The year 1887 was very important in Canada as well as in the British Isles, being the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, marking the fiftieth year of her reign over the vast Empire of Great Britain. Much excitement prevailed and a spirit of holiday making was seen all over the land giving good opportunities to energetic young Christians for tract distribution and open air work for the Lord. These opportunities were embraced by the evangelists laboring in Northern Ontario.
In February, brethren McClure and Telfer were in Orillia ministering the word, but they left for Victoria Road accompanied by a number of Christians who were all present on the evening of March 4th on the happy occasion of the marriage of Mr. Douglas to Miss Hargraves of Kirkfield. A profitable time was spent, while words of instruction and counsel from the Scriptures were brought before them, after which the happy young couple left for a short honeymoon, amid the prayers and good wishes of fellow-saints.
During the summer months that followed brethren McClure and Douglas were busy scattering the good seed. The tent was pitched in Trenton Falls. Many tracts were distributed, while visiting from door to door and preaching in the tent every night. They found it very difficult to get an interest in the Gospel that summer and with the combined opposition from Catholic and Protestant leaders their efforts seemed rather discouraging. During the fall and winter there was more encouragement than in the summer, a number being saved.
The conference in Orillia at New Year, 1888, was a season of blessing and refreshing to saints old and young who gathered from places all around to sit under the ministry of the Word for three days. A special meeting was arranged to be held on the fourth day, when the laborers and brethren having a care for the saints came together to pray and to confer with each other over the Scriptures. New assemblies were springing up while the numbers in those already planted were increasing, and the leading brethren were feeling the great responsibility in exercising shepherd care among the Lord’s people. This meeting proved a great help and the brethren were much cheered and refreshed.
Mr. McClure had just celebrated his thirtieth birthday, and early in the summer they were preparing for tent work again. The Lord provided them with a new tent which they pitched in Lindsay, the county seat. The preachers had a large supply of good Gospel literature which was distributed over the town and also in the country districts around. They spent much labor in preaching, visiting, and praying together. Yet Mr. Douglas described it as “hard pan,” however, they continued for a number of weeks and at the end of July the tent was taken down.
For over four years these two workers had labored together breaking up fallow ground in Northern Ontario, the Lord working with them. They were true yoke fellows, and Eternity alone will tell the full results of their service together for the Lord Jesus. Trials of various kinds abounded in those days, especially as they were looked upon with suspicion. They belonged to no human organization, were supported by no board, appealed for no funds, not even taking a collection in any of their meetings and refusing aid from any unless they had confessed faith in Christ; but they were the Lord’s free men, guided by the Holy Spirit as to their movements and looking to the Lord alone for their support. And just as others who have gone forth in His Name, had to bear the slanderous reports circulated by the enemies of the Cross, and even by professing Christians whose minds were affected by human traditions, so they patiently endured, traveling on foot through the snows, preaching in halls and school rooms in the winter and in summer under canvas.
As to their support, they learned to be content with scanty fare. Here the words and example of the veteran, Mr. Donald Ross, was a stay and encouragement to them. Mr. McClure had often heard Mr. Ross say in Chicago that, in the Lord’s work all they needed was bed, board and washing. Mr. McClure tells that the assembly that commended him had no practical fellowship with him for over a year after he left that city. A rich brother in the assembly shook his hand warmly when he was leaving Chicago, and said, “Willie, I am so glad you are going out,” but that was the extent of his fellowship then and thereafter. However, the Lord taught him that no man goeth forth in His service at his own charges, and all their needs were supplied.
Relating some of his experiences in those days he told us: “At one time I was severely tested. I had just ten cents in my pocket, and at such a time the firm where I had been employed in Chicago wrote me offering my position to me again with an advance in wages; but ten cents would not pay my way six hundred miles, so I simply went on. It may have looked brave, but I was just shut up to it.”
When the tent was taken down at Lindsay, Mr. Telfer had come along to help and from that time he and Mr. McClure became yoked together in the bonds of the Gospel.
They pitched the tent at Nesbit Corner, and on Lord’s Day, August 5th, they began with an attendance of 170. They carried the Gospel message from door to door through the day, and at night preached the good news of salvation. From the beginning there were signs of blessing and quite a number of precious souls were saved. They were greatly encouraged in this place and continued in the tent until early in October and when the tent was stored away they rented a house, pulled down a partition and made it suitable to continue the meetings.
Throughout the winter, Woodville, Islay and Trenton Falls were visited. Some of these places were tried in the tent before and had proved to be hard, yet the Lord gave the brethren to see His hand in power and there was an ingathering of souls to Christ.
On June 9th, 1889, they went out to Lang and continued there four weeks. There was good interest in the meetings and the evangelists became exercised about pitching the tent in that place, and on July 14 the tent services began and continued until September. Afterwards a place was secured for meetings and the work prospered. A rich harvest was gathered; young believers were baptized and an assembly was established in Lang.
During the spring of 1890, brethren McClure and Telfer paid their first visit to New England and had meetings in New Bedford, Mass.
Mr. W. H. Hunter, a young man who had lately been commended to the work of the Lord and whose father and mother lived in New Bedford, met these brethren there for the first time. He accompanied them back to Ontario and became very closely associated with Mr. McClure in Gospel work.
The next chapter written by Mr. Hunter gives an account of the few years that followed and their service together in several places in Ontario before Mr. McClure left for the Pacific Coast early in 1893.