Saturday, 27 October 2012


On Tuesday December 30, 1858, the Rev. William Ormiston was inducted into the pastoral charge of the United Presbyterian congregation in this city. The little stone church on Merrick street, which was on the lot upon which the Savoy theatre is now built, had had several changes in pastors from the time it first became a temple of worship and the small congregation had passed through many vicissitudes. One of the fundamental doctrines of the United Presbyterians was opposition to secret societies, so it is safe to say that there were not many Masons or Oddfellows connected with it. Mr. Ormiston’s theology was cast in a broader mold, and when he came to Hamilton, he identified himself with the Sons of Temperance and the Good Templars, both orders having a ritual and a semblance of secrecy. Prior to the coming of Mr. Ormiston, the Rev. Mr. Hogg had pastoral charge of the congregation. He was a man of fine scholarship, and while he was in Hamilton, he published a monthly magazine entitled Waymarks in the Wilderness. The articles in the magazine dipped so deep in theology that ordinary minds could not fathom it, and the result was that the magazine had but a small subscription list, and when Mr. Hogg left Hamilton the Waymarks was consigned to the wilderness of the literary graveyard. Probably some ancient United Presbyterian brother may have preserved a copy of the magazine. It would be a literary curiosity now. A. T. Freed, now inspector of weights and measures, had charge of the type setting and make-up of the Waymarks, and this, probably, accounts for the severe religious hue of his daily life. After reading Mr. Hogg’s articles, Bro. Freed’s mind was prepared for any severe study, as he took to Masonry and has just landed in the highest seat in the synagogue.


          How many men or women now living in Hamilton, who were connected with the United Presbyterian church, can remember the interesting occasion of half a century ago? Dr. Ormiston was then in the first flush of manhood, having received all the honors that the university from which he graduated could bestow upon him. He was a natural orator, and he never appeared before an audience that he did not leave his impress upon it. The Hamilton church pulpits were filled with brainy, educated men – “there were giants in those days” – and when the congregation of the little stone church called Mr. Ormiston to the pastorate, they had no fear of the result ; he could hold his own with the brightest preachers of that day. It is doubtful if any of the ministers who took part in that induction service are living now. On the platform were Methodist, Baptist, Congregational and Presbyterian ministers besides the elders of Mr. Ormiston’s church. Men of note in Canadian pulpits – Robert Burns, David Inglis, Robert Irvine, Wm. McChary, Edward Ebbs, Mr. Christie, Ephraim B. Harper, Alfred Booker, Robert Poden and many others – were there to extend the glad hand to the young minister. At 11 o’clock in the forenoon, the ordination services began, the Rev. Mr. Lee, of Ancaster, preaching the sermon, and the Rev. Mr. Christie propounding the questions of the formula and offering up the ordination prayer. In the evening was held the banquet in the hall of the Mechanics’ Institute, at which more than 600 sat down. The hall was tastefully decorated by the ladies of the church, and everything was done to make the occasion one long to ne remembered. Mr. Roy, an elder of the church, was the chairman, and a choir of 25 ladies and gentlemen, under the direction of Mr. Wallace, made sweet melody, to sandwich in between the speeches. Uncle Billy McClure, the grand old pastor of the New Connexion church, was the first speaker, his theme being Religion Cultivates and Purifies the Social Affections. The Rev. David Inglis, the pastor of Macnab Street Presbyterian church, talked on A Praying Church, A Peaceful and Prosperous One, and Mr. Ebbs, of the Congregational followed with The Church, a Sphere of Duty for All. Then came the new minister, the Rev. William Ormiston. His reputation for eloquence had preceded him to Hamilton, and this was the first opportunity that a large number of the assembled guests had the opportunity to hear him. Mr. Ormiston was in his happiest mood as a storyteller, and he introduced his subject by relating a parable. One lovely afternoon, in the month of June, a young maiden, scarcely in her teens, fresh and fair, approached her mother with a request that she might be permitted to go out and gather some of the loveliest flowers that bloomed in a meadow close at hand. Permission being obtained, she went through the fresh fields, basket in hand, caroling gayly as she picked the blossoms and placed them in her basket., thinking all the while how graceful a garland she would twine around her mother’s brow. And so she wended her way to the lower end of the meadow, where a rivulet flowed amid the grass, rippling gently over its pebbly bed. She dropped a flower in the brook, and, pleased to see it dancing before the current, another and another until, in her excitement, she tossed them all away. Then, the transient pleasure over, looking at the empty basket, she sorrowfully cried. “Bring me back my flowers,” but echo alone mockingly replied, and the rivulet carried them away forever. The story loses much of its charm in cold type. The application was in one of Mr. Ormiston’s most impressive moods. So, young people, your God has given you a long summer, a fragrant mead, and a large basket to contain the many precious flowers scattered around. Beware lest in the gay and giddy delirium of mere sensuous delights, you squander the precious moments, the golden opportunities for personal improvement, heart culture, home usefulness, church monumental labor. A few more years and you may in vain wish to recall your misspent youth. Echo alone will mock your care as it did the maiden as it did the maiden’s who had thrown her flowers away. Had we space in these Musings to quote more extensively from the address of that night fifty years ago, they would be an inspiration to the young men and women of the present day. Speaking on patriotism and love of country, he stated “What a large, wide, happy home is the land we live in! We have found it a goodly land, and have no sympathy with those who love it not. There is no piety, no genuine Christianity, in the heart of him who does not love his country, native or adopted. He cannot be a true, real-hearted man who, looking through the vista of coming years, does not hope to see his own country grow geater and more glorious.

          “Scotland. I love thee well,
             Thy dust is clear to me;
           This distant land is very fair,
             But not like thee.

           They say thy hills are bleak,
             They say thy glens are bare;
           But, oh! they know not what fond hearts
              Are nutured there.”


          It is sad to think that a mind so stored with all the beauty and imagery of the English language should finally end in a cloud. The last time Mr. Ormiston passed through Hamilton he was a physical and mental wreck. Years of pain and suffering had brought low the intellectual giant.


          There were other speakers at that notable banquet who are pleasantly remembered by the friends of the good old days of yore. The Rev. Ephraim B. Harper spoke cheery words o greeting for the Wesleyan Methodists of Hamilton, and the Rev. Dr, Irvine closed the speaking program with one of his breezy, characteristic speeches.


          Women are just as eligible as men for harps, halos and wings claim the women of Hamilton. And they go farther than that, for they emphatically declare that many of them are already enrolled on the angelic list, and they may be seen any Sunday occupying the reserved seats in Hamilton’s costly temples of worship. Let women take a back seat in the churches and leave the men to run things spiritually and Hamilton would become a veritable Sodom and Gommorah. Fancy the class of angels that can be found at the club or the lodge long after the St. Paul’s chimes peal forth the midnight hour! As a general thing, men have a pretty good opinion of themselves, which makes them rather selfish. They have an idea that wings are almost ready to sprout from their shoulders at any moment, and that it is only their native modesty that keeps them from bragging about their angelic qualities. They are like the fellow in church who promptly rose to his feet when the preacher, in his sermon, exclaimed : “Mark, the perfect man!” The club women in Chicago are resenting the claim made by men that their sex is the only one eligible for wings. It seems that at a meeting of Methodist ministers at Chester Heights, Pa., several of the brethren argued that there was no such thing as female angels, and gave as a reason that no record could be found in the sacred scriptures of any such angels, and therefore they did not exist. Then to prove their position, one of the brethren asked the question as to whoever saw a picture or a bit of statuary representing a female angel. Angels are chosen for their good works and this being the test of eligibility, where could one put their finger on a masculine angel in Hamilton?


          The idea that women are not born angels is ridiculous. Here in Hamilton are plenty of women who are angels – all the men have to do is use their eyes and brains to see that. Very young men and very old men are willing to concede to women their proper place in the angel choir. It is only the crabbed and sour fellows who are made to toe the mark for their neglect of home duties in the evening, or who spend the midnight hour at a game of draw where four ones always beat four twos, who declare that the long-suffering mother of their children has passed the angelic stage. One good women in this blessed city of Hamilton says that there may be no record of female angels in the Bible, or in the pages of books written by such crabbed old dyspeptics as Tom Carlyle, but that is not proof that female angels do not exist. One thing is certain, that when the roll of angels is called in the other world to which we are all tending, there will be more hearty and prompt responses from the gentler sex than from the masculine. This great family journal takes its stand with the women on this important question. In the religious world women make all the sacrifices is to keep the churches running; and were it not for them there would be little use for the sexton to open the churches running; and were it not for them there would be little use for the sexton to open the church doors tomorrow. The pastors would preach to empty pews if the men were depended upon to furnish the congregation, and there would be no missionary funds to send the gospel to convert the heathen. If the question were left to the young men to decide, especially those who took advantage of the month of roses to join hands and hearts with Hamilton’s fair ones, they would insist that women are angels, and doubtless would declare that women have so many angelic qualities that a very slight metamorphosis would be necessary for them to become full-fledged angels.

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