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The Life of James Robertson
A LONG PULL


THE ten years from 1887, when the General Assembly first met in Winnipeg, to 1897, when the Assembly revisited the Capital City of the West, were for the Superintendent years of unceasing and strenuous toil. During these years the lines of occupation were steadily advanced. From post to post, with slow progress at times, but with never a stop, the Church pushed on to take the new land. It was no summer jaunt, but a fierce and bitter conflict, in which the Western missionaries, led on by their great chief, paid out literally their life’s blood unknown to the Church that sent them into the campaign. It was a great adventure. Great in its issues; it was for an empire and for an imperial base of world conquest for the Kingdom of Heaven. Great in its sacrifices; it demanded the lives of men and women, who, without thought of heroism or of aught but duty and privilege, gladly laid them down. Great in its triumphs; for in spite of losses and failures, the line of advance never wavered, but moved steadily forward till everywhere in Western Canada floated the banner of the Church. But great as was the triumph and worthy of all the sacrifice, it is sad and humiliating to look back and see how unnecessary much of this sacrifice was; for the simple fact emerges from the records that never for a single year did the Church furnish adequate supplies to those conducting the campaign. There was never enough money and never enough men.

It was during the Assembly’s excursion to the Pacific Coast in 1887 that the Superintendent was approached in

regard to his accepting an honorary degree, and, in the year following, the Presbyterian College of Montreal did itself honour in honouring the Superintendent of Missions for Manitoba and the Northwest Territories with the title of Doctor of Divinity. The granting of this honour is a significant indication that the Superintendent was coming to his place in the estimation of the Church.

In his report for that year, his Western field was described as reaching from White River, on the north shore of Lake Superior, to Revelstoke, in the mountains of British Columbia, 1,800 miles long by 350 wide; and as a result of the work of the five great years preceding, he was able to say, with surely pardonable pride, that there was no settlement of any size, along the line of railway, but was reached in some way with Gospel ordinances. The population of Manitoba at this time had risen to 108,640, a gain of 74.5 % in five years. Of this population the Presbyterian Church claimed 28,406, a gain of 104.4 %, leading all others by 5,200. This vast field was organized into five Presbyteries—Winnipeg, Brandon, Rock Lake, Regina, and Calgary, exclusive of the Presbytery of Columbia—and manned by 149 workers of all kinds. But every year settlement pushed on into the unclaimed wilds, and hard upon the heels of settlement followed the Church.

In 1889, such is the development in the northern and western portions of the Presbyteries of Brandon and Regina, that reorganization is necessary, and the new Presbytery of Minnedosa is formed. In the following year, the building of the Calgary and Edmonton line of railway opens up Northern Alberta, and the Superintendent is discovered, as we should expect, far beyond the limit of construction, planting new missions in anticipation of settlement. A characteristic letter gives an account of his return to civilization:

"Calgary, Nov. —, 1890.

"Mv DEAR MR. MCQUEEN —"Got a good start on Monday and reached Ramsey’s

for the night. Wolf Creek was reached for dinner Tuesday and Red Deer in the evening. Hearing that a train was going out early in the morning—likely the last for the season—I went down to Gaetzboro and found camp-fires, men, mules and horses, all over the site of the future city. Finding no better place to rest, I went into a box-car and got a three hours’ sleep. The cries of teamsters loading stock soon compelled me to get up. Breakfast was got under circumstances not very appetizing, and I was prepared for the journey. After the usual shunting, delays and false starts, we got off and reached here at 15.45.

"Saw McLellan at Red Deer for a short time. Financial outlook there gloomy. He boarded the missionary, but got nothing, nor was anything raised for anybody. The missionary’s conduct is inexplicable, for he had printed instructions. The board may be paid, but nothing more. An ordained man must be planted at the Red Deer, one who will work up the field. The town will be put on the market next spring, and settlement is likely to increase. I find that a good deal of land is being taken up, and that settlement will likely proceed steadily.

"I shall submit the financial situation at Fort Saskatchewan, etc., to Presbytery to-morrow and write you afterwards.

"With kind regards to Mrs. McQueen and yourself, and many thanks for your hospitality and friendliness,

"In haste,

"J. ROBERTSON."

In 1890, he paid a visit to British Columbia and was humiliated and disgusted to find that on the railway not a passenger knew of any Presbyterian missionary or Presbyterian church in the mountains, except that one unusually bright youth "had heard tell of a Presbyterian parson on the Coast somewhere." But more than this, the Superintendent was shocked beyond measure during his trip through British Columbia, at the terrible evidences of neglect everywhere apparent in the interior districts of the Province. As a result of this visit, the Columbia Presbytery made a request that his constituency should be extended to include British Columbia. At the General Assembly of the same year this was done, and with such good result that, two years later, the Assembly was called upon to erect the Synod of British Columbia, consisting of the three Presbyteries of Vancouver Island, Westminster, and Kootenay, together with the Presbytery of Calgary. His mission territory now extended from White River, Ontario, to the Pacific, but his field of operations knew no limits other than those that marked the boundaries of the Dominion. The including of British Columbia within his constituency meant a wider sphere of influence and greater opportunities of service, but it demanded, as well, longer and more toilsome journeys, larger expenditure of vital energy, and more complete sacrifice of family ties. He was reaching more nearly the ideal set forth in those sweeping words, "Yea, and his own life also."

So great had been the growth of settlement in the older sections of the West that the Assembly of 1894 was asked to erect four new Presbyteries—Superior, Portage la Prairie, Melita, and Glenboro—making thirteen in all. But in spite of all he had been able to accomplish, the Superintendent was forced to lament in his report for the year that there were 25,000 Presbyterians somewhere in the West uncared for by the Church. It was a startling announcement, but with no very visible effect, for the Church in Canada was but slowly waking to its responsibility and its opportunity.

Two years later, in 1896, the Presbytery of Edmonton was erected, the most northerly in Canada, possibly in the world. When one considers the rapidity of expansion, one is not surprised that the Church should lag behind, for never in the history of Christendom was there ever such a pace set for the advancing line of Christian conquest.

In these ten years the mission fields went up from 81 to 176, a gain of over 100 % ; the preaching stations from 335 to 652, a gain of nearly 100 % ; the church buildings from 68 to 172, a gain of 152% ; the families from 3,148 to 5,926, a gain of over 88 % ; the communicants from 3,956 to 6,773, a gain of over 71%. No wonder the Superintendent almost had to break his heart in his endeavor to secure men. No wonder the Home Mission and Augmentation Committees had to appear before General Assembly repeating year after year the disappointing story of successive deficits. While his Committees loyally supported him, it was the Superintendent in the long run who had to bear the brunt of the fight for the securing of men and means, and it is sad to remember that, strive as he might, the spectre of inadequate supply haunted him for the greater part of his life.

There was also a continuous struggle for funds. In 1888, for Western work, the Home Mission and Augmentation Committees expended in grants alone over $25,000, and yet were forced to report to the Assembly a deficit. In the following year the deficit for Home Missions was $745, and for Augmentation the very considerable sum of $3,768. These deficits sent the Superintendent on a tour throughout the Maritime Provinces in the autumn of that year. The story of a bit of that eager hunt is packed into a characteristic letter to his wife written from Amherst, N. S., under date of November 20, 1889:

"My DEAR WIFE : "I have not had a letter from home for a long time, but I hope you are all well. I am as busy as I can well be, in corresponding and holding meetings. Eleven meetings per week is about the average, and I will soon have visited most of the congregations of any size or substance down here. I have no appointments beyond the 5th of December, so that I hope to get home by the 8th or 10th. The meetings here have been quite as successful as I expected, and I look for $4,000 or $5,000 unless they have all been lying, which I cannot believe. I feel, too, that a permanent interest in Western work is created, and that we shall have a perennial source of funds. The people have been most hospitable and cordial in their reception of me everywhere. I shall go back with the kindest feelings towards all of them."

"Eleven meetings per week!" This might satisfy even so insatiable a worker as the Superintendent, but the empty hours between meetings he fills in with his interminable correspondence. Not till after it was too late, did his Church realize how much she might have prolonged his life and extended his usefulness had she furnished him with a secretary. "Four or five thousand dollars !" Yes, and a great deal more money does he carry from the loyal, warm-hearted men of the sea provinces, and "warm feelings" that have never chilled to this present. Those provinces have bred great men for Canada, and they were great enough to know one of their own kind when he appeared among them. But in spite of the Superintendent’s tours, in spite of the energy and eloquence of the indefatigable Conveners of Home Mission and Augmentation, Dr. Cochrane and Rev. D. J. Macdonnell, in spite of the financial ability of the Secretary, Dr. Warden, this deficit continues to clog the westward march of the Church.

The General Assembly of 1890 is informed that with deep regret the Committee has found it necessary to reduce the salaries in Augmented charges because of insufficient funds. The General Assembly energetically proceeds to legislate, but the deficits continue.

In 1891 the matter is considered serious enough to warrant a Pastoral Letter from the Moderator. The spectre, however, will not be laid, but insists on appearing the following year with the Augmentation report. The situation is desperate enough to harden the tender heart of the Secretary of the Committee, who proposes strenuous regulations governing Augmented congregations, and a reduction of grants. But after the Superintendent has pointed out that the West is doing its best, contributing the past year some $238,000, one-ninth of the entire revenue of the Church, and after he has given the Assembly some vivid and pathetic pictures of the interiors of manses in Augmented charges, the Assembly will not listen to the proposed regulations, much less to reductions in salary. The regulations remain unchanged. A second council of despair to reduce Augmented salaries by thirty dollars, the Superintendent also succeeds in having rejected, and the salaries remain at their normal and surely meagre enough minimum. There being no other hope, the Assembly orders another Pastoral Letter, to be backed up by Deputies to Presbyteries.

Leaving the Pastoral Letter and the Deputies to their work, the Superintendent again takes the trail. We find him in the late autumn in the neighbourhood of Yorkton, in Northern Assiniboia. His experiences in this district are set down in a letter to his wife, of date November 19, 1892, and arc worth recording:

"I had a stormy time in the West. Left Winnipeg Saturday, and reached Saltcoats about 10 P. M. A man frantically came on board the train and shouted if Dr. Robertson was on board. I assured him he was. He then told me I would have to come off and marry a couple. This I declined to do until I could see the conductor. I told him the situation and got him to stop the train till I could marry these good people, and the conductor went with me to the hotel. But the bride was in the kitchen working, ignorant of what was coming. She was taken away, hurriedly washed and dressed and ushered into my presence. She belonged to the Crofters, and I had to marry partly in Gaelic and partly in English, but finally got them made one. Started for the station, and got to Yorkton in good time. But when I reached there I found the minister absent, and no place where I could stop, and the night wild. I hunted round and got a place about twelve o’clock, but when I went to the room I found it was recently plastered, and that it was not safe. I at last had a place pointed out to me where the people had gone to bed. I knocked at the door and a woman appeared. She had no place. I told her I never saw a woman stuck yet in such an emergency, and that I was quite prepared to sleep on the table or on the floor. She invited me to go in, which I did. She went away leaving me in the dark, and came back telling me the best she could do was to let me in beside her husband. I went, and slept soundly, not looking who slept on the other side of him, but there were three in bed, as I found in the morning.

"Morning stormy, but I hired a horse and drove out eight miles. Found missionary storm-bound, and not going to station beyond at all. I told him I would go, and instructed driver to take me there. Found a small congregation, but was glad I went. Preached, and returned to where the missionary was. He had Communion service, and I preached and addressed people. Missionary remained all night, and I returned to evening service. Waited to have the Crofter missionary come and take me down there. He did not come, and I hired and drove there. Found that the storm was too much for him, too, and that he never left the house Sabbath. Drove to Salt-coats, seventeen miles, and went next morning to Crofters.

They are badly off. I do wish you would try to get some of your ladies to get some clothing. There are twenty-three families. No crop, not even potatoes. Held a meeting that night at Saltcoats. Next day came to Neepawa and held Thanksgiving service, and another in evening at Rapid City. Got promise of twenty-five bags of flour for Crofters."

The Christmas season of that year finds him still pursuing with invincible pertinacity the storm-blown trails of the far Northwest. The following letters written to his wife give us a realistic picture of how his days were packed with work. There is something almost appalling in that record of journeys and meetings. One does not know whether to wonder more at that restless, resistless energy that drove him through his work, or the invincible buoyancy of spirit that made him indifferent to toil, privation, and hardship. The first letter is written from Calgary some time in the early part of December and is as follows:

"The Horse Hills meeting was well attended. Thence we drove to the Sturgeon, but on the way our conveyance—a jumper—broke down. In the old days we could easily have mended it, for every one had his pocket full of shaganappi and ‘babeesh’ (babiche), but, alas! these days are past and there was nothing for it but to try to take pieces out of the harness; were successful, but spent so much time that we lost our supper. The meeting was largely attended and much interest shown. After the meeting I visited an old acquaintance, Sutherland, who lost his wife a year ago, and who fell into a threshing machine and saved his life by his extraordinary strength. He is crippled for life, but quite cheerful. His daughter was away and he could not give us anything to eat. We did not tell him we had no supper. At eleven we started to drive twelve miles to Edmonton, and reached it in good time. On the evening of the next day I addressed the Edmonton people on mission work, and they had a social gathering afterwards. I saw quite a number of old faces and spent a pleasant time.

"Till Sabbath I spent my time visiting South Edmonton, and addressing the people, and organizing a mission. Preached twice in Edmonton and once in South Edmonton on Sabbath, and explored Monday. Tuesday I started for Lacombe, and had a meeting in the railway station. Wednesday drove eighteen miles south to Red Deer and held a meeting, and on Thursday, eighteen miles here. Last night we tried to reach Olds, eighteen miles southwest, but the driver failed to reach there and we nearly spent the night on the prairie. The missionary did his best to get me through, but in vain. Stars were hidden and we steered by instinct, or rather I did, for he got confused and lost his bearings. We got within about three miles of the place and fell into such drifts that it was deemed prudent to retrace our steps. We reached here about 1 A. M. Mrs. Buchanan and two other ladies—young women—were here when we arrived and asked us whether we lost ourselves. We replied no, that we were here. Had we lost the trail, then? Could we lose what we never had. ?

"To-morrow we have the Communion dispensed here. Monday I go north to Wetaskiwin, and return to Calgary, Tuesday. I then go to Canmore, and return to Olds. On the 24th I go to McLeod where I was to get a dish of ancient eggs a few years ago, but did not. I then return, after visiting Pincher Creek, and go to Prince Albert. I return and go down along the line of the Canadian Pacific expecting to reach Winnipeg about the 11th.

"I do not know how long after, ere I get to Ontario, but likely not very long. "To this district a large number of settlers are coming, and where we have four missions now, we shall have nine next spring."

One would think that after that terrific tour, packed with "organizing,’’ "addressing," "visiting," ‘‘exploring," dashing through storms and drifts, bearing cold and hunger, sleepless nights and disappointments, the Superintendent had earned his right to a week’s rest in his home with his family. But he cannot reach them and return to his work without a journey of 5,000 miles, consuming twelve or fourteen precious days and costing more money than he has to spend. So he closes the letter with the words:

"I was glad to get so much home news. I hope you are all well. I am sorry not to be at home on Christmas Day"

On the 22d of December he writes from Calgary as follows:

"I have just got in from Olds, forty miles north, where I held a meeting yesterday, and I go over to-morrow morning to McLeod, over 100 miles. The weather is very cold and stormy, and travelling uncomfortable. Monday I have to go up from McLeod to Pincher Creek, a distance of thirty-two miles, and I fear it will not be comfortable travelling. I expect to return to McLeod Wednesday to take the train back here. While at Edmonton I had fine weather and enjoyed the trip. From here I go to Prince Albert, and it is likely the weather there is keen. However, I shall soon get through there. I have had word necessitating, I fear, my taking a trip to Southeastern Assiniboia after returning from Prince Albert, and if I do, I cannot go East when I expected. From Herdman I learned that the Synod of British Columbia meets in March. I want to be present for various reasons and in that case it is scarcely worth while to go East till March when I go to the meeting of the Home

Mission Committee. However, I shall decide nothing now, as much depends on how matters shape themselves for the next two weeks."

It is because this man will not rest by day or night that his Committee find it difficult to furnish him with either men or money.

Before the Assembly of the following year, the Superinten dent found time to make a memorable trip down the Fraser Valley in British Columbia. Appointments had been made at various points throughout that district. Meantime, the Fraser, swollen by the June rains, had burst its banks and rendered all the low-lying ground almost impassable. But the Superintendent was not to be denied. He must keep his engagements at all costs and at all hazards. And keep them he does. He gives an account of some of his experiences in the following letter to his wife:

"Calgary, June 7, 1893.

"DEAR WIFE :— "I reached here about an hour ago, intending to wait for the meeting of Presbytery here to-morrow. The trip in British Columbia was, on the whole, rough, owing to the late spring and the shocking state of the roads, but appointments were in every case kept, and I have reason to be thankful. I walked till my feet gave way, rode where I could, drove where it was practicable, took canoe, rowboat, steamer, and train. Had I a chance to try a balloon I would have tested and tasted all the usual methods of travel. No doubt I would have fared better had I been web-footed on several occasions, but in the absence of the webbed foot I was glad to own feet sufficiently large to prevent me from sinking everywhere. For the first time in almost twenty years I got drenched to the skin, and had the luxury of sitting in the bottom of a canoe for hours, which was constantly shipping enough of the tawny Fraser to sink it, but for frequent bailing. And when I tried to buy a suit of underclothing I was denied the privilege, and helped myself of the shelf without leave. But so far I have escaped arrest.

"After business is over here I go to Winnipeg, where I am to remain for a day, and then I go East. Kisses for Mamma, Tina, Jim, Stan and Terry.

"YOUR HUSBAND."

That year the Home Mission Fund is saved by a lucky bequest, but no such good fortune befalling the Augmentation Fund, the annual deficit with the consequent reduction in salary, is reported to the Assembly, the Convener taking occasion sadly to remind the Church that for years past this average deficit in the Fund has amounted to almost $4,000 per annum. That is one side of the picture. The other side is presented by the Superintendent who, in his address, gives an account of all his various journeyings and labours, reports expansion and consolidation, calls attention to the ominous presence of a colony of 700 Mormons in Southern Alberta, and with this last item of information presents a resolution of the Assembly’s Home Mission Committee asking that a mission be established among these people. The Assembly, however, has no money for Presbyterians, much less for Mormons, and the resolution of the Committee is hastily forgotten. The Superintendent gives a stirring report of mining activity in British Columbia, and demands the attention of the Church for incoming miners. But all to no purpose. The Home Mission Fund has been practically wiped out, the Augmentation Fund is in an even less healthy condition, necessitating a cut in salaries. The miners, too, must be forgotten. The Superintendent further announces that the immigration for the year has reached the inspiring figure of 38,000, and that development will be rapid in the spring. The Assembly is duly inspired, but is hopeless in regard to funds.

The horizon is somewhat dark, but at one point there is a light breaking. The Convener reports that during the past year he had issued a commission to the Rev. C. W. Gordon, who, on his return from his mission in the mountains a year ago, had proceeded to Britain for a year’s study, after which he had been spending some months in presenting the claims of the Northwest to the Churches in the Homeland. Mr. Gordon had received so hearty a welcome and was meeting with such large success, that the Convener was hopeful that very substantial help would be given by the British Churches. The Assembly is greatly relieved and much rejoiced that at length the home Churches are beginning to take an interest in their children over seas, passes resolutions and dissolves, much comforted.

The financial depression continues throughout the year, and into 1894. The Home Mission Committee meets the Assembly with the gloomy announcement that the receipts of the Fund have been $6,000 less than those of last year, and that the situation has been saved only by special donations and grants from Churches abroad. The Augmentation Fund, too, is in a deplorable condition, the only relief in the situation being achieved by the simple but hardly satisfactory method of a further cut in salaries.

The Superintendent reports a large increase in the Mormon colony in Alberta, so large, indeed, that the Calgary Presbytery was constrained on its own motion to inaugurate a mission, the funds for which had been secured by the Superintendent. Work had been begun, too, among the foreign peoples who were settling in the West. Two missionaries were to work among the Ice-landers, one among the Hungarians, one among the Germans, one among the Scandinavians. All this involved the Church in larger expenditure. Retrenchment was impossible. The Church must advance. But how to advance without funds, the Assembly knows not.

The return of their deputy from the British Churches is most opportune. Mr. Gordon is warmly received as he presents his report. And a remarkable report it is. Great Britain, but especially Scotland, is the happy hunting-ground for all impecunious missionary schemes. It had been difficult to gain access to the congregations, but access having been effected through the good offices of the various Colonial Committees and of personal friends deeply interested in Canada, the Northwest and its magnificent appeal had touched the hearts and the imaginations of the people. To such an extent was this true, that Mr. Gordon was able to report the assuming of the support of between forty and fifty missions on the part of the British Churches for a period of from three to five years at $250 each. This truly generous response on the part of the home Churches, dissipates in large measure the financial gloom overhanging the Home Mission situation, and encourages the Superintendent and those associated with him to a still more vigorous prosecution of their work.

In 1895 the Church manifests its appreciation of the Superintendent and his work by unanimously electing him to the highest office within its gift. It has been a hard year financially throughout the Dominion, and the West has not escaped the general financial stringency. In British Columbia there have been serious floods on the Fraser, and a large section of the country is, therefore, in straits. The Superintendent reports that the immigration for the year shows a slight increase, that opportunities are greater than ever, the needs of the country also greater. In the Cariboo district, with a population of 3,000, about half that number are Presbyterian, and without a single missionary. Work among the Mormons is proving more difficult than was anticipated. Its progress is not satisfactory, but it cannot be abandoned.

The work among the foreigners, too, is making larger demands. With the help of Old Country moneys, however, the year closes without a deficit.

The election of Dr. G. L. Mackay in 1894, and of Dr. Robertson in 1895, the outstanding representatives of the Foreign and Home Mission fields, to the office of Moderator, had brought these two great departments of Church work into prominence and inevitably, to a certain extent, into competition for the attention and support of the Church. On retiring from the office, the great representative of Foreign Missions had preached a powerful sermon, setting forth the claims and the opportunities of that work to which he had given his life. In accepting office, the great representative of Home Missions in the Canadian Church made the following graceful reference to Foreign Mission work:

"These are two sisters, the one is younger or perhaps has more charms than the other, still an elder sister has a warm place in the heart of the Church, and that we found when an effort was put forth recently to relieve the Home Mission deficit."

For his retiring sermon he chose a text usually selected for a Foreign Mission address: "But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth."

The sermon was a noble exposition of the principles underlying all mission work, and a splendid apology for the view that held all mission work to be one. But, as was expected of him, he proceeded to give a lucid and comprehensive review of the work accomplished in the Canadian West during the past fifteen years. It was a sermon worthy of the great theme, and some of its periods deserved to live in the memory of the Church. And it is to be regretted that no report remains beyond a single reference in the press of the day, to the strength and dignity of the utterance. In dealing with the difficulty of overlapping, the following sentences are preserved. After frank acknowledgment of the evil, he proceeds to say:

"Overlapping could have been prevented in many cases, and the evil mitigated if our own Church had made up its mind to occupy its missions continuously. The withdrawal of forty or fifty missions in the autumn, leaving families like sheep without a shepherd, is an invitation to another Church to step in—an invitation seldom declined.

"There is some overlapping, but less than is commonly reported. The returns to Assembly show good value for money spent. No good money thrown into muskegs. But where there is overlapping is our Church always the offender ? We offend less than some others. But if we occupy a field, build a church, etc., etc., are we to sneak away because others come in? There is no breach of Christian comity. A timid, questioning, penurious policy can only win contempt and defeat. Moreover, Presbyterianism represents principles that have done man and religion rare service in the past—are these not to find expression and exposition all over the West ? To play their part in shaping the national life? Let overlapping be reduced to a minimum, but let no deserving group of Presbyterians complain that their Church had forsaken them, suppressed her principles to save her pocket."

There is a ring of sturdy manliness about this declaration that cannot fail to win the approval of all self-respecting Presbyterians. In a single paragraph the sermon depicts the marvellous growth of twenty-one years:

"Since the union, twenty-one years ago, over 200 missions have become congregations. Under our charge are 400 missions still, with 1,200 stations (one-sixth of the families of the Church, one-ninth of her communicants). Twenty years ago, one feeble Presbytery in the West, now thirteen. Preaching places increased from 35 to 818, communicants from 500 to 19,000. The strength and prestige of the Church are increased by these gains, enabling her to undertake and carry out work that else would have been far beyond her. The spiritual life is deepening; not one point has been abandoned; the religious barometer is rising."

It is a great Home Mission Assembly, but the report from the Home Mission Committee is not calculated to quicken the enthusiasm. While the year closes with a balance of $4,000 to the good, this is not due to increased liberality on the part of the Church, but rather to the practice of the severest economy in administration, and to the liberal assistance from British Churches. The Convener, Dr. Cochrane, finds it necessary to warn the Assembly solemnly that unless the support of the Church for this branch of its work reach a point far above any yet touched, retrenchment is inevitable.

But there is no idea of retrenchment in the mind of the Superintendent, nor in the minds of the men in the West. Indeed, retrenchment is the last thing thought of there. The Calgary Presbytery has grown too big for satisfactory administration, and hence upon its northern confines the new Presbytery of Edmonton is erected, making fourteen in all now in that part of Canada lying west of the Great Lakes. All this expansion means larger financial support, and realizing how inadequate are the present sources of supply, and remembering that in some cases the period of supporting their missions on the part of Churches in Britain secured by Mr. Gordon has elapsed, the Committee resolves to send their Superintendent as a deputy to the Motherland, to lay the facts before the Churches there, and to invite their continued support and, if possible, in even larger measure.

There was another cause that weighed with the Committee, and one, the ominous significance of which at the time was not fully understood. There were all too evident signs upon the Superintendent of Missions that his iron constitution aud sinewy frame were at last beginning to feel the strain of those fifteen years of toils and trials immeasurable. And so he was sent across the sea for a change and rest, they said. A change it was, true enough; but rest was to him impossible while his work was undone.

In the autumn of 1896, Dr. Robertson sailed for Scotland, and with the interval of but a single Sabbath, set out at once on his quest for money. His first difficulty, and it proved his greatest, was to get access to the people. The way was blocked; the Church treasurer or the minister not unfrequently stood on guard. Then, too, there were countless prior claims pressed upon the Christians of Scotland. To Mr. Gordon he writes some weeks after his arrival, as follows:

"The Established Church people have a large Foreign Mission debt, and are holding meetings in every centre and canvassing in every quarter to wipe it out. It would seem, from what was said here by Lord Low, Lord Polwarth, Dr. Macgregor, Dr. McLeod, and others, that the good name of the Church was involved, and for honour men will fight, when they would not even strive to enter in at the strait gate. And the Free Church and the United Presbyterian have their Foreign Mission deficits, too, and debt is heard from all parts of the land. And in Edinburgh, central congregations are losing by removal to the suburbs, and the suburbs have to build more spacious and pretentious structures to attract and accommodate the newcomers, and neither class feels able to assume new burdens. And, truth to tell, ministers are not enthusiastic over the scheme. Nothing could be finer than the spirit shown in the Presbytery, but when you ask for an opportunity of addressing the congregation—well, that is another matter."

Further on he says:

"This seems the happy hunting-ground for all schemes and plans. Has an Irish minister a church to build, a manse to repair, or a hall to roof, he must come to Glasgow. Has a Highlander lost his cow, his boat, or his bonnet, he must come to Glasgow to get wherewith to buy a new one. And as for Colonial schemes, French Canadians, Chiniquy, the Cape, West Australia, Canadian Northwest, they all and a dozen other schemes present their claims, and this every year, besides Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Home Missions, Church building, Foreign Missions. The trouble is that a select few are always approached, while a large number of comfortable people are not come-at-able. But Pessimism never helped a cause, and I am not going to say anything more of this."

There is no strain of pessimism or of cowardice in his blood, and so, making no complaint, but calling upon all his resources of full and detailed knowledge, of courtesy and tact, of skill and energy, he goes at his work till by sheer dogged perseverance he makes his way into the pulpit and thence in short order into the hearts of his hearers. The following extract from a letter to his wife makes good reading to us who love to remember his manner with the people:

"Last Sabbath the minister in introducing me said he did not think they could give anything, but that I wished to address them and that he could not well refuse, but that while they could give no money they would give their moral support and their prayers! What could you do after that? I was nettled and spoke out. I told them that if they would talk in that way, they must allow me to analyze their case. If they could give but simply would not, how much was their moral support worthy? A good deal less than nothing. And if they were to pray, they should be able to say, ‘Lord, Thou knowest we have nothing and cannot help this work, deserving as we believe it to be; incline the hearts of those who have, to help it forward.’ God would hear such a prayer, but I was afraid. He would have little patience with the man who prayed that others less able might give to save his pocket. Some smiled aloud and Professor D—, who was present, said that whatever the minister said, they would try to see what could be done. He was much pleased with the presentation of the case, and promised help."

The good people of Scotland are a long-suffering and much-hunted folk, but they are people of sense and of conscience. None in the world know better a good investment, and none in the world respond more readily to the claims of the Kingdom of Heaven. Towards the end of his stay, he writes as follows in regard to the results of his mission:

"Edinburgh has responded fairly. A number of them thought that three years would end the matter, and since these have come to an end, they are of the opinion that no more should be asked. Dr. Hood Wilson’s people promised, as you know, for three years, but will go on. St. Andrew’s ‘ditto.’ Dr. John Smith was telling me his people were much interested, and that I might depend on their continuing theirs, too. A week ago last Sabbath I was in Free St. George’s, and I am informed they will continue. Dr. Barbour told me he would give £50 as for the past three years, and give me £100 this year for the Building Fund. Sheriff Jamieson gives me £10 a year for five years for the Building Fund. Drummond's people (United Presbyterian, Lothian Road) will continue, and Mr. Williamson’s people who gave nothing last year, are taking the matter up and will report. 1 told you, I think, Morningside Free Church promises £60 for three years.

I addressed Dr. Donald McLeod’s congregation last Sabbath. He brusquely told me in the vestry not to ask for money, for they had none to give. He took the devotional part of the service, but gave me twenty-five minutes, then I was to engage in prayer, give out a hymn to sing, and pronounce the benediction. After the hymn was sung he came to the front of the platform, told the people what he had said to me, but frankly stated that the address had caused him to change his mind. He offered to be one of twenty-five to give £2 a year, and quite an amount was got at the close. He told me yesterday he was to follow the matter up to-morrow, and expected to get the balance of the £50. Lord Overtoun I saw, and he gave me £200 for building, and promised to give £100 a year for the next four years, part for building and part for support of a missionary, as we might decide. I think £50 should go for each. Mr. R. S. Allan gives me £100 for building, and I have promises of more, but can tell nothing as yet as to how they will pan out."

It is impossible for him to map out any orderly itinerary. He must suit other people’s convenience rather than his own, and go where and when he can find entrance. So from Glasgow to Dundee, from Dundee to Edinburgh, from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, from Aberdeen to London, from London to Liverpool, he journeys, and having completed his work in England and Scotland, he crosses over to Ireland for a short but vigorous campaign there. It is hard work and often discouraging. Sabbath days and week-days he fills in with addresses, sermons, interviews, journeyings and unceasing correspondence, till done out, he takes steamer for home.

On his homeward trip, unfitted as he is for the sea-voyage, he falls terribly ill. But once on land, his strength quickly returns and he hurries across the continent to Winnipeg, where he appears once more in the midst of his brethren convened in General Assembly, and receives such a welcome from them as it is given few men to receive.

The Assembly is busy with its legislation, but nothing will do but that he shall stand up where they can see him and listen once more to his voice. He cannot report any great improvement in health, and we can all see that he is worn and weary, but he has met with great kindness and his visit has not been without success. In the evening, in a speech of great vigour, he recounts his experiences in the Homeland, He has made money out of it for the Church, nearly $12,000, and support for over forty missions. But the Church is doubtful whether it has not paid somewhat too dearly for these financial returns, in the expenditure of the life and strength of the Superintendent of Missions.


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