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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XXVI

Establishment of the Diocesan Synod.—Laying the Foundation-stone of Trinity College.—Opening of the College.

THE year 1851 was remarkable, in the annals of the Diocese of Toronto, for the first actual start in the establishment of a Diocesan Synod. It is not, however to be supposed that this was a sudden conception on the part of our late Diocesan; or that it had acquired life and energy only just before the attempt at practically carrying it out.

Early in the year 1832, soon after the return from England of the writer of this Memoir, he received a letter from Dr. Strachan, then Archdeacon of York, containing a draft of a Constitution for a Diocesan Convocation. This contained fourteen rules, with an excellent preamble, asserting the reasons for the establishment of such a body. He says in this letter:—

“In the draft transmitted to you, I have confined myself within as narrow bounds as possible, and simplified the whole as much as I could. To make it long, might deter jthe Bishop in limine from entertaining it: the great object is to get it fairly established, and then it will be easy to introduce such additional articles as experience may suggest.

“I am quite convinced,” he adds “that we shall never gain much ground in the Province, or obtain that influence on public opinion, or with the Government, or with the Bishop himself;—that we ought to possess, till we have frequent Convocations, composed of the Clergy and members from their several congregations.

“To such assemblies, the Episcopal Church in the United States owes almost every thing; and from the want of public meetings of the Clergy and Laity, the Church of England is losing weight with the people, and influence with the Government.

He asked for such remarks upon this draft as, after mature consideration, I might think it advisable to offer; and he stated that he had made a similar request to two or three other Clergymen of the Diocese, on whose judgment he set much value.

In August, 1832, at a Visitation of the Clergy at Kingston, held by the Bishop of Quebec, the subject was discussed,though informally; and approbation of a Diocesan Synod or Convocation was generally expressed. The subject was resumed at Toronto, at a Visitation held there a few weeks later.

In 1836, at the meeting presided over by the two Archdeacons, the question was very earnestly taken up, and discussed at some length. Some objections were advanced; but the feeling of the meeting was decidedly in favour of Synodical action. There were, even then, indications sufficiently suggestive that the time was not far distant when we should be a self-supporting, and self-reliant Church; and the impression was a natural one that, in view of such a condition, we should lose no time in preparing ourselves to become a self-governing Church. It was natural also to entertain, and give expression to the opinion, that, inasmuch as for the future maintenance of the Church we should have to depend so much on the good-will and liberality of the lay-members of our Communion, it was only fair to assign to them a reasonable share in its government.

Nothing definite was adopted, or suggested, subsequently for some years; but in 1851 there were such strong indications that steps would be taken by the Provincial Parliament for the alienation of the Clergy Reserves, that the Bishop of Toronto, in issuing to the Clergy of the Diocese the usual summons to his Triennial Visitation, introduced the following direct allusion to the importance and the duty of Synodicai action:—

“It has been suggested, and even pressed upon me, by many of the most pious and respectable members of our Communion, both lay and clerical, that the Church, now so numerous in Canada West, ought to express her opinion, as a body, on the posture of her secular affairs, when an attempt is again made by her enemies to despoil her of the small remainder of her property, which has been set apart and devoted to sacred purposes during sixty years; and that it is not only her duty to protest against such a manifest breach of public faith, but to take such steps as may seem just and reasonable to avert the same; “Having taken this suggestion into serious consideration, and believing it not only founded on wisdom, but, in the present crisis of the temporalities of .the Church, absolutely necessary, I hereby request every Clergyman of my Diocese to invite the members of his mission or congregation, being regular communicants, to select one or two of their number to accompany him to the Visitation.”

In response to this summons, one hundred and twenty-four Clergymen, and one hundred and twenty-seven Laymen were present in the Church of the Holy Trinity, at Toronto, on Thursday, May 1,1851! On this day after the usual religious services, the Bishop delivered a Charge of considerable length. There was then a short adjournment; and the Bishop, on their re-assembling, addressed both Clergy and Laity collectively on the secular affairs of the Church. On the following day, after considerable discussion several Resolutions were passed, expressing a strong protest against the threatened secularization of the Clergy Reserves; the expediency of applying to the Crown for the establishment of a Diocesan Synod or Convocation, to consist of the Laity as well as the Clergy; and the duty of petitioning the Colonial Legislature to permit the establishment of separate Church Schools. Committees were appointed to carry these rules into effect. Such was the practical commencement of The Synod of the Diocese of Toronto.

The Bishop considered the present a favourable opportunity for laying the Foundation-stone of Trinity College for which ceremonial every necessary preparation had been made. Our readers, however, should be informed that, on the return of the Bishop from England in the autumn of 1850, a Deputation from the "Upper Canada School of Medicine,—composed of Drs. Hodder, Bo veil, Badgley, Hallowell, Bethune, and Melville,—waited upon his Lordship, to tender their services as the Medical Faculty of the projected University, and offering these services gratuitously until the revenues of the University should warrant the payment of a suitable remuneration. This offer was cheerfully accepted; and as the usual period for the commencement of the winter course of study had arrived, the Bishop sanctioned the naming of a day on which the Faculty should commence their labours. They met accordingly at the Hall of the Mechanics’ Institute, on the 7th November; and, after Prayers, and an Address from the Bishop, introductory Lectures were delivered by the several Professors.

On the 13th March, 1851, the tenders were accepted for the erection of Trinity College; on the 17th of that month, the first sod was turned with solemn and impressive ceremony; and on the 30th April, the Comer-stpne of the building was laid.

At one o’clock on that day, a procession of one hundred Cergymen, with the Medical Faculty and College Council, followed by the Bishop and his Chaplains, proceeded to St. George’s Church, where Divine Service was performed, and an appropriate sermon preached by the Archdeacon of York. When the service was concluded, the Bishop, the Clergy, and the numerous congregation formed in procession at the western end of the Church, and proceeded thence down John Street and along Queen Street to the site of the College. “On its way from the Church to the grounds, several of the gentry in carriages accompanied the procession, and the footways were crowded with pedestrians. The scene was gay and animating in the extreme, and every thing evinced the deep interest which the Churchmen of Toronto and the Province generally took in the event.” On the arrival of the procession at the ground, the Bishop, from a capacious platform prepared for the occasion, delivered an Address, from which we make a few extracts:—

“To found a common seat of learning is a proud object of ambition; but to establish a College devoted to the cause of God, and the diffusion of sound learning and true religion through so vast a region as Upper Canada, is one of those precious distinctions which are seldom attained; and, associated in our imaginations, as it must be, with so many gifts and blessings to young and old, it cannot fail to become a source of delightful reflection through life to all of us who now enjoy the privilege of being present on this happy occasion.

“Feeble we may seem to the world’s eye; but what Seminary in the history of literature can claim an origin so pure and holy?

“Trinity College is a burst of Christian benevolence, to remedy an intolerable act of injustice, and to prove that all oppression is short-sighted, and sure in God’s own time to be overruled for good.

“It is peculiarly the child of the Church ; from her it springs, and under her wing it desires to nestle; it will breathe as she breathes, and acquire life and energy from the spiritual nourishment which she is ordained to dispense.

“So soon as the buildings are completed, Trinity College will become, in all her proceedings, os strictly Collegiate in discipline and character as the circumstances of this new country will permit; and its authorities will ever keep in view the glorious models of the Parent State, to which pure science and the Christian faith are so much indebted. From them she will borrow a spark of that living flame by which they have been animated for so many centuries, in order that she may, with God's blessing, kindle similar inspirations in this Colony.

“And I trust that many around me will be permitted to see Trinity College taking an honoured place among the more celebrated schools of learning, and doing for Canada what Oxford and Cambridge have done for England.”

The Bishop, after this Address, offered up a Prayer, which it is but right to insert in this record of his life; and it is one which all, interested in the growth and prosperity of Trinity College, may often dutifully use:

“O Almighty God, with whom was wisdom when Thou didst prepare the heavens and set a compass upon the face of the depth, look down with favour, we most humbly beseech Thee, on the work which we this day begin.

“Mercifully grant unto all who are engaged therein judgment and understanding ; that the labour of their hands and fruits of their counsels may tend to Thy glory, the good of Thy Church, and the well-being of this whole land.

“Vouchsafe unto those who shall sojourn within the walls about to rise from this foundation, minds enlightened by Thy heavenly grace, to proceed in all their doings according to Thy will.

“Teach by Thy Holy Spirit from on high those who shall here teach; and cause their instructions to agree with the truth of Thy word and the testimony of Thy Church: that by the might of Thy power, working through the frail instrumentality of men, the Faith once delivered to the Saints may be handed on for ever.

“Grant to those who shall here learn, docility and diligence, that they may be disciples indeed, willing from their youth to bear the yoke of Christ, and fitted by a discipline of purity and prayer to discharge the duties of those states of life which Thou hast appointed for men to walk in.

“Grant that from these walls may go forth, devoted unto Thee and rightly equipped for their work, messengers of the Gospel of Peace; who shall aim, under the commission of their Saviour, to win souls unto Thee; to train their brethren by the Word and Sacraments after the pattern of their Lord; and to bring back those who err and stray into the unity of the faith and the oneness of the body of Christ

“Grant that from these walls may go forth Physicians skilled to heal, and enabled, under Thee, to mitigate the woes which sin hath brought upon the earth: who, in their labour for the health of the body, shall have regard also to the health of the soul, from a lively faith in Thee the Father of the Spirits of us all.

“Grant that from these walls may go forth men, who, while they make the statutes and judgments of their fellow-men their study, and consult how they may establish truth and justice in the State, shall have in their hearts an abiding respect unto Thee, the Lawgiver of the worlds, and to the decrees that shall hereafter decide the eternal condition of quick and dead.

“Grant that from these walls may go forth those who, while they engage in the traffic of the. earth, and fulfil Thy will in effecting among men the interchange of the wide-spread gifts of Thy bounteous hand, shall know also what is the merchandize of the true riches; how to increase the gifts with which they have been entrusted to profit witbal; and how to lay up treasures in heaven.

“Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord to each and all who shall go forth hence to labour in their various vocations among their fellow-men, that, to intellects accomplished in wisdom and knowledge, they may join souls filled with a true .reverence and love towards Thee ; so that, as polished shafts from Thy hand, they may in all things fulfil Thy good pleasure, to the glory of Thy great name.

“Grant, O Lord, that this building, about to be devoted to learning and religion, may proceed without let or hindrance, and may be to future generations the fountain, under Thee, of abundant blessings.

“Visit, with Thy grace, we humbly beseech Thee, those benefactors who have contributed to the furtherance of this good work; and stir up other hearts to munificence towards the undertaking on which we now enter. Cause many among the brethren to vie in zeal with those who, in the times of old, have founded and endowed in the land of our fathers the seats of learning dedicated to Thee and to the service of Thy Church.

“And grant, O Lord, that we and our descendants to the latest generation, being preserved evermore from the hands of the spoiler, may enjoy these gifts, and pursue our course in confidence and peace.

“Hear us, O Almighty God, we humbly beseech Thee, iu these our supplications and prayers, for the sake of our only Meditator and Advocate, Jesus Christ; to whom, with Thee, and the Holy Ghost, the ever adorable Trinity, to whom we dedicate our work, be all honour and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Upon the brass plate which covered the usual coins and documents was a long Latin inscription, which was admirably read by Chief Justice Robinson. The stone having been laid by the Bishop, he was addressed in a brief but excellent speech by Sir Allan MacNab. Then followed a gracefully written Latin address from the pupils of the Church Grammar School conducted by the Rev. J. G. D. Mackenzie, and read with great correctness by the head pupil, the late John James Bethune. To this the Bishop made an appropriate reply in Latin. In the Bidding Prayer, read by the Archdeacon of York, was this paragraph,—“That there never may be wanting a supply of persons duly qualified to serve God in Church and State, let us pray for a blessing on all Seminaries of sound learning and religious education, especially the Universities of our native country; and, as in duty bound, for the religious foundation of Trinity College.”

The very interesting services of the day were concluded by an appropriate Prayer, embodying the Gloria in Excelsis, by the Rev. H. J. Grasett, and the Benediction by the Bishop:

Through the exertions of friends in England, a Provost, and Professors of Classics and Mathematics, were selected, and they arrived in Canada in the autumn of 1851.

On Thursday, 15th January, 1852, Trinity College was formally opened. Divine Service was held in the temporary Chapel, at which there was a large attendance; and this concluded, all proceeded to the Dining Hall of the College, very judiciously arranged for the occasion. The matriculants were admitted with the usual formalities; after which the Bishop delivered an Address, giving a brief history of the whole undertaking, and the reasons which so imperatively led to it. We make from the latter portion of this a few extracts :—

“One of our principal objects in this Institution, will be to bring back to the hearts and affections of our youth the fresh and innocent impressions of early infancy. With what deep emotions do we find the greatest and best of men recalling, in after life, the blessed influences which they imbibed under the paternal roof; the holy truths communicated, and the first faint accents of prayer which a pious and tender mother whispered in their ears, invoking the protection of their God and Saviour before she consigned them to their night’s repose. On such sweet and pure recollections they delight to dwell; for at home all our best and holiest charities ar.d affections begin, and from this centre they extend through an ever widening circle. Our desire, then, is to build upon this holy foundation; to form ourselves, as far as possible, into a large household; and keep as near as may be practicable, to the order and economy of a well regulated family. There will be daily and hourly intercourse between the youth and their instructors; reverence for superior age and attainments, and a prompt obedience to all their reasonable commands.

“There will also be among the young men themselves an affectionate brotherhood, confidential and salutary companionship, noble resolutions, aspiring hopes, useful conversation and friendly intimacy, on terms and with an intensity which nothing but a College life will admit.

“In regard to discipline, we cannot surely be required, in 1852, to shew that it is unnecessary: on the contrary, the experience of all ages and countries points out the advantage of subjecting the passionate and enthusiastic period of youth to salutary control, as well as the great difficulty of rendering it effectual.”

The Chief Justice, the Hon. J. B. Robinson, followed; and from his admirable address we quote the following striking passages:—

“It is but a few short months since we saw the close of au anxious and painful contest, of which I shall only say that I believe it will some day be acknowledged that it would have been no less for the advantage than the honour of this Province if it had had a different termination. Many who, under the same circumstances, would have felt, not less keenly than your Lordship, the disappointment of long cherished hopes, would have thought themselves well justified if they had then given way to despondency; and they would probably have left to another generation the seemingly hopeless task of endeavouring to procure for the members of our Church in Upper Canada the means of receiving a collegiate education, in halls sanctified by the ministrations of her worship, and within which her faith should be acknowledged, and her doctrines inculcated.

“It has been long ago said, in a noble spirit of philanthropy, that it ought to be the aim of every man, while passing through life to leave behind him some enduring proof that he has not lived in vain; some useful monument of his labours, by which his name may be favourably known to future generations. We thankfully acknowledge that your Lordship, standing under the roof of Trinity College, and in the presence of its duly appointed Professors, has fully acquitted yourself of this debt to posterity, while it is at the same time our peculiar advantage to know that as failures have not deterred, so success will not slacken your services in this good cause. There is no one, we are convinced, who can be so influential as your Lordship in whatever remains to be done for placing this institution on a secure and adequate foundation; nor is there one of whom all the friends of the Church can say, with so much reason, that they are sure his utmost exertions will, to his latest moment, be devoted to its service.

“It is not from the Reformation that the Church of England dates her existence. We are not separated from other Christian communities in consequence of any recent adoption on our part of a doubtful interpretation of some text of Scripture, or any modern scruple in regard to forms. Nothing else that we most fondly venerate,—not the glorious dag of England, nor the great Charter of our liberties, has, from its antiquity, so strong a claim to our devotion as the Church. It is the Church which, from age to age, the Sovereign has sworn to support; centuries have passed since holy martyrs have perished at the stake, rather than deny her doctrines; and the soil of England is hallowed by the dust of countless worthies who have sunk to their rest professing her creed, and invoking blessings on her labours, after lives illustrated by piety and learning, and devoted in the purest spirit to the welfare of mankind.

“May the honour be conceded to Trinity College, in the progress of time, of having produced men who, by their learning and virtues, may establish as strong a claim to the grateful admiration of posterity.”

From the Address of of the Archdeacon of York, who followed the Chief Justice, we quote a few extracts:—

“Apart from the paramount claims of heavenly truths, which of right demands the devout attention of every baptized Christian, we can foresee the highest practical benefits to society as the result of training in an Institution like this. The teaching of an authorized ministry will thus, in the leading and most influential classes of society, have a kindly and well-prepared soil to work upon; and the claims of our holy Church will be presented to future generations with more than an hereditary prepossession in its favour. Evangelical Truth would thus be proposed to enlightened disciples; and the tenet of Apostolic Order will be embraced from no mere bias of party, but from a rational and settled conviction.

And here I may be permitted to express my own high satisfaction in being allowed this day to resign into the hands of accomplished scholars and divines, a trust which, during a period of ten years, I have, as Diocesan Professor of Theology, laboured to discharge, though with the consciousness of many infirmities, yet with fidelity and zeal. My recent charge have become to-day members of this University; and heaven, I trust, will prosper both. Our prayer will be united and earnest, that the pure stream of “sound learning and a religious education” will issue from this University, and water far and wide the waste places of our land. And it will be our prayer that Trinity College will, through all time, attest its Christian character in the successive generations of scholars that shall proceed from its walls; that the banner of its alumni will be in the faith of Christ, and their watchword of duty—'Holiness to the Lord.'”

The following excellent remarks were contained in the address of the Rev. Provost Whitaker, who spoke last:—

“Every Layman amongst us should surely as a Christian, understand the evidences of the Christian faith; and, as a Churchman, the arguments for the peculiarities of doctrine and discipline which distinguish our Church from other religious bodies, in order that he may be prepared to meet both the scoffs of the infidel and the subtle and more specious objections of the separatist. Many, it is to be feared, have concluded that no apology could be offered for the truths of Christianity, only because they were not themselves qualified for being its apologists, or have witnessed with indifference assaults upon the creed or the government of the Church, only because they have never been taught to feel an intelligent interest either in Evangelical Truth, or in Apostolic Order. It is to be hoped that better times are in store for us in this respect We cannot but rejoice in the increased zeal which the laity are discovering for the welfare of the Church at home; and, as the foundation of this College is a signal proof that a like zeal is felt here, so it is to be hoped that the instruction given in this College may, through God’s blessing, be the means of extending among the members of our Church a just appreciation of her claims, and of their duties, in respect of her.

“The foundation of this College is a solemn protest against the separation of religion from education: we have joined together again what others had put asunder, and what, as we believe, God joined together from the beginning; and, in doing this, it becomes us to acknowledge the obligation under which we live to be true to our own professions. They, who advocate truth and right,—especially if it be truth and right divine,— must look to it that they do not this unworthily. We are drawing a line of demarcation between ourselves and others, by inculcating the doctrines of the Christian faith, and by offering the prayers of the Christian Church within these walls ; we must be careful, then, that this be no mere formal distinction, but the basis of an essential difference; we must look to it that the doctrines, which we acknowledge, influence our practice,—that our lives be answerable to our prayers.

“A heathen moralist has said,—

“Quo semel est imbuta, receas serv&bit odoretn Testa diu.”

And as his maxim is no doubt true, as it is applied by himself to the character of an individual, so doubtless does it also hold good as applied to the character of a community. A society has its youth, and the character then stamped upon it,—the tone then given it,—it will long retain. With us, then, its first teachers and scholars, it rests to give to Trinity College its prescriptive character; to determine what shall be, in greater and in smaller particulars, its recognized standard of morals and of manners ; to give a tone to the society which, if high, it may happily be difficult to lower, but which, if low, it must be doubly difficult to raise. Our duty in this regard can be fulfilled only by spontaneous action, by efforts of free-will. Every member of our society must bear in mind that with him it rests to contribute to the common welfare such services as no authority can enjoin, no discipline enforce. By unconstrained acts of deference and obedience towards superiors, of courtesy and kindness to equals and inferiors, must we give expression to those principles which should actuate us as Christian gentlemen.”

Thus was Trinity College fairly launched upon its career: this has been of only seventeen years duration; but during this short period, it has had a large share of storm and vicissitude to contend with. We shall pain no one by saying to what these trials are owing; we shall devoutly hope that the worst have been experienced, and that, after all, Trinity College will prove to the Church and to the State all that its founder designed.

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