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Loyalists’ Centennial Souvenir - 1887 - p25-29

Année : 
1887
Titre de l'article : 
CENTENNIAL SERVICE
Auteur : 
Rev. Canon Brigstocke
Page(s) : 
25-29
Type d'article : 
Langue : 
Contenu de l'article : 

A very large congregation assembled at the special service in Trinity Church at nine a. m., on Friday, Governor WILMOT and staff, with the Common Council, attending in a body. The following clergy were robed and took part in the procession: Canon BRIG-STOCKE, Canon DEVEBER, Revs. T. E. DOWLING, L. G. STEVENS, A.V.WIGGINS, R. SIMONDS, 0. S. NEWNHAM, D. W. PICKETT, G. O. TROOP, A. H. WEEKS, D. B. PARNTHER, W. A. HOLBROOK, F. TOWERS, H. T. PARLÉE. Rev. Messrs. DEVEBER, PARNTHER, and SIMONDS took part in the service. The Rector, Rev. Canon BRIGSTOCKE, delivered the sermon, taking for his text:
"The land which thou gavest unto our fathers." — I. Kings, viii., 40.
"The commemoration of events which have proved to be turning points in a nation's history, is one of the strongest instincts of humanity, and has its sanction in Holy Scripture. The nation whose history is there recorded was formed and developed by a series of great events, the most striking of which were to be held in remembrance by the divinely appointed festival, as well as celebrated in the song of praise. Israel's delivery from Egypt, which may be regarded as their national birth, was to be annually commemorated by the Feast of the Passover; their dwelling in tents during their wilderness journey was to be kept in remembrance by the Feast of Tabernacles; and their national freedom and gift of land, by the year of Jubilee. The psalms which were sung in daily worship not only abound in allusions to their national history, but some are nothing less than commemoration odes of the various events of their national history.
" It is then no mere sentiment that prompts us to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the landing of the Loyalists and to make a special act of worship to Almighty God a part of the commemoration of that great and interesting event. It is the due recognition of the fact, which every Christian believes, that a nation's history is the development of divine purposes and designed to promote divine glory. It is further the due acknowledgment of the noble deeds of those to whom we stand indebted for the city of St. John, whose picturesque site is, on high authority, surpassed by only one city in Canada, whose harbor can be made to afford every facility to be the maritime port of the Dominion, and adjoining to which is the splendid river of the same name, with its many tributaries, flowing like a great artery through the Province, and so well fitted to be a highway of commerce into the interior. It is then most fitting that we should turn aside to-day from the ordinary routine of business and work, to commemorate events which were turning points in the history of this country, no less than of our own lives. And here I cannot forbear from expressing my own regret that a suitable memorial in the shape of a monument was not this day either begun, or unveiled with appropriate ceremonies in a completed state, as a tribute of gratitude and admiration for the founders of this city, and appreciation for their high and noble principles, which are to-day, as much as then, the only guarantee of the stability and integrity of the empire.
"Time would fail me to review particularly the events by which ‘this land was given to our fathers,’ nor is it necessary that I should do so. It has been done again and again, and will I do not doubt receive full and worthy treatment in a later portion of to-day. My endeavour will be to draw your attention to certain features of those events which contain for us lessons of practical instruction.
" I. Let us note the great changes that have marked the century just closed.
" One hundred years ago, when the fleet of British ships which brought the Loyalists weighed anchor in the harbor to be afterwards named from this city, few, if any, vestiges of civilized life met the eye. Everywhere they must have seen what was at that time a very inhospitable coast. No wharves lined the shore, no hotels were open to receive them, nor were there friends to welcome them. No churches with their heaven-directing spires met their eyes and gladdened their hearts. There was no means of communication by post or telegraph with those they had left, or with friends more distant. All was a solitary wilderness. Little else could have been heard but the ripple of the Waves on the shore, or the song of the bird in the forest. And now, what have we? We have a well laid out city with streets and squares, and adorned with buildings of goodly proportions and not devoid of beauty; a city in which we have churches and schools, courts of justice and public offices, hotels and factories; a city full of active energy, and known as a centre of trade and hive of industry. Railways connect it with all parts of this vast continent, and telegraphic communication is carried on with the world. The comforts and luxuries of civilized life are found in abundance, the activities of commercial and political life are incessantly carried on, and every modern improvement for the transaction of business or facility of trade finds here its congenial home. As we now look round we may say in the words of inspiration, 'The wilderness has been made a standing water, and water-springs of a dry ground.’
"But these changes in the outward life are symbolical of yet other changes which the past century has witnessed. When the fleet of the British left the harbor of New York, in 1783, it carried away those who were filled with bitter hostility to those in the United States who were determined to form an independent nationality of their own. They regarded them as rebels to lawful authority, and pursuing a course destructive to all right principle. They came out from them, as their most emphatic protest against their evil doings. They went out, not knowing whither they were going, but determined to have nothing to do with an independent republic. And now what do we see? We see, indeed, a people composed nominally of two nationalities, living within territorial boundaries and exercising territorial rights; but yet so closely united together by the ties of church fellowship, of commerce, of friendship, sympathy, and good will, as not only to have long since lost all sense of hostility, but ready to seize every opportunity that presents itself for manifesting the feelings of mutual respect and honor which are entertained towards each other. Two events have marked this change in a very striking manner. In our hour of distress, in 1877, when this city of the Loyalists was wrapped in flames and some 15,000 persons were rendered homeless, it was the generosity of the neighboring republic that gave the largest and most bountiful aid. Again, in 1881, when the President of the United States fell a victim to the wicked assassin, a sermon was preached in the Church of the Loyalists as a fitting tribute to his honored memory. Such changes of feeling and sentiment show a revolution of ideas. And what are we to think of them? Are they to be taken as a compromise of principle, or in any way condemnatory of the conduct of the Loyalists? In no wise. The change that has taken place may be traced partly to the development of ideas which are the result of a better understanding of the whole situation; partly to a clearer insight of the questions at issue than was possible in the heat of controversy; and partly to the necessities of life. The question of independence, however it may at the time have seemed a question of hostility to England, was, after all, a question of rights, which could be withheld no longer. We cast no slur nor taint of reproach on our forefathers; even we say that the world has outgrown many old ideas. The changes that take place are surely the inevitable result of the progress of human life. Without inconsistency or compromise of principle we can to-day honor as highly as possible the memory of the Loyalists, while we are thankful to live on terms of good-will and friendship with the people of the republic beside us.
" II. This land was given to our fathers as the reward of patriotism. It is not necessary, nor would it be becoming, to enter now on any consideration of the relative advantages of different forms of government. In the determination of the Loyalists to leave the United States, they showed a love and devotion for their country worthy of our close imitation. In their case it involved much self-sacrifice. Large possessions were left behind, comfortable homes were abandoned, and many dear associations severed. No doubt they were regarded as obstinate fanatics for their conservative principles and keen sense of jealousy for British honor. In all this they displayed a virtue too rarely seen. Men care now too little for their country and too much for themselves. The means of roaming over the wide world are at hand, and but Jew seem to lack the desire and opportunity to do so. They go out in search of property and wealth wherever they can obtain it, and self-interest is a widely ruling motive. But patriotism is a Christian virtue. Surely the land which God has given us should, of all other countries, be our first care. We should use all our power and influence to promote its interest and development. Patriotism is the call of God; it requires much self-denial; it is the offspring of high Christian principle; it is the opposite of all that is base, sensual, and avaricious. There are some who use the city simply to amass money, and then go away and forget its temporal and spiritual interests, while others unceasingly complain that its advantages are not greater. Many circumstances are no doubt our guiding pillar as to the bounds of our habitation, but when called to remove to distant cities and remote countries, we surely ought not to forget the city of our birth or adoption. The Apostolic precept, 'Let no man seek his own, but every man another's wealth,' should have its close application to those of his own city and country. In obedience to Divine obligation, and in honor of the memory of the founders of this city, let us endeavor to make it a praise in the earth. We have here a rich inheritance in this land which was given to our fathers; let us use it aright; let it be our aim to adorn it with institutions of Christian and high character; let the wealth which has been amassed by trade in this city, and now filling the banks to repletion, be freely spent in advancing the Church of Christ as the most powerful means of gaining the greatest blessing, and in forwarding all that promotes morality and elevates society—so shall we worthily honor the memory of the past, and inaugurate in a becoming manner the century that has just dawned.
" III. But of all the inheritance which has been handed down to us in this land, no portion is so noble and so sacred as the House of Prayer which the Loyalists erected for the worship of Almighty God. It should be ever held in remembrance that their first care was to build a church, and that a site was chosen for that purpose in the first laying out of the city. That site was not far distant. It was, however, soon abandoned, owing to the circumstance that a fire—the scourge of this continent — swept over that part. Another site was chosen, where a temporary building was erected, and services held by the first rector of this city. Then the present admirable site was given, which is at once a proof of their liberality and devotion of their best to the Lord. On Christmas Day, 1791, the church they built on this site was first used for Divine worship, and so continued for 80 years. On the ever memorable June 20th, 1877, it was swept away in the great conflagration, and the place whereon it stood was to know it no more. In the erection of a new church we did not forget the past, but we had also to remember the present and the future. We sought, therefore, to honor the memory of the Loyalists, not by copying the plan of the church that was destroyed, but by building one of costly and substantial character. If this building does not tell of their skill or their work, it may yet be truly regarded as a monument of their devotion and self-sacrifice for the cause of Christ. The fragrance of their memory ought ever to fill this House of Prayer. Yes; it is here we are brought into closest and most affecting contact with the past. Our fathers' God is our God. We offer up the same service of worship; we have joined to-day in the prayers, and sung the same psalms, which they did on May 18th a century ago. Here we know of no change. Age succeeds age, but Jesus Christ remains unchangeable, ‘the same yesterday, to-day, and forever.’ May our fathers' God be our God for ever and ever! May he be our guide even unto death!''