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Extract from the Charge of His Lordship the Bishop of Ontario, April 10th, 1862.

By John Travers Lewis

No place: no publisher, 1862.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Retired Bishop of Malaita, 2009

[1] Extract from the Charge of His Lordship the Bishop of Ontario, April 10th, 1862.

My regret is exceedingly great that I feel bound to address you on a subject most embarrassing and painful to myself, but a sense of duty forbids my evading it. I mean the controversy that has arisen regarding Trinity College. I should gladly have avoided the topic did I not know that the interests of our Church University are of paramount importance, and that the members of the Church have a right to look to their Bishop for such explanation as may satisfy their consciences and calm their alarm. There is indeed something melancholy in reflecting on the futility oftentimes of the best intentioned endeavors to do permanent good. Troubles arise where we least expect them, and certainly when Trinity College was established amid the congratulations and thanksgivings of Churchmen, it was scarcely anticipated that within a few years a severe blow should be aimed at the Institution by Churchmen themselves, who would strive to damage its character by arousing party spirit against its teaching. The Venerable Prelate to whom we owe the existence of Trinity College is entitled to our prayerful sympathy in this to him severe trial, but they who know him best will feel assured that he will bear the blow with his usual undaunted firmness, and continue to devote his great abilities to remedying the evil that has befallen our University. Not Trinity College alone, but the whole Church, has been affected by the recent agitation. Never has a Church enjoyed greater internal harmony than the Church in Canada hitherto. Nothing marred the peaceful and happy intercourse of the great body of the Clergy. Differences of opinion existed, but they were not boastfully obtruded, much less made a ground of offence. Men imbued with very different views regarding predestination have ever been in the Church for 1400 years, and the Canadian branch contained its share of such men; but no practical difficulty had arisen. Indeed there is no reason why trouble on this score should ever arise. Calvinism or anti-Calvinism can certainly be always detected in their respective adherents; they tinge more or less men's feelings, and sermons, and tastes. But Calvinism is itself essentially unpractical. The most rigid Calvinist will admit that though you believe in the fact that God has unalterably fixed your destiny from all eternity, yet it should not affect your conduct a whit; you are to demean yourself as though [1/2] God had not done so; you are to "work out your own salvation in fear and trembling," as though this Predestination were unknown or untrue. Hence a doctrine which leads to so little practical consequence may be held without causing offence. But alas! the less the practical difference, the greater the warmth in maintaining it--a warmth which has long existed in the Church, but which through God's grace has been kept from developing itself into strife till the late attack on Trinity College, which has been denounced as a dangerous Institution, in my candid opinion, ostensibly on the ground of its having a tendency towards Rome, but really because it has not a tendency towards Geneva. The attack on Trinity College is an outbreak of that party spirit which has afflicted the Church since the time when Augustine gave to the world his daring speculations on God's predestination. In his old age, when renouncing the Manichean heresy of his younger days, he propounded those stern doctrines which have since been welcomed by gloomy and ascetic minds, but which were unknown to the early Christians, and have never been received by the Church in the East. The great schoolmen of the Roman Church in pre-reformation times with great subtlety and dialectical skill defended the tenets of Augustine, but the laity scarcely knew of the existence of such belief, and at all events never acknowledged the necessity of acquiescence in it, What Augustine was to the Clergy, Calvin became to the Laity. He seemed to glory in startling the world in the dogmatic way in which he asserted the doctrines of predestined damnation, and salvation, and by his powerful genius founded the reformation of France and Switzerland on this basis. The daring courage which knew no hesitation or difficulty captivated the imaginations of multitudes, who viewed with wonder and accepted with joy the lucubrations of a man who seemed to have been admitted within the penetralia of God's providence, and who gave the result of his revelations with the authority of a confidant of Heaven. His influence reached Britain, and his views, though borrowed from Rome's greatest doctors, were eagerly adopted by Rome's most violent opponents, the Puritans, who were perhaps led to this strange alliance from consideration of the fact that the doctors of this school advocated the supremacy of the Civil Magistrate in civil affairs. The English Church, however, reforming herself on the great principle of an appeal to God's word and a return to the practices of the first three centuries, rightly and naturally refused to adopt as a part of her creed those subtleties which were never received by the Eastern Church, and only partially and recently by the Western. From that day to this, efforts have been constantly made to represent the Church of England as committed to a belief in Calvin's "horrible decree," but in vain. While history [2/3] remains, the reader will be informed of the exertions made in this direction, even to the attempt to force on our Church the Lambeth Articles--a tacit acknowledgment that our Articles do not go far enough to please Calvinists. During the Commonwealth and the suppression of the Church as established, Calvinism reached its highest stage of development, and after the Restoration continued to exercise a remarkable influence on our Church. During the 18th century, that dark age of the Reformed Church of England, the harvest, the seed of which had been so widely sown, was reaped. The habit of viewing our salvation as the predetermined decree of God the Father, who elected a fixed and unalterable number from all eternity, by degrees drew men away from considering in its due significance the work of God the Son. The tendency in the human mind to disparage part of a system in proportion as it unduly magnifies another part, developed itself. As compared with God the Father's election of men to salvation irrespective of anything but his own arbitrary decree, the work of God the Son appeared of second-rate importance, and gradually receded from view, till the result appeared in that widely spread Arianism and open Socinianism which disgraced the Church in the last century. A reaction set in--Wesleyan Methodism arose, and served as a protest against Calvinism; attention was aroused to examine what was till then lightly esteemed, the Prayer Book of the English Church. Even Wesley commenced his religious life by an effort to illustrate the principles and practices of that book. The Church roused herself to love and to good works. While no attempt was made to exclude any from the Church on account of their Calvinism, it was argued that all might work together for the .good of Christ's Church, especially as the prevalent views concerning God's decrees were admittedly not to influence action; we were to act as though God had not so decreed the number of the saved or damned--a strong proof, one would imagine, off the improbability of the doctrine, since God does nothing in vain.

From this rapid review of the debate in the Church respecting the subtleties advanced by Calvin, we detect the reason why the Church framed its 17th Article for the special purpose "of avoiding diversity of opinions," and was so far successful at the time that his Majesty's Declaration informs us that "even in those curious points in which the present difficulties lie, men of all sorts take the Articles of the Church of England to be for them." While this is the case, and while we can all use the language of the Liturgy respecting our redemption by Christ who made upon the Cross, "by His own oblation of Himself once offered, a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world"; so long as we can subscribe to the language of the 2nd Article, [3/4] that Christ suffered "to be a sacrifice not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men;" so long as we all believe that Christ Jesus "came into the world to save sinners," and that the word sinners is coextensive with all human beings; so long as we are all persuaded of these truths and use the same Formularies, it would seem that this well-meant and comprehensive system of the English Church should secure her members from being charged by each other with holding dangerous doctrines regarding election. Human nature, however, is not altered. Nothing is more wonderful than our slowness in learning toleration. A comparison of our Church with the Reformed Continental Churches will show that ours is the only Protestant Reformed Church that has made any way since the Reformation. When Luther died the Reformation had gained an ascendancy in Europe, to which it has never reached since. The Reformed principles of England's Church, though sometimes under a cloud, have never retrograded, and to-day they stand more exalted than ever. May not this, under God, be attributable to the wise comprehension that distinguishes her? A great Church cannot have narrow tests. A happy characteristic of our church is the slight interference with the private opinions of her members; and however varied may be those opinions, it is consolatory to know that men are never so good or so bad as their opinions. "Who can doubt it?" says John Wesley, "while there are Calvinists in the world, asserters of absolute predestination? For who will dare to affirm that none of these are truly religious men? Not only many of them in the last century were burning and shining lights, but many of them are now real Christians, loving God and all mankind. And yet what are all the absurd opinions of all the Romanists in the world compared to that one, that the God of love, the wise, just, merciful Father of the spirits of all flesh, has from all eternity fixed an absolute, unchangeable, irresistible decree that part of mankind shall be saved, do what they will, and the rest damned, do what they can." Our great business is clearly to refute, instead of attempting the useless task of frowning down opinions probably absurd but certainly harmless, neither interfering with the daily duties of life, nor preventing the holders of them from conscientiously using our Formularies. The least we are entitled to expect from the vaunted enlightenment of the times, is "to think and let think," for it is vain to hope that we shall obliterate opinions which divided the Latin Doctors for 1000 years after Augustine--which drove Luther to write his violent book on free will, concerning which the Divines of the Council of Trent wrangled in vain, and the Synod of Dort enacted its useless anathemas: in short, opinions which divide two great Protestant denominations--Methodists and Presbyterians.

[5] Now, the teaching of Trinity College has not been Calvinistical. Hence I believe the denunciation of its Theology. No pains are taken to bias the students in favor of the doctrines of absolute decrees, nor do the lectures probably tend to infuse a love of dialectical subtleties regarding free will and reprobation. Because of this absence of Calvinistic theories the College is charged with a tendency towards Romish error, though as we have seen, a belief in predestination to life or eternal death is quite compatible with communion with the Church of Rome. That the specific charges of dangerous teaching, which are urged, are not the real cause of the attack, appears from the facts stated in the last charge of the Lord Bishop of Toronto, namely, that Trinity College was opposed by some through the whole of its progress before any Professors were appointed, and from the fact that the charges themselves are so wretchedly unsupported by good evidence. From the readiness and easy way in which the controversy glided into its natural channel, namely, a debate on the subject of Calvinistic Churchmanship, I infer that there must have been a foregone conclusion against the College, and a determination to urge at once objections that seem doubtful rather than wait for the chance of more substantial ones hereafter.

I shall not refer to the mode in which the agitation was first set in motion before an opportunity was offered to the Council of redressing any supposed wrongs or remedying any alleged false to aching. I had the honor of being a member of the Council of Trinity College, and, to my utter amazement, the first intimation I had of anything having been laid to the charge of the College was information gleaned from "the Globe" newspaper. On this grievous treatment I shall not dwell, but proceed to give you my reasons for having expressed, by my vote in the Synod of Toronto Diocese, my confidence in the teaching given in the College. It was my good fortune to have had personal intercourse with many of the Graduates of Trinity College, and I naturally inferred that if the teaching of the College had been so dangerous, some traces of the danger incurred and the errors embraced would be visible. But I found those men by no means imbued with extreme views, and remarkable for sober-mindedness and the avoidance of all novelties in religion. This inconsistency with the charges against the Professors who had instructed them, I of course remarked; and judging of the tree by its fruit, I required strong evidence before I condemned the Provost. Another consideration which held me back from giving too ready credence to the charges laid against the Provost was the fact that all the Divinity students who applied for Holy Orders were examined and approved by the Rev. H. Grasett, a gentleman of views I believe identical with those held by the opponents of Trinity [5/6] College. I never for a moment could endure the supposition (which was the only alternative) that the examining Chaplain was dissatisfied with his candidates for Holy Orders, and yet presented them at the most solemn occasion of their lives as "apt and meet for their learning and Godly conversation to exercise the office of Priest duly to the honor of God and the edification of His Church." The supposition is so odious that my apology for alluding to it is the fact that the Rev. Mr Grasett being Examining Chaplain, inspired me with confidence that extreme views in a Romish direction were not apparent in the Divinity Students, and thus helped to make me suspicious of the truth of the charges against the Divinity Professor. It became my duty, however, to examine into the evidence itself, and to my surprise and sorrow I find that it is made up of second-hand extracts supplied from an Apochryphal Catechism by anonymous and disaffected students. Here I would observe that when such grave charges were laid against the Provost, the proper course to adopt would have been to present him for unsound teaching in the Bishop's Court, or to have transferred the case by letters of request to the Court of the Metropolitan. We should then have had the names of the witnesses, who would be examined on oath: we should have been able to satisfy ourselves of their integrity and the animus of their opposition to the College; we should have seen whether their witness agreed together, or whether they could not be contradicted by others, who, forming as they do the great majority of former Divinity Students, have come before the public in a more manly way, and over their signatures denied the truth of the charges against the Institution. I therefore acted wholly in a spirit of fairness which will ever prevent my considering a man guilty till he be proved so. I went to the meeting of the Council of Trinity College, held last February, for the purpose of taking the whole question into consideration, with my mind made up to no course but that of urging a fair and critical investigation into the charges against Provost Whitaker. The Lord Bishop of Huron moved a resolution which in my mind would have had the effect of condemning the Provost unheard. The Chief Justice of Upper Canada moved in amendment to the effect that we refrain from condemning the Provost till we had the charges in writing. I seconded the amendment, which was carried by the votes of all the members of the Council except the members from Huron Diocese and that of the Rev. Mr Grasett. During the conversation that ensued on the motion before the Council the Lord Bishop of Huron openly and manfully declared that he did not charge the Provost with having taught anything heretical nor anything contrary to the doctrines of the United Church of England and Ireland, but he did charge [6/7] him with teaching doctrines dangerous in the extreme. On this admission the Council felt more than ever convinced of the propriety of acting with great caution, and refraining from condemning the Provost without formal trial. It was finally arranged that the charges against the Provost should be put in writing and submitted to him for inspection and reply, and the feeling of the Council, which I share, is in favor of submitting both charges and reply to the Metropolitan of Canada, who should associate with himself the Bishops of British North America, exclusive of Upper Canada, and that the decision of these arbitrators be final. I regret to say that the proposal to submit the question to such arbitration was not favorably received by the members from Huron Diocese, who refused to abide by such an award. This seems to me the more unreasonable, because the Lord Bishop of Huron once proposed to submit the whole case to the Lord Bishop of Rupert's Land for his decision, and also because the Council of Trinity College, composed largely of Laymen, would naturally feel incompetent to decide so nice and intricate a point as would be involved in the examination into doctrines dangerous in the extreme, yet not heretical or contrary to the doctrines of the Church of England.

I have now laid before you the state in which this unfortunate agitation rests, and assure this Synod that I shall watch over the teaching of Trinity College and its other interests as carefully as is possible. I was brought up in a theological school which gave no uncertain sound regarding Romanism, yet I was not taught the theory of a Churchmanship exclusively Calvinistical; on the contrary, in Trinity College, Dublin, one of the text books was the work of Archbishop Lawrence, proving the Articles of the Church of England non-Calvinistical; and I may add that the text books of Trinity College, Toronto, are used in Trinity College, Dublin. I am as jealous as is possible for me to be for the sound teaching of our youth--for their receiving such an education as will help them to resist Romanism in all its varied guises, but I affirm that I have been unable to detect in the teaching of Trinity College any tendency towards such error. I believe the Provost of the College to be a well-learned and pious man, who desires to train up the youth under his care in the old fashioned tenets of our standard Divines, who wishes to show the exact points of difference between the Churches of Rome and England, not so much in his own point of view as in that from which they were viewed by those to whom we owe the existence of our reformed faith, the martyrs and confessors of England's Church. I shall say no more, lest I seem to prejudge a case which still may require a judicial decision, but I cannot conclude without expressing my belief that the Provost [7/8] has not had such fair treatment as the teacher of any common school might justly claim from a Board of Trustees, that of "having his accusers face to face." The accusations, so far as they have appeared in print, are perhaps familiar to you. I shall not comment on them further than to say that the point in those accusations depends on the meaning attached by different persons to the same words, and that in the absence of satisfactory evidence to the contrary, I am bound as a Christian gentleman to believe the Provost, who totally repudiates the errors attributed to him. Accordingly, I feel satisfied that I have taken a correct course, and am fortified in my conviction when I find myself voting with Chief Justice Robinson, Hon. J. H. Cameron, and Justice Hagarty, on a simple question of equitable treatment; and no mere clamor shall make me waver in the belief that the true way of strengthening our Protestantism is to strengthen our Church of England principles, which I believe are honestly and truly held by those gentlemen who sit in the Council of Trinity College.



Rev. Dr. BOSWELL gave notice that he would move, That with reference to that portion of His Lordship's address with relation to Trinity College this Synod desires to express its concurrence, and its confidence that under the wise administration of the Bishops of Toronto, Huron and Ontario, and the Council of said College, it will continue to prove in its teachings a faithful exponent of the doctrines of the United Churches of England and Ireland.

Rev. Mr. ROGERS gave notice that he would move, That whereas the question between the Bishop of Huron and the Provost of Trinity College is sub judice, this Synod should not take any action in the matter which should seem to prejudice the decision to be given.


The motion of Rev. Dr. BOSWELL, seconded by Rev. Mr. MULKINS, the substance of which has been given, was brought according to motion before Synod. The mover said he was content to let the question go on its merits to the Synod without any remarks in its favor.

The amendment having been put was lost, and the original motion was put and declared carried. A call having been made for the yeas and nays, the following division was shown:--

THE CLERICAL HOUSE.--Yeas--Rev. Messrs. Anderson, Armstrong, Baker, Bartlett, Beaven, Bleasdell, Bogert; Boswell, Butler, Carroll, Emery, Fleming, Forrest, Godfrey, Grier, Grout, Harding, Harper, Harris, J. S. Lauder, W. B. Lauder, Loucks, J. A. Morris, Mulkins, Mulock, Patton, Preston, Stephenson, Tane, White, Worrell. The Very Rev. Dean of Ontario, Dr. Stuart, was allowed to add his vote in the affirmative the following day.--32.

Nays--Rev. Messrs. Dobbs, A. Stewart, R. Lewis, Rogers, Sharpe.--6.

THE LAY HOUSE.--Yeas--Barriefield, J. Boyce; Brockville, R. Steele; Carleton Place, J. Rosamond; Gananoque, D. F. Jones; St. George's, J. Henderson, S. Muckleston; Kemptville, W. H. Bottom; Lamb's Pond, W. B. Simpson; Metcalf and Osgoode, L. Jackson; Napanee, F. V. Corey; Perth, H. D. Shaw; Prescott, Wm. Ellis; Renfrew, T. D. Taylor; Tyendinaga, Thos. Claus; Hawkesbury, Hon. J. Hamilton.--14.

Nays--Bath, R. Kennedy, H. Boyle; Belleville, J. Sisson; St. James', Wm. Shannon, A. J. O'Loughlin; Sophiasburgh, A. H. Campbell; Wolfe Island,. J. F. Charles.--6.

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