Although Adam Clarke had frequently exhorted sinners to repentance, he did not yet conceive that he was called to the ministry. Others were persuaded that he was; but that did not suffice for him. The peremptory manner in which his father had rejected Mr. Wesley's offer was calculated to make the young Christian distrustful of the notions of his friends. Perhaps he was also distrustful of himself: he was certainly far from indulging in self-confidence. Of this no other proof is needed than the fact, that, often as he had stood up in the name of God, he had never dared to take a text. He considered that a man might be quite competent to the task of exhortation who was not to that of preaching; and there appeared to him to be an audacity amounting to impiety in the individual who, without a certain share of theological knowledge, should presume to undertake the exposition of Scripture. But the time was approaching when he himself would be constrained to make the attempt. Shortly after leaving Coleraine, he received an invitation to visit Mr. Bredin, then on the Londonderry side of his circuit. With the consent of his parents, he set forth upon the journey, which, though it comprised a distance of thirty miles, he was obliged to perform on foot. Before he set out, he besought the Lord to direct him to some passage of Scripture, upon which he might meditate by the way. Then opening the Bible, the first words that met his eyes were, "Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever you shall ask of the Father, in my name, he may give it you." The day after his arrival at Mr. Bredin's house, that gentleman desired him to go and preach at New Buildings, a village about five miles from Derry, and bade him take a text. To this Adam demurred; but his friend was importunate, and at length he yielded. Accordingly, the first sermon of Adam Clarke was preached June 19, 1782, the text being, "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." On this occasion, a young man of the Society said to him, "You are very young to take upon you to unravel the word;" but the generality of his hearers were so well pleased that they entreated him to preach to them on the following morning, at the early hour of five -- an hour much too early for the present race of preachers. He consented, and preached afterwards five several times in the same village, during his stay with Mr. Bredin.
On returning to his father's house, he felt persuaded that God had called him to preach his word, regarding that passage of Scripture to which his attention had been directed a fortnight before, as the evidence of his call. This will be doubted even by those who will not dispute the fact of the call.* [Why should anyone doubt it? It was no doubt God's call, and Adam Clarke obviously recognized it as such, all doubters to the contrary notwithstanding. It sounds like the author himself had too much of a "stuffed-shirt" notion about what constituted a Divine call to the ministry. -- DVM] Thus convinced in his own mind, Adam, referring to Mr. Wesley's former invitation, indulged the prospect of going to England, and, in this expectation, thought it proper to obtain a certificate of character from the rector of the parish. This document was readily granted. Scarcely had he taken this precaution, when Mr. Bredin received a letter from Mr. Wesley, appointing him for England, and desiring him to bring Adam Clarke with him, that he might be sent to Kingswood School. This brought matters to a crisis with his family. His father would neither speak to him nor see him. His mother urged him with many arguments, beginning with the fifth commandment, but finally slipping from the ground of Scripture, and threatening him with her curse. Adam replied, that he wished to do nothing contrary to the will of God; but he could not think of leaving home against the approbation of his parents. In this dilemma he had recourse to prayer, the Christian's method of dissolving the Gordian knot; and, by and bye, on returning from Coleraine, whither he had gone on business, he was pleasingly surprised to find his mother avowing the persuasion that God had required her to give up her son to his work, and also that she had conquered the repugnance of his father. Thus had God interposed for the peaceful accomplishment of his own good pleasure.
About this time, Mr. Moore came a second time to the Coleraine circuit; and we may judge of the mental progress of young Clarke from the circumstance that he (Mr. Moore), who was even then a person of considerable acquirements, states, that "he lost his teacher as well as his friend" when Adam was summoned to Kingswood. In a few days Adam set off to the city of Londonderry, the place of embarkation. He had little money, and few clothes; but he requested nothing of his parents. His religious friends, however, put some money in his purse. Arrived at Londonderry, he found that Mr. Bredin had agreed for their passage in a Liverpool trader, then waiting for a fair wind. In the meantime, a letter arrived from Mr. Wesley, remanding Mr. Bredin's appointment; and, the wind being fair, Adam embarked, friendless and alone, taking with him, as provision for the voyage, a loaf and a pound of cheese. The vessel sailed on the 17th of August, 1782, and reached Liverpool on the 19th. The intermediate day was Sunday, a principal part of which the captain, named Cunningham, employed in reading Flavel's Works. Adam was sick. When on deck, however, he failed not to reprove the sailors for swearing; and they, seeing that he was respected by their commander, and probably appreciating his motives, took the reproof in good part.
On arriving in the Mersey, they were brought to by a tender, and boarded by a press-gang. The other passengers secreted themselves; but Adam, saying, with Nehemiah, "Shall such a man as I flee?" sat down upon a locker in the cabin, in the spirit of prayer and submission to the will of God. One of the two young men who had hid themselves was discovered and impressed. Adam, too, was overhauled. One of the party appears to taken him for a young priest; and the lieutenant himself, finding that he was not hard-handed, cursed him and let him go.
At a period when the cruel and unconstitutional practice of impressment is engaging much of public attention, and the efforts of benevolent men are directed to procure its abolition, we cannot withhold from publicity Dr. Clarke's indignant reprobation of it:--
"What Briton's bosom," he demands, "does not burn against this infringement of British liberty? -- this unconstitutional attack on the liberty of a free-born subject of the sovereign of the British Isles? While the impress service is tolerated, in vain do we boast of our constitution. It is an attack upon its vitality, ten thousand times worse than any suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. Let Britons know that it is neither any part of our constitution, nor any law of the land, whatever some venal lawyers have said, in order to make it constructively such. Nothing can be a reason for it, but that which justifies a levee en masse of the inhabitants of the nation. It is intolerable to hear those plead for it, who are not exposed to so great a calamity."
The first Lord of the Admiralty, and his obsequious [accommodating] friends, would do well to consider the sentence in italics. It has been justly remarked, that to vindicate an oppression that does not happen to affect one's self, is the most despicable of all selfishness. No man approves of slavery and impressment, which are pretty nearly synonymous, or of the Inquisition, who expects to suffer in his own person by them.
When Adam went on shore, the Captain invited him to his house, where he was hospitably entertained by Mrs. Cunningham, who introduced him to a Scotch lady and a naval captain. Their conversation turned on the subject of religion; and, the Scotch lady using frequently the asseveration "upon my conscience," Adam, who, as we have seen, always held it his duty to reprove sin, took an opportunity of reproving her in private. Without being hurt, she defended herself by the example of other religious professors; and, at supper, mentioned the subject to their hostess. This led Adam to assign his reasons for considering all oaths sinful, reasons the force of which some of the company seemed to acknowledge. The strange captain, who was a Papist, called upon Adam for his opinion concerning the peculiar points of Roman Catholic belief. The young preacher accepted the challenge; and, after having shown how unscriptural were the notions which he attacked, glided involuntarily into the language of exhortation. He was heard not only with fixed attention, but with tears; perceiving which, he seized the occasion of proposing prayer, and, kneeling down, in which he was imitated by the company, he prayed with much fervor and energy, and had reason to believe that a beneficial impression was made upon his hearers. When he inquired for his bill, Mrs. Cunningham refused to make any charge, acknowledged that she and her family were deeply in his debt, and begged that he would write to them when he reached Kingswood.
It was Adam's intention to walk from Liverpool to Bristol; but he was persuaded to go by coach. He reached Birmingham after being a day and a night upon the road. During the journey, he reproved a young gentleman, one of his fellow travelers, for swearing. The giddy sinner took him for a Presbyterian, and was uncommonly entertained when he avowed himself to be a Methodist. On returning to the inside of the coach, which he had quitted for one stage, this young scoffer excited the curiosity of the other inside passengers to such a degree, that they would not rest satisfied without Adam's company. He resisted their entreaties, till informed that the genteel young sinner was the person who would give place to him. A gentleman and a lady, who had been most pressing in the invitation, made several inquiries, to which, probably, his youth, his seriousness, and his accent, prompted them; and were so well pleased with him, that they tried to persuade him to take London in his way to Bristol, offering to pay the whole of his expenses. He felt it his duty to decline their kindness. On alighting at Litchfield, they made him dine with them, and would not allow him to pay his part. The gentleman, who was a learned and religious man, conversed freely with him. Adam quoted Horace to prove that even heathens possessed a sense of the Divine favor and protection. But his fellow traveler showed him, by a quotation from the same writer of a quite opposite tendency, that it would not do to appeal to him as an authority on such matters. This seasonable remark taught the young scholar the necessity of extreme caution in appealing to heathen writers concerning morals, as also in appealing to the Fathers (so called) concerning Christian doctrines; in other words, he learned that the Bible is the only authority with regard to either practice or belief.
On reaching Birmingham, Adam resorted to the house of Mr. Joseph Brettell (the brother of John Brettell, preacher, already mentioned), by whom and by his wife he was kindly received and hospitably entertained. By this gentleman he was prepared in some measure for the disappointments which he met with on reaching Kingswood. Adam had conceived that it would yield him all the advantages of a university, without those risks to personal piety and virtuous principles with which universities too frequently abound; but Mr. Brettell told him he "questioned whether he would meet there with anything he expected." Taking leave of this kind and but too true monitor, he proceeded to Bristol, where he slept, and whence he walked, early in the morning, to Kingswood. He reached his destination on the 25th of August, with three-halfpence in his pocket, and a foreboding heart in his breast.
After the morning preaching, which had commenced, he was introduced to Mr. Simpson, the head master; but, before we relate what passed between them, let it be observed, that our whole account is derived from Dr. Clarke's own words. We purposely omit many harsh and violent expressions, dictated, no doubt, by a resentful spirit, confining ourselves strictly to the facts, which, we presume, cannot be controverted.
Mr. Brettell's prediction was even more than fulfilled. Mr. Simpson, after reading the letter from Mr. Wesley, which constituted Adam's passport to such comforts and advantages as the school might afford, said, he had heard nothing of it, they had no room for anyone. Mr. Wesley was in Cornwall, but would be at Kingswood in a fortnight, and bade Adam return to Bristol and await his arrival. Adam replied, that he had expended all his money. Mr. Simpson rejoined, by declaring, that the school was not for such as he, but for the ignorant. In the end, the young stranger was poked into a spare room "on the end of the chapel," there to await Mr. Wesley's coming. From this prison he was on no account to stir, the maid bringing him his food at certain intervals. He soon found out why he was thus treated. Mrs. Simpson, a Scotchwoman, as Dr. Clarke significantly remarks, suspected that he had the itch. When her husband communicated this shrewd suspicion, Adam bared his breast to prove that it was groundless. This was to no purpose. He was compelled to rub himself with Jackson's ointment, a ceremony which introduced him to the only fire he saw while he remained at Kingswood. Returned to his miserable chamber, he was not allowed to have a change of sheets, and, as they would not send for his box, which was at the inn in Bristol, he was equally destitute of a change of shirt; but was doomed to lie in the sheets, and wear the shirt, which was defiled with the "infernal unguent," as he styled it. He had bread and milk for dinner, breakfast, and supper, was left to make his own bed, sweep his own room, and perform all the other offices of a chambermaid. This was his state during three weeks. On the Thursday of the second week, however, he was permitted to fetch his box from Bristol, and consequently had a change of body linen. The weather being unseasonably cold, he begged for a fire; which, though coals were to be had for little more than the expense of carriage, and that from a very trivial distance, was peremptorily denied him. Once, when he showed Mr. Simpson his benumbed fingers, this austere pedagogue directed him to some means of physical exertion, from which, however, he was instantly driven by his still austerer spouse. This woman the Doctor compares to a Bengal tiger: "she seemed never to be in her element but when she was driving everything before her." One request was granted him: he was allowed to work in the garden, which contained a shallow pond of stagnant water, in which he occasionally bathed; "for," says he, "there is none in the place but what falls from heaven." But this, at least, was not Mr. Simpson's fault. While working one day in the garden, Adam found a half-guinea, which he offered to Mr. Simpson, who said he had not lost a coin of that kind. Mr. Bayley, the second master, had, and it was given up to him; but he returned it in a day or two, saying, that he had been uneasy in his mind ever since it came into his possession, because he did not know it to be his. Adam then offered it to Mr. Simpson for the use of the school; but he turned hastily away, declaring that he would have nothing to do with it. It remained, therefore, with the finder, and was added to his residuum of three-halfpence. With the greater part of this money, Adam subscribed for a copy of Mr. Bayley, the second master's, Hebrew Grammar, the study of which laid the foundation of his great acquirements in oriental learning, and issued in his unparalleled commentary on the sacred text. The remainder he devoted, according to the testimony of Mr. Joseph Beaumont, who received his information from his own lips, to the purchase of some coals. The finding of this half-guinea, together with all the circumstances which followed, Dr. Clarke, who referred all events to God's providence, ever viewed as a special interposition of the Divine goodness. When Mr. Wesley returned to Bristol, Mr. Simpson went over to see him, and give his own version of affairs as respected Adam Clarke. He came back with orders for the youth to go to Mr. Wesley. The following is his own account of his first interview with that distinguished man:--
"I went into Bristol, saw Mr. Rankin, who carried me to Mr. Wesley's study, off the great lobby of the rooms over the chapel in Broadmead. He tapped at the door, which was opened by this truly apostolic man: Mr. Rankin retired. Mr. Wesley took me kindly by the hand, and asked me, 'How long since I had left Ireland?' Our conversation was short. He said, 'Well, brother Clarke, do you wish to devote yourself entirely to the work of God?' I answered, 'Sir, I wish to do and be what God pleases!' He then said, 'We want a preacher for Bradford (Wilts); hold yourself in readiness to go thither; I am going into the country, and will let you know when you shall go.' He then turned to me, laid his hands upon my head, and spent a few moments in praying to God to bless and preserve me, and to give me success in the work to which I was called."
Of this interview Mr. Moore has given a somewhat different account. According to him, Mr. Wesley inquired into the views of his young disciple, and finding he was striving to increase his learning, said, "Poh, poh, you have learned enough for a Methodist preacher. Go into that circuit, and I will find you another next week. By teaching we learn. This," adds Mr. Moore, was a favorite maxim with that great man."
But on this account we cannot implicitly rely, there being no evidence whatever of any provisional appointment like that indicated. Still less are we disposed to credit any statement in preference to that of Dr. Clarke himself, when we find another authority (Mr. Beaumont) stating, that from Kingswood young Clarke wrote to Mr. Wesley to say, "that there was nothing taught in the school which he did not know, and therefore wished to be informed what next was to be done."
Two days after he had seen Mr. John Wesley, Adam was introduced to his brother Charles; when he had seen "the two men whom he had long considered as the very highest characters upon the face of the globe."
From the period of his interview with Mr. John Wesley to that of his departure from Kingswood, Adam was differently treated. He was discharged from solitary confinement, had a bed among the rest of the scholars, and dined with the family. But Mrs. Simpson still exercised her authority over him. It was the custom to drink the healths [toasts] of all at table, even out of the table beer; and to this senseless custom, Adam objected. Mrs. S. quoted the compliance of Mr. Wesley himself, and so pertinaciously insisted on the thing, that Adam could make no reply. "I was in Rome," says he, "and it would have been absurd in me to have attempted to contend with the Pope." This Pope Joan the second, however, was satisfied with a less conquest than would have contented her prototype. She would have compelled him to obey positively; but Mrs. Simpson was appeased by a negative obedience [He drank nothing. -- DVM]; and Adam was suffered to preserve a whole conscience at the expense of a dry stomach. This abstinence was a severe trial to him; for he "never had an easy deglutition." [He needed liquid with his meals. -- DVM] His conscience, however, was even straiter than his gullet, as we may perceive from the undue importance into which he magnified this ludicrous affair; nor can we refrain from smiling as we record the sentence with which the Doctor self-complacently winds up this part of his narrative, "I have lived long enough to see almost the whole nation come over to my side." As for Mrs. Simpson, she did not live to witness the barbarous innovations of modern times.
The last question respecting which Adam was brought into collision with this "tartar," was on the subject of episcopal confirmation. The Bishop of Bristol, Dr. Bagot, was administering this unscriptural and much-abused rite in the collegiate church of that city; and Adam, under the influence of predilections which hung to him through life, went to have his Lordship's hand laid upon his head. Mrs. Simpson, who, being a Presbyterian, knew that this was one of the figments of Popery, pitied his being so long "held in the oldness of the letter:" a remark which we transcribe as the only saving clause which can be found concerning this unamiable woman. Of her husband, as well as of the other masters, Dr. Clarke, after all, expressed himself in terms of praise, as to their general character; but of her, he spoke only in terms of unqualified indignation and disgust.
The only mitigating circumstances connected with Adam's residence at Kingswood arose out of his attendance on the means of grace, and his acquaintance with the excellent Mr. Thomas Rankin, then superintendent of the circuit. As to learning, he does not appear to have derived any one advantage from his stay, except that which arose out of his purchase of Mr. Bayley's Hebrew Grammar. Mr. Simpson was a man of learning and piety; but he was a man of too easy a temper for his situation, and allowed his wife to assume the post of head master. In consequence of this and other faults, the usefulness of the school declined. The parlor boarders, who were admitted on payment of certain sums, to lighten the general expenses of the establishment, monopolized those attentions which the poor boys ought to have shared; and, at the Bristol Conference of 1783, the year after Adam Clarke had been there, Mr. Wesley himself pronounced it as his opinion, that "the school did not, in any wise, answer the design of its institution, either with regard to religion or learning. The rules of the school," he added, "are not observed at all. It must be mended or ended." "The school has certainly been 'mended' since," says Dr. Clarke; but this conveys a very imperfect idea of the improvement that has taken place. Since that time it has been devoted exclusively to the education of the sons of preachers, and has been placed under the immediate superintendence of a succession of governors (who have generally been among the most judicious of the preachers), aided by a committee of the neighboring preachers and influential laymen; and no higher testimony can be given to the excellence of its administration, than the fact that many of the most distinguished and most promising preachers in the Connection (among whom we may name Messrs. Jonathan Crowther, Robert Wood, Theophilus Lessey, and William M. Bunting) were educated at Kingswood.
On the 26th of September, Adam Clarke bade adieu to Kingswood and Mrs. Simpson, having experienced more misery during the thirty-one days of his sojourn, than in all the rest of his life. The reader will credit him when he declares that he left it "without a sigh or a groan." Indeed, the impressions made upon his mind by the usage he received there, were never erased: and the very mention of the name of the place, much more the sight of the place itself, was sufficient to fill him with distressing sensations.
It is due to the memory of Dr. Clarke, that, before we proceed further in the narrative of his life, we notice the glaring misrepresentations of a reviewer in the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine concerning his own account of his reception and treatment at Kingswood. Even though "the spirit in which he has recorded his troubles be neither meek nor forgiving," yet there were circumstances to palliate, if not to justify, his resentment; but what is there to palliate the conduct of his surviving brother, in holding up the indignities which he suffered, as subjects of ridicule? We envy not the feelings of that man who can read of those indignities without blushing for the perpetrator of them. But to have made light of them is not the only crime of which the apologist for Mrs. Simpson, who worthily represents the vinegar of her temper, has been guilty in his attempts to exculpate her and her most humble and obedient husband. He has most disingenuously suppressed a series of facts, the introduction of which would have utterly defeated his uncandid and ungenerous design. "What there might be," says he, concerning the injurious suspicion of cutaneous [skin] disease to which young Clarke was subjected; "What there might be in his personal appearance to induce Mr. and Mrs. Simpson to assign him a separate apartment, we know not." Now, what is this but an indirect mode of expressing an opinion, that those cleanly functionaries had but too much reason for their insulting behavior? And yet the writer must have known, that circumstances had transpired while the stranger youth was on his way from Coleraine to Kingswood, which, to anyone who read the narrative of them, would be a sufficient proof that there was not the least room for founding an opinion unfavorable to his cleanliness, upon his personal appearance. This was perfectly clear; and, therefore, care was taken that the readers of the Magazine should know nothing of those intermediate events, by transporting him, per saltum, from the paternal roof to the inhospitable house of Mrs. Simpson. But our readers have not been thus blinded. They have seen how Adam was received and entertained by Captain and Mrs. Cunningham at Liverpool, by Mr. Brettell at Birmingham, and by his fellow travelers upon the road -- all utter strangers -- all persons to whom he had no letter from Mr. Wesley to present, as a title to their hospitality and kindness; and, therefore, it would be vain in us, were we capable of such baseness, to insinuate a doubt of the wholesomeness of his appearance.
The assertion, that "the complainant manifests no disposition to make the best of his situation, and to regard his hardships with philosophic indifference," is one which the statement of facts already submitted to the reader, completely invalidates. Considering that young Clarke had, for the first time in his life, quitted his father's house and his native country; that he had left behind him fond parents, who were with difficulty persuaded to consent to his departure; that he was repulsed like a beggar where he reasonably expected to be received as a welcome guest; that, when a small remnant of shame prevented his appointed entertainer from turning him absolutely from the door, he was held up before his juniors as unfit for their society, and thrust into a solitary and an ill-provided chamber; that he was accused of a disease which is considered to be dishonorable in the last degree, and compelled to undergo a filthy ointment, though he gave practical proof of the baselessness of the charge; that no change of linen was allowed him after he had submitted to this disgusting and degrading ordeal; and, when to all these considerations is added the fact, that he came thither at the special and repeated invitation of the supreme director, if not the owner, of the place, we think it will be admitted that he bore his trials with no small degree of manly endurance and stoutness of heart. The only symptom of impatience which he evinced was, his extreme solicitude to procure clean linen, when his body and his bed had been defiled with the abominable preparation -- a solicitude, however, which adds nothing to the means of justifying Mrs. S. injurious suspicions and her odious precautions.
The writer whose unfairness we are exposing, singles out from the list of Dr. Clarke's complaints, that of "the want of a luxury to which he had, probably, not been uniformly accustomed during his previous life, and the absence of which he doubtless often experienced in the course of his itinerancy." Would the reader guess, that, by what is here called a "luxury," is meant a piece of carpet at his bedside? The Doctor does not, however, make the want of this a matter of particular complaint, only noticing it as one of the non-inventa of his scanty inventory. But, if he had, any one who remembers the sensation of standing with naked feet upon a boarded floor during a hard frost, would not be much surprised, especially when told that he was as utterly deprived of fire as he was of carpet. There is one view, we must acknowledge, in which the observation of the critic would be pertinent enough. Had young Clarke been sent to Kingswood expressly for the purpose of inuring him to hardship as a summary preparation for his itinerant life, Mr. Simpson and his amiable spouse could not have devised a more successful plan; unless, indeed, they had compelled the subject of their heartless neglect to bivouac upon the margin of that translucent pool in which he was obliged to lave himself. It is not a little surprising that their ingenious friend, who, as we have seen, excels in putting an insinuation as broadly as is consistent with literal veracity, did not suggest the probability that they had heard of young Clarke having formerly been cured of a prevalent disease by "the cool regimen," and assign this as the reason of their conduct. By adding, that they had subjected him to that regimen because, on the former occasion, it was the result of his own choice, their apologist would have gone near to prove, that, so far from acting cruelly towards him, it was their object to consult his predilections.
As for the objections of young Clarke to health-drinking, since they were founded upon a scruple of conscience, they ought to have commanded the respect of the writer in the Magazine, who, himself, admits it to be a "foolish custom:" instead of which, he sneeringly remarks, that "whatever respect was due to this stranger, he did not come there as a reformer." A reformer, however, was much wanted, as we shall soon see, if we are not already convinced of the fact. To defend the absurd practice on the ground, that, "unhappily, conformity to it was deemed indispensable among all respectable classes of society; and the conductors of a public seminary had no discretionary power to lay it aside," would appear like a solemn farce, if it did not involve a most dangerous admission: for, on this principle, the observance of any custom, however silly or however wicked, may be allowed, so long as it be modish; and that, too, among a people whose practical maxim is, "Be not conformed to this world." Such is the loose morality of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine! But that, on the part of young Clarke, it was a matter of conscience, the whole affair would excite unmitigated mirth,* in which it would be assisted, not a little, by the grave suggestion of the critic, that, "had he been indulged in his scruples, it is impossible to say what might have been the effect upon the junior inmates of the house!" Perhaps it would have ended in a revolution, and in the dethronement of the house of Simpson! The reign of that family was nearly at an end.
[*Throughout Hare's entire discourse on the incident about Adam Clarke's refusal to drink an alcoholic "toast" he seems amused that Clarke felt compelled to refuse it! Sounds like Hare may have thought Clarke prudish for doing so, while derogating Mrs. Simpson for demanding that he drink the beer or drink nothing! If this, my "take" on the preceding remarks by Hare, is correct, it seems strange that a biographer of Clarke would be amused by, and think Clarke prudish for, not drinking beer! -- DVM]
The treatment which young Clarke received at their hands, though its more sensible effects fell entirely upon him, was a gross insult offered to Mr. Wesley. Their apologist informs us, that "the institution at that time contained no pupils but parlor boarders and the sons of itinerant preachers;" and that, "when Mr. Clarke offered himself for admission, it does not appear that the conductors of the school had received any information concerning him, either from Mr. Wesley or from any other person. It is not, therefore, surprising that, in the first instance, they looked upon him with suspicion." If this means anything, it means, that a young man claimed admission, who, being evidently not respectable enough to be a parlor boarder, and not pretending to be the son of a preacher, was, ipsis factis, inadmissible; but that, moreover, bringing no credentials with him, he bore every appearance of an impudent impostor. But an important fact has been studiously concealed, which, if revealed, would have taken the key-stone out of this ingeniously constructed arch. The fact is, that this reputed impostor had no sooner been introduced to Mr. Simpson, than he presented to him a letter from Mr. Wesley, authorizing his admission, and stating the objects for which he had been sent thither. It is probable that Mr. Wesley intended him to take his place among the parlor boarders; for we find that, immediately after he had seen him, he was introduced into that ceremonious coterie [click, exclusive group, circle]; but he could not have designed him to be treated with less distinction than the members of the junior division. It is nothing new to tell us, that "Mr. Wesley would not have committed Kingswood School to the management of Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, had he not believed them worthy of his confidence;" but, in this, as in many other instances, that excellent man discovered, that he was not a discerner of spirits. So misplaced did he find that confidence to be, that, not many months after the time of Mr. Clarke's sufferings, he spoke of the institution which rejoiced in the mild maternal sway of Mrs. Simpson (for the Salique law she set at nought) [Salic adj. = Salian. Salic law hist. 1 a law excluding females from dynastic succession, esp. as the alleged fundamental law of the French monarchy. 2 a Frankish law-book extant in Merovingian and Carolingian times.], in such terms as these:--
"The school does not in any wise answer the design of its institution, either with regard to religion or learning. The children are not religious; they have not the power, and hardly the form, of religion. Neither do they improve in learning better than at other schools: no, nor yet so well. Insomuch that some of our friends have been obliged to remove their children to other schools. And no wonder they improve so little either in religion or learning; for the rules of the school are not observed at all. All in the house ought to rise, take their three meals, and go to bed at a fixed hour. But they do not. The children ought never to be alone; but always in the presence of a master. This is totally neglected; in consequence of which they run up and down the road, and mix, yea fight, with the colliers' [coal miner's] children. How may these evils be remedied, and the school reduced to its original plan? It must be mended or ended, for no school is better than the present school."
The magazine writer affects to complain that Dr. Clarke's account "is calculated to convey a very unfavorable impression concerning a public institution which for many years has been conducted with perfect order and great efficiency;" but he carefully abstains from noticing the fact, that, at the period which we have mentioned, Mr. Wesley found it in so disorganized a state, that there was no alternative between "mending or ending" it. He evinces, also, a great regret that the matter should have been introduced at all. The propriety of introducing it would have been "very questionable," had Dr. Clarke, like his ungenerous and uncandid critic, garbled some facts and suppressed others; but, as he has not been guilty of this literary turpitude, but has "nothing extenuated, nor aught set down in malice," admitting even the general excellence of Mr. Simpson's character, and the subsequent efficiency of the institution, there is no just cause of complaint, much less of complaining that he has said anything to lower the school at Kingswood, as at present conducted, in the estimation of the public.
From the anxiety which the magazine writer affects for the feelings of Mr. and Mrs. Simpson's descendants, of whom, however, he knows nothing more certain than that "it is probable they are still living," one would suppose that Dr. Clarke had no descendants, or that the treatment he received at Kingswood so blunted his sensibilities, that he produced a race of children whom no measure of masked malignity, dealt out upon his memory, could afflict. But, even if our experience of the operations of nature allowed us to believe in the existence of such phenomena, we have not forgotten, if the writer in the Magazine has, that the object of his ungenerous and unfair attack left behind him the wife of his bosom, the companion of his travels, and the witness of his toils; and that she, no doubt, can feel but too acutely, that "most unkindest cut of all" -- the wound which a minister of Christ aims at the character of a departed brother. But others are aggrieved. Thousands upon thousands have read the paragraph which we have been exposing, with mingled pain, astonishment, and disgust. The friends of Dr. Clarke have no objection to his character, his conduct, and his opinions, being fairly and honorably canvassed, because they know that he will bear the test of ingenuous criticism; but from attacks so mean, so underhanded, so ungenerous as those which have been made upon him, from the artifices of low cunning and envious malevolence, none but the archangels can be safe.
Thus, at the risk of disgusting the reader by detaining him so long in contemplation of no pleasant spectacle, we have fully exposed this insidious attack upon the subject of our memoir, in a publication which, we trust, we shall never hear spoken of again as the organ of the Wesleyan Methodists, until some means have been adopted of wiping off so foul a blot upon its pages. Mr. Wesley himself has suffered more from the undue praises of his followers, than from anything which the enemies of truth and righteousness have said or can say against him. The indiscreet guardians of his fame have no toleration for the man who presumes to doubt the perfection of his wisdom or of any other of his moral qualities; and so much of the venom which we have analyzed, as was not engendered by envy of the fame of Adam Clarke, was excited by a ridiculous determination never to allow it to be said with impunity, that imperfection or inefficiency, much less abortiveness, attached to anything that issued from the super-promethean* hands of the infallible John Wesley.
[*I confess that Hare's final paragraph in this chapter has me "scratching my head" as it were, trying to clearly grasp his meaning. One thing I do gather is: Hare felt that Clarke had been unfairly maligned by those who defended the Simpsons and criticized Clarke. And, beyond that, Hare seems to say that these critics of Clarke justified their attacks upon Clarke as necessary to demonstrate Wesley's almost infallible wisdom. Oh! for some simple and plain English! In case the reader wants to plumb the meaning of the paragraph and sentence a little deeper, here is the Oxford Dictionary definition of Promethean: [Promethean adj. daring or inventive like Prometheus, who in Greek myth was punished for stealing fire from the gods and giving it to the human race along with other skills. -- DVM]
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