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Colonial Church Histories

History of the Church in Eastern Canada and Newfoundland

By John Langtry, M.A., D.C.L.,
Rector of S. Luke's, Toronto, and Prolocutor of the Provincial Synod of Canada

London, Brighton and New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1892.

Chapter II. The Founding of the First Colonial Bishopric

THE establishment of the Episcopate in America had been the subject of anxious desire both in the colonies and in the Mother Church, long before the breaking out of the American Revolution. More than a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence, Charles II. had nominated Dr. Murray to the Bishopric of Virginia, but under the Erastian influences of that period, some unexplained reasons of State were allowed to prevent his consecration. And so we find that the colonists, supported by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, petitioned for the appointment of a bishop in 1715: the granting of this petition, which it will be observed was addressed, not to the Archbishop or the Bishops of England, but to the Crown, was prevented, it is supposed, by Sir Robert Walpole's opposition to the clergy, whom he suspected of favouring the Stuart family. In response to repeated appeals from America, two clergymen, Talbot and Walton, were consecrated by the Non-juring Bishops and set out for America; they were, however, prevented by the British Government of that day from exercising their functions, and so the Church in America was left for more than a hundred years without a bishop, i. e. until seven years after the Declaration of Independence. Dr. Seabury was consecrated in 1784 [25/26] by the Scotch Bishops. Five years later Drs. White and Provost were consecrated by the two English Archbishops of those days. The establishment of the Bishopric of Nova Scotia had been resolved on in 1784; and Dr. Chandler, who before the breaking out of the Revolution was Rector of Elizabethtown in New Jersey, was nominated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whom he had become favourably known during his residence in England, as the first colonial bishop; but owing to ill-health Dr. Chandler was obliged to decline the offer. The Archbishop wrote to him, expressing his appreciation of his character, and his sympathy with him in his affliction; he also asked him to recommend to him a suitable person to occupy the position which he was obliged to decline.


The result was that Dr. Charles Inglis, who had been Rector of Trinity Church, New York, during the progress of the Revolutionary War, was chosen, and was consecrated Bishop of Nova Scotia, at Lambeth, on Sunday the 12th of August, 1787, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, assisted by the Bishops of Rochester and Chester. He arrived at Halifax on the 16th of October, 1787, the first Colonial Bishop of the Church of England.

Dr. Inglis was the third son of the Rev. Archibald Inglis, of Glen and Kilcarrin, Ireland, where he was born in 1734. His father, grandfather, and great grandfather had all been clergymen. His father had a limited income, and a large family; and so the future bishop, without any idea as yet of the high office to which he was to be called, came to America while still young, and engaged for some time in school-teaching. Afterwards, when he [26/27] determined to devote himself to the sacred ministry, he had, like all young men of that period who were seeking Holy Orders, to return to England for examination and ordination. He was first appointed missionary at Dover, in the province of Delaware, and had the usual experience of backwoods missionaries in the extent and roughness of the territory in which he was appointed to labour. After six years toil in this hard field, he was appointed Assistant-Rector of Trinity Church, New York, in 1765, and in 1777 he was appointed Hector of this same church; while in 1787, as has been already stated, he was appointed Bishop of Nova Scotia. His Diocese embraced the whole of Nova Scotia, Upper and Lower Canada, New Brunswick, Prince Edward's Island, Newfoundland, and Bermuda; or in other words, he was made Bishop of the whole of British North America. He had at first only ten clergy in Nova Scotia, six in New Brunswick, and six in the rest of his Diocese to carry on the work in this vast territory. He worked diligently in the discharge of the duties of his office, and the work grew under his administration. He no doubt confined his labours for the most part to Nova Scotia, where the principal settlements were made at first. These settlements were generally confined, both in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, to the coast and river-banks. Farm settlements were gradually extended inland, as new bands of emigrants from the old world or exiles from the United States arrived. The difficulty of supplying these ever-expanding settlements with the ministrations of religion was very great, and the work of supervision and direction was constantly increasing.

Bishop Inglis did not reach his Diocese after his consecration till the close of the navigation in 1787, and yet in the summer of 1792 he made his second [27/28] visitation of New Brunswick. He was a man of cheery, hopeful disposition, and his report on the condition of the Church is altogether encouraging. The diligent and exemplary conduct of the missionaries had won, he tells us, the respect and confidence of the people. As a result, their congregations were nourishing, their communicants were increasing, churches were being built, and constant applications for the appointment of missionaries in new districts were being received. The Bishop adjusted many difficulties in connection with the land grants that had been made to the Church, and settled the trusts of parishes and missions during this journey. He was ably sustained by Governor Carleton, who was a devout man, and did all he could, by example and precept, to promote the interests of religion. Four new churches were consecrated, and 777 persons confirmed by the Bishop during this visitation of the Province of New Brunswick. In 1798 we find the Bishop again at Fredericton; while there he visited a school that had been established for black people, under the directions of the Rector, Rev. Mr. Pigeon. The Bishop obtained from the Association of Dr. Bray an allowance of ten shillings a year towards the education of each black child. There is no record of any visit ever having been paid by Bishop Inglis to Canada, Newfoundland, or Bermuda. That, however, does not involve such neglect of these remote and almost inaccessible parts of his Diocese as seems at first to be implied. For in the first place, settlements were not made so early in these provinces as in the more accessible regions of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Then it was only the brief space of five years till Bishop Inglis was relieved of the responsibility of the greater part of his vast Diocese, by the formation, in 1793, of the Diocese of Quebec, embracing at first the whole of Canada.

[29] Bishop Inglis died in Halifax on the 24th of Feb., 1816, in the eighty-second year of his age. He had been fifty-eight years in the sacred ministry, twenty-nine of which had elapsed since his consecration to the Episcopate. His son John became third Bishop of Nova Scotia, and his eldest daughter the wife of Chief Justice Halliburton, the author of the widely known Sam Slick.

On the death of Bishop Inglis, an incident occurred which shows how completely the Church and State were at that time identified in the minds of men. Dr. Stanser, Rector of St. Paul's Church, Halifax, had for some time held the position of Chaplain to the House of Assembly. The House was in session when Bishop Inglis died, and by a unanimous vote they recommended to the Crown the appointment of their Chaplain as second Bishop of Nova Scotia. He was accordingly appointed, and proceeded to England for consecration in the autumn of 1816. The health of the new Bishop was, however, so delicate, that after holding his first visitation and ordination, which he conducted with extreme difficulty, he was ordered to return to England for medical treatment. Year after year was spent in the vain hope of his recovery, but he never saw his Diocese again; and finally in 1824 he resigned the Bishoprick, and died a few years afterwards in England. The Church in this widely and rapidly expanding Diocese had been practically without a bishop for eight years; and apart from the loss which she sustained from the lack of the Episcopal offices of Ordination and Confirmation, she was sorely impeded in her work by the lack of that Episcopal supervision and direction which are essential to her vigorous expansion and strength.

The Right Rev. John Inglis, D.D., son of the first Bishop, was chosen third Bishop of Nova Scotia on the resignation of Dr. Stanser. He had been chosen [29/30] as Dr. Stanser's successor in the Rectorship of St. Paul's, Halifax, and now he was called to the higher office which his resignation left vacant. He was a man of impressive presence and courtly manners. He was consecrated in London in 1825, and returned to Halifax in the autumn of the same year. The original Diocese of Nova Scotia, as has been narrated, was reduced to less than one-fourth of its original territorial extent by the formation, in 1793, of the Diocese of Quebec. It was still, however, of enormous extent, embracing the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Bermuda. The new Bishop saw the need of a better organization, and at once divided his vast jurisdiction into four Archdeaconries, each embracing one of the divisions above-named. The Rev. Mr. Best was appointed Archdeacon of New Brunswick; the Rev. Dr. Willis of Nova Scotia; the Rev. George Coster of Newfoundland; and the Rev. A. G. Spencer of Bermuda. In his first visitation of his Diocese in 1826, Bishop Inglis confirmed 4367 persons, and consecrated 44 churches. He endeavoured after this to visit each Archdeaconry every third year. In 1827, availing himself of the facilities of the well-manned boats of a ship of war, he visited the out harbours of Newfoundland, and so was enabled by personal observation to acquire a knowledge of the most remote and destitute stations of the Church. He had the year before visited Bermuda, where, he tells us, he was received with every possible mark of respect, no bishop having ever before been in that colony. He found the island divided into nine parishes, each provided with a church and small glebe. During his stay he confirmed 1200 persons, of whom 100 were blacks.

The whole period extending from 1825 to 1838 was marked by rapid strides in the progress of the Church throughout the whole Diocese. The clergy had [30/31] in five years been nearly doubled, vacant missions filled up and new ones established, congregations organized, and churches built and in progress in every direction. The Bishop was unceasing in his visitations, and the reports sent in by many of the missionaries exhibit such minute and satisfactory details as could only be obtained in a faithful discharge of their duty. The temporalities of the Church were, however, assailed in every direction, and the clergy in poor districts forced to endure many privations, consequent on the reduction of their incomes; yet this was a time of revival in the Church throughout many parts of the Diocese. A spirit of godliness and earnest desire for the salvation of souls pervades the missionary correspondence of this period.

Between May and Sept. in 1842 the Bishop consecrated twenty-one churches in the Archdeaconry of New Brunswick. He reports, "that the state of things here, though not free from difficulties, was never before so prosperous as at that time. I have been called upon," he says, "to perform Episcopal acts for the first time in no less than twenty-two places, separated from each other by hundreds of miles, in all of which new churches have been completed or are in progress. He paid a last visit to this portion of his Diocese in the autumn of 1843, when he held confirmations at twelve different places on the eastern coast, and consecrated several churches and burial-grounds. In discharge of this duty he travelled 6436 miles. It is not to be wondered at that the work of such a Diocese, even after the separation of Newfoundland, was felt to be too onerous for one man. Strenuous efforts were therefore made to have New Brunswick formed into a separate Diocese. This was accomplished two years later, in 1845, when the Rev. John Medley was appointed to the charge of the new Diocese.

[32] Bishop Inglis was now well advanced in years, and was glad to confine himself to the Province of Nova Scotia, as his Diocese was still equal in territorial extent to one-half of England. For five years more he continued in the diligent discharge of his duty; and after a brief illness departed this life at Halifax in the seventy-third year of his age, and in the twenty-sixth of his Episcopate, venerated and beloved by the people amongst whom he had lived and laboured so long.


Bishop Binney was born at Sydney in the Island of Cape Breton, on Aug. 12th, 1819. His father, the Rev. Dr. Binney, was for many years Rector of this parish, but had for some time been living in England. It is said that the Bishopric of Nova Scotia was first offered to Dr. Binney on account of his knowledge of the country. He, however, declined the honour because of his advanced age, but suggested his son, a young man who had taken a first-class degree at Oxford, and had lately been a chosen Fellow of Worcester College. After due consideration and inquiry as to his qualifications, the suggestion was acted upon, and the Rev. Hibbert Binney was appointed by the Crown as the successor to Bishop John Inglis, and as fourth Bishop of Nova Scotia. No wiser appointment could have been made. Though educated in England, Dr. Binney was a native of the country; he had spent the first nineteen years of his life among its people; he understood their sentiments and ways of life; his family traditions were inter woven with Nova Scotian history. His great-grand father, the Hon. Jonathan Binney, lived at Hull near Boston, and removed to Halifax in the early years of its history. His relatives were all in the land, and [32/33] he himself afterwards married a daughter of Judge Bliss, one of the oldest arid most influential families of Halifax. In scholarship Bishop Binney ranked with the foremost men of his time. In natural ability he had few equals, while by connections with, and, one may say, inherited knowledge of, the people, one so qualified for the position to which he was called could hardly have been found. He was consecrated in Lambeth Chapel on the festival of the Annunciation in 1851, by Archbishop Sumner, assisted by Bishops Bloomfield, Wilberforce, and Gilbert.

The new Bishop arrived in his Diocese on July 21st, 1851, and preached the following Sunday in St. Paul's Church. He inaugurated his work in the Diocese by an ordination held in Halifax, at which six deacons and one priest were admitted to their sacred offices. He next set to work to provide for the neglected poor of the city; and at his own risk, as well as largely at his own expense, he opened among them what w as known as the Bishop's Chapel, Salem. This afterwards grew into the brick building known as Trinity Church, the erection of which was largely due to the liberality of the Bishop and his friends. Following the example of his predecessor, he selected St. Paul's as his pro-cathedral. Troubles, however, soon arose. He had called the attention of the Diocese to the inconvenience of using the academic gown for preaching, and to the disobedience to the requirements of the rubrics involved in placing the elements of the Blessed Sacrament on the Lord's Table before the beginning of the Office. This raised a storm of opposition, which was led by the clergy of St. Paul s. The Bishop, therefore, determined to remove his chair to St. Luke's Church, which being enlarged by the erection of a suitable chancel, was made the pro-cathedral of the Diocese.

The due maintenance of the clergy of his Diocese [33/34] was always foremost in the Bishop's thoughts. The Diocesan Church Society, aiming at the same objects as the S. P. G., had been fourteen years in existence before his arrival. Its income at the time was 2884 dollars. In the last year of his life it had risen to 9707 dollars. Upon this Society the Bishop grafted a fund for the widows and orphans of deceased clergymen, the superannuation fund for the relief of aged and infirm clergy, and the church endowment fund. This latter now pays about 7000 dollars a year towards the objects for which it was founded. The widows and orphans funds pay the pension of twelve widows, while the superannuation fund has already a sufficient endowment to meet all claims that are likely to be made upon it.

The clergy of the Diocese increased during Bishop Binney's Episcopate from sixty to somewhat over a hundred. Not more than ten of those who were on the active staff of the Diocese when he came, were living at his death; so the tide rolls on.

The establishment of Synods was going on apace in the Canadian Church when Bishop Binney arrived. His attention was necessarily called to the subject, and in February 1854 he spoke publicly of the necessity of a Synod in which bishop, clergy, and laity should have a voice. His scheme was stoutly opposed; but the form of Diocesan Synod which Bishop Strachan first introduced at Toronto was established in Nova Scotia as in all other Canadian Dioceses.

Of the increase in churches in this Diocese, of the improvement in the architectural arrangements and ritual solemnity of these churches, it is impossible adequately to speak; and the present generation have no idea of all Bishop Binney did, endured, and gave, to bring about these beneficial changes.

He was diligent and unremitting in his visitations of his extensive, rugged, and unreclaimed Diocese, [34/35] and it is quite impossible for those who travel in these days of railways and luxuriously equipped steamers to realize how laborious these journeys in waggons and fishing craft and coasting vessels necessarily were. Even yet, in many parts of the Diocese, the roads are rough and difficult to travel, in all but the finest weather. The Bishop, however, never either spared himself or complained.

In the matter of duty, the Bishop reminded men of the Iron Duke. He neither spared himself nor others. He would say just what he felt to be his duty, and if his words did cut, it was not from any unkindness of nature or hardness of heart. He had the most overpowering sense of his own responsibility as Chief Pastor of the Diocese, and of the responsibilities of the clergy under him. These he determined should, as far as in him lay, be realized, and so he was an inflexible Superior and disciplinarian; but with all this he was a man of kindly and generous nature. His tenderness to the afflicted, his playful affectionateness towards little children, and his kind ness to his clergy, manifested often not only by his earnest and affectionate counsel, but by pecuniary and ready help, have secured for him an abiding-place in the affections of the people amongst whom he lived so long.

Two objects apart from his Diocesan labours especially engaged the Bishop's attention. The one was the erection of a suitable cathedral for the Diocese, and the other, the success of King's College, Windsor, the Church University of the Maritime Provinces.

A magnificent site for a cathedral had long ago been given by Judge Bliss. Plans had been obtained from Mr. G. E. Street, the celebrated English architect, and ten thousand dollars were promised if work were begun within a certain time. As this could [35/36] not be accomplished, the Bishop, drawing upon his own resources, undertook the erection of a building, which might afterwards be used as a Chapter-house and Synod Hall, but in the meantime as a Bishop's Chapel, where a congregation might be gathered for a future cathedral. No actual steps seem, however, to have been taken towards the realization of this object until the year of the Centenary Celebration of this, the first Colonial Diocese. Vigorous efforts were, at that time, initiated to realize the life-long desire of Bishop Binney; but before any material progress had been made, the good Bishop was called away. It is probable that his eloquent and popular successor, if his health be restored, will accomplish the design so long and earnestly cherished. King's College, Windsor, was a Royal foundation, established on the same basis and about the same time as King's College, Fredericton, and King's College, Toronto. It is the only one of the three of which the Church still has control; the other two have long ago been secularized. And Windsor, in spite of its considerable endowments, has had but a feeble and precarious existence. Bishop Binney, who was Visitor, did much to strengthen and enlarge the University; his self-denying labours on its behalf are known to all. Through him his father's name is for ever connected with the College. Large gifts from his mother, sister, and uncle, have also contributed to make the name of Binney foremost among the benefactors of Windsor, and his own name will be commemorated by a beautiful stained glass window in the chapel of the College.

The Bishop also bent his earnest efforts to the establishment of a school or college in which the daughters of the Church might be trained. Two institutions, St. Margaret's Hall and Girton House, established successively for the attainment of that end, though successful for a time, yet, through [36/37] defective management, failed. Since the Bishop's death, another institution of the same kind has been started, mainly by the efforts of Professor Hind, and is giving every promise of permanent success.

Bishop Binney, after a long and laborious Episcopate, died in the city of New York, whither he had gone for medical treatment, on the 30th April, 1887.

The city of Halifax, in which he had lived so long, manifested its affectionate regard for him by the vast concourse that gathered at his funeral.

The Rev. Dr. Partridge spoke of him as a prelate of most powerful mind, perfect administrative capacity, and childlike kindness of heart. From the first moment of his arrival in the land, he had to experience the most bitter opposition from most of those from whom he should have received support. He steadily fought his way through hostile forces, till after many years he placed the Church in this Province ahead of other Dioceses in faith and good works. When all men were against him, he fought the battle of the Church to such good purpose, that now three-fourths of the Diocese reflects his views, which are themselves the reflection of the doctrinal statements of the Church of England. A considerable interregnum followed the death of Bishop Binney, owing to the difficulty of electing a successor.

The first choice of the Synod was Dr. Edgell, the Chaplain-General of the forces, who by a long residence in Halifax had won the hearts of the whole people. He, as had been feared, after due consideration, declined the appointment.

The next choice was Bishop Perry of Iowa, U. S., the historiographer of the American Church, and a personal friend of Bishop Binney. He also, after considerable delay, caused by some accident of communication, declined to leave his wide western Diocese for one under the British flag. Finally, after nine [37/38] months delay, the Rev. Dr. Courtney of Boston was unanimously chosen, and accepted the appointment.

Dr. Courtney is an Englishman by birth and education. He had become famous throughout the land as an eloquent preacher and a successful parish worker. He is a man of splendid physique, and great powers of conversation, in addition to his oratorical gifts. He at once became the idol of the Diocese, and if his health, which became seriously impaired about eighteen months ago, should, in God's good providence, be restored, his episcopate will no doubt be crowned with ever-widening influence and great success.

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