by W. P. Douglas
My recollection of our first meeting was at Cannington, Ontario, in 1884. He was 26, I, 24 years of age. He had but recently left his employment with the Deering Harvester Company to devote his entire time to the Lord’s service. For some time prior to his leaving Chicago, he, in company with other young men (among them Mr. Robert Telfer) had been under the tuition of that faithful and honored servant of Christ, Mr. Donald Ross of Chicago.
After our meeting in Cannington, Mr. McClure expressed the desire to unite with me in the Lord’s service.
In the early part of the summer of 1884, we pitched a tent at Woodville, Ontario, a village on Lake Simcoe. We found it “Hard-Pan”, an expression of dear Donald Ross. But we were not without a sign of the Lord blessing His Word.
We decided about the middle of July to move our tent over to Kirkfield, a village about eighteen miles distant. On a hot July day, drawing our tent and its belongings on a farmer’s wagon to the new site, we pitched the tent. It was quite a novelty to the folks of the village to see the two strange and unordained preachers coming unheralded and unknown. The attendance at the beginning was very encouraging. This, with indications of the Lord’s favor, stirred up the bitter opposition of a young preacher, who sought to hinder and dissuade the people from coming, by wicked reports of what was preached and practiced. But God over-ruled and saved a few.
The winter of 1884 was spent at a small, out-of-the way place named Cosson Siding, near Balsam Lake. Having neither horse, buggy, bicycle nor automobile we depended on the old-time reliable method of locomotion—walking. Houses were few and far between. A ten mile walk over rough roads with banks of snow in winter, and sunbaked ruts in summer, was a common occurrence. But we proved the truth of that promise: “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.”
In the summer of 1886 we pitched our tent about five miles from the Village of Victoria Road, starting the latter part of May and continuing until the middle of September. During that time we were greatly cheered by the sudden and unexpected arrival of our beloved brethren, W. L. Falkner and F. W. Crook, who relieved us for a couple of weeks. Being tired and weary we were exceedingly glad of their help.
Having neither synod nor conference, either to help or to hinder, the Lord, in the winter of 1886 opened up a preaching place for us in the home of a friendly farmer. This was situated on the shores of Balsam Lake, near Victoria Road. We were encouraged by a well filled house nightly for some weeks, and God gladdened our hearts by giving blessing on the Word preached.
In the summer of 1887 (The Queen’s Jubilee), Trenton Falls, a village fourteen miles distant was tried. The attendance was not cheering. The aged Protestant preacher and the Roman Catholic priest combined in their efforts, publicly and privately, to hinder the people from coming to the meetings.
The next year, having secured a new tent, we decided to pitch it at Lindsay, the county seat of Victoria County, a town then of over six thousand. We provided ourselves with two thousand Gospel Heralds and spent two days before starting our meetings, in going from door to door and inviting the people to come to the tent. We were cheered by fair promises but disappointed by their failure to be fulfilled. It was indeed “hard-pan” again. I was pleased to be relieved by our brother, Mr. Robert Telfer. Soon after he and brother McClure moved the tent to a place named Nesbitt’s Corners, a short distance from Victoria Road. There again God was pleased to bless His Word in the salvation of some. Soon after, brothers McClure and Telfer joined together in the bonds of the Gospel until beloved brother McClure journeyed to California where he labored long and faithfully with others who now rest from their labors.
by J. J. Rouse
It was in the year 1894 that I first met Brother McClure. I had in the month of May of that year been commended to the work of the Lord, and I was preaching up in Muskoka, at Huntsville. In the latter part of December of that year I was at the railway depot, and when the train from Winnipeg stopped at the station I boarded it in a hurry and distributed Gospel papers to the passengers. After going through the train I was returning through one of the coaches when a tall man with black hair and a long black beard accosted me, and shook my hand very heartily, saying “My dear young man, thank God for the good seed you are sowing, keep on at it.”
As the train began to move I had to get off, but he put into my hand an expression of practical fellowship. This with his words of cheer greatly encouraged me, and I shall never forget this my first meeting with brother McClure. He was on his way to Orillia to attend the conference which at that time was held at Christmas. I was able to attend the conference and I shall never forget the spiritual lift I received through his ministry at that time.
I have heard him preach since on Ecc. 12:10-11, “The preacher sought out acceptable words and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the master of assemblies which are given from one shepherd.”
All of this was manifestly true of Brother McClure’s ministry not only at this Orillia conference but throughout the forty-five years in which I had the privilege of listening to him.
During this conference, beside the Lord’s people from the different assemblies in the district, a number who had been saved in brother Alexander Marshall’s meetings some years before were in attendance. These folk still clung to their denominational ties and brother McClure with his wonderful gift as a teacher, spoke much upon separation unto the Lord, from the world in all its different aspects, ecclesiastical, social and political. These denominational Christians were so affected by his ministry that several of them came on Lord’s day morning and sat in the back of the hall and observed God’s order throughout the meeting. At the close they confessed they were fully persuaded through Mr. McClure’s ministry and what they had observed that morning, that this was the way of the Lord. They said that when the meeting began they expected to see one man acting as a chairman, calling upon one and another to speak, as this was what they were accustomed to, but here was a meeting of three or four hundred of the Lord’s people controlled and guided by the Spirit of God alone for one hour and a half and not a single mark of disorder. To them the presence of the Lord was manifestly real. They saw God’s assembly was an organism, it had life in its self to function and did not need a man hired to run the organization.
Shaftsbury Hall where the Christians regularly met was all too small for the Lord’s Day conference meetings, so the large opera house was rented for that day.
In the Lord’s day afternoon meeting Mr. McClure delivered one of the most wonderful addresses I ever listened to. He read Matthew 18:20 and Hebrews 13:10-16 and spoke upon gathering unto the Lord alone outside the camp of the world’s religious organizations. As a young believer just delivered from ecclesiastical bondage that address was a means of great enlightenment and stimulus to me and it resulted in a good number of those Christians saved in Mr. Marshall’s meetings being led to gather alone in the name of the Lord Jesus.
About four years later at a conference in a country-place east of Orillia I again received wonderful help and instruction not only from his ministry but from an action of brother McClure’s at that time. A man was present at the Conference who was a troubler in his home assembly. He had been saved at Mr. McClure’s meetings some years before. He was not guilty of anything for which he could be put out of the assembly, but what happened at this conference in Mr. McClure’s attitude toward him gave me to see the difference between internal and external discipline. I happened to be speaking with brother McClure when this man approached smiling and with hand extended to greet brother McClure. I confess I was surprised, and the man was much more surprised when brother McClure put his hand behind his back and refused to shake hands with him. Then in a firm but gracious way he spoke to him about his conduct. The effect was striking, for the man broke down, and confessed his sin with tears. Then there was a hearty hand-shake. This was a very practical object lesson to me in connection with internal discipline. Once again at this conference I was greatly helped by our brother’s ministry. In one meeting he read John 14:6 and Acts 16:17—The way of salvation; Acts 19:9—The way of service; and Acts 24:14—the way of worship, reading from the English Revised Version where capital letters are used in connection with “the way.”
Brother McClure and brother Donald Munro were the two most stalwart men I have met in not only opening up the truth, but in maintaining it in their lives. We might well give heed to the word in Hebrews 13:7, Remember them that are your guides, who have spoken unto you the word of the Lord; whose faith follow, considering the end of their manner of life.