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History of the Church in Eastern Canada and Newfoundland

By John Langtry, M.A., D.C.L.,
Rector of S. Luke's, Toronto, and Prolocutor of the Provincial Synod of Canada
London, Brighton and New York: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1892.

Extract - see website for whole book


Bishop Binney was born at Sydney in the Island of Cape Breton, on Aug. 12th, 1819. His father, the Rev. Dr. Binney, was for many years Rector of this parish, but had for some time been living in England. It is said that the Bishopric of Nova Scotia was first offered to Dr. Binney on account of his knowledge of the country. He, however, declined the honour because of his advanced age, but suggested his son, a young man who had taken a first-class degree at Oxford, and had lately been a chosen Fellow of Worcester College. After due consideration and inquiry as to his qualifications, the suggestion was acted upon, and the Rev. Hibbert Binney was appointed by the Crown as the successor to Bishop John Inglis, and as fourth Bishop of Nova Scotia. No wiser appointment could have been made. Though educated in England, Dr. Binney was a native of the country; he had spent the first nineteen years of his life among its people; he understood their sentiments and ways of life; his family traditions were inter woven with Nova Scotian history. His great-grand father, the Hon. Jonathan Binney, lived at Hull near Boston, and removed to Halifax in the early years of its history. His relatives were all in the land, and [32/33] he himself afterwards married a daughter of Judge Bliss, one of the oldest arid most influential families of Halifax. In scholarship Bishop Binney ranked with the foremost men of his time. In natural ability he had few equals, while by connections with, and, one may say, inherited knowledge of, the people, one so qualified for the position to which he was called could hardly have been found. He was consecrated in Lambeth Chapel on the festival of the Annunciation in 1851, by Archbishop Sumner, assisted by Bishops Bloomfield, Wilberforce, and Gilbert.

The new Bishop arrived in his Diocese on July 21st, 1851, and preached the following Sunday in St. Paul's Church. He inaugurated his work in the Diocese by an ordination held in Halifax, at which six deacons and one priest were admitted to their sacred offices. He next set to work to provide for the neglected poor of the city; and at his own risk, as well as largely at his own expense, he opened among them what w as known as the Bishop's Chapel, Salem. This afterwards grew into the brick building known as Trinity Church, the erection of which was largely due to the liberality of the Bishop and his friends. Following the example of his predecessor, he selected St. Paul's as his pro-cathedral. Troubles, however, soon arose. He had called the attention of the Diocese to the inconvenience of using the academic gown for preaching, and to the disobedience to the requirements of the rubrics involved in placing the elements of the Blessed Sacrament on the Lord's Table before the beginning of the Office. This raised a storm of opposition, which was led by the clergy of St. Paul s. The Bishop, therefore, determined to remove his chair to St. Luke's Church, which being enlarged by the erection of a suitable chancel, was made the pro-cathedral of the Diocese.

The due maintenance of the clergy of his Diocese was always foremost in the Bishop's thoughts. The Diocesan Church Society, aiming at the same objects as the S. P. G., had been fourteen years in existence before his arrival. Its income at the time was 2884 dollars. In the last year of his life it had risen to 9707 dollars. Upon this Society the Bishop grafted a fund for the widows and orphans of deceased clergymen, the superannuation fund for the relief of aged and infirm clergy, and the church endowment fund. This latter now pays about 7000 dollars a year towards the objects for which it was founded. The widows and orphans funds pay the pension of twelve widows, while the superannuation fund has already a sufficient endowment to meet all claims that are likely to be made upon it.

The clergy of the Diocese increased during Bishop Binney's Episcopate from sixty to somewhat over a hundred. Not more than ten of those who were on the active staff of the Diocese when he came, were living at his death; so the tide rolls on.

The establishment of Synods was going on apace in the Canadian Church when Bishop Binney arrived. His attention was necessarily called to the subject, and in February 1854 he spoke publicly of the necessity of a Synod in which bishop, clergy, and laity should have a voice. His scheme was stoutly opposed; but the form of Diocesan Synod which Bishop Strachan first introduced at Toronto was established in Nova Scotia as in all other Canadian Dioceses.

Of the increase in churches in this Diocese, of the improvement in the architectural arrangements and ritual solemnity of these churches, it is impossible adequately to speak; and the present generation have no idea of all Bishop Binney did, endured, and gave, to bring about these beneficial changes.

He was diligent and unremitting in his visitations of his extensive, rugged, and unreclaimed Diocese, and it is quite impossible for those who travel in these days of railways and luxuriously equipped steamers to realize how laborious these journeys in waggons and fishing craft and coasting vessels necessarily were. Even yet, in many parts of the Diocese, the roads are rough and difficult to travel, in all but the finest weather. The Bishop, however, never either spared himself or complained.

In the matter of duty, the Bishop reminded men of the Iron Duke. He neither spared himself nor others. He would say just what he felt to be his duty, and if his words did cut, it was not from any unkindness of nature or hardness of heart. He had the most overpowering sense of his own responsibility as Chief Pastor of the Diocese, and of the responsibilities of the clergy under him. These he determined should, as far as in him lay, be realized, and so he was an inflexible Superior and disciplinarian; but with all this he was a man of kindly and generous nature. His tenderness to the afflicted, his playful affectionateness towards little children, and his kind ness to his clergy, manifested often not only by his earnest and affectionate counsel, but by pecuniary and ready help, have secured for him an abiding-place in the affections of the people amongst whom he lived so long.

Two objects apart from his Diocesan labours especially engaged the Bishop's attention. The one was the erection of a suitable cathedral for the Diocese, and the other, the success of King's College, Windsor, the Church University of the Maritime Provinces.

A magnificent site for a cathedral had long ago been given by Judge Bliss. Plans had been obtained from Mr. G. E. Street, the celebrated English architect, and ten thousand dollars were promised if work were begun within a certain time. As this could not be accomplished, the Bishop, drawing upon his own resources, undertook the erection of a building, which might afterwards be used as a Chapter-house and Synod Hall, but in the meantime as a Bishop's Chapel, where a congregation might be gathered for a future cathedral. No actual steps seem, however, to have been taken towards the realization of this object until the year of the Centenary Celebration of this, the first Colonial Diocese. Vigorous efforts were, at that time, initiated to realize the life-long desire of Bishop Binney; but before any material progress had been made, the good Bishop was called away. It is probable that his eloquent and popular successor, if his health be restored, will accomplish the design so long and earnestly cherished. King's College, Windsor, was a Royal foundation, established on the same basis and about the same time as King's College, Fredericton, and King's College, Toronto. It is the only one of the three of which the Church still has control; the other two have long ago been secularized. And Windsor, in spite of its considerable endowments, has had but a feeble and precarious existence. Bishop Binney, who was Visitor, did much to strengthen and enlarge the University; his self-denying labours on its behalf are known to all. Through him his father's name is for ever connected with the College. Large gifts from his mother, sister, and uncle, have also contributed to make the name of Binney foremost among the benefactors of Windsor, and his own name will be commemorated by a beautiful stained glass window in the chapel of the College.

The Bishop also bent his earnest efforts to the establishment of a school or college in which the daughters of the Church might be trained. Two institutions, St. Margaret's Hall and Girton House, established successively for the attainment of that end, though successful for a time, yet, through defective management, failed. Since the Bishop's death, another institution of the same kind has been started, mainly by the efforts of Professor Hind, and is giving every promise of permanent success.

Bishop Binney, after a long and laborious Episcopate, died in the city of New York, whither he had gone for medical treatment, on the 30th April, 1887.

The city of Halifax, in which he had lived so long, manifested its affectionate regard for him by the vast concourse that gathered at his funeral.

The Rev. Dr. Partridge spoke of him as a prelate of most powerful mind, perfect administrative capacity, and childlike kindness of heart. From the first moment of his arrival in the land, he had to experience the most bitter opposition from most of those from whom he should have received support. He steadily fought his way through hostile forces, till after many years he placed the Church in this Province ahead of other Dioceses in faith and good works. When all men were against him, he fought the battle of the Church to such good purpose, that now three-fourths of the Diocese reflects his views, which are themselves the reflection of the doctrinal statements of the Church of England. A considerable interregnum followed the death of Bishop Binney, owing to the difficulty of electing a successor.

The first choice of the Synod was Dr. Edgell, the Chaplain-General of the forces, who by a long residence in Halifax had won the hearts of the whole people. He, as had been feared, after due consideration, declined the appointment.

The next choice was Bishop Perry of Iowa, U. S., the historiographer of the American Church, and a personal friend of Bishop Binney. He also, after considerable delay, caused by some accident of communication, declined to leave his wide western Diocese for one under the British flag. Finally, after nine months delay, the Rev. Dr. Courtney of Boston was unanimously chosen, and accepted the appointment.

Dr. Courtney is an Englishman by birth and education. He had become famous throughout the land as an eloquent preacher and a successful parish worker. He is a man of splendid physique, and great powers of conversation, in addition to his oratorical gifts. He at once became the idol of the Diocese, and if his health, which became seriously impaired about eighteen months ago, should, in God's good providence, be restored, his episcopate will no doubt be crowned with ever-widening influence and great success.