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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 XXII. Private Letters--Last Extract from the Annals--Pastoral Letter--Notes by Mrs. Medley--Illness and Death

THE following letters, written by the Bishop to a dear relative in England, have been placed at the disposal of the author. They exhibit another phase of his life and character. Some of the letters were written at an early period. The date of the last comes nearly to the close of his life:

FREDERICTON, March 30, 1871.

H------was so kind as to write to me a long letter, which I value very much, containing many particulars of your dear husband's death, and of the gratifying tokens of esteem and affection, which were shown by his parishioners.

I need not assure you of our grief at the loss of one so dear to us. His departure recalls many of the happiest and the saddest memories of my life,--the happiest and the saddest reminding me alike of him, who was always a friend, and for so long a time, a brother. Our last visit to you is as fresh in our remembrance, as if it had occurred yesterday, and we constantly picture him to our minds, as he sat at the table, and was the life and joy of the whole party.

I was spared what has proved so dreadful a trial to you--'the sight of his sufferings for so long a time, but I have not been permitted to witness his faith and resignation. Accept, however, our truest love and sympathy, and believe that we shall always think of you, with the heartiest affection.

'I was rejoiced to hear of H-----'s plan, and trust it will be a great help to you to share and promote his usefulness. ....

If you have any photo which you could spare, taken since we were in England, we should value it very much indeed.

I am delighted with the idea of restoring the old cross. I have "written to H------, but could not let the mail go without a few lines to yourself assuring you of our sympathy.

FREDERICTON, Nov. 12,1879.

My Dear--------:

It is always a great pleasure to get a letter from you, even when it is less quizzical than usual. I am glad you approve of the outward appearance of "Job," and I think you will agree with me that the printing is very clear and creditable to a Colonial establishment.

I hope also that you may like the matter as well as the manner, and find some instruction therein. It cost me a great deal of labour and my recompense will he to find some people, at all events, profited by it. The bookseller undertook the expense at his own risk. I sent H------a copy.

I do not know whether Mr.------told you that our Synod determined, by an immense majority of 102 to 20, to let me nominate a Coadjutor, when I desired it, who is to have the right of succession. As I shall be 75 December 19th (if I live) it begins to be time to get a little help, as well as to look out for the future.

It is astonishing how many of my contemporaries I have outlived, and how many juniors to myself are gathered to their rest. Every year adds to the number.

I had a long and laborious visitation this year, driving one day in a pitiless storm of rain 46 miles to keep an appointment, but I stood it pretty well, except that on my return I had a lame knee (I believe from fatigue), which has kept me rather lame for a month. It is now much better, and I hope will soon be well...

We were very much interested in the visit of the Governor General and the Princess Louise. She went to the Cathedral. M-- and I showed her everything that was to be seen, and she took a most intelligent and appreciative interest in everything, even to our various beautiful altar-cloths, which she admired very much, and was quite knowing as to the different kinds of work. She was highly complimentary, so I hear, to M------, which, of course, I think was deserved.

Since her visit we have put in two new windows, by Clayton & Bell, and very charming they are--quite enriching the west end of each aisle--three-light windows.

I have to thank you very much for your very clear and pleasant group in a photo, which arrived uninjured. The photo of yourself is very good, but hardly looks as amiable as when I saw you last.

M------looks much older than I fancied him, but I think I saw him last in 1865--a prodigious interval, during which his hair has fallen off greatly. He looks less fierce than some of the others. I thought the boy looked as if he were just going to learn a hard lesson in Virgil or the Greek Delectus. But it is pleasant to think that no photo can prevent his smiles and pleasant looks over a plum pudding or gooseberry pie, or still more over a Christmas present from grandmamma.

We have been new-shingling our house this summer, i. e., covering the roof with wooden tiles, as is the universal custom here, as slates are seldom used. M------superintended all the work, while I was on a visitation.

I forgot to say that we were especially delighted with the extreme simplicity, as well as with the gracious manner of the Princess.

M------, who is a good deal of a radical, was quite won over, and I have not heard her talk radicalism since.

FREDERICTON, Dec. 9th, 1887. My Dear---------:

I was hoping that you would kindly remember my birth-day, the 18th of this month, when you anticipated the day, and sent us both some mementos of the time. I ought to, be and I hope am, thankful for God's wonderful mercies to me, for I have enjoyed excellent health since my last birth-day, when I was 82, and now I have only nine days more to be thankful for 83.

I think every day of my life, of our old life at Truro--of your coming to see us, when our life was unbroken--when we all sat down on the green sward overlooking the long Ship's Lighthouse at the Land's End--of our going to St. Just four miles from Sennen, and going down the mine, and hearing the roll of the waves over our heads--of our trip to Falmouth harbour--of your temporary sojourn at Probus--of the great re-union at Kenwyn in 1836, of uncle S----'s sudden appearance and the text he preached from at Kenwyn church, "She was a Widow," and then, the breaking up of the family party,--last, but not least, of the Vicarage at Saxmundham.... The world seems to roll on faster and faster than ever.

It is a great pleasure to hear from you, of your son's well being and well doing.

When one remembers the entrance into the next world, and of what is going on there everything that is past seems invested with a peculiar awe. I recollect what you cannot--my life at Southleigh, where the first days of my ministry were spent. How vividly is that picture before me, as if it were only yesterday,--names and doings as if they were just being done, and of how many I can say, "They are all gone into the world of light and I alone left lingering here,"--surely "Man walketh in a vain Shadow."

I dream of coming home next summer to the Lambeth Conference, but I do not know whether I shall accomplish it. I long to see the dear faces again of such as are left, but most are gone.

I need not say what pleasure we had in J------'s too brief visit.

He was in high spirits, and was very stout and very rosy. I accompanied him and C--to Sussex Rectory and we spent three happy days there, and then the parting came. ......

Dear M------ is much better. She had a long and very painful illness,--prostration of the nervous system, with feverish nights, which reduced her strength; but she now walks briskly about as usual.

I was much amused with M--'s poetry.

What a state Ireland is in! Will it ever end?

The following letter refers to one of the greatest sorrows the Bishop experienced in his entire life, and which we have already referred to; viz., the death of his beloved son, Canon Medley:

FREDERICTON, Aug. 24th, 1889.

My Dear---------:

It is, as you said in your letter to M-----------, just a year since our most happy meeting, and our uncertain parting, but not then clouded over by "one being taken and the other left," and saddest of all the one left is the oldest, the one taken one of the youngest of the party. How truly awful is the uncertainty of life, of sickness and of death! He whose health seemed so needful to be a prop and solace to the aged now called away and his assistance gone. His disease too, just what we should not have chosen; so very painful, yet on that account calculated to show forth his Christian faith, courage, patience and humility; but to those who stand by him, most certain to try their faith and to wonder why God hath done this?

The work of purification is no trifling sorrow: It is to us who witness it, "the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning."

Dear C--! I saw him last Monday struggling for breath, and scarcely able to swallow, next Monday (the 26th) I know not whether I shall find him living. Many prayers are offered for him and all are needed.

I thank you very much for your kind and loving sympathy....

I think the end cannot be far off. May God pardon and strengthen us and grant us His peace.

The Annals of the Diocese from which the extracts in this volume have been taken, with the exception of the first four pages, are in the Bishop's own writing.

At the close of the year 1889 we find the following notes in a tremulous hand:

This year passed amidst much sickness and sorrow, upheld by the Divine Helper and brought safely through. For which all praise be to God. Amen.

The year following he again writes:

This year, 1890, sickness continued, and the Bishop was obliged to delegate a good deal of the hard work of the Diocese to the Coadjutor, who took it up willingly and kindly. The Bishop continued to preach in the Cathedral on Sunday evenings, and took part in all the festival services and daily prayers.

During the year the Bishop's strength was in some measure restored. He administered the rite of confirmation to a large number in the Cathedral on the 31st March, and in the month following confirmed at several of the churches in St. John, and preached on several occasions.

He was again in St. John in June. On the festival of St. Barnabas he writes in the Annals:
The Bishop consecrated the church of the Good Shepherd at Fairville. ... In the evening the Bishop attended a meeting of the Board of Home Missions. This day 45 years ago the Bishop was installed in the Cathedral at Fredericton.

From St. John he went to Sussex on the 18th June and attended a service connected with the Choral Union of the Deanery of Kingston. The Bishop remarks:

It was well and reverently performed. On Friday he went to the grave of his dear son.
'In the following August the Bishop left Fredericton for Chatham. He remained a few days at Bushville, the residence of the Honourable Judge Wilkinson. There he administered the rite of confirmation at the parish church, and consecrated a church. On his return he confirmed four persons at Moncton, on the 17th August, and preached in the evening.

The record continues:

Sept. 9th. The Bishop left home for Woodstock and Grand Falls. On Thursday he visited New Denmark, where he confirmed twenty. Holy Communion was celebrated and ninety-eight communicated. The congregation amounted to about two hundred,--all Danes. Canon Neales, who had accompanied the Bishop, assisted at Holy Communion, with the Rev. Mr. Hansen, who hospitably entertained us. Afterwards on Friday, the 12th, the Bishop and Canon Neales returned to Woodstock, after an Evening Service had been held at Grand Falls.

On Sunday, the 14th, the Bishop confirmed twenty-seven persons at Woodstock and preached in the evening..... On Saturday, the 13th, the sad tidings reached Canon Neales of the death of his brother, the Rev. W. S. Neales, who had several years since been obliged to leave New Brunswick, on account of ill health. He resided in California, officiating for some years in San Francisco, where he was universally esteemed and beloved. He held the benefice of St. Paul's there, and was Secretary to the Synod in California. ..........

1891, July 21. On Tuesday, the Bishop left home for St. Andrews. He confirmed on the 5th August, twenty-four in All Saints Church.

On the 25th August, he left home intending to go to Sussex and Dorchester. He was laid up a week at Sussex, and was obliged to return to Fredericton on Saturday, the 29th.

The foregoing notes were made in the Bishop's own hand, and the following is his last record in the Annals of the Diocese:

1892. The Bishop issued a short Pastoral referring to his inability to continue the hard work of the Diocese.


BISHOPSCOTE, Feb. 23rd, 1892. My Dear Brethren:

You are aware that some years since I thought it prudent, in view of a possible failure of health and strength on my part, to obtain the assistance of a Coadjutor, in order that the work of the Diocese might not be impeded. It has pleased God to take from me some portion of the strength which then remained, and I feel no longer able to undertake the laborious journeys which, up to a later period, God gave me strength to perform. Painful as it is for me to abridge any part of my former duty, I am obliged at the age of eighty-seven, to ask you to consult with the Coadjutor as to any confirmations for the coming year, and as to the administrative work of the Diocese in general, reserving to myself such work as is practicable for a man in my present condition. You will, I feel assured, not set this down to any want of affection or earnestness on my part, and will help me with your kind words and earnest prayers, that what remains of my life may be spent to the glory of God and the good of the Church over which the Lord hath made me an overseer.

Praying for a blessing on what has been done, and what remains to be done, I remain

Your faithful and affectionate friend,



For the following account of the closing scenes in the Bishop's life, we are indebted to Mrs. Medley:

The Bishop's health and strength never recovered the blow of his dear son Canon Medley's painful death.

The heart's action became weak, and he was subject to attacks of faintness.

During the winter of 1891-2, he suffered much from neuralgic pain in the hand injured by a fall, but was able to take part in the daily service at the Cathedral, and to preach almost every Sunday evening. He appeared so well in July that he attended the meeting of the Synod in St. John. He opened it in person and was cheered by the clergy and lay delegates on taking his accustomed seat: they were so heartily glad to see him, and, as one remarked, "thought it so plucky of the old Bishop to be present."

He attended all the services in connection with the session, and specially enjoyed the Choral Evensong at Trinity, saying "he had never expected to witness three surpliced choirs taking part in a. service in St. John!"

During his stay amongst them, the city clergy showed him much kind attention, of which he spoke most gratefully. On Sunday, July 17, he preached for his dear old friend, Canon DeVeber, at St. Paul's, and this was the last sermon.

During the week he went to Sussex, to visit once more his son's, beautiful churches, and his grave.

Kneeling at the foot of it, "his white head bowed and bare," he had a short service. The 86th Psalm, 1 Thess. iv., collects from the Burial office and for "All Saints Day," and Hymn 428--"The Saints of God." He then went to the Church, but seemed unusually feeble and depressed, scarcely speaking all the evening.

Next day he drove to Studholm Church, and to see the "Medley Memorial Hall," recently built, with which he was much pleased, and in the evening went back to St. John.

On his return to Fredericton the weather was extremely hot, and quickly prostrated him. It fell on the heart, still further lowering its action, and on the nervous system. He had sleepless nights and faint, feeble days, and in six weeks was worn out, and calmly and peacefully entered into rest--"The rest that remaineth for the people of God."

During his illness the Psalms, especially the Penitential ones, were his constant solace and support. On the Sunday before his death he asked for the xxvii. of St. Matt., the chapter which Bishop Juxon relates gave such strength and comfort to King Charles I. on the morning of his martyrdom. It was read to him at intervals through the day. The crucifixion made his tears flow, he said, "I never knew what He suffered for me till now."

He left messages to all his friends and to the clergy, repeating again and again, "Tell them my heart was full of love to them all." His dear Clergy for whom he felt such ample sympathy in their laborious work, and for whom his prayers were daily offered, were much on his mind, he often broke out with, "Oh my beloved Diocese, my dear Clergy!" The Cathedral bells chiming for Evensong always brought him back to consciousness, "Why there are my bells! yes, they are my bells!" he would say, and a gleam of pleasure would light up his face. The last connected words he uttered were from the Liturgy, "O Lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, grant me Thy peace."

On Tuesday morning he became unconscious and remained so till the calm and peaceful end on Friday, Sept. 9, at 8.30 a. m.

The tribute of respect to the Bishop's memory was universal and spontaneous, and only a very small selection can be made in these pages of all that has been written. One of the clergy of the Diocese, said:

As we recall the wise and true-hearted shepherd who has gone to the bright pastures and still waters of Paradise, of all he has been, and of all that he has done for the priests and the people in this Diocese, we may take up the Psalmist's words and say of him with grateful love, "so he fed them with a faithful and true heart, and ruled them prudently with all his power." The Bishop's last illness, his death, the carrying of his body into his beloved Cathedral by his Clergy, the watch all through the night, the crowded church, the thronged eucharists on the day of his burial, all told of a great burst of love, and respect and veneration, which his life in its truth, its simplicity, its unfailing courage, its deep and loving humility, called forth from all who knew him as a great Bishop of the Church of God.

Another wrote:

It is not easy at once to throw back our thoughts over the space of forty-seven years to that first summer and winter when the young Bishop began his journeyings in this region, and thence on to the later years, when he was called to "endure hardness" in the charge of this Diocese.

How feebly can we recognize what it meant and what it cost. In this, as in so much else, he was "an example of the believers," a true Missionary of the Cross, in toils, in perils, in travels, in exposure and hardship, in the persistent effort to gather the scattered members of the household of faith, to secure the funds, to find the priests, to found and strengthen the missions and parishes, to build the churches, to overcome prejudice, to hear the conflicts with ignorance, and still as the work grew to feel the burden heavier, and all the trials none the lighter, as misunderstanding and distrust so slowly retreated. One is amazed at what the grace of God did in that soul, and at the thought of how the spirit of ghostly strength dwelt richly in that ripening character.

The funeral services were held at the Cathedral on Sept. 13. They were most solemn, impressive and well arranged. Towards evening on Monday there was a short service at Bishopscote.

A procession was then formed, consisting of the Clergy and choir. The body was reverently borne by six of the younger Clergy to the Cathedral. It was plated in the chancel at the entrance of the choir. The well-remembered face was scarcely changed at all. He appeared as if in a calm sleep. In his robes, with pectoral cross and ring, it seemed as if he must rise and join in the holy services he loved so well. The Cathedral was well tilled at even-song. From O to 9 o'clock there was a continued throng to pass by the body and take a last look. All was so quiet, orderly and reverent! At 9 p. m. the coffin was removed to the sanctuary. It was watched over all through the night by relays of Clergy and laymen.

On Tuesday there was a celebration of the Holy Communion at 8 a. m. and afterwards at 11. Very large numbers attended. At 12 o'clock the crowd in and around the Cathedral was very great. Large numbers had come from the City of St. John and more distant parts, amongst whom were to be found representatives of the church corporations of very many parishes, and the St. George's Society of St. John. After the service in the church, including hymns 401 and 428, A. and M., the coffin was carried out by the six Canons, preceded by the band of the Infantry school, the Bishops and Clergy, and followed by a lengthened procession to the grave at the east end of the Cathedral, just beneath the chancel window. The spot is well chosen. There, in accordance with the oft expressed wish of the Bishop, his body rests in Christ under the shadow of the building which he so loved.

After the benediction, hymn 140 A. and M. was sung. The whole service was most deeply impressive throughout.

On the return of the Clergy to the vestry the following minute was adopted:

"We the clergy, met together after having paid the last tribute of regard to our late dearly-beloved Bishop, desire to give expression to our feelings of deep mourning and sorrow.

"We call to mind his lengthened, constant, unwearied work in our blessed Master's service, his deep learning, his knowledge of the Word of God, his wise teaching in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of Christ.

"We shall cherish in our memories his frequent, generous gifts, his zeal and steadfast purpose in everything that related to the well-being of the Church in this Diocese.

"We regard his saintly life and high attainments as having been eminently fitted for the high and holy office which he filled for nearly fifty years,"

The Lord Bishop was requested to forward a copy of the minute to Mrs. Medley, with an expression of the deepest sympathy and loving regard.

It was also proposed by the Clergy to erect a memorial cross at the grave.

Subsequently, a general meeting of the Clergy and Laity was held in the Church Hall, with the Lieutenant Governor,. Sir Leonard Tilley, in the chair. A large representative committee was appointed to carry out the wishes of the-meeting with reference to a memorial, the form of which to be decided upon at, a later day.

The meeting of the Provincial Synod, on September 14, hindered the attendance at the funeral of the Bishops from the northern Dioceses. The Bishop of Nova Scotia was present, Archdeacon Gil pin and several other clergymen from that Diocese. Father Benson was also present. A telegram was sent by the Presiding Bishop of the American Church, expressive of his deep sympathy and affectionate regard and of regret at his inability to be present. The following was the inscription on the coffin:

"The most Reverend Father in God, John Medley, D. D., Lord Bishop of Fredericton and Metropolitan of Canada. Died, September 9, 1892. Aged eighty-eight years."

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