BOOK 4, CH. 1,
THE ELDER REVERED IN THE CHURCH
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THE ELDER REVERED IN THE CHURCH
Time glides on, and moves so insensibly that the shadows of the departing day come on many of us unawares. The lapse of years beguiles man of his strength, as the autumnal winds rob the woods of their foliage. The change may be slow, but it is sure; and the process, imperceptible for a while, becomes apparent enough in its effects.
But he who enjoys the faith and hope of the Gospel is not dismayed by these tokens of decay: he connects them with the purposes of the unalterable Will which decrees that in this way man shall throw off what is corruptible in his nature, that mortality may be swallowed up of life. The Divine pledges of this blessed consummation fill him with expectations which contribute to render the latest days of his earthly life the most serene. He gives himself to the work of preparation, and waits. Meanwhile all is tranquil. What Jean Paul Richter says of himself in his last days, the Christian ought to say without misgiving: “I make ready for my journey, and take leave of the many companions I have loved. Strangely mingles the future with the present in my soul, while maturity passes away into age.
Nevertheless the cloudless evening sky spreads itself out in roseate glory.” So it was with Adam Clarke. His last days were his best. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” In resuming our narrative, we must remind the reader of the pressure of bodily infirmity brought on by excessive exhaustion, under which Dr. Clarke was obliged to write these admonitory words: — “Matters are come to this issue: if I do not at once get from many of my avocations, I shall soon be incapable of prosecuting any. I must hide my head in the country, or it will be shortly hidden in the grave.” It was in this time of extreme necessity that Providence opened the way to such a retreat, in which he could repair for a time his wasted constitution, without ceasing altogether from those mental and religious activities which had become essential to his enjoyment of life. Millbrook, a compact little estate about ten miles from Liverpool, was offered to him on conditions so liberal, and accompanied with such munificence on the part of the proprietor, that he was enabled to make it his own; and thither, after some time spent in rebuilding the house he repaired with his family in September, 1815.
His frame of mind on this occasion is intimated in a letter to Mr. Boyd, in which he says: — “That I shall leave London, as a place, without regret, I am certain; but it will not be so with respect to many who are in it. I do not like to be put out of the way of old friends; and, as to forming new ones, that is nearly out of the question. So I must take care to keep up a good understanding with myself, which I cannot do without being on good terms with my God; and on those terms I cannot be, without having at all times a conscience sprinkled with the atoning blood.” “This new arrangement in his temporal condition did not interrupt Dr. Clarke’s public relation to the Methodist ministry. His name stood on the Minutes as one of the preachers of a neighboring Circuit, in which he fulfilled the duties assigned him; lending, too, his powerful aid to the interests of Methodism in various parts of the country. At home, he revived the habits of his youth in horticulture and the tillage of the field, to the great improvement both of the property he had purchased, and of his own health in body and mind. Nor was he inattentive to the moral culture of the neighborhood. The rustic people among whom his lot was now cast were, most of them, nominally Roman Catholics, ignorant, poor, and ill cared-for. He lost no time in preparing a small chapel contiguous to his house, where the Gospel was preached in plain words, and in a friendly, loving spirit; and this means of usefulness was supplemented by a Sunday-school, attended by both Protestant and Romanist children who were instructed by the members of the family, aided by the mistress of the Village-school. In time, the good effects of these measures were shown in the moral and domestic improvement of the neighborhood.
Dr. Clarke had that year been requested by the President, the Rev. John Barber, to preside at the Irish Conference; and upon the death of that good and upright man, which occurred suddenly in the course of the year, the leading ministers of the Connection united in urging the Doctor to undertake the mission which their departed friend had assigned him. He complied with this request, and went, in June, by way of Scotland. His visit to the Irish brethren at this Conference proved unusually important, as a juncture had occurred in their affairs in which his influence and counsel were of the greatest service. The Irish Societies had been much disturbed on the old question of the Lord’s Supper in their own chapels Many of the trustees continued adverse to this practice, and were disposed to use all the legal power they had, to prevent it. Two documents of an intimidating tone had been sent into the Conference; one from the attorney-general, and another, expressed in strongly threatening terms, from the trustees themselves. Dr. Clarke dispelled the fears which these menaces had produced in the minds of some of the preachers; and the issue of a long debate was a vote that the wishes of the Societies for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper from their own ministers should be complied with. Several points in the address Dr. Clarke gave on this occasion are of consequence in relation to Methodism in its widest range. For example: — “1. Mr. Wesley had no plan, except that of following the openings of Providence: had he followed a plan, it would have been of man, and not of God. Our doctrine is from the revelation of God, and our discipline likewise. Mr. Wesley was only the instrument. “2. In following Providence, Mr. Wesley was compelled to do many things opposed to his prejudices: — these, I well know, were of the High Church character. It was according to his great principle of action that he ordained Dr. Coke for America, as he did others for Scotland.
He foresaw that the Methodists would be a great people, and therefore ordained preachers to keep up the spirit of the Church of England: but Providence never intended, that any individual should be a successor to Mr. Wesley When he died, Dr. Coke came to Dublin, to put himself at the head of the Irish Methodists but he, (Mr. Clarke,) being then in Dublin, opposed it. On the same subject there was in England a competition between Dr. Coke and Mr. Mather which was overruled by the appointment of District Meetings. “3. The introduction of the sacraments originated in the demands of the people. They urged them at the British Conference. By not yielding to their earnest entreaties, we sacrificed too many members. When the Plan of Pacification was at length made, (by which the sacraments were introduced under defined conditions,) the consequences were blessed ones. 4. As to the then present state of Methodism, Dr. Clarke stated that he was competent to judge of its spirituality and prosperity. “I have been twice President of the British Conference; and in the grand climacterical year of Methodism all its great offices were in my hands. I had access also to government, knew its sentiments of Methodism, and had full evidence that it had not lost its character or influence. I have met more classes in my Circuit than any other man, and have seen no loss of spirituality. — I will not make invidious comparisons between the Methodists in England and Ireland; in both they are the children of my God and Father: but this I will say, from perfect acquaintance with the subject, that they have in England more grace and more stability since the introduction of the sacrament than before.”
And with more particular reference to the Irish preachers, he added: — “I have had access to the inmost archives of the State, (on affairs relating to Ireland,) where their characters were properly appreciated. In a particular conversation which I had with Lord Sidmouth and Mr. Perceval, they spoke most honorably of their usefulness in the time of the Rebellion. They have been bulwarks to the Church itself against the attacks of Popery and other enemies.
In relation to these matters, Dr. Clarke wrote about this time: — “I know Methodism better than any man in Ireland; and can say that preaching in Church-hours, and the sacraments from the hands of our own preachers, have been marked by the most distinguished approbation of God. The Methodists in England are a thousand times more attached to the Church of England and her service than they ever were before; and the method which we were before taking to drive them to the Church, was driving them, and is now driving those of Ireland, into Dissenting congregations. Our usefulness to the Church is now greater than ever.”
In parting with the Conference, he urged the Irish ministers to be steadfast and unmoveable as to the ground they had now taken with respect to the sacraments. “My advice to you all is, Look up to God, and keep close together: never think of measuring back your steps to trustee-craft again.
Give up the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, when you go to drink the new wine in the kingdom of God. Let neither fear nor flattery induce you to it one moment sooner. Had you had it twenty years ago, you would have been doubly more numerous, and doubly more holy. God has broken your chain: if you mend it, or suffer others to do so, you will have His curse. If the genuine Methodists of Ireland stand fast in their fiery trial, God will make you both great and glorious. Look for your help from Him.
Do not suppose that any man’s money is necessary to the support of Christ’s cause; for ‘the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.’” In the course of the year 1818, Dr. Clarke was actively engaged In several parts of the country in opening chapels, preaching anniversary sermons, and helping the cause of foreign missions by setting their claims before assemblies who gathered in successive thousands, attracted both by the goodness of the object and the celebrity of the advocate. While he was in London at the anniversary of the Wesleyan Missionary Society this year, an incident occurred which was fraught with a lasting satisfaction to his mind, — his compliance with a request, made to him by some eminent persons, to take under his care and instruction two Indian priests, who had come to England in quest of the knowledge of the true God and of His Christ. “While on the platform,” says he, in a note to Mrs. Clarke, I received a letter from Sir Alexander Johnstone, then within sight of land, on his return from the Island of Ceylon; and in about half an hour another note was handed to me from the same gentleman, stating his actual arrival, and adding a wish to see me as soon as possible. On the following day I had an interview with him, when he told me that he had brought with him two high-priests of Buddhoo, who had left their country and friends, and put themselves before the mast, exposing themselves to all kinds of privations, in order to come here to be instructed in the truths of Christianity; that he had paid their passage, but, in order to try their faith and sincerity, had kept them in the meanest place, and at the greatest distance from himself, during the whole voyage.”
It appears that Sir Alexander was at that moment in uncertainty as to what was to he done to give these young men the protection they needed, combined with that teaching, in the hope of receiving which they had encountered the terrors of the great deep. He asked the Doctor’s advice. “I think,” was the reply, “our missionary committee will take them; but if not, I will, do honor to their motives, trust in the Lord, and take the whole burden upon myself.” This gave great satisfaction to Sir Alexander, who assured him that he should not bear the burden alone. The Doctor writes: — May 10th. — I have today received the two priests from on board the vessel at Blackwall, and will give you a little description of them.
Munhi Rathana is twenty-seven years of age, and has been high-priest eight years. He was educated, as was the other, from youth, for the priesthood. Dherma Rama is twenty-five years old, and has been between six and seven years in the priesthood. They are cousins about five feet six inches, and quite black; they have fine eyes, regular features and the younger, a remarkably fine nose, There is a gentleness and intelligence in their faces which greatly impressed me. Their hair, which is beginning to grow, (for, as priests, they are always shaven,) is jet-black. Their clothing is imposing in appearance. It consists of three parts: a sort of tunic of brocade, with gold and silver flowers; upon this they have a sash, that goes round their waist; and, over the whole, a yellow garment They have now European shoes and stockings. One of them has a screen made of silk, to which there is a massive handle of ivory. This, as high-priest, he used in the temple before his face, while performing the recitations from their sacred books. They eat sparingly, but refuse nothing placed before them of solid food, and take no fluid but milk or water.”
The missionary committee wished to put them entirely under the Doctor’s care. He accepted the charge, took them to Bristol, where he had to preach for the missions and then conducted them to Millbrook. The characteristics of these two Asiatics, under the immediate observation of the Doctor for nearly two years, were such as engaged his affection, and called forth expressions of unequivocal approval. “It will give you satisfaction,” says he, writing to the committee, “to know that they behave well, and are gentle and submissive.
They are very diligent in their studies, and have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, particularly religious knowledge, as well as for reading and writing English; which is of vast importance, as I am satisfied that the English language, under God, is the key of their salvation. They are both men of erudition in their way, with, as far as I can judge, a commanding eloquence. They are deeply read in the ethics of the Brahmin and Buddhoo systems. In these respects their acquirements are immense. I have myself read some works of this kind; and, well knowing the subtle and specious reasons which both those systems can bring forth in behalf of their ethics and philosophy, I do not a little wonder at the subjection of these men’s minds to the truths of the Gospel. I see them at the feet of Christ.”
After a residence of twenty-two months at Millbrook, in the course of which Dr. Clarke had become entirely sure of their sincerity, and satisfied with their proficience in the truths of Christianity, he complied with their solemn request, and admitted them to the sacrament of of baptism. This took place in the presence of an immense congregation in Brunswick chapel, Liverpool, on Sunday, March 12th, 1820. After the Liturgy, the Doctor, before proceeding to the ordinance, gave an account of the previous life of the two catechumens, and detailed such circumstances of their recent studies and experience as had satisfied him that they were now fully eligible for admission to the privileges of the church by the rite about to be administered. He then left the desk, and went to the font, where they were standing. The congregation joined in the hymn, — “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, In solemn power come down,” &c.
When the Doctor came to the lines, — “See these sinful worms of earth, Bless to them the cleansing flood,” had his hands upon their heads; the two priests burst into tears, and the whole assembly seemed to feel, in death-like stillness, that the power of the Highest was indeed overshadowing them. The for office of the baptism of adults was then recited with heartfelt fervor; the elder candidate receiving the name of Adam Sree Goonah Munhi Rathana; and the younger, that of Alexander Dherma Rama.
During the service, the latter, who, through fear of death, had long been subject to bondage, had that fear entirely removed; and the elder, Adam, on returning to his room, fell prostrate on the ground, and spent a long time, weeping, in prayer and praise.
A few weeks after this event, having completed the purpose for which they had come to England, they grew anxious to return; and arrangements were made for that object. One thing ought not to be omitted, as showing their disinterested sincerity: they declined to receive presents. Among other offerings, Mr. Sherburn, of the plate-glass manufactory at Ravenhead, sent them two fine toilette-glasses. They admired them, but were silent. Dr. Clarke spoke to them pointedly of the kindness and attention of Mr. Sherburn in making them the presents; when Dherma, after some hesitation, said, “We are obliged to Mr. Sherburn, but we will not have them. We came to England without money, without goods, without clothes, except our priests’ garments: we will take nothing back with us, but one coat apiece, the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the books you have promised us; — No, if God give it,” (i. e., assist us,) we will take no presents: we will receive nothing but the Gospel of Christ; for that alone we came.” They returned to Ceylon in company with Sir Richard Ottley, (who was going out to that island as judge,) carrying with them the devout and loving wishes of their revered friend, who gave expression to the solidity of his good opinion of them in a formal certificate, which was accompanied by an official letter, on the part of Lord Bathurst, addressed in their behalf to the authorities in Ceylon.
Some months after, Dr. Clarke received from them the intelligence of their safe arrival. “My dear father,” writes the elder, Adam Rathana, “I am here, comfortable and happy: however, I will tell you my good generally. Since we sailed from England, we have every Sunday had prayers, and sometimes a sermon: every morning and evening we have met in Sir Richard’s cabin to read the Bible and pray; at times some of the other passengers have joined. We have three Sundays had the Lord’s Supper: indeed, my mind sometimes rejoices concerning my soul. “Every day Judge Ottley orders us to go to him for improvement; indeed, by his teaching we have got great knowledge: — also he is very kind to us. Your book teaches us great knowledge: he talks to us out of it, and my mind is greatly satisfied with him all the time On the 30th of October we arrived at Colombo: the governor very kind to me, and put me under the Rev. Dr. S_____, who came from England, colonial chaplain. With him I study Christian religion, and I hope in a short time to be able to preach the salvation of Jesus Christ. When I was with you, I told you, I wish to have some power to preach the Gospel to heathen people. My wish, I thank God, He has done for me; I have now exceeding happiness in receiving this great blessing. My dear father, I will never forget you. You cut me off some of your hair, and, when I think of you, I take it in my hand, and, seeing that, my mind is full of sorrow, wanting you. My daily prayer is for you and your family.”
The subsequent life of these cousins gave good evidence of their truehearted establishment in the faith. The elder devoted himself to the service of the Church, and received an appointment as a chaplain; and the other adopted the life of a civilian, and became a mohunderam or inferior magistrate. I met only lately, in a periodical of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, with an extract of a letter from the present bishop of Colombo, who mentions the pleasing fact that a son of the elder had just then been ordained a deacon of the Church. His lordship says: “It was gratifying to me last Sunday to admit to the diaconate another native laborer, after a probation of more than three years, in the service of the Society, at Badulla, under the Rev. E. Mooyart, of Newera Ellia. His name is George Adam Rathana. He is the son of a converted Buddhist priest, who was some years ago conveyed to England by the late Sir A. Johnstone, and confided to the care of Dr. Adam Clarke for Christian education. I h ave known him long, having received him as the first divinity student in St. Thomas’s College, where he gained the esteem and confidence of all.”
Reverting to the tenor of Dr. Clarke’s life at Millbrook, we find him celebrating the coronation of King George IV by a kind of domestic fete with his family and their neighbors. “We brought all our tenants together, even to the least of their children, and gave them a dinner. They ate a world of beef, pies, pudding, and cheese, besides half-a-bushel of currants and cherries. To our work-people I also gave a holiday, and paid each man his day’s wages: and, when all was over, I gave each child a penny; all above eight years old, a sixpence; and to every grown person, a shilling. We sang and prayed, and afterwards I dismissed them. They were as happy as they could be. Our union-jack was flying all day: at sunset we struck our flag, and heartily prayed, morning, noon, and night, for the king.”
The Conference had voted a loyal Address to the new monarch, and Dr. Clarke was appointed to negotiate with the Home Secretary about the time and manner of presenting it. Lord Sidmouth informed him that the Address might be presented at a levee [archaic an assembly of visitors or guests, esp. at a formal reception], by a deputation, or by an individual. As such an opportunity was unlikely to occur for some months, his lordship kindly offered to lay it himself before His Majesty, taking occasion to remark in the same letter that he knew “the influence of the Wesleyan Methodists to be extensive.”
In February, 1821, died that great preacher and expositor of the word of God, the Rev. Joseph Benson. Dr. Clarke, standing at the side of his deathbed, heard the theologian’s last testimony: “My hope of salvation is,BY GRACE,THROUGH FAITH.” On the occasion of the funeral, at City-road, Dr. Clarke delivered a powerful address to the congregation which crowded the spacious chapel.
Among many journeys this year, he visited Epworth, to preach for the chapel. With his veneration for the family of the Wesleys, the spot on which he then found himself was felt to be classic ground. “With reverence and strong religious gratification,” he went over the old rectory, accompanied by the resident clergyman; and then proceeded to the simple, clean little church, hard by which was “a sycamore-tree which was planted by the hand of old Samuel Wesley. I brought away a piece of the outer bark. I have got a pair of fire-tongs which belonged to him, and which were bought at the family-sale. There is also an old clock, which I rather think I shall have, and for which I left a commission [an order for something].”
In these widely-extended journeys for the promotion of great charities for time and eternity, he was everywhere hailed with a hearty religious welcome, and heard with an almost unexampled reverence by the rich and the poor, who met together to receive from the lips of him who kept knowledge the words of eternal peace.
At the Conference of 1822, held in London, his brethren in the ministry offered him the token of their own heartfelt veneration by electing him to the Presidential chair. This was the third time that honor was conferred upon him; a circumstance which had not hitherto occurred in the annals of the body. Dr. Coke had been President twice; and since those days two eminent men, Drs. Jabez Bunting and Robert Newton, have held the office four times each. But in the present case the distinction was unique, and was no doubt intended as a homage paid to extraordinary virtue and worth.
At this Conference initiatory proceedings were entered upon towards a mission to the Zetland Islands, a work in which, as we shall have to record, Dr. Clarke took a personal and a predominant interest. His official visit to the Irish Conference was made in connection with a tour in Scotland, and in several neighborhoods of his native island. In the course of these peregrinations [travels] he found himself once more among the scenes of his childhood. He entered the church where he was baptized. “I went,” says he, “within the communion-rail. With silent solemnity and awe, I there, in the presence of Him whose I am, and whom I serve, mentally and in a deep spirit of prayer, took upon myself those vows which had so long before been made in my name and on my behalf.”
Standing by the graves of some of the members of his family in the adjoining place of the dead, he made the reflection: “Here lie several of my ancestors; and I go to lie most probably in another land, and shall not, in all likelihood, be gathered to my fathers. But I too shall be found, when all the quick and dead stand before the Lord; and wheresoever my dust may be scattered, the voice of the Lord shall call it together, and I shall stand in my lot at the end of the days. May I then be found of Him in peace, without spot and without blame, and have in entrance into the holiest through the blood of Jesus!”
In Ireland he found the Societies still in an uneasy condition. At a public meeting, convened in Belfast, “one proposing the question to me, ‘ Is Methodism now what it has been?’ I answered it in a way very different from what was, I believe, expected, and intended by it: ‘No: it is more rational, more stable, more consistent, more holy, more useful to the community, and a greater blessing to the world at large.’ And all this I found no difficulty in proving.” It had been published for him to preach at Bandon at twelve’ o’clock; and he proceeded thither for that purpose. His entrance into the town was greeted as if he had come (as indeed he had) an ambassador from a King.
The Irish Conference is preliminary to that in England; and scarcely had the Doctor arrived at home from a journey of 2,000 miles, before he was again on the way to the latter, which was held that year in Sheffield. He once more gave up the seal of office, to his old friend, the Rev. Henry Moore, and concluded the duties of his presidency with a Charge at the ordination of the junior ministers, distinguished by a powerful and solemn unction, while he exhorted them to “take heed to themselves and to the doctrine,” and to “continue in these things,” so as to save themselves and those who should hear them. The official sermon, which he delivered at the usual time, was on a theme which called out all the powers of his sanctified mind: “God is a Spirit; and that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” It was at this Conference that Ebenezer chapel, a large Gothic structure which the Methodists of Sheffield had lately erected, was dedicated for Divine service; and Dr. Clarke was the morning preach er.
Toward the conclusion of the sermon, owing to some false alarm, (created, it was thought, for a wicked purpose,) one of those panics took place which have been too often attended by fatal effects. But, through the good providence of God, no great disaster occurred. This being the third instance of the kind in which a similar shock had been given him, the Doctor expressed a resolution to preach no more at the opening of a chapel.
An accident which befell him shortly after the Conference had a bad effect on his health, which became so disordered as to lay him aside for a time altogether. On the 14th of September, he takes occasion to lament that he was too weak to repeat even the Lord’s Prayer; and on the 17th, that he could not speak five minutes at a time, — so soon is the strength of the most vigorous man laid low. An idea, which had been present with him some time, now gained ground in his mind, — namely, that a residence in a more southerly part of England would be more conducive to his welfare.
This was strengthened by the consideration that his family were then nearly all settled in London. He now observes that he should be glad “if any small place, from three to fifty miles from London, could be obtained;” adding, “But we should rather be thinking of our last change, than of making another removal.” An indication was given, however, of his resolve to migrate from the north, by the appearing of his name, on the Minutes of the next Conference, in connection with the London West Circuit. In the course of some few months, an advantageous offer having been made to Dr. Clarke for the Millbrook property, he finally disposed of it; and, after a short and intermediate residence at Canonbury-square, Islington, he took up his last earthly sojourn at Haydon Hall, near Pinner, in the county of Middlesex. In this salubrious [health-giving] and beautiful spot, about sixteen miles from London, — near enough for ordinary convenience, yet sufficiently secluded for retirement, — the Doctor soon felt himself at home. His flagging health recovered much of its wonted energy; and, his soul being replenished with increase of grace, he dedicated life anew to God in humble dependence on that preventing and sustaining power which alone could enable him, in all his works, begun, continued, and ended, to glorify His holy Name.