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The Life and Work of the Most Reverend John Medley, D.D.,
First Bishop of Fredericton and Metropolitan of Canada

By William Quintard Ketchum
Rector of St. Andrews, N.B.

Saint John, N.B.: McMillan, 1893.

Chapter IV. Death of Archdeacon Coster--His Character--His Brothers

THE death of Archdeacon Coster occurred in February 1859. In a Fredericton local paper it is said: His death has aroused the sympathies of every creed and of every class in the community.... He was kind and courteous in his manner, liberal to a proverb in his works of charity, a clergyman of superior talents and unquestioned piety."

The late Archdeacon was a native of Berkshire, England. He was born in 1794. He took his degree of B. A. at Cambridge in 1816. In the year 1819 he was ordained by the Bishop of London. His first parochial charge was in Bermuda, where he filled a post of great importance. In 1825 he was appointed Archdeacon of Newfoundland; on the death of Archdeacon Best, he was, in 1830, appointed to fill his place as Archdeacon of New Brunswick.

The following is an extract from a letter by one of the late Archdeacon's daughters, Mrs. Edward B. Chandler:

My father was a gentleman of the old school. At Cambridge he took a high degree in classics and mathematics. As a churchman he was far in advance of the time. He was the first to introduce anything like strict adherence to the rules of the prayer book with reference to more frequent celebration of the holy communion, the offertory, holy days, and services in the week, and many other things now so common in the Church in America.

I can only tell what I know of my father in his social and home life. This he made happy by his many charming gifts of mind and manners, added to his holy and self-denying life. He was a terrible sufferer from asthma. Still he would not give up any service or duty, if it were possible for him to leave his bed. No one ever heard a word of complaint or saw him otherwise than patient, gentle and cheerful.... His father had been possessed of independent means. Subsequently the family met with great losses. This obliged strict economy, in order to give more than "the tenth of all," which my father said was the very least to be offered to the "Giver of all."

Any in need of advice or sympathy found ready admittance at the rectory. The poor made daily visits. There was always a welcome for the clergy. Although his heart was in his Master's work, his social qualities were charming. His refinement and keen sense of humour, with his gentle kindness, made him a most delightful companion to his family and friends.... When he was well enough he would join in the music, of which he was so fond, and he trained his whole family in Church music, and fitted one of his daughters to play the organ in the Church. In his garden he took great pleasure, and was interested in every tree and flower. But the hours happiest to the whole family were in the evening readings, with which nothing but unexpected duty interfered. His reading was perfect. The best plays of Shakespeare he knew by heart. No one enjoyed more the fun and wit of Dickens and Thackeray, or felt more deeply their beauty and pathos.... If ever a family had cause to give thanks to God for a father, we can do so for his holy life and blessed death.

The following note, written by the Bishop, is taken from the Annals of the Diocese:

January 8th, 1859. The venerable Archdeacon Coster departed this life after a short illness of barely one week. He presented the candidates for ordination on the 19th December at the Cathedral, and received the Lord's supper on the festival of St. John. After that, he never took part in any public services.

He was an accurate scholar and took especial pains in the examination of schools. His sermons were distinguished for conciseness and purity of style with considerable force of expression. In private life his courtesy of manner, and kindliness to the poor, were most noticeable, and whenever his frequent infirmities permitted, he was most punctual in the discharge of his public duties.... In many ways his loss will be much felt.

He was one of the chief founders and zealous promoters of the Diocesan Church Society, and always subscribed liberally to its funds.

For many years two brothers of the late Archdeacon filled important posts in the Diocese. Rev. Frederick Coster was a man of marked ability, a sound and well read theologian, and an accomplished musician. Tic was a keen controversialist, and was ready to adopt changes and improvements which at the time were not favourably regarded by many. He took the foremost part, with his brother, in the organization of the Diocesan Church Society, and was for many years its very efficient secretary. For his services in this and in many other ways the Church in New Brunswick owes a debt of gratitude to the Rev. Frederick Coster.

There was another brother, Rev. N. Allen Coster. For many years he was stationed in an important district in Newfoundland, where he endured many hardships in his Master's service. Rev. Allen Coster was successively rector of two important parishes in this Diocese. In common with his brother he held what were thought at the time advanced views with regard to the position and teaching of the Church. Thereby he met often with great opposition. As a preacher he was singularly impressive. Before his death he had lived down the opposition of previous years and had gained the respect and esteem of his people.

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