Matthew Witherspoon Maclean, pastor of St. Andrew’s church, Belleville, was M born at Glasgow, Scotland, June 11, 1842. While studying at the University there, his father, who had filled several positions of trust and responsibility, died in the prime of life, after a long illness, leaving behind him little more than the heritage of an honest name. Our subject, notwithstanding, continued to attend college for a considerable time afterwards, holding a good position among his fellow students, taking the whole arts course, comprising classics, mathematics, and philosophy, and, passing the requisite examination before the established Presbytery of Glasgow, became a student in divinity.
Mr. Maclean visited relatives in Canada in the summer of 1862, and was so impressed by the representations made of the church’s need of laborers, that he decided to remain and devote himself to the cause in this country. With this intention he entered the Divinity Hall of Queen’s College, Kingston, where he studied two years. He then spent a session in Princeton Theological Seminary, New Jersey, and was graduated with the class of 1866. Returning to Canada, he was examined by the Synod in connection with the church of Scotland, which met at Toronto in June, 1866; was licensed by the Presbytery of Niagara in the same month, and ordained and inducted into the pastoral charge of St. Andrew’s church, Paisley, county of Bruce, by the Presbytery of Guelph, in August of that year.
The country was new; the church had been vacant for a considerable time, and, as a consequence, the membership had dwindled down to a mere handful. As he was the only minister belonging to his section of the church within forty miles, and as the lands were all settled, he had a large field to cultivate, and he set himself willingly to work to make the most of it. During his pastorate there his labors were abundant. Besides weekday visiting, &c., extending over large portions of five townships, made on horseback and afoot, he traveled every Sabbath between twenty and forty miles, preaching three times a day.
Hard as the work was, it had its alleviating and gratifying results. The church building at Paisley had to be considerably enlarged to accommodate the rapidly increasing congregation, while three promising missionary stations were started and organized at various points, so that within a few months after Mr. Maclean removed from Paisley, he had the happiness of knowing that three pastors had settled over as many self sustaining, vigorous congregations, in a section of country where, not long before, there had been only one church, and that one small and weak.
After five years’ hard, yet successful and therefore inspiriting work, the subject of this sketch accepted a call for the Mill Street Presbyterian church, at Port Hope, a beautiful town on the shore of Lake Ontario, where he had a comfortable and prosperous pastorate of two years, the church and Sunday school both being enlarged and greatly strengthened.
In 1873, Mr. Maclean accepted a call to St. Andrew’s church, Belleville, where he is laboring with zeal and success. The house of worship is a large, gothic brick structure, seating 650 people, and located in an acre lot on Church street. Its membership embraces a large percentage of the older and most substantial families in the city, and an unusual amount of intelligence and culture. In influence it is probably the leading religious body here, having a strong working force, and supporting two Sunday schools. It is the oldest Presbyterian church in Belleville, and for a long period represented the Kirk or Church of Scotland in this city. Since settling in Belleville, Mr. Maclean was clerk of the Presbytery of Kingston, in connection with the Church of Scotland, holding that office up to the time of the union of the Presbyterian churches in the Dominion. While in Paisley, he was a member of the Board of Public Instruction for the County of Bruce.
Mr. Maclean is a clear reasoner, a deep thinker, and has an earnest persuasive manner, delighting in preaching “Christ and Him crucified,” rather than in purely doctrinal discourses, though by no means leaving essentials untouched. Whatever he undertakes in the pulpit, shows a thorough knowledge of his subject, and most painstaking effort to bring what he has to say within the comprehension of all his hearers. He has an easy, graceful delivery, and exeels as a platform speaker. He is self sacrificing in his devotion to his people, and in pastoral work, is untiring always ready to visit the sick and to comfort the mourner and the broken hearted.
Mr. Maclean has been married since September 29, 1868, his wife being Isabella Elizabeth, daughter of George Davidson, ex-Mayor of Kingston. They have four children.