Project Canterbury

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 X. Report to S.P.G.--Extracts from Primary Charge--Visit to England in 1848--Visitation of Clergy in 1850--Address of the Clergy, and Bishop's Reply--Appointment of Rural Deans

FROM the first, the Bishop identified himself with his Diocese. He made no complaint of the difficulties by which he was beset. No doubt he felt most keenly the opposition and distrust he met; though with regard to it all, he held his peace, and took no notice of the attacks often made in the public press. He had taken up his work, and that work was for the Blessed Master whom he loved. At times he must have sadly yearned for so much that was dear to his heart in his early home. There he had the warmest friends--men of high position and culture. And yet it was on the occasion of his last visit to England he said, on his departure, "The happiest part of my visit will be, when I set my foot on the steamer for my return." He once said, "I would not exchange my own Diocese for any that could be offered me in England."

Here it may not be out of place to notice what the Bishop wrote at the time of his arrival as to the climate of New Brunswick.

"Beyond all question," he says, "it is a finer climate than that of England. It is undoubtedly hotter and colder. But neither the heat nor cold are so trying as they would be in England. ... I do not hesitate to say that the chilly, starving feeling of cold and wet together is almost unknown here. Our sunshine in winter is at least three to one compared with England; the bright sun giving a cheerful look to the snowy landscape.... The roads of general communication from town to town are very good; in the unsettled places they are what roads in woods and bye-places in England are, very bad; but, if men's hearts could be mended as fast as their roads, no one could complain of New Brunswick."

In writing to the S.P.G. in 1847, the Bishop states that already the number of the clergy had been increased from twenty-nine to thirty-three. Referring to the need of additional clergymen, and the state of the people in the neglected districts, he says: "It is surely our fault more than theirs that so many stray from the fold and are lost to the Great Shepherd altogether."

In the course of his two first visitations, the Bishop confirmed upwards of six hundred candidates, and was struck, he said, "with their serious and devout demeanour."

The first visitation of the clergy took place at the pro-Cathedral--the parish church at Fredericton--on the 24th of August, 1847. From the charge of the Bishop delivered on that occasion the following extracts are taken:

Our great business seems to me to be, to teach men not to study controversy, but to study holiness; to manifest their Christianity and their Churchmanship, not by hollow sounding words, but by solid and fruitful actions; and to confute or convince their real or supposed antagonists by a more virtuous and practical kind of religion, and by a humbler walk with God.

And if the remembrance of sins of omission weighed heavily on the dying moments of the profoundly learned, diligent, and heavenly-minded Archbishop Ussher, how painfully sensible ought we to be of our faults in this particular! Which of us can say that the theory of our Church in regard to pastoral duties has been, to the full, exemplified in our own practice? Where is the clergyman so deplorably ignorant, or so intolerably vain, as to imagine that his own life or labours are a perfect copy of the exhortation to Priests in the Ordination Service? How sad it is to reflect that some souls may have been led astray into heresy or schism, whom a kind word from us might have stayed; some blinded spirits have passed into eternity, whose blood may be required at our hands! How often have we been content with the ordinary routine of Sunday duty! How often has the ingratitude or churlishness of man paralyzed our exertions, and we have "persuaded men, and not God!" How often has the worldly spirit, which we deplore or censure in our flocks, crept in upon ourselves, and rendered all our discourses unimpressive and nugatory! We "watch for men's souls." "It will be work enough," says the holy Bishop Wilson, "for every man to give account of himself; but to stand charged, and be accountable for many others, who can think of it without trembling?" We can indeed easily preceive the evils which abound among our flocks; and we wonder that they listen to our discourses, and continue unimproved. But may not a counterpart of their sins be sometimes detected in ourselves? Do we not read and expound the Holy Scriptures to others without that stamp of reverend piety, that indubitable seal of holiness which impresses where it cannot persuade? If men saw in our order universally an entire self-denial, a fervent and unshrinking zeal, a thorough love for the ordinances and discipline of our Church, and a perfect union of mind and action, could they remain so worldly, so self-indulgent, so disunited as they are? If all the bishops and clergy of our Church were "perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment," and if that mind were "the mind of Christ," we should have more hearts with us, and our adversaries would have less power. The disorderly spirits among the multitude appeal to similar passions raging among ourselves; and while we creep and grovel on earth, we fail to "point to heaven, and lead the way."

Our reformation then must begin at home. To cure our flocks of schism we must heal our own disorders. We must banish that frightful party spirit, that minute exclusiveness, which refuses the hand of fellowship to those who have signed the same articles, own the same creeds, and are built on the same foundation with ourselves. The odious cries of High-Churchman and Low-Churchman, with other more offensive names, must not be heard in our mouths, lest our own weapons be turned against ourselves. We should take our tone of doctrine and practice, not from low interested writers, but, next to the pure fountain of Scripture, from the manly expositions of the master-spirits of the English Church. There must be about ourselves that genuine heartiness, that honest simplicity which no man can mistake, and which will persuade more forcibly than the most elegant diction, the most impressive delivery...It may sound strange in your ears, yet I feel it necessary to say it, be not ashamed to be real men; to state distinctly, though with sobriety and respect for others, your acknowledged convictions, and to set your seal to-what you believe to be true; and let mendax infamia do its worst.

No man, indeed, gains much, even in the opinion of the world, from a cowardly shrinking from the cross, which the profession and practices of the gospel impose. Though he may not be attacked with public and open slander, he will be met with the wink of contemptuous reproach, as one well known to be sailing in the same boat, only to be a little more sly.

Remember that if public characters are public property, much more should public accusers be public characters, or rather real characters. Shun, therefore, as a moral contamination, the ignominy of anonymous censure; nay, it might be better generally to avoid the risk of anonymous defence. For you may sometimes wound when you only mean to uphold.

But to return to our own practical duties. The first to which I desire especially to call your attention, is that of public prayer. I have observed with regret that the churches in this Diocese are seldom open during the week for prayer. Now, without wishing to-press upon you duties which you might feel unequal to perform, it appears to me that there are few places in the Diocese (none where any number of parishioners reside) in which prayers on the Litany days at least, and in many cases oftener, might not conveniently and most profitably be made.

The state of the Church and of the world demands more frequent intercession. The very life of the Church hangs upon it. Our people require it, and would in many instances be refreshed and comforted by it. The objection that few would attend is met at once by the fact that our Lord's promise is given not to the many but to the few: that the all-seeing presence of God should be our great inducement and reward: and that the prayers of two or three would not continue without a blessing. Not to say that others would probably by degrees be found to add to the "little flock;" and, if I must name a more humiliating reason, that we are almost the only body of Christians in the Province whose churches are shut up from one Lord's day to another. Let me hope that those who have for some time past continued this good practice will soon be no longer the exceptions, but that the rule will generally be observed among us. No idle distinctions of party can be a reason for the omission of prayer and intercession. A custom enjoined in Scripture, sanctioned by our Saviour, followed by His apostles, and for which ample provision is made by our Church, requires no recommendation from me, the most unworthy of its servants.

"Preach the word," is the eternal command; and what must be done in obedience to God ought to be done in the best possible manner. One of the great faults commonly found with sermons is, that they are dull. Preachers do not sufficiently study variety and copiousness of information. They "bring" not "forth out of their treasures things new and old." Either they dwell on single points of doctrine in every sermon, in almost the self-same words, or confine themselves to the same round of moral duties, or preach about nothing but the Church, or else they never mention it. If we take the Scripture for our guide in preaching, we shall find it otherwise. Continual variety is found in the Word of God. History and exhortation, precept and parable, sententious proverbs, simple narratives, holy and comforting doctrines, supported by weighty arguments, and followed by practical exhortations, are interspersed in rapid succession in its sacred pages. I would advise my younger brethren not to confine themselves to single trite texts, divided into three regular parts, with the same kind of conclusion for all. It is useful often to expound a longer passage of scripture, as, for instance, a Parable, a Psalm, or one of the Gospels or Epistles of the day; and by following in the wake of the Church throughout the year, we are sure to obtain a variety of useful and interesting subjects. Thus the lives of the Saints, the sayings of our Saviour, the Christian application of the Jewish Psalms, the principal events in our Lord's life, the prophecies of His first, the signs of His second advent, the doctrines and duties contained in the Creed and the Commandments, Prayer and the Sacraments, the nature, constitution, and progress of the Church, will all in their turn furnish matter for instruction. Decies repetita placebit.

The style of preaching is, in its degree, of as much importance as the matter. My meaning on this head cannot be so well expressed as in the words of Archbishop Secker. "The concern of a parish minister," says the Archbishop, "is, to make the lowest of his congregation apprehend the doctrine of salvation by repentance, faith and obedience, and to labour, that, when they know the way of life, they may walk in it. Smooth discourses, composed partly in fine words which they do not understand, partly in flowing sentences which they cannot follow to the end, leave them as ignorant and unreformed as ever, and lull them into a fatal security. Your expressions may be very common, without being low; yet employ the lowest, provided they are not ridiculous, rather than not be understood. Let your sentences and the parts of them be short where you can. Avoid rusticity and grossness in your style; yet be not too fond of smooth, and soft, and flowing language, but study to be nervous and expressive; and bear the censure of being unpolished, rather than uninfluencing."

Let us remember that, though we have truth, we have not numbers on our side in this Province: it becomes us, therefore, to be "modest and humble in our ministration," not speaking of other bodies of Christians with a bitterness which will do us no good, and the Church all possible harm; but letting them see that we respect their zeal and honour their piety, though we believe our own system to be truer and more effectual for good. Hasty anathemas and execrations upon those who cling to the faith of their parents or ancestors, are neither worthy of the Christian minister, nor serviceable to him. The anathema is a two edged sword, a weapon only to be wielded by an apostle or a council; and if the weight of ecclesiastical censure is to fall upon any, it should rather be upon the notorious profligate, drunkard, or worshipper of mammon, within our own body, than on, as we deem them, mistaken, but sincere and zealous persons without it.

As regards ourselves, one thing seems certain, that, humanly speaking, very much more than we seem to imagine depends on the energy and truthfulness of the Churchmen of this Province, even in this generation. England may dole out to us her money, but our real strength and prosperity must come from within. If we are disposed to tamper with religion, to deal with it as if it were a system of traffic,--as if we neither realized nor believed the doctrines of our Church, nor were desirous of practising the duties which it enjoins, and only cared to find all manner of fault with everything which earnest-minded men are doing, then I see not what good can come of it. Hollow hearts and sinful lives will make a Church that is rotten at the core, and "whose breaking cometh suddenly, at an instant." Then it had been better a Bishop had never been sent out: nay, far better that those who thus deal with the Church had never been born. But if our hearts be true, and our eyes single, we shall not suffer from our present poverty; we shall grow and increase. Then it will be said of us, "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, but thou art rich: fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Alas! who can look on all that is passing around us, on the unknown future, and on the fearful alternative, without fear and trembling? "O Lord, revive Thy work in the midst of the years: in wrath remember mercy."

I have now brought before you such thoughts on the duties of a Christian pastor as have appeared to me to be both necessary and profitable at this time. And though I am sensible how unworthy they are of the great subject, how inadequate even to express my own deep and growing convictions, I feel assured, and I trust that you also are persuaded, that such a course is far preferable to engaging in the mazes of interminable dispute. I am sick at heart of controversy on trifles; and on great points your minds as well as mine are, I hope, made up. I see that those who delight to agitate and inflame the public mind on disputed questions, neither grow in grace, nor benefit their fellow-creatures, and only hinder the good which others attempt to do. If there are any who affect to believe that I am not sincerely labouring to do the work of the Church of England in this Province, but that I have other designs in the back-ground, they are welcome to their opinion. I have accepted an office which nothing but a desire to work for the Church of England would have induced me to accept, and which, if it were not from the same paramount considerations of duty and affection, I would not retain one hour. But if what is done does not move men to take a more liberal and charitable view, nothing that is said will effect it. We shall soon stand before another tribunal, where it will be impossible any longer to conceal names, motives, and actions.

To you, my reverend brethren, I may speak in another manner. I claim your indulgence both on the present occasion and on all others, for inadvertencies and negligences, from which the most diligent and persevering are not wholly exempt. The same indulgence I am prepared to extend to others: but this must not be mistaken for a corrupt allowance of sin, a blind indifference to clerical misconduct. Such instances it is my bounden duty not to overlook: it is due to my office, to your own respectability, it is necessary for the maintenance of the Church in its integrity, that discipline should be enforced. A church whose pastors preach what they do not endeavour to practice, and who records on paper what she does not aim to perform, is a pretended truth, and a real lie: rejected by God, and despised by men.

In the great duty of maintaining the doctrines, and upholding the discipline of the Prayer Book, wo shall all, I hope, be united: and if our union in these vital matters be sincere, the differences which in so wide a range of thought must occur, will be of lesser moment. Let us learn to act together: mutually to confer, mutually to instruct and comfort each other. Though additions have been made to our number, we are even now a small, and for the work we have to perform, an insufficient body. But our actions are not the less keenly watched, and carefully noted down. It becomes us a therefore to be tolerant on matters of speculative opinion; and in if action to be prompt, compact, and united. Our influence then will be felt: and even our opinions cannot safely be disregarded.

Especially let us seek to win the affections, as well as to conciliate the respect of our lay brethren. They are equally with ourselves, members of Christ's body, though not placed in the same peculiar relation to our common Head, and are at all times most valuable co-operators in every work of Christian charity. To some of them no thanks that we can pay are too great for the services they have already rendered to the Church, for the cheerfulness with which: they have been given, with a happy mixture of discretion and of zeal.

May a far larger number imitate their good example: and if I am not permitted to see it, may some worthier Bishop be gladdened with the sight of a numerous, exemplary, and united clergy, earnestly labouring with unwearied zeal to promote the temporal and spiritual well-being of flocks who more than recompense their pious toil by an affectionate respect, a heavenly conversation and a faith that "worketh by love."

The foregoing lengthened extracts from the Bishop's primary charge will be read and valued for their intrinsic worth. They are given here to show the sort of guidance he sought to extend to the clergy in the early days of his episcopate. From that sound Catholic teaching it will be seen he never varied.

Four of the Bishop's charges (1853-1862) were published in 1863, by the Rev. E.G. Woolcombe, Balliol College, Oxford, with interesting notes and an account of the Cathedral, Fredericton. A number of copies were sent the Bishop for the use of his clergy and friends in the Diocese. These he never distributed, assigning as a reason that he considered the preface too laudatory. The remarks of Mr. Woolcombe, from which the Bishop's natural humility shrank, were these:

I was anxious to bring, if possible, into wider circulation, in the cheapest form, the weighty teaching, at once so primitive, and so peculiarly suited to our own needs, of a Bishop, who even among the many admirable men who are guiding and governing the Church in our colonies holds a foremost place.

It would be unbecoming in me to praise these Charges; but it would be, I believe, most unnecessary also. There is a manly vigour, a firm grasp of the whole body of Truth, a courage and yet a gentleness in stating it, above all a deep, holy earnestness in every word, which is singularly winning, wonderfully refreshing.

I remember well how in troublous times, when the Church at home was suffering the loss of some of her noblest sons, our spirits were cheered once and again by the consecration of true-hearted men to the posts of chiefest danger and difficulty in the Church's warfare; at present we are again in the midst of controversies, and I would fain call the attention of my younger brethren in the ministry, and of candidates for holy orders, to the brave and bold, but still more to the loving, fervent words, of one who is indeed a Father in God.

Bishop Medley, of Fredericton, very remarkably combines the gifts of a real theologian and a devoted pastor with practical skill in architecture and music, in a way which we supposed belonged only to the prelates of a far distant age of the Church; but, besides, he is a noble self-sacrificing leader, where difficulties are great, and the fellow-soldiers are few. May young hearts be kindled by such an example, and may we who are older take fresh courage, when we trace the work of such a standard-bearer in our battles.

It was at the first visitation of the clergy, in 1847, that the Diocese was sub-divided into seven deaneries. Seven rural deans were chosen by the clergy, and their election was confirmed by the Bishop. Instructions for the guidance of the deans were given by the Bishop. At each triennial visitation, to the present day, the like election and confirmation has taken place. The instructions then given and recorded in the Annals of the Diocese are still in force. This arrangement has been found of benefit in many ways, and has been the means of material assistance to the Bishop in the affairs of the Diocese.

On the 17th March, 1848, the Bishop, accompanied by his family, left for England. He remained in England till September 2nd, endeavouring to procure funds for his Cathedral, candidates for holy orders, funds for a travelling missionary, and books for the Cathedral library. He succeeded partially in all these objects. Two thousand pounds were subscribed for the Cathedral, the S. P. C. K. also voted £1,000; £50 a year for five years were granted for a travelling missionary, and £300 a year additional for missionary efforts by the S.P.G. The University of Oxford gave £100 for the Cathedral library; and benevolent individuals gave the Anglo-Catholic Library, and Library of the Fathers, making in all about six hundred volumes. The Bishop also procured a small organ for St. Anne's Chapel.

In a letter on his leaving England, addressed to the secretary of the S.P.G., the Bishop says:

. . Were our Church become reprobate, or a castaway, the blessed fruits of the spirit would not abound, love and joy would not utter their glad voices throughout our borders; we should not be enlarged everywhere, and be the heralds of mercy to the uttermost parts of the earth. I am not blind to the sad, sad tokens of our unfruitfulness, our backslidings, or national guilt, but the greatest sin of all is despair of the mercy of God.

Oh, let English churchmen pray for an increase of this true spirit among all sincere persons, though they be of different views; let them give up hard thoughts of each other and all will yet be well; let them not be so anxious to pull down what is erroneous, as to build up what is true. Love, victorious love, will win the day at last.

...After a three years' absence, I see more earnestness and reverence in the English Church than when I left for America, and I do not see that those who have gone out from us have improved their position or their usefulness.......

I shall return to my Diocese benefitted in many ways; personally cheered by sympathy amidst severe and unexpected trials, and assisted by men and means.

On his return to the Diocese, the Bishop proceeded at once on a long visitation tour.

The second visitation of the clergy was held at Fredericton on the Festival of St. Barnabas, 1850. At the close of the proceedings, on the morning after the delivery of the charge, the following address was presented to the Bishop:

We, the clergy of your Diocese, feel that we ought not to return to our several homes without having first tendered to your Lordship our grateful acknowledgement of the paternal kindness which has marked all your intercourse with, and proceedings towards us, during this visitation.

Having seen with admiration your unwearied labours for the promotion of the general interest of the Church throughout the Diocese, we rejoice in believing that, by the blessing of the Almighty, they have been productive of valuable fruit, and that in a time of considerable trouble and difficulty, we have been making progress in the right direction.

We shall return home cheered and animated for our holy work by the solemn services in which we have been engaged together, and shall endeavour to turn to profit the wise counsel we have received; and your Lordship may rest assured that no difference of opinion which may exist among us will be allowed to prevent us from co-operating faithfully and earnestly, one and all, with him who is set over us in the Lord, and with each other, for extending the knowledge of divine truth and the practice of righteousness among the people.

On behalf of the clergy of the Diocese of Fredericton.

GEORGE COSTER, Archdeacon.

To this address the Bishop made the following reply:

The affectionate and cordial address which you have presented to me, signed by yourself on behalf of the clergy, I receive, I need not say, with pleasure and gratitude.

I rejoice to find that my imperfect endeavours have been so far successful as to be appreciated by you; for though, next to my own salvation, the welfare of this Diocese is nearest my heart, I know that I can only be useful when I work with you, as well as preside over you in the spirit of love and in obedience to the laws of God, and to the rules of His church, and when you, in the same spirit, work with me.

The present visitation has been happily marked by general harmony, by a delightful interchange of good offices, and what is of more importance, by solemn acts of Christian communion between ourselves and our lay brethren, to whom we owe our warmest thanks for the readiness which they have manifested in entertaining us, not as strangers, but as brethren, and "in bringing us forward on our journey after a godly sort."

Let this heavenly communion go with us to our homes! If any words of mine have been of service to you, if I have been, by the help of God, able to preserve charity and good feeling towards them, who in any point differ from me, I give God thanks; being, at the same time fully conscious that your words instruct me what I ought to be, rather than what I am.

Earnestly soliciting your daily prayers, and commending you and your labours to the blessing of our Lord.


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