Exerpts from: The Life of the Rev. Francis Metherall


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EXCERPTS FROM:

"The Life of the Rev. Francis Metherall, and the History of the Bible Christian Church in Prince Edward Island", by John Harris. London: Bible Christian Book-Room, 26 Paternoster Row, E.C., Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Bible Book-Room 248 Simcoe Street. 1883.

Preface

Ever since the death of the Rev. F. Metherall a feeling has existed that there ought to be a more extended account of his life and labours, than the official Memoir, published in the Minutes of Conference for 1876. Year after year passed away without anything being done in this direction. The Prince Edward Island District Meeting of 1882 took action in the matter, and appointed a committee, consisting of the Revs. J. Harris, J. Ball, E. A. Tonkin and Mr. J. W. Pickard, "to examine the writings of Mr. Metherall, and the accounts of the early history of the Bible Christian Church of Prince Edward Island, with the view of publishing the same." The following conference endorsed this action, and appointed the Rev. J. Whitlock a corresponding member of the committee.

In the month of November the committee placed all the papers and information collected in my hands, and requested me to prepare them for the press. I at once found there were very formidable difficulties to be overcome: I had no personal acquaintance with Mr. Metherall; no district, and only a very few circuit records were to be found further back than 1864, while some few stores of information were beyond my reach. Many missing links had to be sought for: in some cases they were found, in others only partially so; and, as a consequence, it is possible that there are some persons and things not brought out so prominently as they deserve to be.

Much information has been supplied by the different members of the committee, including the Rev. Jesse Whitlock, also by the Revs. John W. Butcher and Jacob Gale. Mrs. Metherall has furnished nearly the whole of Mr. Metherall's official correspondence with the English Conference, also a number of other important papers. I have freely drawn from the English Jubilee Volume, in the account of "Devauden Green" and "Plump Hill," found in the third chapter.

I have sought not so much to exhibit the weakness and failings of men as to show the work performed and the success achieved, and have purposely been very brief in regard to the work of recent years. I only wish that this work had fallen into abler hands, that the different points might have been brought out with greater force and clearness.

John Harris

Charlottetown, P.E.Island

January 9, 1883

CONTENTS

1. Prince Edward Island, p.1

2. The Work and the Workman, p. 7

3. Preparatory Work, p.13

4. Pioneer Work, p. 29

5 Affliction and Prosperity, p.46

6. A Mysterious Providence, p. 54

7. Head Winds, p.63

8. Reconstruction, p. 78

9. Declining Years, p. 90

10. Canadian Connection, p. 99

[At present, I have copies of Chapters 9 and 10 only]

The English Conference met that year [1831] at Hicks' Mill Chapel, Gwennap, Cornwall. The Missionary Society had only been in operation since 1821; the annual income was only about $520, and there was a debt of $330. With this very limited income, the Conference had to meet the requirements of the debt, make provision to aid several Home Missions, and now there were loud calls for help beyond [Canada]. Under those circumstances, it was no easy task to decide what ought to be done. It must be confessed that feeble or ordinary men would have failed in an emergency of this kind; but they were men of might; they lived in such constant and conscious relationship with the Unseen and Eternal God, that they were clothed with a divine power; their strong faith enabled them to accomplish with each work that men of weaker faith and feebler religious life would never dare attempt. These are their names, they are worthy to be kept in remembrance: James Thorne, William Reed, Harry Major, Andrew Cory (grandfather of the Rev. A. Courtice, B.A.), Richard Sedwell, William Courtice, Francis Metherall, Charles Blake, William Kinsman (1st), William Kinsman (2nd), William Miller, Edward Hocken, William H. Daniel, Richard P. Tabb, John Hicks Eynon, Henry Reed, Simon Orchard, and Thomas Leggo. Of this list of worthies, two only -- John Hicks Eynon and Thomas Leggo -- survive. [I think most of these people were in England.]

The Conference decided to send one missionary to the province of Ontario, and the Rev. Francis Metherall -- one of its members -- to Prince Edward Island. The Conference was greatly encouraged in its decision by receiving a subscription for the Missionary Society from a labouring man amounting to $50.

In Francis Metherall we behold the man prepared for his appointed work. He was prepossessing in personal appearance, evidently disposed to an active life, self-possessed, mild, tender, and somewhat included to a quiet mirthfulness; he also had a strong and enduring physical organization that will be tried to the utmost in his new sphere of labour.

Francis Metherall was born in North Devon, December 1791. He experienced converting grace under the ministry of the Rev. James Thorne, and three years later, at the age of thirty-one, he entered the ministry of the Bible Christian Church. The first nine years of his ministerial toil were passed in England and adjacent islands.

[From Chapter 3]

Mr. Metherall's first appointment was to the Scilly Islands, off the coast of Cornwall. There is little information concerning his labours there, but sufficient to show that a measure of success attended his efforts. He was present at the following Conference of 1823, held at Stoke Damarel; his appointment was Monmouth. Without loss of time, as soon as the conference closed, he set out for his mission; Mr. Moses Pearn, who was appointed to Somerset, accompanied him the first day so far as Devonport, where they parted. Pearn went on to his station via Exeter, while Metherall proceeded to Bude, on the Bristol Channel, where he took "ship for Bristol." After some day's delay there, he took ship for Newport.

Traveling in England then was a very different thing from what it is today. Then it required nearly a week for the missionary to travel from Plymouth to [London] . . .

[Intervening chapters 4 through 8 have info but these seemed most appropriate.]

Chapter 9

On Mr. Barker's arrival to take charge of the district, Mr. Metherall went back to the West Cape [P.E.I.] circuit, where he performed the work of that station till the Conference of 1868, when he was superannuated on the advice of the district meeting.

Francis Metherall was now 68 years of age, having superintended the churches on the island for 25 years, and laboured in the active work of the ministry 37 years. He had been faithful amid all the wavering and fickleness of others: he wrought hard and long, and bore the burden of the churches even in old age; he had more than earned the rest and quiet of superannuation.

We confess that we have a great admiration of the quiet, earnest persistency with which he did his work, not aiming to make a brilliant flourish, or a great parade of his doings, but to be faithful to God and man, keeping steadily at his post whether men approved or disapproved. His convictions of divine truth had taken such a complete hold of his mind, he rested so thoroughly upon the Holy Spirit for inspiration and aid, that he had no need to be constantly halting to enquire whether or not men approved and appreciated his course. If he had so done, much of his life's work would never have been accomplished, and many victories, when just within his grasp, would have been turned into defeats.

Though superannuated, Mr. Metherall continued to work to build up the church on the West Cape circuit as best he could to the end of his life. The conference memoir says -- "The later years of F. Metherall's life were of much service to the west end of the island, where he dwelt, continuing as he did to exercise his ministry, and preached the Word with much power, until within a few months of his death."

For many years he had suffered from an affection [affliction?] of the throat, so that at times he could scarcely speak. At one time he fell over a bridge with his horse and buggy, and was ever lame from a hurt he then received; but his strong constitution bore up a long time against his multiplying infirmities.

When away from home he took a severe cold, from which he never recovered. "As his end drew near his sufferings were very great, but his patience and resignation were still greater; he expressed to those around him strong confidence in God and a full assurance of hope. He looked upon himself as heir to one of those heavenly mansions, of which Christ spoke as being in His Father's house. One of Mr. Metherall's last utterances to his brethren in district meeting assembled was, "If I was young again, I would give my life and all I have with greater zeal to the work of the ministry. I have no regret that my life has been so spent, I only wish that I could have done more for Christ." He then urged with tears, "Brethren, you will never regret any work or any sacrifice you make for Christ." His last utterance on earth was, "I am going to be with Jesus." Thus passed away Francis Metherall from the service of God on earth to the service of God in heaven, on June 9th, 1875, at the age of eighty-four years, having been in the Christian ministry fifty-three years. As we think of the death of this veteran pioneer missionary, we fervently pray that his spirit may be caught and his example and self-denial be copied by the young men of the present generation.

Mr. Metherall was well adapted to his work, and was possessed of a remarkable power to take in his surroundings at a glance and adapt himself to them. Mr. Gale writes: "He seems to have been specially raised up by God to do the great work assigned him in Prince Edward Island."

On one occasion, when he went to visit some of his wife's relations in the neighborhood of Murray Harbour, before he was invited to preach there, he met a number of men on the road, of whom he sought directions where to find the residence of the family he was in search of; the needed information was readily given. One of the men asked Mr. Metherall his name and profession; when these were told, the men said -- "We make it a rule, when persons come into our settlement to dispose of anything, to make them show their wares; you say you are a preacher of the gospel, give us, if you please, some samples of your wares, that we may judge whether or not they are suitable to us here." He at once comprehended the situation, and with the greatest self-possession took off his hat, and delivered to the men such a powerful exhortation on repentance and the necessity of consecration to God, that they never shook off the impression made on their minds. They parted with the understanding that whenever this "preacher of the gospel" should in the future pass that way, he must stop and preach in some of their houses, for his "wares" were just the thing they needed.

The spiritual influence he brought to bear upon all classes of the community was very great. In the spiritual work of the church he was always at home. The temporal and business affairs of the church he attended to as matters of necessity, but he devoted himself to the spiritual because he loved it, his whole soul was in it. One of his contemporaries says: "The influence he exerted, not only among our own people, but among all classes of society, amount almost to the marvelous." Everywhere he was recognized as a man of God; Protestants of all denominations, and Catholics where he was known, were prepared to welcome him with hospitality at any time.

Francis Metherall excelled as a peacemaker; he was ever making efforts to secure peace and goodwill among men. Of him it can be emphatically said that he was a man of peace.

During his early ministry in England he was very frequently engaged in settling differences. When in Guernsey he wrote -- "After preaching I had to judge between two parties at variance; I hope the breach was healed. May the Lord keep us in peace and unity one with another. I dread the spirit of discord; it strikes at the root of all good, and makes way for all evil to enter our minds." When on the Monmouth mission, he endeavored to reconcile two neighbors who were determined to go to law. He succeeded in settling everything except which should pay the preliminary legal expenses that already had been incurred. On this point both were immovable; but Mr. Metherall, rather than let the dispute be unsettled, paid the law bill himself.

There had been a misunderstanding between two persons on the Winslow Road; the next time Mr. Metherall came around, he was called upon to act as umpire between them. When the business was disposed of he preached in the house of Mr. Peardon from the text: "The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water; therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with." He is said to have "cut right and left" into his subject, and among other things he said -- "Strife and contention are like the bursting of a mill-dam; the floods will wash away the mill, and drown the miller in the bargain."

It can scarcely be said that Francis Metherall was brilliant as a preacher, but he possessed qualities that were far more valuable. He was always clear, bringing out the meaning of his text, and very impressive. His whole soul was thrown into his subject, therefore he was always attractive; but the grand source of his power as a minister was in his all-prevailing prayers. In prayer he seemed to enter the sacred presence of God, and like a prince wrestle until he prevailed.

Mr. Metherall enjoyed the friendship of, and carried on a considerable correspondence with many good men in his day, such as W. O'Bryan, James Thorne, W. Reed, H. Major, W. Courtice, Thomas Leggo, James Brooks, Richard Sedwell and others.

[extracts of letters follow giving information re the state of different parishes in England.]

The question has been raised, " Was Francis Metherall a great man?" We answer emphatically, Yes. He may not have been great according to some of the conventional standards of men; but, if he is to be measured by the amount of productive work performed, the influences for good he set in operation, and the principles of truth stamped on his generation, then Francis Metherall stands out pre-eminently as one of earth's great men.

Francis Metherall, though thou was unknown to us in the flesh, yet, while we have followed thee in these pages we have admired thy devoted consecrated life; we have profoundly sympathized with thee in thy life's sorrows, we have felt some of the movings of the same spiritual power that didst inspire thee to heroic deeds for thy master; and now, in leaving thee, the fervent cry of our heart is, may we be faithful to the God whom thou didst serve, and attain to the same Heaven!

An Alphabetical List of Preachers Who Have Labored on Prince Edward Island.

Name Ministry
Began
How Removed Date of
Removal
Yrs on
Island
Ashley, Isaac 1862 to Ontario 1870 8
Ball, John 1876 at Vernon River ... 7
Barker, Cephas 1856 to Ontario 1865 9
Bryenton, William 1877 at West Cape ... 6
Butcher, John W. 1843 to Ontario 1867 24
Calloway, William 1844 to England 1855 11
Chapple, John 1865 to Ohio 1872 7
Collins, James H. 1872 to Ontario 1882 10
Cotton, Richard 1839 Retired 1857 18
Dafoe, James A. 1880 at Summerside ... 3
Down, Wesley 1881 to Ontario 1882 1
Ferry, John 1879 Retired 1881 2
Gale, Jacob 1850 to Ontario 1861 11
Harris, William 1844 Died 1846 2
Harris, John 1879 at Charlottetown ... 4
Holmes, John 1874 to Ontario 1876 2
Hunt, William P. 1863 died 1872 9
Inch, Thomas 1847 Retired 1849 2
James, Philip 1834 to Ontario 1840 6.5
Jones, F. O'Connor 1873 to Ontario 1875 2
Kestle, James 1872 to Ontario 1876 4
Kinley, William 1865 to Ontario 1869 4
Medland, William 1870 to Ontario 1881 11
Metherall, Francis 1832 Died 1875 43
Newcombe, Henry 1865 to Ontario 1872 7
Nott, Henry J. 1868 to Ontario 1868 3 mths
Pascoe, W. S. 1875 to Ontario 1879 4
Pickings, Absalom 1841 Retired 1843 2.5
Pooley, John 1874 to Ontario 1877 3
Reynolds, W.E. 1882 at Wheatly River ... 1
Rice, James J. 1863 to Ontario 1868 5
Richards, Richard 1867 to Ontario 1869 2
Rowe, Richard B. 1870 to Ontario 1877 7
Sabine, Thomas 1875 to Ontario 1876 1
Sencebaugh, J. T. 1861 to Ontario 1865 4
Short, Thomas 1863 Died 1866 3
Smith, George 1877 to Ontario 1880 3
Tonkin, Ed. A. 1876 at Murray Harbour ... 7
Tredrea, John M. 1881 at Union ... 2
Webber, George 1870 to Ontario 1875 5
Wilson, R. 1853 Retired 1855 2
Whitlock, Jesse 1848 to Ontario 1862 14
Woodman, Wm. 1856 to Ontario 1864 8
Yelland, John G. 1869 to Ontario 1879 10


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