THIS was the appropriate text, chosen by the first Bishop of Rupert's Land, for the first sermon he preached in his new diocese, at York Fort, on August 19th, 1849.
The appointment of a Bishop to this vast territory forms so important an era in the history of our Missions there, that we shall not hesitate to enter rather at large upon the subject.
Our Missionaries had long felt the importance of having among them a chief pastor, to whom they might look for counsel and encouragement, whose presence would strengthen the work they had begun, and under whom a native ministry might be raised up to carry the Gospel into hitherto untrodden regions. And we can well understand the anxiety they would feel that, whenever their desire should be granted, the appointment should fall on one who himself knew and possessed "the unsearchable riches of Christ," and the desire of whose heart would therefore be that they should be "preached among the Gentiles."
We may then suppose how great was their thankfulness to hear that, in the good providence of God, Dr. Anderson had been selected for the office, and to know that no one could have been chosen more fitted to encounter the difficulties of a newly-formed diocese, more competent to guide the studies of a future native ministry, more calculated to revive the drooping heart of the Missionary, or to keep alive and quicken the spirit of vital religion.
The consecration took place on May 29, 1849, in the Cathedral Church of Canterbury, and on June the 7th the Bishop, with his sister and his three sons, embarked at Gravesend on board the Prince Rupert, accompanied by the Rev. R. and Mrs. Hunt, and Mr. Chapman.
They had a prosperous voyage, and found much to engage their attention in the new and strange sights that met them on their way. Some of these are so graphically described in a letter from the Bishop to his young friends in England, that we shall make a few extracts from it:--
"Surely 'they that go down to the sea in ships, see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the deep!' We saw them not in the gale or storm, for we were mercifully spared from anything of the kind; but we saw enough of the icebergs to realise the chief danger of the Arctic Sea. I cannot describe to you their figures or infinitely-varied appearances. Some are like churches, others like castles with towers, many like animals; in some you see the arches of bridges, with the water rolling beneath; while the smaller pieces floating about are like the frosted ornamental vases that are seen at home.
"Some were of the purest white, the surface generally of dead white, the effect of the snow; the lower part had a beautiful tint when they approached the sea, either from the action of the water, or from the clearness of the ice showing the colour of the sea. Their height was very various; many rose above the topmast; and one, which was not much higher than the rest, was 160 feet. And when the effect was heightened by a bright sunshine, and each piece and mass was reflected in the water, we gazed for a time to see whether the whole were not an illusion.
"I might also dwell on the tokens of God's goodness in the enjoyment which seems to fill the tenants of the sea: they seem to sport and play about in the very ecstasy of being; whether the whale sending up the column of water into the air; or the seals and porpoises crowding round the vessel; or the little stormy petrel following close behind, and picking up fragments; or the white polar bear, scarcely to be distinguished from the masses of ice by its side--all these we saw in their turn, and they reminded us how 'God openeth His hand, and satisfieth the desires of every living thing.' We felt that the sea was a world in itself; in every part of it, bearing witness to God, and that, though we cannot hear the voice, there is a tribute of praise ever ascending from it, that the ice, and frost, and snow, as well as the expanse of the calm and quiet sea, praise the Lord and reflect His glory."--Psal. cxlviii. 8.
The Bishop also makes special mention of the beautiful Aurora Borealis, "shooting up in streams of brilliant light, and covering the whole of the zenith." [God has not left Himself without witness even in these inhospitable regions. The beauty and grandeur of the deep forests, the broad rivers, the foaming cataracts, the glorious firmament, and though last, not least, the mysterious Northern Lights, testify that our common Father cared for His "red" children, before the Sun of Righteousness arose upon them, and the Gospel began to "cheer the shivering natives' dull abode."]
One day in particular is spoken of as of surpassing beauty. They lay becalmed among the ice in Hudson's Straits, a few icebergs were in the distance, and much field-ice about, large pieces of which occasionally floated past the ship. One of the party writes,--
"It was Sunday; all around was calm and still as a smooth lake, and we were forcibly reminded of the sea of glass mentioned in the Revelation. The sun was bright, the sky lovely; and clouds, sun, and sky, all and everything were reflected in the clear water. It seemed as if there were two heavens; and, perhaps, none of us had ever seen or imagined so lovely a sight on earth."
As they proceeded into the bay they found the cold severe, and on one occasion were "fast" in the ice for some hours; but they were soon free again, and shaping their course towards the south, anchored off York Fort on Thursday, August 16th.
Before they left the ship, the Bishop once more assembled the companions of his voyage to join with him in prayer and praise; and standing on the deck beneath the open canopy of heaven, they united in singing "Praise God, from whom all blessings flow," then knelt down to pray, and the Bishop pronounced the blessing.
It was with varied emotions that the little party first set foot on this distant shore, adopting it, as it were, for their present home, and the probable scene of the "unknown to-morrow" of so many of their future years.
The chief factor at York Fort received the Bishop with every mark of respect and kindness, and it was an additional gratification to him to hear him speak of the Missionaries who had been previously sent; he had seen and known them all, and assured the Bishop that better men could not have been selected for the purpose, dwelling more especially on Mr. West and Mr. Cockran.
The Bishop soon gave token of the spirit in which he had entered on his new diocese, and the next Saturday we find him visiting the tents of some Indians in the neighbourhood. About eighteen collected round him, and attentively listened while himself and his chaplain (Mr. Hunt) spoke to them, through an interpreter, the words of peace and salvation. Many were deeply affected and expressed their sorrow that their forefathers had known nothing of the true God.
The "Bishop commenced his public ministrations in his new diocese on the Sunday after his arrival (August 19), when divine service was held in the large hall of the Fort, all the Company's servants and about fifty Indians being present.
The text chosen by this truly missionary Bishop for his first address was, as we have already said, from 2 Cor. x. 14; and aware that many of the Indians would know enough of English to understand much of what he said. and that they would probably talk over with their friends what they might hear, he addressed part of his sermon especially to them, setting before them the Gospel, and telling them it was chiefly to them and their countrymen that he had been sent thus far "in preaching the Gospel of Christ."
"So manifestly," we are told, "did his heart 'yearn over them that, gradually and unconsciously, he moved from behind the desk on which his Bible lay, and, with extended arms, advanced towards that part of the room where they were sitting, his voice meanwhile becoming tremulously expressive of the anxious Christian affection which possessed his heart."
In the afternoon of the same day his lordship, with some of his party, again visited one of the Indian tents. As they approached they heard singing, and discovered, to their surprise, that it was a hymn in Cree, set to the tune of the Old Hundredth Psalm. When they entered the tent, they found a fire of wood kindled, and the ground covered with leaves and small boughs to keep their feet from the grass. One or two boxes had been provided for seats, and about forty Indians placed themselves round them on the ground.
The Bishop and his chaplain had an animated and pleasant conversation with them, and were much struck with the good effect evidently produced by the distent missionary stations. None of these people were Christians, but they had acquired a partial knowledge of the truths of holy Scripture, partly from the annual visits of Christian Indians from the Red River, but chiefly from the Wesleyan missionaries at Norway House, from whom they had learned several Cree hymns and English tunes. They had some idea of sin, and some feeling of the need of a Saviour; they frequently talked together on religious subjects, were in the habit of praying and singing hymns every morning and evening, and most urgent for further instruction; and the Bishop could not help agreeing with them that "it did seem very hard to leave them without a teacher:" but there was no remedy, for none could be spared.
Before they left the tent they taught them the prayer of the Publican, and another short prayer for the Holy Spirit, to whose immediate teaching they commended them in the almost total absence of all human means.
During the Bishop's stay at York Fort four Indians applied for baptism. Two of them resided on the spot. They were half-brothers; and it appeared that one of them, who went by the name of John, had, four years before, visited Norway House, where he heard the Gospel preached by one of the Wesleyan missionaries. Anxious to know more, ho procured a copy of the Cree alphabet, of which he soon made himself master; he then obtained a Catechism in the same language, which, with indefatigable perseverance and by embracing every opportunity of help from others, he learnt to read. [What a striking contrast does this, and similar instances which we have mentioned, present to the state of these forts as depicted in our first chapter! Praised be God!] He communicated his knowledge to his brother Joseph, whose heart was also touched, and they were now both of them candidates for admission into the visible Church.
The other two were also brothers; they came from Fort Churchill, 180 miles to the north of York Fort, and had, it seems, long ago received religious instruction from one of the Company's officers, Mr. Harding. [These were but rare, as the alphabet and Catechism were in peculiar characters, invented by the late Mr. Evans, a Wesleyan missionary.] His departure, four years before, had deprived the Churchill Indians of all opportunity of instruction, but these two brothers could not be satisfied without learning more. They found that some Christian Indians from Norway House went annually with the boats to York Fort, and they had, every year since Mr. Harding's departure, come down to meet them there and to get what information they could from them. They were only able to have two or three days of intercourse with them on each occasion; yet so well had they improved these short opportunities, and so much had their own conversation and prayer with each other been blessed, that they were now also considered fit to be baptized.
As we might suppose, "the knowledge of all the four was confined to a few fundamental articles of our faith, but their religious experience appeared by no means so scanty, their hearts and consciences seemed to have been divinely taught, and that with so little external help that their attainments were the more remarkable."
They were baptized by the Bishop himself on the following Sunday, August 20, in the afternoon service, in the presence of a large congregation, the majority of whom were Indians.
His lordship, in relating these circumstances, adds:--
"They all came afterwards to our family prayers, and you would have been much pleased with their devout demeanour; they are, as far as we can see, very humble, and anxious to be guided into the way of salvation. We are very sorry to leave them, but shall not cease to pray for them as our first-fruits here. Among those present at the baptisms was Henry Prince, the son of Pigwys, who has come here with the Red River boats, I was delighted with him. There are three other Christians also here from the Indian Village, and they quite astonish me as to their manner and intelligence, and also (though I have not yet had so much opportunity of testing it) as to their knowledge of the word of God. Let me say here, that what I have seen of the Indians, as yet, exceeds my expectations." [During his stay at York Fort the Bishop mot the Indians every evening for reading and prayer. Besides those from the Indian Village, there were fifteen from Norway House, and a satisfactory testimony was borne to these men by five or six English sailors, who were returning from Sir John Richardson's last unsuccessful expedition, and who had been their companions from that place. They spoke of them as one of the best behaved and happiest boat's crew they had ever met with; they never omitted their morning and evening prayer and singing, and formed, they said, the greatest possible contrast to the awful cursing and swearing of the Canadian Roman Catholic voyageurs.]
The Bishop and his party remained ten days at York Fort, and after a favourable passage up Port Nelson River to Norway House, and thence along Lake Winnipeg, arrived at the Red River on Wednesday, October 3.
After stopping for a few hours at the Indian Village, where they were delighted with the appearance of comfort all around, and where "the little church, the school-house, and the parsonage, looked almost like an English village," they proceeded to the Lower Fort, where comfortable rooms had been provided for them by the Hudson's Bay Company. [The Lower Fort is on the river side, four or five miles below the Rapids, and eight or nine above the Indian Village.]
They had intended to remain there through the winter, but the death of Mr. Macullum altered their plans, and induced the Bishop to remove with his family to the Upper Settlement, where his anxiety for the education of the native youths led him to undertake for a time the superintendence of the school. [The death of this good man took place just as the Bishop was entering the Red River, at sunrise, on October 3. He had been ordained by the Bishop of Montreal in 1844; but failure of health obliged him to relinquish ministerial work, and to confine himself to tuition. He was at the head of a school at the Upper Settlement for the sons of the officers of the Company, where all his energies were devoted to the mental and spiritual improvement of his pupils. He was a man of ability and solid piety, and his loss was deeply felt in the colony. His anxious desire had been to be permitted to see the Bishop, but this was withheld from him, and his lordship's first appearance at the Upper Church was to attend his remains to their resting-place.]
The first church at which the Bishop preached was the old one at the Rapids, on the Sunday after his arrival.
"It was densely crowded, and many were, outside at the doors and windows endeavouring to see and hear. I preached again from the same text as at York Fort, wishing to place it before them as the text that dwelt most on my own mind in meeting them for the first time. In remembrance of the many mercies we had experienced by land and sea, I invited them to the Lord's Supper on the following Sunday, and although it was not one of their usual periods for the administration of the Sacrament, I was not a little delighted to find no less than 107 communicants, and this in a church which would not hold above 300. The appearance of the congregation is very devotional; they respond well, they sing with heart and soul. The first burst of music, when they all joined in the psalm of praise, quite upset and overpowered me; indeed I have not heard any sound sweeter to my ear since I left England. The more I have seen of this congregation and its pastor, the more I like them."
The people had been very anxious that their new church should have been ready before his lordship's arrival, but with all their efforts they could not get it completed till the middle of December.
"The 19th," writes the Bishop, "was fixed on for the consecration. The morning was very sharp and cold, and we had to start betimes to accomplish the distance (fourteen miles) in time. The sight on the river was a very pretty one, and if it could have been witnessed by friends at home, it would have been very gratifying to them. We were quite a cavalcade--twelve carioles, one after another, from this part of the settlement (the Upper); and as we went on many more fell into the line. At times the sun shone brightly on the pure surface of the snow, and caused a dazzling reflexion, while the whole effect was heightened by the pleasing sound of bells on many of the horses. The church was extremely well tilled before the commencement of the service; every one was interested, and I cannot describe my own personal feelings; my gratification, at witnessing such a sight--the Indian and the Briton uniting in dedicating a fresh temple to the living God,--and my thankfulness for being permitted to take any part in this good work. I cannot reflect without self-abasement on the toil and labours which others have endured in laying the foundation of the Church of Christ in this land, while I have at once so much enjoyment in reaping the fruit of their self-denial, of their days and years of constant hardships. May God bless and guide me in raising the superstructure: may He enable me in His mercy to strengthen and consolidate the whole!"
The next Sunday, December 23, the Bishop ordained Mr. Chapman, when, many having come from the other congregations, there was a still larger assemblage than on the preceding Wednesday. The Bishop had given notice of the Lord's Supper, and to his surprise 250 responded to the invitation.
"All drew near in the most devout and reverent manner; I saw the lips of many moving in secret prayer, and several of them were in tears, it was indeed a day of joy, the first Sabbath and the first communion in that church, and the ordination of another minister of God's word." [The name of St. Andrew's had been fixed on by the people for their church before the arrival of the Bishop.]
On Christmas Day the Bishop officiated at the Indian church. Circumstances had prevented his doing so before, but, as he told the people, there could not have been a more suitable day for his first addressing them than that on which we hail the glad tidings of great joy in the birth of a Redeemer. He had gone down to the village on the preceding afternoon, to be ready for the services of the morrow, and our readers will like to hear his own account of this Christmas Eve:--
"The ride from the Lower Fort to the Indian church is the prettiest in the settlement, and the day was bright and beautiful, so that I saw it to advantage. The greater part of the way you drive through the woods, till you suddenly come on the river at a small island, where it widens and forms a large sheet, of water almost like a lake, [Or crescent bay] between the island and the Indian church. The flag was hoisted before the houses of Mr. Smithurst and the Chief Pigwys in honour of my arrival. In the afternoon I visited the chief, and conversed with him for some time; and finding that his grandson was to be baptized the next day, I promised to do this myself. In the evening, according to good old English customs, Mr. Smithurst distributed meat and vegetables among the poor: every widow six pounds of beef and a quarter of a bushel of turnips. We then had service in the church, as it is always Mr. Smithurst's custom to have a short service on the evening before the administration of the Lord's Supper.
"The following morning the weather had changed, a very high wind, with a severe and drifting snow-storm: but we found no empty seats in church, above 250 assembled to celebrate the birth of their Saviour; and out of these, 89 joined together to commemorate His dying love at His holy table.
"There is a remarkable stillness in the Indian church during divine service, and great reverence of manner; and we noticed here, as we had done at the Rapids, that many were in tears while kneeling to communicate.
"I preached in the morning from Luke, ii. 15. In the afternoon the first part of the service was read by Mr. Hunt in English, the remainder in Cree by Mr. Smithurst. I baptized the grandson of the chief, the child of his eldest Christian son; after which there was a short sermon in Cree read by the schoolmaster, who had translated it from one in Jowett's 'Christian Visitor.' This is found to be generally a better plan than the words of the clergyman being translated, sentence by sentence, by an interpreter. The singing was remarkably good, and the people seemed to enjoy it; they have been taught by Mr. Smithurst, and since Mr. Hunt's arrival he has kindly assisted. We had the usual Christmas hymns, 'While Shepherds,' 'High let us swell,' and 'Hark, the herald angels sing;' and at the conclusion, the Evening Hymn to Tallis's beautiful melody. I could not restrain the expression of my pleasure after all was finished, and told them how much I had enjoyed the services of the day, and how delighted T was to find that they could join in such a way in the praises of our Heavenly Father."
The next morning, before the Bishop left the village, the chief called to present him with a calumet of peace: it was a very pretty one, with an ornamental handle, and the mouthpiece was made of the celebrated red stone mentioned by Catlin.
We shall conclude this chapter with a few notices of the general state of the Missions on the Red River up to June 1850.
The Bishop had examined several of the schools supported by the Church Missionary Society, and was much pleased with them, and mentions the universal excellence of the writing and accuracy of spelling; but we have no farther particulars of any except the principal one at the Rapids, where we are told that "while the knowledge of sacred things takes precedence of all other, the hoys of the first class are almost masters of the maps and globes, and have made good progress in English history."
On the 10th of January, 1850, a Missionary Meeting was held, and a Church Missionary Association for Rupert's Land was organised: sermons were also preached in the different churches. The Governor made a munificent donation of 50l., and the congregations contributed largely, considering their circumstances; viz. 29l. 9s. in money, and wheat, barley, and cloth, to the amount of nearly 50l. in addition.
In May, 1850, the Bishop held a confirmation, when nearly four hundred persons renewed their baptismal vows.
Mr. Chapman had, upon his ordination in December 1849, been appointed to the Middle Church, and Mr. James was by this arrangement enabled to devote his whole time and energies to the Rapids. Writing in June 1850, he says:--
"You will not expect to hear of the conversion of heathen in my district, for though there are still numbers all around us, there is not one remaining within its limits. I frequently, however, meet with some, and have close conversation with them. They are generally Saulteaux, and their prevailing sentiment may be expressed in the words of one of them to whom I lately spoke,--'We like our ways as much as you do yours.' On my telling him that on my knees I daily prayed that the Holy Spirit might convert them all from darkness to light, he angrily replied, 'We shall be what we are.' But among our Christian people the work of the Holy Spirit has been deepened, and the life of Jesus more manifested. Especially among our adult youths, I trace a decision and seriousness which calls forth the thankfulness and joy of my heart. 140 were confirmed last May; and the number of communicants (though I have lately thought it right to exclude a few) amounts to 211, all of whom I believe adorn their professions, and walk in newness of life. Our spacious church is not far from full, and Sabbath desecration is a thing I never witness."
We must add a word or two from our former friend, Mr. Cockran:--
"We do indeed rejoice in our excellent Bishop. He is truly a missionary in all his feelings and operations, and his heart burns with ardent zeal to spread the Gospel among the benighted Indians. He has consecrated the Rapids Church, ordained Mr. Chapman, and held four confirmations in this settlement, in which he has confirmed about 400 persons. [This is exclusive of one at Cumberland station.] Those, with the 800 confirmed by the Bishop of Montreal in 1844, make a band of 1200 confirmed Christians among us. At these four stations we have above 400 communicants. In the burying-ground at the Upper Church lie the bodies of 425 persons, many of whom departed this life in the faith, and fear, and love of God, and are now before His throne, and serve Him day and night in His temple. Thus you see we have a Church triumphant in heaven, as well as a Church militant on earth. We may well ask, 'What shall we render unto the Lord for all the blessings He has bestowed upon us?' 'He hath done great things for us, whereof we rejoice.'"
On June 6, 1850, the Bishop left the Red River on a visit to Cumberland Pas, where his presence had been most anxiously desired by Mr. Hunter and his Indians.
He was accompanied by the Rev. R. and Mrs. Hunt, who had, it will he remembered, come out with him in the Prince Rupert, and who had been appointed to the remote district of English River.
They came in sight of the Pas on Saturday evening, June 29th, just as the sun was setting; "at the very moment," the Bishop writes, "that I would have chosen for my arrival, and for my first view of the spire of this pretty church."
"This pretty church" is as yet a stranger to our readers, though they will remember that Mr. Hunter had long ago fixed on a site for it on the bank of the river opposite to his own house.
The Indians had been willing to help, and contributed labour and materials to a considerable amount; but, although they had learnt enough of carpenter's work to build their own log-houses, there was no one competent to undertake the erection of so large a building as a church. Mr. Hunter devoted much thought and time and labour to the subject, but all would have been of little avail, had it not been for one of those providential circumstances, which so often occur, but which we are sometimes so slow to acknowledge.
Some of the English sailors attached to Sir John Richardson's last and, alas! fruitless expedition, had been sent forward to be in readiness to start with him, and were, during the winter of 1847-48, located at Cumberland Fort, a day and a half distance from the Pas. One of the men was a carpenter, and he readily and kindly gave Mr. Hunter all the assistance in his power while he remained in the neighbourhood. The church progressed considerably under his directions, and when he went away, Mr. Hunter was able to procure another carpenter from Norway House.
At last the church was completed. [See engraving in "Church Missionary Intelligencer" for December, 1850.] It stands in a neatly-fenced burying-ground, and is surrounded by several Indian dwellings; the parsonage stands among other cottages on the opposite bank, and the whole is striking and picturesque.
During his short sojourn here, the Bishop consecrated this church by the name of Christ's Church; he also examined and confirmed a hundred and ten candidates, with whose "intelligent and experimental knowledge of our most holy faith," he expressed himself as having been much surprised. [Two of these were Abraham and Paul from Lac la Ronge.] He also arranged with Mr. Hunter that a steady and consistent Christian Indian, named John Humphible, should be sent to Moose Lake, as the commencement of a permanent station there.
We do not attempt any further account of the Bishop's visit to Cumberland Pas, because, though his lordship speaks of the station as far exceeding his expectations, and as likely to form the centre of widely-extended missionary operations, he has given us the hope of receiving an account of it from his own pen.
We shall therefore only say, that leaving Mr. and Mrs. Hunter greatly refreshed and encouraged by his kind and seasonable visit, he set out on his return home on Monday, July 8, taking with him Mr. Budd, with his eldest son, and the oldest son of Mr. Settee; the two latter to be placed in the seminary, and the former to study under the Bishop's own eye, with a view to his future ordination.