Greatness being varied in its character, is not confined alone to him whose name stands high upon the record of statesmanship or military renown, but may with equal propriety be applied to him who preserves a spotless name, devotes himself to the welfare of his fellowmen, and develops in himself a true and generous manhood. A man’s principle is what he lives for, and his life takes its character and coloring from the principles that are born and cherished in his soul.
The life work of him whose name heads this sketch, fifty-five years of which were passed in the service of the Church, is most worthy of record, and we regret that the limited space afforded in this volume will not admit of a more extended notice than the following brief memoir; for a complete history of the life of this eminent divine would be a history of the Wesleyan Church since the Canada Conference was formed in 1824.
Dr. Green was born at Middleburgh, Schoharie County, New York, on the 27th September, 1801. His father was Joseph Green, who traced his lineage to an old family named Clarke, which formerly resided in Warwickshire, England. His uncle, Benjamin Green, settled in Rhode Island where, for upwards of twenty-five years, he held the honorable position of Judge. In the manuscript which he has left, Dr. Green says but little on the subject of ancestors, contenting himself with the simple statement of his father’s English descent, and of his wisdom, integrity, and fine personal appearance. His mother was a Miss Vorce, a descendant of one of the oldest families, and landed proprietors of the City of New York. His father, who resided near Middleburgh, was not wealthy, and therefore unable to give his son what he so much desired, a regular collegiate course of education; but the opportunities afforded at the schools of his native town were improved to the best advantage, and, aided by private instruction and careful reading, our subject qualified himself for the great work of teaching and leading others in the faith of Godliness. He was also blessed with the inestimable advantage of the good example and early training of a pious mother, and there were early indications of the strivings of the good Spirit of God in his heart, which earnestly led him to study for the ministry.
In 1822 he came to Canada, when he engaged in teaching school at first, but in 1824, he was ordained at Hallowell, and at once began his ministerial work on Smith’s Creek circuit, of which Cobourg was the centre; in 1827 was ordained deacon, and three years later received elder’s orders. Dr. Green must have possessed great energy, and have been thoroughly devoted to the service of his Master; to accomplish the task assigned him in those early days, among the privations, dangers, and hardships that accompanied a backwood’s life. On his first circuit he was obliged to travel four hundred miles every month, necessarily on horseback, in order to keep the thirty-three regular appointments which he had for every four weeks. On his second circuit, which embraced the entire peninsula of Prince Edward, and his third, the country between the River Credit and the Grand River swamp, his labors were scarcely less onerous. From 1832 until 1844, when he was elected Book-steward, he held the position of Presiding Elder. During this period he was successively in charge of all the circuits east of Kingston the Bay of Quinte district, where his first official act was the opening of what is now Victoria College, Cobourg, of which he afterwards became Bursar; and the Toronto district, which extended from Whitby to Owen Sound, and thence to Niagara Falls, comprising sixteen circuits. He was repeatedly honored by his Church, and filled, at different periods, all the important offices within its gift; in 1841, he was elected Secretary, and, one year later, President of the Conference, and in 1844, took charge of its book and printing establishment, managing its affairs with decided ability for the succeeding ten years, during which time he was the first to introduce printing by steam in Toronto. He again assumed the duties of this office in 1859, and continued in charge until 1865. The Middleburg University, Ohio, recognized his eminent qualities by conferring on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity.
Thrice Dr. Green was elected to the English Conference in 1846, 1854, and again in 1856. In 1863, he was for the second time honored with the appointment of President of the Conference. He was frequently delegated to transact important official business with the Government and Parliament of Canada, and always performed his commissions with equal honor to his ability, and advantage to the cause he served. During his ministerial life he attended seventy-two conferences, to which he sustained an official relation; was appointed Chairman of the Association of delegates from the Dominion to provide for a branch of the Evangelical Alliance in Canada; was Representative of his Church to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to the Free Church of Scotland, to the Congregational Church in Montreal, and to the Primitive Methodist Church; was Vice-President of the Bible Society, and for many years Chairman of the House of Industry, Toronto, often performing divine service to the poor of that institution. He was a warm friend of all public charities of the city, and devoted much time and energy in support of them.
November 27, 1828, Dr. Green married Rachel, second surviving daughter of Caleb Hopkins, Esq., of Nelson, Ontario, for many years a member of Parliament for Halton. He had only two children, the late Mrs. Peter McNabb, and Mr. Columbus H. Green, Barrister, of Toronto.
The Rev. Doctor was about six feet in height, with a finely developed figure, and a commanding, dignified presence; and in his younger days, being vigorous and strong in mind as well as in body, was capable of enduring great exposure and hardships; but for a number of years previous to his death, he was much enfeebled by enlargement of the heart, which abridged his labors and shortened his valuable life. Yet, at all times his ministry was faithful, his piety deep, and his friendship lasting. The illness which finally resulted in his death on February 19, 1879, though long, and painful at intervals, was endured with Christian patience. In great peace and calmness he passed away,
“Sustained and soothed By an unfaltering trust, Like one that draws the drapery of his couch About him, and lies down to pleasant dreams.”
His funeral took place on the following Saturday, and from a short sketch which appeared in the city papers, we condense the following:
The large cortege proceeded to the Metropolitan Church (of which he had been one of the chief promoters), where services were conducted by the Revs. Dr. Potts, Dr. Briggs, Dr. Ryerson, and Rev. E. B. Harper, President of the Toronto Conference. The pulpit and gallery were appropriately draped in mourning, and there was in attendance a large audience, representing all the Protestant churches in the city. There were also present a large number of ministers from the different churches, and the following eminent divines were the pall bearers: Rev. Dr. Wood, Dr. Topp, Dr. Rose, Dr. Young, Dr. Potts, and Ven. Dean Grasett.
The Venerable Dr. Ryerson, “in an eloquent and touching address, said “the deceased had been the friend of his youth, the companion in toil of later years; had been examined with him as candidate for the ministry, and had stood side by side with him at ordination. His friend had gone to join the others gone before, and he was left behind, the last of that early band of preachers. He, the eldest of over one thousand ministers of the Methodist Church, now stood alone, a thought that deeply affected him.” He paid a high tribute of respect to his departed friend, and closed by a most touching reference to the taking of his last farewell of Dr. Green. At the conclusion of the services, the body was followed by a very large procession from the church to the Necropolis, where, after the reading of the burial service by the Rev. Dr. Young, it was deposited in the family vault, there to await the resurrection of the just.