Glorious and Free ( A tribute to Sir Leonard Tilley)

“Now I ask any honourable member of this House how he would feel if he woke up some fine morning and found himself instead of a Canadian, a Tuponian or a Hochelagander.”
Over a century and half later this statement by Thomas D'Arcy McGee, may seem inconceivable, but it was real and it was important. Leading up to the proposed confederation, a number of names were suggested for the northern half of the continent of North America, including: Albertsland, Albionora, Borealia, Britannia, Cabotia, Colonia, EfisgaFootnote 1, Hochelaga, Norland, Superior, Transatlantia, TuponiaFootnote 2, and Victorialand.
Fortunately for posterity, McGee’s wit and reasoning – along with common sense – prevailed, and on July 1, 1867, the provinces of Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick became “one Dominion under the name of Canada.”
At the end of March, 1967, a group of people, now considered the fathers of Confederation, deliberated on how to move forward in this new land. Around the table were people from the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, including our first Prime Minister, John A. MacDonald. They had a desire to give a name to the coming together of these distinct provinces. Options were considered but no conclusion was reached. They adjourned for the night. 

History tells us that the next morning, Leonard Tilley, rose and did what he always did, he read a chapter of the bible. That morning, it was Psalm 72. He came upon a phrase in that psalm, verse 8 that would forever define our nation of Canada… “Dominion”…

When he went down to resume the meetings, he presented his idea to the others and the rest, as they say, is history. On July 1, 1867, by royal decree in British Parliament, the nation or Dominion of Canada was born. 

However, something important for us to recognize is that, although Canada has never considered itself a Christian nation, it has been shaped by biblical principle through the Christ-like influence of people like Sir Leonard Tilley. 

v.1-4          God’s reign brings justice.

   At the age of 21, Leonard Tilley, was motivated by a sermon that he heard to study the Scriptures more. He also possessed a deep desire to stand for justice. These twin forces were brought together one night when he rushed to the scene to help a woman who was screaming for help. Her drunken husband had beaten and killed her, her young children gathered around in hysterics. This scene propelled Leonard Tilley into a greater role in the temperance movement of the early 1800’s, banning the selling of alcohol. 

v.5-7          God’s reign is forever.

    The prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray, included the phrase “Let your Kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it in heaven.”  While we anticipate the heavenly Kingdom, as those who profess a faith in Jesus Christ, we have the privilege and obligation to embody and point others to the evidence of God’s Kingdom in our world, knowing that one day he will ultimately right the wrongs, punish those who, in arrogant pride, think they have a better way. Sir Leonard Tilley, from what we can gather, purposed his life toward those ends. His faith lay in the fact that injustice will be justly dealt with in the reign of God. In the fulfillment of his Kingdom, all of the injustice, decay and death and disappointments of life will no longer exist, ever, because his Kingdom’s reign is forever. 

v.8-11       God’s reign has no boundary.

A letter signed by John A. MacDonald explained to Queen Victoria that the name was “a tribute to the principles they earnestly desired to uphold.” When the British North America Act came into force by royal proclamation on July 1, 1867, MacDonald was the first to lay his hand upon a Bible and be sworn in as a member of the Privy Council, followed by George-Étienne Cartier. Tilley was next, and he became the minister of customs in Canada’s inaugural federal government. He became the voice for those coming to find their home in this land. 

v.12-14      God’s reign is for the needy.

   God is asking us to participate in this. Our recognition and commitment to understand, serve and elevate the cause of those in need is not an addendum to our mandate, it is our mandate. When Jesus stood to read from the scroll of Isaiah, as depicted in Luke 4, he affirmed this call. Just as the plight of the needy shaped the life of Leonard Tilley, so it should be with us. The evidence of God's character, His glory is exemplified and amplified through our humble service to those in need around us. Freedom is experienced, often within circumstances, not always from our circumstances. 

v.15-17      God’s reign brings blessing.

Tilley’s impeccable character and reputation remained intact even when others around him fell. When charges of corruption were brought against MacDonald’s government in connection with the Canadian Pacific Railway, Tilley was not among the guilty. Prior to that government’s resignation in 1873, the fifty-five-year-old Tilley was thus appointed the lieutenant governor of New Brunswick.
In summer 1878, Tilley resigned his provincial post to re-enter federal politics. When MacDonald defeated Alexander Mackenzie, Tilley was named the minister of finance.

v.18-20      God’s reign is glorious.

Sir Leonard Tilley, aged seventy-eight, died in June 1896 from blood poisoning received through a minor cut. One of his last wishes was that a plain tombstone be erected to his memory with the inscription “His trust was in Jesus.” Tilley hoped that “passers-by might be helped in their earthly pilgrimage.”
Tilley’s rector paid him homage at his funeral, saying, “His heart went out in sympathy and brotherly recognition to all who loved the Lord in sincerity. And the reason … was in the reality of his Christianity. For him it was a real thing.” Even the Telegraph, a St. John paper that had been politically opposed to Tilley for many years, stated: “His memory will live, not only in the hearts of all his countrymen, but enshrined in the history of this his native province, and of the great Dominion which he did so much to create, and which he so fondly loved.”

    This country isn't my native land, but it is my home. I didn't choose this country, my parents did. But it is my home. I didn't choose this citizenship, my father did. But it is my home. It is here, in Canada, that I have learned about the glory and freedom that Jesus provides. He has changed my life and allowed me the privilege of sharing that with so many others. May God keep our land Glorious and Free!!

*(Outline was given by outgoing President of the EMCC, Rev. Phil Delsaut at the 2017 EMCC National Assembly in Calgary, AB)

Also interesting to note: 

Verse 1, is etched in stone above the west window of the Peace Tower of the Centre Block of Canada's Parliament buildings. 
Verse 8, is etched in stone above the East window of the Peace Tower.
Above the south window, the outward facing window of the peace tower are the words from Proverbs 29:12: “Where there is no vision, the people perish”.