When Canada’s First Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, Was Converted to Christ
Updated: Feb 12
About 124 years ago, in 1888, a most amazing occurrence happened — Canada's first Prime Minister (PM), Sir John A. MacDonald (1815-1891) was converted through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour. At the ripe old age of 73, MacDonald became “a new creature . . . in Christ” where “old things . . . passed away; behold, all things . . . become new.” (2 Cor. 5:17). His new birth happened in an extended revival meeting at a church in Ottawa in 1888 during MacDonald's second term in office.
The evangelists who preached the gospel (1 Cor 1:21) were John Hunter and Hugh Crossley. Hunter was the preacher and Crossley the singing evangelist. This team was Canada's version of the D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey team. Thousands of people publicly repented and believed in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls in their numerous campaigns. The character of many towns changed visibly during these revivals. Drinking establishments were frequently emptied, and on several occasions theatres closed for lack of business.
The following is from the book Canada: Portraits of Faith by Michael D. Clarke:
“That winter, Canadian Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald attended the Crossley-Hunter services along with several senators and members of parliament. MacDonald, in fact, celebrated his seventy-third birthday at a service. On the final night of the six-week revival, it was requested that Crossley and Hunter remain for one more week, and MacDonald asked if he could second the motion.
That same evening, a significant event occurred in the life of the hard—drinking prime minister, who during the election of 1878 had joked that Canadians preferred him drunk to his opponent-that pious Alexander Mackenzie-sober.
As a newspaper reported: "When in answer to an appeal by Mr. Hunter, that all who wished to become Christians and desired the prayers of the audience would stand up, the premier of the Dominion arose with his wife."
According to another journalist, "When the well-known form of the Honourable Prime Minister arose in the center of the church many strong men bowed their heads and wept for joy. The right honorable gentleman himself was deeply affected."
After dining at the prime minister's home several days later, Hunter confirmed that ‘Sir John is a changed man.’”
It is said that night upon returning home he destroyed all his bottles of alcohol and never touched the devils poison again. The message that drew the Prime Minister appealed to Canadians from all walks of life. Listeners were encouraged to turn from their sinful ways, to surrender their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ, and to help make Canada a Christian nation, a land that could truly call itself God's dominion, which happens to be Canada’s full name, unbeknownst by many — The Dominion of Canada (taken from Psalm 72:8).
Our first Prime Minister acknowledged his sinful and ungodly estate before God. He knew he needed Jesus Christ. Sadly most religious people don’t see their need because they think they’re pretty good. The Bible however says,
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: . . . there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Rom 3:10-12).
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9).
That is the heart of every person before conversion. Have you been converted and received eternal life as we read of the Honourable first Prime Minister?
Isaiah 55:6-7 declares, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
“Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for [Mennonites] is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:1-4).