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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XX

First Confirmation Tour.—Primaiy Visitation at Toronto.

THE Bishop of Toronto, after due notice of his arrangements, commenced his first Confirmation Tour on the 24th. May, 1840. His first visit was to the Niagara District,—comprehending the present Counties of Lincoln, Welland, and Haldimand,—where the parishes of eight Clergymen were visited, and 139 persons confirmed. At, Niagara, where he officiated on Sunday, the 30th, to crowded and attentive congregations, he received a warm address, to which he replied in corresponding terms.

He returned to Toronto early in June, and after a few days’ interval, proceeded on his journey through the portion of the Diocese north of Toronto. The parishes of eight Clergymen were visited, and 152 confirmed. He also consecrated two churches and one burial-ground.

On the 8th July, after a rest of five days at Toronto, the Bishop commenced his confirmation journeys eastward, and visited forty parishes and stations, served by thirty-two Clergymen. The most remote was distant about 300 miles from Toronto; but from the necessity of diverging in many cases from the main road in order to reach the several congregations, the amount of travelling was very much increased. This journey occupied nearly two months, and 800 persons were confirmed. At Picton a very gratifying address was presented to his Lordship; and the interest of the occasion was increased by a deputation of ladies placing in his hands a subscription list, guaranteeing £50 per annum towards the support of a travelling missionary in the District of Prince Edward. At Cornwall, he was in the scene of his first ministrations in the Church; and in his reply to the affectionate address presented to him by the parishioners, he used these touching words :—

“It is now twenty-eight years since my separation from you took place; but it is still as fresh on the tablet of my memory as at the hour of departure, and attended with many pleasing as well as melancholy associations.

“This church I assisted to build; in this desk and pulpit, and at this altar, I ministered to your spiritual wants. Some of my ancient friends are still before me; and many of my children in the Lord, whose faces I first beheld at the baptismal font, now promising members of the congregation, are seeking my remembrance These form a delightful spectacle, for which I ought to be thankful; and yet, even at such a moment of enjoyment, melancholy reflections will come forward.

“I look around, and see many seats now vacant, or occupied by strangers, which were once filled by those who smiled on my early days, and amidst my cares and troubles never failed-to extend the friendly hand, and offer the fatherly counsel, and greet me with the kind word and the look of encouragement and approbation.

“Although no person can be more sensible of his many infirmities and deficiencies than I am, yet I am greatly strengthened and encouraged by the warm reception which you have given me, and which is accompanied with so many endearing and delightful recollections.”

Ou the 7th September, the Bishop resumed his travels, —going westwards from Toronto; commencing at Wellington Square, and extending to Sandwich. The parishes of thirty-four Clergymen were visited, and nearly 700 persons confirmed. Subsequently, confirmations were held in Toronto, and its immediate neighbourhood,—making the whole number admitted to that rite during the present year, fully 2000.

These were not completed until the middle of October; but the remarkable result was the visitation in one season, with a very few exceptions, of the entire Diocese,—then extending from Sandwich to the Ottawa. Few men could have undergone this continuous and scarcely interrupted labour of five months, with health unimpaired, and spirits and energy unbroken. For it was a labour of no ordinary character. The amount of travelling was enormous; and all performed in an open vehicle. The roads in many cases were extremely rough; stony or swampy, with now and then miles of log bridges without any covering of earth, over which the carriage jolted violently and moved at a snail’s pace. It embraced, too, the hottest period of the year; and oftentimes the fare by day and the accommodation at night were of the coarsest, rudest character.

These were trials of the bodily frame; but they were to a most serious extent increased by the discharge of the duties which gave occasion to these journeys. Scarcely a day passed without one Confirmation service; and very frequently there were two. The Bishop invariably preached on these occasions; and after the Confirmation service, addressed the candidates at considerable length. These addresses were always very impressive .ones; they were simple and practical, and touched closely the sympathies and feelings of the young. In urging all to the Saviour, as the only hope of the sinner, he was careful to set before them those every-day duties, of personal holiness of conduct and the subjection of wicked and hurtful passions, which are the only practical test of a genuine Christian faith. To bring these as closely home as possible, and to enlist both parents and children in one common aim, and turn this renewal of the baptismal vows into a household blessing, he uniformly pressed upon the confirmed the duty of being hereforward more loving and obedient to their parents, and more affectionate to their brothel’s and sisters. There was always, too, an inculcation of that outside sympathy and work which serves to prove that Christians are a brotherhood; that they must not selfishly lock up their care and kindness within the home circle, or limit them to the community in which they happen to live.

In the course of this extensive tour, many interesting and pleasing incidents occurred. Amongst the candidates for confirmation at Ancaster, then under the charge of the Rev. Dr. McMurray, was a gentleman far advanced in life, Mr. Job Lodor, who had but recently become a member of the Church, and had generously advanced the sum requisite to buy off all claimants upon St. Johns Church at that place, so that it might be exclusively the property of the Church of England. Originally it had been built as a free Church; to which all denominations were to have access, and which appears to have been used in turn by religionists of almost every name. The Bishop in his address to the confirmed, spoke particularly to those of maturer years, and apparently near the close of their career; and he expressed himself so tenderly and kindly to such as thus late in life made an open profession of their faith, that Mr. Lodor was melted to tears.

At Galt, previous to the Confirmation, two persons of middle age,—one of them a veiy influential individual in the neighbourhood,—received the holy Sacrament of Baptism under circumstances which manifested very cheerfully the growth of sound Church principles. It appears that the individual alluded to, had, in early life, received baptism from the hands of some minister not episcopally ordained; but having, after careful reading and enquiry, arrived at the conviction that none but a person thus ordained has a valid commission to administer the Sacraments of the Christian Church, they felt a distrust of the efficacy of the ordinance as thus conferred, and expressed a strong desire for its regular and authorized communication.

Antecedent to the Divine service on this occasion, another pleasing incident occurred. An aged member of the Church, a Scottish Episcopalian, on his first introduction to the Bishop, knelt down before him and solicited his blessing. There was something in this pleasing occurrence which impressively called to mind the days of patriarchal simplicity, and which implied a dutiful recognition of the high and sacred character of an overseer of the Church of God.

In the old Mohawk Church at Brantford, after the Confirmation service, the chiefs of the tribe came forward and addressed the Bishop. This address, spoken in their own language, was translated, sentence by sentence, into English by an interpreter. They expressed their congratulations upon the visit of a father of the Church, for which they said they felt a strong attachment. They declared their thankfulness for all that had been, and was still doing, for themselves and their children; and concluded with a well-merited commendation of the valuable and faithful services of their Missionary. His Lordship made them a short, but touching reply. He alluded to the gallantly of their nation, and rejoiced that they had exchanged the weapons of war, and the roving habits of hunters, for the implements of husbandry, and the peaceful pursuit of the arts of a civilized aud Christian life. He exhorted them to a faithful use of their religious privileges; and, commending them to the blessing of God, took each severally by the hand and bade them farewell.

In the congregation at Tuscarora, on the following day, together with the Indians confirmed, were several negroes, who were connected with* and lived on terms of great amity with their red brethren. Amongst the number confirmed, meekly kneeling by the side of Africans and Indians, was the wife of the Missionary. In the course of the afternoon, there was occasion for the performance of the funeral service, and nothing could exceed the solemnity with which it was conducted. The ritual of the Church, of course, was used; but we were struck with the peculiar impressiveness of their custom of singing a funeral hymn during the progress from the church to the grave. Every voice seemed to unite in it; and its plaintiff melodies were borne away far over the hills and through the forest.

On the 12th April, shortly before* setting out on this long tour, the Bishop held his first Ordination in the Cathedral Church of St. James, at Toronto; when four were ordained Deacons, and four were admitted to the Priesthood. On the 25th October, soon after that laborious summer’s work was ended, a second Ordination was held; when two were added to the number of Deacons, and one to that of Priests.

The Bishop of Toronto held his primary visitation of the Clergy of his Diocese, in the Cathedral Church of St. James, on Thursday 9th September, 1841. Sixty-one Clergymen were present, and twenty-five absent,—making the whole number 86. Nine of these had been admitted to Holy Orders by the Bishop himself; so that the whole number of Clergy, at the time he assumed the charge of the Diocese, was 77. The Charge of his Lordship to the Clergy on this occasion, must have occupied about an hour and a half, and its contents were varied and interesting. “It adverted,” says the “Church” newspaper, "to every prominent topic affecting the Church,—to its rise and growth in this Province)—its position with reference to sectarians,— its temporalities,—its wants, and the best means of supplying them,—-the duties of the Clergy in administering the sacraments, and catechizing and educating youth,—in fine, his Lordship scarcely left a subject of any importance untouched. At the commencement of the charge, the venerable Prelate appeared to labour under powerful emotion, as if bowed down by a sense of the very great responsibility resting upon him, and his voice somewhat faltered; but he quickly regained his entire self-possession, and delivered himself to the end, with an energy expressive of the strongest sincerity and zeal.”

From this valuable document, a few extracts cannot fail to he interesting to our readers:—

“The history of the Church in this Diocese, though doubtless resembling that of many other Colonies, is not without peculiar interest. For many years after its first settlement, as the favourite asylum of suffering loyalty, there was but one Clergyman of the Church of England within its extensive limits. This was the Rev. Dr. Stuart; who may be truly pronounced the father of the Church in Upper Canada, and fondly do I hold him in affectionate remembrance.

“In 1792, two clergymen arrived from England; but so little was then known of the country, and the little that was published was so incorrect and so unfavourable, from exaggerated accounts of the climate and the terrible privations to which its inhabitants were said to be exposed, that no Missionaries could be induced to come out Even at the commencement of 1803, the Diocese contained only four Clergymen, for it was in the spring of that year that I made the fifth.

“In 1819, the Clergy of this Province had increased to ten. In 1825, they had risen to twenty-two; in 1827, to thirty; in 1833, to forty-six ; and our number is now about ninety. Still our spiritual wants are many. More than forty Missionaries could at this moment be most usefully employed; and earnest applications are daily being made td me, from various villages and townships, for resident Clergymen. My primary visitation through the Diocese occupied from the latter end of May to the middle of October of last year. In my progress, I was able to go to every parish at which a Clergyman resided, with the exception of one or two which it was impossible for me to reach, on account of their peculiar situation and difficulty of access, without a greater sacrifice of time than I could then spare.

"In passing through the Diocese, I beheld the Clergy every where active. and laborious, living in good feeling and harmony among themselves, and with their flocks; seeking out our people in the wilderness, forming them into congregations and parishes, and extending on every side the foundations of our beloved Zion. Is it not a blessing of inestimable value, that already more than three hundred places of worship are opened every week in Western Canada in which the Clergy discharge their high and holy functions,—in offering up prayers, reading the Scriptures, preaching the Gospel, administering the Sacraments, and catechizing the children? Such ministrations are beyond all price.”

“During the last year the perplexing question of the Clergy Reserves has been finally settled. Whether the best course was, or was not, taken in that settlement, it would be of little importance now to enquire. It was, beyond doubt, most desirable that an end should be put to the unhappy controversy which had arisen on the subject. Those who have desired to see the interests of the Church protected and her efficiency increased, have at least the satisfaction of reflecting that, before the decision was come to, every consideration, which it was just and necessary to keep in view, was zealously and anxiously brought under the notice of Government and of Parliament It only remains for ns to urge, in a just and Christian spirit, whatever may seem best for turning to the greatest advantage, in support of what we believe to be the true religion, such privileges and provisions as are still left.”

After describing the peculiar position of the Church of England at that time; how she stood then, as in former times, the acknowledged bulwark of the Protestant faith, against Papal despotism and superstition, and the safeguard of Gospel truth and order#against the heretical and disorganizing principles of many modern dissenters, he says with much warmth and eloquence,—

“She seems like a city on a hill, conspicuous to the whole world, assailed by millions of enemies unable to prevail, exhibiting a spotless model of the primitive Church, and holding the faith which was once delivered to the saiuts. She will never grow old, but will stand alone in the world,—immutable amidst every vicissitude, immovable amidst every fluctuation,—one constant star in this universe of growth and decay, unfading and the same,—-one august, incorruptible, and glorious verity, shining with celestial light over the ocean of uncertainty and change.

This model of the primitive Church, so beautiful and perfect, cannot fail to suggest that a departure from Apostolic usages and principles is the prolific cause of all the heresies and divisions which deform and disgrace the Christian world.

“It is necessary, then, for all of us to have our minds deeply and affectionately imbued with the distinctive principles of our Church, and to be armed with her creeds and articles, that we may be prepared against her foes, and through the channel of her beautiful ministrations, to bring home with effect the truths of the Gospel to the hearts of our people. Thus understood, and brought forward, the Church of England will in time become the centre of unity of all that is good and wise, pure and holy,—the city of habitation, not only to those who make their escape from the Roman Babylon, and the thousand sects who are wandering in the wilderness, but to all the nations yet immersed in Pagan idolatry.

“Your whole energies must be employed, so far as the influence of precept and example can effect, to gather within the pale of the Church the population of your parish or district; to make the sons aud daughters of the Lord the sous and daughters of the Church, members and children of the same religious family ; and to carry the living spirit of the Gospel into every cottage, hamlet, and town within your missionary bounds, that the whole Province may be imbued with the spirit of Christ. Till this is in a great measure done, the people will, in a religious view, continue wretched and feeble; for the laws are negative in their effects,— it is religion alone that instils positive good, and breaks the sceptre of selfishness. It is only the practical influence and operation of faith and piety that can soften the heart, and introduce those sacred charities and protecting virtues which are ever blessing and ever blessed.”

His Lordship proceeded to give some useful instructions on preaching, and the duty especially of cultivating the talent of preaching extempore; as occasions would arise in which the use of a written sermon would be impossible. He urged, too, a faithful attention to the rubrical directions of the Church, particularly as regards Baptism and the Churching of Women. He pressed a careful regard to the instruction of the young, and the great value of public catechizing, — strongly recommending also the zealous upholding of Sunday Schools. And even thus early, there was a reference to the importance of Diocesan Synods; but a free acknowledgment that, as yet, his information upon the subject was not sufficient to enable him to suggest any plan for bringing them into practical operation here. The following were the concluding words of this long and able Charge:—

“Now, my reverend brethren, I trust that you will bear in mind the important matters which I have brought before you, and that they will be the frequent subject of your meditations and prayers. If the holy Apostles, with all their gifts and graces, needed the prayers of their fellow Christians, how much more have we need to pray for one another, that the word of God may have free course, and our ministry be blessed to his glory! In this Diocese, containing nearly half a million of inhabitants, there are many denominations more or less active in their operations; often opposed to, and rarely moving in harmony with the Church, or with one another. In dealing with them, we require to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves; firmly, but without offence, maintaining our distinctive principles, and clothing ourselves with all those Christian graces which belong to faith, piety, order, and peace. So prepared for doing the work of Evangelists, we may, with holy boldness, look forward to the time when the whole Province will become the garden of the Lord.”

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