Evangelical Mind

Evangelical Mind: Nathanael Burwash and the Methodist Tradition in Canada, 1839-1918

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Evangelical Mind
    Book Description:

    By discussing the nature and practices of late nineteenth-century Methodism, Van Die focuses attention on the theological assumptions which allowed serious young Methodists to accept the critical thought of the period while retaining the basic tenets of their evangelical religion. She emphasizes that the position taken by Burwash and his students allowed religion to remain a vital component of early twentieth-century Canadian society during a time historians have generally viewed as an era of religious decline.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6197-7
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-13)

    Secluded behind one of Toronto’s busiest commercial districts, its collegiate Gothic strangely incongruous in the contemporary architectural landscape, stands Burwash Hall, the men’s residence of Victoria University. Completed in 1913, Burwash Hall represented the collaboration of two staunch Methodists, Nathanael Burwash, Victoria’s president and chancellor from 1887 to 1913, and Chester Massey, whose father’s estate funded the building. Its first dean of men was Chester’s son Vincent, who, fresh from Oxford, tried with only a modicum of success to impart a measure of Old World gentility to the hall’s boisterous residents.¹

    To Nathanael Burwash the completion of Burwash Hall and...

  6. CHAPTER ONE The Making of a Methodist: Mothers and the Perpetuation of Revival
    (pp. 14-37)

    Shortly before his death in March 1918, Nathanael Burwash set his pen to presenting in final form the autobiographical sketches and that had intermittently occupied him for the previous decade.¹ The purpose of the manuscript, which bore the information if uninspired title “Life and Labours of Nathanael Burwash,” was unmistakably didactic; in fact, according to its author’s own guidelines admission many earlier, “the serious aim of biography must always be the instruction of those just entering life.”² The thought was not unusual for his age. One scholar familiar with Victorian religious biographies has observed, “The biographer himself reads the evidence...

  7. CHAPTER TWO The College Student: Reason and Religion
    (pp. 38-64)

    Nathanael Burwash, unlike some of his contemporaries whose “honest doubt” led them away from the religion in which they had been raised, spent his life as a preacher, educator, and theologian reaffirming the faith of his childhood.¹ As he frequently acknowledged in his later years, two formative influences had shaped his life and thought: his mother and his years as an undergraduate at Victoria College, Cobourg.² However, while these influences would shape his theology, they had not shaped the questions to which that theology addressed itself. Here Burwash was not that different from J.A. Froude, who also had been forced...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Pastor: Preaching, Philanthropy, and Christian Perfection
    (pp. 65-88)

    Nathanael Burwash spent only six years, from 1860 to 1866, in the active ministry, but they were years he considered invaluable to his mature career as dean of theology and chancellor of Canada’s largest Methodist university. Four of these years were a period of training; the first, or probationary year, was spent at Newburgh, in the Kingston district, followed by two years “on trial” at Belleville and a year in Toronto before he was ordained in 1864.¹ He stayed one additional year in Toronto and was then moved to Hamilton. In 1867, after a three-month period of study at Yale...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Professor of Natural Science and Dean of Theology: Baconians, Methodists, and the Higher Criticism
    (pp. 89-113)

    The six years Burwash spent in the pastorate did more than formulate the contours of his piety and establish valuable links with Methodism’s financial elite. Even in his first year as a probationer, fresh on the Newburgh circuit, he had been so presumptuous as to confide in the privacy of his journal an overriding, but at the time scarcely practicable ambition, “an honour which I covet above all others … to build up the church or train those who may be the instruments of saving others.”¹ Fifty years later that ambition had been more than realized, and on 23 September...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Chancellor of Victoria University: The Federation of Learning, Culture, and True Religion
    (pp. 114-142)

    “You speak of ‘moving’ to Toronto. How do you move a University? What sort of fellows are you Canadians – are you more of Yankees than we are? It must grind an Englishman’s bones to hear of such a movement.” “Such a movement” – the removal of Victoria University from Cobourg to Toronto in order to enter federation with the publicly funded University of Toronto – was indeed under serious consideration in the spring of 1884 when Samuel Nelles received this astonished reaction from an old friend of Genesee Wesleyan days.¹ But it was not until October 1892 that Victoria’s...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Evangelical Statesman: Doctrine, History, and the Postmillennialism of Church Union
    (pp. 143-177)

    “A crisis is upon us which seems to us to demand that we should unite our forces for the one object of promoting the Kingdom of Christ in this land which God has given us: and in this effort we desire nothing more earnestly than the sympathy, prayers, and help of our brethren, both Methodist, Presbyterian and Congregational, in the Old Land.” With these words, Nathanael Burwash broached to the Methodist Ecumenical Conference assembled in Toronto in 1911 the admittedly delicate subject of a proposed organic union of the Canadian Methodist, Presbyterian, and Congregational churches.¹ Only seventy-two years earlier, John...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 178-196)

    To the Japanese reporter who interviewed Nathanael Burwash on board theSiberiaof the Pacific Steam Ship Company on 27 January 1913 the chancellor of Victoria University appeared a very old man “whose forehead furrowed with a thousand wrinkles, the eyes with warm glimmers and kind and gentle entertainment all make one at once to feel that he was in the presence of a loving grandfather instead of a stranger.”¹ Accompanied by his wife, Margaret Proctor, who, the reporter noted approvingly for the benefit of Japanese women, appeared to be “faithfully obeying the words of her husband,” Burwash was about...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 197-252)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-280)