Rev. John Potts, was born in 1838, at Maguire’s Bridge, county Fermanagh, Ireland. After an uneventful childhood, John Potts determined at an early age to leave the land of his birth, and try his chance in the New World. We accordingly hear that when only seventeen, the young man started for the Southern States of America, taking Kingston in route.
As a straw will of times influence the current of a stream and direct it from its original course, young Potts’ sojourn amongst his Kingston relations, associated as it was with the pleasantest reminiscences, induced him on his return from the South to select Canada as the land of his adoption, and (many enticements to go elsewhere notwithstanding), forsaking all others, he has kept only unto her. Originally an Episcopalian, John Potts’ intercourse with the Wesleyans of Kingston, at that time under the spiritual guidance of the Rev. George Douglas, was not without its effect upon him, and he became a Methodist. The young man’s first step in life was trodden in the path of commerce, and we find him engaged in mercantile pursuits at Kingston and Hamilton.
Work of this kind was, however, uncongenial to his tastes, it is no matter of surprise, therefore, that yielding to the earnest solicitations of his friends, seconded as they were by his own natural desires, young Potts at the age of 19, and prior to the expiration of his Arts course, at Victoria College University, Cobourg, was induced to study for the Ministry.
His period of probation was passed on Circuit at Markham, Aurora, Newmarket, and lastly at Thorold, during his residence, in which place the young man completed his theological studies, and was received in full connection.
Subsequent to his ordination, when only 23, the young minister’s first field of labor was at Norter Street Church, London, as assistant to the Venerable Richard Jones; from thence, at the expiration of his time, he was appointed to a charge in Yorkville, and was associated with the Rev. E. H. Dewart, then at Elm street.
Such was the estimation in which this young worker in the Lords vineyard was held, that in 1866, he was chosen (no small compliment for a man of only 28) to be the first pastor of a new church erected in Hamilton, to commemorate the centenary of American Methodism, and thus became within the short space of ten years the minister in a congregation of which he had formerly been a member, and Sunday school teacher. Mr. Potts’ acceptance of the Hamilton charge was at first opposed by the Stationary Conference Committee, but their misgivings as to. the ability of the young clergyman to fill the church, soon proved to be groundless, for such were his talents and popularity, and so forcible his preaching, that Sunday after Sunday, multitudes flocked to hear the Word spoken by his mouth. While at Hamilton, Mr. Potts was invited to come to Toronto, to the church in Adelaide street, but fearing the time he would have to devote to the superintendence of the building of the Metropolitan church, then in course of erection, would interfere with what he considered to be strictly ministerial work, he declined this charge, and accepted that of St. James street, Montreal, which had been simultaneously placed at his disposal in succession to the Rev. Dr. Douglas. Equal success attended Mr. Potts in this his new field, and after a space of three years he returned to Toronto, and was placed in charge of the Metropolitan church in that city, where he rapidly increased the number of the congregation. The close of his ministration there saw him again removed to Elm Street, and he is at the present moment for a second period in charge of the Metropolitan.
Mr. Potts is a staunch supporter of Temperance, having first advocated its cause when only 15. He is also connected with the Young Men’s Christian Association and Bible Societies. He and the Rev. W. MacVicar of Montreal are the Dominion representatives on the International Committee, which select the Sunday lessons for all schools all over the world.
The subject of our sketch is a member of the Board and Senate of the Victoria University. He is likewise a member of the Board of the Montreal Theological College, and also a member of Committee, and has charge of the publishing interest of the church. In 1878, he was elected the first President of an Association which was formed in Toronto, embracing ministers of all denominations. In July of that year, the Wesleyan University, Ohio, in due appreciation of his merits, admitted him to the degree of D.D. On the death of Dr. Topp, he was appointed in 1879, to succeed him as Chairman of the Home for Incurables, an institution likely to prove of incalculable benefit to the people of Toronto, the foundation stone of the new buildings of which was laid by Her Royal Highness the Princess Louise, on the occasion of her first visit to Toronto, in September of the same year.
Never doing anything by halves, unostentatious, strictly imbued with a consciousness of the responsibilities of his sacred office, Dr. Potts rarely takes a leading part in lectures or meetings of Conference, but prefers to thoroughly identify himself with his ministerial work. Gifted with no ordinary power of eloquence, possessing a tongue as it were the pen of a ready writer, with a complete mastery over the subject he handles, and a splendid voice in his delivery of it, Dr. Potts is unsurpassed in the pulpit, and rivets the attention of his hearers. Of a commanding presence, having the advantages of a superior intellect and an equally poised mind, and possessed with great physical strength, Dr. Potts is never weary in welldoing. Ever ready to assist by his counsel those who are trying to lead a christian life, he fearlessly denounces in no measured language of condemnation and warning, those who are walking in the ways of wickedness and vice.
Combining in his person the suaviter in modo with the fortiter in re, Dr. Potts is known far and wide beyond the limits of his own denominations. He is beloved and revered by his own congregation; honored, respected, and esteemed by those outside its pale.
A Methodist of the Methodists, he is a man of the most liberal views; believing that true religion is hedged in by no sectarian prejudices, he willingly assists to the utmost of his power all fellow workers, irrespective of creed, in the service of the Great Master, and cordially holds out the right hand of christian fellowship and brotherly love to all, who like himself, go about doing good, and are endeavoring to ameliorate the spiritual and temporal condition and welfare of their fellowmen.
The eager desire of his several important charges to retain him amongst them, and their reluctance to part with him, amply testify to the success of his labors in the past; being in the full vigor of his manhood, should his life be spared, Dr. Potts has a long career of usefulness and work before him in years to come.
The historian of the future, when recording the progress and growth of Christianity in Canada, will not fail to place Dr. Potts in the foremost rank; a tower of strength to his own denomination, he by his example indicates to all the way in which they should walk, and generations after he shall have passed away, his memory will be blessed, and his works will follow him.