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Memoir of the Right Reverend John Strachan
Chapter XXX

Synods of 1866, and Election of Coadjutor Bishop.—Synod of 1867.—Sickness and Death of the Bishop.

We detailed, in its place, the vigour, activity, and fl Hi courage displayed by the late Bishop of Toronto, when, during the War with the United States in 1812 and following years, the town of York, now Toronto, was captured. The following remarks on the Fenian Raid in 1866, contained in his Address to the Synod of that year, are characteristic:—

“From the general excitement which pervaded the whole Province, as the usual time of the meeting of Synod approached, it was suggested to me to postpone its assembling for a short period till the commotion had in some degree subsided, because many of the Lay Delegates would be otherwise engaged. This appeared so reasonable that I willingly acquiesced; and the more readily, because I felt assured, from past experience, that the Canadas were able not only to protect themselves, but to punish every hostile invader. And, accordingly, the whole strength of the two Provinces flew to arms, as one man, at the first call of the Government, and the enthusiasm of former times re appeared in all its ancient lustre. It was a glorious spectacle, ever to be remembered and imitated, should occasion arise.

“This is indeed a most painful subject; for bad as the world may be, I verily believe that history can scarcely furnish any similar example of men pretending to civilization attacking a quiet, inoffensive people, who had never injured them in the slightest degree, in a manner so brutal and atrocious; and although it is our duty to rejoice for our deliverance, yet we have deeply to deplore that our success has been purchased at an inestimable price, even the blood of many of our noblest defenders, every one of whom was far more precious than ten thousand Fenian murderers and marauders.”

On the subject of the appoiutment of a Coadjutor, the Bishop, at the conclusion of his Address, expressed, himself as follows:—

“I have been considering with much anxiety, and not, I trust, without the invocation of the Divine guidance, how soon I ought to avail myself of the provisions of the Canon passed, at the last meeting of Synod, for the election of a Coadjutor or Suffragan Bishop; which Canon is to receive confirmation at our present session.”

“Mingled feelings and anxieties,—the deepest aud strongest having reference to the welfare of our beloved Church,—have affected me, in contemplating the step that should be taken, in view of the intent and purport of that Canon. In regarding, then, what I deem the best interests of the Diocese and the Church at large, I feel constrained to avail myself of its provisions, as soon as it is confirmed, and to request that the election of a Coadjutor Bishop be proceeded with, as soon as the constitution and rules of the Synod will permit. The weight of years, and the infirmities they bring, move me to announce this decision; for although equal to some duties, still there are others of paramount importance which I am warned not again to attempt.

“Before we close the session, we shall probably be empowered to fix the period at which that solemn duty is to be entered upon. Entreating, my brethren of the Clergy and Laity, your thoughtful and prayerful consideration of the duties that will then have to be discharged, and that you would, in your quiet deliberations, regard the interests of God’s Church in this land as paramount to every other influence, I have only to request that you will now enter upon the duties immediately before you with that candour, zeal, and concord, which has in all past times characterized the proceedings of this Synod.”

The Canon above referred to was, after some discussion, confirmed, and consequently became law; and before the Synod closed, the 19th September following was appointed as the day upon which a special Synod was to be held for the election of a Coadjutor. On their meeting on the day appointed, the Bishop thus addressed them:—

“I meet you to-day upon an occasion of great interest aud solemnity; and we all approach it, I trust, with befitting feelings. In delegating to other hands, as I am about to do, a large share of the important duties which, during rather more than twenty-seven years, I have been endeavouring to the best of my ability to discharge, I cannot but feel,—as I am sure you feel yourselves,—the grave responsibility which is thrown upon you, in providing one who shall undertake this high and arduous office. There will be, in such a case, personal feelings and predilections, and prejudices, too, which it may not be altogether possible to suppress ; but all must yield to one absorbing obligation,—duty to God’s Church. From Christian ministers and Christian men, nothing individual, nothing selfish, must be allowed to interfere with this.

“I pray you then, my brethren, to come to the exercise of this responsibility and solemn trust with singleness of purpose, with unbiassed minds, with calm and thoughtful feelings. Ask earnestly for heavenly direction before you enter upon this sacred duty: regard as a first obligation the welfare of God’s Church, and act as you think will best promote its growth, and purity, and expansion in this land.”

The subsequent proceedings,—the progress and results of this election,—are so fully detailed in the Journal of the proceedings of that session, and are so well remembered, that any special account of them is unnecessary here. The number of Clergy and Laity present being unusually large,—109 Clergymen having been in attendance on the first day, and 97 parishes, each represented by two or three delegates, having voted,—the election itself was conducted in the Cathedral Church of St. James. Nothing could exceed the order and solemnity of the whole proceedings ; nothing in the whole course of them occurred, inconsistent with the sacredness of the place, and the graveness of the duty. There was the development, of course, of strong and steady partialities ; but no semblance of acrimony or unseemly strife. The result was not reached until 10 o’clock on the night of Friday, the 21st; and when this result was thus proclaimed by the Bishop, it was with the very generous acquiescence of the Clergy and Laity present, and their very general and kind congratulations to him on whom the choice had fallen:—

“My reverend brethren, and gentlemen of the Laity, I am greatly gratified to hear that the selection of a Coadjutor Bishop has been made. I congratulate the whole Diocese as well as the Church on the way in which the business has been conducted in this holy edifice, and with great gladness of heart, 1 now declare, in all your hearing, that the Venerable Archdeacon Alexander Neil Bethune has been elected Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Toronto; and I hope that his future life will be what his past has been,—just, and holy, and upright, and, in every respect, worthy of the high station to which he has been called.

The application for the Queen’s Mandate for Consecration, according to custom, was made by the Metropolitan of the Province, then in England; but, after some deliberation, it was stated by the Earl of Carnarvon, Secretary of State for the Colonies, that such Mandate could not be granted by Her Majesty. His Lordship said, “as the intervention of the Crown is not legally required, either to give to the Archdeacon of Toronto the intended jurisdiction, or to authorize his consecration to the office of Bishop, it would not appear that the proposed Mandate could have any legal effect; and, under such circumstances, it would hardly be consistent with the dignity of the Crown, that Her Majesty should be advised to issue such Mandate. It will thus rest with yourself and the other Bishops of Canada, and will be in your power, under the Canadian Acts of 19 and 20 Victoria, cap. 141, and 22 Victoria, cap. 139, to determine, without hindrance or assistance from the Royal Prerogative, in what manner the Consecration of the Bishop of Niagara shall be effected.”

The Metropolitan, therefore, transmitted to the Bishop of Toronto, as senior Bishop of the Province, a commission authorizing him to proceed to the Consecration of the Bishop-elect, who, as Coadjutor, was to possess the title of Bishop of Niagara. The Consecration took place on Friday, 25th January, 18G7, being the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul; the presiding Bishop, and Consecrator, being assisted by the Bishops of Huron and Ontario, and by Bishops McCoskry and Coxe of the United States. The Cathedral was filled to its utmost capacity, and the whole service was most impressive. The preacher selected for the occasion was the Venerable Archdeacon Patton, an old and intimate friend of the Bishop-elect.

There was a marked sense of relief in the mind of the aged Bishop, when this solemn ceremonial was happily over; he felt and expressed much comfort that he could now delegate to another the onerous and important duties, which he confessed he could no longer discharge with satisfaction to himself. He attended the Synod at their meeting in June, 1867, but delegated all his duties, including the opening address, to his Coadjutor; and by the latter an Ordination was held early in the spring, and another in the summer of th&t year. Extensive Confirmation tours were also made, occupying about ten weeks, and resulting in the admission of 2230 persons to that rite.

The memorable Pan-Anglical Conference of Bishops was held at Lambeth Palace, on the 24th September of this year; and this the Bishop of Toronto was, of course, invited by the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend. In replying to this invitation, he addressed the Archbishop as follows:—

"I have the honour to acknowledge your Grace’s letter of the 22nd February, inviting me to unite with the other Prelates of our Anglican communion in a Conference to be holden at Lambeth Palace, on the 24th September next

“Never probably since the era of the General Councils of the Primitive Church, would a more interesting and important assemblage of the Prelates of the Christian communion have been held than the meeting which is now proposed. There never was a time when the hierarchy of the Church exhibited a larger array of piety, talent, and zeal in its members ; and it must be felt by all that the deliberations of such a body will be fraught with the happiest consequences to the Christian Church at large, and to our branch of it in particular.

“With these convictions, it grieves me much to say that to myself,—just entering upon the ninetieth year of my age,—the gratification of joining in this most interesting meeting will be impossible. Your Grace, therefore, will kindly hold me excused, on this ground, from attending: none other than this would allow me to be absent.

“But if not present in person, 1 shall,—if spared so long,— be with you in spirit; and my assiduous prayer shall be, that the Almighty and all-wise God may vouchsafe an abundant blessing upon your deliberations.”

The writer of this left for England to attend this Conference the last week in August; and on parting with the Bishop discerned nothing, in the state of his health, to awaken the apprehension that he should never meet him in life again. It is true there had been some alarming signs of failing strength; and in the previous month he had had an attack which prostrated him very much, and the recurrence of which, it was thought, must prove fatal. He was cheery and hopeful, however, at the time of that parting; and urged in a playful way, that the absence of his Coadjutor must not exceed two months. “Mind,” he smilingly said, “I only allow you to be away two months.”

Sunday, 19th October, was the last occasion on which he attended at the Cathedral. He was slightly ill during the service, but rallied before its close; and, as if there was on his mind a presentiment that he was never to be there again, he bade good-bye to all the attendants of the Church, specially requesting that none might be overlooked. One by one he shook hands with them all, and prayed that God would bless them.

He was restless and disconcerted the following days, and on Thursday was taken so seriously ill, that much alarm was felt; and although he subsequently rallied a little, the opinion of the medical men in attendance was that he could not long survive. The strength of his robust constitution was evidently worn out; and there were signs, not to be mistaken, that its dissolution was not far distant. There were returns of vigour and spirit, after intervals of weakness and prostration, but these were the fitful struggles of declining nature,—the rise and sinking of the flickering lamp of life. The mind, too, was affected by the weakness of the body: there were wanderings of thought, and words without coherence. There would be a flitting from the past to the present,—from the incidents of yearn long gone to events of recent occurrence; and the impressions those memories awakened expressed in hurried words, and rapid transition from one subject to another. There was, too, the frequent recitation of fragments of psalms and hymns; the broken utterances of prayer; and at times, in firm voice, the repetition of portions of the Creed.

On the evening of Thursday, the 31st October, the Holy Communion was administered to him by his friend and Chaplain, the Rector of the Parish; and then, as all througli his illness, every affectionate, soothing, watchful attention was exerted to give ease and comfort to his last hours. The pulsation became gradually weaker, and, at three o’clock in the morning of November 1st, All Saint’s Day, he breathed his last,—his spirit flown to the company of those who had toiled through life for the same adorable Master,—another in the throng of that great "cloud of witnesses,” who are waiting their reward on the Judgment Day.

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