Are you a Christian?
BOOK 4, CH. 6, THE FATHER
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Of the twelve children of Dr. and Mrs. Clarke, two died in infancy, four others in childhood; and of the six who rose to be men and women, three daughters only survive. The loss of the six, one after another, bent the parents in unutterable grief. “None,” says the father, when the first of these afflictions occurred, “none can tell our woe. I feel I have lost part of my own being in the loss of my child. Jesus, Thou Son of David, have mercy upon us. Thou Eternal Power, we bow before Thee, we submit to Thee.” In training aright those who lived, Dr. Clarke found the solace, as well as the solicitude, of his life.
Though so extensive an itinerant, he was nevertheless greatly in love with the domestic state, and never so happy as when be had his children around him. Once when Mr. Ward of Dutham called on him when in London, “on being ushered into the room, he found him seated with one child on his knee, encircled in an arm; another child in the cradle, which he was rocking to repose with his foot; a book in one hand, which he was attentively reading, and a potato in the other.” A scene like this might have been often witnessed.
When the labors of the study were over, he used to amuse himself with his little ones, who quickly assembled at his well-known call of “Come all about me!” Then was heard the joyous shout, along with the rush of the youngsters to claim the first kiss, or obtain the best seat upon his knee.
Sometimes he would dispose of them on his person; one round his neck, one hanging on each shoulder, one clasping his waist, one seated on each foot: and with an infant in his arms, he would, thus furnished, be the happiest of the group. The sports of the evening finished, each alternately kneeled at their mother’s knee, for prayer; and when ready for repose, Mr. Clarke, when not out preaching, “invariably carried them himself up to bed, put or playfully threw them in, and tucked them up for the night.
But, before retiring himself, he always visited each bed, to see if all was right. To his well-known voice, pretty early in the morning, they would start up, unpin each child its own bundle of clothes, (which almost from in fancy it had been taught to fold up,) and dress with all possible expedition for, from childhood, he would never permit waste of time by dilatory habits, any more than slovenly neglect through affected attempts at expedition.” — So writes one of the family.
In their secular education, he not only afforded them the privilege of his own tuition, but, as his ministerial duties would render all systematic operation impossible, he was careful to secure them the best professional instruction within his resources. He was not content without giving his daughters a useful and elegant, and his sons a practical and learned, education. But, above all, it was Mr. Clarke’s supreme concern to give them a Christian one; to implant in their memory at the very outset of life, when dogmatic instruction becomes a necessity, those absolute truths which, under the influence of the blessed Spirit of God, will develop in the soul and the conduct the virtues of holiness and religion to illustrate those truths in cheerful yet serious conversation to try to exemplify them in his own spirit, temper, and behavior, before their eyes letting them see Christ in him, and thus drawing them by the cords of a man, and by the bands of love, to his Savior and theirs. He knew that their renewal unto salvation must be the work of God; but he knew, also, that he, as their father, had duties to perform which might be instrumentally indispensable toward that blessed result. “Let those parents,” he would say, “who continue to excuse themselves by observing, ‘ We cannot give grace to our children,’ lay their hand on their heart, and say whether they ever knew an instance where God withheld His grace while they were, in humble subserviency to Him, fulfilling their duty? The real state of the case is this: Parents cannot do God’s work, and God will not do theirs; but, if they use the means, He will never withhold the blessing.”
In the parental government of his children, Mr. Clarke blended an inflexible integrity of discipline with a cheerful open-hearted love. He considered that these should be united in a father’s conduct toward his rising family. “It is not personal fondness,” remarked he, “nor parental authority, taken separately, that can produce beneficial effect. A father may be as fond of his offspring as Eli, and his children be sons of Belial; he may be as authoritative as the Grand Turk, and his children despise and plot rebellion against him. But let parental authority be tempered with fatherly affection, and let the rein of discipline be steadily held by this powerful but affectionate hand, and there shall the pleasure of God prosper. Many fine families have been spoiled, and many ruined, by the separate exercise of these two principles. The first sort of parents will be loved, without being respected; the second will be dreaded, without either respect or esteem.”
On his journeys he would describe to them remarkable localities, with their historical associations, rendering his letters both instructive and engaging.
At other times he reiterated with his pen the solemn counsels which they had often heard from his lips. Thus, to one of his daughters at school: “Youth is the time in which learning can be obtained. I find that I can now remember very little but what I learned when I was young. I have, it is true, acquired many things since; but it has been with difficulty, and I cannot retain them as I did those which I gained in my youth.”
And again, from another letter: “All, my dear child, that can be done for you by human means, is being done: but, to make you what you should be, you must look to God, that He may supply that teaching which is beyond the power of human influence and skill; and, that you may get it, you must be sensible that you need it, and must pray to God to give you that sensibility, — that is, that He may show you how stupid, foolish, and ignorant you are in all matters which concern the salvation of your soul, and how much you stand in need of that pardon and holiness which were purchased by the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion, the death and burial, the glorious resurrection and ascension, of our blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Pray for these blessings, and do not be contented without them; and then you will be not merely ‘worthy of your father,’ who is a poor worthless creature, but worthy of that glorious name of Christian which you bear; and, being a partaker of the Divine nature, God will count you worthy of an inheritance among the saints in light.”
So when, as years passed on, the young people entered upon life for themselves, he still, by intercession with God, and by all kind offices within his own power, endeavored to promote their welfare. On the birth of a granddaughter we find him writing as follows: — “To Joseph and Matilda Clarke: May the blessing, grace, and peace of the eternal, allglorious, infinitely perfect, and ineffably benevolent Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, One incomprehensible and adorable Deity, the Creator, Preserver, and Redeemer of mankind, rest on, ever support, and eternally save our son Joseph B. B. Clarke, his wife Matilda, and their firstborn child, by whatsoever name she may be called. May he, our son Joseph, in his sacred office ever preach Jesus the Christ, by the power of the Holy Ghost, to the conviction of sinners, the conversion of penitents, and the establishment of believers on their most holy faith! May Matilda his wife be ever blessed as a mother and a Christian, and live long distinguished by all the graces that adorn those characters! And may their firstborn child grow up in stature and favor with God and man! And may she and her parents live long, innocently, piously, and usefully; and, after having served their God in their generation, may they triumph over death in a glorious resurrection! May they be united to the Father of Eternity, through the Son of His love, by the Eternal Spirit, to contemplate the Divine perfections, to see them as they are, and thus to enjoy an unutterable happiness, where duration is eternal, and where time shall be no more. Amen! Amen!”
To and for another, his daughter Mary Ann, on her birthday: “Sovereign of the heavens and of the earth! behold this my daughter on the anniversary of her birth. I bring her before Thee: Fill her with Thy light, life, and power. As in Thee she lives, moves, and has her being, so may she ever live to Thee! Strengthen her, O Thou Almighty; instruct and counsel her, O Thou Omniscient! Be her Prop, her Stay, her Shield, and her Sword. Put all her enemies under her feet; deck her with glory and honor; make her an example to her family, a pattern of piety to her friends, a solace to the poor, and a teacher of wisdom to those who are ignorant and out of the way. By her may Thy name be glorified, and in her may the most adorable Saviour ever see of the travail of His soul, and be satisfied. Amen, amen.
Habitually happy as he was in the bosom of his family, there were occasions which had an especial and sacred joyousness in the domestic history. Such was that when parents and children alike received the holy sacrament together; thus acting, as the Doctor expressed it, “like a patriarchal family of old, et cum Deo inire foedus, making a covenant with God, which should put them in an especial manner under His protection.”
Such, also, was that when, the Commentary being finished, the sons and daughters “determined on presenting their father with a large silver vase, in memorial of the completion of a work which they had seen him so long, so laboriously, and so anxiously prosecuting Without acquainting the Doctor with the purpose of the invitation, the two elder sons requested their parents and the family to dine with them in St. John-square. After dinner, the vase, covered from the sight, was introduced and placed at the head of the table. Dr. Clarke’s eldest son then rose, and in the name of each of the family uncovered and offered it, with an appropriate address, to their revered parent. For a few moments he sat incapable of utterance; then, regarding them all, he rose, spread his hands over this token of his children’s love, and pronounced his blessing upon them individually and collectively. “His eldest son then filled the vase with wine, which his father raised first to his own lips, then to those of his beloved wife, and afterwards bore it to each of the family present: he then put it down, and in a strain of the most heartfelt eloquent tenderness addressed his children in the name of their revered mother and himself in terms they will never forget.”
Of the three sons of Dr. Clarke who survived him, each has now followed his parents to the other world. The eldest, John Wesley Clarke, was a gentleman whose extensive antiquarian and heraldic studies both qualified him for the situation he held under government, and, combined with a genial sociality of disposition, rendered him a most agreeable companion.
He had a great love for the science of botany, and delighted to spend whole weeks in the country in pursuing it, during which he would domesticate himself in cottage or farm-house, and live as one of the family. He was a loving son and brother. He died after a short illness in February, 1840, and was buried with his parents at City-road chapel.
Theodoret Samuel Clarke, after an apprenticeship to Mr. Woodfall the printer carried on that business for some years; during which he continued and finished the printing of his father’s Commentary, which had been begun by Woodfall. Theodoret’s education and subsequent studies enabled him to superintend accurately the typography of that work, which abounds with quotations from the biblical, classical, and Eastern languages.
Thus the Commentary was, as we may say, the work of the family. The Doctor wrote it, the sons printed, and Mr. Butterworth the brother-ia-law, published it. Theodoret left business, and went abroad for a time but after his return lived generally near his parents, spending his days in various works of usefulness. He died at Brighton in 1843, in the faith and hope of the Gospel.
The Rev. Joseph Butterworth Bulmer Clarke was, of all his sons, the one most after his father’s own heart. Some time after the completion of a good school-education, followed by the privilege of reading Greek with his relative, Mr. Boyd, he was entered of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated Bachelor and Master. In July, 1825, he was ordained by the archbishop of York, I believe as curate to Archdeacon Wrangham. He afterwards held two curacies in London, was appointed chaplain to the duke of Sussex, became incumbent of St. Matthew’s, Liverpool, and then removed to Henbury, near Bristol, where he married (Miss Brook) the lady who so largely shared with him some of the labors of his enlarged sphere of ecclesiastical duty, as curate of Frome, and then rector of West Bagborough, near Taunton, and inspector of schools for the diocese of Bath and Wells; an office which called forth powers with which he was admirably endowed for its faithful discharge. His printed reports show not only great official diligence, but a philosophical and Christian estimate of the principles of education, giving them a claim to permanent consideration. The bishop showed his appreciation of Mr. Clarke by giving him a prebendal [the stipend of a canon or member of chapter stall in the cathedral of Wells. We have seen how he assisted his father in bringing out the second volume of the “Sacred Literature,” a task for which he was soundly qualified by his classical and patristic learning. He published also a volume of sermons, and a Bibliography of Oriental manuscripts in his father’s library. He had, especially in his last years, a strong personal resemblance to the Doctor. This amiable clergyman died rather suddenly at Nice, in 1854, in the fifty-eighth year of his age. He had gone abroad with his family, for the sake of their health and his own; and, leaving them at Nice, had come again to England to discharge some pressing duties. This done, he returned to his family, and on the way, turning aside to visit the tomb of a beloved son who had died two years before at Toulon, and been interred at Hieres, he was himself seized with sudden death from a malady of the heart, and was buried with his son, among the myrtles and palm trees in the cemetery at Hieres.