Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
View From the Murney Tower

View From the Murney Tower: Salem Bland, the Late-Victorian Controversies, and the Search for a New Christianity, Volume 1

Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 496
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    View From the Murney Tower
    Book Description:

    Salem Goldworth Bland (1859-1950) was among the most significant religious leaders in Canadian history. A Methodist and, later, United Church minister, Bland's long career and widespread influence made him a leading figure in the popularizing of liberal theology, social reform, and the Social Gospel movement. He was also a man who struggled with the polarities of evangelical faith and worldly culture, and who sought a unifying world-view in the mentoring of Sir J. William Dawson in the sciences, George Monro Grant in public affairs, and John Watson in philosophy.

    The View from the Murney Toweris a two-volume biography of Salem Bland by Richard Allen, author ofThe Social Passion: Religion and Reform in Canada, 1914-28. This first volume begins with Bland's upbringing in the home of an educated industrialist turned preacher. It goes on to explore his emergence as a liberating mind and eloquent speaker prepared to support new currents of scientific and social thought, as well as to discuss their implications for Christian faith and life. Allen concludes this first volume with Bland's departure from central Canada for the west in 1903, by which time he had become a somewhat controversial figure amongst conservative evangelicals throughout the country.

    More than just biography, however,The View from the Murney Toweris also an examination of progressive religion in late-Victorian Canada, a time in which Darwinism and other Biblical, social, and intellectual controversies were profoundly affecting the growth of a young nation.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8958-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Richard Allen
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. xv-2)

    Salem Bland was a pioneer of progressive religion in Canada. Like many another who has entertained new conceptions and given them public voice, he was lionized by some and attacked by others as a dangerous person. He began his probation for the Methodist ministry in 1881, facing a charge of heresy in Kingston for his views on the nature of childhood; as a young minister he incurred the wrath of his more conservative Montreal Conference brethren by promoting the new historical criticism of the Bible; in industrial Cornwall he forthrightly blamed the labour unrest of the 1890s on an un-Christian...

  6. Epiphany
    (pp. 3-6)

    The early morning mists that shrouded Kingston harbour that spring morning were beginning to dissipate. The grey-stone and red firedbrick townscape rimming the harbour were barely visible, and the boats at their moorings wore an air of ghostly unreality. Beyond the boats, defending town and harbour, even at this peaceful moment, the four Martello towers for all their solidity seemed to float on a sea of vapour.

    A sudden sound and motion near the western-most tower, known locally as the Murney Tower, broke the reigning silence and stillness. The gulls that punctuated the waiting scene, patient but eager for any...

  7. 1 Newness of Life
    (pp. 7-24)

    It was hot and humid in Montreal during the week of June 1858, when Henry Flesher Bland awaited with growing anxiety news of his ultimate destination. Hardly the weather a native of Yorkshire would be used to. And the sky had a habit of exploding into a downpour that would make a Noah catch his breath and wonder if it were not already past time for boarding the Ark. Certainly a few moments of Montreal precipitation equalled several days of the mist and drizzle that so often shrouded his own village of Addingham in the Wharfdale.¹

    Addingham. But a few...

  8. 2 Family Pilgrimage
    (pp. 25-56)

    The buggy was loaded. Doctor, their horse, was aquiver with a sense that the journey was no ordinary outing. A large leather bag had been packed under the front seat, along with a carpet bag, a quantity of oats, a saddle, and miscellaneous gear. The large tin travelling trunk was strapped behind, and beside it a small chair tied in place for William. A mat in front of the seat was to cushion the journey for James. The boys in place, Emma in the seat with the ten-month old Salem in her arms, Henry Flesher drew himself away from the...

  9. 3 Heresy!
    (pp. 57-67)

    ‘Baby Sanctification!’ snorted the Reverend James Elliott, chair of the Kingston District and of the meeting, and Salem could not be sure whether more of scorn or jest lay in the remark. But did it really matter which? The comment brought to an end a long morning interview inquiring into Salem’s reading, the vitality of his faith and practice thereof, and his thinking on the essential doctrines of Methodism. In particular he had been pressed long and hard on his views of childhood, baptism, conversion, new birth, and church membership, all critical elements of longstanding evangelical belief and practice. This...

  10. 4 The World, the Flesh, and the Young Preacher
    (pp. 68-89)

    In the late seventies and early eighties it was possible to discern the emergence of a new Methodism, national in scope, broadening in cultural proportions, and flashing here and there with a new catholicity of spirit but, notwithstanding Salem Bland’s recent encounter with the old Methodism, it would be difficult to find in him, in his first years of preaching, an unambiguous partisan of the new, with a clear vision of what was to come. The line between the two ran not outside but through him. Perhaps to speak of old and new and of a line is misleading, but...

  11. 5 The View from Murney Tower
    (pp. 90-114)

    Kingston was considered by some to be a dull place in the 1880s. The last of the Imperial regiment had left the city in 1879 and with them went whatever there was of colour and ceremony for much of the population, as well as a lively part of the social calendar for such high society as the community boasted. For Salem Bland, stationed there in 1886, the place was excitement itself. From the moment he arrived at the new Queen Street Church, the doors of perception seemed to open ever wider. It was not so much, at first, the ferment...

  12. 6 Protestant Passions and the Politics of Prophecy
    (pp. 115-134)

    The weather was hot and dry. With windows closed, the railway coach was utterly insufferable, but open, they were a standing invitation to the plumes of dust aroused from the right of way by the speeding train. Salem had brought the inevitable book with him — was it George Eliot’sEssays and Leaves from a Notebookthat he had been eager to get at — though, truth to tell, he was at this moment more in a mood of reverie after a midday Kingston farewell full of feeling. The desire to retreat to the interior self, however, had to do battle with...

  13. 7 Signs of the Times
    (pp. 135-159)

    At the end of 1890, it had appeared that a return to Kingston might be possible — to the prestigious Sydenham Street congregation — but officials at Quebec would not agree. Soon it was Conference time again. His brother Charles, now graduated from the Wesleyan Theological College and in active ministry, was there, in the company of a young lady. Henry Flesher was struggling with a compromise solution to the problems being created by young Horner’s revivalistic excesses and adamant independence. As for Salem, he found Kingston and Ottawa vying for his services. He had recently visited the Ottawa churches, and Mr...

  14. 8 The Religiousness of Reason
    (pp. 160-201)

    If Salem Bland had any weakness, it was for books. They were the meat and drink of his active mind. Despite his small salary, he had already collected a substantial library, some of which unfortunately showed evidence of a night the pipes burst in Quebec. As a probationer he had been required to list the books he read each year for the examination of the District Meeting. He kept up the habit. His reading for any year was unusually wide, amounting to an average of fifty books a year covering six or seven major fields. One might have suspected him...

  15. 9 How the Walls Fall Away!
    (pp. 202-247)

    It was 1896. Eastern Canada was in the grip of the sort of winter enjoyed by skaters and ice-boaters. Before the cold would depart and the warm days of spring dawn, severe storms would lash the country, piling the snow into immense drifts. In the course of the year the last late winter of the long years of depression would melt away, and the freshets of spring would call the economy back to life. The winter years had of late also hung their heavy frosts on the Conservative tradition in the land. Neither new leaders nor old could dispel the...

  16. 10 The Consciences of Many Are Still Asleep
    (pp. 248-271)

    Foster McAmmond and D.C. Sanderson were two spirited and, it must be said, incautious ministerial colleagues of Salem, stationed, respectively, at Perth and Almonte. The summer must have hung heavily on them for, on what was evidently something of a lark or a desire to experience a bit of the underside of life that Methodist moralists constantly warned about, they had gone together to Syracuse, New York, registered at a hotel under false names, and either enjoyed the company of, or were roughly exploited by, the denizens of the red-light district, contained by police policy within the four blocks around...

  17. 11 A Large and Animating Hope
    (pp. 272-297)

    Salem Bland had issued his call for a new breed of preacher-popularizer, and the church had given a broad sanction to its members to examine the social movements and economic nostrums of the day for the best means of alleviating the social ills that beset the nation. Salem himself was concerned not just with alleviation, but with the forging of a new quality of social and economic relationships — even more, the creation of a new mind in church and society alike. The church, with its more and more numerous paraphernalia of a cradle to the grave Methodism, catering in specialized...

  18. 12 Nation and Empire
    (pp. 298-322)

    There was a slight commotion at the back of the hall. Sitting as secretary of the assembly at the front of the hall with the other table officers, Salem was among the first to notice it. The members of the Montreal Methodist Conference were meeting in regular session at Gananoque, Ontario, in June 1900. Most delegates, absorbed in the proceedings, would not have noticed the disturbance until one of the animated cluster broke free of the group, walked quickly and importantly to the platform and conveyed an obviously urgent message to Salem who, in turn, passed it on to the...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  20. 13 Capital Prospects
    (pp. 323-353)

    Goldwin Smith once described Ottawa as ‘a sub-arctic lumber village transformed by royal mandate into a political cockpit.’ It was a magnificent site, however, with high cliffs overlooking the broad expanse of the Ottawa River, where it cascaded over falls named the Chaudière. The town was trisected by the Rideau River and later the Rideau Canal, which linked Ottawa with Kingston and its fortifications to the south. Beyond the new Parliament buildings, north and west, were the Gatineau Hills and the vast timber stands once exploited by as many as ten sawmills, but now ruled by John Booth, whose mills...

  21. 14 The Word Made Flesh
    (pp. 354-383)

    The second week of September 1903 had barely begun when Salem Bland’s world took a dramatic turn that would change his life forever. His Quarterly Official Board, at the urging of the congregation, had persuaded the Conference Stationing Committee to allow him an unusual fourth year at the Eastern Church. Salem had agreed and was busy planning the work of a new church year, when a loud knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. Not the usual time of day for visitors. Emma, as was her custom, to spare him the awkwardness of assembling himself with his crutches, answered the...

  22. Epilogue: Afloat on Such a Sea
    (pp. 384-398)

    On Thursday afternoon, 15 October 1903, before sixteen hundred people, in the most brilliant university event seen to date in Kingston, Salem Bland and seven others were granted degrees of doctors of divinity. Sandford Fleming, as chancellor, presided. More than two hundred university professors and distinguished guests from across the country and northern states, including leading politicians and clergy, were on the platform. This special convocation of Queen’s University was the culmination of a search for a replacement for George Monro Grant, who, as principal, had brought the university to its present eminence. The search committee had found their candidate...

  23. Notes
    (pp. 399-466)
  24. Bibliography
    (pp. 467-502)
  25. Illustration Credits
    (pp. 503-504)
  26. Index
    (pp. 505-524)