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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XXIV

Resignation of Archdeaconry of York and Rectory of Toronto.— Triennial Visitation of the Clergy in 1847.—Consecration of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Toronto.

IN the course of the summer of 1846, a communication was received by the Bishop of Toronto from the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, that the Society as Trustees of the Church of England’s share of the Clergy Reserves Fund in this Diocese, had voted to him a salary of £1250 sterling, per annum; on condition that he should resign all other ecclesiastical preferment. By this arrangement, which the Bishop at once accepted, the Archdeaconry of York and the Rectory of Toronto became vacant; and the Bishop was pleased to appoint the Rev. A. N. Bethune, D. D., to the former, and to recommend to the Governor General, at that time the patron, the Rev. H. J. Grasett, M. A., for the Rectory of Toronto. These latter appointments, however, were not officially announced until the month of March following.

On Thursday, 3rd June, 1847, the Bishop held his third Triennial Visitation of the Clergy of the Diocese in the Cathedral Church of St. James. Eighty Clergymen were present; and, to quote from the Church organ of the day, “the Bishop, seated in his Episcopal Chair, and surrounded by the Archdeacons and other Clergy of the Diocese, proceeded to deliver his Charge, which occupied about three hours and a half, and was attended to with the most intense interest by both Clergy and Laity. The several important topics which the Address embraced were explained and illustrated with a clearness and precision, and, in many cases, with an emphasis well calculated to make a deep impression. The several interests of the Diocese,— its extent, revenue, number of Clergy, and future prospects, —were all lucidly and circumstantially dwelt upon. The present state of religious feeling, both in and out of the Church, at home and abroad, was adverted to with singular prudence, discrimination, and ability; but, at the same time, we are persuaded that no part of his Lordship’s Charge was listened to with more deference and respect, than his truly paternal, kind, and affectionate address to the Clergy towards the close.” From this long and able document, which is doubtless in the hands of very many members of the Church in Canada, we can make but a few quotations.

His Lordship stated that, in the years, 1845 and 1846, he had confirmed at 197 stations, and that 4358 candidates had been presented for that rite. He says:—

“It is very pleasing to remark, that a very great change has been for some years gradually manifesting itself in regard to the holy ordinance of Confirmation. Our people now almost universally believe and recognize it to be an Apostolic institution, and, to all who receive it, a most beautiful and impressive consummation of their baptism.

“The frequent administration of this interesting ceremony has been especially blessed throughout the Diocese, and has had the most salutary effects upon the minds of many, whose views of the true foundation and principles of our Church were very confined and unfruitful. Following up the holy conceptions and aspirations which the frequent witnessing of Confirmation is calculated to produce, they have formed more correct opinions of the sacred functions of the Church of God, in her Divine appointment to regenerate man and to mould him for heaven.

“I was delighted,’ said one of the most promising of my younger Clergy, 'for many of my congregation observing that they were much affected at beholding the ordinance of Confirmation administered for the first time,—displaying, as it does, the Episcopal authority, which is one of the marks of the Catholic Church. In one case, where I had been unable to persuade two young persons in a family to become candidates for Confirmation, they expressed great sorrow, after witnessing the ceremony, that they had not yielded to my advice, and professed their determination to be confirmed, God willing, at the next opportunity.’ ”

He speaks thus of two Institutions in the Mother Country, whose inestimable services to all the Colonies of the Empire, and to this one in particular, are never to be forgotten :—

“The two Societies, the great handmaids of the Church, continue their nursing care to this Diocese with increasing energy; the Propagation Society in supporting nearly one-half of our Clergy, besides granting many special donations; the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, in bestowing Bibles, Prayer Books, Religious Tracts and Books of the most excellent description in the most abundant measure, and affording munificent aid towards the erection of churches. Their exertions seem to keep pace with the multiplying demands upon their benevolence. They feel that they are engaged in a holy cause; and, so feeling, remit not, but redouble their labours. The field of their operations is already immense, and continually enlarging, and so is their responsibility for the judicious application of the means at their disposal. Their success is indeed wonderful, notwithstanding the many obstacles which stand in their way, from without and from within, to their freedom of action in carrying the Church of our fathers to every quarter. For one hundred and fifty years have they been employed in this vast field, and during the whole of that period the true Missionary strength has been gaining strength amongst them, while its present activity is a pledge of onward progress, and of still greater things to come.”

He speaks, too, in this well-deserved strain, of another Institution to which this Province is under great obligation :—

"The New England Society, established by Royal Charter in the reign of Charles the Second, continue to support their missions among the Six Nation Indians, with unabated care and liberality. Their two Missionaries are ever at their posts, and are encouraged by a fair measure of success: the number of Indians still pagan are rapidly diminishing, and the School of Industry is attracting more and more the attention of the different tribes, and appears in a very flourishing condition.”

On the Church as a bulwark against heresy and schism, he expresses himself in this earnest and practical maimer:—

“Ever since the Reformation, there has been, in matters of religion, a want of veneration for sacred things. Instead of deferring to the authority of the Church, an absolute independence of her has been too frequently assumed. Hence the low appreciation of the |>ast, and the readiness with which Dissenters cast off all regard for the forms and usages of the Church of the Apostles.

“The same wild spirit invades social life. To honour father and mother, and to cherish for them the most affectionate love and respect in their persons and characters, are virtues which appear to be rapidly passing away; and when the domestic affections disappear, the true happiness of society vanishes with them. There can be no love and unity in families where the children defer not to their parents ; and as society consists of families, the same spirit will teach disrespect for superiors, and, in time general insubordination. It is the discipline of home, sanctified by religion, which qualifies us for the duties of civilized life. Filial affection bears much, because it loves much. Now the Church must live in families before she can be truly efficient; and it is the neglect of religion in families, and the consequent deterioration of the domestic virtues, which disturbs the Church and multiplies division. For, as the Church is daily born anew in baptism, so must she ever be renewed in Christian homes; but the total relaxation of domestic discipline leads to excess of private judgment, to extreme arrogance, and contempt for authority. Hence we find Protestant denominations without number.

Every one hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath an interpretation; and in our fear of forms, we forget that there can be neither regularity nor order without forms. This reckless spirit of unbridled independence has created much turbulence and disorder; and these again have been increased and extended by the rapid growth of the population, for the religious instruction of which the Church has been unable to provide”

We close our extracts from this valuable charge with the following words of admirable exhortation, which Churchmen now would be wise to take to heart and act upon :—

“But dismissing these elements of earth, let us look to ourselves, and remember that we have a great and important work before us,—the evangelizing of this vast country. Let us not then fall out by the way. We have already too many enemies and opposers to admit of division in our own household. Enemies numerous and powerful exist, whom we can only expect to combat with success, by using the weapons furnished by the Church in the true spirit of unity and concord. We are all servants of the same Master; let us stand together in faithfulness of purpose and in steadiness of action. Have we not to contend with infidelity and worldliness on the one hand, aud all the Protean forms of dissent on the other? Is it not, then, our duty to rise above difficulties, and exert ourselves to the utmost in promoting the advancement of the Church of God in this Diocese; that Church which is not human in her constitution, but heavenly; and neither takes her rise from earthly powers, nor depends upon them for her continuance. Empires and kingdoms fail; the earth itself shall pass away,—but the Church of the living God shall continue forever. Her name, her offices, her services, her powers, her spiritual endowments, are for eternity. How awful the responsibility which attaches to us, her ministers ! The worship wc offer, is the commencement of the worship of eternity, and our ministrations the beginning of services which are to continue for evermore.”

There was a circumstance of a personal character connected with this Visitation, which ought not to be left unrecorded. On the evening of that day, there was a special choral service in the Chapel of the University of King’s College, at which most of the Clergy in town were present; and in regard to this, we shall be excused for repeating the impressions of an eye-witness. “The service,” he says, "was admirably conducted, and the impressions left upon the minds and spirits of those who participated in it, were of the most gratifying and refreshing nature. There is something in the humble, plaintive tone of sacred song, conducted by the rule of the ancient chants, singularly in accordance with the natural outpourings of a penitent spirit. The voice of supplication for the manifold good gifts of a gracious God, is appropriately expressed in that unambitious strain of devotional melody. The Amen of the choristers and people, following the dirge-like petitions of the minister, has a peculiarly impressive effect; while the united and full voices of all in the anthems of praise, shadows in the mind, feebly, though cheeringly, the image of that scene in the realms of glory, where ten thousand times ten thousand of the redeemed lift up one burst of grateful thanksgiving and homage to the Lord of all”

After this service, the Clergy repaired to the residence of the Bishop to partake of the hospitalities customary at these triennial assemblages. Besides the Clergy, were the Judges, the Heads of Departments, the Corporation, the Vice-Presidents, and Standing Committee of the Church Society, and many other gentlemen of the city,—forming altogether a very large, and most intelligent and agreeable party.

"Soon after the company had assembled, a beautiful and massive Silver Inkstand was presented by the Archdeacons, in the name of the Clergy, to the Lord Bishop, as a slight but heartfelt token of their regard, dutifulness, and affection. The. presentation was accompanied with a few appropriate remarks, very feelingly expressed, from the Venerable the Archdeacon of Kingston; and his Lordship, in reply, was pleased to express his warm sense of the kindness which prompted this testimony of the love and esteem of his Clergy; that it was enhanced by the fact of its presentation by his Archdeacons, the senior of whom, the Archdeacon of Kingston, had been his friend for nearly half a century; and the junior, the Archdeacon of York, one whom he had known, and, as it were, brought up, from his infancy; that such gifts from a Clergy to their Bishop might not be usual, but that as he felt himself in the character of a fond father surrounded by an attached family, he gladly and thankfully accepted the one now so kindly offered him, that when they were separated to their homes and their duties, he might have before him continually a remembrance of this holyday,—like a gathering together of his beloved children in the Lord, whose welfare, comfort, and usefulness were at all times amongst the things nearest to his heart, and foremost in his prayers.

This handsome and appropriate testimonial was, after the death of its late owner, placed in the hands of the present Incumbent of the See by Captain and Mrs. Strachan; with their request, that it might be regarded as their gift to all succeeding Bishops of Toronto. This act of thoughtful kindness is highly appreciated by the present Bishop, and will, no doubt, he equally valued by all those into whose hands it may hereafter come.

In the autumn, of the present year, an event occurred of deep and pleasing interest,—the Consecration of the Church of the Holy Trinity in this City. This unusual interest was awakened by the peculiar circumstances under which the Church was started and completed. But these are best told in the Bishop’s own words :—

“On my return from visiting the Missions west of Toronto in September, 1845, I found a letter from the Lord Bishop of Ripon, the perusal of which dissipated in a moment the continued fatigue I had been enduring for several months. His Lordship stated, that he had the pleasure to inform me that some munificent individual, entirely unknown to him, had deposited in his hands the sum of £5000 sterling, which the donor wished to be appropriated to the building of a Church in the Diocese of Toronto, to be called the Church of the Holy Trinity,—the seats of which were to be free and unappropriated for ever; the patronage to be left entirely to the Bishop of the Diocese, as well as situation. Sacramental plate, surplices, and other things needful, were, at the same time, promised, and have since been furnished.

“The only condition imposed is, that a yearly report of the progress and circumstances of the Church is either to be printed in the Annual Report of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, entitled ‘Holy Trinity Church Report' or to be sent to the Rev. H. Swale, M. A., Little Yorkshire, who will shew it to the benefactor. ‘I have not the molt remote conjecture/ adds the Bishop, who the donor is. On consulting with several of my Clergy and other friends of the Church, all of whom were filled with joy and admiration at this noble manifestation of Christian charity, they concurred with one voice that the Free Church should be built at Toronto, by far the most populous city in the Diocese, and in a locality most likely to embrace the largest portion of the poor.

“Measures were immediately taken to find a site for the Church, eligible for the purpose intended, and to proceed without delay to its erection. In the selection of a proper site, we met with some difficulty; several were offered, but they were not in the desired locality, and the price demanded by the proprietors of such as might have been deemed eligible, was so great as would have trenched on the wished-for endowment. From anxiety on this subject, however, we were soon relieved by the Hon. John Simcoe Macaulay, retired Lieut. Colonel of the Royal Engineers, who bestowed upon us gratuitously, the very spot which we had all believed to be the most appropriate, at a sacrifice to himself of more than £500.

"In due time, the sacramental plate for the Church, and also for private communion with the sick, with table cloths, napkins and surplices, &c., all of which are very much admired for their tasteful elegance, reached us in safety. But what created still greater admiration and still deeper feelings of gratitude, were the magnificent gifts, and their beautiful appropriation, for rejoicing on the day of the Consecration of the Church, with which these things were accompanied. First, the donor desires that £50 sterling be presented at the Offertory on the day of the Consecration of the Church of the Holy Trinity, should the Holy Communion be then administered; if not, on the first occasion on which there is a Communion. Second, That the same sum be offered to supply gifts and rejoicings for the poor on the day of consecration. Third/ That the like sum of £50 Sterling be offered for the beautifying of the Font; or, should that be completed, for any internal decoration for the more devotional observance of Divine Service. Such a complete act of charity, and so. thoughtful and delicate in all its arrangements, and descending with holy foresight to the most minute things which might in any way tend to the devotional objects of the gift, is scarcely to be found in the history of the Christian Church. Wealth is indeed a blessing, when it is thus devoted to so noble a purpose as the extension of Christ’s kingdom.”

The Church of the Holy Trinity was consecrated on Wednesday, 27th October, 1847. There was a considerable attendance of the laity, and about twenty of the Clergy present. The Bishop preached an earnest and appropriate sermon; and after the offertory, which did not much exceed the large gift of the founder devoted to it, the Holy Communion was administered.

For several years this Church was served by the Reverends H. Scadding and W. Stemiett, Masters in Upper Canada College; the former receiving a very small remuneration for his services, and the latter affording them without any charge.

But it was soon discovered that there were requirements to be met, and duties to be discharged, to ensure the holy purposes for which this Church was erected, that would claim the undivided time and energies of its ministers. For the healthful prosperity of any Congregation, assiduous pastoral visiting must follow the Sunday ministrations. The classes of the community which would chiefly desire to avail themselves of the free accommodation of the Church of the Holy Trinity, would be looking for the sympathy, the consolation, the counsel, the instruction, from day to day, which, amidst the many trials and fluctuations of the world, all alike require. To hold back these, would be to weaken, and paralize at last, the influence of this Church,—so nobly projected, so munificently accomplished.

With this view, the Rev. W. Stewart Darling was, in 1851, appointed Assistant Minister in this Church; and so multiplied, and multiplying, were found to be the calls and claims upon his time and energies, that in a few years another had to be associated with him in the work.

Far and wide, the faithful and diligent attention of Mr. Darling to his arduous duties has been recognized and honoured; and the result has been that the Congregation of this Church has grown into great strength and influence. It is crowded on the Lord's day; and on the many occasions of week-day ministrations, the attendance is most satisfactory. The communicants, too, are very numerous, and the celebrations of the Lord's Supper are frequent. There is a hearty worship, and zeal and unanimity amongst its members; all realizing, more and more, the great results which the generous founder of the Church anticipated, in laying at the feet of its chief Pastor so munificent a gift for the spiritual benefit of the poor.

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