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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XXI

Establishment of the Diocesan Theological College at Cobourg.—Laying the Corner-stone of King’s College at Toronto.—Formation of the Church Society.—Confirmation in 1842.

THE opposition to the Charter of Kings College University was faint, though persevering, since the period we last noticed the agitation regarding it. In 1832 it was proposed by Lord Goderich, as the best means of quieting the public discontent, that the Corporation should surrender their Royal Charter, together with the endowment; on the assurance from the Imperial Government that, in the re-construction of the University, no part of that endowment should ever be diverted from the education of youth. This was met by a decided refusal; and, in the reply of the Council to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, it is easy to trace the nervous style of the subject of this Memoir :—

“If the objections entertaiued by the Council against the surrender of the Charter were not insurmountable, no stronger inducement could be offered thau the request which his Lordship’s despatch conveys. For the Council cannot fail to be sensible that such a request can have been dictated only by a supposed necessity for departing from established principles, in order to promote the peace and content of the Colony. With the opinions, however, which the Council entertain, and with the opportunity of forming those opinions which their residence in the Colony affords them, they could never stand excused to themselves or others if they should surrender the Charter, supposing it to be within their power, so long as there is an utter uncertainty as to the measures that would follow. The moral and religious state of more than 200,000 British subjects is at present involved in the proper disposal of these questions; and before many years will have elapsed, more than a million will be affected by them. The Council, therefore, whatever results may be obtained by other means, could not jnstify to themselves the assuming the responsibility of endangering the very existence of the Institution. They feel bound to look beyond the movements and discussions of the passing moment; and could not, even if they concurred in the view of the present expediency, consent to pull down the only foundation which at present exists in Upper Canada for the advancement of youth in religion and learning, upon a system which has not yet been repudiated in any part of His Majesty’s dominions.”

If the destruction of the University was not, sooner or later, inevitable, it was certain that the religious basis upon which it was meant to be framed, could not long be maintained. The distrust thus awakened, and the apprehension that it could never possess the full confidence of the Church, as a place of preparation for the Ministry, led to the foundation of the Diocesan Theological College at Cobourg, which was started under the following circumstances.

In the month of October, 1841, the following Clergymen, Chaplains of the Lord Bishop,—viz., Rev. A. N. Bethune, Rev. H. J. Grasett, and the Rev. H. Scadding,—were requested to draw up, and report to his Lordship, some plan by which the Students of Divinity in this Diocese might be brought under a systematic course of instruction in Theology, preparatory to their being admitted to Holy Orders, and pending the establishment of a regular Collegiate Institution. The report having been submitted, the following announcement was made by the authority of the Lord Bishop, in the “Church” newspaper of Nov. 27th, 1841

“The Lord Bishop of Toronto has been pleased to appoint the Rev. A. N. Bethune, Rector of Cobourg, and one of his Chaplains, to be Professor of Theology in this Diocese. Candidates for Holy orders will in future be expected to place themselves under the instructions of the Professor, for the purpose of passing through a prescribed course of Theological study; but they must previously pass an examination before one of the Bishop’s Chaplains, to ascertain their competency to enter with advantage on the appointed line of reading. At the end of the course, such students as are approved by the Processor, and can produce the necessary testimonials, will be permitted to present themselves as candidates for Ordination ”

It was accordingly announced that this school for Theological instruction would be opened at Cobourg on the 10th January following. During the first term of the Institution, ending at Easter, seven students were in attendance; and almost immediately after, four more were added. After the long vacation, there was a further increase, and the number in October following stood at seventeen. During the whole period of the continuance of the Institution, the average attendance of pupils was fifteen.

At the commencement, Lectures were given only three times a week; but subsequently, they were delivered daily, Mondays only excepted. These embraced the Greek Testament, both Gospels and Epistles; the Thirty-nine Articles; the Evidences of Divine Revelation and of Christianity in particular, comprehending such as arise from undesigned coincidences; the Old Testament History, critically reviewed; the Liturgy, including dissertations on Forms of Prayer, and on the ancient Liturgies; Church Government, comprehending the Scriptural, as well as patristic testimonies; Ecclesiastical History, and select portions of several of the Greek and Latin Fathers. Besides these, sermons were required to be written by each student at stated periods; which were read by the Students themselves, and commented upon by the Professor, before the whole body.

The subjects thus marked out would require, it was estimated, the attendance of Theological Students for full three years; which was the period of residence, with few exceptions, exacted from all who entered.

The Students were required to attend daily Morning Prayer at the place of Lecture,—Sundays being excepted, when they attended the parish Church. A distinctive dress, of cap and gown, was worn by the Students, under the same regulations as at other Collegiate Institutions.

Classes in the Sunday Schools were uniformly allotted to the Students, as a becoming and useful exercise preparatory to the ministry; and to several,—making the selection according to age and more particular qualification for the duty,—the performance of Divine Service was assigned in various places which could not be regularly included in the ministrations of the officiating Clergyman. The Students were permitted to live in lodgings approved of by the Professor; and in some few instances, they provided apartments, and the expense of maintenance for themselves, The whole number of members of this Institution admitted to Holy Orders from its opening in 1842 to its close in 1851, was forty-five; and, with few exceptions, they have proved themselves amongst the most hardworking and most successful of our Clergy.

The administration of the Government of Canada by Lord Sydenham, was brought to a melancholy close by the sudden death of his Lordship on the 19th September, 1841. He was succeeded by Sir Charles Bagot; who, being a University man and of highly cultivated literary taste, took a warm interest in the fortunes of King’s College, and determined upon its being brought into practical operation at as early a period as possible. Oh the 2nd April, 1842, he paid his first visit to Toronto, the seat of Government being then at Kingston; on the following day, he held a leveb at Government House, which was very numerously attended; and on Saturday, the 23rd, St. George’s Day, the corner-stone of King’s College was laid by His Excellency in person. The ceremony was thus beautifully described in the "Church” newspaper of the following week, at that time edited by Mr. John Kent:—

"The vast procession, with His Excellency, the Chancellor,— tlio Lord Bishop of Toronto, the President, on his right, and the Chiof Justice, the senior Visitor, on his left,—proceeded on foot through the College Avenue up to the University Grounds. The countless array moved forward, to the sound of military music, ill the most perfect order, and in strict accordance with the preconcerted arrangements. The sun shone out with cloudless meridian splendour upon perhaps the fairest scene that Canada has ever behold; one blaze of banners flashed upon the admiring eye. Tlio Governor’s rich Lord Lieutenant’s dress, the Bishop’s seemly vestments, the judicial ermine of the Chief Justice, the sploudid convocation robes of Dr. McCaul, the gorgeous uniforms of the suite, the neat accoutrements of the very numerous firemen, the national badges worn by the office-bearers of the different Societies, and what, on such a day, must not be omitted, the red cross on the breast of England’s congregated sons, the grave habiliments of the clergy and the lawyers, and the glancing lances and waving plumes of the 1st Incorporated Dragoons,—all formed one moviug picture of well-ordered civic pomp; one glorious sj>ectaclo, which can never be remembered but with satisfaction by those who had the good fortune to witness it. On marched the long apd glittering line through the ^fine budding plantations of the Avenue, innumerable groups studding the sidewalks, but not marring the outline of the procession. As it drew nearer to the site, where the stone was to be laid, the 43rd Regiment lined the way, with soldiers bearing arms, and placed on either side, at equal intervals. When the site was reached, a new feature was added to the interest of the ceremony. Close to the spot,—the north-east corner,—where the foundation-stone was to be deposited, a temporary building had been erected for the Chancellor, and there, accompanied by the officers of the University and his suite, he took his stand. Fronting this was a kind of amphitheatre of seats, constructed for the occasion, tier rising above tier, densely filled with ladies, who thus commanded a view of the whole ceremony. Between this amphitheatre and the place where the Chancellor stood, the procession ranged itself.”

An Address to his Excellency the Chancellor was then read by the Bishop of Toronto. Appropriate prayers followed, from the Rev. Dr. McCaul and the Rev. H. J. Grasett. The Hon. L. P. Sherwood then presented to the Chancellor the gold and silver coins, and the bottle in which they were to be placed; and the Hon. W. Allan, the Charter and papers. The Hon. W. H. Draper, the Attorney General, read the Latin inscription upon the plate; followed by the Hon. R. S. Jameson, Vice Chancellor, who read an English translation of it.

The beautiful silver trowel was handed to his Excellency by the Hon. Capt. J. S. Macaulay; and, the foundation-stone, weighing nearly two tons, having been let down into its place, his Excellency completed the usual ceremony. The Artillery fired a salute of nineteen guns, and Non nobis Ltomine was then finely executed by the Band of the 93rd. The Bishop dismissed the assembly with an appropriate prayer, and the usual blessing; and “God Save the Queen” closed the ceremony,—the immense multitude testifying their joy at the consummation of this great event by giving three cheers for Her Majesty, three for Sir Charles Bagot, three for the Lord Bishop, and three for the Chief Justice.

To none was this a more joyous day than to the Bishop of Toronto. He felt as if that which was his daydream when, a mere youth, he left his native land, and which, after setting foot upon the country of his adoption had been an absorbing thought, an undimmed hope,—was now accomplished. The University, for which he had toiled so long and endured so much, was in fact commenced; and he was to see now the culmination of his grand plans for the thorough education,—intellectual, moral, and religious,—of the youth of this rapidly growing Province.

But there was other work before him, more strictly in connexion with his Episcopal duties. On the 28th April, 1842, in less than a week after the imposing ceremony just described, the foundation-stone, as it may be termed, of another institution was laid,—The Church Society of the Diocese.

For many years we had in operation within the Diocese, District Branches of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; established for the purpose of distributing the Holy Scriptures, Prayer Books, and other religious publications, at a cheap rate. And as far back as 1829, we had a Society established at Toronto, for the civilization and conversion of the Indians, and for extending the ministrations of the Church to destitute settlers in the Province through the means of Travelling Missionaries. A good work was being accomplished through both these agencies; but it was thought best to give concentration to the efforts thus employed, and to embody all our Church work of that character in, one organization. This, too, would admit of the introduction of other plans of benevolence, which ought not any longer to be delayed; such as aid to superannuated Missionaries, provision for the widows and orphans of deceased Clergymen, and some pecuniary encouragement to Students in Divinity.

The meeting for the purpose of forming “The Church Society of the Diocese of Toronto,” was held in the City Hall on the day above named. Thirty-five Clergymen, exclusive of the Bishop, were present,—many of them having come from a considerable distance. The attendance of lay members of the Church was also very large; comprising the leading gentlemen of the City and neighbourhood, and several influential gentlemen from different parts of the Province. The chair was occupied by the Lord Bishop, and the first resolution moved by Chief Justice Robinson. He was followed by Mr. Justice Hagerman, the Rev. R. D. Cartwright, the Rev. A. F. Atkinson, the Rev. Dr. McCaul, the Rev. R. S. C. Taylor, Mr. Alderman Dixon, the Rev. A. N. Bethune, the Rev. B. Cronyn, the Rev. C. Matthews, John Kent, Esq., the Rev. J. Short, G. P. Ridout, Esq., Capt. J. S. Macaulay, and the Rev. S. Givins. The meeting commenced at 3 o’clock, and did not terminate until nearly 8; but, in the language of the “Church” newspaper :—

“Long as it was, it was marked throughout by an interest of the most solemn and gratifying nature. Several of the speakers were exceedingly happy and powerful in their appeals. The Chief Justice who proposed two Resolutions, was lucid and argumentative, and unfolded the details of the plan with his accustomed perspicuity and ease. His sentiments were warmly coloured With hope and he avowed his determination to devote himself with an earnest zeal to the furtherance of the important object, of which his own provident and comprehensive miud had already seen the necessity, and for carrying out which he had himself proposed a scheme of the most permanent and expansive character. Various other gentlemen, clerical and lay, expressed themselves in succession with the best effect It was delightful, indeed, to behold the spirit of unanimity which rested upon the proceedings of the day; to trace the same mind, in essentials, running through all; to mark that, while the Bible was prominently and distinctly put forth as ‘containing all things necessary to salvation,’—‘the principle of Divine right,’ to use Dr. McCaul’s emphatic phrase, ‘transmitted by apostolical succession,’ was recognized as necessary to the perfect constitution of a Christian Church. No one could fail to perceive, from the tone of the whole meeting, that a firm attachment to the principles of the Reformation was a characteristic of the Canadian Church ; and that amidst the conflicting errors of the day, there was a solemn determination in the Clergy and Laity to adhere to the Evangelical truth and Apostolic order, and to continue steadfast in the ‘old paths.’

“The 28th April, 1842, is, indeed a day to be remembered by every Churchman as a signal epoch in the annals of the Church.

Henceforward he may look for a greater unity of action,—a greater development and concentration of resources,—and a happy co-operation between the Clergy and the Laity. Here is a field now opened for dll the best and holiest energies of every Churchman. Here he can devote himself to the united objects of religion ; or can single out some particular channel into which he may wish all his time and talents sbould flow. Here will be the Churchman’s Bible Society ; here will be his Traci Society; here he will find the wants of his communion exhibited in every form; and his only difficulty will be not to discover, but to select out of many pressing cases, one peculiarly calling for his aid.

“It was with great rejoicing that we witnessed the laying of the foundation-stone of King’s College; but our gratification was much more vivid and homefelt, when we viewed the Bishop of the Diocese, surrounded by his faithful Clergy, and many of the most eminent and virtuous of the Laity, giving shape and organization to a Society, which embraces the spiritual welfare of the most numerous religious denomination in the Province. On the first occasion, we felt as members of the State; on the latter, our warmest emotions as Churchmen were enkindled, and visions connected with a future and eternal state thronged thick upon the mind.

“It is devoutedly to be hoped that the pious excitement of Thursday last, may not be suffered to grow cold and decline; but that a work commenced under such happy auspices, may be systematically, resolutely, and successfully persevered in; that it may be aided by tthe unremitted personal exertions, the large offerings, the prayers and the exemplary lives of the Laity; that it may be enforced and carried forward by the Clergy wherever a single congregation is formed; that it may prove to them a valuable auxiliary in spiritual matters, a strong support under every discouragement, and a relief of those temporal wants which press so heavily upon their unrepining heads; and that thus sustained by the united efforts of the Clergy and Laity, and watered by the dews of God’s blessing, it may continue a source of immortal consolations to this and innumerable generations ; an offshoot not unworthy of its glorious parent stems, the venerable Societies for Promoting Christian Knowledge and for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts.”

The good work, so auspiciously undertaken, was not permitted to stand stilL Large and influential Committees were immediately appointed to canvass the different wards of the City for subscriptions; and a general meeting of the supporters of the Society was held in Toronto on the 1st June following to make the necessary arrangements for completing its organization throughout all the Parishes of the Diocese. Without loss of time, the Bishop himself appointed, and presided at, meetings in several of the principal Towns of the Province, and was very successful at Cobourg, Kingston, Brockville, and afterwards at London, in establishing District Branches of the Society, and otherwise giving vigour to its operations. A Depository was soon after opened in a commodious house on King Street, under the charge of the late Mr. Thomas Champion; and throughout the country at large, a most liberal and cheerful support was given to the Society.

Scarcely was this important work fairly set on foot^ when the Bishop started upon another Confirmation tour. He left Toronto for this purpose on 19th July, 1842; and after consecrating the church at Penetanguishine, he proceeded with his party in canoes to Manitoulin Island. There were various interesting adventures in the course of this journey, as described in the Bishop’s journal:—

“On Friday, 29th July, our party landed upon one of a group of Islands called Foxes’ Islands, the rain pouring down in torrents. It was found not a little difficult to select places for pitching the tents, the rock being so very high and uneven, and no soil into which pegs could be driven. In this emergency, the tents were held down by large stones placed upon the ropes, in lieu of pegs driven into the ground; but with this arrangement there was not a little danger, should the wind increase, of both tents and inmates being blown into the lake. The party dined in one of the tents; and notwithstanding the furiousness of the storm and the smallness of the accommodation, they were very comfortable and cheerful. The rain continued with increased vehemence during the night, and found its way into the Bishop’s tent, but a hollow place in its centre fortunately served for a reservoir, and many pails of water were emptied from it on the following morning. Nevertheless, the violence of the wind caused it to beat through the canvass; and his Lordship, even under this shelter, was obliged to resort to the protection of an umbrella, to prevent his being thoroughly wet. Several casualties happened during the night; three of the tents were blowu down, and the inmates had to make the best of their way, in their night clothes, through the darkness, exposed to the wind and rain, to some of the other tents which withstood the tempest. Early in the morning, the whole party assembled round a large tire to dry themselves, and amused themselves in recounting the adventures of the night The encampment the following evening was not a little picturesque : nine tents were pitched, and as many fires lighted up; the canoes were all drawn ashore, and commonly turned over with their bottoms upward. Groups were seen round each fire, aud, as the darkness increased, shadows were flitting from place to place, while some of the men were seen rolled up in their blankets and sleeping on the bare rock. The party never dined until they stopped for the night,—sometimes as late as nine o'clock. The table cloth was spread on the smoothest part of the rock, and the guests squatted round in eastern fashion, with candles or lanterns, according to the amount of wind, to illuminate the feast! On the first night of encampment, it was discovered that one of the canoes was manned by converted Indians. Before going to rest, they assembled together, and sung a hymn in their own language, and read some prayers which had been translated for their use. There was something indescribably touching in this service of praise to God upon these inhospitable rocks: the stillness, wildness, and darkness, combined with the sweet and plaintive voices, all contributed to add to the solemnity and beauty of the scene.”

After confirming at the Manitouawning, the Bishop and his party left for Sault Ste. Marie. On the 14th August, the day before their arrival there,

“Service was held on a very beautiful island, covered with trees and shrubs, juniper and rose bushes, and many wild flowers. A clean smooth rock, overhanging the lake, was chosen for the place of worship, which possessed, besides, the advantage of a freer air,—the day being hot,—and of being distunt from a fire, which was rapidly spreading, by means of the dry moss, over the island. The audience manifested the greatest attention, and all appeared to be struck with a deep feeling of the solemnity of the scene, and of the wiseness of the provision which called upon them, in this wild and romantic comer of the earth, to pause upon their journey, and to worship their heavenly Father through his son Jesus Christ”

From the Sault Ste. Marie, where his Lordship confirmed fifty persons on the 21st August, he proceeded to Michillimackinac. There he took the steamer for the village of Sutherland on the beautiful river St. Clair: Sandwich, Amhertsburgh, and Colchester, were subsequently visited; then Chatham, and the Indian mission at Muncey Town, under charge of the late Rev. J. Flood.

“On the 7th September, the Indians assembled in great numbers. It was to be a great day, as the great Chippewa chief Cunatuny, was to be baptized and confirmed. In the two villages, (of Munceytown and [Chippawy) there are still several pagan Indians ; and yet, strange to say, they all attend the service of the Church. While they continue pagans, they paint their faces, and refuse to kneel. The conversion, however, of the great chief is expected to operate favourably; and from their proverbial love of truth,—stronger, it is said, among the Indians than amongst the Persians of old,—it is anticipated that they will be readily impressed and permanently retained. When some doubts were expressed as to the coming of the Bishop, the Indians exclaimed, ‘What, is he not Chief of the Church 1 he can never have two words; he is sure to come ! ’ The school-house, though large, could scarcely contain half the number of persons assembled, and they stood in groups about the doors and windows. The chief was baptized, and appeared to be well acquainted with the nature and importance of the Holy Sacrament.

The Bishop proceeded from hence to Goderich, a little town beautifully situated on the banks of Lake Huron. Confirmations were held here, and subsequently in Adelaide, the township and town of London, and the village of St. Thomas, at that time under the pastoral charge of the Rev. Mark Burnham. In reference to this pariah and the labours of its Minister, the following admirable remarks occur in the Bishop’s journal:—

"The success attendant upon Mr. Burnham’s labours,—he ascribes under the Divine blessing, to a more dour and earnest development on his part of the distinctive principles of the Church; the bringing her claims more plainly and decidedly before his people, as the depository of divine truth and tlio channel of heavenly grace. While he performed his duty conscientiously, with all calmness and zeal, as a minister of Christ, hut without bringing forward prominently the government, order, excellencies of the Church,—the necessity of communion with her by those who expect the privileges and blessings of the Redeemer s sacrifice,—matters, he said, went on with regularity and smoothness; his people were discreet and decent in their Christian walk; but they seemed scarcely conscious of any difference between themselves and the sectaries around them. It was not until he pointed out distinctly the nature and privileges of the Church,—her close resemblanoe to the Apostolic pattern,—the many important and decided differences between her and other Protestant denominations, that his congregation began to feel they were a distinct and privileged people; that the points in which they differed from others, wore not of small, but of essential moment; and that they manifested themselves no longer lukewarm in her service, but ready to contribute with their substance, as well as by their example, to the advancement of her holy cause.

“It seems, indeed, (his Lordship further observes,) a matter of positive unfairness and dishonesty to withhold from the people instruction upon all that concerns their spiritual weal. They have a right to be informed not only of what constitutes the soundness of faith, but of whatsoever also may serve to promote unity of belief and uniformity of practice,—whatsoever may help to keep them a united body, and cause them to shun those divisions, upon which every Apostle, and Apostolic man, pronounced so severe a condemnation. That Christian steward can scarcely be said to give every man his portion,—to bring out of his treasures things new and old for the edification and welfare of Christ’s heritage, if, while he is faithful in preaching a Crucified Redeemer, he omits all explanation of the foundation, order, government, and discipline of that Church which bears so near a connexion with the Saviour as to be called his spouse, and in relation to which it i§ said, that they who are grafted into the Church are grafted into Him,”

From St. Thomas, the Bishop proceeded to Dunwich,— visiting his old friend, Col. Talbot, on the way; and confirming there, had a long drive of twenty-six miles to Richmond, in the township of Bay ham. After this, he confirmed at Woodhouse and Brantford; and from thence paid his second visit to the Indian missions at Mohawk and Tuscarora. There followed, in course, Confirmations at Paris, Galt, Guelph, Dundas, Ancaster, Binbrook, and Hamilton; and this last accomplished, he arrived in Toronto on the 3rd October. He had scarcely been at home since the 13th June; and during the whole course of these arduous journeys and laborious services, had never experienced a day of sickness, or been prevented by any accident from discharging his duties or keeping his various appointments. During the summer he consecrated two Churches and one burial ground; confirmed 756 persons; and travelled upwards of 2500 miles.

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