This year the Methodist conference was held in Manchester, and Mr. C. being at this time in a bad state of health, was appointed to this circuit; being advised to use the Buxton Waters, as the likeliest means of his recovery. He tried the waters both by drinking and bathing, and was greatly benefited. The following year he visited Buxton again, and had his health completely restored. Of the great utility of these waters in rheumatic affections, he has ever spoken in the strongest terms; believing that this efficacy could not be too highly appreciated.
About this time the French revolution seemed to interest the whole of Europe. On the question of its expediency and legality, men were strangely divided. The high Tories considered it as a most atrocious rebellion; the Whigs, and those who leaned to a republican creed, considered it a most justifiable exertion of an enslaved nation to break its chains, and free itself from the most unprincipled despotism, and abject slavery. The history of this mighty contest is well known. The nation succeeded, though opposed by all the powers of Europe; and many of its officers acquired such eminent degrees of military glory, as surpassed every thing of the kind since the days of the Grecian Republics, and the times of the ancient Romans. But having defeated all its enemies, it became ambitious, and went through several forms of government: the mass of the people produced a National Assembly, this a Directory, this a consular Triumvirate this a Dictator, this a King of the French, this an Emperor, who ruled for a considerable time with unlimited power, and unexampled success; confounding the politics of the European states and annihilating their armies.
At last Napoleon, the most accomplished general and potentate which modern times have produced, by an ill-judged winter campaign against Russia, had an immense army destroyed by the frost, himself barely escaping from the enemy; after which his good fortune seemed generally to forsake him; till at last, when on the eve of victory, at the famous battle of Waterloo, by one of those chances of war, to which many little men owe their consequent greatness and great men their downfall, he was defeated, and having thrown himself on the generosity of the British, he was sent a prisoner to the Rock of St. Helena, where, by confinement and ungenerous treatment, he became a prey to disease and death.
On the merits of this Revolution, in all the states through which it passed, the British Nation was itself greatly divided. Even religious people caught the general mania, greatly accelerated by the publications of Thomas Paine, particularly his Rights of Man, insomuch that the pulpits of all parties, resounded with the pro and con politics of the day, to the utter neglect of the pastoral duty; so that the hungry sheep looked up and were not fed.
It was the lot of Mr. Clarke to be associated at this time with two eminent men, who unfortunately took opposite sides of this great political question; one pleading for the lowest republicanism, while the other exhausted himself in maintaining the divine right of kings and regular governments to do what might seem right in their own eyes, the people at large having nothing to do with the laws but to obey them. His soul was grieved at this state of things; but he went calmly on his way, preaching Christ crucified for the redemption of a lost world; and though his abilities were greatly inferior to those of his colleagues, his congregations were equal to theirs, and his word more abundantly useful. Political preachers neither convert souls, nor build up believers on their most holy faith: one may pique himself on his loyalty, the other on his liberality and popular notions of government; but in the sight of the Great Head of the Church, the first is a sounding brass, the second a tinkling cymbal.
Arcades ambo Et cantare pares, et respondere parati.
Both stubborn statesmen, both with skill inspired, To scold or bluster as their cause required.
When preachers of the gospel become parties in party politics, religion mourns, the church is unedified, and political disputes agitate even the faithful of the land. Such preachers, no matter which side they take, are no longer the messengers of glad tidings, but the seedsmen of confusion, and wasters of the heritage of Christ. Though Mr. Clarke had fully made up his mind on the politics of the day, and never swerved from his Whig principles, yet in the pulpit, there was nothing heard from him but Christ crucified, and the salvation procured by His blood.
While in this town, he formed that now well known Institution called the Strangers Friend Society, which has spread over most of the populous towns and cities of England; and has been the means of turning many to righteousness, as well as of saving many thousands from an untimely death.
In the town and vicinity of Manchester he labored for two years. Here he found many valuable friends, and had the satisfaction to know that he had neither run in vain, nor spent his strength for naught.