BOOK 2, CH. 6,
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Mr. Clarke was now appointed to labor in a large tract of country in the counties of Norfolk and Suffolk, having the city of Norwich as the head of the Circuit and for this new sphere of Gospel enterprise he lost no time in setting out, traveling the whole way in the saddle. The Methodist preachers in those days were all horsemen. The country people, all over England, used to speak of them as “the riding preachers.” The new evangelists were decidedly an equestrian order, who prolonged the days of chivalry. And among these soldiers of the cross, who went abroad through all the land to comfort the afflicted, rescue the oppressed, and save the perishing, Adam Clarke had now been finally enrolled. He wore now the armour that St. Paul describes in the Epistle to the Ephesians, — the helmet and breastplate, sword and shield; and never more laid them aside, till the day of his death. In thinking of him now, as he pursues his way with much solemn musing and frequent prayer, one is reminded of old Spenser’s emblematic picture-words in the “Faerie Queen,” where he describes “a gentle knight” who “was moving o’er the plain, clad in mighty arms and silver shield: — “And on his breast a bloody cross he bore, The dear remembrance of his dying Lord, For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore, And dead, as living, ever Him adored. Upon his shield the like was also scored, For sovereign hope which in its help he had.
The people among whom he labored were ignorant and depraved, and his efforts to bring them to truth and righteousness were prosecuted in circumstances most depressing to body and mind. On arriving in the city of Norwich, he found one of the late preachers lying ill of a fever, and, unable to vacate the room which had been assigned as his own sleeping- place. In this sorrowful domicile, which he describes as “pestiferous,” he got such rest as could be obtained; and then he went out into the Circuit. It comprehended two-and-twenty towns and villages, and was traveled every month by a journey of not less than two hundred and sixty miles. Of his colleagues, the superintendent was Mr. Richard Whatcoat, who was afterwards sent to America, and there became one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Clarke describes him as “a very holy man, a good and sound preacher, diligent and orderly in his work, and a fine example of practical piety in all his conduct.” He pursued among his transatlantic brethren the same quiet and good career, seeking only the establishment of the kingdom of God, both in himself’ and others; and died at length in the faith, universally esteemed.
The other two were Messrs. Ingham and Adamson; the latter of whom was “a young man very sincere, and who had got the rudiments of a classical education; but was of such an unsteady, fickle mind, that he excelled in nothing.” The next year he retired from the work. The four preachers took each one his week in the city, and then three weeks in itinerating the Circuit. Both in town and country they fared very poorly.
In Norwich itself the preachers’ residence was tenanted also by another family, who “provided for the preachers at so much per meal;” and he was most certainly considered the best preacher who ate the fewest dinners, because his bills were the smallest. In this respect Mr. Clarke excelled. He breakfasted on milk and bread, drank no tea or coffee, and took nothing in the evening. In short, he adapted himself to these dietetic circumstances, and endeavored to make the state of things as agreeable and useful in the domestic department as he could. It was not without some allowable hilarity that he w ould afterwards tell how he mended the bellows, and repaired the coal-shovel, though the poker, worn away to the stump, defied his ingenuity. Nay, obeying the letter as well as the spirit of the “Rules of a Helper,” — “Do not affect the gentleman;” and, “Be not ashamed of cleaning your own shoes, or your neighbor’s,” — he frequently did this for his own, and those of his brethren.
Out in the Circuit things were worse. Except at a few places, the accommodations were very bad. The winter, too, was that year unusually severe. The snow began to fall on Christmas-day, and lay on the ground for more than three months, in some places from ten to fifteen feet deep.
The frost was so intense, that in riding he could seldom keep his saddle five minutes together, but was forced to alight, and walk and run, to prevent his feet from being frost-bitten. In the poor cabins where he lodged, and where there was scarcely any fire, and the clothing on the bed was very light, he suffered much, “going to bed cold, and rising cold.” In one place, I have been told, he had a wooden door laid upon him as a succedaneum for an upper blanket. He could indulge also in astronomical contemplations, as the stars shone upon him through chinks in the roof. In another place he lodged in a loft of an outhouse, where the cold was so intense, that warm water which be brought with him into this arctic region froze in a few minutes. In such circumstances, I wonder not that, like one of his brethren, who, while laboring in Herefordshire, “went to bed at night, boots and all,” Mr. Clarke should often have been “obliged to get into bed with a part of his clothes on, strip them off by degrees, as the bed got warmer, and then lie in the same position, without attempting to move his limbs, every unoccupied place in the bed which his legs touched producing the same sensation as if the parts had been brought into contact with red-hot iron.” No doubt he would henceforward understand something better those lines in Milton, — “The parched air Burns frore, and cold performs the effects of fire.” The refreshments of the table were in general keeping with the hardness of the lodging, — very homely food, and sometimes but little of it; which the poor people, nevertheless, most readily shared with him who came to their houses and their hearts with the good tidings of better things to come; since, but for such preaching, they must have been almost totally destitute of that instruction without which there was little hope of their salvation. It was by these means, and often in these conditions of privation and suffering, that the Methodist preachers spread scriptural Christianity through the land, and became the instruments of improving the moral and civil life of the great masses of the poor.
Yet not always welcome. In some parts of the Circuit, and even in Norwich itself, they had not only to bear up under the discouragements of apathy on the part of the people, but at times to face their more open opposition. “They were called,” says an historian of the times, “to meet the rude assaults of the mob, who did not wish to be disturbed in their ungodly courses; and the county of Norfolk was distinguished for this kind of conduct. Mr. Clarke did not scruple to pronounce it the most ungodly part of the British empire he knew. In Norwich the preachers scarcely ever got through the service on a Sabbath evening without having less or more disturbance, or a mob at the chapel-doors. Even Mr. Wesley himself could not escape rude treatment.” On one occasion he visited Norwich in company with Mr. John Hampson, a preacher of gigantic make, and the strongest muscular powers, nor wanting, either, in strength and grandeur of mind. When Mr. Wesley had finished, on going from the chapel he found the street crowded with a mob who were waiting to offer him some violence. As they closed in upon him, Mr. Hampson stepped forward, and fronted them in an attitude of threatening. Mr. Wesley, fearing he would really attack them, called out to him to refrain; upon which Mr. Hampson replied in a thundering voice, “Let me alone, sir. If God has not given you an arm to quell this mob, He has given me one; and the first man who molests you here, I will lay him for fall.” Mr. Wesley and his doughty [brave] acolyte [a person assisting a priest in a service or procession] passed away unmolested.
It was in the course of this year that the founder of Methodism, the grand itinerant whose circuit was the whole kingdom, and whose parish was the world, came again into that part of the country; and Mr. Clarke was greatly refreshed in hearing him preach nine sermons, on the following texts: — “We preach Christ crucified.” “Wherefore He is able to save to the uttermost.” “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven.” “Put on the whole armour of God.” “The kingdom of God is at hand.” “Ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost.” “They despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word.” “What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Adam Clarke had n ow learned to love Mr. Wesley, as a son loves a father. “With him he had now the privilege of conversation concerning the state of his soul, from which he derived much edification and strength. Referring in his journal to the last of these interviews, he adds, — “Here I took leave of this precious servant of God. O Father, let Thy angels attend him wheresoever he goes; let the energetic power of Thy Spirit accompany the words he shall speak, and apply them to the hearts of all, and” [make them] “the means of conviction, conversion, comfort, and strength, as they may severally require. And let me also abundantly profit by the things I have heard.”
The heavy toil of this year produced, apparently, but little fruit. A kind of invincible ignorance and brutal depravity marked the state of the multitude of the people; and Antinomianism had perverted the minds of many who professed the faith of the Gospel. Yet, doubtless, the day of eternity will reveal bright evidences that these labors were not in vain in the Lord. His holy word does not return void. Mr. Clarke had the honor of introducing Methodism into some neighborhoods in the eastern counties, where good religious effects have been produced. The town of Diss, one of those places, has since become the head of a Circuit. The people of God in the different congregations were edified under his ministry, and the more intelligent among them discerned in him the signs of future greatness. As to cases of individual conversion, the disclosures of the future life will show more than he was permitted to ascertain in the present. But, though that unfriendly soil should have yielded no such fruit, it was not for want of earnest and persevering endeavors on the part of this good and faithful servant, whose work is with the Lord, and his labor with his God.
By the Conference of 1784 Mr. Clarke was appointed to the East Cornwall Circuit. The journey thither, about four hundred miles, he accomplished on horseback; and for the defrayment of the expenses he received a guinea. His whole salary in the Norwich Circuit had been but twelve pounds; and of this, little, I ween, was remaining when he left the ground. In fact, it appears, by an entry of his own, that he had but half-acrown beside the guinea, at the time of his setting off. He rode from forty to fifty miles a day, fasting nearly all the way, as the poor horse required nearly all the money he could command. A penny usually served for a breakfast, and a dinner too; and at nightfall, at the places where he rested, being of necessity obliged to take something, he made the repast as light as he could, from a tender regard to the infirm state of his purse. He reached London on the Saturday, (August 14th,) and, making himself known to his brethren, received their not unwelcome hospitality, and helped them in their preaching-labors on the following day. At that time Moorfields, in the neighborhood of the headquarters of the preachers at City-Road, formed an unoccupied space, in which the Methodists had open-air preaching. Mr. Clarke preached there on this Sunday. While addressing his motley congregation, his attention was arrested by the singular conduct of two men, which was explained to him many years afterward by one of them, who said, — “I was one of those men: the person with me was my brother. We both heard the truth, and hated you for telling it to us. We thought you were too young to teach others, and resolved to pull you down, and do you injury. For this purpose we made our way to the desk, taking our stand on each side of it, and encouraging each other. He beckoned me to do it, and I made signs to him: but neither of us seemed to have the power. We were secretly and unaccountably deterred. At length we began to attend to what was said, were both impressed with the force of truth, and I am now, through the mercy of God, a local preacher in the Methodist Society.”
Next day our itinerant turned his face toward the west, and on the 18th, passing through the scenes of his last year’s labors, found himself again among his old friends at Trowbridge; where, as at Bradford, Shepton- Mallet, and some other places, he spent several useful days. Once more recruited, he went on his way, and entered the town of St. Austel on Saturday, August the 28th. He here learned that the Circuit comprehended more than forty places. His colleagues were his former superintendent, Mr. Wrigley, and Mr. William Church.
In Cornwall Mr. Clarke would find, even in that day, an intellectual element which differed greatly from that in Norfolk and Suffolk. The people in this western peninsula are distinguished by a strong sentiment of respect for real religion, great reverence for learning, and a kind of natural love for metaphysical disquisition. Cornwall had in old times a strong character for devotion. The primitive British Christianity found an asylum there. In what we call “the dark ages,” the religion of the times, such as it was, exerted over the people of these coasts a lofty and powerful influence. Hence we find a great number of the parishes still called after the names of eminent saints, whose lives and labors wrought once great miracles of mercy among a not ungrateful people, and of whom a priest and poet, who loves well to trace their haunts, and commemorate their virtues, has thus sung: — “They had their lodges in the wilderness, Or built them cells beside the shadowy sea; And there they dwelt with angels like a dream! So they enclosed the volume of the Book, And fill’d the fields of the evangelist With thoughts as sweet as flowers.”
But the later Romanists, and, subsequently to the Reformation, their Protestant successors, failed to perpetuate those zealous works, while the people gradually sunk both in mind and morals; till, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the inhabitants of some parts of Cornwall had become little better than barbarians. It was then that Wesley came among them, and, with the still small voice of Gospel truth, charmed them to Christian civilization, and brought them back to God. The first visit of this minister of Christ inaugurated a new era in the religious history of Cornwall and from his days to our own the work of improvement has been steadily advancing.
Mr. Clarke found that though “the Circuit was exceedingly severe, the riding constant, the roads in general bad, and the accommodations in most places very indifferent;” yet, unlike his last year’s experience in Norfolk, his exhausting labors were attended by visible results. Crowded congregations received him as a messenger from the Lord. Sinners were converted, and believers edified in their holy faith. He has recorded that “there was a general spirit of hearing, and an almost universal revival of the work of God. Thousands flocked to the preaching; the chapels could not contain the crowds that came; and almost every week in the year he was obliged to preach in the open air, — even at times when the rain was descending, and when the snow lay upon the earth. But prosperity made everything pleasant; for the toil, in almost every place, was compensated by a blessed ingathering of sinners to Christ, and a general renewing of the face of the country: — “In St. Austel the heavenly flame broke out in an extraordinary manner, and great numbers were there gathered into the fold of Christ. Among those whom Mr. Clarke united to the Society, was Samuel Drew, then terminating his apprenticeship to a shoemaker, who afterwards became one of the first metaphysicians of the age; with several others since distinguished either in literature or mechanics.”
Of Mr. Drew, if space permitted, we could write many things expressive of a veneration awakened in the author’s mind while hardly more than a child, by the reading of his “Original Essay on the Immortality of the Soul;” and in later years strengthened and confirmed by occasional conversations with the great reasoner himself, in whose mental and moral character he saw much of the dialectical acumen of a Plato combined with much of the evangelic grace of a St. John. The history and example of his life have been set forth by his son. Samuel Drew’s works should not be suffered to pass into oblivion. The choicest of them at least should have the benefit of a new and uniform edition, and so be commended to future time. In them the lover of abstract meditation will always find something to please his peculiar taste, and never pervert his best principles, while “sitting apart” with one who — “In elevated thoughts will reason high Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate, Fix’d fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute, But find no end.”
Mr. Clarke’s ministry was prosecuted in a great variety of circumstances.
The Methodists of Cornwall had not then the spacious temples which are now the ornaments of their towns, and where they assemble by hundreds and thousands to solemnize the worship of the Almighty. They met in those days under the roof of the cottage, in the kitchen of the farm-house, or in such humble erections, sacred to religion, as their scanty means would allow them to build; and not infrequently, when the pressure was too great, preacher and people would go forth into the great temple of God, and worship Him under the firmament of His own power. Preaching out of doors would, however, subject him at times to the opposition of such as were of the contrary side. And on one occasion Mr. Clarke was carried by the parish authorities to “the nearest magistrate,” who happened to be the Reverend Sir Harry Trelawney, who had been a field-preacher himself, and that before his ordination. From him Mr. Clarke received nothing but encouragement. Sir Harry strongly advised him to get a regular license, and so put himself more effectually under the protection of the law. But to this measure Mr. Clarke had always an objection, as, not being a Dissenter in principle, he scrupled to take the oath prescribed only for such as are. In principle, he was always a moderate Church-of-England man; and I should have mentioned, while treating of the time he spent at Kingswood, flint, a confirmation being held in Bristol just then, he availed himself of the opportunity, and received that ordinance at the hands of Bishop Bagot.
But to return: — About four months after his arrival in Cornwall, he suffered a violent fall from his horse, “which had nearly proved fatal. The horse had formerly belonged to Mr. Wesley, but turned out a most dangerous beast, from the habit of stumbling; and, although he could scarcely ride him ten miles without at least one fall, yet such was the feeling he had for the animal for his former owner’s sake, that he had not as yet been prevailed on, though strongly advised, to part with him.
On this occasion, however, the injury was too serious to warrant any further risk. There was a hard frost that evening, and, “coming over the down above Rothernbridge, the horse fell, according to custom, and pitched Mr. Clarke directly on his head. He lay some time senseless, but how long he could not tell. At length having come to himself a little, he felt as if in the agonies of death, and earnestly recommended his soul to his Redeemer. But he so far recovered as to be able, though with difficulty, to reach the house. As a congregation attended, the good people, not knowing how much injury he had sustained, entreated him to preach. He could not draw a full breath, and was scarcely able to stand. Still he endeavored to recommend to them the salvation of God. That night he spent sleepless with pain. The next day a person was sent with him to stay him up in the saddle, that he might get to Port Isaac, where he could obtain some medical help. Every step the horse took seemed like a dart run through his body .
He got at last to Port Isaac. Doctor Twentyman,” an excellent physician of the place, “was sent for, and bled him. It appeared that some of the vertebrae of the spine had been injured. He was desired to remain in the house some days, which he could not consent to do, as there were four places where he was expected to preach on the following day; and this he did, at the most serious risk of his life. From this hurt he did not fully recover for more than three years.”
He was a singular character, deep in the study of alchemy. He told Mr. Clarke he had dreamed of him before he ever saw him. He then described the school-yard at Kingswood where he met him in the dream, drawing in words a graphic picture of the spot, though he had never been there, and had never heard it described by others. He recommended alchemy as a study which brings a man nearer to the Creator. Mr. Clarke had many interviews with him, and never, as he says, without being the better for them.
To another gentleman also, Mr. Richard Mabyn, of Camelford, he ever after felt a grateful sense of obligation. At his house the young man found what he had long been a stranger to, — the comfort of a home; and in his letters written to Mr. Mabyn, long years after, he still expresses his affectionate acknowledgment of kindnesses in which that good man proved to him at once a teacher, a parent, and a friend.
He continued to be cheered in his work by tokens of the Divine benediction. In a letter to a friend at Trowbridge, he says, “Among the children there is a most blessed movement. Numbers of them, being made sensible of their need of Christ, have set their feet in the paths of the Lord, and are running with steady pace to their Heavenly Father’s kingdom; and are, contrary to the nature of things, turned fathers to the aged. You may remember that I wrote to you something concerning a Magdalene whom I admitted into Society. Her character was so bad before, that almost the whole Society opposed her admittance; some threatening to leave the class.
I withstood them all, and proclaimed from the pulpit that I would admit the most devil-like souls in the place, provided they would cast aside their sins and come to Jesus. After she had been hindered some little time, she at last got leave to meet; and, O, how wonderfully did God confound the wisdom of the prudent ever since she has walked and spoken agreeably to her profession. At St. Austel the Lord has lately laid to His hand, and there is such a revival now in it as I have never seen in any place before.
Numbers are lately joined; and our chapel, though the largest in the Circuit, is so filled, that the people are obliged to stand on the seats to make room; yet, after all, many are obliged to return home, not being able to gain admittance. Last Sunday night I preached there, and was forced to enter at the window to get to the pulpit.”
The incessant efforts of this year wore him down grievously. Five hundred and sixty-eight sermons, many of them preached out of doors in all weathers, besides the other duties of the Methodist itinerancy, had made, by the time that Conference drew nigh, a serious inroad upon the vigor of his constitution. His appetite failed, and health rapidly declined. Nature called for rest, but the necessities of the work to which he had committed himself gave him but little time for respite; for, so early as the 27th of August in the following Methodistic year, we find him entering on the duties of his new appointment at Plymouth.
Mr. Clarke’s early labors in the west established a sympathy between himself and the Methodists of Cornwall, which lasted through his life, and which, on their part, still survives in the veneration with which their children regard his very name. He was certainly enabled to set before them, both in doctrine and life, the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus: “by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and yet living; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich.”
Such had been the unction and effectiveness of his popular ministry, that the people in the St. Austel Circuit were earnestly desirous of obtaining his services another year, and a request to that effect had been lodged with the Conference, to which Mr. Wesley was at first disposed to give his consent. But an unquiet state of things had latterly prevailed at Plymouth, which had just issued in the secession of a strong party from the Society; and Mr. Wesley, who knew well how to put the right man in the right place, had already formed such an estimate of the talents and piety of Mr. Clarke, as to be assured that the pulpit he occupied would become a rallying-point to re-gather the scattered flock. The event fulfilled his expectations; and in his new sphere of labor our young evangelist was graciously blessed, and made a blessing. His colleagues were Messrs. John Mason and John King. Of the former, whose name is yet, and ever will be, much honored by the Methodist people, Mr. Clarke has in his “Letter to a P reacher” put on record the following memorial: — “Mr. Mason made it the study of his life to maintain his character as a preacher, a Christian, and a man; the latter word taken in its noblest sense: and he did this by cultivating his mind in every branch of useful knowledge within his reach; and his profiting was great. In the history of the world, and of the church, he was very extensively read. With anatomy and medicine he was well acquainted; and his knowledge of natural history, and particularly botany, was ample. In the latter science he was inferior to few. His botanical collections would do credit to the finest museums in Europe; and especially his collections of English plants, all gathered, preserved, classified, and described by himself. But this was his least praise: he laid all his attainments in the natural sciences under contribution to his theologic studies; nor could it be ever said that he neglected his duty as a Christian minister to cultivate his mind in philosophical pursuits. He was a Christian man, and in his life and spirit adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour. The propriety and dignity of his conduct were, through the whole of his life, truly exemplary; and his piety towards God, and his benevolence towards men, were as deep as they were sincere.”
Of Mr. Clarke’s own mental development and literary studies we will treat more fully in a subsequent chapter. It may be remarked, however, that, while in this Circuit, his intellectual powers seem to have made a great stride in the acquisition of positive knowledge, and in the use of the faculties by which this is combined for use, and employed for instruction.
One little ruffle only seems to have occurred, and this of a nature almost too trifling to merit notice, unless considered in connection with one of those few but strong prejudices which characterized Dr. Adam Clarke, — a kind of distaste for, or a disparagement of the use of music in the worship of God. We will give the incident at Plymouth in his own way: — “This year the Society at Dock built a new chapel at Windmill Hill, much more commodious than that which they had opposite the Gunwharf Gate; but so much had the congregations increased, that this new erection was soon found to be too small. When the seats of this chapel were in course of being let, he noticed for the first time, what he had occasion to notice with pain often after, how difficult it is to satisfy a choir of singers; of how little use they are, in general; and how dangerous they are, at all times to the peace of the church of Christ. There was here a choir, and some among them who understood music as well as most in the nation; and some who, taken individually, were both sensible and pious. These, in their collective capacity, wished to have a particular seat, with which the trustees could not conveniently accommodate them, because of their engagements with other persons. When the singers found they could not have the places they wished, they came to a private resolution not to sing in the chapel. Of this resolution the preachers knew nothing. It was Mr. Clarke’s turn to preach in the chapel at the Gunwharf the next Sabbath morning at seven, and then they intended to give the first exhibition of their dumb-show.
He gave out, as usual, the page and measure of the hymn. All was, silent. He looked to see if the singers were in their place; and, behold, the choir was full, even unusually so. He, thinking that they could not find the page, or did not know the measure, gave out both again; and then looked them all full in the face, which they returned with great steadiness of countenance. He then raised the tune himself, and the congregation continued the singing. Not knowing what the matter was, he gave out the next hymn, as he had given out the former, again and again; still they were silent. He then raised the tune, and the congregation sang as before. Afterwards he learned that, as the trustees would not indulge them with the places they wished, they were determined to avenge their quarrel on Mighty God; for He should have no praise from them, since they could not have the seats they wished. The impiety of this conduct appeared to him in a most hideous point of view They continued this ungodly farce, hoping to reduce the trustees, preachers, and Society to the necessity of capitulating at discretion but the besieged, by appointing a man to be always present to raise the tunes, cut off the whole choir at a stroke. From this time the liveliness and piety of the singing were considerably improved.”
On this question of congregational singing, Christians in general have but little difference of opinion. The God of nature has given to music its eternal laws; and the God of grace has ordained by revelation that this most beautiful provision for the solace of our spiritual life shall be consecrated to His service as a vehicle of instruction, and an expressive token of worship. So it was in the tabernacle and temple of old; so it is, by apostolic precept, in the Christian services; so it will be in the solemnities of the resurrection-life of the world to come. As to the abuses of it by frivolous or weak-minded persons, the church has it ever in her power to restrain them; but the use of it, if we read our Bibles rightly, she has not the liberty to abolish.
The Lord’s blessing so rested upon the ministry of His servants among a Society which they had found in a distracted and dwindling condition, that, at the end of the year, they had the gratification to report not only the return of many of the wanderers, but an accession of more than a hundred members. The congregations, too, had become immense. The people of the towns, and the marine population of the ships in the Hamoaze, came in crowds to hear the word of God. Among the naval men who attended Mr. Clarke’s ministry here, he mentions Mr. Hore, afterwards purser of the “Venerable,” in which Admiral Duncan commanded when he beat the Dutch under De Winter. The friendly warrant-officer lent Mr. Clarke some good books, and among others Chambers’s Encyclopedia, which was always a favorite work of reference with him. Mr. Hore died when serving in the fleet off Egypt. Another was Cleland Kirkpatrick, who had lost an arm in an engagement with Paul Jones, the American pirate-commodore.
Kirkpatrick, who was now rated on board the “Cambridge,” was brought under the power of the Gospel, joined the Society, became an itinerant preacher, fought the good fight of Christ’s service, and finished his course with joy.
At the Conference of 1786 a new field of enterprise was opened to Mr. Clarke. The people at Plymouth had been looking forward to the renewal of his services among them; but their wishes, as well as his own, were somewhat painfully crossed, by an unexpected appointment to the Norman Isles. In one of that beautiful group of islands Methodism had already found a promising lodgment, through the labors of Robert Carr Brackenbury, Esq., of Raithby Hall, Lincolnshire; a gentleman who, having tasted himself of the good word of God, had for some years consecrated his time and talents to the great work of making it known to his fellowmen.
He was one of the lay coadjutors of Mr. Wesley, and in fact had the status of a regular itinerant preacher. Having been led by Divine Providence to establish his residence for a time in Jersey, he had entered upon a series of evangelic operations there, which were followed with such propitious results as to induce him to apply to the Conference for the appointment of another preacher, who should extend his labors to the neighboring islands. The Conference knew that Mr. Clarke possessed already some knowledge of the French tongue; and this circumstance, combined with the admirable attributes of character which they saw unfolding themselves in him, inspired the leading men of that body with the wish that he should be intrusted with the mission. He seems himself to have yielded to this arrangement more from a submission to the will of his fathers and brethren, than from any pleasurable impulse toward it in his own mind. He was yet young in years and experience; and the anticipation of having to bear, in an isolated station, the responsibility of an important undertaking, threw the shadows of anxiety upon his mind. He was, nevertheless, prepared to encounter any difficulty, and to bear any inconvenience, which might occur in the well-marked path of duty. “I am willing,” said he in a letter to Mr. Brackenbury, “to accompany you to the islands. I desire only to receive and to do good; and i t matters little to me in what department of the vineyard I am, if these ends are accomplished. I feel God is here; and this is a powerful incentive to obedience, and renders duty delightful.” As to difficulty, privation, and opposition, he had already counted the cost, and had learned that his vocation as a laborer in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ was to do and suffer, and through that ordeal pass to the triumph and repose predestined to the faithful. He had now taken for his motto the sentence of the Grecian sage, — “Stand thou as a beaten anvil to the stroke; for it is the property of a good warrior to be flayed alive, and yet to conquer.” Nor this alone; there was another which lay yet deeper in his soul: “When I am weak, then am I strong:” “I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” He now held himself in readiness to sail with Mr. Brackenbury, who had gone down to his seat in Lincolnshire, to make such arrangements as would permit him to continue for a while longer his residence in the islands.
Some delay having occurred, Mr. Clarke took the opportunity to visit his brother Tracy, who was now settled in a medical practice at Maghull, near Liverpool; and, during the few days of this visit, preached in several places of that neighborhood. Then, repairing to Southampton, by way of Bristol, he was refreshed in body and mind by a sojourn among his friends at Trowbridge, with some of whom he had formed a religious and abiding intimacy; and among them, with her who was the destined companion of his life, and for whom friendship was now fast strengthening in his bosom into a most sacred and perpetual love.
At Southampton he load expected to find Mr. Brackenbury, but a fortnight further elapsed before he had the pleasure of meeting him. The interim was spent, partly at Southampton, and partly at Winchester, in both which places he preached several times. In the cathedral of the latter city he passed many hours with a solemn interest, and stored the pages of his journal with descriptive notes on the various antiquities of that venerable pile, and with meditations suggested by the sight of them. I select two of these entries, as giving a favorable idea of the manner in which this young man had schooled his mind to profitable thought.
ON EARTHLY GLORY
“How little is worldly grandeur worth, together with the most splendid distinctions which great and pompous titles, or even important offices, confer upon men! They vanish as a dissipated vapour, and the proprietors of them go their way, — and where are they? or of what account? Death is the common lot of all men; and the honors of the great, and the abjectness of the mean, are equally unseen in the tomb. This I saw abundantly exemplified today, while viewing the remains of several kings, Saxon and British, whose very names, much less their persons and importance, are scarcely collectible from ‘rosy damps, mouldy shrines, dust and cobwebs.’ This exhibits a proper estimate of worldly glory, and verifies the saying of the wise man, that ‘a living dog is better than a dead lion.’ The meanest living slave is preferable to all these dead potentates. Is there any true greatness but that of the soul? And has the soul itself any true nobility, unless it is begotten from above, and has the spirit and love of Chris t to actuate it? The title of servant of the Lord Jesus Christ I prefer to the glory of kings.
This will stand me in stead, when the other is eternally forgotten. “In the time of the civil wars, the tombs of several of our kings, buried in this cathedral, were broken up and rifled, and the bones thrown indiscriminately about. After the Restoration they were collected, and put into large chests, which are placed in different parts of the choir, and labeled, as containing bones of ancient kings, but which could not be distinguished.”
THE PROGRESS OF REVELATION
“Why is it that God has observed so slow a climax in bringing the knowledge of His will and of their interest to mankind? e. g., giving a little under the patriarchal, an increase under the Mosaic, and the fullness of the blessing under the Christian dispensation? It is true He could have given the whole in the beginning to Adam; but that this would not have as effectually answered the Divine purpose, may be safely asserted.
God, like His instrument nature, delights in progression; and though the works of both in semine were finished from the beginning, they are not brought forward to complete existence but by various accretions. And this appears to be done that the blessings resulting from both may he properly valued; as, in their approach, men have time to discover their necessities; and when relieved, after a thorough consciousness of their urgency, they see and feel the propriety of being grateful to their kind Benefactor.
Were God to bestow His blessings before the want of them had been truly felt, men would not be grateful. He gives His blessings so that they may be truly esteemed, and he Himself become the sole object of our trust; and this end He secures by a gradual communication of His bounties, as they are felt to be necessary. He brings forward His dispensations of mercy and love, as he sees men prepared to receive and value them; and, as one makes way for another, the soul is rendered capable of more extended views and enjoyments: so the Divine being causes every succeeding dispensation to excel that which preceded it — in light, life, power, and holiness. “We first teach our children the power of the letters, — then to combine consonants and vowels to make syllables, — to unite syllables into words, and then to assort words into regular discourse. To require them to attempt the latter before they had studied the former, would be absurd. The first step qualifies for the second, and that for the third. Thus God deals with the universe, and thus with every individual: every communication is a kind of seed, which, if cultivated, brings forth fruit. ‘Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.’” At length Mr. Brackenbury reached Southampton. They embarked in a Jersey packet; and, landing on the twenty-sixth of October in St. Aubin’s Bay, they walked to St. Helier’s, where Mr. Clarke found himself that evening an inmate in the house which Mr. Brackenbury had engaged as his residence.