Wellington County Methodists 1825-1925

The Early Methodist Church

Early Methodism

John WesleyThe eighteenth century in Europe was an age of scepticism. In England, however, the same period also produced a great religious revial: Methodism.

Among the many brilliant men who led this movement, the most famous was John Wesley, so much so that Wesleyan came to be a synonym for Methodist.

John Wesley, his brother Charles, and their colleagues travelled from town to town and from village to village, preaching the new gospel to people who led poor and sometimes hopeless lives. The Wesleyan doctrine of salvation through conversion, with its promise of a changed life on earth and eternal bliss after death, was indeed evangelism, literally "good news," and the movement spread like a forest fire.

John ad Charles Wesley cairn St. Simons Island, GeorgiaIt was inevitable that Methodism should cross the Atlantic. John Wesley himself, as a young man, had gone to Georgia on a mission to the Indians. This was an unhappy experience, but others followed him with more success. In 1772, Wesley appointed a general superintendent of the "circuit" that was soon to become the United States of America. Twenty years later, with the abolution of the Anglican Church as the established religion in America, membership had increased to 13,000 and was growing.

In Canada, one of the first Methodist missionaries arrived in the Maritimes from Yorkshire, England. Some of the British soldiers who came to the defence of Quebec City during the American War of Independence were of the same faith. Still more Methodists emigrated with the United Empire Loyalists. By 1791, the first circuit was established in Upper Canada.

Three groups of Methodists, The Wesleyan, the Primitive, and the Methodist New Connection, were amalgamated into one body in 1874, and became the Methodist Church in Canada. The Methodist Episcopal Church which was sponsored by American Bishops until 1832, kept their identity until 1883, when they united with the Methodist Church in Canada.

Primitive Methodist Church theology - Assurence brought a new birth and a personal reconciliation with God through the Merits of Atonement, the "new man" was freely bestowed grace.

Perfection - was the strive to achieve holiness through informing and inspiring his own efforts to lead a sinless life.

This is probably as good a place as any to recount briefly the various branches of Methodism that appeared and flourished in the early days of Upper Canada. The Methodist Episcopal form of worship was brought over from the United States, and control over the congregations was exercised by annual or general conferences held in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston or New York. A little later came the Wesleyan Methodist missionaries, who were sent to Canada by the Conference of England and were subject to its rulings. Form this, or perhaps because of this, a new group appeared, the "New Connexion" Methodists, who objected to the dictatorship of the English Conference and set up a more democratic form of church government, which established the election of members, of governing bodies and the equality of ministers and laymen. Other off-shoot groups to appear wee the Primitive Methodists and the Bible Methodists.

Wellington County Ministers 1825-1925

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Last Updated: March 13, 2004