BOOK 2, CH. 8,
THE CIRCUIT MINISTER
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THE CIRCUIT MINISTER
Henceforward his ministry will be exercised in large and thickly-peopled cities, and thousands be enriched from those stores of saving truth which had been incessantly accumulating in his soul. The character of the times was assuming an unprecedented grandeur. Europe was beginning to heave with the throes of that political earthquake in which the feudalism of the past was doomed to give way before another development of society. The trumpets of Providence were sounding the advent of a new era in the history of the world. Revolution and change had become the order of the day; and, in the desired abolition of many unquestionable corruptions, there was a danger that the sacred institutes of legitimate authority and rule, the safeguards of the true rights of mankind, might also be swept away by the swelling tides. The demon of infidelity had come forth into this storm, and was pervading the popular mind with imaginations of rapine and murder. Nor wa s England without her peril of being drawn into this vortex of ruin. Among the masses of the people there were too many who, without consideration, were disposed to feel and act with the atheists and democrats of bewildered France. In those days, then, the voice of the evangelist was more than ever needed; and the Gospel of order and peace, which from his lips went straight to the hearts of the people, contributed more to the security of the altar and the throne than the worldly wisdom of Parliaments, or the whetted sword of the secular law. It was in the opening time of this national ordeal that Mr. Clarke began to appear as a prominent member of an order of men whose self-denying endeavors have not only saved multitudes of souls for all eternity, but contributed also, in a most honorable degree, to the temporal safety and well-being of their country.
Our preacher quitted the Norman Isles in July, 1789, and proceeded to the Conference at Leeds, leaving Mrs. Clarke and their infant at Trowbridge on his way. The trustees of the Leeds Circuit had already petitioned Mr. Wesley that Mr. Clarke should be appointed there the ensuing year, — a measure that was frustrated by a circumstance which seems sufficiently ludicrous. Mr. Clarke preached twice in Leeds on the Conference Sunday.
In the morning prayer he casually omitted to pray for the king. Reminded of the failure, he endeavored to repair it in the evening, when, among other supplications for His Majesty, he devoutly implored that God would bless him with His pardoning and sanctifying grace. Some of the “chief women” of the congregation took umbrage at this style of petition, as implying “that the king was a sinner!” So deeply was their sense of loyalty wounded, that a remonstrance against the appointment was signed by these ladies, and sent into the Conference, with the understanding that “the dangerously democratic principles” implied in such a prayer sufficiently unfitted the person who could utter it for ministering among the people of Leeds. Mr. Wesley, who wished to keep peace so far as possible, and who had a sincere respect for the simple-hearted, steadfast piety of the petitioners, acceded to the request, and appointed Mr. Clarke to Halifax. The leading men of the Society, however, were not so well satisfied with this decision, and an overture was made to reverse it. But Mr. Clarke was unprepared to listen to anything of the kind, and hastily pronounced the resolve never to enter Leeds in the way of an appointment as a traveling preacher; because he would not recognize any church, nor minister in any, in which the supreme rule was not with his Divine Master!
Just at that time he seems to have been incapable of propitiating the good graces of the Methodist ladies of Yorkshire; for, at Halifax, when his appointment there was notified, a remonstrance from the female members was sent forthwith, objecting to him, as being “dull, though learned.” So once more he was displaced. The same process followed as at Leeds. The men at Halifax wished him to come, and wrote a letter of explanation to that effect, which drew forth a reply from Mr. Clarke, reiterating the sentiment he had already pronounced: “The same principle must guide his movements on this as on the former occasion; his call, he conceived, not extending to any place in which women were the governors, because he was certain that Christ had not truly the rule where the women held the reins!” These little annoyances were, however, controlled for the best; and at the close of the Conference he held a confirmed appointment to the city of Bristol.
This sphere of duty was one of the most important that could have been assigned him, next to London. The Circuit held the preeminence in Methodism, and numbered, even at that time, the city and outlying places included, more than two thousand members. The necessities of the Circuit would admit of but a very short vacation, and with the opening of the year Mr. Clarke was at his post. As in imagination we see him enter the pulpit at Broadmead, on the first Sabbath morning, amid the silence, the prayer, and devout expectations of the crowded congregation, we insensibly call to mind the time when be first visited Bristol. The hungry, ill-clad youth, who had eaten his frugal supper of bread and water in the kitchen of the inn just opposite, and whose apparition had so disturbed the powers who reigned at Kingswood, now reappears, a man in all the majesty of intellect, a husband and father, alive to the most sacred affections of our nature, and a minister of Jesus Christ, with the full seal of spiritual power, in the evidences with which Heaven had attested his vocation, as well as the solemn concurrence and approbation of him who held the office of scriptural bishop in that communion of the church. Every young man should see in this example a type and pledge of the success which awaits him in whatever condition of life Divine Providence may have cast his lot, if, with the subject of our memoir, he will live and act in the spirit of the prayer, “Let integrity and uprightness preserve me; for I wait on Thee.”
But the duties of the Bristol Circuit were so extensive and heavy as to tax Mr. Clarke’s physical powers to the utmost. Unhappily, he entered on this new stage with enfeebled and shattered health. His life in the Norman Isles had been too sedentary for a constitution habituated to violent outof- door exercise. To almost unremitted study were added the wasting effects of a cough which had harassed him for years, ever since sleeping in a damp bed in the Trowbridge Circuit. This complaint had now become so heavy as to threaten his life. Mr. Wesley, who came to Bristol in an early part of the year, was struck with the change in his appearance, and intimated, in one of his addresses to the Society, his apprehensions that they would not long have the benefit of their minister’s services. Some hope was entertained that the waters of the Hotwells, which at that time were in high medical repute, would tend to restore him; but this benefit was seriously interfered with by the severity of his labors, and the disadvantage of living in the rooms appropriated to the preachers over the chapel, which, pervaded with the effluvium [an unpleasant or noxious odour or exhaled substance] from the crowded congregations, were altogether unwholesome as a place of residence. Notwithstanding these drawbacks, he nevertheless struggled on, though life with him was all that year little better than a protracted martyrdom. He had two colleagues, Messrs. Wadsworth and Hodgson; and to these three men were allotted the working of a Circuit comprising a large number of congregations, and the pastoral care of more than two thousand members. The quarterly visitation of the classes, carried on simultaneously with the pulpit and other duties of the Circuit, drained their strength to the uttermost. In a note to his friend Brackenbury, in January, Mr. Clarke says: “For a month I have been employed in visiting the classes. This close work has proved more than I could well sustain. I need not say, that preaching three or four times a day, and giving tickets to two or three hundred people, regulating the concerns of the Society, &c., is more than any common strength is able to perform. From what I now feel, and the increase of the work, I have every reason to believe that I shall either be in eternity before Conference, or be fully invalided. In visiting the classes, I have diligently endeavored to root out all apparent offences and offenders; and, as the foundation is clearer than it has been for some time, I expect a more durable building. I see such fruit of my labor as causes me almost to rejoice in the martyred body which the most merciful God has in His condescension made an honored instrument in helping forward so good a work.”
So, in the June quarter: “I am now so exceedingly busied, that I have not time to take my necessary food. We are visiting the classes, in which I am employed from six o’clock in the morning to five in the evening:” all this, followed by preaching either in the city or the country. Mr. Wesley, on a visit to Bristol, gave him all the help he could. Thus in his Journal at this time we read the entry, — “On Monday, and the three following days, I visited the classes at Bristol.” Mr. Clarke mentions that he took one class, and Mr. Wesley another, alternately; thus proceeding during four successive days. As to his Circuit-work, we take the following specimens of its fidelity and heartiness: — “I set out for Westbury, walked thither, and preached with great liberty to a large, attentive congregation. At five I preached at the Room; and the Lord gave me an hour’s work of very convincing speech. I felt in my soul that much good was done. I may not know to what extent; but this the Lord has favored me with, that a notorious sinner was thoroughly convinced, and has since been earnestly wrestling with God, that he may escape eternal fire.
Glory be to Thee, O God! I then met the Society, and spoke all my mind; the lazy rich I did not spare. On Monday morning, I had at five o’clock such a congregation as I think I never saw in Bristol: several of the great folks, too, were hearing for life. These things are tokens for good. Our friends tell me there is a great stir all round Bristol. In such a large place it cannot be so palpable [readily perceived] as in a smaller; but, thank God, this is no matter. Glory, glory to God and to the Lamb!” The next Sunday: “I preached at Donkerton, to a very simple, pleasing people; and God was in the midst: at noon and night, in Bath. He gave me liberty, and I have no doubt much good was done. I had one soul for my hire at the last preaching: such a power from on high rested on all as I have seldom seen. God seemed to have given the people into my hand.” “Yesterday rode from Bath to Bristol, and back again this morning.
Met five classes, and preached once: have yet to meet six classes, and preach twice. Tomorrow morning return to Bristol, as we begin to meet classes at six in the morning, and continue with short intervals the whole of the day, to the end of the week. I feel willing, but am almost (completely done in). “Went last Sunday to Kingswood, preached twice, gave an exhortation, and met nine classes. Thence to Guinea-street, where preached, met Society, and gave tickets to one class.” Again: “At seven A.M. met the Bridge-street Society; preached at Guineastreet, thence to Westbury, preached at two o’clock, and gave tickets; then back to Bristol, fatigued and wet; preached at five, and met the Society. Next morning at five preached again; and then rode to the Marsh, where, scarcely able to speak, I preached again, and gave tickets. From Marsh the next morning back to Pensford; from thence to Clutton, through a severe tempest, wet to the skin.
Thursday to Kingswood; preached at five, and returned home to assist Mr. Hodgson to hold a watchnight, but was scarcely able to move for more than an hour after I got home. At length I went to lend some aid, and brother Hodgson and I held on till about eleven o’clock, when we made an apology for retiring Just as I was passing to my bed-room, I thought I would go to the lobbywindow, and take a last view of them, at which moment one of the singers was giving out a hymn. I thought, ‘The meeting will close for lack of persons to pray. I will go down.’ Mr. H. at that moment joined me, and advised me not. I hesitated a moment; but, finding my soul drawn out in pity to the multitudes, I said, ‘I will go down in the name of the Lord.’ Mr. H. would not be left behind. I had before felt much of the power of God, but now it was doubled. We continued singing, praying, and exhorting until half-past twelve; during which time strong prayers, cries, and tears bore testimony to the present power of God. How excellent the Lord is in working! How wondrous are His ways of mercy! ‘ I am Thine, save me.’ I am willing to breathe my last in Thy work.”
Thus his personal intercourse with the Methodist people of Bristol, Mr. Clarke now formed friendships which were life-long; and those friendships were cherished for the poor of Christ’s flock, as well as the rich. Among the former class was an eminent Christian named Summerhill; and we mention her case on account of its extraordinary character. Dame Summerhill was at that time a hundred and four years old. Relating her experience one day to Mr. Clarke, she said that Mr. Wesley was her father in the Gospel. “When he first came to Bristol, I went to hear him preach; and, having heard him, I said, ‘ This is the truth.’ I inquired of those around, who and what he was. I was told that he was a man who went about everywhere preaching the Gospel. I further inquired, ‘Is he to preach here again?’ The reply was, ‘ Not at present.’ ‘Where is he going to next?’ I asked. ‘To Plymouth,’ was the answer. ‘And will he preach there?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Then I will go and hear him. What is the distance?’ ‘One hundred and twenty-five miles.’ I went, walked it, heard him, and walked back again!”
When a hundred and six years old, she was accustomed to read the churchprayers daily, “as a substitute for the public means of grace,” which she was no longer able to attend; reading the small print both of Bible and Prayer-Book without spectacles.
In Bristol Mr. Clarke sat for his portrait, at the request of several of his friends. The painter was Mr. Holloway, who distinguished himself some years after by his engravings of the cartoons of Raffaelle. From several preceding failures, Mr. Clarke had come to the conclusion that his face was not an auspicious one for the pencil; and he complied only on two conditions: “First, that you do not make me appear better than I am; for that will reflect on my Maker, as though He had not made me good enough: and, secondly, that you do not make me appear worse than I am; for that will be to burlesque me.” The request of the artist was supported by Mr. Wesley, who wanted to have an engraving of it for the Magazine.
The likeness is correct enough, though the engraving is but indifferent.
Underneath, after the manner of the old portraits in the Magazine, is the inscription, “Mr. Adam Clarke, Aetatis [at the age of] 27.” Mr. Clarke’s father, whom he now had the pleasure of once more seeing in Bristol, objected to the age, as being two years too young. But upon this point, as we have already noticed, neither father, mother, nor son was ever quite free from uncertainty.
Though the incessant demand on his time by public and pastoral engagements left him but few hours for books, the unslaked and evergrowing thirst of his soul for knowledge made Mr. Clarke still a diligent student to the extent of his opportunities. He read hard, and thought deeply; and the advantages he found in access to large collections of books in the city were diligently improved. His scanty means, also, were taxed to the utmost in acquisitions to his own library, which even now began to be considerable, both as to the number and the value of the works of which it was composed.
This year in Bristol, which was passed in one continued series of exertions, was crowned by the assembly of the Conference there; a circumstance which always gives additional anxiety to the preachers stationed on the spot, from the task it devolves on them of furnishing so large a number of strangers with domestic accommodation. This Conference (of 1790) was distinguished as being the last over which Mr. Wesley presided in person. It was the forty-seventh of its annual assemblies, in which this truly apostolic bishop had gathered around him his sons and fellow-laborers in the Gospel, for counsel and prayer. But his long and luminous career was now about to end. It was the sunset of his day, and the evening was without a cloud. The preachers had a presentiment that they were to see his face no more. His latest counsels sank into their hearts, and the last accents of his voice became a prophecy to them of benediction and peace. On reviewing the state of the Connection, it was found that in Great Britain and America the numbers in Society amounted to 120,000: thus graciously had the word preached been attested and blessed by the converting Spirit of God. At the present time, the numerical strength of the Methodist body, under the care of the British and affiliated Conferences, exceeds 420,000 members; under the care of the Methodist Episcopal Churches of the United States, more than double that sum: not to speak of the various offsets from the parent stock, — the New Connection, the Primitive Methodists, &c., &c.; or of the immense multitudes who habitually hear the Gospel in the congregations, or of the myriads of children who are educated in the schools. Meanwhile, in the years gone by, hundreds of thousands who have passed into eternity found in the sanctuaries of Methodism the gate of heaven. It may be seen that Adam Clarke had devoted the energies of his wasting life to a work worthy of the sacrifice.
One of the last subjects of anxiety with Mr. Wesley at this Conference was, so to arrange the work of the preachers that, if possible, no man should preach more than twice on the Sunday. The case of Mr. Clarke, and a multitude of others like it, convinced him that these men were exceeding the limits of their natural strength, and running a career of self-destruction.
At the sight of so many useful servants of God thus shortening their lives, it was his earnest desire to adopt some plan which, by diminishing the Sunday labor, would give a greater effect to their services, as well as prolong their duration. Accordingly, (to use Mr. Clarke’s memorandum,) “in a private meeting with some of the principal and senior preachers, which was held in Mr. Wesley’s study, to prepare matters for the Conference, he proposed that a rule should be made that no preacher should preach thrice on the same day. Messrs.. Mather, Pawson, Thompson, and others, said this would be impracticable, as it was absolutely necessary in most cases Mr. W. replied, ‘ It must be given up: we shall lose our preachers by such excessive labor.’ They answered, ‘ We have all done so; and you even, at an advanced age, have continued to do so.’ ‘ What I have done,’ said he, ‘ is out of the question: my life and strength have been under an especial providence. Besides, I know better than they how to preach without injuring myself; and no man can preach thrice a day without killing himself sooner or later, and the custom shall not be continued.’ They pressed the point no farther, finding that he was determined: but, after all, the Minute went to the press, — ‘ No preacher shall any more preach three times in the same day (to the same congregation).’ By this clause the Minute was entirely neutralized. He who preaches the Gospel as he ought, must do it with his whole strength of body and soul; and he who undertakes a labor of this kind thrice every Lord’s day, will infallibly shorten his life by it. He who, instead of preaching, talks to the people, mere ly speaks about good things, or tells a religious story, will never injure himself by such an employment. Such a person does not labor in the word and doctrine: he tells his tale, and, as he preaches, his congregation believes, and sinners are left as he found them.”
At the Bristol Conference Mr. Clarke was appointed to Dublin, and he reached that capital in the following month. This was a trust which reflected great honor on him, and showed the strong confidence entertained by Mr. Wesley and the preachers in his talents, prudence, and fidelity; for the English preacher who held that station, was looked up to as “the general assistant;” that is, Mr. Wesley’s representative or commissary over all the Irish Circuits. The critical state of the Society, moreover, required a man of ability and sagacity. There were two parties among them; one for an entire subjection to the Established Church; another, with tendencies more free. “Dr. Coke, with the approbation of Mr. Wesley, had introduced the use of the Liturgy into the chapel at Whitefriar-street. This measure was opposed by some of the leading members, as tending to what they called a separation from the Church; when, in truth, it was the most effectual way to keep the Society attached to its spirit and doctrines; who, be cause they were without divine service in church-hours, were scattered throughout the city, some at church, and many more at different places of Dissenting worship, where they heard doctrines that tended greatly to unsettle their religious opinions; and in the end most were lost to the Society. In consequence of the introduction of the Liturgy, a very good congregation assembled at Whitefriar-street; and much good might have been done, if the rich members had not continued hostile to the measure, by withdrawing their countenance and support, which many of them did.
At last both sides agreed to desire the British Conference, for the sake of peace, to restore matters to their original state, and abolish the morning service. Mr. Clarke, who at that time labored under the same kind of prejudice, gave his voice against the continuance of the Prayers; and at his recommendation the Conference annulled the service. “This,” he affirms, “was the greatest ecclesiastical error he ever committed; and one which he deeply deplored for many years; and he was thankful when, in the course of Divine Providence, he was enabled afterward to restore that service in the newly-erected chapel in Abbey-street, which he had formerly been the instrument of putting down in Whitefriar-street; — that very same party, to please whom it was done, having separated from the Methodists’ body, and set up a spurious and factious Connection of their own, under the name of Primitive Methodism; a principal object of which was to deprive the original Connection of its chapels, divide its Societies, in every way to injure its finances, and traduce both its spiritual and loyal character. “It may be asked, ‘Why did Mr. Clarke in 1790 espouse the side of this party?’ It is but justice to say, that to that class of men he was under no kind of obligation: they had neglected him, though he was on their side of the question, as much as they did those who were opposed to them. He and his family had nothing but affliction and distress while they remained in Dublin, and that party neither ministered to his necessities nor sympathized with him in his afflictions. What he did was from an illgrounded fear that the introduction of the Church service might lead to a separation from the Church, (which the prejudice of education could alone have suggested,) and he thought the different Societies might be induced to attend at their parish-churches, and so all kinds of dissent be prevented.
But multitudes of those, by whatever name they had been called, had never belonged to any Church, and felt no religious attachment to any but those who had been the means of their salvation. When, therefore, they did not find among the Methodists religious service on the proper times of the Lord’s day, they often wandered heedlessly about, and became unhinged and distracted with the strange doctrines they heard. Of this Mr. Clarke was afterwards fully convinced, and saw the folly of endeavoring to force the people to attend a ministry from which they had never received any spiritual advantage, and the danger of not endeavoring to cultivate the soil which had been with great pain and difficulty enclosed, broken up, and sown with the good seed, the word of the kingdom.”
Notwithstanding these differences, the work of God had not been without some measure of prosperity among the Methodists of Dublin. Mr. Clarke found that, some weeks before his coming, a remarkable revival had taken place, the effects of which were still felt, though retarded by the injudicious conduct of some who, though mistaken, intended well. I refer to this, and give some portions from a manuscript letter of Mr. Clarke to Mr. Wesley, for the purpose of recording the opinion of the latter on a matter of abiding importance, — the desirableness of prolonging the good influence of a revival by avoiding the exhaustive consequences of meetings protracted to an unusual length. This letter is dated from Dublin in September. After mentioning his arrival, and how he had found his colleague Mr. Rutherford but slowly recovering from a dangerous illness, which had left the people somewhat in confusion through their deprival of the stated services, he thus goes on: — “The work which was so remarkable about the tim e of Conference was hardly discernible when I came, owing, as I am informed, to the extravagance and irregularity in the conduct of those who took the management during Mr. Rutherford’s indisposition. The times of the prayer-meetings were and are continued, but to an unwarrantable length; hardly ever breaking up before ten or eleven o’clock, and frequently continued till twelve or one. And in those meetings some have taken on themselves to give exhortations of half an hour or forty-five minutes in length. This has a tendency to wear out the people. I have advised them to shorten their prayer-meetings at Whitefriars on Sabbath evenings after preaching, as I find the families of many are shockingly neglected; for how can there be family religion, especially on the Lord’s day, which you know is filled up with ordinances, if prayermeetings are continued till ten or eleven at night?”
He proceeds to observe that he finds it very difficult to interfere, as the more zealous persons in the movement have already accused him of opposing the good work. “We can hardly expect a revival without irregularities and stumblingblocks: but my heart joins fully with one of the last prayers I heard my reverend father offer in Bristol: ‘ Lord, if possible, give us this work without the stumblingblocks; but, if this cannot be, give us stumblingblocks and all, rather than not have Thy work.’ To this my whole soul says, Amen.”
Mr. Wesley replies in a letter which has been printed in his Works: — “You will have need of all the courage and prudence which God has given you Very gently and very steadily you should proceed between the rocks on either hand. In the great revival in London, my first difficulty was to bring into temper those who opposed the work; and my next, to check and regulate the extravagances of those who promoted it. And this was far the harder, for many of them would bear no check at all. But I followed one rule, though with all calmness: ‘ You must either bend or break.’
Meantime, while you act exactly right, expect to be blamed by both sides.
I will give you a few directions:
1. See that no prayer-meetings continue later than nine at night, particularly on Sunday. Let the house be emptied before the clock strikes nine. 2. Let there be no exhortation at any prayer-meeting. 3. Beware of jealousy, or judging one another. 4. Never think a man is an enemy to the work because he reproves irregularities.
Peace be with you and yours!”
These precepts merit consideration at all times; and so do some observations which Mr. Clarke once made on the topic to which they relate. One day, (as he observed,) having inquired of a pious couple who had discontinued their attendance at the meeting for prayer, “How it was they had ceased to come, as usual?” he was told, “We cannot without standing during prayer, which we think is unbecoming; and the prayers are so long that we cannot kneel all the time sometimes, too, a verse is given out while the people are on their knees, and two or three pray; we cannot kneel so long, and therefore we are obliged to keep away.” He could not but assent to the gravity of the objection. In fact, he had himself suffered much inconvenience from the same cause. “On one occasion,” said he, “a good brother at a meeting went to prayer. I kneeled on the floor, having nothing to support me. He prayed forty minutes. I was unwilling to rise, and several times was near fainting. What I suffered I cannot describe.
After the meeting I ventured to expostulate with him, when, in addition to the injury sustained by the unmerciful prayer, I had the following reproof: ‘ My brother, if your mind had been more spiritual, you would not have felt the prayer too long.’ I mention these circumstances,” added Dr. Clarke, “not to excuse the careless multitude, but in vindication of such sufferers; and to show the necessity of being short in our prayers, if we expect others to join us.”
In some rules for the conducting of prayer-meetings, drawn up by a man of great experience, the late Rev. David Stoner, we find it prescribed, — “Let no individual pray long: in general, the utmost limit ought to be about two minutes. It will be found much better for one person to pray twice or thrice in the course of the meeting, than to pray once a long time. Long praying is commonly both a symptom and a cause of spiritual deadness.”
The unusual brevity here recommended will appear to many of us as the opposite extreme to the dreary length of exercise deplored by Mr. Clarke.
But of the two Mr. Stoner’s is, undoubtedly, the preferable. Wesley himself had a strong repugnance to long prayers. He insists somewhere that the preachers in the pulpit should not exceed ten minutes in that part of the service.
The winter was ushered in with heavy domestic affliction, which seriously interfered with the ministerial efficiency of the year spent in Dublin. The trustees had been building a new house for the minister, which was to serve at once for a school and a parsonage. The minister’s family were to reside in the apartments on the ground-floor, the school-room stretching over all, above. Mr. Clarke was obliged to take possession of these premises before they were dry. This was done at the expense of his own health, and that of his family. In a fortnight the afflicted parents wept over the grave of their child; and some time after Mr. Clarke himself, whose cough had not abated its severity, and whose general health was already so delicate, was attacked with serious illness, and laid utterly prostrate. On the 20th of January he writes these few lines to his sister-in-law: — “I have requested the writing-materials to be brought to my bed-side, and use them, in order to prove to you that, because the Lord liveth, I still exist.
But a short time ago there was no probability that you would ever receive a line from my hand. My beyond all comparison excellent Mary continued my close attendant in the time of unutterable distress. It added to my affliction to see the part she took in it night and day. This is my nineteenth day, and I begin, though slowly, to gather a little strength; but have had hardly my sleep since I was first seized .. You will, perhaps, wish to know in what stead my profession stood me in the time of sore trouble. I cannot enumerate particulars: suffice it to say, God did not leave my soul one moment. I was kept, through the whole, in such a state of perfect resignation, that not a single desire that the Lord would either remove or lessen the pain took place in my mind from the beginning until now. I could speak of nothing but mercy. Jesus was my all and in all. The Lord God omnipotent reigneth. Blessed, blessed for ever, be the Name of the Lord!”
Mrs. Clarke’s assiduity [one meaning is: constant attentions to another person] was maintained under the pressure of personal infirmity, before which she herself had at length to succumb; and for three weeks husband and wife were confined each to a sick room. Toward the close of these trying days he had a letter of consolation from Mr. Wesley, a few lines of which I extract, as it was the last Mr. Clarke received from his venerable friend, then on the verge of eternity: — “You have great reason, dear Adam, to bless God for giving you strength according to your day. He has indeed supported you in a wonderful manner under these complicated afflictions; and you may well say, ‘ I will put my trust in Thee as long as I live.’ I will desire Dr. Whitehead to consider your case, and give you his thoughts upon it. I am not afraid of your doing too little, but too much. Do a little at a time, that you may do the more.”
With some degree of convalescence, our preacher now applied himself to his work, and followed up the energetic ministration of the word with works of beneficence and piety in restraining evil and doing good, which could not but commend him to all who, with the poet, could “venerate the man whose heart is warm, Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life, Coincident, exhibit lucid proof That he is honest in the sacred cause.”
With a heart naturally tender, and refined by the compassions of the Gospel, he strove, according to his ability, to soothe the troubles of the afflicted, to heal the sick, and lead the blind. To do this more effectually, he sought to secure the united and organized efforts of such as he could find like-minded with himself, and succeeded in founding an important institution, which, not in Dublin only, but in all our great towns, has been the means of doing a wonderful amount of good to the bodies and souls of the perishing; namely, “The Strangers’ Friend Society.” The year before, at Bristol, with the concurrence of Mr. Wesley, he had made an essay of the same kind, which was supported on a small scale by penny-a-week subscriptions. In Dublin, he attempted something in a greater way; and in the different towns in which he was afterwards stationed, he followed the same design. In promoting these benevolent movements, he was not only found in the chair of the committee-room, but as a visitor of the Society he went about among the miserable multitudes of the Irish metropolis, contributing, according to the means thus providentially intrusted to him, as well to the wants of the body as to those of the soul.
The people among whom he moved took knowledge of him as a man of God. His own flock revered him as one who was pointing them to a better life, and, by example as well as precept, leading the way. Though in the world, and living actively for its service and benefit, he was not of it. His very appearance indicated that he lived in a mental region of his own.
As a University city, Dublin possessed a peculiar charm for Mr. Clarke; and, with his eager tendencies after knowledge, we wonder not that he seized the earliest opportunity to enter himself of Trinity College. The multifarious engagements of his life, however, and the inroads which illness made on his time, did not allow him to avail himself of the general curriculum of study followed there. He therefore restricted himself to attendance on the medical and anatomical courses, and to a diligent appropriation of material for his own future literary undertakings which he found in the college library. He now, too, became acquainted with several learned and accomplished persons, with whom he continued to have improving intercourse in after-life. Among them were the Rev. Dr. Barrett, the librarian of Trinity; Mrs. Tighe, the authoress of “Psyche,” a poem long admired for its pure sentiment and delicate felicity of style; and an alchemist named Hands, to whose friendship with Mr. Clarke we may revert on a future page. We should also mention one of Mr. Clarke’s Oriental friends, with whom he became acquainted in Dublin, — Ibrahim ibn Ali, who had formerly held a captain’s commission in the army of the Sultan. Brought up in the religion of his father, a Mohammedan, his mind had nevertheless been influenced by the secret instructions of his mother, who was a Greek and a Christian. Imprisoned on suspicion of a murder, which was afterwards fully cleared up by the surrender of the real assassins, he had been in imminent danger of losing his life, and in the time of peril had been deeply moved by the exhortations of an old Spaniard to renounce all faith in the false prophet, and confide in the true Saviour of mankind. In this state of mind, he left his native country, and came to England. From Liverpool he proceeded to Dublin, where, inquiring for a person who knew Spanish or Arabic, he was directed to Mr. Clarke, who treated him with all the kindness in his power. Ibrahim became a sincere inquirer after the truth, and found in Mr. Clarke a guide who led him to Jesus. After due and cautious probation, he was at length admitted to baptism; Mr. Rutherford performing the sacred rite, and Mr. Clarke translating into Spanish the words in which it was administered. The subsequent career of the convert justified the hopes of his friends. He accompanied Mr. Clarke to England, and thence went to America in a mercantile capacity, where he married a lady of the Baptist communion, and died at last steadfast in the faith.
The year in Dublin drew to a close; and Mr. Clarke felt it his duty to terminate, for the present, his connection with the Circuit. His feeble health unfitted him to cope with some of the peculiar difficulties of a station so responsible; and the party-spirit which reigned so strongly at that time in Dublin compelled him to decide on returning to England. The Conference was to be held in Manchester, and the Dublin preachers prepared to go. Mrs. Clarke, also, and the little ones, were to accompany them, thus making but one voyage for the family. But this arrangement was not carried out. From some letters of this excellent lady, which have been confided to me, I take the liberty to extract a few sentences: — “When I wrote last, I thought it would have been my last letter from Dublin; but I wrote doubtfully, because I well know the uncertainty of all things here below. And so it has been in reference to my going to England. We had our chests packed, and all ready for embarkation, when John was seized with the measles. I could not think of taking the child to sea in that condition, and gave up the thought of accompanying Mr. Clarke, who could not be detained. The people were glad, as they thought it would secure Mr. Clarke’s return for me. The time was set for the preachers to sail, but no packet came into port. Day by day they waited; still no vessel came. Meanwhile, John grew better apace; and, no vessel arriving till Saturday, fearing to be too late for the Conference, they set sail. Mr. Clarke and Mr. Rutherford wished to stay behind till Monday, when John might with safety have gone too; but they feared a second detention, and overruled that all the preachers should go together. Accordingly they sailed, and , after encountering some sore weather at sea, arrived safe in Liverpool after a forty-eight hours’ passage. Thus much concerning our going to England. Where we shall be the coming year, I know no more than an utter stranger. I should fear to choose. Wherever we are, I trust it will be for God’s glory, and the good of many souls.”