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Original title:  The Rev. John Bayne BA, DD

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BAYNE, JOHN, Presbyterian minister; b. 16 Nov. 1806 in Greenock, Scotland, son of the Reverend Kenneth Bayne, minister of the Gaelic Chapel, Greenock, and Margaret Hay; d. unmarried 3 Nov. 1859 in Galt (Cambridge), Upper Canada.

After attending the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, John Bayne moved to Edinburgh in 1827 and was licensed to preach in the Church of Scotland by the Presbytery of Dingwall on 8 Sept. 1830. It was about this time that he refused an offer of a church in South Carolina, evidently preferring to remain at home in the hope of receiving a call from a Scottish congregation. While in Edinburgh he acted as assistant to various ministers. The drowning of two sisters in the spring of 1832 seems to have had a lifelong effect on Bayne’s work and character. Although death had been no stranger to his family (he had already lost his parents, a brother, and a sister), this unexpected loss prompted him to compose in secret several pious resolutions, found only after his death, that are thought to have henceforth governed his demeanour and actions. According to one account, these “heavy domestic afflictions” gave him “an appearance of gloom, that was often mistaken by strangers for absolute melancholy, and also tended to produce that comparative indifference to the world, and that undoubted piety which ever characterized him.” Asked in later years why he never married, Bayne replied that “since my father died I have never felt that I had a home, and I have never cared to marry .”

He moved to Shapinsay, in the Orkney Islands, in 1833 to serve as assistant to the Reverend John Barry. When the parish’s lay patron denied a popular request to grant him a continuing position there, Bayne, “chafed with the hauteur of the patron as well as with the treatment the congregation received,” decided to leave. He was accepted by the Glasgow Colonial Society to serve as a missionary to British North America and was ordained by the Presbytery of Dingwall on 3 Sept. 1834. Bayne transferred all his property to his surviving sisters and departed for Upper Canada, arriving about the end of 1834. He first served at St Andrew’s in Toronto between the departure of William Rintoul and the return from Scotland of his successor, William Turnbull Leach*. Late in 1835 Bayne accepted a call from the congregation of St Andrew’s in Galt, whose minister, William Stewart, had left to accept a call to Demerara (Guyana). In Galt, with a congregation composed almost exclusively of “a respectable class of Lowland Scotch farmers” and businessmen, Bayne commenced a remarkable ministry that, for all his having decided to serve only temporarily in Upper Canada, lasted until his death. His services, sometimes exceeding three hours, were characterized by a forceful and eloquent pulpit style that soon attracted one of the largest Presbyterian congregations in Canada and made him one of the church’s highest paid preachers. An observer said that in his pulpit prayers he talked “as if he were alone with God, and yet covered all public and congregational needs and aspirations.” He also established seven new congregations in the Galt region, but his exhausting travels ruined his health with the result that he seldom attended presbytery and synod meetings. Nevertheless, he was chosen in 1842 to recruit clergy in Scotland for newly settled areas in the province.

Bayne was still in Edinburgh in May 1843 when the disruption of the Church of Scotland occurred as a reaction against state interference with church business. He returned to Canada in the summer believing that the absence of state interference with the colonial church would prevent a similar upheaval there. During the winter, when the developments in Scotland were widely discussed in British North America [see Robert Burns*], Bayne became convinced that to maintain the connection would be to share the Church of Scotland’s “sin” of accepting the direct involvement of the state. Unlike the long-settled Presbyterians in the eastern part of Upper Canada, recent Scottish immigrants to the western districts strongly favoured a Canadian disruption. Moreover, because the separatists in Scotland who had formed the Free Church there promoted the Glasgow Colonial Society’s mission in British North America, most of the society’s missionaries, including Bayne, supported the split. When the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada in connection with the Church of Scotland met at Kingston in July 1844 Bayne took the lead by presenting a motion for separation from the Church of Scotland, thus opposing the Reverend John Cook*. With 20 elders and 22 other ministers, including Robert Burns, Alexander Gale, and Mark Young Stark*, he helped create the Synod of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, popularly called the Free Church. Most of Bayne’s congregation in Galt supported his action, although it cost them their church building. Those in Galt who remained with the Church of Scotland received the guidance of the Reverend Thomas Liddell*, principal of Queen’s College, Kingston, in securing possession of their property. A year later Bayne and Liddell publicly debated the disruption at Galt, and it was generally conceded that Bayne won.

The Free Church was approached in 1844 by the Missionary Synod of Canada in connection with the United Associate Secession Church in Scotland with a view to union. Bayne, convenor of his synod’s union committee, and most of his colleagues demanded acceptance of their doctrine of the state’s obligation to support the church without exercising any control, whereas the members of the Missionary Synod, led by William Proudfoot, were voluntarists, believing in the separation of church and state. Union was delayed until 1861, after Bayne’s death.

In 1846 Bayne was unanimously chosen moderator of his synod. The following year he returned to Scotland on behalf of Toronto’s recently established Free Church college (later Knox College), and obtained the services of the Reverend Michael Willis* as professor of theology. In later years Bayne, because of his continuing poor health, repeatedly refused a teaching post in the college, including one made vacant by the death of Henry Esson.

Bayne’s popularity assured that his Free Church congregation in Galt, Knox’s, would grow rapidly; by 1852 it comprised 298 families and had an average attendance of 890. Made a doctor of divinity in 1853 by Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., he took a leave of absence in 1855–56 after a serious illness to visit Britain and Europe, resuming his pastoral duties at the end of 1856. When his church needed two Sunday services Bayne “acknowledged that he was not equal to the undertaking” and in 1858 offered to resign. His congregation rejected the offer and instead hired the Reverend Archibald Constable Geikie as his assistant. “Conscious at the age of fifty that he looked old,” Bayne, a heavy smoker who engaged in “ever-growing sedentary habits,” suddenly became ill at his home on the morning of 3 Nov. 1859 and died that afternoon.

John S. Moir

[John Bayne left no diaries and few letters. According to one biographer, he “disliked greatly the mere act of using a pen . . . and he had, as a rule, as little to do with pen and ink work as was possible for one in his position.” Under those circumstances it is surprising that he published at all. Some of his sermons and polemical writings appeared in pamphlet form during his lifetime, including Report of the discussion on the late disruption in the Presbyterian Church, which took place in St. Andrew’s Church, Galt, on Tuesday, May 27, 1845, between the Rev. Principal Liddell, D.D., of Queen’s College, Kingston, and the Rev. John Bayne, minister of the Presbyterian Church of Canada, Galt (Galt [Cambridge, Ont.], 1845). At the request of the newly formed Free Church synod, Bayne drafted a defence of the disruption as a pastoral address that was later expanded and published as Was the recent disruption of the synod of Canada, in connection with the Church of Scotland, called for? An address to the Presbyterians of Canada who still support the synod in connection with the Church of Scotland (Galt, 1846). Another work, Is man responsible for his belief? A lecture delivered before the members of the Hamilton Mercantile Library Association, on the evening of the 18th of February 1851, was published in Galt in 1851. Although plans to publish notes of his sermons posthumously were never pursued, fragments of his sermons appeared as “Outlines of four discourses by the Rev. John Bayne, D.D., late minister of Knox Church, Galt,” in Canada Presbyterian church pulpit, first series (Toronto, 1871), 16–30.

Notices of Bayne’s death appeared in Ecclesiastical and Missionary Record for the Presbyterian Church of Canada (Toronto), 16 (1859–60): 20–22, 54, in its Minutes of the Synod (Toronto), 1860: 37, and in the Sarnia Observer, and Lambton Advertiser, 18 Nov. 1859. A longer obituary is Robert Irvine’s sermon, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?”; a discourse preached in Knox’s Church, Hamilton, C. W., on Sabbath, November 13, 1859, with a view to improve the sudden demise of the late Rev. John Bayne, D.D., of Galt (Hamilton, [Ont.], 1859).

      The first biography was written by his friend, the Reverend George Smellie. Called Memoir of the Rev. John Bayne, D.D., of Galt . . . (Toronto, 1871), it republished Bayne’s essay on man’s responsibility for his belief (91–139), and also contains the only surviving sample of his poetry, in which sphere Bayne “had some confidence in his abilities.” In part to provide more anecdotal information, and in part to correct a misleading statement in Smellie’s biography that obviously rankled, the Reverend Archibald Constable Geikie wrote an excellent biography of Bayne called “A colonial sketch: Dr. John Bayne of Galt,” originally published in the British and Foreign Evangelical Rev. (Toronto), 24 (1875): 488–504. It was republished in Rev. Dr. John Bayne, D.D., minister of Knox’s Church, Galt, 1835–1859 (Galt, 1935), edited by a namesake, John Bayne Maclean. This work and A. J. Clark, “Notes on the Galt churches,” OH, 22 (1925): 18–19, reproduce a portrait of Bayne which in 1935 was still hanging in his former manse. The pious resolutions written on the drowning of his two sisters are printed in Geikie’s biography and in the Ecclesiastical and Missionary Record for the Presbyterian Church of Canada, 16: 104. A short, uncredited biography entitled “The Rev. John Bayne, D.D.” also appeared in the Knox College Monthly (Toronto), 2 (1883–84): 34–38.  j.s.m.]

PCA, H. S. McCollum papers. UCA, Biog. files, John Bayne, esp. A. B. Baird, “Biographical sketch: Rev. John Bayne, D.D., of Galt” (typescript). Croil, Hist. and statistical report (1868), 25, 28–29. Scott et al., Fasti ecclesiœ scoticanœ, vol.7. Gregg, Hist. of Presbyterian Church. Knox’s: for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom; the story of the congregation of Knox’s Presbyterian Church of Galt . . . 1844–1969, ed. C. E. Saunders ([Galt], 1969). N. G. Smith et al., A short history of the Presbyterian Church in Canada (Toronto, [1965]). J. R. Blake, “The history of Knox’s Church, Galt, Ont.,” Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report, 1937: 266–72.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

John S. Moir, “BAYNE, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 31, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bayne_john_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bayne_john_8E.html
Author of Article: John S. Moir
Title of Article: BAYNE, JOHN
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: July 31, 2014