoke. Grant made a capital speech. Macdonnell and myself were not so happy, but I got a good chance with them on Sabbath. I will go west from Montreal to Toronto, likely on Monday or Tuesday."

Stormy days and slim attendances do their worst, but men with vision of the coming greatness of the West are beginning to take an interest in his scheme, and so with better heart he goes to meet his still doubtful Committee.

From Toronto he writes on the 29th of March:

"I got here yesterday and was until late at the Home Mission Committee meeting. Not much business yet done. I do not know when we shall be through, but will go up to see you all as soon as I can get away, likely to-morrow.

"My Church and Manse Building scheme has not yet the approval of the Committee. They want the General Assembly to be seized of the matter and they recommend changes. I did not object and hence all, I trust, will go well." He has the genius that can wait and that knows when it is good to wait. The Committee, too, wise heads that they are, know that it will do nothing but good to allow the Assembly to view this work from many sides. He continues: "I found Montreal hard to move, but after Sabbath’s services things went better. Several told me that they were much pleased with the account given of the Country and would help in this scheme. Some even went so far as to call on me about the matter next morning." They are slow to move, these Montrealers, but their day for moving will come, and when they begin to get the "vision," they will be found in the line of advance. One of them has his eyes wide open already, for we read: "Dined with D. A. Smith yesterday evening, and he gave me $1,500. This is the only subscription from Montreal yet." Courage! A goodly number will follow Mr. Smith’s excellent lead.

So from town to town and from congregation to congregation he pushes his relentless canvass with the help of his somewhat cautious Committee, and without it, till he arrives at Toronto, the stronghold of Presbyterianism in Canada. He is expecting much, but he is doomed to grievous disappointment.

"I am just getting ready to go out canvassing to-day. Spent a part of two days and got $1,500 more. Toronto is hard to get at. Knox College has a scheme of endowment and people have got a hint to reserve their strength for that. Toronto was always selfish. It is Toronto first, last, and always. They will support what will build up Toronto, but for outside objects they give as little as they decently can."

Which all goes to show that Toronto is like other cities and like mankind generally, endowed with a very considerable amount of human nature. But Toronto, like Montreal, will change her mind about this man and about his work. The day will come when she will respond with loyal and eager enthusiasm when he leads. So off he goes to Montreal, where he remains till the meeting of the General Assembly which this year takes place in St. John.

With a brave heart he meets this august and venerable body and, indeed, he well may. It is his first appearance as Superintendent of Missions. To most of the fathers and brethren he is quite unknown by face. But already there is rumour attaching to him, and it is with keen expectancy that they wait his first appearance. He is asked to address the house in regard to the Church and Manse Building Fund. Tall and spare of form, rugged of face, and with the burr of the land of his birth still ringing in his voice, he rises to address the Assembly. Modestly, but with masterly management of his facts and with quiet touches of pawky humour here and there lighting up his narrative, he recounts his initial experience as a canvasser for Church funds.

It is the story of an extraordinary triumph. He has succeeded in enlisting the moral and financial support of leading Presbyterians of both East and West. He has secured from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company the promise to transport all building material at two-thirds the ordinary rate. Manitoba has already pledged $36, 000 for the fund. With a very partial canvass he has subscriptions from the East amounting to nearly $28,000. His total subscriptions to date amount to the magnificent sum of $63,726 and this, with promises more or less definitely given, he has reason to believe will give a grand total of $66,626!

While he is addressing the Assembly he holds in his hand a small black note-book. Ah, that note-book! What dismay it has struck to the heart of many an unwary critic! What foreboding it has brought to the mind of an unhappy and unwilling contributor! But what cheer and inspiration to many a doubtful Church court and depressed congregation! The Assembly listen amazed. That by a single man during the few months at his disposal, with the hesitating support of a Committee not yet fully committed to the scheme, this large sum— and for those days it was, indeed, a large sum—should have been raised, seemed an almost impossible achievement. The effect upon the minds of the fathers and brethren was great and immediate. There and then they, and especially the great leaders among them, took their new Superintendent to their hearts and gave him their confidence. He will have many a battle yet to fight; opposition, hostility, criticism, are yet in store for him, but from this moment his Church will not waver in following his lead. The future of the Church and Manse Building Fund, by the statement of the new Superintendent, was fully assured.

The raising and organizing of the Church and Manse Building Fund was, indeed, an achievement which might entitle any man to a high place in the esteem and the remembrance of his Church. The history of the growth and the operations of this fund only add to the lustre of his name who had the eye to see its necessity, the courage to plan, and the genius to carry out to a successful issue a scheme so fraught with blessing to the whole of Canada, both West and East. The phenomenal success of the first canvass made the further prosecution of the work an easier task. The Newfoundland friend who had given the first thousand dollars, hearing of the work being accomplished through the fund, secured from sympathetic friends a second thousand. A Toronto contributor returning from a tour of the West and seeing the work done through the country, expressed himself as highly pleased, and offered to increase his subscription. "When a leading Episcopalian was speaking to me," he said to the Superintendent, "about the energy of our Church and her success, I felt proud of being a Presbyterian." Another contributor of Toronto, similarly impressed with the value of the fund, volunteered to become a life-subscriber. Before five years had passed, the subscription list had grown to $114,792, though it is fair to say that owing to the severity of the financial depression following the collapse of the boom in the West, a considerable portion of the money subscribed could not be collected.

In his campaigning for funds, the Superintendent literally obeyed the Scriptural injunction to be instant in season and out of season. He never let an opportunity slip. On one occasion a good friend of his living in Ottawa, a university classmate, learning that the Superintendent was one of a party snow-bound for two or three days on the line between Pembroke and Ottawa, met him at the train on its arrival and with warm hospitality carried him off to his home, where he entertained him for some days right royally. As a further courtesy, the Ottawa gentleman put him up at the Rideau Club. Running his eye one day over the list of club members, the Superintendent made the happy discovery of some forty or fifty names of good Presbyterians. It looked like good hunting to him, and, like a hound upon the scent, he took up the trail. Not a man of them escaped, and it was many months before his Ottawa friend heard the last of the joke he had unwittingly played upon his unsuspecting club members.

Eager though he was to secure contributions for his cause, the Superintendent never sacrificed his self-respect and never allowed any man either to bully or to patronize him. On one occasion when in Ottawa he met a Canadian Pacific Railway magnate coming out of the Parliament Buildings.

"Well, Mr. Robertson," said the C. P. B. magnate, "I suppose you are on one of your begging tours."

"I am doing your work, sir," replied the Superintendent with dignity.

"My work?"

"Yes, sir. You are a Presbyterian, you are a Canadian, and you are interested in the West." And he proceeded to indoctrinate his listener in regard to his duty and privilege as a good Presbyterian and loyal Canadian towards the country from which he drew no inconsiderable portion of his income.

"Well," replied the great man, "I’ll give you fifty dollars."

"No, sir. I can’t take fifty dollars from you."

"‘Why note" was the indignant reply.

"I am going this afternoon to see Mr. X, Mr. Y, Mr. Z," mentioning the names of prominent wholesale men in Ottawa. " If they see your name down for fifty dollars they will at once put down their names for ten."

"You won’t take fifty, then?"

"No, sir, I can’t afford to."

"Well, good-morning," was the reply, and off went the C. P. R. magnate with his head in the air.

The Superintendent rolled up a good subscription list in Ottawa and Montreal, and the year following met the railway gentleman in the Parliament Buildings at Ottawa.

"Well, Mr. Robertson," was his greeting, "you are still on the warpath."

"Still at your work, sir," was the reply.

"What will you take this year?"

"What will you give, sir?" was the cautious answer.

"I’ll give you $250, but don’t come back again."

"I’ll take this," was the reply, "and thank you, sir, but I make no promises for the future. Good-morning, sir." And with that swift downward grip of his he left the railway man looking after him with covetous eyes. It was a pity that such a man should be wasted on canvassing for Church funds.

Not often did the Superintendent suffer abuse, and not always did he suffer in silence. During a canvass in the city of Toronto a friend who had subscribed liberally to his fund inquired, "Why not call upon my friend Mr. Blank? He is a Presbyterian and wealthy. He ought to give you something." He did not add that the friend in question was notoriously and constitutionally averse to subscription books of all kinds soever. In due time the Superintendent tapped at this wealthy Presbyterian’s office door.

"Come in," called a gruff voice.

He opened the door and stood with a pleasant smile, waiting an invitation to enter.

"Oh, I know you. You’re after money for that Godforsaken country of yours," was the almost fierce greeting hurled at him over the desk. "Well, I tell you, you needn’t come in here." And without pause, the loyal Presbyterian poured forth his indignation and contempt upon the surprised canvasser and his cause. But he had chosen the wrong man upon whom to vent his fury. With growing wrath the Superintendent listened till the man had quite exhausted his breath and his vocabulary, then took a turn himself.

"Mr. Blank, I came to your office, sir, at the suggestion of a friend of yours," he said in that vibrant voice of his. "I thought I was coming to see a gentleman. I was mistaken. You didn’t even offer me a seat. You gave me no opportunity to tell my business, you have heaped abuse upon me, but more than that, sir, you have vilified the cause which is the cause of the Church of which you profess to be a member, sir." And with cold and merciless deliberation he proceeded to remove the successive layers of pachydermatous tissue till he had the man on the raw. Then he poured forth an array of facts in regard to the country and the work he had in hand, driving them home with that long, bony index finger till the man was glad to get him out of his office with a proper apology and a check for one hundred dollars. Neither of them, however, saw the humour of the situation till the following year when the Superintendent was calling for his next annual installment.

When once a man whose conscience was normally active allowed the Superintendent to get him at short range, the result was almost always a subscription. On one of his hasty tours through British Columbia he took the opportunity of calling upon a Provincial Cabinet Minister, a gentleman of considerable wealth and devoted to the Presbyterian Church. The Superintendent laid the necessities of his cause before his sympathetic hearer and was gratified to receive a prompt response. The Cabinet Minister drew forth his check-book and writing out his check, handed it to his visitor. The Superintendent glanced at the check without reply. It was drawn for one hundred dollars.

"Well," said the subscriber with considerable surprise, "is not that satisfactory?"

"Hardly, from you, sir."

"Why, how much do you want?"

"Just another nothing, sir," pointing to the last figure on the check.

"What! A thousand dollars?"

"A thousand dollars, sir," replied the Superintendent, and sitting down, he drew his chair close to that of the Cabinet Minister, leaned towards him and with his hand upon his knee, went seriously at the business of revealing to him his privilege in the matter. It took one hour’s talk, but as the Superintendent naively remarked, "It was worth it. I got my thousand dollars!"

The summary of what the fund had accomplished during the first five years of its history is the most complete justification of its existence. This summary is found in a statement by the Superintendent accompanying the

Annual Report of the Board for the year 1887, and forms so remarkable a paper that it should have a place in the memory of all Presbyterians who love their Church and of all Canadians who love their country. It is as follows:

"The Church and Manse Building Fund was born of necessity. For several years before the Northwest was connected with the outside world by rail, settlers in considerable numbers were coming in. Their numbers increased as the prospects of a railway brightened. A large proportion of the newcomers were Presbyterians. Many of them were young, with characters unformed and with religious convictions unsettled. Some were in quest of homes, others of wealth. The wholesome restraints of settled society were wanting. With the break-up of home associations and the absence of restraint there lay the danger of the religious instincts becoming enfeebled and the sense of moral obligation blunted. If religious institutions were not planted among them and the teachings of early life followed up, indifference, irreligion, and vice were certain to become prevalent. The facts were laid before the Church, and prompt and energetic action was taken. Missionaries were appointed, and money voted to support them.

"But no sooner did missionaries appear on the ground than other difficulties presented themselves. There were neither churches in which to hold services, nor houses to shelter missionaries and their families. The Foreign Mission Committee appropriates its money to erect chapels, purchase bungalows, or procure health retreats. The moneys of the Home Mission Committee can only be voted to help to pay the salaries of missionaries.

"My first tour through our mission fields opened my eyes. Settlement was being rapidly effected, but for the eight years between 1874 and 1882 only fifteen churches had been erected. Schoolhouses were very few in number, and when available the low seats and narrow spacing proved rather trying to the long leg and longer thigh of the athletic Manitobans. I shall say nothing of the trials of female dress, with its projections and distentions. Services were, consequently, held for the most part in private houses, and as the ceiling was sometimes low and formed of hay or sod, it seemed a blessing to be short of stature. In summer, stables and stable lofts, byres and granaries, were fitted up; but the crowing, clucking and cackling of irreverent poultry, the barking of dogs, or the gambols of cattle, were too trying to the risibilities of the young; and odours more pungent than pleasant gave the sensitive nostril or the refractory stomach an excuse to rebel.

"Railway stations and section houses, unfinished stores and dwelling.houses, private and public halls were extemporized into churches wherever available ; but the rent of halls frequently left little of the revenue to be applied on salary, as such halls were built ‘on spec,’ and supposed to pay themselves in three years. Hotel parlours and dining-rooms, billiard and bar-rooms were secured, but only occasionally. It was feared by the owner that the service might interfere with the legitimate trade of the place. I have preached in the front of a house when the proprietor was selling whiskey in the rear, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that he was fined $200 and sent six months to jail. Ludicrous incidents could be given and laughable stories told. But missionaries compelled to labour in this way felt as if they laboured in vain and spent their strength for naught.

"The need of manses was greater still. Missionaries could get houses to rent at only a few points, and twenty dollars per month was asked for very inferior accommodation. When it is borne in mind that the salary was only eight hundred dollars, it will be seen that it was impossible for a minister to engage a house at such a figure. I have visited delicate, refined women and cultured ministers in houses scarcely fit to shelter cattle. Dr. Guthrie, in appealing to Scottish audiences for money with which to build manses for Free Church ministers, pointed his appeals with instances of heroic suffering. Cases of greater hardships could be cited in the history of missions in Manitoba. Disappointment, sickness, and diminished power for work followed. Men lost their ‘spring ‘—their energy,—and the work languished. An effort was made to reach the ear of the East, but a wilderness lay between, and Eastern pastors were busy with their own work.

"But why did not the people build They could not. Many of them were poor—financial depression drove them from the homes of their youth. For the first few years it was all outgo and no income with them. Building timber could not be had but at a few points; lumber and hardware were dear. Something had to be done to encourage, to stimulate, else the work would fail. Such were the circumstances that called the fund into existence, and similar circumstances created funds in the American churches.

"The effect of the fund on the work of the Church has been unmistakable. It has given visibility to Presbyterianism. There is not a village or town of any importance between Lake Superior and the Rocky Mountains that is not provided with a church, and many of the buildings are creditable structures. Rat Portage, Carberry, Brandon, Oak Lake, Virden, Whitewood, Moosomin, Wolseley, Grenfell, Indian Head, Qu’Appelle, Regina, Moosejaw, Medicine Hat, and Calgary, on the main line of the C. P. R.; Gladstone, Neepawa, Minnedosa, Rapid City, Strathclair, Shoal Lake, and Birtle, on the Manitoba and North-Western Railway ; Morden, Manitou, Pilot Mound and Boissevain, on the Pembina Mountain Railway, not to speak of Lethbridge and McLeod, Edmonton, Battleford, Fort Saskatchewan, Carman, Fort Qu’Appelle and the rest, all owe their churches to this fund. During the last five years eighty-two churches, four church manses and seventeen manses have been built, or one hundred and three structures in all, and of these ninety-four were assisted from the Church and Manse Fund. For the eight years prior to the existence of the fund only fifteen churches and manses were built, or not quite an average of two, while since the existence of the fund the average has been nearly twenty-one a year.

"The possession of a church has increased the audience, and widened the sphere for the ministers’ usefulness. Jones would not attend services held in Brown’s house, and Brown honestly paid Jones back; both attend services in the church.

"A church affords facilities for the prosecution of Sabbath-school work. In a country where religious training is too often neglected at home, the Sabbath-school is scarcely less important than the public service. The at-ten dance at the Sabbath-schools has increased nearly tenfold since the fund was organized.

"Churches have increased attendance on public service and swelled the revenues of congregations. Until Port Arthur had a church it received $300 from the Home Mission Fund; with the dedication of its church the congregation became self-sustaining. The contributions of Edmonton went up from $300 to $700, and those of Rat Portage from $550 to $1,000. Calgary became self-sustaining in three years, and now gives its pastor $1,200 per annum. Regina, Boissevain, Virden, Qu’Appelle, Oak Lake, and other centres experienced similar benefits.

"The increase in congregational contributions has enabled the Church to extend her operations. The money saved in older districts has been available for work in new fields, if to-day there is no settlement of any size or a centre of any promise where a missionary of the Church is not ministering to the religious wants of the people, it is to a considerable extent due to the operations of the Church and Manse Board. The fund has been a valuable aid in church extension.

"It has saved money directly to missionaries and the funds of the Church. Seventeen manses have been already erected. At an average rental of $15 per month, an annual saving of $3,060 is effected. This sum capitalized at eight per cent., the ruling rate of bank interest, would amount to $38,250, or four-fifths of the total amount expended by the Board. Wherever the minister of an augmented congregation is provided with a manse, he receives $50 less from the Augmentation Fund. These manses have contributed to the comfort of our missionaries, and so removed the reproach of neglect on the part of the Church. It has increased their power to help young people, and so to weld the congregation into a compact whole.

"The timely aid extended has cheered the hearts of missionaries and people; it has helped to make the Church one and keep the West closely attached to the East. In their times of political disintegration this is a national blessing.

"With all that has been done, the work of the Board is only beginning. New fields in considerable numbers are being occupied every year. Four-fifths of the ministers are without manses, and three-fourths of the points occupied are without churches.

"During last summer several contributors to the fund, from Toronto, Montreal, and other centres, visited the Country. They expressed themselves much pleased with the work of the Board, and they have increased their former contributions. Their cordial approval influenced their acquaintances to help the work."

And so from year to year this fund will continue to be a source of blessing to both congregations and missionaries and a mighty influence in the establishing of true religion in the hearts and lives of the people of Western Canada. Long years afterwards, in the last report which he will submit to his Church, this significant record of nineteen years’ work will find a place:

"It is nearly nineteen years since the Board was organized; at that time the Presbyterian Church owned only eighteen churches and three manses between Lake Superior and the Pacific Coast. During these nineteen years, the Board has aided in erecting 393 churches, eighty-two manses, and three schoolhouses to be used as churches, or 478 buildings in all, worth about $574,000."

A year later, the report will open with this pathetic word:

"The report this year is drawn by a new hand. The hand that for the last twenty years prepared the annual statement of the work done by the Church and Manse Board is still, alas, forever." And then the report will proceed to give this magnificent summary of twenty years’ work: "It would be impossible to estimate the value of the aid given by the fund to our whole work by the erection of church buildings during the last twenty years. This fund has assisted in the erection of 419 churches, ninety manses, and four schoolhouses, and has put the Church in possession of property worth $603,835; but the value to the Church in Western Canada cannot be estimated in dollars and cents. The equipment in churches and manses is the least of the advantages that have come to the Church by means of this fund."

It is largely due. to the influence of the Christian Church that in no part of Western Canada has there ever been a "wild West" in the American sense of that word, and of that part of the credit due to the Presbyterian Church for this, a large share must be ascribed to the operation of this Church and Manse Building Fund, which has helped to give "visibility and permanence" to religion in nearly 500 settlements widely scattered throughout Western Canada. In this connection, a paragraph in the London Times of August 18th, 1904, referring to the proposed visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Canada, makes good reading:

"Informal consultations with such Canadian bishops as the Archbishop can find an opportunity to meet on their own ground cannot but be an advantage for the future development of their work. He will get far enough West to realize that prompt pioneer work in the interests of the Anglican Church is essential, but he will understand the urgency of such work and will admire the enterprise of his fellow Scots, who are planting the Presbyterian ministry all over the remote West."

And in that planting the master hand was his to whose seeing eye the possibilities of harvest were so vividly evident, and to whose genius was due that splendid instrument of spiritual garnering, the Church and Manse Building Fund.


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