Project Canterbury

A Memoir of John Armstrong, D.D.
Late Lord Bishop of Grahamstown

By the Rev. T. T. Carter

Oxford and London: John Henry and James Parker, 1857.

Chapter X. The Last Illness. 1856.

A letter to a friend written at the beginning of this year, betrays the conscious burden of physical infirmity under the pressure of unceasing toil:--

"Jan. 15, 1856.

"My dear---------,

"I feel that I have treated you infamously, or, at any rate, have appeared to have done so. But the truth is, that an attack of influenza, a pressure of business, many worries, absence at Port Elizabeth, absence again on a visitation along the sea-coast, extreme heat, have combined to make me appear most forgetful and most unfriendly. Since the influenza, all my work has been a strain upon me, and I have had a great amount of varied cares and business. However, thank God, I am now somewhat rallying after this weakening and depressing malady, and a projected tour into Kafirland, among my friends the Kafirs, will, I trust, set me up......

[381] "The college is rising rapidly near our own house. It looks well so far, and as I am surveyor of the works and architect, it affords me constant interest. The progress of the Church in this place has unhappily raised the opposition of the Wesleyans. . . . .........However, there is no progress without antagonism, and as they were once dominant in Grahamstown, some allowance must be made for their feelings under changed and changing circumstances.

"Our missions are all, as far as I can judge, prospering, and the natives shew great friendliness to the missionaries. At this season there is usually a dread of war, but not a rumour is heard at present, which looks well............I am full of hope about our Church missions, if we are but well backed up from home. It is remarkable, too, that though last in the field, we are almost exclusively dealing with the Kafir race, the noblest of all. The Wesleyans have narrowed themselves chiefly to the Fingos, so that a field is open to us that we hardly could have expected......To keep the English towns all supplied with clergy is difficult, and just when I am wanting more clergy for missionaries, I have about four vacancies among the English. In some places a good layman is found to volunteer as a kind of catechist during vacancies, but this is not always the case. Then money-matters are trying. .......I think our accounts, so multifarious and so large, would drive you wild in a week. All [381/382] payments of all sorts come through my hands, and with missionaries, and buildings, and clergy for the English, and transport of clergy, and help for church-building, &c, the work is great and harassing.....

"With every good wish for your welfare in all things,

"Believe me, dear--------,

"Most sincerely yours,


In another letter written about the same time he speaks more fully and very touchingly of the declining state of his health. It is a very valuable letter, because of the wise counsel which it contains, and as shewing how, under the heavy burden of his episcopate, he was able to preserve his individual care for his friends whom he had left in England:--

"Grahamstown, "Jan. 19, 1856.

"My dear ---------,

"I really have not been able till now to sit down quietly and calmly to answer your letter. It came just before my journey to Bathurst, when I was both very poorly and very busy, and since my return I have not been able to get a quiet time for writing as I would wish.

"And first, you must let me prose a little about myself, as you so kindly ask me to tell you how I [382/383] feel, and what I think about my present health. A few weeks ago I should have written gloomily, as I then felt myself gradually slipping back, but I am now again more hopeful. At the same time, I have come to the conclusion that I am likely to be a 'creaking wheel' for the rest of my days. I may go on creaking for a considerable time, but I do not expect health again. The cough has become chronic; the doctor here evidently doubts its ever leaving me, though he does not think my lungs affected. If God should give me health, I shall take it as a great but unexpected gift. However, I am able to get through my work, and though I cannot do half I wish, yet work is certainly good, as a diversion of the mind from self,--a hard matter in poor health to effect, as one is so apt to be analysing and criticising all one's sensations. So much for myself; a longish tale, not written, I assure you, despondingly, but simply a sincere narrative of what I think my real condition is.

"And now for yourself..........I think the particular trials of your condition, and your particular feelings, as described in your letter, I am able more feelingly to enter into from my own two years' ill-health. I mean, that I am able now better to understand the effect of a lengthened state of things than before. Short, sharp sicknesses have been apt greatly to impress me, and to bring heavenly things vividly, strongly, warmly, before me; but I see the danger of lengthened invalidishness. [333/334] I expected more from it. I thought I should keep those same sort of impressions about religion that seemed to absorb me when under shorter and sharper trials: whereas I find an immense temptation to lassitude, dulness, dearlness, a sort of leaden state of mind, little pleasure from outward things, and yet little warmth and fervour about inward things; 'the better country,' the reality of it, not so vividly presented to, or abiding in, the mind as I expected. Thus I have learnt to find out by actual experience that there are particular dangers and temptations about any prolonged form of trial. And thus I have been speaking of my own feelings only that I might transfer what I have said in some degree to yourself. Your trial seems especially to be a prolonged one, and without entering into its particulars, which I purposely avoid doing, I see plainly the temptation you speak of as a natural accompaniment of such a form of trial. That is, it is natural that you should get simply uninterested in things without and within; that you should just get through the day, and get one day off after another; that you should fall into a calm indifferentism or toleration of trial, unwarmed by deep religious feeling; that you should say to yourself, I am going through with it; I am not conscious of not doing my duty; I think I am doing it; I do not resist; I acquiesce and bear in a certain kind of way; and with little enjoyment in life, with a dull sky, is not this as much as can be expected? This is the natural [384/385] state of the case, and it is well that you should place all this plainly and decidedly before you, as you seem to have been doing; because, though natural, it is the very state of feeling to be struggled against with all your heart, that you may rise from a dull, dreary acquiescence in God's will, first to a more loving submission, and then, I trust, to those inward comforts which in due time the love of God brings, i. e. after, in the beautiful language of Scripture, we have been ' exercised' in trial. I speak the more freely because I know you wish it, and because you see that I am personally neither unconscious of, nor exempt from, the same state of mind, though mine arises from physical, yours from mental causes.

"And while I take you at your word, and believe that you do not feel enough of the love of God, and while I see the natural effect of continued trial in your present state of feeling, I have always felt most strongly that God had great purposes of love towards yourself in all his dealings with you...... Whenever I have been disposed to feel sad about you, I have always checked myself by calling it a kind of rebellion not to discern God's manifest hand of love in measuring out your earthly portion. 'The better country' always rose to my mind, as if on that you were to bend and fix all your thoughts, and all your views of happiness. Of course, the practical question is, how to get out of dulness of heart, and to rise in warmth of love [385/386] towards God. Probably different ways will succeed at different times and moods. Sometimes I think the study of a particular character affects one profitably, especially that of St. Paul. (Of course, that of our Lord Himself is always to be our study, and in such a case as yours especially, His life from His youth till He went forth, a realization of His life among His kindred who knew Him not, from week to week, and year to year). St. Paul seems so especially to shew a loving and thankful spirit. Then, again, warm writings like Thomas a Kempis. I need not speak of prayer ordinarily, but I would speak of occasional prayer at odd times--a remedy I would urge you to use much more; I mean, when anybody went out of the room and you were alone, the instant raising up of the heart in silent prayer, or the hurrying up-stairs and kneeling down. Then I think a particular selection of texts of Scripture, written out and chosen by oneself, are good to refer to; a single text often does more good than a whole chapter. Then, again, the recollection that as a spiritual fact God does not seem to give to some so much present comfort from religion, and it will not matter soon what the degree of comfort was, as long as we were religious. I can only hope that these few hints may help you a little. I feel very thankful that you have written, and if I thought that the slightest possible grain or atom of harm existed in such expression of your state of mind, I should be the very first plainly to urge you to say [386/387] nothing, and to bear your burden alone. But I believe that God does wish us to help one another along the narrow way; and as we do need help, we may seek it of each other without infringement of any duty. You know that I am not one who has ever encouraged morbid longings after godly counsel or sympathy, but there are real cases and real states of trial, in which plain, sincere counsel may be sought and may be given."

A few days later he gives a full and very hopeful account of the prospects of the missions, in a letter to the Secretary of the "Society for the Propagation of the Gospel:"--

"Grahamsrown, "January 21, 1856.

"My dear Mr. Fleming, *****

"Now as to missions, I hope to be able to tell you more of these bye-and-bye, as we start on February 11th, please God, for Kafirland, in hope to visit all our new missions. Last year, you will recollect that only one, that at Umhalla's, was at work, and even that only in its infancy. Now we have three others in operation, and all the centres, I trust, of an expanding work. I need not tell you--indeed, you know to a certain extent, how deeply important it is that these expansions should rapidly take place. The centres are well-placed, the people favourable, our missionaries so far well received, the fields white for [387/388] the harvest, the heathen population streaking thickly every valley, and outposts easily thrown out, till the land is studded with missions communicating, sympathizing with, and sustaining each other. All this is to be done--is within our reach, and needs only a hold, determined effort made in faith. I do not say that after such an occupation, the conversion will be rapid; on the contrary, I expect no hasty movement from a deliberative race; but they must see something like a great work done among them, and feel the influence, not of a straggling, isolated missionary, but of a body, a sympathetic fellowship, shewing forth the beauty of holiness and the power of the Gospel over their own lives. All this you know, but still I must say it, that you may say it as from me to the Church at home, and to my brethren who incline to succour us in our work. As to any details, these must come after my journey; hut still I must tell you at once that I have just heard from the missionary at Keiskamma Hoek, who sends me the joyful tidings that the Fingos there are now asking us to receive some of their children to board and live with him. This is an important movement; as this separation from heathen parents will give us a valuable hold over them. Sir George Grey has kindly offered to aid us in the erection of dormitories, and the plans and estimates are being already prepared; as we have no idea of letting the grass grow under our feet. I had also a very hopeful letter from Mr. "Waters, at Kreli's, who still continues to receive [388/389] kindness from this powerful chief, and who lately had an interesting interview with him. He is getting on with schools; has one native teacher at work; and requires, if we could have them, a couple of deacons to aid him, that he may extend his labours. He had a good deal of hardship at starting. To shew what occasionally has to be borne:--The wife of one of the mission-party was confined in her waggon, and then had to jolt on; the weather wet, the roads all slush and mud; and a shed to be knocked-up on their arrival to shelter the party. However, now they are more comfortable; and there is evidently plenty of work opening upon them, and, thank God, a willing labourer at the head. At Sandili's mission, Mr. Allen is hard at work, superintending briek-making and house-building, necessary preliminaries for his more important labours. At TJmhalla's the year's labour has evidently told: progress lias been made,--as much, indeed, as we could expect where men work with the ordinary assistance of the Spirit. Attachments are springing up between the missionaries and the natives; and I am thoroughly content with the measure of blessing that has been given. I think you may judge from all this, how very, very anxious I am, not only to have as much monetary help as last year, but double the amount. So much depends now upon our enlarging our labours, quickly and decisively. Present vitality, present exertion, present spiritual energy, is what we want, and what I pray for earnestly.

[390] On the 24th of January the Bishop took possession of Bishopsbourne, the house which he built for the See, planned and superintended during its building by himself. [The Bishop was enabled to build Bishopsbourne by investing in it £1,500 of the endowment of the see, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel furthering this arrangement. The Bishop's friends in his late diocese had raised a fund of £4.00, which was also devoted to this object. An additional sum raised among the friends who had worked with him in the Penitentiary cause, was expended on the college chapel.] It is situated on high ground, at a short distance from the town. The walls of St. Andrew's College, also built after the Bishop's own plans, were at the time rising from the ground, on a site nearly adjoining Bishopsbourne.

On the 12th of February the Bishop started on his last journey to the mission-stations. The rains were heavy, and greatly impeded his progress. The heat was overpowering; even the older colonists regarding it as unusually oppressive. The Bishop travelled in a light-horse cart, the jolting of which proved to be even more distressing than that of the waggon in which his former journeys had been made. The roads, too, had become worse than usual from the violence of the rains. He suffered [390/391] greatly from sickness which continued daily, like the sickness at sea. More than usually harassing work awaited the Bishop at King-Williamstown, one of the chief places on his route; difficulties having arisen from questions affecting the appropriation of seats in the church, and the unexpected resignation of the catechist. he was consequently detained beyond the intended time, and his visits to other places were rendered more hurried and fatiguing.

The Bishop hastened home to spend Holy-week in Grahamstown.

A letter to Mr. Hawkins records his impressions of the state of the missions, his vast plans, his glowing hopes. It is a very touching circumstance, that at the time when the powers of his own life were sensibly ebbing away, the life of the missions which he had planted was just freshly springing, and opening before his eyes into boundless prospects of blessing, to follow him whither he was even then, as it seemed, "fleeing away to be at rest:"--

"Grahamstown, "March 26, 1856.

"My dear Mr. Hawkins,


"It is now little more than a year since, with much [391/392] anxiety, and yet, I must say, with something of ardour also, I laid a plan before Sir George Grey, our Governor, by which I committed the Church of England to the prompt occupation of a large missionary field. I undertook to plant missions, pending the good-will of the chiefs, in Sandili's country, and in Kreli's, and among the Fingos at Keiskamma Hoek, and among the Kafirs labouring in this city; in addition to a promise of enlarging our then infant operations in the territory of the chief Umhalla. Such promises were momentous, and in making them while there were neither missionaries nor money within reach, I confess that I could not but somewhat tremble, even though I believed that God was Himself calling us to toil for the conversion of the heathen here, and even though I had a strong conviction that the heart of the Church of England would at last, by God's grace, yearn in true Christian love towards the people of a land so long neglected by her.

"Having made these promises, my next step was personally to visit the chiefs, and this visit, marked by such kind greetings, and such kind offers of protection to our missionaries, filled me, I confess, with, hope and joy.

"And now let me describe our condition, and the actual progress that has been made. First of all, the good news came that the Society itself, shewing a generous ardour in the cause, made a grant of £1,500. Next, missionaries sprang up, or rather were quickly given to us, and went forth gladly into the [392/393] wilderness. I have just returned from visiting three out of the four stations. First, I went to St. Luke's, in Umhalla's country. Here I found the mission-party to consist of the Rev. J. Hardie, M.A., the Rev. W. Greenstock, Mr. Pascoe, a catechist, Mr. Birt, our agriculturist, and Mrs. Sedgeley, our matron. I attended the services on Sunday, and found Mr. Green-stock able already to preach with case and animation in Kafir: the congregation was considerable, and most attentive. The chief himself, when not prevented by illness, was always present, and he encouraged the people to go. The natives, who had known no Sundays, now for some little distance round generally respected the day, and abstained from work. As I stayed some few days, I saw much of the people, and my impression was that, spiritually, a good year's progress had been made. The natural inquisitiveness of the Kafir seemed, in some cases, to be rising into an enquiring spirit. I am not in expectation of speedy conversions; but looking soberly at the case, I left the station with feelings of thankfulness to God, and with a good hope of a coming harvest, even though the 'due time' might yet be far off. The same mission-body had established an outpost in a thickly-peopled district some ten miles off; and though the work had been but recently commenced, our zealous catechist, Mr. Pascoe, had gathered about thirty-five children under instruction. From St. Luke's I rode, accompanied by Mr. Hardie, through a fine country towards [393/394] Sandili's. Here I found the Rev. T. T. W. Allen fairly settled as missionary, living in a Kafir hut, while a very nice and suitable mission-house was approaching completion. Mr. Tainton, an excellent Kafir scholar, was also residing at the station as agriculturist. The spiritual work has commenced too recently to make it advisable to speak of it, but Mr. Allen was in good heart. The extremely high state of the river Kei forced me back again, and with very great regret I was compelled to abandon my intended visit to Kreli. However, I am able to say that all the accounts of that mission are most interesting. The mission-party, who do indeed live in the wilderness, consists of the Rev. H. T. Waters, and his wife,--Mr. Mullins, the son of an English clergyman, a useful and active catechist,--Miss Gray, an admirable schoolmistress,--and an agriculturist. They are opening schools in all directions, and holding services which seem well attended by the natives.

"Baffled of this expedition, I returned to St. Luke's, whence, accompanied by Mr. Hardie, and Mrs. Armstrong (whom stress of weather hindered from reaching Sandili's), we bent our steps to the Fingo station at Keiskamma Hook. Here we found a range of most excellent mission-buildings finished, in a lovely situation, a considerable watercourse cut, many acres of land under cultivation, thanks to the zeal and ability of the military chaplain, the Rev. Gr. Daere, who resides at the adjoining fort and thus Chris-tianly spent his leisure hours. We found the Rev. [394/395] H. B. Smith residing at the station: Mr. Gray also was living there as agriculturist, and there was a native schoolmaster and interpreter. No less than ninety-one scholars were on the books of the school, and the average daily attendance was thirty-eight; while some of the parents have expressed a desire to have their children entirely given up to the missionary, and received as boarders. Thus you see the cause we have for the deepest thankfulness to God, who has blessed us so wonderfully during the past year. We may well go on our way rejoicing, when we find that, with the exception of the Kafir school here (which we trust is just about to commence), we have been enabled to fulfil our pledge; and a large body of persons, whether clergy or cate-chists, whom we knew not of when the pledge was made, are now actual dwellers among the heathen. The Church at home, Avhieh so nobly responded to us, may well rejoice with us over her timely and -warm response.

"And now for the future. While I have been shewing you what has so far been done, I must plainly tell you that I am learning day by day the vastness of the work committed to us, and the need of immediate and still greater efforts. After all, we are only ploughing, as it were, a few acres, with almost a whole country before us; for, what is so remarkable, real, wide Kafirland, with its thousands and thousands of Kafirs, has scarcely a mission-station except our own. The other religious bodies are [395/396] mainly at work among the Fingos, or the Kafirs that are near the English towns. In my ride from St. Luke's to St. John's, I passed through numberless valleys, each with its Kafir kraal; and I saw one large kraal just about half-way which it is very important we should fix upon as the site for a mission, from which the missionary might radiate. It is a great matter to have these links in our work, so as to have one system in operation, extending with evident, visible unity, from point to point. The most important district, however, is that of the Chief Kreli. While it is the most remote, it is also by far the most populous, and at present this vast tribe, spread over a vast area, has no mission whatever, except our own, under Mr. "Waters. The whole country is open to us; we are not near any other religious body; we could carry on a great work here in our own Church way without any interference with others, and without being interfered with, without any jars or clashings. I wish that, in God's name, a noble band of some twenty of our brethren would offer themselves, and come out together, and together take spiritual possession of this country, that they might with many voices preach the saving doctrines of the Cross. I long for a great work. 'The Lord gave the word; great was the company of the preachers.' It is no less than a company of faithful men, warmed with a holy love for souls, that I so ardently desire. A passage in Mr. Waters' last letter, written on the spot, makes a [396/397] stronger appeal for help than I can do:--'I have promised to go and see Ilizwi the Queen of the Tambookies, who wishes to have a missionary for her people. What shall I say? or what shall I do? The mission-field seems boundless; the skirts of every mountain, and the banks of every river, are crowded with living souls, without anyone to point the way.'

"In such a state of things, I boldly ask the Society to give me £2,500 this year, and a proportionate number of missionaries sent out, if God puts it into the hearts of any to offer themselves.

"Hoping you will commend me to the prayers of the Society,

"Believe me,

"Very sincerely yours,


This was the Bishop's last letter to the Society. The next communication from Grahams-town conveyed the tidings of his death. The last journey had told severely upon his debilitated constitution. The heat greatly affected him. The sickness which had been produced by the jolting of the cart never entirely ceased. On Sunday, April 6, it happened that the unusual violence of the rain prevented the household going to church, walking being impracticable. The Bishop, however, resolved to go on horseback. He got very wet, and an attack of [397/398] influenza followed. At this time four candidates for ordination, and a young catechist, arrived from. England, some of whom stayed in his house. The Bishop exerted himself more than usual, and was greatly fatigued. Mental anxieties, moreover, at this time pressed upon him, especially a very painful question relating to one of his clergy, whose licence, after trying in vain the effect of friendly remonstrance, he had been obliged to withdraw. A concurrence of unfortunate circumstances led to a great deal of opposition, and the Bishop's conduct was subjected to much misunderstanding, though not in his own diocese, where the true state of the case was fully understood. This distressing question was still unsettled at the time of the Bishop's death. [Allusion is here made to the Rev. P. W. Copeman's suspension, to which the Bp. of Capetown thus refers in his late visitation of Grahamstown, &c.:-- "The only thing in the diocese at the present time to cause pain is the state of the parish of Uitenhage. One of the last acts of the late Bishop before his death was to inhibit the clergyman of that parish from performing spiritual functions in his diocese. The reason which led him to adopt so strong a measure was, that his ministry had been marked throughout by carelessness and indifference, and ended, at length, in open disobedience. The Bishop would, had he lived, have restored him, if he could have had any hope that the future would be marked by greater earnestness and devotion than the past. At his death, I entered into communication with the suspended minister, but found all efforts to bring him ot take a true view of himself and of his duties hopeless. I therefore licensed the clergyman whom the late Bishop had appointed to fill the post before he died. Around him the flock has gathered, the former minister still officiating, but without a congregation; i.e. with but a very few attendants at a single service. The whole of the clergy of the diocese have since addressed the following letter of remonstrance to him:--'"Rev. Sir,--We, the undersigned clergy of the diocese of Grahamstown, feel deeply pained at the course you have thought proper to pursue with regard to the Church at Uitenhage. You are aware that you were formally forbidden by the late Bishop to officiate within his diocese, and that the Metropolitan has confirmed your suspension, and appointed a minister to replace you. When a clergyman thus suspended defies the authority of those who have been set over him in the Lord, persists in attempting to officiate, intrudes upon and impedes the services of the duly appointed minister, his conduct plainly tends to subvert all order and discipline among the clergy, to unsettle the minds of the laity, and to provoke dissension where unity and brotherly love should prevail. "'We therefore cannot refrain from expressing our disapprobation of your conduct; and we entreat you, before it he too late, to desist from a course so injurious to the Church as well as to yourself. "'(Signed by every clergyman in the diocese of Grahamstown.') "'The Rev. P. W. Copeman.'" The following account of the origin of the dispute has been kindly supplied by one of the clergy present on the occasion referred to:--"When the Bishop visited Uitenhage in Oct. 1855, at a public meeting in the room licensed for service, the question of the offertory was brought forward. It should be observed that Mr. Copeman had long used the offertory, but to gratify the caprice of certain members of his congregation, (without, as he said, having any feeling in the matter himself,) used it before, instead of after the sermon, as the Church directs. "The Bishop was appealed to by the churchwardens to say whether this was allowable, and of course had no alternative but to request it should be used in the proper place. This Mr. Copeman, in my hearing, at once promised to do, but did not do it. "His conduct was reported to the Bishop, and drew forth an earnest remonstrance, and request that he would at once conform to the rules of the Church. This he now refused to do. Thus it appears the use or disuse of the offertory was not the cause of the Bishop's proceedings, but rather Mr. Copeman's refusal to fulfil his own pledge, and his utter contempt of the Bishop's lawful injunctions."]

[399] On the 25th of April, though still suffering from influenza, he exerted himself to deliver [399/400] an opening lecture at the Institute, which, after many difficulties and delays, had been at length established. The subject was "The Character and Poetry of Oliver Goldsmith.'-' The lecture was written in the style of many of his early reviews, teaching valuable lessons in the most attractive way; entering with all his buoyancy into the good points of the poet's character; charming the scholars of the Grammar-school with the contrast between the active schoolmaster of the present day and [400/401] Goldsmith's more ponderous Dominie, and touching many hearts with the beautiful manner in which he recited the description of the Pastor, much of which may perhaps have been applied by many persons present to the speaker himself.

The Bishop was greatly fatigued after the lecture, and, though present at church on the following Sunday, was too unwell to preach. On Sunday, the 4th of May, it happened that the carriage in which a friend had of late kindly taken him to church could not be had, and he was unable to walk.

From this time the feeble remains of his declining strength rapidly gave way. The sickness from which he had so long suffered had been checked, but the remedies employed produced headache with a sensation of fulness and drowsiness. His mental anxieties, increased by disappointment at not receiving some expected letters, were at their height. Thursday morning, May 8, on awaking from sleep, his mouth was filled with blood. In the course of the day it was discovered that this proceeded not, as was expected, from the lungs, but from the gums. It was hoped that rest and entire withdrawal from business, which were immediately ordered, would, under God's [401/402] mercy, restore him. He then exhibited the same strong determination to do his duty in abstaining from work, and even from thoughts of work, as he had before shewn in applying himself to it. From that moment he never asked for a letter, nor spoke on the subject which had caused so much agitation and anxiety. The bleeding lessened, though it did not entirely cease. The cough nearly disappeared, and the same evening he seemed certainly better.

On the following morning a few small spots of purpura had appeared on the skin, and at night his illness assumed a more serious character, though he was not considered by his medical attendants to be in danger. On Sunday, the 11th, Whit-Sunday, notice for the ordination was to have been given, but it was thought necessary to defer it, and the Bishop desired that prayers should be offered for him in church. He had been in a state of great depression, partly caused by a dream of which his own death formed a main feature; but as his illness increased, this depression entirely passed away.

On Monday a consultation was held, and the physician who was called in was of opinion that there was extreme danger, though not so much [402/403] from actual disease as from general exhaustion. He continued apparently much in the same state till Thursday morning, when he suffered greatly from faintness and extreme debility. About one o'clock on Friday morning he appeared to be dying. Mr. Hardie, his dear friend and counsellor, who had arrived on the Wednesday, prayed by his side. Afterwards he said to him, "Thank you from my heart." Mr. Hardie then offered to administer to him the blessed Sacrament. While the necessary preparations were being made, the Bishop said to Mrs. Armstrong, that he supposed they considered his case hopeless, and turning to the medical man he held up his finger, and said very solemnly, "The truth." He was quite calm, and seemed engaged in deep thought and inward prayer. He made them understand that he heard and comprehended everything, though unable to articulate distinctly. During the celebration of the Holy Communion, once or twice he said "yes," and when it was over he kept murmuring "yes" to himself. Mr. Hardie proposed that the children should be called up to receive his blessing: they came, and his wile and children knelt by the side of the sofa on which he lay. Mr. Hardie was obliged to say the words of the blessing, while the Bishop laid [403/404] his hand on their heads. Suddenly, at that instant, his countenance brightened, and he exclaimed--"Better.--I have read in books--.--Try, try." He meant that he had read of sudden recoveries from the verge of the grave. Restoratives were given, and nourishment in very small quantities every quarter of an hour. The disease appeared to have taken a favourable turn, and the haemorrhage almost ceased.

The improvement continued through the night and the following day. He dozed frequently, but when awake an expression of unusual and unearthly brightness was on his countenance. There was no care, no anxiety,--it was the look as of one who had committed himself, and all he had, with an entire trust into the hands of God. Mr. Hardie frequently prayed with him during the day, and said that his whole soul seemed to be rapt in prayer.

An important paper required his signature. He had expressed a wish to put it off till the evening, as he said he generally felt stronger at that time, and it was resolved not to speak to him again on the subject, but suddenly he shewed a great desire to sign it immediately. When dissuaded from it, he persisted in the desire. The paper was given to him, so placed [404/405] that, as far as possible, he might be spared any exertion. The first pen did not suit him, and Mr. Hardie was in the act of procuring another when he uttered a loud cry. He had been seized with a violent spasm, and was evidently dying. Mr. Hardie commended his departing spirit to God. He gave one sigh, and sank to rest.

Thus fell "asleep" a man endowed with great gifts, large and true of heart, pure and high in purpose, fervent and single-minded in devotedness to God; "in labours abundant;" one who in a short time had fulfilled a long course, unceasingly spending a life fed by the Spirit of God, for the good of others, and, as each fresh call came, rising with ever-renewed energy and love to its fulfilment.

The tidings of his death were communicated to Mr. Hawkins by Mr. Hardie in the following letter:--

"Grahamstown, "May 24, 1856.

"Rev. and dear Sir,

"It is my painful duty to announce, through you, to the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the death of our beloved Bishop, which took place, after a short illness, on the 16th of this month. [405/406] His strength had been on the decline for some months, but his zeal would allow him no rest; and I have reason to believe that the fatigues and anxieties of a visit to the missions in Caffraria, from which he had just returned, had so reduced his vital powers that they were unable to cope with the disease (purpura haemorrhagica) which after a short interval attacked him. He may be truly said to have died in the harness of a Christian soldier. It was my privilege to minister to him in his last days on earth; and in the midst of sorrow for his loss, it is a comfort to be able to bear witness to his friends at home that as his life had been, such was his end,--full of faith, and hope, and love. After he had made his peace with God, and sealed it by the reception of the Holy Communion, he blessed his wife and children with much emotion. From that moment nothing disturbed him more. A few hours, entirely free from pain and troubled thoughts, during which he frequently joined in prayer, were yet vouchsafed to him, and at last he fell asleep, almost without a pang. To us, who have watched the course, short, yet already fruitful, of his apostolic labours in South Africa, the loss seems irreparable; but our sight is too short to reach the issue of God's counsels. Faith teaches us that His work has not been begun by His servant in vain, but that other labourers will be raised up in succession to carry it on. May they be as gentle, and pure, and wise as he who has been thus early called to his reward, and may [406/407] they walk in Ids footsteps, who himself strove humbly to follow his blessed Lord's!

***** " I have, &c,


The Bishop of Capetown's notice of the event arrived at the same time:--

"Bishop's Court, "May 23, 1856.

"My dear Hawkins,

"It is with the deepest grief that I write to announce to you that last night's post brought the news of the death of my dear brother the Bishop of Grahamstown, after a short illness. He died on the evening of Friday the 16th, and was to be buried on Monday. I enclose his chaplain's short and hurried note to me on this sad occasion, and also Sir George Grey's kind note. With him, I think the Bishop's death not only one of the greatest calamities that could have befallen the Church here, but a heavy loss to all South Africa.

"During the short time that he has been amongst us, he had endeared himself to very many, and won the respect and confidence of his diocese. His many gifts, his deep and fervent piety, were producing a great impression around him. Over-work and over-anxiety have, I believe, been the chief causes of his death.

* * * * *

"Believe me, &c,


[408] A few notices may be added, to convey to the Bishop's friends in England some idea of the change which passed over him when removed out of their sight. It was felt in the Bishop's own family, that after his consecration, though never losing his natural cheerfulness, he yet became a graver man. This arose, no doubt, in part from the constant sense of the precariousness of his health, and partly from the separation from his old friends and the loss of various employments which in England used to refresh him in the intervals of toil; but his increased gravity was evidently occasioned in great measure by an absorbing sense of the weight and responsibility of his sacred office. In England, he had availed himself during his lighter hours of the resources which his many innocent tastes furnished, and thus often relieved anxieties which pressed on him in his pastoral or penitentiary work. In Africa, the whole powers of his being seemed to be concentrated on one great end of life, and when not engaged in this, he simply rested, as though only seeking to get more strength for carrying it on. His chief recreations in Africa were planning and overlooking the building of his house or the college. During the first year he frequently gave quiet evening parties to the inhabitants of Grahamstown; but it was in [408/409] order to find a pleasant means of intercourse with his people and with a view to higher ends, and they were probably times of increased exertion, rather than rest, to himself.

He always preached extempore in Africa,--a practice which he had occasionally adopted at the simple schoolroom services at Tidenham. The cathedral at Grahamstown is surrounded by a large gallery, in which the soldiers of the garrison sit. Their rapt attention to his sermons was very striking; and when a fresh regiment came in, though at first the soldiers were careless, after a few Sundays they sat with their eyes fixed upon him. His voice was earnest and energetic, but his manner quite calm; "his white hair," as was once observed, "hung like a silver halo around his head." His confirmation charges were short, but peculiarly impressive. The confirmations altogether had a very striking effect. It was the prevailing custom in the diocese for the women to dress in white, with simple veils over their heads. The Bishop introduced the practice of the candidates standing together in the chancel during the charge. A friend writing from Grahamstown to Mrs. Armstrong, since her return to England, says that "the Bishop's grave is constantly strewed with fresh flowers by persons who had [409/410] been confirmed by him, and once a lad from a country district was seen kneeling there by moonlight."

It was one of the Bishop's trials in Africa, after his long intercourse with the English poor, whose feelings are more transparent than those of the classes above them, that he never knew the love felt for him by his flock. His loving heart naturally longed for a response, and he had been accustomed to find it. But the leaving his own land became perhaps a truer sacrifice, since he enjoyed not the consciousness of having won the praise and love of men. Otherwise one might have wished that he had known the warm affections and sincere reverence felt towards him, and which were so strongly manifested on his death.

Another trial, common to all the bishops of our colonial sees, was the secular, and, as he feared, secularizing nature of much of his work. All the monetary business of the Church passed through his hands. Even the accounts kept at the different mission-stations, not merely for the spiritual, but also for the industrial, parts of their work, towards which grants were made by the Governor, were required to be audited and sent through him. The building of new churches and schools, the stipends of most [410/411] of the clergy, their journeys or removals,--all were arranged by him. Not merely was this responsibility peculiarly irksome to him, but he had also the constant apprehension lest it should hinder the entire concentration of his thoughts on the things of God. [The care of money had always been to him a very irksome business; and his private accounts, though not wanting in correctness, were kept in a very unmethodical manner. This want of care never appeared in his charity accounts; and the writer of this memoir was greatly struck, on looking over the Bishop's letters to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, at the accuracy of his returns of all receipts and payments. It was evident in these matters, how a sense of duty had acted in overcoming a natural want of method. He had also preserved to the last the principle already mentioned as characteristic, of carefully regulating his expenditure by the means on which he could depend. Though very fond of architecture, and desirous, wherever it could be had, of decoration in building, he had abstained in Africa from any unnecessary expense in this direction, as the resources at his disposal were not more than were needed for essential work.] Mrs. Armstrong believes that this fear made him more watchful over himself. It is her strong impression that his spiritual life was rapidly matured during his brief course of service in Africa. His private prayers appeared to increase in length and intensity, and he was oftener found with his Bible open before him than at any former part of his life. [411/412] The cemetery at Grahamstown was prepared, as it were, by the Bishop's own hand to be his meet resting-place. When he followed his infant to the grave, he was painfully struck with the contrast between the cemetery--then bare and treeless, and overrun with weeds, so as to be difficult to discern the pathway to the grave--and the beautiful churchyard at Tidenham, where his other child was buried. He at the time resolved to change its aspect. He preached and had a special offertory for it, and the ground was soon planted and put into decent order. In a letter written during one of his visitations there occurs a very touching expression of his desire to have his child's grave dressed with flowers. Alluding to a custom prevailing in Gloucestershire along the Welsh border, he writes,--

"Remember to put some flowers on the eve of Palm-Sunday in the churchyard, that our two dear little graves in England and Africa may be flowered alike."

He also formed the intention of building a chapel in the cemetery, both to save the mourners the long journey from the church in the town, and to give greater solemnity to the spot. He did not live to carry out this intention, but after his death, when there was a desire among his people to raise some mark of love and [412/413] respect to his memory, it was resolved to build a chapel over his grave, thus accomplishing in his death what in his life he had designed.

The feelings of his people at his being thus early taken from them may be gathered in some measure from the notices which appeared in the chief journals of the colony. In one of them the funeral was thus recorded, in an article which also contained a brief memoir of his life:--

"The mortal remains of this venerated prelate were carried to their last resting-place on Tuesday. As the funeral passed along the High-street, many of the inhabitants closed their stores and shops, to express their deep concern for the loss of the illustrious deceased. Indeed, one feeling seems to have pervaded the community of Grahamstown,--that of real, silent grief at the departure of one whose whole existence since his arrival in this city had been bound up in their happiness. Christians of every denomination thronged the procession to the cemetery. His death was sudden, notwithstanding that he had been suffering from a pulmonary disease for some time previous. He was in the act of signing his name to a document, when he fell back a corpse. Thus ceased to beat a heart truly excellent and estimable,--thus died, leaving a void in the affections of all classes, one of the most amiable and respected men we ever knew. Dr. Armstrong will [413/414] be long and gratefully remembered in this town. His works survive him; they form a chaplet on his grave, the memorials of his efforts to do good to all without distinction.".....

Two of the clergy of his diocese have expressed the feelings entertained by their brethren. One, the Rev. John Hardie, who was the most closely drawn to him, and had the best opportunities of observing his mind and course of action; the other, the Rev. Edwin Giles, late incumbent of St. Paul's, Port Elizabeth, who, to the Bishop's sincere regret, had to give up his valuable labours in South Africa and return to England, on account of ill-health, about the time of the Bishop's last illness. As one was chiefly engaged in the missions, the other in the homo-work of the diocese, they may together be taken as a true index of the feelings of the clergy in general. The notices which have been collected together of his life and character, cannot be better closed than with their earnest expressions of reverence and love:--

"King Williamstown, "Nov. 28, 1856.

'My dear ----

"I will gladly attempt to fulfil your request that I would give my impressions of our late dear Bishop's [414/415] public character and teaching in that later and more eminent period of his life and ministry which was passed in South Africa. On looking back to the commencement of my intercourse with the Bishop, the first thing which strikes me is his singular power of attraction. The venerable aspect, the kindly words, spoken in such earnest tones, and the courteous yet natural manner, instantly won me, and made me feel that it would be a delight to serve under him. I shall never lose the impression made by his summons, when, after I had placed myself in his hands as an invalid, who had little else than a willing heart to offer, he 'called me to the work of missions.' If an angel had spoken, it could hardly have thrilled me more. I believe that the clergy, with scarcely an exception, would bear similar testimony to the facility with which he thus, as it were, took their hearts at once in his hand, and secured their allegiance rather as dutiful sons to their spiritual Father, than as inferior ministers to their ruler. Nor was this a mere transitory feeling of regard, excited by a happy outward address, but one which was fed by an inner spring of grace, and which grew day by day insensibly, so that only when the source dried up suddenly, did we become aware how deep and full it had been.

"The laity of his diocese were hardly less attached to him than his clergy. So easy of access was he to all who needed help or counsel, that there were few who had not held some personal intercourse with [415/416] their Bishop. Still, with the majority of his lay brethren, the Bishop's influence of course depended mainly on his public ministrations. This leads me to say a few words on the style and character of his sermons. I shall ever regret that I had not the opportunity of hearing more of them. Many of those which I did hear were preached amidst the distractions and fatigues attendant on the visitation of a colonial diocese. They were all of them spoken extempore, and, I believe, without more than a few minutes' premeditation. Yet so plain was the enunciation of the subject, so clear the course of thought, so direct the appeal to the conscience, and so lively and copious the language, that I marvelled when I heard, from undoubted authority, that the Bishop had hardly ever delivered any unwritten sermons before he came to this colony. Certain it is that he had all the facility which most men only attain to by long exercise in public speaking. His discourses were, in the best sense of the word, popular. The 'people heard him (as they heard his divine Master) gladly.' Not that he handled God's Word deceitfully, or prophesied smooth things only, or spared rebuke when needful, but that he preached to them the glad tidings of the kingdom of God with a simple earnestness which made them feel that their souls were at stake, and that he really loved their souls, and would not that any of them should perish. His diction, too, although chaste enough to satisfy the most fastidious critic, was cast in the solid Saxon [416/417] mould, so that the weight and force of each word told on the most unlettered of his hearers. The sermons were usually short,--who that listened did not think them too short?--and limited to the setting forth and enforcement of some one evangelical truth, so as to stamp it in clear characters upon the mind and heart of the hearer. These spontaneous outpourings without doubt reflected faithfully the ordinary tenor of the good Bishop's thoughts upon divine things; and, from this point of view, they argued a habit of elevated contemplation. Yet, on the whole, they seemed to me hardly equal to his published sermons. It was not to be expected, however, that the effusion of the hour, amidst the weariness and painfulness of his frequent apostolic journeys,--and such were most of the sermons I heard,--would attain to the height which a spirit like his could reach in the unbroken calm of meditation at home. I am very far from implying that the Bishop was ever feeble. No! his discourse was always effective, seasoned with salt, and full of grace, fitted to win, and, I believe, actually winning many souls, else lost to Christ and His Church.

"But, after all, the wonderful sway which he held over us was owing to the heartiness with which he threw himself into his work of all kinds. Whatever his hand found to do, was done with his might. The very obstacles which crossed his path served but to draw forth sparks from his zeal, not to quench it. And then how wide was the range of duty which he [417/418] assigned to his office! Nothing short of leavening the whole mass of society, in all its relations, could satisfy his aspirations. The edification and good government of the Church committed to him was of course his chief and direct object, but he left no subsidiary means untried which might possibly conduce to this end. Recognizing a power in secular knowledge, and perceiving that it must necessarily spread here as elsewhere, he strove to make it minister to the highest uses, by placing himself in the van of the movement, and guiding it into the right channels. If there was truth in it, he would hallow it as truth. It is easy to dream of a faultless past, and to bemoan the defects of the present time, without lifting a finger to repair them. What is this but the idle worship of a golden image set up by our own fancy? The past has its foul side as well as its fair; the age in which we live brings forth good grapes as well as wild grapes. No one could have a deeper reverence for primitive truth and purity than the Bishop, but he had little sympathy with mere antiquarian optimists. The world of to-day was not to him the waste, howling wilderness which they would represent it to be. He could detect buds of promise even in the desert; nor was he without hope that they might be brought to blossom, and fill the earth again. To drop metaphor: he saw good (not indeed good unmixed, for that had been a vision of heaven,--but still much good) in his time and among his people, and in the spirit of active Christian love, [418/419] he made the best of it, by cherishing and striving to sanctify it. Again, he regarded literature and the natural sciences as common ground, on which Churchmen, without resigning one jot of Catholic truth, might meet Dissenters as brethren, and hold kindly intercourse with them. Might not a spirit of candour be cultivated at these friendly meetings, and prejudices vanish, and a way be opened for the passage of higher truths? Might not affection be found a more potent instrument of persuasion than controversy?--Here, too, he practically took the load by founding an Institute, and delivering lectures, in which solid truth was charmingly set in the liveliest humour.

"His very last public effort was in furtherance of this plan. It was an essay on the life of the poet Goldsmith, with one side of whose character the Bishop's own genial and tender nature was so thoroughly in accord. After this exertion, the tide of life ebbed fast away, and only those who had marked, with anxiety, the languor which stole over him during the last few months of his life, could tell how severe the struggle had been for his enfeebled frame to bear up thus far against the current of what, in moments of depression only, he would call 'this weary world.'

"I must not forget to make mention of a work of mercy which had for some time engaged his thoughts. Conceived by his ardent love of souls, it was rapidly growing and taking shape, and would doubtless have [419/420] soon come forth into action, had not its author been called to rest from his earthly labours. He earnestly desired to find some remedy for the besetting sin of the colony,--drunkenness,--with its attendant brood of hideous vices. To check this habit, everywhere fraught with evil, but here really frightful in its effects, he would have formed a brotherhood of penitents, who should meet together on stated days in church, and then and there renew their resolutions of amendment, and pray for the help of God's Holy Spirit. A special service would have been provided, and the clergy would have been charged to watch over the brethren, to exhort and encourage them to persevere. It is almost needless to add, that no vows or pledges would have been taken. A touching proof of the influence which he might have exerted on the class most exposed to the temptation of strong drink, is to be found in the fact that, at the very time of his falling sick of his last illness, the artisans of the city were spontaneously preparing an address expressive of their gratitude to him for the lively interest he had taken in their well-being.

"Had this simple homage from hard-working men ever reached him, his large heart had overflowed, and all the impediments which interest or petty jealousy had thrown in the way of his benevolence had been forgotten,--blotted from his memory in tears of joy.

"I should leave a great blank in this hasty review of the good Bishop's ministry in South Africa, if I [420/421] said nothing about his zeal for the conversion of the heathen within and beyond his diocese, and the share which he personally took in that arduous task. Twice, in his brief episcopate, did he visit our stations; and how bright was the light which, on each occasion, he shed upon our work! How did we long that his playful threat, 'that he would leave the colonists to themselves, return all letters unopened, and come and live in a hut in Kafirland, could have been executed! Even the hard, stoical nature of the Kafir instinctively drew towards him; and recognised not merely the inkosi, (chieftain,) but the umfundis inkulu nomhlobo, (great teacher and friend,) in that gentle and gracious presence. We felt how great would have been his personal weight and influence, could we have kept him among us, and we grieved at the necessity of his departure. Keener still had been our regret, could we have foreseen that his approving smile would cheer us no more! But his influence on the course of our mission-work was not merely personal. A consistent scheme of policy was formed, and steadily, yet not tenaciously, adhered to. Every reasonable allowance was made for the feelings, habits, prejudices even, of the agents and of those to be acted on. There were no capricious orders given; yet the hand of the ruler was felt to be there, and he must have been dull indeed who did not yield to that touch, at once so gentle and so firm.

"It was not my lot to know the good Bishop in [421/422] England. The gift of his friendship here was unmerited, and is now treasured among the precious things of memory, to be revived, I humbly hope, hereafter. A mutual friend--one who laboured side by side with him in earlier years, and who watched his after-life with deep interest--has summed up his course so truly in few words, that I cannot do better than quote them, in conclusion:--'The death of good Bishop Armstrong is an additional reason for writing to you. I fear you must feel this very much. He appears thoroughly to have risen to all the parts that he has had to fill. He will be a sad loss to the Church in Africa,--indeed, to the Church at large.'

"I remain ever, my dear------,

"Sincerely yours,


"Godalming, "Nov. 7, 1856.

"My dear -----

"If I jot down my own impression of the good Bishop's character, during the time I was connected with him, it may not be unwelcome to you. His great charm--that which endeared him to me while living, and embalms his memory now he is at rest--was his intense love for his work, and his perfect sympathy with those over whom he was placed. In every trouble and difficulty, (and you know we had [422/423] our share at Port Elizabeth,) I always felt that my Bishop was not only the man of all others from whom I might expect the best counsel, but the man of all others to whom I would go for sympathy with the fullest assurance that I should find it. In other words, I felt that he was not only my Bishop, whom I could revere for his office, respect for his talents, and trust for his discretion, but my warm friend, to whom I could open, my heart, and state my own views openly and unreservedly, with the certainty of being not only understood, but thanked for the expression of entire confidence which he knew so well both to win and to retain. We all know good men, to whom we feel we could not speak freely; we acknowledge their worth, but the door of our lips is barred against them--we cannot give them our confidence. Why is this? Doubtless because a natural instinct warns us we shall meet with no sympathy in those quarters, and we shrink from the gratuitous task of telling our talc to one who will not understand us. To my mind, no man I ever met had greater power of attraction than the good Bishop. Few who came within the circle of his influence could resist him; and the secret of his power was nothing less than this:--everyone felt that his kind, placid, holy face was the dial-plate of a large, charitable, holy mind, which embraced all mankind in its love.

"Another trait which was very marked in him, and which is, perhaps, a rare companion of such a [423/424] gentle, loving spirit as his, was his great firmness and consistency in the maintenance of a principle.

"None more tolerant than he where tolerance was allowable; none more determined in his resistance to errors which affected the purity and entirety of 'the faith.' His extreme sensitiveness made him wince under the opposition he sometimes encountered, but it never led him to yield one iota, where to yield would have been criminal. His clergy might always feel sure that, if they had right on their side, their Bishop would stand by them and support them, let opposition come from whatever quarter it might. I would not be thought partial in these remarks, for, though I state my own impressions of my late dear Bishop, I feel that I may safely say, I am but the mouth-piece of all who had the happiness of knowing him intimately.

"Yours, my dear-----,

"Most sincerely,


Note.--The author of the Memoir would take this opportunity of expressing his obligations to the Secretaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, for their ready kindness in supplying copies of the letters which have added so much interest to the history of the mission.

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