Robert Gray (1809 to 1872)
Church of England
South African Gray.
Birth of Robert Gray who became a notable missionary to South Africa and the first Anglican bishop of Cape Town. He served as Metropolitan of South Africa from 1853 until the year of his death in 1872.
3 October 1809 A.D. Robert Gray Born—1st Anglican Bishop of Cape Town, South Africa
Day, E. Hermitage. “Robert Gray: First Bishop of Cape Town.” Project Canterbury. 1930. http://anglicanhistory.org/africa/day_gray.html. Accessed 26 May 2014.
Robert Gray: First Bishop of Cape Town
by E. Hermitage Day
by E. Hermitage Day
London: SPCK, 1930. 32 pp.
A FEW days before the Christmas of 1848 a travelling-waggon drew up before the inn at Stellenbosch, thirty miles from Cape Town. Its body was dented and roughly patched, its wheels tied up with ropes; the baggage which it contained was worn into holes. From it there stepped a clergyman in a battered hat and rent boots. The first Bishop of Cape Town had returned from the first Visitation of his diocese. It had been a new experience for an Anglican bishop to swim rivers, to put his shoulders to the waggon-wheel, to pitch tents and hew wood and groom the horses. About that time an English writer had pointed the contrast between the Roman Catholic Dr. Griffiths, Vicar Apostolic of the London district, and the Anglican bishops of that day: "A very pleasing, venerable, episcopal-looking man, very like any other bishop save that none of ours would touch a carpet-bag with his little finger." But Robert Gray was a founder of a new tradition of episcopal life and work. With the old tradition he was perfectly familiar; he had gone up to Oxford in the year that his father was consecrated to the See of Bristol. The Bishop of Bristol was a man of character and courage; he had gone calmly to service in the cathedral while the rioters of 1831 were in possession of the city, and a few hours later his palace was burned to the ground. Throughout his life Robert Gray showed an equal calmness and courage, and he had continual need of it.
His youth and early manhood were gravely hampered by ill-health. But he was an unwearying student, and though he could take no honours at Oxford, he learned much there and from continental travel. He was ordained in 1833, and in the following year became vicar of Whitworth, co. Durham, spending himself unreservedly on a difficult and scattered parish, yet finding time for eight hours a day of reading and writing. The rise of the Oxford Movement, and the publication of the "Tracts for the Times," confirmed him in the theological and historical position at which he had arrived independently, and in the ideals of parochial work which he had set before himself.
In 1845 he was collated by the Bishop of Durham, who had formed a high opinion of Mr. Gray's work, to the vicarage of Stockton-on-Tees, and to an honorary canonry in the cathedral church. Eighteen months later he was offered the See of Cape Town, one of those which the munificence of Miss (afterwards Baroness) Burdett-Coutts had founded. He had already done good service for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; the missionary spirit was strong within him; and he replied to the Archbishop of Canterbury that to decline the offer would seem to him a shrinking from the call of God, and that he readily and cheerfully placed himself at the disposal of the Church. He was consecrated on St. Peter's Day, 1847, together with the first Bishops of Melbourne (Perry), Adelaide (Short), and Newcastle, N.S.W. (Tyrrell). Months of arduous work on behalf of the new diocese preceded his sailing at the end of the year.
There had been a suggestion that the new see should be placed at Grahamstown, where the English population was relatively stronger. In Cape Town the feeble congregations of the English Church were nominally under the oversight of the Bishop of Calcutta, and successive prelates had landed on their way to India to perform a few episcopal acts. The few clergymen of the Colony were colonial chaplains; none of them lived in Cape Town. The Church of St. George, Cape Town, had been built under the authority of an Ordinance, by shareholders of whom some were Jews and others atheists; its foundation-stone had been laid with no more than Masonic ceremonial; those who rented its pews heard from its pulpit denunciations of the doctrines of the Church. Churchmen were far outnumbered by the Dutch Reformed Church, and by contending sects representing several divisions of English and Scottish Protestantism. The Bishop was undismayed. He began at once to plan for the future.
Robert Gray was then but thirty-nine. But on the young shoulders was an old head. The letters written during the first six months in South Africa show how quickly and surely he mastered the facts, the conditions, the problems of the work that lay before him. They would have daunted at the outset any man of less courage and faith. The diocese stretched for six hundred miles from west to east; it was necessary to organize the whole work from one corner of the vast area. There was then, and for fifteen years afterwards, not a mile of railway track in the Colony; the roads were mere tracks, possible only to horses and slowly moving ox-waggons. Over the 277,000 square miles of territory were dotted isolated families and little groups of Church people, whom the Church had almost wholly neglected. Many of them had clung to the tradition of Churchmanship in spite of every discouragement; no sooner had the Bishop arrived than he began to receive piteous appeals for priests, and promises to build little churches and schools if only they could be served. The Bishop reckoned that fifty priests would be none too many to meet the most pressing needs; he had but seventeen, few of them his own choice, some unsatisfactory. In Kaffraria there were more than five thousand troops without a single chaplain; in Natal eight hundred settlers with no clergyman within two hundred miles of them. Beyond the scattered Church people, who were the first care, lay an almost untouched mission-field. In and about Cape Town was a great number of Mohammedans, in part the descendants of the Malays whom the Dutch had brought from their East Indian Colonies, in part liberated African slaves; and even settlers were found to be lapsing to Islam. Large groups of coloured people, Eurafricans of mixed race, were found in and about the towns and villages. The native tribes, as yet unsubdued by arms, and constituting a continual menace to the more distant parts of the Colony, had only been touched here and there by Christian missionaries, Moravian, Rhenish, Wesleyan, and French; and of these some had lost their first zeal and become little more than traders, grown rich by trafficking with the natives.
So much of the problem the Bishop had realized before he set out on his first Visitation. Everything relating to religion, he said, whether in the Church or out of it, was in confusion and disorder. There were encouragements in face of all difficulties. The Bishop found the Government well disposed to his work, and willing to make considerable grants to it. He bought for his residence the old estate of Protea, of three hundred acres, five miles from the centre of Cape Town, and his successors in the see have had good reason to admire his foresight. Protea, soon to be renamed Bishopscourt, had been the farm of van Riebeek, the first Dutch Governor of the Cape. It lies on a lower slope of Table Mountain, deep in woodland, watered by a stream, surrounded now by one of the most beautiful gardens in all South Africa. Here, in the roomy old house, the Bishop found occasional quiet for himself and room for the many visitors who came and went on the business of the diocese. Here, in the first months of his residence, he was already training men for Holy Orders; the old slave-quarters became a school. Here the first plans were made for missions to the Mohammedans and the heathen, for educational foundations, for the planting of clergy at strategic points, for the raising of St. George's Church, now become the cathedral, from its low estate.
The first winter was coming to its end when the Bishop set out on his first Visitation. His Journal records from point to point of the five months' trek the discovery of little groups of English Churchpeople, of kindly English hosts in lonely homesteads where services could be held, and Communion given, and Baptism and Confirmation administered. At Port Elizabeth, after travelling nine hundred miles, he found the first English church he had seen since leaving Cape Town. There were little schools to be visited, and sites to be chosen for churches, for which Mrs. Gray at Protea was making plans and working-drawings, with a skill which we can admire even today. Everywhere the Bishop found a welcome from some who rejoiced that at long last they had the oversight of a Father in God.
Yet there are sad things also set down in the Journal or recorded in private letters home. The colonial chaplains were without pastoral or missionary zeal; "they have no opportunities of seeing one another, and stirring up one another to their duties, and sink in consequence into dull, apathetic officials." There were not a few quarrels to be composed; and everywhere the Bishop saw the grievous consequences of long neglect, in the lapsing of Churchpeople to the sects or to indifference. Yet, wearied though he was with rough travel and coarse fare, weighed down with anxiety about the financing of so great a work as the organization of the diocese promised to be, the Bishop could write with great cheerfulness, and thank God for the consolations of the journey. If in one place he found a lady who said that in thirty-eight years she had seen no minister of her own Church, he found there also a little congregation of Church-people who had met every Sunday to read the Church service together; without ministry and without sacraments they had yet maintained the spirit of common worship.
The Bishop reached home just before Christmas. He had travelled three thousand miles, confirmed nine hundred persons, and ordained one or two to the sacred ministry. He had judged for himself the greatness of the task, and with an equal courage had planned the doing of it. He trusted the Church at home to see that he was not left without men and means to meet the expectations and hopes his visit had everywhere aroused.
That toilsome journey was but the first of many; visitation succeeded visitation at short intervals. St. Helena lay then within the Diocese of Cape Town, and he had to go there, to minister to a small flock, to compose quarrels, to do something for the thousands of liberated slaves landed on the island. It was something that on his frequent voyages to England he was able to get time for reading and thought, for in South Africa his time was continuously occupied with urgent affairs. The shaping of the diocese was a tremendous task. He wanted men, but not always the men whom the Colonial Office, or even the Church in England, was anxious to send out to him. "There can be no greater mistake," he writes, " than to suppose that inferior men will do for this Colony. The clergy are, and will continue to be, one hundred to two hundred miles from each other, and must be such as can be left to act alone, and be fair representatives of the English Church in the presence of very respectable Dutch ministers." He found that for want of such men laymen of education and intelligence were everywhere resorting to the ministrations of the Dutch Reformed Church and Wesleyans and Independents. Cares of all kinds, temporal and spiritual, crowded in upon him, for there were few to whom he could delegate even the simpler parts of his work. He looked back to the quiet pastoral work of a parish priest in England as the happiest lot on earth.
Almost every letter of that time speaks of the all but overwhelming weight of anxiety and work, yet also of the confidence and perfect peace of the mind that is stayed on God. Troubles within the Church were matched by jealousies and suspicions without; almost every newspaper attacked the work of the awakening Church. Echoes of ecclesiastical strife in England reached South Africa, and encouraged little knots of malcontents. Anglo-Indians on holiday, members of strange sects, were busy in opposition, leaving trouble when they went back to India.
But another Visitation assured him of quiet progress and consolidation in distant parts of the diocese. Within two years the number of the clergy had increased from fourteen to forty-two, and some of them were men whom he had himself taught and ordained. He had found that Churchmen were far more in number than he had thought at first. More than twenty churches were being built. A collegiate school, destined to grow to great things, and today the leading public school in South Africa, was coming to the birth. In one respect the task might seem to be eased; the Bishop found men whom he could trust as his lieutenants, one by one. But the happy result of their work was a development which laid fresh burdens upon the Bishop.
In 1850 the Bishop was in Natal. A year before there had been no English clergyman to serve the needs of the large and increasing white immigrant population and of the hundred thousand Zulus lately added to the Colony, though there were foreign missionaries owning no allegiance to the Government and opposed on principle to the Church. The return to Cape Colony, over mountains pronounced to be all but impassable, was full of dangers, and through a land devastated by the Kaffir wars. The Bishop thought less of the perils than of the problem which his journey had disclosed, that of nearly a million heathen within the diocese whom the Church, alone among the twenty religious bodies in South Africa, had not begun to evangelize. In letter after letter he wrote with characteristic humility of his desire that "some really able man" should take his place, while he himself went into Natal to start mission-work there. He was oppressed with the sense of his own unfitness. Yet the bare record of fact shows that everywhere the Church within the Colony was in a far different state from that in which he had found it two years before; its whole work was being consolidated, organized, inspired with a new energy.
Already, within three years of its foundation, the diocese called for division. A visit to England secured the stipends, and on St. Andrew's Day, 1853, John Armstrong and John William Colenso were consecrated to the new Sees of Grahamstown and Natal. The former, a man of apostolic faith and courage, was to die after less than three years of devoted work; the latter was grievously to disappoint Gray's trust in him.
From the first the Bishop had planned the canonical organization of the Church in South Africa. All his action had been taken in a firm belief in the Church as the Body of Christ, spiritually independent of the State. The troubles of the Church in England had confirmed his belief and his resolve. He delayed before summoning a Synod of the diocese, for he had expected that the Imperial Parliament would pass some Act which would give legal effect and validity to the acts of such a Synod, but he had no doubt that without any such legislation its acts would have canonical force. In 1856 the Secretary of State for the Colonies had intimated to the Governor-General of Canada that the Government had abandoned the idea of any Imperial legislation which might seem to interfere with the legislature of Canada, and had expressed his conviction that the Church ought herself to proceed to make her own rules for the management of Church affairs, through representative bodies. The suggestion had already been acted upon in Canada, and the Bishop of Cape Town announced that he would summon a Synod. Its general principles had received the assent of the clergy and laity four years earlier The Synod was to determine nothing without the assent of the three orders; none but communicants could be delegates for the laity, all bona fide members of the Church having a voice in their election; the standards of faith and doctrine contained in the Prayer Book and Articles were to be regarded as outside the range of the Synod's authority.
The Synod met in January, 1857. The interest, even the external opposition, which it aroused was proof of the new life stirring in the Church, which ten years before had been treated as if it had no real existence. There was free and intelligent debate on many subjects; and the Synod provided for ecclesiastical courts, the appointment of bishops and of parish priests, and the tenure of Church property. During a visit to England in the following year the Bishop gained from the Government the assurance that no difficulty would be raised about the consecration of missionary bishops for work beyond the British Dominions. That made possible the consecration in Cape Town Cathedral, on January 1, 1861, of Charles Frederick Mackenzie for work on the Zambesi, the beginning of the Universities' Mission to Central Africa.
But the Bishop was now faced by troubles of a new kind, beside that care of all the churches which came upon him daily. Five parishes in the diocese had resisted the holding of the Synod in 1857, refusing to send lay delegates. To a second Synod in 1861 the vicar of Mowbray again refused to come, or to give notice of it to his parishioners. He had been a colonial chaplain, in deacon's orders, before the Bishop came to the Colony, but had been ordained priest by him, and had taken the oath of canonical obedience. He defended his attitude towards the Synod by alleging that those who had taken part in the Synod of 1857 had " seceded from the English Church." The Bishop saw that a principle was at stake, and that he must act. He held a Court, his five assessors were unanimous in thinking that contumacy should not go unpunished, and Mr. Long was suspended for three months, though--by the Bishop's charity--without loss of stipend. Mr. Long applied to the Supreme Court for an interdict to restrain the Bishop from disturbing him in his church. The Bishop was his own counsel, defending his action so clearly and cogently that judgment was given in his favour. But Mr. Long appealed to the Privy Council, the judgment was upset, and Mr. Long was reinstated. In several particulars the judgment was contrary to fact; for example, the Court alleged that the assessors in the Bishop's Court had been three clergymen chosen by himself and sharing his opinions; they were in fact five chosen by the Synod, and Mr. Long had been asked whether he objected to any of them. But time has amply vindicated the Bishop's action. The judgment of the Privy Council, with many another affecting the Church, has passed into the limbo of things forgotten; synodical government has now for two generations assured to the Church in South Africa the freedom by which she lives.
But troubles far graver were to come. The actions and words of the Bishop of Natal had from the first been an anxiety; his "fine, generous, bold and noble character," as Bishop Gray described it, had shown itself wanting in caution and judgment. By 1861 he had thrown over the Church's doctrine of the priesthood and the sacraments, denying that Holy Communion con-veyed any gift which a Christian could not obtain for himself at any time. Recourse was had to the Church in England. The Provincial Synod of Canterbury condemned Colenso's work on the Pentateuch as "involving errors of the gravest and most dangerous character." The English and Irish bishops, with such colonial bishops as were then in England, were summoned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to a solemn conference. As a result, Colenso was inhibited from officiating in most of the English dioceses and forty-one bishops joined in calling upon him to resign his see, expressing their opinion that proceedings should be taken against him. It may be reasonably contended that since no proceedings had been taken, they seemed to prejudge the case. But their action at least showed that they would approve and support the Metropolitan of the South African Province in citing the Bishop of Natal before him.
Complicated questions arose as to the Letters Patent which gave Bishop Gray jurisdiction in the Colony, a jurisdiction disputed by Colenso. The Bishop of Cape Town fell back on his claim to spiritual jurisdiction as a Metropolitan, whatever the fate of the challenged Letters Patent might be. To safeguard his action he summoned all the members of his Provincial Synod to sit as his assessors in his Court, Court and Synod thus being made to consist of the same persons. The Bishop of Natal was charged with impugning the doctrines, amongst others, of Atonement, Justification, Regeneration, Inspiration of Holy Scripture, the grace of the Sacraments and the Hypostatic Union, and also with depraving the Book of Common Prayer. The Court found Colenso guilty of the charges; the Provincial Synod approved the judgment and sentence of the Metropolitan, and sentence of deprivation was pronounced. The Synod also decreed that if the Bishop of Natal should presume to act as a bishop within any part of the Province of Cape Town after his deprivation and before restoration, he would be ipso facto excommunicate, and that sentence of excommunication must be solemnly pronounced against him. The sentence was pronounced in December, 1865. Bishop Gray had throughout acted with so great a forbearance as even to incur criticism from his brethren in England. When the first Lambeth Conference met in 1867 fifty-five of the eighty bishops present declared their acceptance of the sentence pronounced on Dr. Colenso by the Metropolitan of South Africa and his suffragans as being spiritually a valid sentence.
The vacant diocese of Natal was filled by the consecration of W. K. Macrorie, with the title of Bishop of Pietermaritzburg. Colenso still maintained a tiny schism, in which he was abetted by the British naval and military authorities, who forbade the forces in Natal to acknowledge the Bishop of Pietermaritzburg. He succeeded in getting judgments in the Natal courts confirming him in the possession of the endowments of the see and of Church property in Natal, hindering for many years its use by the Church of the Province. But the great majority of clergy and laity were faithful; the schism dwindled and died. Today time has healed the old wounds; the great Colenso case which once convulsed Church and State is now but dull matter for the historian.
The effect of the two cases of Long and Colenso was to destroy the whole basis of the Royal supremacy on which the Crown lawyers had at first attempted to build up the colonial establishment. "Lord Westbury, with that clear precision of language for which he was famous, indicated the lawyers' line of retreat: 'The Church of England, in places where there is no Church established by law, is in the same position with any other religious body, in no better but in no worse position, and the members may adopt rules for enforcing discipline within their own body.'"
Looking back, we see that the Church of England and the English Courts were on their trial during those troublous years, rather than the Church in South Africa. The judgments in ecclesiastical cases were at that time likely to be judgments of policy rather than of law, as Chief Baron Kelly admitted. The manifest inequity of the judgment in the Natal property case, in which the Court assigned to Colenso the property which Bishop Gray had himself bought and vested in himself, had shown the Bishop that the less Churchmen had to do with the State Courts the better chance they might have of justice. Nothing would induce him again to appear before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
The Bishop's work was done. He had lived to see the Church in South Africa constituted, built up, secured against State interference. Twenty-five years of incessant labours and anxiety had taken their toll of his strength. Long and arduous visitations of the vast territory severely tried him; nor could he recuperate his strength when at home, for his time was wholly occupied in the affairs of the diocese. Finance had been always a heavy burden. Protracted law-suits had brought him infinite sadness; that they issued in the triumphant vindication of the Church's rights could not wholly compensate him for the physical and mental strain of those harassing years. There had been frequent journeys to England, where his time was filled with work, of other kinds but no less laborious. In 1871 Mrs. Gray died, the constant companion of his travels, the untiring amanuensis and accountant, the skilful designer of churches, the brightness and stay of his home life at Bishops-court. He worked on for a year in loneliness, though with many encouragements from signs of progress in all that he had so wisely planned. The end came swiftly. A fall from his horse, little heeded at the moment, brought a sudden collapse. On September i, 1872, the great Bishop passed to his rest and his reward. The people of Cape Town knew what manner of man had been among them; to the burial at Claremont there came five thousand mourners, of every rank and grade, of many creeds.
The achievement of Bishop Gray has parallels in the work of other pioneer bishops overseas, but in its extent and its quality it remains unsurpassed. The Church in South Africa owes its freedom, its unity, its vitality, its extension, mainly to his wisdom and foresight. Scarcely any plan that he made for it has had to be abandoned. It has steadily pursued its way along the lines that he traced for it. The formation of the Diocese of George so recently as 1911 was only the carrying out of Bishop Gray's intention half a century before; it had been delayed only by the alienation of the Church property in Natal. The alienation had necessitated the diversion to Natal of funds destined for the new See of George; when the Church's property was restored to her by one of the last acts of the Natal Parliament before the Union of South Africa, the See of George was founded.
The Bishop's memorial at Claremont speaks of him as having " with unceasing energy and in simple faith built up under God the Church of this Province." It is natural to regard that as the most important part of his work. He had seen the foundation of the Dioceses of St. Helena, Grahamstown, Natal, Bloemfontein, and Zululand; he was at the time of his death planning the formation of a diocese for the Transvaal. He had organized the Province so wisely that the first provisions of its constitution have been modified only in small details. Under that constitution the Church has lived a free, wholesome life. But the diocese was never neglected for the Province. The consolidation of old centres of work, the foundation of new, the delimitation of parishes, the provision of churches, schools, men, means, equipment generally, were normal parts of a work which went on unceasingly. In addition, the Bishop founded at the Cape institutions which served all South Africa. Among the first was Zonne-bloem, now within the city of Cape Town, then a country estate on the slope of Table Mountain, overlooking the Bay. There natives were to be instructed side by side with whites, not only in letters but in crafts and industries; and from Zonnebloem a native ministry was expected to issue in course of time. Zonnebloem has a fine record of varied work; if it has not fulfilled all expectations it is largely because conditions have changed, and work which it was founded to do has been transferred to other centres.
Education was one of the Bishop's first concerns; he was no sooner settled at Protea than he himself began to teach. The old slave-quarters there saw the beginnings of the school which has grow into the Diocesan College, colloquially known as "Bishop's." Before a year was out the Bishop had bought an estate of fifty acres at Rondebosch, nearer Cape Town, and moved the school there. The need for itsoon outran the accommodation; from the moment of its inception to the present day the school has taken a foremost share in the education of South African boys, and has set a standard for emulation by others. The provision of schools for girls was in the nature of things a work less easy for the Bishop to plan. But in the last years of his episcopate St. Cyprian's was founded, to become no less renowned than " Bishop's." It had long been in his thoughts, the undertaking had been pressed upon him from several quarters, but only in 1871 was it found practicable to begin work. St. Cyprian's was to be a diocesan work. It was fortunate in its first head; it took at once a leading place. In later years continuity has been assured by placing it under the care of the All Saints Sisters, and it has done immense service to South African womanhood. The lessons that have been learned there have borne good fruit in lonely homesteads on the Karoo, and in the town and country life of the Cape.
It was natural that the Bishop should hope for the work of religious communities in South Africa, and ardently desire their aid in his immense task. The Synod of 1865 asked the Bishop to invite some English sisterhood to establish a branch house for penitentiary work. Three years later the Bishop founded St. George's Home, Cape Town, not as a daughter-house of an English foundation, though Clewer was greatly interested in it, but as an independent house. The members of the Society were not under vows, but lived together under a light rule, rather as deaconesses than sisters. Their house near the cathedral became at once the centre of women's work in the diocese; they undertook many activities besides that which had been their first aim, including the nursing in the city hospital. It accomplished valuable work, but its constitution was too slight to give it the stability of a community, and it yielded place to branch houses of English sisterhoods as they found it possible to extend their work to South Africa. There are now many of these in the Province, besides the indigenous Communities of the Resurrection at Grahamstown and St. John the Divine in Natal. For their work St. George's Home had prepared the way, by overcoming prejudices and suspicions, initiating work, and bringing the Church to realize that the work of religious communities is indispensable in regions where the Church must for centuries to come be largely missionary.
The foundation of sisterhoods had in England long preceded the revival of the religious life for men. But before the Bishop died the Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cowley, had given promise of stability, under its founder Father Benson, and the Bishop was in correspondence with Father Benson during the last year of his life, in the hope that the Fathers might come to South Africa. It was at that time impossible for the little community to send out a colony. It was then but five years old, it had already some obligations to America, and was looking forward to an Indian house. But Father Benson looked forward to a time when a South African house might also be possible, though he did not think that it would be for some time to come. That plan also has been accomplished. Father Benson kept South Africa in mind. Not many years passed before he was able to fulfil the Bishop's hope. The Society's house in the slums of Cape Town, with its many dependencies for native work, and the mission station of St. Cuthbert's in the Transkei, have given invaluable service to the Province, not only in the mission-work for which the Fathers have been directly responsible, but in the maintenance of spiritual life among the clergy, the communities, and layfolk.
To look for the secret of great achievement is to find it in character. Robert Gray was one in whom, by the grace of God, those three elements which von Hugel has insisted to be necessary to ripeness and fullness of Christian living were held in balance. The intellectual element, the institutional element, the mystical element were evident and proportionate in him. He would have been the last man to claim for himself any high degree of scholarship. But he read constantly and deeply in all subjects which concerned his office and work, and was wise in judgment. So he was able to bring to bear on that institutional work by which he is best remembered the fruit of the Church's experience throughout the ages, the wisdom of her theologians and canonists and moralists. But the intellectual and the institutional were in him related at every point to the mystical. Love of God, and of souls to be brought to God through His Church, was the driving force of all his action.
Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic was his simple humility. The pagan poet might reply to his royal patron:
It is as thou hast heard; in one short life I, Cleon, have effected all those things Thou wonderingly dost enumerate.
The Bishop, looking back over a work at which others marvelled, would only think "so little done, so much remains to do." Again and again his private letters bear witness to his distrust of himself, his sense of inadequacy to his post and his opportunities. Some who looked on at the ecclesiastical conflicts into which he was forced judged hastily that he was an overbearing man, eager to have his way and impose his ideas, at whatever cost to others. They little knew at how great a cost to himself he maintained orthodoxy and discipline and vindicated the Church's right; how he suffered with those on whom he was compelled to pass judgment. If here and there a concise letter seems to be wanting in sympathy, it was because he himself had long ago made the sacrifices which now he asked from others, calling them to duties which he had not declined. His heart was full of tenderness to all; it showed itself in his compassion to the sick and oppressed, his kindness to children and animals.
He longed for more time for study and prayer. He seemed to himself at times to be leading merely a busy, secularized life. Yet on a long day's journey he records with thankfulness that he had been able to maintain almost uninterrupted communion with God. At Bishops-court he would rise at five, to get time for prayer before the business of the day began. For the work once begun would not cease till nightfall, if then. The age was one which set a high standard of duty; the Bishop never fell below the highest. If he scorned delights and lived laborious days, duty, not fame, was his spur. Exercise was very necessary, to him; he found it in walking and riding about his diocese. For long hours in every day that he spent at home he was chained to his desk. Letter-writing was ever a burden to him; but that could not be guessed from his correspondence, which, whether it related to public or private affairs, was admirably full and clear. A bishop today can dictate to a typist much of his routine correspondence; Bishop Gray lived before such aid, nor perhaps would he have condescended to it. We may think that he was somewhat too conscientious; we are content to scribble "S.P.G.," the Bishop always wrote it in full, "the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel." History is the gainer by his toil; we have in his letters and journals a record of the development of the Church in South Africa, its trials and conflicts, the conditions in which it worked, the state of the country, which constitutes as ample material for the historian as exists in any Church of a Dominion.
When the Bishop died the S.P.G., moved to a warmth of expression unwonted at that time recorded its estimate of the service which he had given to the Church. "The seat of the foremost prelate in the British Colonies is left vacant He has laid down the burden of a work the greatness and completeness of which can hardly be over-estimated. . . . Robert Gray was con secrated Bishop of Cape Town in 1847 There was then in South Africa no Church organization fourteen isolated clergymen ministered to scattered congregations. In the quarterof a century which has since elapsed a vast ecclesiastical province has been created. There are now in South Africa six dioceses. At the Provincial Synod of 1870 five of these were announced as integral parts of the Province, being complete with synodical, parochial, and missionary organizations, administered by one hundred and twenty-seven clergymen, besides lay teachers The Society would record solemnly its thankfulness to God for those great talents, the use of which was so long granted to the Church. His single minded devotion of himself and his substance to the work of God, his eminent administrative ability, his zeal which never flagged, his considerate tenderness in dealing with others, his undaunted courage in grappling with unexpected obstacles in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, will live in the records of the African Church as the qualities of her founder, and will secure for him a place in history as one of the most distinguished in that band of missionary Bishops by whose labours in this generation the borders of the Church have been so widely extended."
No survey of Bishop Gray's work would be complete which left out of account its reaction upon the Church in England. There the Church went in subservience to the State, in dread of the Privy Council. At any moment she might be the sport and the secret scorn of cynical statesmen, and at times she seemed merely to echo their opinions; if a Colonial Secretary presumed to decide whether or not a bishop was necessary to a new mission, an archbishop would be found arguing that it was un-scriptural for a bishop to head one. Bishop Gray's assertion of the Church's independence and of her inherent powers encouraged all in England who were combining to resist the intrusion of the civil power into the spiritual affairs of the Church. His action made men ask themselves whether the Church was the Body of Christ, or merely a department of the State, maintained, as Newman had said, rather as a support to civil society than for the unseen and spiritual blessings which are its true and proper gifts. South Africa showed England not only that the Church could exist independently of the State, but that independence was necessary to her life.