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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XVI

Letter to Dr. Chalmers on the Life and Character of Bishop Hobart.—Presentation of a piece of Plate by his Cornwall Pupils.

A SHORT time before the breaking out of the Cholera in Upper Canada, Archdeacon Strachan published a Letter to his friend Dr. Chalmers, in Scotland, on the Life and Character of Bishop Hobart of New York. This highly distinguished prelate died at Auburn, a village in his Diocese, in the summer of 1830,—having been seized with a severe, and as it proved fatal, illness while engaged in his episcopal duties. It happened, providentially, that at this sad time he had the nursing, care and affectionate attention of Dr. and Mrs. Rudd, two of his oldest and most attached friends.

This publication was remarkably well received, and was pronounced at the time the most interesting and attractive that had ever come from his pen. Bishop Hobart had long been a warm friend of the Archdeacon’s; and the leading points of his active and useful life gave opportunity for dilating upon topics which excited much interest at the time, and on which the Church was at variance with the general tone of religious thought in America.

Bishop Hobart was raised to the Episcopate at a time when the Church in the United States was comparatively feeble, and when little effort had been made to present her claims before the world. Her enemies took advantage of this supineness, and pursued their attacks with unusual violence. At this juncture Bishop Hobart came to the rescue.

“A defender had arisen,” says the Archdeacon, “whom they knew not of. Dr. Hobart, unfurling the banner of evangelical truth and apostolic order, marched with fearless intrepidity to the front of the battle, and put the enemy to flight. Thousands were astonished to And that the claims of the ‘Protestant Episcopal Church' both in purity and government, could be so firmly established, and that she was ?o strongly entitled to the character of primitive and apostolic. A more general and correct knowledge now exists among the people of our communion in the United States, respecting the government of the Church, the beauty and excellence of her forms, the purity of her principles, and the spirituality of her devotions, than even in England; and all this chiefly owing to Dr. Hobart’s judicious and powerful labours. Instead of reposing any longer on loose opinions, taken up without examination in these matters, people were roused to their consideration by his cogent reasons, apt illustrations, and powerful appeals to ecclesiastical history, which proved, beyond controversy, that the government of the Church, the orders of the ministry, and their regular succession from the Apostles, were not questions of slight moment, or to be treated safely either with silence or contempt.

“Truth is never sown without fruit; aud the claims of the Church to a near affinity with that of the Apostles, soon began to be acknowledged by numbers who had hitherto been her enemies. Many admitted, with true Christian candour, their total ignorance of such matters till thus forcibly brought before them. The Americans are an acute and inquiring people; and the discussions on Church Government and Forms of Prayer have awakened, in the minds of many, recollections of what their fathers had been. On others, who had their denomination to choose, the information drawn out by these debates came as a stream of benignant light, and a feeling in favour of the good old ways was widely engendered. This being the case, it only required an active superintendence and a commanding mind to reap the most abundant harvest. This requisition Dr. Hobart most amply satisfied. When he was ordained in 1798, New York State contained but twenty Episcopal clergymen; and in 1811, when he was raised to the mitre, only twenty-three; giving in thirteen years a miserable increase of three; while, during the following nineteen years of his Episcopate, the increase was one hundred and eleven!”

From a sense of duty, Bishop Hobart declined that union with other religious bodies which is so often urged on the plea that the Christian cause, for its more extended influence, demands the united effort of all its professors. He repudiated, in short, that sort of “Evangelical Alliance,” which, under many aspects, meets with well-meaning supporters; but which, while it obviously rests upon an unsound basis, has never exhibited any very encouraging practical results.

"Bishop Hobart,” says the Archdeacon, highly disapproved of different denominations uniting for religious purposes. He placed himself, from the first, in mild but firm opposition to the Bible Society. He considered such an institution, so far as his communion was concerned, totally unnecessary, because every good which it proposed might be much better and more conveniently accomplished by the orthodox Society already belonging to the Church; aud should this Society deem it expedient to circulate a larger proportion of Bibles than had been hitherto done, it was fully in their power to increase their subscription for this purpose. He deemed the Bible Society further objectionable, because, having the same object as the Bible and Prayer Book Society, it became, from the first, a sort of rival,— absorbing funds, inasmuch as our people assisted, which in justice belonged to the latter.”

“Our distinctive principles, and the form of our Church Government, preclude its members, in my opinion, from joining promiscuously with other denominations for religious purposes; although many do so, whose purity of intention I have no reason to question, whatever I may think of their judgment and consistency. With her ministers this duty is stronger, or rather to join such is altogether incompatible with their sacred office. Bishop Hobart did not merely admit, but insisted on the importance of disseminating such religious tracts as exhibited views of Divine truth in accordance with the sentiments of our Church, and explained her institutions; but in regard to Tract Societies, he most judiciously observed, ‘that a union hero with our Christian brethren who differ from us, must inevitably, to say the least, endanger our religious system, either by circulating sentiments in dissonance with our distinctive principles; or, by keeping them out of view, in a general association of commanding influence, lead to the belief that they are of little importance.”

Bishop Hobart’s strength of body was not equal to the energies of his mind, and it began to give way under his various, extensive and incessant labours. Thorough repose, and change of air and scene were recommended; and at the instance of his friends he sailed for England in September, 1823. During his absence, which continued for about two years, he made the tour of England, Scotland, and Ireland, and visited France, Switzerland, and Italy; and returned, thoroughly renovated in health and spirits.

"Soon after his arrival," says the Archdeacon, “he gave free vent to his feelings of love and affection for his friends, his parishioners, and his native land, in a discourse from the pulpit; which, being afterwards published, attracted no small degree of notice in England as well as in the United States.” [This sermon expressed strong objections to the union of Church and State, and dilated with some severity on the social condition of England, especially as regarded the lower orders.] “I honour most cordially that devotedness to his own native land, which makes a man cherish and love it above all other lands. But the Bishop, as his best friends confessed, went too far. Not satisfied with a general expression of his preference, he entered into detail; and here he failed. His opportunities of observation in England were not sufficient to enable him, acute as he was, to get to the bottom of all points ufx>n which he speaks and decides with the utmost confidence ; and he seemed to have forgotten that His Church could not have flourished and increased as it has done, but through the aid derived from the support given to it by our monarchs, while it was part of the establishment of the empire.

“I dined alone with Bishop Hobart on my way to England, in March, 1826, and the conversation turned on the sermon, which had not been long published. I expressed my regret that it had ever seen the light, for it was the only one of all his works I could not approve of. I told him I was prepared to admit that it was extremely difficult for a person, born and brought up in the United States, to appreciate the vast benefits of an Established Church, with its parochial ministers distributed through the whole country in settled residences, and with a given space in which to labour for the temporal and eternal happiness of the population. By this means all the people have access to religious instruction. A reverence is thus kept up in their minds for what is pure and holy; and their number being small, and living it were together, the Clergyman soon becomes acquainted with every individual, both old and young, and is able to visit them frequently at their own houses. He becomes their friend and adviser, the composer of differences, the promoter of peace and contentment, the catechizer of the children, the encourager of industry, sobriety, and all the virtues that make man prosperous and happy here and hereafter.

“As the comparison is between England and the United States, 1 shall confine myself, I said, to these two countries. The Church of England is commensurate with the natural boundaries of the country. This consists of about 55,000 square miles, containing 14,000,000 of inhabitants, and is divided into about 11,000 parishes. The number of Clergymen actually employed in parochial duties are not fewer than 16,000. This gives an average of about 900 souls, or about 200 families to each Clergyman. It is evident that the moral effect of such a body of men daily mixing with their people must be very great, more especially as they are quite independent of them for subsistence.

“Let us now look at the Episcopal Church of the United States, and-see what moral effect it can have on the population, as a source of Christian instruction. To give you every advantage in this matter, I shall confine myself to the State of New York, where the Episcopal Clergymen are more numerous, in proportion to the population, than in any other State, and superintended undoubtedly by the most active Bishop. In this large State, the Clergy of the Episcopal Church are in number 136; the population 2,000,000, or upwards of 14,000 souls to each; the square miles about 46,000. Hence the parishes, if we may so denominate them, contain 338 square miles each, and are rather equal to an English county than an English parish. The influence of the two Churches, as confined to England and New York, is as one to seventy; and if the comparison be taken with all the States, it becomes much more favourable to England. Such influence on the manners and habits of the people is next to nothing, and yet you extol your Church above that of England, and exclaim against establishments!

"Add to this, the dependence of your Clergy upon the people for support,—a state of things which is attended with most pernicious consequences. The congregations frequently take offence at their pastors without a good reason, and in such cases the latter derive no protection from the Bishops, who are equally helpless with themselves. The result is, that they too frequently sink below the rank which they ought to hold in society; aud whatever be their personal merit, they fail lo command that respect from a vain, and thoughtless, and undiscerning people, which is necessary to secure attention to their instructions. It is not unusual to hire Clergymen by the year or even half-year; and such things excite no particular attention. It may be that, accustomed from their childhood to temporary engagement the Clergy partake of that restless disposition and desire of change so common in new countides, and think little of going with their families from State to State, in search of a new settlement It cannot be supposed that Clergymen so situated, will at all times speak wiih that fearless disregard of consequences which the proper discharge of their duties may often require. The difference, then, of the two Churches is this, that, while in England the country is partitioned into parishes, over which a spiritual head is appointed, to be the moral and religious instructor of its population, and to add new converts to the faith by familiar and daily ministrations from house to house; the Church in the United States presents only a few verdant spots bearing marks of recent cultivation, distinguished chiefly by their contrast with the barrenness of the surrounding waste.

“I admit that the progress of the Episcopal Church in the United States has been wonderful;—and I should have rejoiced in concurring entirely in the animated praises you pronounce upon her, had you not condemned ecclesiastical Establishments, and placed her in her infancy above the Mother Church. In this you greatly err; and when you picture to your fancy England studded with Parish Churches, regularly served in all the beauty of holiness ; and turn to this country with a Church at vast intervals, and a Clergy not sufficient to supply the wants of one-twentieth of lhe population, you must feel the advantages of an ecclesiastical Establishment. In England you behold the genius of true religion entering into every family; but here, unless in some favoured spots, you behold the spirit of false religion, infidelity, error, and superstition traversing the length and breadth of the land, and withering, with its pestilential breath, public as well as domestic and personal happiness and virtue.

"Come!" said the Bishop, ‘you are becoming too severe." On this the door opened, and a man from the Catskill mountains was introduced, who told the Bishop that their Missionary’s time had almost expired, and that, being few in number, they could not engage him for six months longer, unless some aid could be granted them from the Missionary fund! The good Bishop promised the necessary assistance; and, on his departure, said with a smile, ' how unlucky that my country friend should come, in the midst of this discussion, to shew the nakedness of the land!’ He confessed that I had placed ecclesiastical Establishments in a point of view which was in some measure new to him; but, made up as the United States are of all possible denominations, there was not the smallest probability that any one would ever be recognized by the Government; and he was pleased to conclude the conversation with observing, that he could not fall into more friendly hands, (alluding to a threatened review of his sermon,) and that whatever his opinion might be on ecclesiastical Establishments, he loved with all his soul the Church of England.”

We must venture on one further extract from this interesting and valuable pamphlet:—

“I dare not dwell on the last illness, and happy and edifying death of Bishop Hobart, for they have been described with au affectionate eloquence which few can hope to equal. The narrative of his closing days and the sermons preached on his death, which have been collected and published, are well deserving of perusal. Honourable as they are to the hearts and heads of the writers, the talents they display reflect the greatest credit on the Clergy of the American Episcopal Church, and shew that the lamented prelate’s mantle rests on many of his brethren. The grief and sympathy excited by his death through all parts of the Union, were only exceeded by that manifested on the death of Washington. He appeared rather the property of the nation than the head of a single denomination of Christians. Never was there such a funeral in New York: the magistrates, the Clergy of all denominations in the city, and many from other Dioceses and remote parts of the country, rich and poor, young and old, hastened to follow to the grave the remains of this distinguished and beloved servant of God. It was as the funeral of Jacob.”

It would have been deemed strange, if the life of Dr. Strachan had passed away without some marked token from his Cornwall pupils of the esteem and affection in which he was held by them. They, one and all, acknowledged the benefits they had received at his admirable school; they were many in number throughout the two Provinces, though some were in far distant lands; and several occupied very high and influential positions. But the debt of gratitude was not forgotten; and in the summer of 1833, it was expressed in a substantial and most gratifying manner. Two years previously, a few of his pupils,—including the late Chief Justice Robinson,— happened to meet at Cornwall; and they took advantage of the occurrence by repairing to the old District School-house, and, after some conference, passing Resolutions, determining that "A Piece of Plate should be presented to His remains had been conveyed thither from Auburn.

Archdeacon Strachan by those gentleman who were under his tuition at Cornwall, as a tribute of respect for his character, and a memorial of their grateful recollection of his anxious and unwearied efforts to improve their minds, and to impress upon them sound moral and religious principles, and of the sincere and steady friendship which he has manifested for his pupils in the progress through life and making the necessary arrangements for carrying out this purpose. It took some time to communicate with all the parties interested, widely scattered as they were; but on the 2nd of July, 1833, they were prepared to present to their honoured tutor this token of their reverence and affection. This was a massive silver Epergnd, value 230 guineas; the base of which, particularly chaste and elegant in its proportions and design, supports four classical figures, representing Religion, History, Poetry, and Geography; and surrounding a column, around which twine the ivy and acanthus, the whole surmounted with a wreath. Within the square of the pedestal, not exposed to view, are engraven the names and place of residence of the gentlemen who presented this tribute.

It will be interesting to our readers to have these in full:

John B. Robinson, York, Chief Justice of Upper Canada.
John Bethune, Montreal, Rector of Montreal.
R. O. Anderson, York, Teller, Bank of Upper Canada.
George Ridout, York, Judge of District Court of Niagara.
J. Q. Cuewett, York, Senior Draftsman, Surveyor General’s Depdrtment.
Samuel P. Jarvis, York, Deputy Secretary and Registrar, U. C.
J. B. Macaulay, York. Judge of King’s Bench, U. C.
Thos. O. Ridout, York, Cashier, Bank of U. C.
Robert Stanton, York, King’s Printer.
G. S. Boulton, Cobourg, Barrister, M. P.
W. B. Robinson, Newmarket, M. P.
Jonas Jones, Brockville; Judge, District Court, Johmtown District.
John Radenhurst, York, Surveyor GcneraTs Department.
W. Macaulay, Picton, Rector of Pieton.
A. N. Bethune, Cobourg, Rector of Cobourg.
Henry Aherne, Vaudrieul.
John Crawford, England.
James G. Bethune, Cobourg, Cashier, Branch, Bank U. C.
James Duncan Gibb, Montreal.
Georoe Greoory, Montreal,
Fred. Griffin, Montreal.
A. B. C. Gugy, Quebec, Barrister, M. P.
A. Jones, Prescott.
John Macaulay, Kingston.
J. McLean, Kingston, Sheriff, Midi. Diet.
Arch. McLean, Cornwall, Speaker of House of Assembly.
J. McDonell, Montreal.
Duncan McDonell, Cornwall.
Donald McDonell, Cornwall.
Alex. McLean, Cornwall.
J. S. Macaulay, Woolwich, Capt. R. E.
G. H. Markland, York, Inspector General, U. C.
G. Mitchell, Penetanguishine.
Thos. Richardson, India.
Wm. Stanton, Africa, D. A. Com. Gent.
P. VanKoughnet, Cornwall, M. P.
I. Weatherhead, Brockville.
G. C. Wood, Cornwall.
A. Wilkinson, Cornwall, Barrister.
D. J. Smith, Kingston.
James Macaulay, Cornwall, D. D.
T. Pyke, Halifax.

Of these, fourteen were present on the interesting occasion; and answers were received from several others expressing their regret at not being able to attend. The following is the Address accompanying the presentation, read by Chief Justice Robinson:—

“Dear and Venerable Sir,

“In presenting you with a Piece of Plate as a memorial of their respect and esteem, your pupils, whom you educated at Cornwall, are performing an act most agreeable to their feelings. It is now long since our relation as Tutor and Scholars has been dissolved, but amidst the vicissitudes which the lapse of more than twenty years has presented, we have never ceased to reflect with gratitude upon your unwearied efforts to cultivate our minds and strengthen our understandings, and above all to implant in our hearts those principles which alone can make us good Christians, faithful subjects to our King, and independent and upright members of society.

“Our young minds received then an impression, which has scarcely become fainter from time, of the deep and sincere interest which you took, not only in our advancement in learning and science, but in all that concerned our happiness, or could affect our future prospects in life.

"Those who have since had the pleasure of frequent intercourse with you, have found you always the same warm, sincere, and constant friend, ever ready to rejoice in their prosperity, and to extend your advice and assistance amidst the doubts acd difficulties which have occasionally crossed their path. Those whom the various pursuits of life have separated from you during this long interval, have never felt less assured of a place in your esteem; and we all unite with the most cordial satisfaction in thus acknowledging the gratification we receive from our early recollections.

“At the period when most of us were withdrawn from your care, we received your parting benediction, and your paternal counsels for our guidance in life, expressed in terms which made a lasting impression. Now that so many years have intervened, and years so full of eventful changes, it must, we are persuaded, be a source of much pleasure to a person of your benevolent and friendly disposition, to find that Providence has spared so many of those whose character you laboured to form, and has blessed them very generally with health and prosperity.

“On our parts, we beg to assure you tbat we can scarcely call to mind an occasion, in all the years that have passed, which has given rise to stronger feelings of satisfaction than we experience at this moment in delivering into your hands a memorial of our long cherished affection and respect.”

The Archdeacon, deeply moved, replied a» follows:

“My Dear Friends—That my heart should be full on this interesting occasion is natural.

“Such a memorial of your affection and respect brings back in a stream of joy the days of your education at Cornwall; a period, doubtless, of great anxiety, but, from the large promise which you then exhibited, of far greater satisfaction.

“The feelings of ardent friendship which you manifested for one another when about to separate, and which produced a solemn pledge of your determination to apply the knowledge and high principles you had acquired in promoting the good of society, come forcibly to my mind at this happy moment, when, I can most truly affirm, the pledge so nobly given has been more than redeemed.

“As you never ceased, during the long period that has elapsed since our relation of Teacher and Scholar was dissolved—pregnant as it has been with so many vicissitudes—to reflect with gratitude on my humble endeavours to cultivate your minds, strengthen your understandings, and implant in your hearts those principles which alone can make us good Christians, faithful subjects, and upright members of society, I may, with honest pride, declare that, during the same period, my happiness has been greatly increased by witnessing from year to year the pleasing and encouraging results which attended your progress in the busy world.

“Have I not beheld you rising to eminence in your several professions, gaming the confidence of all arotiud you, looked up to in the societies in which you move, and quoted as examples to the rising generation? In this Province, you are filling the highest situations with an advantage to the community which is universally acknowledged; in Lower Canada, in England, and wherever you have gone, you have won the highest favour and distinction.

“Surely I have great cause to bless that kind Providence which, notwithstanding my numerous deficiencies, has graciously made me the instrument of planting those sentiments and virtues in your bosoms, which, fostered by your diligent care, are now yielding fruits so precious and abundant.

“That I should cherish a deep and unwearied interest, not only in your advancement in learning and science, but in all that concerned your happiness, and could affect your future prospects in life, was certainly to be expected; for I was strongly impressed from the first with my responsibility as your teacher, and I felt that, to become really useful, I must become your friend. It has ever been my conviction, that our scholars should be for the time our children ; and that, as parents, we should study their characters, and pay respect to their peculiar dispositions, if we really wish to improve them; for if we feel not something of the tender relation of parents towards them, we cannot expect to be successful in their education.

“It was on this principle that I endeavoured to proceed,— strict justice tempered with parental kindness,—and the present joyful meeting evinces its triumph. It treats the sentiments and feelings of scholars with proper consideration; and while it gives the heart and affections full freedom to shew themselves, in filial gratitude on the one side, and fatherly affection on the other, it proves that unsparing labour, accompanied with continual anxiety for the learner’s progress, never fails to insure success; to beget esteem, and to produce a friendship between master and scholar, which time can never dissolve.

“To behold so many gentlemen, educated in the same place, assembling after so long a period of separation to honour their teacher, is an event of rare occurrence; but it will be clothed with a public as well as with a private interest, should it encourage faithful teachers, and cheer them in their arduous employment by multiplying meetings similar to these, and introducing a more affectionate intercourse through life between them and their pupils?

“In my occasional communications with you since your entrance into active life, I should have deprived myself of a most productive source of delight, had I not rejoiced in your increasing prosperity, and volunteered my best advice and assistance to any who chanced to be in doubt or difficulty. Every increase of your happiness I felt to be an increase to my own, and to forward your honourable objects has ever been to me a favourite employment. Nor can I claim for this the slightest praise, for in promoting your interest I was promoting my own ; nor should I have been less ready to forward the laudable views of those who have been far removed from the sphere of my influence, had opportunities offered.

“Towards those who have surpassed me in station and ability, 1 can most sincerely avow that my feelings have been those of a fond parent rejoicing at the elevation of his children.

“The deep impression made on all our hearts at the hour of your departure from Cornwall, this meeting refreshes and renews. You plighted mutual friendship, and promised the reign of virtue and religion in your hearts; and amidst blessings and prayers for your future happiness, I undertook to become the centre of your communications; and what more happy result could the most sanguine have anticipated, than to find so many spared in health and prosperity by our merciful Creator, to meet together on this happy occasion.

“Accept, my dear friends, the warm acknowledgement of a heart totally unable to give utterance to the emotions with which it is agitated. Deep and lasting as my existence, will this proof of your sincere friendship be retained. It tells me, by sweet experience, that there are moments of virtuous enjoyment which would be cheaply purchased by the longest life of honourable and laborious exertion,moments which are granted to very few in this transitory world, and for one of the most exquisite of which I am this day indebted to your abiding affection.”

A few days before the occurrence of this really happy event, the following letter was addressed to the Archdeacon by Chief Justice Robinson:—

“It is our wish, if it be agreeable to you, that immediately after presenting to you the piece of plate, we should unite in a short prayer, offering up our hearty thanks to the great Giver of all good for his merciful protection of us, and for the measure of health and prosperity bestowed upon us since we left Cornwall, and entered upon the various duties of life; beseeching pardon for whatever we have, in that time, done or thought contrary to the Divine commandment; and praying that we may be assisted and enabled to maintain such a course through this life, that, at the close of our earthly career, we may meet in a happy immortality.”

This suggestion, emanating from one who never failed to recognize and acknowledge the loving-kindness of our God, was gladly acted upon; and very pleasant, as well as very solemn, was the sight of so many humbly kneeling in prayer amidst the joy and congratulations of that happy hour.

Of this beautiful memento of the gratitude of the Cornwall pupils, we shall only further say, that it was most appropriately bequeathed by the owner to Trinity College,

Toronto,—an institution which he felt to be the culmination of his life-long efforts on behalf of education, and which fairly claimed to be the place where, from generation to generation, should be exhibited this well-earned tribute to the righteousness and success of those endeavours.

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