Chapter XIX. Illness and Death of Rev. Canon Medley--The Bishop and the late Rev. George M. Armstrong
ON the Bishop's arrival in the Province in 1845, his family consisted of four sons and one daughter; the latter a lovely woman, afterwards the wife of an officer in the army. Three of the sons took holy orders, two of whom are now engaged in ministerial work in England. Spencer, the third son, became an officer in the navy, and afterwards resided in New Zealand, where he died January 30th, 1893.
Charles, the second son, remained in New Brunswick. For a while he was sub-dean at the Cathedral, and, at the time of his decease, rector of the large and important parish of Sussex. He was a most devoted missionary, singularly attractive in his demeanour, zealous and untiring in the arduous work connected with his charge. As his father's chaplain, he was in attendance on all public occasions. For several years he was secretary of the Synod, and he performed his duties to the perfect satisfaction of both the clergy and laity.
As was mentioned above, he accompanied his father on his last visit to England. On his return he seemed in good health, ready to resume his work with renewed strength. Soon after this, came the terrible announcement that he was suffering from cancer of the throat. It was a case very similar to that of the late Emperor of Germany, and strange to say, there was a startling resemblance in the personal appearance of the sufferers.
A life of exceeding usefulness was brought to a close on the 25th of August, 1889, after a lengthened period of acute suffering. The bright example of patient endurance and cheerful fortitude, has made up, in some degree, for such a loss to the Church in the Diocese, throughout which he was so deeply mourned.
To the Bishop this was a terrible blow, yet it was borne with complete submission to the Divine will.
We subjoin the notice "In Memoriam," written soon after the time referred to, by the Rev. Canon DeVeber, rector of the Parish of St. Paul, St. John:
It seems but yesterday that we stood by the grave of our dear brother, Canon Medley, "sorrowing most of all that we should see his face no more." Two months have passed away, and the sense of our great loss is as keen and fresh as ever; our thankfulness for the enjoyment of his friendship; our appreciation of his useful life; our sorrow on account of his sufferings; our hope of his blessed rest in Paradise daily grow deeper and stronger. It was good for us to be there. It is good now to cherish the thoughts forever associated with that day and place.
Some, very few indeed among us, may perchance be able to recall pleasant memories of his bright and sunny childhood in the dear land of his birth. Others learned to love the genial youth as he grew in wisdom and stature, and the warm-hearted friendship of early days waned not as the stream of life flowed swiftly onwards. Most of us knew him best, when, after a well-spent youth and diligent preparation of mind and heart, he received from the hands of his Bishop, his Father in God and his father after the flesh, authority to serve in the priestly office in the Church of the Living God. Happy father! Thrice happy son! Prayers answered, faith rewarded, hopes realized, blessings abundantly poured out on the longing soul, gratitude too deep for utterance welling up in both hearts alike. Nor were the expectations of those happy days-doomed, as, alas! too often happens, to end in disappointment. Thirty years of faithful service, thirty years of devotion to his Divine Master and labour for his Church proved the fidelity of the son and rewarded the faith of the father. In the Parish of Douglas, where he won the hearts of the country folk by his kindness and warm interest in all that concerned their welfare, temporal and spiritual; in the City of Fredericton, where the services of the noble Cathedral, erected by the untiring energy of his father, afforded scope for the exercise of those musical gifts, with which he was so largely endowed; in Newfoundland, where his self-sacrificing love for the souls of the poor of Christ's flock imperilled his life and left him for awhile a wreck of his former self; in Sussex and Studholm, where he spent the last twenty years of his life in abundant labours for the good of the souls committed to his care; in each of these several spheres of duty, to which he was called in the good Providence of God, he proved himself "an able Minister of the New Testament," a faithful son of the Church of England, and a wise and loving Pastor of souls. All his gifts, and they were of no ordinary kind, were consecrated to Christ and His Church, never employed for his own self-advancement. Generous, affectionate, sympathetic, his ear was open to every tale of woe, and his hand outstretched for the relief of the needy and distressed. No presence so welcome as his in time of rejoicing, no voice more consoling in the hour of sorrow and bereavement. How well remembered will be his ministrations in the House of God. How grave and solemn his demeanour, how plain, earnest and forcible, how interesting and instructive were his sermons, his rich melodious voice lending a peculiar charm to all he said. In the celebration of the Divine Mysteries, and in all the offices of religion, the deepest reverence marked his every action, as became a faithful Priest in the Temple of the Most High God. His refined taste in music and architecture gave him a singular advantage in building churches and in elevating the character of Divine worship, not only in his own parish, but throughout the Deanery of Kingston. That such an one should be personally popular with the clergy of all schools of thought, and that he should have received marks of his Diocesan's favour, and his brethren's affection and confidence, cannot, surely, awaken any surprise. The unanimous choice of the clergy, he filled the office of Rural Dean of Kingston for many years with no less credit to himself than advantage to the Deanery. Mainly owing to his wise and able administration the Deanery has attained a degree of efficiency which is not surpassed, if, indeed, it be equalled by any other. Selected from among the clergy by the unanimous voice of clergy and laity in synod assembled, he always discharged the duties of secretary with equal ability and courtesy. It is not easy to estimate the loss sustained by the Parish of Sussex and the Deanery of Kingston, by the Synod and the Church in the Diocese by his death.
Gone hence to be no more seen. Gone to his rest after long days and weary nights of pain and agony. Gone to the Master, whom he loved so well and served so faithfully, who visited with heavenly consolation his long tried soul, and enabled him to bear the heavy cross of affliction with meek submission like unto Himself in the day of His own unspeakable agony. Cut off in the midst of a life fruitful in good works; called to lay down the weapons of his warfare while still longing to fight manfully under the banner of his Heavenly King; summoned home from the field while the sun was yet high in the heavens, and so much work remained to be done and so few labourers to do it. Be it so. To no ignoble rest was he bidden. The faithful no doubt serve their Master in Paradise no less than on earth. Not theirs indeed the toil of slaves, but the loyal and loving service of freemen. Let such considerations as these comfort our souls touching him who has gone from us. He has been graciously called away to another portion of his Master's Vineyard. His works abide with us. The sower went forth sowing good seed, oftimes weeping as he went onwards. The seed grows though he is absent. The Great Husbandman will make it fruitful, watering it with the dew of His grace, and nourishing it with the sunshine of His love. Not only in church and cottage, by the side of sick beds, and in chambers of sorrow and mourning did our brother sow the seed of Divine instruction and heavenly consolation. Upon his own bed of agony he taught us all such lessons of humble resignation and undoubting trust, of courageous endurance and all embracing charity, as, we fervently pray, may be ever engraven upon our stricken hearts. Though his ear could no longer hear the voices of dear friends ever welcome, and the tongue had lost its power to give utterance to the feelings of the heart, the soul could still breathe its fervent supplications and its thankful praise into the ear of his Most Merciful Creator and Redeemer, to whom he committed his spirit in sure and certain hope of a blessed resurrection. And now he waits in Paradise for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
On the 12th October following, the Rev. George M. Armstrong, rector of St. Mark, St. John, was called to his rest. His parish was among the most important in the Diocese. Mr. Armstrong was a man of much ability, earnest and constant in his Master's service, and of sincere piety. For many years he was regarded as the leader of what is known as the Low Church school; and he was certainly an excellent type of that evangelical party to which the Church, in days past, was so deeply indebted. At one time he was strongly opposed to the Bishop. From a stern sense of duty, as he deemed it, he felt called on to speak his mind plainly, though he was never known to encourage fractious opposition in the Church Society or Synod.
The Bishop, on one occasion, had preached in St. John's church. After the service, in the vestry, Mr. Armstrong went so far as to say to the Bishop that "he had not preached Christ." This rebuke was received without anger or feeling of resentment. The Bishop explained the subject of his sermon with the greatest kindness and humility, and expressed a hope that the charge was unfounded. This incident, with what afterwards occurred, produced in Mr. Armstrong's mind a truer appreciation of the Bishop. With deep sadness of heart, he previously had been inclined to consider that all true and vital religion was confined to those who held his views. Now he was thankful to find out that he had been mistaken. In his own practice, and in his own theological opinions, he himself remained unchanged to the last; but he afterwards became one of the most steadfast and devoted friends of the Bishop. There was between the two a mutual feeling of respect and regard. The Bishop, more than once, spoke of Mr. Armstrong as among the most respectful and attentive of his clergy. During his absence in England, in 1878, he acted as the Bishop's commissary.
While suffering from a long and trying illness, Mr. Armstrong received from the Bishop many tokens of sympathy and affection. On his death, the Bishop, though at a considerable distance and in enfeebled health, attended the funeral, and pronounced the benediction.