Healing and Revival


"Healing and Evangelism in Canada"


John Salmon was born in Glasgow, Scotland on October 31, 1831. John's childhood was a rough one. His father, who he had been named after, was an alcoholic. He spent any money he had on liquor and left his family destitute. His mother died when he was only five, leaving him bereft. His father died shortly after her, leaving the three boys as orphans. The boys were taken in by his grandmother. Fortunately for John, she was a religious woman who raised the boys to believe in God. Still John was looking for something more. Glasgow was a seaport and at fourteen John ran away and hired onto a ship. He became a sailor for the next eight years. During this time he struggled between alcoholism and conviction. In 1854 his captain handed tracts out to his crew to read. He came under conviction and gave his life to Christ. Surprisingly, he knew immediately that God was calling him to preach the Gospel. He joined the Methodist church and attended when he was on shore. He began witnessing to sailors and even preached a few on-board sermons.

In 1856 Salmon left the sea and went to Montreal. He joined a Methodist church, where the people saw the call of God on his life to preach. They sponsored him to attend a Methodist college. When he became a sophomore he actually took on a Methodist circuit and started two churches. In 1861 Salmon graduated, with honors, and was accepted as a Methodist minister. He also married Mary Catherine Selley, the daughter of a Methodist minister, and sister to one of his college classmates. Struggling over theological issues for the next several years caused Salmon to search for a group that he felt more aligned with. Salmon became a Congregationalist. It was during this time, in 1872, that his pregnant wife Catherine got blood poisoning and died. He pressed on in his work and eventually married a widow, Mrs. Eliza Williams, his companion for the rest of his life.

The Salmons moved to a small Scottish community name Ebro where they served for seven years. These were generally good years until financial difficulties caused the Salmons not to be paid. John heard some YMCA speakers talk about evangelistic opportunities in Toronto and his heart was moved to step into the fray of the bigger city. Once again Salmon switched denominations and became a Baptist pastor. He moved to Toronto and was given an interim pastorate at the College Street Baptist Church. At the end of the time in Toronto he went to Scotland for six months to work with William Quarrier the "George Mueller" of Scotland who had by faith built orphanages and hospitals. He also attended meetings held by William Boardman on the "Higher Christian Life" and divine healing. On the way home he developed an eye infection that God healed in answer to prayer.

Salmon returned to Toronto and began evangelistic work among sailors and military men. Just when it seemed that their money would run out, a Congregational church in a town north of Toronto asked Salmon to be their pastor. It was a struggling church but Salmon turned it around. At one point they sent him to Jamaica for three months where he held large evangelistic meetings and hundreds were saved. When he returned Salmon was committed anew to evangelism and became involved in an inter-denominational evangelistic group in the poorest area of Toronto. Salmon was teaching about healing in his church but it was not well received. Salmon prayed for people, if they requested it, and he saw some healings.

1885 was a year of dramatic change for Salmon. He became severely ill with a kidney infection and thought he was going to die. He read Carrie Judd's testimony book and felt that he needed to receive prayer. Salmon was miraculously provided funds to attend a conference with A. B. Simpson and Carrie Judd in Buffalo, New York. Once there he received prayer from Simpson and was healed. Simpson held the major beliefs that were dear to Salmon and they became close associates. Upon returning home Salmon began healing meetings in his home and taught on divine healing. His home became too small and he moved the meetings to Shuter Street. His church became split over the divine healing issue and Salmon resigned.

A new chapter opened for the Salmons. John began working with the "least, last, and lost" of Toronto under the umbrella of the Toronto Mission Union, pretty much without pay. John's wife Eliza remade discarded clothing for the poor, often working eighteen hours a day. Salmon felt called to start an evangelistic work in Toronto "along Congregationalist lines", but teaching the Four-Fold Gospel of the Christian Alliance. (The Alliance was an interdenominational group at this time.) The family also became involved with the evangelistic work of the Salvation Army. Salmon's daughter eventually became a Brigade Captain, though Salmon never officially joined the group. Salmon was also a frequent speaker at other churches who were interested in the divine healing message. He spoke at many Alliance Conventions and was a good friend to A. B. Simpson and Carrie Judd. In 1888 Salmon was a speaker at a convention in Linwood, Ohio when friends brought David Wesley Myland to him for prayer. Myland had been partially paralyzed and was unable to speak. After Salmon prayed for him he got up and walked and gave his healing testimony at the meeting.

In October 1889 a dramatic healing took place in Toronto. Rose Kemp was visiting from Brighton, Ontario. She had been crippled with rheumatism for seven years and her father had brought her to Toronto to receive medical help. Her doctor had been attending Salmon's healing meetings and suggested that she receive prayer. He arranged for Salmon to come and talk to her. He gave her the basic concepts of divine healing, but she wasn't sure of her position and so asked to be left to pray about it. After Salmon left he called the Alliance members to pray for Miss Kemp. While she was reading her bible a scripture from Isaiah 60:1 came to her: "Arise and shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you." She immediately was healed and got out of bed and walked. This event was covered extensively in the local newspapers. The meetings Salmon had been holding grew to the point that the Wolseley Hall could no longer hold the attendees.

Salmon formed Bethany Tabernacle with about 90 members. Many of those attending the divine healing meetings belonged to other churches. Salmon also traveled extensively speaking and setting up "prayer circles" throughout Ontario. Bethany became the "mother church" to many small gatherings in the rural areas of Ontario. In February 1890 Rebecca Fletcher, who had been healed at an Alliance meeting, opened Bethany Home patterned after the healing homes of A.B. Simpson and Carrie Judd. In 1893 Salmon opened a Bible School focused on training missionaries. A mission home for alcoholic men was also set up known as Bethany Workingman's Home. A woman named Annie Mellick, who had been healed at an Alliance meeting, started Bethany Orphanage. Dramatic healings were often reported by the local press. One woman, totally blind due to cancer, came to be baptized. When she came up from the water she could see.

In the later 1890s the focus of the Alliance shifted their emphasis of the four-fold ministry from divine healing and the deeper Christian life to missions. Salmon was increasingly taking on administrative work in the Alliance. He was appointed Associate Superintendent over Central Canada. Salmon's church, which had been a light in Toronto, was taken by the city when they wanted to build a hospital and the members were forced out in July 1907. The Pentecostal experience was being talked about and debated throughout the Alliance churches after 1906. In 1907 Salmon attended an Alliance convention in Beulah Park, Ohio. He had a significant spiritual experience, and even spoke a few words in tongues. He also felt physically rejuvenated. Salmon had been longing in his heart to visit China as a missionary for several years. In 1909 Salmon's church used some of their funds to send him on a nine-month trip overseas. On the return trip to Canada he contracted smallpox, and many thought he would die. Salmon however was assured that he would recover and after 4 weeks did just that.

The Alliance was changing. Due to the influence of Pentecostalism many churches were leaving the Alliance. Up to 1910 the Alliance was an organization of independent churches, which were self-governing. The Alliance decided it was necessary that church property be brought under their umbrella. Salmon struggled with the change and when his own home was going to taken by the city for expansion purposes, he decided that it was time to retire. He was 81 years old.

John Salmon's life and ministry were not done! He moved to Southern California where his daughter's family resided and he had many friends. He was involved with some Pentecostal groups and even spoke at a few meetings. He visited Finis E. Yoakum's Pisgah community. Still his heart remained with core Alliance values. He eventually became involved with Clara Miner's Missionary Rest Home where Dr Jennie Trout was teaching on Divine Healing. Dr Trout had been an Alliance member, and was a friend of the Salmon's in the early days of the Alliance work in Toronto. In 1916 Salmon's wife died. He traveled to Australia to visit a daughter and to China to preach the Gospel. He retuned to San Jose to live with another daughter. He died on June 25, 1918. A description of the founding of the Canadian Christian and Missionary Alliance, with extensive information about Salmon, is found in "Footprints" written by Lindsay Reynolds and published in 1981. It is now out of print, but may be available through used bookstores.

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