The Presbyterian Church in Ontario
The origins of the Presbyterian Church in Ontario date back to the time of the Free Church in Toronto and Ontario in the 19th Century. After the Great Disruption of 1843 in Scotland, many Presbyterians in Canada sympathized with the newly formed Free Church of Scotland, and joined it in 1844. Subsequently by 1861 the Free Church grew to approximately 150,000 adherents or 10% of the population of Canada West (Ontario).
The Free Church traced its lineage to John Knox, the First and Second Reformations in Scotland, the Covenanters and to Scotland’s most eminent divines. It also held the Bible as its supreme standard and the entire Westminster Confession of Faith as its subordinate standard. Moreover it was often the loudest voice in Canada decrying the ills of popery, intemperance and Sabbath breaking.
Presbyterian Church Unions of 1861 and 1875
The unions of Presbyterian churches in Canada in 1861 and 1875 significantly weakened the Presbyterian witness. Firstly the Free Church held to the Establishment Principle, recognizing the Headship of Christ over the church and the nations. However the Union negotiations dropped the Establishment Principle. Also cast out were Biblical standards including the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism. Further the Union churches replaced Calvinism with Arminianism, and introduced uninspired hymns and instrumental music.
Rev. Lachlan Macpherson of West Williams and Rev. John Ross of Brucefield opposed the unions. Both of these Ontario ministers stayed out of the second union and formed themselves into a Presbytery. The people of Lochalsh, Kincardine, Newton and Ailsa Craig joined them. These faithful ministers, who held firm to the Westminster Confession of Faith, continued to dispense the ordinances of the Gospel. They passed away in 1886 and 1887 respectively.
A number of Ontario men petitioned the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1901. Amongst the petitioners were Mr. George Forrest, an elder of the congregation of Rev. John Ross of Brucefield, and Mr. Daniel Clarke of Brucefield and Egmondville. The Synod approved the petitioners request to be received into the church. Subsequently the Rev. Neil Cameron visited Canada in 1902 as a Deputy.
The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland maintained from the beginning its strict subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith and biblical, reformed doctrine, worship and practice, with the preaching of the free offer of the gospel, exclusive psalmody, strict Sabbath observance, and family worship morning and evening.
The Rev. Walter Scott accepted a call to Chesley, Ontario in 1912 and church services commenced. Mr. Scott also had the oversight of the other places of the Ontario Mission. The mission included: Lochalsh, Egmont Ville, East Williams, West Williams, Lobo, North Line Kincardine, town of Kincardine, Brucefield and Newton.
The original Chesley congregation left the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in 1930 with its then minister, the Rev. W. Matheson. They formed the Free Presbyterian Church of Ontario. The minister got into a dispute with the church over its firm stance against using public transport on the Sabbath day. Read about more details on the issue here .
Free Presbyterian Witness Returns
In November 1965, a congregation in Toronto called the Bloor East Presbyterian Church along with the aforementioned Free Presbyterian Church of Ontario in Chesley, formed a union calling themselves the Presbyterian Reformed Church. Professor John Murray of Westminster Seminary prepared a Basis of Union which was ratified by both congregations in November 1965.
In the summer of 1974, two of the four elders, Mr. Gerrit Schuit and Mr. Robert Elliot, of the Chesley Presbyterian Reformed Church, along with the majority of the Toronto Presbyterian Reformed Church elders split away and applied to join the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Mr. Robert Elliot belonged to the original Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland congregation in Chesley.
A Free Presbyterian deputy, Rev. John A. MacDonald, Fort William, Scotland, was sent in 1974 to appraise the congregations. At a pro re nata Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, held in December 1974, both the Toronto and Chesley congregations were received into the church.
We invite you to learn more about our history and our worship. You can learn more about the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland as a global denomination by visiting the website.
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The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland congregation is located in the town of Chesley, which is in Bruce County and is two and a half hour drive north east of Toronto. The nearest towns are Hanover, Walkerton and Owen Sound. Minister: Rev. Roderick Macleod, Interim Moderator Worship location: Corner of 4th Street SW and 3rd Avenue, Chesley, Ontario. Service times: Sabbath –…
History of the Free Presbyterian Witness in OntarioRev. Neil Cameron at the Synod of November 1902 reported, “It may be dutiful here to notice the hardships to which all the unions known to us, whether in Scotland or Canada, have put those who value God’s truth above human amalgamations at the expense of losing the great doctrines and principles of the Word…