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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XXIX

Further efforts in England on behalf of Trinity College.—Death of Chief Justice Robinson.—Movement in Synod for a Coadjutor Bishop, and passing of a Canon for his appointment.—Death of Mrs. Strachan.

TRINITY COLLEGE, in addition to the trials and discouragements already referred to, had occasionally its financial difficulties. The site was procured, and the buildings erected, through private benefactions; and for its support from year to year, it had to depend mainly upon the fees of the Students who attended it. It had, however, an income irrespective of these, of £1200 currency per annum, which sum had been allotted to it, with the sanction of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, from the Clergy Reserves Fund. This annual amount was secured to it at the time the Commutation with the Clergy was effected.

For a few years, up to 1868 inclusive, it received from the Provincial Legislature, as other collegiate institutions did, a grant of $5000 per annum,—a grant which, we think, has been very unjustly withheld from the educational institutions of the Province. All the money derived from the sale of the Clergy Reserves, after existing claims and charges were met, ought to have been applied to the diffusion of education, and to purposes of charity; not a penny of it should have been diverted to such secular uses as the improvement of roads and the construction of bridges. It should have been sacredly set apart for the moral and intellectual training of our youth, and for the relief of that physical distress in every shape, from which no country is exempt. With all the unrighteousness attending the spoliation of the Irish Church, there is this redeeming feature,—that every shilling of available funds derived from that sequestered property is to be applied to alleviating the miseries, and relieving the wants, of the afflicted and poor.

It is not too much, then, to demand the exercise of the same reasonable justice here; let grants to educational institutions be chargeable upon the fund originally designed for sacred uses; and let posterity, in this shape, feel the benefit of a gift which was never designed to be absorbed by the present generation, but to be a boon and a blessing to the Province for all time to come. If a Church has been disendowed, let there be a recognition of a benefit from the spoils, in all future generations.

But as the exercise of a just dealing like this was not to be relied upon, an effort had to be made for improving the finances of Trinity College, and another appeal to the generosity of our friends in the Mother Country was therefore determined upon.

These repeated appeals to our Mother Country for aid in our Church work,—and a Church College must be reckoned part of this work,—are not so unreasonable as at first sight they may appear. Our Church population is largely composed of emigrants from England and Ireland, a very considerable number of whom have not the means of providing religious instruction and religious ministrations for themselves. If, therefore, the Imperial Government did not feel themselves justified in continuing the small amount of aid for this purpose, which they had formerly supplied to the North American Colonies through the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, it ought not to be regarded as unfair that we should apply to individuals in the Mother Country for the aid which the Government refused, in maintaining amongst such emigrants the faith and worship of their fathers.

Again, through the pious foresight of a religious King, a provision had been made in this Province for the perpetual support of that faith and worship which is established in the Mother Country. It was the Parliament of the Mother Country which gave to our Legislature the power to alienate that property from its original intent, and apply it to the lowest and commonest of secular uses. Being thus in a manner responsible for the heavy loss the Church in this Province has sustained, the wealthier inhabitants of the Mother Country ought not,—and, we believe, they do not, —grudge to this Colony, any aid for religious objects which it is in their power to bestow.

In a conversation had with the late Lord Herbert, when this measure of spoliation was about to be introduced by the Imperial Government and he felt himself constrained to avow that he must, as a statesman, support the unrighteous measure, he, of his own accord, declared with energy and feeling,—"you will now have a strong ground for appealing to the people of this country for aid in your religious enterprises, and, I am persuaded, they will meet your applications with all the liberality you can so fairly and justly claim.”

From such considerations, we could waive our natural feelings of delicacy in sending another delegation to England for the augmentation of the financed of Trinity College. A happier choice for this mission could not have been made than the Rev. Dr. MacMurray, the worthy Rector of Niagara; who, from the unaffected zeal with which he pursued his work, combined with a frankness and geniality of manner which amounts to a charm, won the regard, and, we may say, love, of the highest and lowest in the United Kingdom. His mission was attended with very satisfactory results, though these might not correspond with the cordiality and warmth with which he was so universally received; and had he been permitted to remain long enough to have completed the circuit of England, probably half as much more would have been added to the £4000 he had succeeded in obtaining. Dr. MacMurray has left such an impression upon the minds and affections of all classes in England, that we must hope he will not hesitate to render such services again, if, for some great Diocesan object, it should be felt desirable and perhaps necessary to solicit them.

The year 1863 was, at its opening, a very gloomy one to our late venerated Bishop; for, in the first month of that year, he was deprived by death of one whom, we may say, he had brought up, whose bright and unsullied career he had watched with a parent’s interest, and for whom to the last he felt a parent’s affection,—we mean, the late Sir John Beverley Robinson, Chief Justice of Upper Canada. The sterling and brilliant qualities of this estimable man. it is not necessary to dwell upon here; especially as we have reason to believe that friends are engaged in preparing a Memoir of his life. We shall venture, however, to repeat in these pages what it was my privilege to say of him in addressing the Students of Trinity College soon after his decease :—

"On this occasion, it is impossible to withhold some allusion to an event of recent occurrence,—the cause of profound sorrow throughout the Province at large, and an irreparable Ic&s to this College; I mean its late excellent and distinguished Chancellor. An acquaintance of more than forty years with this invaluable man, has been all along attended with the one unchanged feeling of respect and admiration: nothing, in that long interval, ever arose to check or alter this sentiment. The eloquent Barrister in youth, he was the dignified and upright Judge in mature age. The steady adherent to the principles and duties of the Church in early life, he upheld and maintained them, with unabated devotion, in advanced age. A stedfast fiffend in those days when the feelings were warmest and the spirits most buoyant, he shewed himself the same consistent friend when the energies were dulled by the gathering cares of life, and the romance of its passions and hopes had died away.

“Bom with high natural gifts,—a pleasing person, winning address, quick apprehension, and an even cheerfulness, —he cultivated them all from a deep and conscientious sense of the duties he owed to his fellow-men, and to his God. To the last he toiled with, and manifested the full fruit of, the many talents with which the Almighty had endued him.

“We have lost in him a most valuable public man, and an ornament and charm of the social circlean accomplished gentleman and a devout Christian. His, too, was a career singularly void of ostentation. If he had ambition, —and none within proper limits should be without it,— it was never prominently developed. If there was the not unnatural desire of the commendation of the world, and of its just appreciation of worth, it was a feeling hardly perceptible,—never ostentatiously displayed.

“His is an irreparable loss in times much more artificial than when his character was moulded; in times when public men of prominence and mark are exposed to shifts and artifices, which were not usual or necessary when his principles and habits of life were formed. He was amongst the last links with an age and generation, when there was more of the genuine simplicity of thought and action than the spirit of the present times seems to allow.

“But in mourning over our bereavement, let us be stimulated by his example. It is a valuable one to those who are still in youth, with the world’s hopes and trials all before them; for in early life he had to surmount many difficulties to gain the eminence of honour and usefulness he afterwards reached. And it is valuable to those who see in him one who, through patient industry and unflinching integrity, has lived blessing, and blessed, by the generations through which he passed.

“His was a bright morning; and, after the inevitable storms and troubles of the after day, a serene and unclouded evening,—harbinger, let us believe, of that peace which, in the kingdom of glory, shall be perpetual and unbroken.” During the Synod of 1863, the question of the appointment of a Coadjutor to the Bishop of Toronto, now in his eighty-sixth year, was, for the first time, publicly referred to. His Lordship expressed his willingness to accede to such an appointment, so soon as it could* with propriety be made; desiring that, if it were possible, a selection should be made agreeable to his personal feelings and wishes; but not unwilling to acquiesce in any arrangement that might be deemed beneficial to the Church.

Early in 1861, he referred, in his private letters, to his deafness and failing sight, and his apprehension that he should soon be totally useless. “This apprehension,” he said, “alarms me not a little, and is a trouble I did not anticipate. Indeed I was beginning to consider the possibility of Confirmation visitations next summer; not that I have given them up, nor will I to the very last.”

Towards the close of that year, he writes, “My own position will soon demand my serious attention. So long as the episcopal endowment remains incomplete, and that I can discharge the duties, matters may proceed as they do; but I begin to dread the Confirmation journeys. The subject is painful, and, at present, I shall say no more”

An opening was thus given for the free and friendly discussion of the subject at various opportunities; and he readily consented to the adoption of a Canon at the Synod of 1865, providing for the election of a Coadjutor Bishop.

In the autumn of 1865, the Bishop experienced the heaviest domestic affliction which, amidst his many trials and bereavements, it was the will of Providence he should endure. He was deprived of his excellent wife, his companion in joy and sorrow through a period of fifty-eight years. Mrs. Strachan, who had also reached a good old age, had been for several years in failing health; but, at the last, worn out with many ailments, died peacefully and without pain, in her eighty-first year.

She was an admirable wife, and a most tender and indulgent mother; a warm friend, with strong sympathies for the afflicted, and very generous to the poor. Amongst the educated and refined there will not unfrequently be instances of pecuniary straitness and distress; and there was no one who alleviated these peculiar and trying cases with more delicacy and tenderness than the good and gentle Mrs. Strachan.

Under the feelings which this bereavement awakened, he wrote, during the following Christmas week, a letter which we may venture to publish,—developing, as it does, the chastened spirit under the softening, mellowing influence of age:—

“Your affectionate letter has done me much good, as indeed all your letters do. I still feel sadly unhinged by my afflicting bereavement.

“You do well to remind me of the glorious privilege which we all enjoy at this season, and trustfully ought we to congratulate one another on its annual return. Nor ought I to forget the special blessings which God has vouchsafed me,—a long life of almost uninterrupted strong health and vigour, and a general absence from infirmity of body or of mind. These are all precious gifts, for which I can never be sufficiently thankful and I must try to be so. I have employed them, I trust, not ungratefully : my disposition has always been to look at the bright aspect of what has befallen me, and to fight against murmuring and discontent.

“Doubtless, the world is, in one sense, a wicked world, as the Bible tell us. But the beauty in which it was created, has not been altogether defaced: it has still its fair aspects; and, were there not, on the whole more, good than evil, it could not have continued.

“I hope and trust that the state of the Church is improving. It is, indeed, all but as good as we can expect considering the poverty it has to struggle with, and the many difficulties it has to contend against. It is satisfactory, however, to feel that we are labouring hard to find remedies for the obstructions that are in our way, although we may never be able to surmount them all; nor perhaps is it intended. The life of the Church of God has ever been a life of labour and struggle ; and it must always continue so, for her rest is not here. Yet we can, by our own exertions, with God’s blessing, moderate the pressure of many annoyances ; and we could introduce many improvements, as, I trust, we have for some time past, been successfully doing.”

He expressed himself, in the same letter, as much affected by a remark of Dr. Pusey at a meeting of a Church Congress, that “ we should begin to collect and consider all the points about which we agree, instead of all the time contending about those on which we differ, and endeavour, if possible, to form a basis on the points on which we are all at one, and examine carefully whether such basis might not be gradually extended. I believe, (he adds,) that all who impartially study their own hearts would soon perceive that there was no true ground for division and animosity, but much for unity and love; and, following up our inquiries in this spirit, all serious difficulties would gradually disappear, and all our waywardness give place to candour and good will.”

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