Biography of Wellington Jeffers, D.D.
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Wellington Jeffers, one of the best read clergymen and most eloquent preachers in the Methodist Church in Canada, was born in the City of Cork, Ireland, June 22, 1814. His father being Rev. Robert Jeffers, a merchant in the old country, and a preacher and teacher in Canada. The family came to this country in the summer of 1817, and after preaching a few years, in connection with the Conference, the father of our subject settled as a teacher in Kingston. He was a man of almost universal knowledge, excelling in the mathematics, and showing great ability, both as a writer and speaker. The son, who was drilled by him in the rudiments of knowledge, seems to have inherited his father’s love of study. Since ten years of age, he has been a literary gourmand, and as early as twelve, was noted for his expertness in figures, school teachers sometimes visiting him from quite a distance, trying, usually in vain, to puzzle him with difficult problems in the arithmetic.
When our subject left home his father advised him to be always trying to master some new branch of knowledge, and not to fall into the error, as he called it, of spending most of his time in direct preparation for the pulpit; but to devote much time to general yet solid study, so that the mind should be always fresh and always young.
The son seems to have followed this advice for it is well known that he is never more happy than while exploring new fields of enquiry in science, or metaphysics or some other branch. To him every excursion in unbeaten tracks of knowledge opens enchanting vistas to the mind’s eye, and furnishes fresh illustrations to embellish and beautify his discourses.
He studied divinity mainly in private; commenced preaching in the Conference in February, 1837, and among the places at which he has been stationed, are Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Belleville, London, Cobourg, Oshawa, Brantford, and Lindsay. Meanwhile he has done a great deal of solid home mission work.
For nine years Mr. Jeffers was editor of the Christian Guardian, of Toronto, the organ of the Methodist Church in Canada, and many of his editorials attracted great attention in the United States and Great Britain, as well as Canada. He was in the editorial chair during the progress of the civil war in the United States (1861-65) and took a bold, and fearless stand on the side of the North, and for Emancipation. He championed the cause of the oppressed in such a powerful manner, that the Northern papers often copied and commented on his leaders, giving him the strongest praise for his aid in the cause of humanity.
In 1864, while in the editorial chair, the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him by Victoria College.
As a preacher, Dr. Jeffers has very few peers in the Methodist Church in Canada. Though abounding in illustrations he uses them in his discourses, as recommended by old Dr. Thomas Fuller, the witty divine, to improve the light. His words, always well chosen, flow of their own accord, like a stream down an inclined plane, and they are used solely to communicate thought, with which every sentence is thoroughly charged. He employs his learning to sharpen the arrows of truth, and not for show, and his sermons are invariably pointed and often piquant. It is an intellectual as well as spiritual treat to listen to his pulpit efforts.
One feature of the preaching of Dr. Jeffers is its purely extemporaneous character; he never took a scrap of paper into the pulpit. In private he reads, and thinks, fills up and prays; then goes into the pulpit and empties his mind in part, for it is never dry. Sometimes, after getting into his pulpit, and looking round, he discovers that he has a wrong text, an inopportune subject, and changes text and all.
He has preached a great many dedicatory and anniversary sermons, and is often importuned to let them be printed, and also to prepare books on various subjects, but in that manner he rarely appears in print never, we believe, except through the ubiquitous and irrepressible reporter.
Dr. Jeffers has lectured more or less for thirty years on literary, scientific and moral subjects, and his efforts of this character, always made extemporaneously, show the wide extent of his reading and research, the great reach of his thoughts, the analytical power of his mind, and his rich stores of knowledge.
The greater part of his ministerial life, Dr. Jeffers has been Chairman of the District, and was one year Secretary of the Conference; two years Vice-President and one year President.
Dr. Jeffers was first married July 6, 1841, to Miss Jane Frith, of London, England. She had four children and died in 1846. Three of the children are living. The eldest son, James Frith Jeffers, M. A., is Principal of the Collegiate Institute, Peterborough, and author of two School Histories of Canada; Wellington Coleman Jeffers, M. D., is practicing medicine at Oak wood, County of Victoria; and Emma is the wife of Rev. James Graham, of Seaforth, Ontario. His present wife was Jane Dougall, of Picton, married June 21, 1854. By her he has one daughter, Helen Jane, wife of Rev. R, C, Wilkinson, of Cobocouk.