Are you a Christian?
BOOK 3, CH. 3,
THE PREACHER AND PASTOR CONTINUED
PREVIOUS CHAPTER - NEXT CHAPTER >> - HELP - FACEBOOK
THE PREACHER AND PASTOR CONTINUED
At the present time the Methodist communion has nine metropolitan Circuits; but in the year 1795, when Mr. Clarke received his appointment from the Manchester Conference, the whole of London, and much of the surrounding country, formed but one vast Circuit. It extended, in fact, from Woolwich to Twickenham, and from Edmonton to Dorking, with occasional visits to various outlying places, as Barking, St. Alban’s, &c.
There were about four thousand members in Society. The superintendent was Mr. Pawson; and Mr. Clarke’s other colleagues were Messrs.
Wrigley, West, Griffith, and Reece. His residence in John-street, Spitalfields, adjoined the chapel. Here he resumed, with greater intenseness than ever, the labors of his devoted life for, in addition to the great physical and intellectual efforts demanded by his pulpit and pastoral work, his mind was now beginning to put forth its strength in those literary toils which in their results have given him an abiding name. All his past studies had been but preparatory; and from the stores he had been accumulating, he felt it a law of God in his conscience to bring forth out of his treasury things new and old,” for the increase of learning, and the promotion of truth and piety among men. And more especially were his energies concentrated, in the study, on the elaboration of a Commentary on the holy Scriptures, to which he applied all the leisure time he could command; and this, from the very nature of his public engagements, could be only found in the early part of the day. One of Mendelssohn’s works has the title of Morning Hours;” and we are sure that Adam Clarke might have given a similar designation to the goodly array of volumes with which he has enriched our religious literature. We have in them the first fresh thinkings of his mind, — dew-drops glittering in the orient sun, or manna gathered in the prime. He knew that, unless the early time of the day were redeemed, his life would yield but little fruit in the field of literature. He became, therefore, a companion of the morning star. Later in the day he had to meet the calls of one duty after another, till it was time to take his accustomed journey for the pulpit and class-work of the evening. His duties in this last respect took him to various parts of the town, and places in the suburbs lying miles away from home. He either could not or would not avail himself of any means of conveyance; But usually performed his journeys on foot, except when appointed to Dorking. In this way, during his three years’ stay in the Circuit, he walked more than seven thousand miles. In these perambulations, he had an almost constant companion in Mr. Buttress, one of the leading Methodists of the Spitalfields chapel; whose name, as maintained by his descendants to the present day, is honorably cherished in the communion to which they have been steadfast. Wherever Mr. Clarke was seen in the pulpit, Mr. Buttress was to be found in the pew. He, of all men, would be prepared to give an opinion as to the monotony or manifoldness of his friend’s ministrations; and his testimony goes to affirm, that Mr. Clarke’s preaching was remarkable for its endless variety. To one who asked him whether he did not become tired with hearing the same discourses so often, he gave the reply, that he had never heard the same discourse twice, except on one occasion, when it was repeated at his own request. “Well,” returned the inquirer, “if you did not hear the same text, did he not take the same subject?” “No,” said Mr. Buttress, ‘not anything beyond the broad Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The results of these well-sustained exertions can only be unfolded in the final day. In the case of a Methodist minister, who co-operates with so many others in the same pulpit, it becomes peculiarly difficult to pronounce upon the measure of good effected by the ministry of one alone. No doubt, each of those good men, who labored so cordially in word and doctrine, had seals to his own ministry; and all of them enjoyed the solemn gratification of witnessing the progress of the work of God in their Circuit at large. Mr. Clarke did not long prosecute his work in London before he was cheered by the tokens of the Holy Spirit’s presence and grace in the gathering in of some who were the firstfruits of a more extensive harvest. Among these were two, whose conversion to God was productive of consequences of everlasting benefit to many more.
Mr. Joseph Butterworth, an opulent law-publisher in London, had married Miss Anne Cooke, the sister of Mrs. Adam Clarke. Mr. Butterworth, though the son of a Baptist minister, (author of a well-known Concordance to the Holy Scriptures,) was not, at that time, a decidedly religious man, nor under any influences which would prepossess him in favor of Methodism. Still, as Mr. Clarke was his brother-in-law, though personally unknown to him, he felt a sort of curiosity to hear him. The effect the sermon had upon him led Mr. B. to hasten the fulfillment of a purpose to call on him, and to seek a personal acquaintance. He accordingly went the next day with his lady to Spitalfields. Mrs. Butterworth had not seen her sister for years, as, from the disinclination Mrs. Cooke had entertained for her daughter’s marriage with Mr. Clarke, but little intercourse had obtained between the families. These old things, however, were now passing away, and the two sisters were enabled to renew the friendship of their earlier day s under the sanctifying benedictions of religion. Learning that Mr. Clarke was going to preach that evening at Leytonstone, Mr. Butterworth offered to accompany him.
On the road Mr. Clarke soon perceived that the mind of his brother-ia-law was awakened to serious inquiry about the way of salvation; and the little journey passed rapidly in animated conversation on the things of God. In fact, the “vital spark of heavenly flame” had been kindled in Mr. Bufterworth’s heart; and on the way homeward he disclosed to Mr. Clarke, that, while hearing him preach on the preceding Sunday, he had received impressions of the truth which had moved him to seek the grace of repentance unto life; that a sense of guilt and depravity had arisen in his conscience; and that it was his great desire and determination to find the mercy which alone could save him. Right gladly did Mr. Clarke point out to him the way to the attainment of peace with God, through Jesus Christ; and when, after supper, the visitors having gone home, Mr. Clarke related to his wife the conversation which had taken place between himself and her brother-in-law, his gratification was greatly enhanced by learning that the sisters had spent the evening in converse on the same theme. Mrs.
Butterworth had participated with her husband in the Divine influence which attended the discourse on Sunday, and acknowledged that she had come for the purpose of conferring with her sister about the things belonging to her eternal peace. Equally remarkable it is, that both these inquirers after the pardoning mercy of G od found the grace they were seeking while hearing another sermon from Mr. Clarke. The friendship established under these auspicious circumstances received an eternal seal.
Joined to the Lord in one spirit, and in one hope of their calling, they spent their remaining days in the service of their redeeming God; and, being gathered “into the ark of Christ’s church,” “steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity,” so passed “the waves of this troublesome world,” as to come together “to the land of everlasting life.”
The Butterworths, having given their hearts to the Lord, gave their hands at once to His cause, and as members of the Methodist communion adorned the doctrine of their Saviour in a life fragrant with devotion and beneficence. In the church, Mr. Butterworth long sustained most influential offices; and in the world, whether as a mercantile man, as a patron and manager of various philanthropic institutions, or as a diligent and effective member of Parliament, he stood for many years conspicuous among the best men of his time.
In the London Circuit at large, Mr. Clarke, and his excellent colleagues, had the great encouragement of witnessing the tokens of Divine mercy in those signs and wonders of salvation by which much people were turned to the Lord. In writing to a friend at Liverpool, he describes this work as an outpouring of the Spirit of God such as he had never seen before. “Every part of the city seemed to partake of it. The preachings were well attended, and a gracious influence rested on the people. After the regular service we have a prayer-meeting, in which much good is done. The first movement took place in our Sunday-schools; and in Spitalfields, New Chapel, West-street, and Snow’s-fields, simultaneously. Several sheets of paper would not suffice to give you even a general idea of what is going on.
Last night we had our lovefeast. For about half an hour the people spoke: when all was ended in that way, we exhorted and prayed with many who were in great mental distress. We remained four hours in these exercises.
You might have seen small parties praying in separate parts of the chapel at the same time. The mourning was like that of Hadadrimmon; every family seemed to mourn apart. We who prayed circulated through the whole chapel, above and below, adapting our prayers and exhortations to the circumstances of the mourners. Many were pardoned; to others strong hope was vouchsafed, and then was the advice given by each to his neighbor to believe in Jesus: ‘He has pardoned me O, do not doubt, seeing He has had mercy upon me, the vilest of sinners! One scene particularly affected me. A young man, recently married to an unconverted young woman, persuaded her to kneel down with two others who were in deep distress. Presently she was cut to the heart: I visited them backward and forward, at least a score times. After they had been about three hours in this state, the young woman found peace, and in a short time the other two entered into liberty. When the young fellow found his wife praising God for His mercy, he was almost transported with joy; he sung, prayed, and praised; and great indeed was their mutual glorying, and so was ours on their behalf. Well, thus we continued, until at a late hour I prevailed on the people, with some difficulty, to go home. We are trying to get these meetings shortened. If friends Russell, Robinson, &c., were here, they would be in their element.”
The population in that part of London where Mr. Clarke resided has always comprised large masses of the poor and destitute; and, in seasons of commercial depression, the poor of Spitalfields have been subjected to great distress. This was the case during his sojourn in that neighborhood; and it well accorded with the disposition of his heart, aching so often at the sight of so much misery, to he associated with a number of the Society of Friends, who had formed themselves into an union for distributing bread and soup to the famishing. For that respectable body he then formed an esteem which he cherished through life, and which, on their part, was strongly reciprocated.
From the severe toil of the Circuit, and the constant tension of his mind, as well for the pulpit as the press, his health became now so disordered as to compel him to obey the requirement of his medical advisers, to retire for a short time into the country. He spent, therefore, a little while at the seaside in Kent, where he was greatly revived by the pleasant air and scenery of the coast; and then took a short tour into Warwickshire, where the ruins of Kenilworth, and the baronial halls of Warwick Castle, afforded him a delight which he has vividly described in his letters to his family at home. At Coventry, he formed an acquaintance with the venerable Mr. Butterworth, the father of his brother-in-law, and had the pleasure of occupying the aged minister’s pulpit. Though this effort did not contribute to augment his slowly-returning strength, it was attended by the satisfaction of knowing that it was not made in vain. “Yesterday,” he writes, “I had indeed sore work. I preached three times, and at least an hour each time. I was much at liberty, and really believe much good was done. The old gentleman and all his flock seem highly pleased. The people are absolutely (pro tempore) turning Methodists, without knowing it.
Several of Mr. Butterworth’s disaffected members, who have not been in his chapel for many months, came twice yesterday, and are likely to continue.” And in another letter: “On Friday evening I preached at our own place, and had the house full. Most of Mr. Butterworth’s family were there, and the principal members of his church. Never did such death-like attention occupy an assembly during the hour that I insisted on Matt. vii. 7: ‘Ask, and ye shall receive,’ &c. The good old man’ got almost into the seventh heaven: had it not been that I made the full salvation of God too easy to be attained, he might have walked that evening into paradise. I believe a general quickening took place among all, and I need not tell you how our Joseph and his wife were affected.” And again: “This morning we were to have set off for Birmingham; but I found myself so much indisposed, and I did not like the thought of setting off in such a tempest.
Weary as I am, I must preach tonight at our own place, and tomorrow night at Mr. Butterworth’s; after which I am to take coach for London, and ride all night. If this be not the way to wear out, it is certainly not the way to rust out.”
With somewhat recruited health, Mr. Clarke resumed his engagements in London, and completed the third year of labor in that Circuit. He seems to have worked in perfect harmony with his colleagues, except about one difficulty which occurred in the case of Dr. Whitehead, who, having been ejected from the office of local preacher by the late superintendent, Mr. Rogers, on account of what was deemed a dishonorable use of certain papers in preparing his biography of Mr. Wesley, was now making strenuous efforts for reinstatement on the Plan. In this he was seconded by many of the trustees, and had also the concurrence of Mr. Pawson and others of the preachers. Mr. Clarke, however, felt compelled to oppose the wishes of his excellent superintendent nor, though Mr. Whitehead was subsequently reinstated, could he ever modify the opinion he had formed on that subject. This little ruffle, however, soon passed away, and the current of friendship rolled on, with a deeper sense of esteem from the knowledge that each minister had of the other’s integrity; and the year, which had thus commenced under somewhat unpropitious influences, passed away in peace. And this was the case with the Connection at large, which within the last three years had been severely tried by the hostile movements of Mr. Kilham and his partisans. Into the details of that wretched controversy we have no inclination to enter. Its rise and progress are matters of Methodistic history and time, the great prover of all things, has given such a verdict on the relative merits of the “Old” and the “New Connection,” as the friends of the former are most thankful to accept. One tempest has broken its force upon it after another, but Wesleyan Methodism was never so strong as it is today.
At the end of his third year, Mr. Clarke attended the Conference of at Bristol, which was held under the presidency of Mr. Benson. While there, he wrote to Mrs. Clarke, from time to time, some of the “Conference news.” “Notwithstanding our great losses by the Kilhamites, we have had,” says he, “a considerable increase this year. We are now, glory to the God of heaven, not less than 100,756 in Great Britain and Ireland. Strange to tell, all the Irish collections have increased. Mr. Mather, Mr. Benson, and others have been at me in private to go to Cornwall, and be general superintendent for the whole county. I am not very fond of ruling, yet I think it is possible I may be sent there The characters of the preachers examined — all gone through; and, among upwards of three hundred traveling preachers, not one charge of immorality brought against any soul: and yet everything was sifted to the heart. O, what thanks do we owe to God for thus preserving us from the corruptions of the world! A solemn exhortation was then given by Messrs. Benson, Mather, and Pawson, to all the brethren, that they should keep themselves pure.” He adds, pleasantly, “A few preachers were found guilty of long sleeves, cropped heads, and stringed shoes,” (the buckles cast away!) “and severely reprimanded. After all, never was there a body of men in the world who winked less at any appearance of evil than these; and I solemnly believe no body of Christian ministers, since the world began, so large, was ever found more blameless.”
At this Conference, Mr. Clarke was a good deal busied in settling on a legal basis the Preachers’ Annuitant Society, to which he became for a time both treasurer and secretary. In the prosperity of this institution he ever took a lively interest, from his sympathy for the aged and disabled laborers in a field in which he himself was fast wearing out strength and health, as well as on account of the modicum of comfort its scanty resources would afford to the widow and orphan. Among some papers before me there is a memorandum by Mrs. R. Smith, relating to this point, which I shall do well to insert: — “My father was remarkable for the zealous care he manifested over any trust committed to him, though he undertook a charge of that nature very unwillingly. At one period it was his duty to receive the dividends of the Preachers’ Annuitant Society. Having casually learned that the broker who transacted the business of the dividends had involved himself in speculations, he determined to apply for the money as so on as it could be received from the Bank, and, requesting me to accompany him, entered the counting-house of the gentleman in question, who, seated at his desk, received this unexpected visit not very graciously. ‘ I am come, sir, for the dividend on the Preachers’ Annuitant Society.’ ‘ I am very busy, sir, and cannot attend to it now,’ was the reply. ‘ I am very sorry to inconvenience you, sir; and, as I myself am in a hurry, will only trouble you to hand it to me, and not intrude any further on your time.’ ‘ I cannot give it to you now, sir, having much more important business here before me.’ ‘ Why, it will not take you long to hand it to me and then I will leave you to your business, and go away on my own. The gentleman, displeased at seeing him so determined, said, ‘ I cannot be interrupted, Mr. Clarke, nor possibly give it to you now: upon which my father said, in a voice of resolute firmness, ‘ Sir, I stand here on behalf of the widows and orphans of God’s church, and claim for them the money you hold, which that church has raised for their support. They speak by my mouth, and I will not leave till you put the money into my hand. The money, sir, and I am gone.’ The money was paid; and my father took his leave, satisfied that he had performed a just though painful duty.” Mr. Clarke’s connection with this legalized fund extended over several years.
The close of the Conference left him appointed for the second time to Bristol, under the superintendency of that truly good man, Mr. Walter Griffith. They found the Society but slowly recovering from the shattering effects of the storm of controversy which had assailed it from opposite quarters: from the anti-sacramental bigotry of the trustees and their partisans, on the one extreme, and the ultra-democracy of the new Kilhamite school on the other. It seems, however, to have been the determination of the new preachers to know nothing among those quarrelsome people save Jesus and Him crucified; well knowing that, if Christ came, He would bring peace with Him. The spirit with which Adam Clarke went to work, and the encouragements which sustained him, become apparent in a letter dated about a month after his arrival in the Circuit: — “Through mercy, we are all well. Last Sunday was my turn at Kingswood and Wick. I had a large congregation in the morning, and such a sense of the presence of God rested on us all as some of the oldest members said they had never felt before. I took that glorious subject: ‘ How excellent is Thy loving-kindness, O God!’ &c. My own soul was greatly watered, and the Lord sent a plentiful rain on His inheritance.
Though the place was thronged, there was not a sound in it save that of my own voice; till, describing how God gave to those who turned to Him to ‘drink of th e river of His pleasure,’ — to be filled with the very thing which made God Himself happy, — I raised my voice, and inquired, in the name of the living God, ‘ Who was miserable? Who was willing to be saved? to be made happy? Who was athirst?’ A wretched being, who had long hardened his heart by a course of uncommon wickedness, roared out: ‘ I am, Lord! I am! I am!’ In a moment there was a general commotion. I seized the instant, and told them to compose themselves and listen; for I had something more to tell them — something for every soul, a great, an eternal good. I am just going to open to you another stream of ‘the river of His pleasure.’ They were immediately composed; and in a very few moments such a flood of tears streamed down all cheeks as you have perhaps never seen, and all was silence but the sighings which escaped, and the noise made by the poor fellow who was still crying to God for mercy.
In about half-an-hour we ended one of the most solemn and blessed meetings I ever ministered in. I was t hen obliged to set off for Wick, a place several miles farther. Here I had a good congregation. “You will wish to know what became of the poor man, and I am glad I can tell you. I had it yesterday from one of the leaders at Kingswood. When he left the chapel, he set off for the first prayermeeting he could find, thinking God would never forgive his sins till he made confession unreservedly of all his iniquities. He began in the simplicity of his soul, and, with an agonized heart, and streaming eyes, made known the evils of his life. They prayed with him, and God gradually brought him into the liberty of His children.”
In the following month Mr. Clarke was called to mourn the death of his father, who had been declining in health for some time, and latterly so much so as to excite a strong desire in the mind of his son to go down to Lancashire to see him, and receive his blessing. But the unavoidable business which pressed upon him on entering his new Circuit at the tickettime, and his own domestic circumstances, obliged him still to delay, till, to his great grief, the opportunity had for ever passed. He had written, however, “to an old and very intimate friend, John Berwick, Esq., of Manchester, entreating him to watch over his father, and to minister to his comfort.” Mr. Berwick fulfilled the request, and attended the invalid to the last. “When I arrived this forenoon,” he writes to Mr. Clarke, announcing the solemn event of his parent’s [father’s] decease, “I found him much altered indeed He was seated in his chair, but wanted to be removed into bed. I wished to have your desire of ‘ a line from his own hand.’ I therefore put a table before him, and paper, and put the pen in his hand. He faintly said, ‘ I only wish to send my blessing.’ He was very happy, and willing to die. After he had written the few words, he was got into bed, and appeared better. I thought he might survive a few hours, and therefore took my leave of him, and told him I would return. He asked God to bless me, very loud. At my return I found he had just gone to glory, without a groan.
I had spoken to him respecting you. I told him, I thought it well you had not been sent for, as you could have done him no good. He said he was perfectly satisfied; for, if you had suffered from the effects of the journey, he should have been very unhappy. He added, that he had no pain, and that one moment in eternity would compensate for all he had suffered here.”
Mr. Clarke was deeply affected by this event. He expressed himself “as if the bands of life were loosened from around him, and his mental and physical powers almost brought down together to the sides of the grave.”
He sent immediately for his widowed mother, who came and resided with him till he left Bristol, when she went to live with her daughter, Mrs.
Enley, who was then settled in that city. Mr. Clarke, senior, was buried in Ardwick churchyard, Manchester. His tombstone, which is inscribed, “To JOHN CLARKE, M.A.,” states that he died in the sixty-second year of his age. So rested this learned, honest, and laborious man from the toils and disappointments of mortality. Ever afterward his son Adam, passing that churchyard, either on foot or riding, uncovered his head the whole length of the cemetery; a token of the reverence and love which all through life he cherished for his father’s memory.
This was not the only circumstance which threw a shadow over the present year. It was a time of universal gloom. The thunderclouds of war darkened the political sky; commercial adversity shut up the warehouse of the merchant; and want, approaching to famine itself, reigned in the cottage. “These,” writes he, “are troublous times; and we need to watch and pray always, that we may be accounted worthy to escape the things which are apparently coming upon us, and to stand before the Son of Man.” A member of his family, reverting to those days, observes: “This year, and the succeeding one, were marked by circumstances of unusual scarcity. All ranks felt and acknowledged the distress as a judgment: the rich voluntarily ceased from a consumption of flour in the way of elegant indulgences; the middle classes found it difficult to support their families, through the scarceness of all provisions; and the poor sought from door to door a handful of food to save them from dying. Alas! they could not always meet with ev en this, and numbers of them perished from mere starvation. From the effects of this distress Mr. and Mrs. Clarke, and their infant family, suffered in common with others; but they concealed their necessities, in order not to draw upon the sympathies of their friends, and frequently denied themselves a sufficiency of food, to save a part of each day’s allotment of provisions to share with the wretched applicants who were in still greater need than themselves. Mr. Clarke would often talk to his little ones on the subject, and show them their starving fellowcreatures, who, in cold, nakedness, and famine, sought relief; and each would put by a bit of the breakfast or supper for the poor. At its distribution they were all present, and thus were taught to see and feel the blessings which follow self-denial, in the happiness it yielded to others.
Mr. Clarke probably referred to this thing time, when, many years after, on a visit to Bristol, he casually met with an old timepiece, which had formerly belonged to him. “That clock,” said he, “I sold in this city, for the mere purpose of buying bread for my children.”
But, in the midst of these depressions, his mental activity never flagged.
He had entered the arena of literary life, and was fast rising into notice as an author. To the works of Mr. Clarke we will devote an exclusive chapter further on, and be content at present with observing that, after throwing off some occasional pieces in the Arminian Magazine, (among which was a curious paper on Judicial Astrology, condensed, apparently, from Barclay’s Argenis,”) he published in 1707 his “Dissertation on the Use and Abuse of Tobacco.” These slight efforts were now followed up by a Translation of Sturm’s “Reflections,” and the advancement of a work in Bibliography, which afterward appeared in the form of a Dictionary, which has long had a high place in the esteem of men of letters; together with two smaller publications, — an Account of the Polyglot Bibles, and a Catalogue Raisonne of the principal Editions of the Greek Testament. To these latter works, which evince prodigious reading, scholarship, and indefatigable industry, we shall have occasion ere long to revert. We name them here, to show in what incessant efforts he must have been filling up his measured days. Nor should it be omitted, that all the while he was diligently engaged with the Commentary on the New Testament; of which he had now finished the Notes on the first two Gospels, and some other parts of the sacred Volume. It is with Mr. Clarke as a preacher and pastor that the present stage of our recollections has to do. Let us hear him speak on these matters for himself: — “Last Sabbath I was at Kingswood. The thronging together of the people was truly astonishing. The chapel was thronged, and the grave is not more silent than was that crowd of listening people.
While preaching, I felt a strong persuasion that God would visit them. I told them so, and it had a good effect on all; they heard for eternity, and I could not help joining in the prayer of one of them, — ‘O God, save all, save all!’ “I had a sore day last Sabbath fortnight. Rode twenty-four miles, gave tickets in three places, preached three times, and had not a morsel either of flesh, fish, or fowl, or good red herring, all day; neither wine nor strong drink; only about half-past twelve got a few potatoes, and as much as I pleased of a small beer.” (He sometimes fared thus meagerly, from his inveterate dislike to bacon and pork. His brethren who had no such antipathies made a hearty dinner when our friend could eat only the potatoes.) “The work of God goes on nobly at Kingswood. There is a new place taken in, the worst in all the wood: it is called Cock-road. As the inhabitants were all sons of Belial, no person dared to go into the place for fear of being knocked on the head. There are thirty of these miserable sinners now joined in class, and several of them have found peace with God. The devil has sustained a heavy loss in that quarter.”
Referring to this neighborhood afterward, he says: “The work still goes on gloriously at Cock-road. One man, the vilest of the vile, hearing that several of his companions were converted, and that they prayed publicly, said, ‘So Tom prays, and Jack prays: what can they say? I’ll go and hear;’ and away he went, and got to a prayer-meeting, where every soul seemed engaged with God but himself. At last the power of God seized upon the wretch’s heart, and he exclaimed, ‘One prays, and another prays, — I’LL PRAY;’ and down he fell, and began in his way to cry to God for the salvation of his soul. This human fiend, who could scarcely utter a word without an oath, is now transformed into a saint, and is walking in all meekness and gentleness and uprightness before God. What could effect this change but the Almighty power of the grace of Christ? “We had a genuine lovefeast yesterday at Kingswood. How little, how unutterably little, did all the partisans of infidelity and their opinions appear in the business of that day! We had some very affecting testimonies, and some uncommon ones. I began at first to take notes of them; but soon found that, if I continued them, I should lose the spirit and good of them to my own soul. A young man delivered a speech of at least twenty minutes in length concerning his conversion. He was a collier [coal-miner]; it was impressive beyond description; and so great was the whole, that to me the parts are uncollectible. Some very great ideas were produced by those plain unlettered men. One of them, recently brought to God, endeavored at first to get rid of his convictions; but such was the agony of his soul, and such its continuance, that nature was exhausted. ‘On awaking one morning,’ he said, ‘ I felt ashamed to look at the daylight, much more to look at God. I roared for the disquietude of my soul. I called mightily for mercy. No answer. At last I tumbled me out of bed, and prayed with all my soul. I then drew out my three little children, told them to kneel down, and say their prayers for their father.’ It is needless to add, that his own prayers, and those of his three little innocents to God, brought a speedy answer of peace to his spirit; in which salvation he continues to walk in a most exemplary way.”
Christian! does not your heart melt at these recitals? Let not the men of rituals and formulas tell us of the scandal of these transgressions of ecclesiastical routine. He who understands the true spirit of the apostolic constitutions knows that these proceedings both fulfill the purpose for which the apostles labored, and harmonize with every canon they ordained for the increase and stability of the Christian church.
Intense study, writing eight or ten hours a day, and the full work of a Methodist preacher’s life, had already made sad inroads on Mr. Clarke’s health. Towards the close of his time in Bristol, he says: “I was once a young man both without and within; but the outward young man is gone, though the inward still continues. I have only to say, that if my natural force be abated, my eye grown dim and my hair grey, long before the ordinary time of life, Satan cannot boast that these preternatural failures have taken place in his service, or were ever, either directly or indirectly, occasioned by it. Blessed be God!”
A journey now and then served to withdraw his attention from study, and invigorate mind and body for further labor. Thus, in January, 1799, he goes to London. From some characteristic letters to Mrs. Clarke, written while on that visit, we set down a few sentences: — “Yesterday morning I preached at City-road. Though the people had not got much notice, yet there was a large congregation. I preached on Romans 4-6. It was an uncommon subject, and I found considerable liberty. Almost all my old Mercuries were there, and I think most of the trustees. Many were ready to half-eat me. I went thence to Mr. Bulmer’s to dine with Mr. and Mrs.
Sundius, Mr. and Mrs. Butterworth, and Mr. Edward. I then went to Spitalfields, and preached at three: here was a large congregation, and by the time I had done my strength was finished. I then went to see Mr. Johnson, thence to Mr. Fisher’s, thence to Mr. Williams’s, thence to W_____, where our dinner-party supped together with Mr. and Mrs.
Buttress. They departed at eleven , and I stayed all night. This morning, after breakfast, I set off again; for Mr. Sundius had given me two guineas to give to the poor of my acquaintance. I gave both to _____, and it was a time of need, as they are much in debt for the necessaries of life. I gave him also a guinea to pay for me at the Widows’ Relief. Thence to Mr. Williams’s. They are both very low, having lost both their children; thence to Mr. Cressall’s, thence to Mr. Reece’s; thence to the soup-house, where I got a very good and highly-acceptable bason. I met with Mr. Bevan, who was very glad to see me, and took me to his house in Plough-court. He has got up the residue of the yearly epistles. I called in at Mr. Baynes’s at one o’clock. They were going to dinner. I sat down and ate with them. I hope to sup this evening at Mr. Middleton’s. I have not had a quarter of a night’s sleep since I left. Tomorrow I serve at the soup-house.”
More than a year afterwards, (March, 1801,) he takes another excursion into Cornwall. From the kind of epistolary journal sent by several posts to Mrs. Clarke, on this excursion, we will also take a few passages: — “My Most Excellent And Beloved Mary, “We left Bristol about five minutes before six o’clock, and came in safely and slowly eighteen miles to a place called Cross, where we got breakfast at nine o’clock. I had some cold beef, and made a breakfast like an ancient Briton. We soon got under weigh; in all, eight passengers. Through Bridgewater we came to Taunton, where a dinner was provided of roast swine and boiled swine, with a miserable knuckle of veal. I asked for a bit of cold meat, and got some of a very miserable quality. They charged us each four shillings and ninepence. Once more off. The road most jolty, especially from Collumpton. Arrived at Exeter at a quarter to one.”
Leaving the city in a chaise, “through a bad road indeed, got to Crockerton a little after twelve. The good folks were gone to bed, and the landlady rose with her child of fourteen months old, which I lugged about while she lighted a fire and got us a comfortable supper. We again set off, Dark and rainy was the night; but we got over a rugged hop-jump way to Okehampton a t half-past three this morning. At half-past four proceeded, and, very much fatigued, got to Launceston at eight, where I now write. Thus God has conducted us in perfect safety to within sixteen miles of Camelford. Here we have just had breakfast, and are in expectation of horses, which Mr. Mabyn ordered to meet us. Well now, you see that the Lord cares for your queer, odd, good-for-little husband, I dare say you have been praying for me. Pray on, Mary! I have not taken this journey from any rambling disposition: I have felt reluctant to it, but think duty has compelled me, and I wait to see the issue. I shall not venture down into the west, as I am sure a month would not suffice to go to all the places I must visit, if I visited any one Tell John here is a very beautiful ancient castle, which I will tell him all about when I return.” “CAMELFORD, March 13th, “After waiting a long time in a most uncomfortable inn at Launceston, we ordered a chaise to set forward to Camelford; and, just as we were going to step into it, our horses came. Having fed them, we took the chaise for eleven miles, and made the servant follow us with his two Rossinantes, It was well we did; for we had a tempest all the way. When we came to the inn, I borrowed a large coat from the landlord, who is an acquaintance of Mr. Mabyn’s, mounted my (horse), and hobbled off for Camelford. After many stumbles and blunders I got safely to Mr. Mabyn’s at three o’clock, where we found dinner waiting. In the journey from Launceston to Camelford I passed by Tregear, once the residence of my old affectionate friend, T. Baron, Esq. He went safely to heaven some years ago; and his nephew, who was a young lad at school when I was formerly in these parts, became heir to his uncle’s estates, and, if possible, more than supplied his place. He turned early to God. Married to a young lady like-minded, they enjoyed in their family all that earth can afford of felicity, and all that Satan could envy. God also lived in them, and they lived in God. Affliction is the lot of all. Death made an inroad in their little family by removing a beloved child; and the same dart that pierced the child passed through the father’s heart as well. He followed his child to the grave, and in five days went into it. The ways of God are in the great deep.” “March 14th. — After dinner I went to Michaelstow, to see my old afflicted friend Miss Hocken, whom an unaccountable nervous disorder has confined for thirty years mostly to her room. One of the finest and most sensible women in Cornwall. She was exceedingly glad to see me, and I spent more than an hour in profitable conversation with a woman who obliged me to leave the surface and go to the bottom of the different subjects we discussed.
Tell John and Theo., that in this journey I observed several things which strongly indicated that the country hereabout has suffered much from some natural violence. I observed one place where a mountain seems to have been rent in twain: the corresponding parts on either side are nearly half a mile from each other. There is a deep valley between them, at the bottom of which a river has found its readiest course On my return, Rough Tor, the highest mountain in Cornwall, rose on my right hand. On its top two peaks, or, rather, large rocks. On the western point there is, I am informed, a very fine Druidic monument, — an altar, with on immense stone poised on the top of another, and so equally balanced in the center that a person can move it. Round about are large basons scooped out of the rock, which communicate by little conduits with each other, and which appear to have been used for libations, or to receive the blood of the sacrifices Last evening I had a pleasing visit from Mr. Pearse, the duke of Bedford’s steward, and several others. Mr. P., who is one of the excellent of the earth, I joined to the Society seventeen years ago. “March 16th. — I am, thank God, as well as you could expect me to be on Monday, after such a day’s work. Yesterday morning I preached a long and (for me) good sermon on the purpose and design of the Lord’s Supper; after which I administered that sacred ordinance to the Society. Many were in tears all the time; and several, I believe, took the sacramentum, or military oath, to be the faithful followers of Christ for ever. As I had been speaking from half-past ten to nearly one, I felt great reluctance to preach again at two, especially as one of their own preachers was present; but they would take no denial: even Mr. Mabyn himself seemed to have no pity, and I was obliged to work once more. I see what would have been my fate had I gone to the west. I am afraid our people never imagine that speaking, as they call it, can hurt a man: but this also must be borne with. We had now a very lively meeting, with a multitude of elephantine Amens. By the evening the news had spread far and wide, and we had many from four to ten miles round, and I suppose at least two-thirds of the inhabitants of Camelford. All that the chapel could possibly hold came in, and the rest stood without, cold and uncomfortable as the night was. I worked nearly from six to eight. On my concluding, they struck up a prayer-meeting, and continued it till nine, at which almost all that were in the house during the preaching continued.
When I got home, I was supremely wearied. “I am now preparing to set off for Port-Isaac, about ten miles.” (Here follow some antiquarian descriptions.) “I have had a pleasing interview with a young gentleman from India: he reads Persian and Arabic with the true accent, and they come out of his mouth like oil. He is quite a man of science, and has joined the Society here, and met yesterday in class the first time I hope to reach Plymouth toward the end of this week, and spend the Lord’s day there. The longer I stay away, the more earnestly I desire to return.”
These letters, of which there is quite a packet, abound with picturesque descriptions of the country, and some curious information on the archaeological remains in that part of Cornwall; the substance of which, with enlargements, the reader may find in the Doctor’s Miscellaneous Works. He appears to have enriched the letters with these topics for the instruction of his children, who were now reaching the years when the mind begins to hunger after knowledge. Happy the young people who could value and improve the advantage of having a father who was able to nourish their minds, as well as their bodies, with food convenient for them!
Mr. Clarke returned to Bristol to fill up the remaining months of his period there in those duties which tended, by the Divine blessing, to the enlargement and upbuilding of the congregations of the Circuit, both in town and country. Neither he nor his colleagues were permitted to spend their strength for nought. Large multitudes were drawn, from week to week, to hear words whereby they might be saved. The impenitent were awakened and made thoughtful; the seeker found; the more advanced in the spiritual life were led further heavenward; and God in all things was glorified.