2nd. St. Peter, 1st Chap. 15th Verse. I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease, to have these things always in remembrance.
In this Epistle, the Apostle seeks, with great earnestness, to confirm the Christian converts in the belief of that Gospel, which he had so faithfully preached. About to suffer the severest torments, which the wrath of man could inflict, and to seal his testimony with his blood, he, who in a moment of weakness, had denied his blessed master, now speaks with the greatest composure of his approaching death, considering it like the moving of a tent, or the changing of a garment, and chiefly useful in giving additional weight to the practical instructions, which he was delivering. How astonishing the change which had bene effected in St. Peter! The hour of his fall became that of his exaltation--Never again is he found doubting, or hesitating to profess his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.--Even when the day of his crucifixion approaches, he thinks not of himself, but anxiously spends the short time allowed him, before his earthly tabernacle is dissolved, in bringing back to the remembrance of those whom he had converted, the precious truths which they had once received, lest through the treachery of their memories, or the presence of temptation, or the dread of persecution, they might forget or neglect them. He declares, that during his continuance in the body, he will labour to inculcate upon them the doctrines of Christianity, that after he has gone to a better world, and has escaped from the transgressions, and sorrows of time, to a blessed immortality, the letter which he sends them, may excite the most tender recollections, and stir up in their minds a lively sense of the importance of that religion which they professed.
This Epistle, is therefore a legacy to the Christians of all ages. It is the appeal of a beloved friend, to the best affections of their hearts ---- the last memorial of a faithful instructor, entirely forgetful of himself, and employing the last moments of his life in confirming them in the faith. There is something refreshing and sublime in recurring to the primitive age of Christianity--in beholding twelve poor and friendless men stepping forward to evangelize the world.--An object so vast could never have been conceived, had it not been suggested by the Holy Spirit, to minds prepared for its reception, by our blessed Saviour. ---- To change the hearts of nations sitting in darkness and iniquity--to overturn every idolatrous form of worship--to bring the rude and superstitious adorers of stocks and stones, to the knowledge of the living God--to compel the proud Pharisee, delighting in his own righteousness, to confess a crucified teacher, for his Lord and Master ---- to silence the arrogant assumptions of the Philosophers--to encounter every difficulty, and every danger, and to suffer, not merely with patience, but with cheerfulness and joy, evinced a spirit more than mortal. The means appeared totally inadequate to produce to mighty a change. To the haughty and prescribing Jew, the Apostles could offer nothing to conciliate his passions, or to gratify his favourite prejudices. Their very first address, consisted in accusing his countrymen of the most atrocious crimes. To the Greek, who arrogated to himself the title of wise, the doctrine of the Cross was peculiarly offensive and became a subject of scorn and derision. The disciples of Christ, therefore, had no worldly prospect of advantage or enjoyment before them--but if there was no prospect of benefit, the difficulties and dangers were certain and immediate, and included all the evils, which malignity, bigotry, and persecution could inflict. Superior to self, these obstacles neither discouraged, nor for a moment deterred them from beginning the work of propagating the Gospel, intrusted to their care by our blessed Lord.--They carried their unwelcome doctrine into all parts of the world--they traversed with cheerfulness the most inhospitable countries--they sailed through storms and tempests, undismayed by the war of elements, and rejoiced amidst their weariness and their labours, in being deemed worthy to proclaim pardon and peace to a benighted world. The nations were awakened from the sleep of death, as the words of eternal life flowed from the Apostles' lips,--the temples of superstition were shut or destroyed, and churches were planted in every part of the civilized world.
Saint Peter stood foremost in this holy warfare, infusing by his labours and writings, into the minds of the converts of his own age, and of all future times, that entire devotedness of themselves, their cares, interests and fortunes to the service of God, for which he had himself been so eminently distinguished, and that total resignation to the Divine will, under every trial and affliction which he had encountered and endured. He was desirous to strengthen their hearts with those principles which had supplied himself with courage and fortitude in his arduous attempt to bring them to Christ, namely, a full confidence in the goodness of God--an assurance of the truth of his promises, and a joyful hope of another life. And who can listen to his last admonition without feeling, that the discoveries of Christianity on the nature and perfections of God, on the way of propitiating his favour, and on the happiness beyond the grave, are worthy of the warmest gratitude--that the difficulties and necessities under which we labour, are fully met and removed by the communications of this religion--that the blessings which it professes to confer, are adapted to the wretchedness and wants which they were intended to supply? And who, that for the first time seriously reflects on the doctrines of the incarnation--the atonement--the resurrection--the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the life and immortality revealed by the Gospel, does not feel as one awaking from the dead?
In discoursing farther from the words of the text, we shall briefly advert to their probable effect upon the Churches planted by St. Peter, and then apply them to the melancholy subject of this day.
If any suppose that it was only the Apostles and first Preachers of Christianity, who gave an example of zeal, and self denial, unrivalled among the heathen, and readily submitted to the most cruel punishments, and to death itself, for the sake of the Gospel, they are greatly mistaken; for the same devotedness to their Lord, the same boldness and intrepidity in his service, animated the multitude of disciples. The Saviour reigned in all their hearts, and they successfully copied the pattern of meekness and gentleness, which he had left them. Rather than allow themselves to be separated from the love of Christ, they submitted cheerfully to every privation, to contumely and disgrace, and to death itself. The name of Jesus, like a secret charm, awakened similar emotions in the hearts of all the converts, and called immediately into action every feeling of moral loveliness, and every desire of dutiful obedience, which constitute Christian purity.
It was in Churches distinguished by their faith in Christ, united in the bands of a holy fellowship, and evincing themselves the followers of the Lord as dear children--in Churches, whose members were directed in all things by their love to the Saviour, by their obedience to him as their only Lord, by the warmth and spirituality of their devotion, and by their charity and usefulness one towards another, and who felt experimentally, the superior happiness, which they enjoyed through life, and especially in the hour of death, beyond those who still remained immersed in that superstition, from which they had been delivered; that this Epistle was often read in congregations collected and established by St. Peter himself, who felt themselves under a debt of gratitude to the Apostle, which no exertions could repay, and who loved him with more than filial affection, as their Father in Christ. We may therefore imagine something of their sentiments and feelings, on hearing this last proof of his love read, after the account of his martyrdom had reached them. Every word would sink deep into their hearts. It was the dying message of their Saviour's friend, who had now testified by the most precious of all sacrifices, to the truth of the doctrines which he had taught them. With what eagerness would they recall every circumstance attending his different visits among them! His words, his looks, his habits, his manners, and his mode of addressing them, would be carefully treasured up. Anxious to hear and communicate what every one knew and recollected concerning him, they would never rest, till they had embodied, in one continued narrative, every thing that they could possibly collect, that they might have his whole life before them, and enjoy the melancholy satisfaction of becoming intimately acquainted with his character and conduct--Nor was a more minute knowledge of St. Peter's life calculated to lessen their sense of the obligations, which the blessings that he had communicated, had laid upon them, but on the contrary to give it additional force, and to raise the Apostle still higher in their estimation. In following him form his first call to the Apostleship, they would admire the ardour of his affection for Jesus--his zeal, his disinterestedness, and that inquisitiveness of disposition in things spiritual, which gave him a sort of pre-eminence among the Apostles, and makes him so great a favourite with all Christians. Whenever the names of the disciples are enumerated in the New Testament, St. Peter's stands at their head. It was St. Peter, who first acknowledged the Divinity of our Saviour, making this noble confession, "Thou art the Christ, the son of the Living God." He was not only the friend and companion of Jesus, but intrusted with the most unreserved and confidential communications of his mind and doctrine. He was one of the three, selected to behold our Saviour's transfiguration on the Mount, and the only one, who expressed rapturous delight, crying out in ecstasy, "Lord it is good for us to be here." He was chosen with other two, to witness the Lord's agony in the Garden, made early acquainted with his resurrection, and emphatically admonished by Christ before his ascension to feed the Sheep. St. Peter announced the glad tidings of the Gospel to the people on the day of Pentecost, and converted, by the first Christian sermon, ever preached, three thousand--which formed the primitive Church. In following him through Judea, for to him were those of the circumcision more especially committed, they would admire his incessant activity in his master's service. Labouring with a zeal, answerable to the greatness of his work, he was continually employed in instructing the ignorant--reclaiming the fallen, and offering to all, the message of salvation. The nature of his office, and the prominent station, which his warmth and energy of character induced him to take, made him particularly obnoxious to the enemies of the Cross, and was forever exposing him to treatment the most revolting and severe. But great as his sufferings were, and sensible, as he certainly was, of suffering, he never complains. In his outward appearance, he might, like the humble missionary of the present day, excite among worldly men, only contempt and derision, but he stood high in his master's favour, and from the period of the descent of the Holy Ghost, to the day of his death, he had uniformly proved himself the devoted soldier of Christ, contending valiantly against sin, and the whole kingdom of darkness--seeking by every lawful means, to subvert the power of Satan in the hearts of men, and to establish the power of Christ. He who had once trembled at the fear of death, and had fallen from his first love, now defies the whole universe to shake his faith, and is ready to exclaim with his brother Apostle, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors." From the day of Pentecost, when he gathered around him many souls, of whom some perhaps his example had caused to stray, he never lost a moment, but pursued the holy work assigned him by Christ, with the utmost perseverance and energy. His first address, like a stream of lightning, kindled a holy flame in the hearts of his audience, which has never unto this day been quenched among men, and softened those very souls, which the spectacle of the Cross of Christ was unable to move.
After traversing the Holy Land, and establishing Churches in every city, he proceeds through the provinces of Asia, and from Asia to Rome, leaving his course strewed with the wrecks of Satan's Kingdom--with the glorious trophies of temples demolished, of idols prostrated in the dust and of pagans confounded. His children in the Lord beheld him led from tribunal to tribunal, sometimes before the Jews, and sometimes before the Romans--every where loaded with the reproach of Christ, and every where glorying in his name, and at length, when the day of his departure arrives, they see him, according to the traditions of history, requesting of his executioners, in the deepest humility to be crucified, with his head downwards, not considering himself worthy to die in the same posture as his beloved master.
Thus, in the last moments of his life, the sense of his former transgression is uppermost in his soul. The tortures of present death disturb him not, but the recollection of his fall, fills him with a holy sorrow.
When we contemplate the heroes of Christianity, and compare our feeble efforts with their astonishing performance and self devotion, we should fall into despair, were there not a few softening features, by which they are brought back to the ranks of humanity. The character of St. Peter, would have certainly been more elevated, consistent and sublime, had he never denied his lord; but his bitter repentance, his humble and frequent recurrence to that sad event, his incessant lamentations over it, give a softness and beauty to his character, which make us love him, more than if he had never transgressed. Had he been faultless, he would have been too perfect, as an object of imitation--too far removed from the infirmities of human nature; but when we see that his strength is entirely from Christ, that it is only through his assistance, that he is able to will, and to do, we gather courage, as the same Lord is now equally able, and ready to assist all his followers.
Trusting in Christ, we may boldly join in the combat, and enlist ourselves among that disinterested band, who fight not for human ambition, or human praise, but for the honour of our Saviour, and the salvation of men. The reading of this Epistle therefore, in the Churches planted by St. Peter, in which the Apostle considers his dissolution at hand, and takes leave of the world, describing with astonishing grandeur and majesty, the destruction of the earth and the appearance of Christ, as the universal Judge, could not fail to give new vigour to their faith, to call into active operation the best affections of their hearts, to elevate their souls far above worldly considerations, and to increase that holy array, who fight for the overthrow of Satan's Kingdom, for the subversion of misery and sin, and who seek not for a temporal victory, the memory of which must soon pass away, but for a spiritual victory over the powers of darkness, and for the establishment of Christ's kingdom in the hearts of men.
In applying this subject to the melancholy event, which has deprived this Diocese of its venerable Bishop, we presume not to compare him with the blessed Apostle, of whom we have been speaking. There are nevertheless some circumstances in which they may be associated. St. Peter was the first Apostle who preached the Gospel, and our late Bishop was the first successor of the Apostles appointed to superintend, govern, and extend the infant Protestant Church in this Colony. At his Lordship's last visitation, he intimated to his Clergy, that from his advanced stage of life, and the growing infirmities of age, he had little prospect of ever being again able to undertake a journey through his extensive Diocese. The charge which he then delivered to them, as well as to the Churches over which they preside, may be therefore considered his parting admonition, and while we treasure it up in our hearts, as the last words of an affectionate friend, we are naturally induced to look back to the period of his Lordship's arrival in Canada, and to consider what progress the Church has made under his administration. Let us then follow him as we have done the holy Apostle in his ministerial progress.
On dividing the Province of Quebec into two distinct Governments, our late venerable Sovereign signified to his Parliament his intention of making provision for a Protestant Clergy, according to the Church of England, by which the people might enjoy all the benefits of religious instruction--rightly judging that the establishment of an enlightened Clergy in the Colony would contribute more than any other measure to its happiness and prosperity. To follow up this pious and benevolent measure, and to meet the wants of the rising Church with more ease and convenience, by rendering it unnecessary for young men, desirous of entering her ministry, to proceed to England for Holy Orders, as well as to perform those Episcopal functions, which are necessary to her very existence, a Bishop was appointed, retaining the former name of the Colony, that both Provinces might be included in the Diocese. For this arduous chore Dr. Mountain, then a Dignitary in the Church of England, was most judiciously selected. This gentleman had taken his degrees at the University, with great distinction, and from his elegance of taste, extensive literary acquirements, and private worth, had been rapidly preferred. The friend of the great Mr. Pitt, and of the present Bishop of Winchester so justly revered as the champion of the true faith, the brightest prospects were opened to his view, and when it appeared expedient to constitute an Ecclesiastical Establishment in the Province of Quebec, he was [nominated? top p12] Bishop, and consecrated in 1793. This appointment, or rather the Ecclesiastical Establishment of which the late Bishop was the head, is remarkable, not only in the history of this Province, but in that of the British Empire, as being the first step ever taken by the Imperial Legislature, towards a recognition of that obvious, but still unacknowledged principle, that the Colonies of a Country have as good a right to receive moral and religious instruction from the Parent State, as her laws and Government. What are the great objects of Colonization but to provide for the redundancies of population, to afford to meritorious enterprise and industry the means and opportunity of successful exertion, to recognize and improve the unheeded and uncultivated bounties of nature, to form at intermediate points links of connection between the Mother Country and the remotest lands to which her commerce can be extended, and in addition, to direct to beneficial purposes, the talents and labours of those, whom the offended laws have banished from their native land? Now, these objects so highly beneficial to the Parent State, produce settlements in the most distant regions, notwithstanding the perils of unhealthy climates, and unexplored seas. And shall the various descriptions of Emigrants, of which they are composed, encounter all the privations and dangers, incident to the formation of such settlements, for the advantage of their native land, and be in the meantime deprived of their most precious rights and privileges? Surely if they are entitled to all the comforts of a moral and religious education, by remaining at home, much more ought such comforts to accompany, or as soon as possible follow them to the remote settlements, which they are employed in establishing. And if any Colony can have a paramount claim over another to a privilege, which is the common right of all, it is Canada, more particularly Upper Canada, which was settled by men driven from their homes, by the enemies of their country, many of whom had sacrificed to principle, the means which would have enabled them to have procured for themselves and [their] children, the benefits of moral and religious instruction.
When the late Bishop was appointed, about thirty-two years ago, to diffuse the light of the Gospel through this extensive portion of His Majesty's dominions, it was even a greater spiritual, than a natural wilderness. Only five Protestant Congregations were to be found within the whole diocese; where now, upwards of fifty are established. In so long a period, this may appear a small increase; but great and many were the obstacles which the Church had to encounter, some of which could only be removed by time, and over others, the Bishop had no control. In as far as depended upon his exertions, no labour was spared in promoting these measures, which he judged most likely to extend the ecclesiastical establishment, and after many years of disappointment and delay, he had the happiness to behold, before his departure, a fair foundation laid for the diffusion of Christianity, through the whole diocese. In this age of affected liberality and abhorrence of restraint, our venerable Church has peculiar difficulties to surmount, in establishing herself in a new country like this, which those societies, that adopt no form of Church Government under the pretext that forms are not sanctioned by the primitive times, never can experience. But in proportion to the difficulties, which she has to overcome at her commencement, is the permanence of her establishment, and certainty of her extension, for while the members of other denominations connected by no bond of union, no common principles of order, and no subordination, are soon scattered, or divided, our Church proceeds, with all the advantages, which union, discipline, and order can produce. Her Government justly claims a divine origin, sanctioned by the authority, and practice of the Apostles, which is the law of Christ. The vigilance of the Bishops, animated by zeal, and tempered with discretion, produces the greatest benefits. The inferior clergy feel the responsibility of their situation, and learn from experience that they are placed under a real and not a nominal inspection, and that they are acting under a watchful shepherd, whose voice will rouse them, if slothful, or punish them if negligent. The form of prayer, which we are bound to use, unites all the congregations of our Church in the principal part of their worship, as if they were only one congregation and assembled in the same temple, and it presents to them with great force simplicity and beauty, the ways, means and appointments of God, to restore our fallen nature to purity, and everlasting life. Without a liturgy, or regular form of prayer, no church can continue long; for when the spirit is gone, there is nothing left but a scriptural liturgy, says an amiable Divine, will save a church in the worst of times, and preserve the spark of religion, when the flame is extinguished. With a pure Government, and a still purer form of prayer, there is in our Church no discordance in doctrine, precept, or discipline; we all acknowledge one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God; consequently the people, whom we address, are not bewildered with a variety of opinions; all is simple, beautiful, and clear, nor are they even left to learn from their teachers, the proper forms of worship. But when they are able to read that Liturgy, which has now remained for so many ages unaffected by the weakness, the corruption, the false opinions, or evil motives of men, it becomes the source of the liveliest devotion; their prejudices and removed, their minds enlightened, and their hearts opened to the reception of the truth. Such is the Church, whose standard our late Bishop was sent to unfurl in the face of this new world--white and spotless as her faith. Such she has been for many centuries, and such his Lordship presented her to the inhabitants of these Provinces, "in her true majestic comeliness--her primitive attire--her modest dignity--her sober pomp, such as she was seen, by those who proclaimed her in the midst of the flames, loved her through imprisonment and torture, and placed the Bible in her hands, as the charter of her constitution, and the trophy of her triumphant sufferings."
On arriving in his Diocese, the Bishop found many things combining to blight the prospects of the rising church. The majority of the inhabitants of Lower Canada, where his Lordship determined to reside, belonged to the Roman Catholic persuasion and looked upon him as the head of a rival Ecclesiastical establishment. The Protestant dissenters, who composed a considerable number of the remainder, envied and opposed him, because the Church over which he presided, was the religion of the State, and was therefore more immediately under its protection. To soften the asperity of the opposition of these two classes and the undisguised hatred of inferior Sects, and to shew them the real excellence of the Church of England, happily placed in the true medium between extravagant and dangerous extremes, could only be the work of time. His Lordship had also the mortification to find that many of the Protestant inhabitants, imbibing the levelling opinions of the times, declaimed against the appointment of a Bishop and against all religious establishments, as inconsistent with the spirit of true religion and the peace of society. Had not Christianity been revealed, then had mankind been left to follow their own imaginations, as they did before the coming of Christ, but as the Supreme Being has been pleased to communicate his will, it is the duty of every Christian Government, to support such a religious establishment, as may best secure the benefits of this revelation to all their subjects. Now, as this divine revelation is intended to promote among all men true morality and purity of life, to become the mother of good works, our cordial in affliction, and our comfort in death, to bring us daily into the presence of God and our Saviour that we may believe in his holy name, love him with all our hearts, and by making him the object of our imitation and the foundation of our faith, resemble him on earth, and follow him to heaven; an establishment which produces these excellent effects ought to be cherished by every good Government, in its own defence, as the guardian and nourisher of the purest social, and domestic virtues. Indeed the very appointment of Parochial instructors of the people, in the duties of morality and the doctrine of revelation, is so eminently wise and beneficial, that it may not only be adduced as a collateral evidence of the Divine origin of Christianity, but of the necessity of a public establishment, to render it truly efficacious. Accordingly the most eminent friends of the Gospel have considered an Ecclesiastical establishment, so necessary to the moral and religious improvement of the people, and so essential to give permanent effect to the most pure and sublime principles that can direct the understanding, and influence the heart, that they have declared a regular Clergy, and those authorities which appoint and superintend them, important branches of the Church of Christ. Experience has justified this declaration. The religious establishments of England and Scotland have, under the Divine blessing, been the great promoters of all that is great and good, in those happy Countries. The mass of the population are taught their duty to God and man--to attend to a law, not to be obtained in books, nor to be engraven on tablets of brass--a law which always subsists, which is every moment forcing itself into notice, and which condemns every species of wrong. Hence the British nation is the most intellectual, and moral in Europe--The World's centre of arts, commerce and civilization. Here the light of freedom burns with the brightest radiance, and the rights and liberties of man are the best understood and most abundantly enjoyed; and here a lofty sense of independence is of universal growth. From this nation, the cherisher and supporter of religious establishments, have come almost all the lights that exalt modern times. She takes the lead in those mighty efforts, which are changing the face of the world. To the able administration of her excellent laws, and the wisdom of her political institutions, all nations turn their eyes not only to admire, but to imitate. She stands aloft like the Sun in the Heavens dispensing her charities wherever distress is to be found, without regard to difference of language, climate, or complexion. Not satisfied with shewing the way, she compels by entreaties and donations, other nations to pursue her virtuous course. It is to religion that she owes her pre-eminence--it is this that throws a holy splendour round her head, makes her the hope of every land, and urges her to achieve the evangelization of mankind. Never without a religious establishment could she have soared so high above other nations--it is this that diffuses through her whole population, the most sublime and disinterested principles, which reining the sentiments and elevating the affections, enable them to subdue selfish passions and appetites, and to pant after the felicity of doing good. Indeed a Christian nation without a religious establishment is a contradiction, and notwithstanding the praiseworthy exertions of a few denominations in the neighbouring States, more especially the Episcopal Church, Christianity except in a few large towns is found to languish, and seldom in the Country pervades the mass of the People. Let the candid opponents of Ecclesiastical Establishments, if any such there be, compare the People who have no standing Ministry, not merely in Towns, where a spark of Christianity may exist, but through the Country, with a People possessing this inestimable advantage, and they will acknowledge that no Country can be called Christian, which does not give public support to Christianity, and that no other Religion but that of Jesus could have suggested an idea so grand and affecting as that of placing a Public Teacher of Righteousness in every small Society throughout the World.
On his first visitation the Bishop found things very different from what he had anticipated. Nothing which he had seen could enable him to form any conception whatever of the nature of the country in which he was to constitute a religious establishment. But being endowed with great talents, and a happy faculty for observation, he returned to Quebec with a mass of the most useful information, by which he became acquainted with the state of his vast Diocese, its wants and prospects. In coming to this Province every thing to a person only acquainted with England, was entirely new. In Lower Canada some Associations might be found, but the Western part of the Diocese, in regard to Religion and Education, presented a dreary waste. The People were scattered over a vast surface, and had the means been furnished of building Churches, and Schools, which ought always to go together, there was little or no chance of their being supported. Nor did this arise so much from any disinclination on the part of the people, to have the benefits of religion and education, as from their inability to support clergymen and teachers, an inability which grew out of their peculiar situation, and the nature of the climate. In new settlements families live of necessity far apart--they are for some years so wretchedly poor that they cannot dispense with the services of any of their children, who are able to work; and if a church is erected the families are for a long time too remote, and the roads too bad to attend--hence the motives for building churches are enfeebled, and many are discouraged from making any strenuous efforts to provide accommodations so necessary to civilized life. The Bishop found it difficult to overcome these discouragements--the offer of assistance might raise for a moment a lambent flame, but it soon disappeared. The people would speak of their inclination, but the site of the church was too distant--how could they with their families go through roads almost impassable, and over brooks without bridges. It was easy to see that the taste of many had become vitiated, and that they were disposed to exaggerate difficulties, and to calculate the benefit rather with a tendency to refuse than to assist. Settlers in a wilderness are often found greatly changed in a few years--at first they lament their distance from churches and schools, but by degrees such lamentations die away, as well as the generous and noble dispositions from which they emanated--and when the accommodations for public worship are provided, bad weather, bad roads, or any other trifling cause, prevents anything like a regular attendance. Living without restraint, and without the eye of those whom they respect, a sense of decency and Religion frequently disappears. Here the disinclination to holy things presents itself in all its deformity, a distaste for Divine Worship, and neglect of every thing sacred, and a total estrangement from God, and although from their situation, crimes against Society are few, the heart becomes entirely dead to true piety and virtue. Were it not for the mothers, nothing engaging or amiable would remain in many of the back settlements; but they, lamenting their separation from civilized society, are still anxious to cherish and inculcate some of the principles of social life.
In the scattered settlements of this Diocese, schools and Churches are of necessity for many years few in number, and multitudes of both sexes are growing up in great ignorance. In regard to education, something has been done by the Provincial Legislature; but to build churches, and to place clergymen is a work of greater difficulty. Even when churches are erected, the persons who give regular attendance are so few as greatly to discourage the minister, and his influence is frequently broken or injured by numbers of uneducated itinerant preachers, who, leaving their steady employment, betake themselves to preaching the Gospel from idleness, or a zeal without knowledge, by which they are induced without any preparation, to teach what they do not know, and which, from their pride, they disdain to learn. Under such circumstances, the minister placed in the first church, or settlement where in all probability he will have several churches to attend, has many difficulties to encounter--his people live scattered on their farms, cut off from that daily intercourse, which softens and polishes the manners. Confined to family circles, their ideas become selfish and contracted, and they are little disposed to trouble themselves about any other thing than what contributes immediately to their own comfort. Among such a population, social intercourse is very rare, and they seldom meet unless to bargain and traffic. Consequently the social affections sleep or expire--their deportment becomes rough and forbidding--at one time, forward and impatient, and another time awkward and sheepish. From all which, the first clergyman finds himself not only engaged to preach the Gospel, but also to preach civilization. Such was the picture, which the diocese presented to the Lord Bishop upon his first visitation, and though now in many places much changed such is still the picture of some of the remote settlements, and must continue to be so till the whole country is filled with inhabitants. In no situation is the influence of the female sex so engagingly seen as in the distant settlements--to their exertions are we to attribute all the softness that remains. The Bible, the Prayer book, the sense of a God, and his Providence, are by them preserved and introduced to the notice of their children, and often of their husbands.
In the more populous parts of the Diocese, the Bishop saw with concern the prevalence of opinions which, under the name of liberality, disregarded that uniformity of plan on which the Church of Christ was founded, and which proceeding from laxity of principle to doubt, commonly ends in profligate indifference. But notwithstanding the gloomy prospect which the diocese presented to his Lordship's anxious mind, he perceived some grounds of hope. He assured himself that a church which resorted to the mild patriarchial and primitive discipline, of which the Apostles were the first founders, and their churches the brightest examples, could not fail of eminent success, and that the manner of propagating the Gospel in the first days of its glory, must be the most judicious manner of propagating it now; and that if no general change of opinion could reasonably be expected among the old, yet many would embrace her ministrations. if placed within their reach. There are indeed times when the consolations of religion are required by all men--moments of deep affliction, of heart-breaking bereavements, when the weeping spirit bows to the voice of God, and at such moments, a discreet clergyman may by his sympathy and kindness win many over to the Church. Much of the indifference to religion, which he found among the people was rather to be attributed to their destitute situation than to any disinclination, and there seemed to be good reason for believing, that in almost every populous portion of this division of the Diocese, a judicious Clergyman might, in time, collect a respectable congregation. This conclusion His Lordship was the more readily induced to admit, on reflecting on the numerous emigrants resorting to the Canadas, and the daily accession of those youth, who, by a wise distribution of tracts and Prayer Books, had been early prejudiced in favour of the establishment. In this way the progress of the Church might indeed be slow and was not to be measured by days, months or even by years, but although from his experience of the difficulties to be overcome, his Lordship entertained far less sanguine hopes than before he had taken possession of his Diocese, he found no reason to despair, but felt that a gradual advancement would take place, till a paramount influence was obtained, if his own exertions were only seconded by a respectable, & increasing clergy. On this, everything depended--all other obstacles might be softened, removed, or overcome. But how was he to procure such a clergy? This was a difficulty which the good Bishop had not perhaps foreseen in its full extent, though it was by far the greatest which he had to encounter, and the sole cause of the little progress which the Church has yet made in the Canadas. It was quite natural for the Bishop to believe before he left England, that the provision made for the support of a Protestant clergy, included a full communication of all the benefits of the religious establishment of the Parent State, and although it might not be equal for some time to the wants and necessities of the instant Diocese, that yet it would become so at no distant period. In this expectation, if it was even entertained, he soon found that it would be unwise to trust. The piety of the late King had gone far beyond the spirit of the Legislature, which was not prepared to second a policy so judicious and beneficial, by voting temporary aid till the Royal munificence became available. The times were inauspicious to any application to the Imperial Parliament. Engaged in a terrible war, which required every exertion to bring it to a successful termination, no minister would have presumed to move for pecuniary assistance, to support and extend the Church in Canada; for the progress of Christian feeling, which now shines so brightly, had not then manifested itself, nor indeed, did it seem to have, at that time, any existence in the British Legislature. For in the very year of the Bishop's appointment to Quebec, it was with the utmost difficulty that Mr. Wilberforce, that ornament of human nature, could on the renewal of the charter of the East India Company, obtain the frigid assent of the House of Commons to the moderate resolution, that it was the duty of the Legislature, to promote the interest and happiness of British India, and that such measures ought therefore to be adopted, as might gradually lead to their advancement in useful knowledge, and to their moral and religious improvement. This feeble proposition was assented to with a chilling coldness, and produced no effect,--the nation expressing no feeling on the occasion, but beholding the decision with apathy and indifference.
To the Local Governments His Lordship could look for no assistance. The Legislature of Lower Canada, consisting chiefly of Roman Catholics, could hardly be expected to support a church which they were taught to consider heretical, and in Upper Canada the scanty means at the disposal of the Government, precluded all hope.
To a feeling mind, ardent in the cause of his Divine Master, this disappointment in augmenting the number of his clergy, commensurate with the wants of his people, must have been severely felt; and the gloomy prospect before him, of remaining for many years without the means of extending in any considerable degree the benefits of religious instruction, must have been exceedingly distressing. In this destitute condition the Bishop's confidence did not give way, but he exerted himself with redoubled energy to cherish the infant Church committed to his care, and in the absence of assistance form every other quarter, strenuously urged the venerable Society for the propagation of the gospel in foreign parts, to increase the number of their missions. His Lordship's application to this distinguished institution, which, in the true spirit of Christian humility, has done so much for the cause of religion, was not made in vain, but unhappily their means were limited, and far from being in a condition to supply the number of clergy, which appeared to his Lordship absolutely necessary. And here an unexpected difficulty stood in the way of procuring the few that the Society had determined to support. For when they had assented to the Bishop's prayer, in as far as they were able, clergymen of enlightened piety could not be found willing to leave England for Canada. This country was still so little known, and the character of its climate so frightful, that it was considered worse than Siberia; and therefore, gentlemen of education and zeal, refused to forsake their homes and the endearing associations of early years, to come to so distant, and inhospitable a colony. Eager to remove this unexpected obstacle, the Bishop listened to the suggestions of one of his clergy, stating that young men might be educated for the Church within the diocese, and the Society willing to second his Lordship's exertions, granted assistance to a certain number of persons during their studies. The result has been very satisfactory, for in many respects the native clergyman has the advantages over his brother from England. He is much better acquainted with the habits and manners of the people--knowing their peculiar prejudices, he can, with more tenderness remove them, and he can address himself to their affections with greater effect. There is moreover a pleasing association of ideas, in the minds of the people, when they see one of their own children raised to the office of a clergyman, and offering them the words of eternal life, which induce them to give more heed to his admonitions, and thus afford him grater success in his ministry. Add to all this, that a native clergyman commonly unites all his friends and relations in favour of the Church, and though they may be at first induced to give her a hearing from interested motives, they soon discover on acquaintance, that her doctrine is the faith that was once delivered to the Saints.
The number of candidates for Holy Orders increased faster by this arrangement, than the funds of the Society could employ them, and his Lordship had still the mortification to behold populous towns and villages growing up without being able to afford them any steady religious instruction. Never desponding though frequently disappointed, his Lordship began to hope that, from the great increase of population, and the growing prosperity of the Diocese, the Clergy Reserves, if under better management, might be made to contribute some assistance. So long as the Colonial Government gave lands to strangers from any part of the Empire gratis, as well situated as those belonging to the Church, it could be hardly expected, that leases would be preferred; and accordingly till the crown lands, to be granted, had become remote from the lakes and navigable rivers, very few reserves had been taken up: but now that the remaining lands of the crown were difficult of access and the inhabitants much increased, parents began to look upon the Church lands, scattered through the best districts of the province, as eligible for the future settlement of their children. Nevertheless, the revenue arising from the lease of such lands must of necessity be very slow in its increase, and as they had produced nothing for thirty years, and were just beginning to excite attention, they could not be looked upon as an immediate source of support. But his Lordship looked to futurity, and supposing that they would become sooner productive, if placed under the direction of those, who had immediate interest in their improvement, a charter was procured from his most gracious Majesty, then Prince Regent, placing the lands, appropriated for the maintenance of a Protestant Clergy, under the management of the Clergy of the Established Church, in each province respectively, as a corporate body.
At the first general meeting of this Corporation in 1820, his Lordship presided; a circumstance, which may well be considered an era in the history of the Church of Upper Canada. With great propriety therefore did the clergy congratulate his Lordship on this interesting occasion, and hail it as opening a prospect of the rapid increase of the regular clergy, and of the speedy accomplishment of those other plans for the support and dissemination of the true religion, which his Lordship had so much at heart, and had done so much to obtain.
Among these plans were the regular division of the colony into parishes--the consecration of the churches and burial grounds, and the legal induction of the clergy to their livings, all of which his Lordship had nearly arranged.
Should the future historian feel inclined to find fault with the little that has been done by the first Protestant Bishop of Quebec, I request him to pause before pronouncing judgment, in order to examine the many obstacles in his Lordship's way during the whole of his Episcopacy, and how little his efforts were seconded by those who were able to command success, and indeed how little disposition the people of Great Britain manifested, till lately, towards the religious instruction of their colonies. That extensive settlements, composed of British subjects whose loyalty has stood the most bitter trials, and whose unaffected devotedness to the constitution of the Mother Country is above all praise, should be left comparatively destitute of religious instruction, and without an efficient Ecclesiastical Establishment to watch over their spiritual interest, is altogether incomprehensible. Can any thing attach colonies to the parent state so strongly as a community of religious feeling? How then comes it that Great Britain, conspicuous among the nations for her high moral, and intellectual qualities, and deriving much of her power, wealth, and political importance from her foreign possessions, should be so culpably deficient in what should be the first care of a christian nation? Is it not evident that the Canadas, as well as the other colonies, have been left in a great measure to grope their way as they could through the darkness which surrounds them, almost totally unaided by the parent state? Does not the greater part of the population of this Diocese, notwithstanding the meritorious exertions of the late Bishop, his scattered Clergy, and many individuals, remain unimproved, and sadly destitute of religious instruction? What can fifty-three clergymen do, scattered over a country of greater extent that Great Britain? Is it to be wondered at that under such circumstances, the religious benefits of the Ecclesiastical Establishment of England are little known or felt, and that Sectaries of all descriptions are increasing on every side? And when it is considered that the religious teachers of the other denominations of Christians, a very few respectable Ministers of the Church of Scotland excepted, come almost universally from the Republican States of America, where they gather their knowledge and form their sentiments, it is quite evident, that if the Imperial Government does not immediately step forward with efficient help, the mass of the population will be nurtured and instructed in hostility to our parent Church, nor will it be long till they imbibe opinions anything but favourable to the political institutions of England.
Convinced that the attachment of colonies to the metropolis, depends infinitely more upon moral and religious feeling, than political arrangement, or even commercial advantage, I cannot but lament that more is not done to instill it into the minds of the people. The expense of supporting the Civil and Military Establishments of Canada, is said to cost Great Britain annually 700,000l. while only 9660l. is paid for the support and extension of the religion of the parent state, of which the Society for propagating the Gospel in foreign parts supplies one half. Can any one doubt for a moment of the impolicy of this arrangement--that Government should scarcely allow five thousand pounds to promote the religious and moral sentiments and feelings, which are the real bonds of attachment, while she pays 700,000l. without producing any attachment, or any disposition towards the parent state, which did not previously exist? Is it not evident that forty thousand pounds per annum (which is scarcely the expense of a single regiment), spent in the support of a zealous clergy, at a moderate salary, would do more in producing good feeling and loyal attachment to the religious and political Constitutions of England, than the whole of the above expenditure? It is by reasoning, by early instruction and example, that the unity of the Empire is to be maintained--all other methods will be found vain. The Church Establishment must be made efficient, and commensurate with the wants of the people--it must no longer be thought a matter of indifference in colonial policy, nor even of secondary consideration. It must take the lead of all others, if their preservation be of importance; and can it be doubted, that it is only through the Church and its institutions, that a truly English character and feeling can be given to, or preserved among the population of any foreign possession?
It is indeed mortifying to think that when our late venerable Sovereign gave the mans, which will in future times become sufficient to support a religious establishment in this country, he went so far beyond the spirit of the age in which he lived, that after a period of thirty-five years it has not been sufficiently appreciated, and the christian spjirit has made so little progress that no effectual assistance has yet been supplied to give body to the Church, and keep it substantially alive till the bounty of the King becomes available. Now it must be evident to all sincere followers of the Cross, that while, out of the many millions of public expenditure, it shall be considered a prodigy to devote a few hundred thousand pounds to support and disseminate religion in the colonies, which no man has the hardihood to advocate in the British Legislature, Christianity has not produced even in the most favourable situation the effect which she ought to have done. And I will be bold to say, that till this and much more has been accomplished--till besides giving the colonies religious instruction, the British Parliament contribute to the dissemination of the Gospel through the world, the religion of Jesus has failed in attaining a proper influence on the minds of the Members, which compose that illustrious Assembly. If we take the map of the world in our hands, and after examining it with christian feelings, ask ourselves what nation has it most in its power to disseminate the Gospel, we shall be forcibly struck with the position of our Mother Country. Possessing dominions in every quarter of the Globe, and under every variety of climate, she has the power of carrying religious knowledge to every people, and were she to put forth her energies for this labour of love so attractive and sublime, she might be said to be evangelising, not nations only, but the whole world. Now, if we rejoice in every attempt which she makes to communicate the arts, sciences, and letters, how much more ought it to be matter of joy to publish the blessings of the Gospel--for, however precious the arts of civilized life, and precious they must be confessed to be, how infinitely inferior are they to those sublime truths, which purify the affections of the heart, suggest the noblest contemplations to the mind, and determine the destiny of the human race? If the inhabitants of England believe Christianity to be what it professes, a bright emanation from heaven, the harbinger of peace and joy, love and felicity, to nations as well as individuals--if they have found from experience that it purifies and refines their sentiments, smooths the pillow of death, and opens the gates of eternity, how shall they excuse themselves from labouring by every means in their power to promote its extension!
To form colonies under the guidance of Christian principles, is one of the noblest and most beneficial purposes which governments can fulfil. It is thus, that uninhabited countries are peopled--an asylum found for a redundant population--where want is exchanged for plenty--independence for slavery--and the purposes of creation accomplished in conferring happiness upon a greater number of rational beings. It is thus that deserts may be reclaimed, and the idolatrous inhabitants of distant regions, taught to exert the mighty energies of their minds, and to worship their Creator in spirit, and in truth. Now this is a field of glory more in the power of Great Britain, than in that of all the rest of the world combined. The slightest inspection of the Globe presents her vast possessions as a belt around it, and opens an unbounded theatre for the exercise of an enlightened policy as regards their government and laws, and what is of infinitely more consequence of infusing into their minds the truths of eternal life. What are the triumphs of victory to the dissemination of the Gospel? In vain shall Great Britain confer upon her colonies the free government and liberal principles of legislation, for which she is distinguished, if she do not carry with her the revelations of God. Till she does this, she is unjust to her high station--to her splendid reputation and birth-right among the nations. Every other crown she has earned, and worn. Every other sort of glory has faded in her possession, but this the most glorious of all remains to be won. Let her therefore no longer leave to individuals or associations the labour of evangelizing her colonies, or even the whole world--their means are inadequate, and acting without a concert, their progress must be slow and uncertain. But let England, as she has the means and requires only the will, with the divine blessing put forth her strength. At an expense trifling indeed, compared to what she frequently spends upon unprofitable contests, she might place the moral world on a new foundation, and to rise the pinnacle of moral glory. By adopting a uniform system of religious instruction for all her colonies in the East, as well as in the West, and following it up with energy and skill, she will establish an Empire more absolute than any, which unhallowed power can hold in subjection, and which will rest on the affections and opinions of more than two hundred millions of men. Nor would such a policy, sublime and affecting as it is, and pregnant with happiness and peace, increase her expenditure, for as the influence of christian principles extended, the charge for physical coercion would become less--murmurs would give way to blessings and praise; and one fourth of the human race being thus reclaimed, the remainder would gradually follow, and thus the whole Earth become the Garden of the Lord.
But we return from this sublime and fascinating subject to the Venerable Prelate, whose loss we deplore. He no doubt saw before his death many symptoms leading him to hope, that our parent state would obtain that moral triumph of which we have been speaking--for that legislature, which in 1793 considered the claims of the colonies to religious instruction as the suggestion of visionaries and fanatics, has, since that period, sanctioned religious establishments, both in the East and West Indies; thus opening a door for the entrance of Christianity, in order to make some, though a tardy reparation for the injuries which we have inflicted upon these unhappy countries. And although the prevalence of religious principles and feelings which has awakened thousands in every rank of life, to a solicitude, not only for their own spiritual and eternal interest, but for those of the whole family of man, had not yet extended its helping hand to the Canadas, it could not but suggest to him joyful anticipations as to the future, and induce him to believe that this holy spirit would soon be awakened in favour of his destitute Diocese, when it would be found that the painful labours and anxieties of thirty-two years, during which he had presided over it, though not marked by splendid advancement, had, nevertheless, paved the way for a much more rapid extension of the christian faith, than could have otherwise been effected.
The churches are indeed thinly scattered over this vast country, and bear a striking resemblance to the small congregations of primitive Christians in the days of the Apostles, but it is to be hoped that, through the blessing of God, the intervening spaces will soon be adorned with new congregations, till the whole population shall become united in one holy communion. And when this happy period shall arrive, how many pleasing associations will be coupled in their minds, with the recollection of the first Bishop of the Diocese, who gave life and order to that religious establishment, which guides them to salvation; impressing as he did in his different charges on the attention of his clergy--the duty of preaching redemption--the doctrine of the atonement--the satisfaction made for sinners by the blood of Christ--the corruption of human nature--the insufficiency of man, unassisted by divine grace--the efficacy of the prayer of faith, and the purifying, directing, sustaining, and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit. Now that he hath departed, let us have those things in remembrance.
Living at so great a distance, I have not sufficient materials to venture upon any biographical sketch of his life and character; and if I had the necessary information, there are near and dear relatives, much better qualified to do justice to the subject. I shall, therefore, detain you only for a few moments in making two or three remarks: --
As a preacher of the Gospel, our late venerable Bishop must have been heard, to form an adequate conception of his superior excellence and commanding eloquence. The dignity of his appearance--the chaste propriety of his action--the clearness of his voice, and rich melodies of his tones--the earnestness of his manner added to the sublimity of the truths which he delivered in the most pure and perspicuous language, were never to be forgotten, and never failed to make a deep impression on his audience. In England, he was considered one of the most impressive and eloquent preachers that the Church could boast, and was earnestly solicited, when last in London, by the managers of charitable institutions, notwithstanding his advanced age, to preach their anniversary sermons. With the requests of some he complied, and has published a discourse, delivered before the Society for recovering drowned persons, which may be justly pronounced one of the most beautiful and interesting sermons in the English language.
In his social and domestic intercourse, the Bishop's manners were particularly pleasing, uniting with great affability and cheerfulness of disposition, those qualities which command respect and secure esteem--all found themselves at ease in his presence; for so far was he from being a restraint on the young and lively, that his occasional playfulness encouraged their openness and gaiety, while the dignity of his general deportment prevented the innocent delights of the social circle from degenerating into levity.
His Lordship was singularly happy in his domestic relations. Mrs. Mountain, in every respect worthy of such a husband, is in her manners amiable and engaging--in her religion sincere, active, and cheerful--in charity, unbounded, without regard to sect or nation; exhibiting in her whole conduct Christian love as it were embodied.--Who, that has lived in Quebec for the last thirty years, can hesitate in testimony to the unwearied goodness of her heart, and the sweetness of her temper; and who that approached her, did not feel the influence of her Christian purity and incessant benevolence, stealing upon his heart, and inspiring him with similar sentiments and dispositions? Every day was an encomium on her character, as it never passed without acts of charity and parental affection. It was her piety, uniform and cheerful, her meekness of disposition and anxiety to do good, which endeared her to all her friends, and gave her husband and her children so many years of the most refined domestic felicity. The Bishop's feeling and affectionate heart was capable of appreciating her extraordinary merit, and of returning with interest the happiness she bestowed. Bereaved of her dearest treasure on earth, her tears are sweetened by the consolations of religion. Severe as the dispensation is, her confidence in God her Saviour is unshaken. She feels assured that she will soon meet her husband again never more to be separated. Comforted by the blessings of the poor, the sympathy of the good and the consciousness of a well spent life, her mourning during the short period that she yet remains in this world, will be turned into an inward joy, which no man can take away.
Nor was the late Bishop less blessed in his children, consisting of four sons and two daughters; of the former three have followed their father's profession; the fourth, who has chosen a military life, resembles the late Bishop more than any of the rest, not only in exterior form, but in the qualities of the heart and understanding. The writer of this, was so forcibly struck with his noble bearing at a very early age, as to entertain the most promising hopes of his future eminence--hopes which he still fondly cherishes, and feels assured from his improved appearance and solid attainments, when he met him at Quebec about two years ago, that he will not fail to be greatly distinguished, should opportunities for the exertion of his talents ever be presented.
Of the daughters, one is respectably married. The younger is the comforter of her surviving parent, returning the tender service of affection, which during infancy she had received and smoothing with filial piety her mother's short path to immortality.
For many years before his death, the Bishop had been so infirm, as to render it dangerous for him to take even the most easy exercise; but notwithstanding this, in the midst of the late war, he traversed the greater part of his extensive Diocese, to visit and confirm the different congregations. With a constitution broken and exhausted, he might have been excused from so fatiguing a journey; but he thought it useful, at such a time, to give an example of intrepidity in performing his duty under the most unpromising circumstances, and at the same time, evincing by this conduct, that he did not despair of the ultimate safety of his Diocese. Though suffering form that disease, which has at length proved mortal, he went through the whole of his Diocese in 1815, and again in 1820, giving proof of his readiness, at every hazard, to discharge the duties of his important office. On this last visitation, he collected the Clergy of the Province around him in this place, and those of the sister province ib Montreal and delivered to them a charge, replete with the soundest instruction, intimating at the same time that it was in all probability his parting admonition. Deeply affected with this intimation, the clergy, in addressing his Lordship, expressed an affectionate hope that it would still be long before the kind and endearing relation which subsisted between them was severed for ever. This hope was in part realized, for it pleased God to add to his life five years, but not strength to venture upon another visit; so that his melancholy intimation has been fulfilled and we are to see his face no more. But his name shall be had in everlasting remembrance, and future times will have reason to bless the first Bishop of Quebec, by whose exertions a fair foundation has been laid for the diffusion of Christianity through these Provinces, according to the Apostolic principles of the Church of England, "a Church which, arrayed in her beautiful garments, is turning darkness into light, and sowing those seeds of righteousness and truth which shall spring up and bloom for ever.