With the close of the nineteenth century, it may be said in general that the Baptists of Canada have completed the first century of their existence. In the Maritime Provinces a Baptist church had been organized as early as 1763 through the agency of New England Baptists, and before the close of the eighteenth century a small association of churches had been formed. Most of those who became Baptists there had removed from New England, some before and many after the War of Independence. The early Baptists of Nova Scotia profited largely by the "New Light" movement, many of the converts of Henry Alline, an eloquent, impassioned New England evangelist of the Whitefield type, who labored for a time in this Northern Province, having been led by the logic of the situation to adopt Baptist views, and the less aggressive Baptists of the older type having been gradually stimulated by the "New Light" evangelism to greater zeal for the salvation of souls. In general the same type of teaching that covered the South with Baptist churches was operative in Nova Scotia during the later year of the eighteenth century. Early in the nineteenth century (1815) organized missionary work began, and partly as a result of the conversion to Baptist views of several cultured and well-to-do Episcopalian families in Halifax (1828), educational work was soon afterward inaugurated, which before long had developed into Acadia College, which for more than a half century, under such leaders as J. M. Cramp, A. W. Sawyer, and Thomas Trotter, has been supplying a constant stream of well trained, effective men not only for home work, but for educational, pastoral and other branches of Christian work in Ontario, Quebec, and the Northwest Provinces of Canada, for the United States, and for the foreign mission field. It is probable that no institution of its size and resources has made a greater contribution to the working forces of the denomination during the past fifty years. The Baptists of the Maritime Provinces now number nearly 60,000, not to speak of several thousand Free Will Baptists, who are not in fellowship with the main body. They have had their separate foreign mission organization since 1845 and have a well conducted mission among the Telugus of India.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were four or five small churches in what is now the Province of Ontario with a very small aggregate membership. These were made up largely of Loyalists, who had left the United States during or shortly after the War of Independence. Missionaries from the United States visited these little communities from time to time and during the first half of they century Baptist work in Ontario was constantly aided by the American Baptist home Mission Society.
In 1816 a small body of Baptist Scotch Highlanders, who had come under the influence of the Haldane evangelism, settled in the Ottawa region. These were followed by others of the same type and no element that has entered into the life of the Canadian Baptists has proved more valuable.
By 1830 a considerable number of English Baptists had come to Ontario and Quebec. Through the earnest pleas of John Edwards and John Gilmore, Scotch Haldanian Baptists of noble type, English and Scotch Baptist were led to organize a society for the conduct and support of missionary and educational work in Ontario and Quebec. (1836). A College of high grade was established in Montreal, which under the able conduct first of Benjamin Davies, the noted Hebrew scholar, and afterward of J. M. Cramp, the church historian, might have done great things for the denomination. But the chief promoters were known to favor open communion, and the distrust of the great majority of the denomination and the indifference of others made its success impossible. After instructing an average of six or seven men for about eleven years, it died of debt and neglect.
The communion question, which the English section of the denomination wished to keep in the background, came to be a matter of bitter controversy before the middle of the century and made effective co-operation in educational, missionary, and publication work impossible.
At the middle of the century the number of Baptists in these Provinces had reached nearly ten thousand; but they had no institution of learning, and the denominational papers and magazines that had served to enlighten the body had all but one retired from the field and this one retired from the field a few months later. Effort after effort had been made to secure co-operation in denominational work by general organizations; but nothing more pretentious than an association had been able to hold the field.
It was not until 1860 that endeavors to establish an educational institution, which had been persistently made since the closing of the Montreal College in 1849, had been crowned with success. This time the leader was Robert A. Fyfe, who had been for several years pastor in Toronto and who had exerted a powerful influence toward bring restricted communion of a conciliatory type to the front, thus making possible a reasonable degree of co-operation. As Principal of the Canadian Literary and Theological Institute from 1860 till his death in 1878 he occupied a position of acknowledged leadership and was largely instrumental in the bringing of the body into the advantageous position that it now enjoys.
Toronto Baptist College was founded in 1861 by Senator McMaster, prompted thereunto by John H. Castle, a noble Pennsylvanian, who had for some years been pastor of the Jarvis Street Baptist church and who became the principal of the new institution. Senator McMaster died in 1887, leaving about $1,000,000, including his former benefactions, for the founding of a University, with its Theological Department, and its preparatory schools. Woodstock College (the continuation of the old Literary and Theological Institute) survives and is one of the best secondary schools in the Dominion. A similar institution for ladies, founded by the widow of Senator McMaster and known as Moulton College, forms also a part of our University system. Under the leadership of Malcolm MacVicar, Theodore H. Rand, and O. C. S. Wallace, a full Arts course has been developed in close relations with the theological course. Students for the ministry may take two years of Arts work and three years of Theological and gain in five years the degree of B.Th., or by taking a year of theological options that count on the Arts course, they may in six years gain the degree of B.A. and that of B.Th. Advanced courses are also provided for higher degrees in Arts and Theology. The number of students in Arts and Theology now numbers about two hundred, of whom about forty are in Theology alone.
The educational, missionary and publication enterprises of the denomination are conducted and controlled by Boards, appointed by a Convention made up of delegates of the churches purely in proportion to membership. Members of these Boards are appointed for four years, a certain number retiring each year. This scheme works well in Canada, where the churches are reasonably homogeneous and there is no avowed opposition to missionary and educational enterprises; but it does not follow that it would work equally well where different conditions prevail.
The Baptists of Ontario, Quebec, and the Northwest Provinces now number about 50,000. A highly successful missionary work among the Roman Catholic French in the Province of Quebec has been in progress for over forty years. The Grand Ligne Mission not only has a large number of preaching stations and churches under its direction, but also the Feller Institute, which has constituted its most important agency. Large numbers of Catholics enter each year and a considerable number are brought to a knowledge of the truth through the deeply spiritual life of the school.
The Baptists of Manitoba and the Northwest have opened a college at Brandon, Man., which with A. P. McDiarmid as principal is already in a highly prosperous and promising condition. A fine building is in process of erection, the funds having been contributed largely by Baptists in the older Provinces. McMaster and Feller Institute are also engaged at present in important building enterprises.
Canadian Baptists enter upon the new century full of zeal and hopefulness, thoroughly harmonious, admirably organized, well equipped in the various departments of their work, and resolved to go forward as the Lord may lead. With a country of vast undeveloped resources and an era of development already upon us, there seems no reason why progress should not be far more rapid in the twentieth than is was in the nineteenth century.
[From The Baptist Argus June 13, 1901, pp.1-2. Transcribed and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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