ADAM CLARKE'S STRUGGLE WITH UNDERSTANDING THE GODHEAD
Mr. Barber, who had always watched over him for good and had lately formed a class of those who desired to save their souls; — without acquainting him with it, had entered Adam’s name among the rest. When he heard this it did not please him, but he said, “Since they have put down my name, I will, by the help of God, meet with them;” and he did so for several weeks. One morning he was detained by illness: the next time he permitted a trifling hindrance to prevent him: and the third morning he felt no desire to go: thus he was absent three weeks.
It pleased God at this time to permit Satan to sift him as wheat. It was a strong article in his creed that the Passion and Death of Christ were held out through the whole of the New Testament as sacrificial and expiatory; and that His Death was a sufficient ransom, sacrifice, and atonement for the sin of the world: for He, by the grace of God, had tasted death for every man. This doctrine was the only basis of his hope and yet he had not that faith by which he could lay hold on the merit of that Sacrifice for his personal salvation. Were this foundation to be destroyed, what could he do, or where flee for refuge? How it was shaken in his mind I am about to relate.
He had long been intimate in the house of a very respectable family in the neighborhood. He was there as their own child: for him they had all a very strong affection, and he felt for them in return, both affection and reverence. One evening the conversation in the family turned on the Doctrine of the Atonement; and some observations then made filled his soul with doubts and fears. It was, in short, stated one present, that, “the Methodists were guilty of idolatry, for they gave that worship to Jesus Christ that belonged to the Father only.” He came home full of confusion: “What have I been doing Have I been adding idolatry to all the rest of my transgressions? Have I had two Gods instead of one?” He went into the boviere, (shippon) the first place he came to, and kneeled down among the cattle, and began to ask pardon of God, fearing that he had given that glory to another, which was due to Him alone. He was not satisfied, however, with this; he thought he should go farther, and leave the name of Christ out of all his prayers; this proceeded so far that he did not like to converse about Him. What he had lately heard, represented Him to his mind as an usurper; and at last he could not bear to see His name in any religious book. Darkness now entered into his mind, his spiritual fervor gradually diminished, ‘till it was at last entirely gone. He prayed, but it was a form: he read, but it was without unction. He felt this lamentable change, and began earnestly to inquire whence it had arisen? Importunate prayer, his former refuge, was suggested to his mind, as the only help; for he had none to whom he could open his heart. That he might not be perceived by any of the family, he went once more among the cattle, a place to which he had often resorted, and fell down before his Maker, and prayed to this effect, — “O Lord God Almighty, look with pity on the state of my soul! I am sinful, ignorant, and confused. I know not what to say, or what to believe.
If I be in an error, O Lord God, lead me into thy truth! Thou knowest I would not deceive myself: Thou knowest I esteem thy approbation beyond life itself. O, my God, teach me what is right! if I be in an error, O show it to me, and deliver me from it! O deliver me from it, and teach me Thy truth! O God hear, and have mercy upon me, — for the sake of JESUS CHRIST!” These last words had no sooner dropped from his lips, than he started as if alarmed at himself. “What! have I been again praying in the name of Jesus? was this right?” Immediately his soul was filled with light, the name of Jesus was like the most odoriferous ointment poured out, he could clasp it to his heart, and say, “Yes, my only Lord and Saviour, thou hast died for me, — by Thee alone I can come unto God, — there is no other Name given from heaven among men by which we can be saved!
Through the merit of thy Blood, I will take confidence, and approach unto God! He now felt that he was delivered from those depths of Satan, by which his soul was nearly engulfed.
This narrow escape from sentiments which would have been fatal, if not finally ruinous to him, he ever held as a most special interference of God; and he always found it his duty to caution men strongly against the Arian and Socinian errors. It was this, without any suggestions from man, led him to examine the reputed orthodox, but spurious doctrine, of the Eternal Sonship of Christ; which he soon found, and has since demonstrated, that no man can hold, and hold the eternal unoriginated nature of Jesus Christ.
For, if His divine nature be in any sense whatever derived, His eternity, and by consequence His Godhead, is destroyed; and if His Godhead, then His Atonement. On this point he has produced a simple argument in his Note on Luke 1:35, which is absolutely unanswerable. Attempts have been made to confute his doctrine, but they are all absurd, as long as that argument remains unanswered.
The argument is simply this: — “
1.If Christ be the Son of God, as to his Divine Nature, then he cannot be eternal, for Son implies a Father; and Father implies, in reference to Son, precedence in time, if not in nature too. Father and Son imply the notion of generation, and generation implies a time in which it was effected; and time also antecedent to such generation.
2.If Christ be the Son of God, as to his Divine nature, then the Father is of necessity prior, consequently, in Godhead superior to him.
3.Again, if this Divine nature were begotten of the Father, then it must have been in time, i.e. there must have been a period in which it did not exist; and a period when it began to exist. This destroys the eternity of our blessed Lord, and robs him at once of his Godhead.
4.To say that he was begotten from all eternity is absurd; and the phrase Eternal Son is a positive self contradiction. Eternity is that which had no beginning, and stands in no reference to TIME.
SON supposes time, generation, and father, and time also antecedent to such generation; therefore, the theologic conjunction of these two terms, son and eternity, is absolutely impossible, as they imply essentially different and opposite ideas.” * The Reader will see from this case, which I have circumstantially related: —
1.How dangerous it is for young converts to go into the company not merely of the ungodly, but of those who are given to doubtful disputatious.
2.How completely subversive it must be to a penitent soul to frequent the company of those, howsoever decent and orderly they may be in their conduct, who deny, as a vicarious Atonement, the Lord that bought them.
Take away this foundation, and it is utterly impossible for any true penitent to entertain any hope of mercy.
3.People may hold this doctrine who never felt the guilt of sin, their own sore, and the plague of their heart; but let a man see himself a sinner, contemplate the infinite purity and justice of God, and the awful strictness of his law; and then he will feel that in heaven, in earth, in time, in eternity, there is neither hope nor help for his soul, if he have not a Sacrifice to bring to the Divine Majesty, of merit sufficient to atone for all his crimes, and give him right to an inheritance them that are sanctified. It is trifling with conscience to talk of confiding in the Divine benevolence, while the fragments of a broken law are every where lying under the sinner’s feet.
4.A. C.’s mind, while he was looking for Redemption through the Blood of the covenant, was imbued with divine fervor; he ran the ways of God’s commandments, and was exemplary in every part of his conduct, as well as fervent in his devotion; but when his faith in the Atonement was for even a short time staggered by subtle insinuations, his devotion was damped, his spiritual affections paralyzed, he grew weary of a cross which he had no strength to bear, and though he was preserved from all outward sin, and was orderly in his deportment, piety towards God no longer triumphed, he lost all command indeed all prospect of it, and became good for nothing. This was not a solitary case: all who have abandoned the doctrine of Christ crucified for the sin of the world, have been affected in a similar way. Thos e brought up in the opposite creed, seem to suffer less from it than those do who apostatize from what is called the orthodox faith.
5.We see in this place the kindness of God: He never will abandon them who sincerely seek Him. He heard the prayer of this sincere distressed young man: and instead of suggesting arguments to his mind, by which he might successfully combat the opposing doctrine, He impressed his heart at once with the truth; and answered his prayer to be led into the right way, by leading him in a moment to pray with confidence, in the name of JESUS. This was what he could not do before; and in this petition, every objection was either answered or absorbed.
A. C. has often been led to observe that, in this temporary perversion of his creed, Satan had more influence than the arguments he had heard against the truth: they were slight and transient, they perplexed the mind a little; the great enemy took advantage of the temporary confusion, and for some days, fished successfully in the troubled waters.
Having again got upon the Rock, he had once more a comfortable prospect of the promised land, and set out afresh for the heavenly rest. Though greatly encouraged, he had not yet found rest for his soul. He heard others talk of the witness of the Spirit, and knew several who rejoiced in it with joy unspeakable; and he was determined never to give up, till he was made a partaker of the same grace. His distress was great, yet it neither arose from a fear of hell, nor from any consciousness of God’s hatred to him. but from the deep-felt want of the approbation and Image of God.
In seeking this, he had a species of mournful rejoicing, and often vented and expressed the feelings of his heart in words, expressive of his ardent desire to experience the power and peace, the pardon and salvation of his God.
In this state of mind, he thought it right to receive for the first time, the Sacrament of the LORD’ S SUPPER. This design he communicated to Mr. Barber, who encouraged him in it; but, as the Rubric requires, that those who intend to receive the Holy Sacrament, shall signify their intentions some time before, to the minister; he purposed to wait on Mr. Smith, the Rector, and signify his wish, and ask his permission. He accordingly went, and Mr. S. received him with great affection and tenderness. He was much affected in witnessing so strong a desire in so young a person; and said, “I should be glad, Master Clarke, if you would go to the Rev. Mr. Younge, of Coleraine, he is a very wise and good man, and will examine you, and give you the best advice; and if you will go now, I will write a note by you to Mr. Young.” Adam agreed, and went. Mr. Younge also behaved towards him with much tenderness and affability, examined him out of the Catechism, and particularly explained the last answer to him, relative to the duty of them who come to the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper: viz. “To examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins, — whether they steadfastly purpose to lead a new life, — have a lively faith in God’s mercy, through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his Death; and be in charity with all men:” and observed, “It is not your being able to say this by heart, that is the qualification here required; but your heart must be impressed with, and feel all these things.” The answers of Adam seemed to be satisfactory to Mr. Younge, for he wrote a note back to Mr. Smith, which when he read, he seemed quite rejoiced, and said, “Mr. Y. tells me that I may safely admit you to the Lord’s table.”
As he was now about to perform one of the most solemn acts of his life, and was greatly afraid of communicating unworthily, and so eating and drinking his own damnation, (as it is unhappily expressed, Corinthians 11:29, instead of condemnation) he purposed to go through the Week’s Preparation; a book which, however well intended has been the means of misleading many by causing them to trust in the punctual performance of the duties therein required, for a short time before that sacred ordinance, without that change of heart and life so essentially necessary to the Christian character. Adam, however, used it with earnest and deep concern; and as, in the course of that week, he was obliged to go a short journey on his father’s business, which took up the whole day (Thursday) and he could not go through the prescribed prayers and meditations; for fear of coming short, he did double work on Friday, and brought the two days into one! If this were mistaken piety, it was at least sincere.
On the morning of Easter Sunday, the day appointed for the Sacrament, he repaired to the church; and after sermon went with his father to the Communion Table. When Mr. Smith, came to him with the sacred bread, he was much affected, and when he had said, “The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee,” he was quite overcome; he sobbed, the tears gushed from his eyes, and he could not for some seconds proceed to the end of the sentence. Here was one proof of a godly pastor; he felt especially for the young of his flock, and was ready to carry the lambs in his bosom. In this holy ordinance Adam’s mind was deeply impressed with the necessity of giving himself wholly up to the service of God; and he considered the act of communicating, as one by which he had most solemnly and publicly bound himself to be all that Christianity requires in her votaries, through His especial assistance, by whom that Christianity came. But he did not receive it as a seal of the pardon of his sins; or as a pledge of the kingdom of heaven. Nothing could satisfy him, but a pardon felt in his heart, and registered in his conscience by the light and power of the Holy Spirit; and he well knew, that an entry into the kingdom of glory, depended on his living to God in this world, regaining the divine image, and dying with Christ in him the hope of glory. He received it therefore as a memorial of the Sacrifice of Christ, by which pardon, holiness, and heaven, were purchased for mankind.
It would be well if all communicants, and all pastors, treated this most sacred ordinance as young Clarke and his minister did. On both sides it was supposed, and properly, that too much caution could not be used.
Adam on his part attended conscientiously to the rubric, and consulted his minister: the minister on is part, proceeded with a godly caution, lest he should distribute improperly those sacred elements. Is not the same caution still necessary! but is it in general observed? Why is not this ordinance which represents the agony and bloody sweat, the cross and passion, the precious death and burial, and in a word, the redemption of a lost world, by the sacrificial offering of the Lord Jesus, more devoutly and frequently impressed on the minds of young hearers, with the solemnity of that obligation? Let proper warning be given, and strong exhortation to due preparation; for surely it is as possible now to eat and drink our own condemnation in England, as it was to the Greek converts, eighteen hundred years ago in Corinth.
Though often encouraged, so that he “Seemed to sit with cherubs bright, Some moments on a throne of love,” he had not yet found that peace and assurance of which he was in pursuit: and it may seem strange, that one who was following God so sincerely, should have been so long without that powerful consolation of religion.
But God is Sovereign of his own ways; and he gives and withholds according to his godly wisdom. Adam was ever ready to vindicate the ways of God in this respect. “It was necessary,” said he “that I should have hard travail. God was preparing me for an important work. I must, emphatically, sell all to get the pearl of great price. If I had lightly come by the consolations of the Gospel, I might have let them go as lightly. It was good that I bore the yoke in my youth. The experience that I learned in my long tribulation, was none of the least of my qualifications as a minister of the Gospel.”
He was now come to that point, beyond which God did not think proper any longer to delay the manifestation of Himself to the soul of his ardent follower: and indeed such were his concern and distress, that had it been longer deferred, the spirit that God had made, would have failed before him.
One morning, in great distress of soul, he went out to his work in the field: he began but could not proceed, so great was his spiritual anguish. He fell down on his knees on the earth, and prayed, but seemed to be without power or faith. He arose, endeavored to work, but could not: even his physical strength appeared to have departed from him. He again endeavored to pray, but the gate of heaven seemed as if barred against him.
His faith in the Atonement, so far as it concerned himself, was almost entirely gone; he could not believe that Jesus had died for HIM; the thickest darkness seemed to gather round, and settle on his soul. He fell flat on his face on the earth, and endeavored to pray but still there was no answer: he arose, but he was so weak ,that he could scarcely stand. His agonies were indescribable; he seemed to be for ever separated from God and the glory of His power. Death, in any form, he could have preferred to his present feelings, if that death could have put an end to them. No fear of h ell produced these terrible conflicts. He had not God’s approbation; he had not God’s image. He felt that without a sense of his favor, he could not live. Where to go, what to say, and what to do, he found not; even the words of prayer at last failed; he could neither plead nor wrestle with God.
O, Reader, lay these things to heart. Here was a lad that had never been a profligate, had been brought up in the fear of God, and who, for a considerable time had been earnestly seeking His peace, apparently cut off from life and hope did not arise from any natural infirmity of his own mind: — none who knew him, in any period of his life, could suspect this: — it was a sense of the displeasure of a holy God, from having sinned against him; and yet his sins were those of a little boy, which most would be disposed to pass by, for he was not of an age to be guilty of flagrant crimes; and yet how sorely did he suffer, in seeking to be born again; to have his conscience purged from dead works, and to have his nature renewed! — He was then being prepared for that work to which he was afterwards to be called; the struggle was great, that he himself might not easily turn again to folly, and thus bring condemnation on himself, and a reproach upon God’s cause; and it was, on all probability, necessary that he should experience this deep anguish, that feeling the bitterness of sin, he might warn others more earnestly; and knowing the throes and travail of a sinner’s soul, he might speak assuredly to the most despairing, of the power of Christ’s Sacrifice, and of the indwelling consolations of the Spirit of God. — God appeared to have “turned aside his ways, and pulled him to pieces; He had bent his bow, and made him a mark for His arrows: He was filled with bitterness, and made drunken as with wormwood: — his soul was removed far from peace, and he forgat prosperity.” Yet even here though his stroke was heavier than his groaning, he could say, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that I am not consumed.” — Lamentations 3:11-22. See him in his agony upon the bare ground, almost petrified with anguish, and dumb with grief! Reader, hast thou sinned? Hast thou repented? Hast thou peace with thy God, or art thou still in the gall of bitterness, and bond of iniquity? These are solemn, yea, awful questions. May God enable thee to answer them to the safety of thy soul!
But we must return to him whom we have left — in agonies indescribable.
It is said, the time of man’s extremity is the time of God’s opportunity.
He now felt strongly in his soul, “Pray to Christ;” — another word for, “Come to the Holiest through the Blood of Jesus.” He looked up confidently to the Saviour of sinners, his agony subsided, his soul became calm. A glow of happiness seemed to thrill through his whole frame, all guilt and condemnation were gone. He examined his conscience, and found it no longer a register of sins against God. He looked to heaven, and all was sunshine; he searched for his distress, but could not find it. He felt indescribably happy, but could not tell the cause; — a change had taken place within him, of a nature wholly unknown before, and for which he had no name. He sat down upon the ridge where he had been working, full of ineffable delight. He praised God, and he could not describe for what, — for he could give no name to his work. His heart was light, his physical strength returned, and he could bound like a roe. He felt a sudden transition from darkness to light — from guilt and oppressive fear, to confidence and peace. He could now draw nigh to God with more confidence than he ever could to his earthly father: — he had freedom of access, and he had freedom of speech. He was like a person who had got into a new world although every object was strange, yet each was pleasing; and now he could magnify God for his creation, a thing he never could do before: O what a change was here! and yet, lest he should be overwhelmed with it, its name and its nature were in a great measure hidden from his eyes. Shortly after, his friend Mr. Barber came to his father’s house: when he departed, Adam accompanied him a little on the way. When they came in sight of the field that had witnessed the agonies of his heart and the breaking of his chains, he told Mr. B. what had taken place. The man of God took off his hat, and with tears flowing down his cheeks, gave thanks unto God. “O Adam” said he, “I rejoice in this; I have been daily in expectation that God would shine upon your soul, and bless you with the adoption of his children.” Adam stared at him, and said within himself, “O, he thinks surely that I am justified, that God has forgiven me my sins, that I am now his child. O, blessed be God, I believe, I feel I am justified, through the Redemption that is in Jesus.” Now he clearly saw what God had done; and although he had felt the blessing before, and was happy in the possession of it, it was only now that he could call it by its name.
Now, he saw and felt, that “being justified by faith, he had peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom he had received the atonement.”
He continued in peace and happiness all the week: the next Lord’s day there was a love-feast in Coleraine; — he went to it, and during the first prayer, kneeled in a comer with his face to the wall. While praying, the Lord Jesus seemed to appear to the eyes of his mind, as he is described, Revelation 1:13,14. clothed with a garment down to his feet, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle: his head and his hair white as snow, and his eyes like a flame of fire. And though in strong prayer before, he suddenly stopped and said, though not perhaps in a voice to be heard by those who were by him, — “Come nearer, Oh, Lord Jesus, that I may see thee more distinctly.” Immediately he felt as if God had shone on the work he had wrought, and called it by its own name; he fully and clearly knew that he was a child of God; the Spirit of God bore this witness in his conscience, and he could no more have doubted of it, than he could have doubted of the reality of his existence, or the identity of his person. — “Meridian evidence put doubt to flight?” In ordinary minds, or those naturally feeble, all this might pass for delusion; his penitential fears and distresses might appear as the effects of a gloomy superstition; and his subsequent peace and happiness, and the sudden nature of his inward change, as the consequences of the workings of a strong imagination, apt, under religious impressions, to degenerate into enthusiasm.
The Reader may rest assured that no one was more jealous on these points than the person in question. He was accustomed to examine everything to the bottom; and, as it ever was a maxim with him, that Revelation and reason went hand in hand; — that neither contained any thing contrary to the other; — so he sought in each, for proofs of those things contained in its fellow. He was ever afraid of being deceived, and that led him scrupulously to examine every thing that professed to come from God. He believed nothing in salvation on the mere assertion of any man: nor did he yield consent at any time, till Revelation and its handmaid reason, had said, these things are true.
Preaching once in Plymouth, an the witness of the Spirit in the souls of believers: — after having produced and commented on those Scriptures, which are supposed most pointedly to contain that doctrine, he said, — “It might have been doubted that we have misunderstood these Scriptures, and made them the basis of an article, which they do not fairly and naturally support, if the general testimony of all the sincere converts to the gospel of Christ had not illustrated the facts; and had not the experience of those converts been uniform in this particular, while in many cases, their habits of life, education, and natural temperament, were widely different. And this not only among persons bred up with the same general views of Christianity, — in the same Christian communion; but among persons bred up in different communions, with creeds in many respects diametrically opposite to each other! And farther, this has been the same in persons of different climates and countries. All those who have been convinced of sin, righteousness, and judgment — have truly repented of their sins, and taken refuge in the Blood of the Cross; have had their burden of guilt taken away, and the peace of God communicated, and with it the Spirit of God witnessing with their spirit that they were the sons and daughters of God Almighty: so that they had no more doubt of their acceptance with God, than they had of their existence. “But it may be objected farther: — the human mind easily gets under the dominion of superstition and imagination; and then a variety of feelings, apparently divine, may be accounted for on natural principles. To this I answer — 1st. Superstition is never known to produce settled peace and happiness, — it is generally the parent of gloomy apprehensions and irrational fears: but surely the man who has broken the laws of his Maker, and lived in open rebellion against him, cannot be supposed to be under the influence of superstition, when he is apprehensive of the wrath of God, and fears to fall into the bitter pains of an eternal death? Such fears are as rational as they are scriptural; and the broken and contrite heart, is ever considered, through the whole Oracles of God, as essentially necessary to the finding redemption in Christ.
Therefore, such fears, feelings and apprehensions, are not the offspring of a gloomy superstition; but the fruit and evidence of a genuine scriptural repentance. 2dly. Imagination cannot long support a mental imposture. To persuade the soul that it is passed from darkness to light, — that it is in the favor of God, — that it is an heir of glory, &c., will require strong excitement indeed: and the stronger the exciting cause or stimulus, the sooner the excitability, and its effects will the exhausted. A person may imagine himself for a moment to be a king, or to be a child of God; but that reverie, where there is no radical derangement of mind, must be transient.
The person must soon awake and return to himself. 3d. But it, is impossible that imagination can have any thing to do in this case, any farther than any other faculty of the mind, in natural operation: for the person must walk according as he is directed by the Word of God, abhorring evil, and cleaving to that which is good: and the sense of God’s approbation in his conscience, lasts no longer than he acts under the spirit of obedience: God continuing the evidence of his approbation to his conscience while he walks in newness of life. Has imagination ever produced a life of piety? Now, multitudes are found who have had this testimony uninterruptedly for many years together. Could imagination produce this? If so, it is an unique case; for there is none other in which an excitement of the imagination has sustained the impression with any such permanence. And all the operations of this faculty prove, that, to an effect of this kind it is wholly inadequate. If then it can sustain impressions in spiritual matters for years together, this must be totally preter natural, and the effect of a miraculous operation; — and thus miracle must be resorted to, to explain away a doctrine, which some men, because they themselves do not experience it, deny that any others can. “But might I, without offense, speak a word concerning myself? A great necessity alone, would vindicate to my own mind the introduction, in this public way, of any thing relative to myself.
But you will bear with my folly, should any of you think it such.
I, also, have professed to know that God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven me all my sins; and being thus converted and come forth to strengthen brethren, and preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Most of you know that I am no enthusiast, — that I have given no evidences of a strong imagination, — that I am far from being the subject of sudden hopes or fears, — that it requires strong reasons and clear argumentation to convince me of the truth of any proposition not previously known. Now, I do profess to have received, through God’s eternal mercy, a clear evidence of my acceptance with God; and it was given me after a sore night of spiritual affliction; and precisely in that way in which the Scriptures, already quoted, promise th is blessing. It has also been accompanied with power over sin; and it is now upwards, of seven years since I received it, and I hold it through the same mercy, as explicitly, as clearly, and satisfactorily as ever. No work of imagination could have overproduced or maintained any feeling like this. I am, therefore, safe in affirming, for all these reasons, that we have neither misunderstood nor misapplied the Scriptures in question.”
The subsequent experience of A. C. equally verified the truth of the preceding statements.
We have now brought down the account of this, in many respects, singular person, to an era which he ever considered the most important in his religious life: for now he had gained decisive experimental proof of the truth of the articles of his creed: and each point was confirmed to him with greater evidence. Now, he could give a reason of the hope that was in him; and in every respect, his own faith was justified to his understanding. He had found true happiness in religion: and this he knew it must afford, if it were of God: for he saw, that Religion was a commerce between God and man; and was intended to be the means of re-establishing him in that communion with his Maker, and the happiness consequent on it, which he had lost by the fall.
All notions of religion, merely as a system of duties which we owe to God, fell, in his apprehension, infinitely short of its nature and intention.
To the perfection, happiness, or gratification, of the infinite mind, no creature can be necessary. Religion was not, made for God; but for MAN.
It is an institution of the Divine Benevolence, for human happiness. Nor can God be pleased with any man’s religion or faith, but as far as they lead him to happiness — i. e. to the enjoyment of God; without which there can be no felicity; for God is the Source of intellectual happiness, and from him alone, it can be derived: and in union with whom alone, it can be enjoyed. Animal gratifications may be acquired by means of the various matters that are suited to the senses: but gratification and happiness are widely different: the former may exist where the latter is entirely unknown.
After this, A. C. continued a little longer at school. Though he could not well enter into the spirit of Lucian and Juvenal, which he then read; yet he was surprised to find how easy, in comparison of former times, learning appeared. The grace which he had received, greatly illumined and improved his understanding and judgment. Difficulties seemed to have vanished, and learning appeared now little more to him, than an exercise and cultivation of memory. He has been often heard to say: “After I found the peace of God to my conscience; and was assured of my interest in the Lord Jesus; I believe I may safely assert, that I learned more in one day, on an average, than formerly I could do, with equal application, in a whole month. And no wonder, my soul began to rise out of the ruins of its fall, by the favor of the Eternal Spirit. It was not on the affections or the passions, this Spirit worked; but upon understanding, judgment, and will: these being rectified and brought under a divine influence, the lower faculties came on in their train, purged and refined. The change in my heart was the effect of the change in my immortal spirit. I saw, from my own case, that religion was the gate to true learning and science; and that those who went through their studies without this, had, at least, double work to do; and, in the end, not an equal produce. My mind became enlarged to take in any thing useful. I was now separated from every thing that could impede my studies, obscure or debase my mind. Learning and science I knew came from God, because, he is the Fountain of all knowledge: and, properly speaking, these things belong to man; — God created them, not for Himself — not for angels — but for man; and he fulfills not the design of his Creator, who does not cultivate his mind in all useful knowledge, to the utmost of his circumstances and power.”
At the same time, he was convinced that studies, which were not connected with religion, and which did not lead to God, and having His will and glory for their objects, could never be sanctified; and consequently, could never be ultimately useful, either to their possessors, or to others.
As he was told by the highest authority, that “the heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament showeth forth his handy work;” and, as mere inspection served only to fill him with wonder and astonishment, without giving him such information as might enlarge the boundaries of knowledge, he wished much to gain some acquaintance with the science of astronomy.
About this time a friend lent him that incomparable work of Dr. Derham, entitled Astro-theology: and another particular friend, made him a present of a small, but excellent, achromatic telescope. The Bible and Dr. Derham he read in union, at all spare times of the day: and his telescope he used as often as possible in the night season. He was delighted with the phases of the moon; and these he carefully watched through her decrease and increase; and found little difficulty in the belief that the moon was a habitable and inhabited world: and that all the planets were doubtless the same: — all of them, abodes of intelligent beings, formed and supported by the same beneficent hand, and in reference to the same gracious end.
Ray’s Wisdom of God in the Creation, gave him still more particular information, and was the means of directing his mind to the study of natural philosophy. All these things were the means of establishing his soul in the thorough belief of the truth: and, as these authors professedly show God in His Works, so his faith stood, not in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God. The doctrine of gravitation, was to him a series of wonders in itself; and the centripetal and centrifugal motions of all the planets, primary and secondary, gave him the most exalted idea of the wisdom, skill, and providence of God. Though he had no instructor in these things, and no instruments but his little telescope, yet he gained so much philosophical knowledge, as gave him to see the hand of God in every tree, plant, and stone, while he had scarcely any objects but his native fields, and never went abroad to mingle with the gay or the giddy — the scientific or the polite. “And thus his life, exempt from public haunts, Found tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, Sermons in stones, and good in every thing.”
And although he was not favored by what is called fortune, yet he was the constant care of Providence; and he was taught to watch its openings, and make the best of his circumstances. “Happy was he, That could translate the stubbornness of fortune Into so quiet and so sweet a still.”
The knowledge of hard words in those sciences, he obtained from a very useful, but now almost unknown work, entitled, Dictionarum Anglo Britannicum, or, A General English Dictionary: by John Kersey, 8vo. Lond. 1715. A Dictionary which contains more valuable matter for students, than any other of its size yet offered to the public. The Dictionary of Benj. Martin, which he afterwards got, was also very useful.
This latter work he always considered, for correctness of etymology, and accuracy of definition, by far the best on its plan, before or since published.
But we must leave him as to his literary pursuits, for a while, that we may see him laboring to promote the best interests of his own family, his neighbors, and his school-fellows.
Except on the Lord’s Day, family prayer was not observed in his father’s house. This was, to him, a cause of great affliction. He labored to get it established; but all in vain, unless himself would officiate! This he found a cross which he feared he should never be able to take up, or, if taken up, be able to bear. His youth was his principal hindrance. This burden, however, it appeared God had laid upon his conscience. He struggled against it for a while, till he felt condemned in his own mind. At last he took up this, to him, tremendous cross, and prayed with his father, mother, and family: they were highly pleased; and as long as he was under their roof, he was, in this respect, their chaplain: yet, he ever felt it a cross, though God gave him power to bear it. A prayerless family has God’s curse. If the parents will not perform family prayer, if there be a converted child in the family, it devolves on him: and should he refuse, he will soon lose the comforts of religion.
The conversation of Adam, made a serious impression on all the family.
The fear of God spread more generally through the whole than ever: the Scriptures were carefully read; and private prayer was not neglected. At the same time the practice of piety became the proof of the presence of religious principles in each. His fourth sister, Hannah, entered the Methodist society with him, and was a long time his only companion in the family. Adam and his sister were often accustomed to walk in the fields and talk about God and their souls; and then retire for prayer to God. This young woman was afterwards married to Mr. Thomas Exley, M. A., of Bristol, and bore him several children; and died happy in God.
Her children all became pious.
The next fruit of his labor, was his eldest sister. She was a cautious sensible woman; and did not join the society, till she was thoroughly convinced of the truth of their doctrines and the excellency of their discipline. She afterwards married the Rev. W. M. Johnson, L.L.D., Rector of St. Perrans-Uthno, in Cornwall. She is still living and has a numerous family.
All the rest of the family became constant hearers of the Methodists; and most of them members of the society: but as he, soon after the period of which we are no speaking removed from that country, he did not with all the results of his own labors. His parents continued to entertain the Methodist Preachers, while they lived: and most of their children who were settled in life, have had the same honor.
With his school-fellows, A. C. was not inactive. When he had opportunity, he spoke to them concerning salvation, and incited them to hear the Methodist Preachers. One, Andrew Coleman, who was much attached to him, heard and became deeply in earnest for his salvation. He was a young man of fine natural parts, and a good scholar. He afterwards became an itinerant preacher among the Methodists: but his race, though it promised to be luminous, was very short: for in consequence of lying in a damp bed, he had a premature and deeply regretted death. His schoolfellow, Adam, wrote a short account of him, which was published in the Methodist Memorial; and as it is strictly connected with the present narrative, and contains some curious information, I shall here insert it. “Andrew Coleman was born in Coleraine, in the north of Ireland, of very respectable parents. As he appeared to have a more than ordinary taste for learning, he was put to school at all early age and soon made great progress in reading and merchants accounts. He was afterwards removed to a grammar-school, where he profited beyond all his fellows. None of his own standing, could keep pace with him; and he outstripped many who had begun their classical course long before him. He soon became master of the Latin and Greek languages, and made considerable progress in Hebrew. To these studies he joined geometry, astronomy, chronology, history, and most branches of the mathematics. As he was remarkably blest with an amazingly comprehensive mind, and vigorous retentive memory, he fathomed the depth of every study, and could not be contented with a superficial knowledge of any subject. The acquisition of useful learning was more to him than his necessary food; and he neglected no opportunity of cultivating his mind.
Whatever he read he made his own; and whatever he learned, he retained; so that his stock of knowledge was continually increasing. “Owing to the straitened circumstances of his parents, (who had been reduced to great want, from a state of considerable affluence) he was, in general, unable to procure those books which were necessary in his particular studies so that in many cases he was obliged to explore his way in the regions of science without any other light or guide than that which the Father of Lights had kindled in his own mind. But notwithstanding this disadvantage, to which might be added, his very delicate constitution, and his being often obliged to work hard to purchase time to attend his school, he attained to such a pitch of mental cultivation before his 17th year, as few have been able to acquire in the course of a long life. “Having finished his classical studies, he was obliged to take up a little school in order to procure himself the necessaries of life, as the impaired state of his parents circumstances did not permit him to hope for any assistance from that quarter. What he acquired by his labors in this way, he gave for the support of his family, and often went whole days without food that he might help to support those from whom he received his being. This he considered as one of his first duties; and he discharged it to the uttermost of his power.
About the year 1778, it pleased God to awaken and bring to the knowledge of the truth, one of his school-fellows, Mr. A. C., now one of our traveling preachers. As a very tender friendship subsisted between those two, they often spoke together of the things of God, and attended the ministry of Mr. Thomas Barber, who was acting as a Missionary at his own cost, and emphatically performing the work of an Evangelist through an extensive tract of country near the seacoasts of the county of Antrim. His [Andrew Coleman’s] mind was soon found to be very susceptible of divine impressions — it became gradually enlightened: and having earnestly sought redemption in the blood of the cross, he received it, to the unspeakable joy of his soul. “After some time he [Andrew Coleman] was employed as a classleader, and at the entreaties of several, began to exhort in different country places in the vicinity of Coleraine. Being naturally very timid, it was some time before he could be prevailed on to take a text; and when he at last submitted his own judgment to that of his friends, and began to preach, his word met with universal acceptance. “In July 1785, he was well recommended to the Dublin Conference as a fit person to travel. He was accordingly received on trial, and sent to the Sligo Circuit. He was in the 18th year of his age, and nearly six feet high, the rapid growth of his body appearing to keep pace with that of his mind. But it was soon, found, he had passed the meridian of his life. The circuit to which he was sent, was a severe one — he labored to the uttermost of his power, and in about nine months he fulfilled his course, having fallen into a rapid consumption. He returned to his mother’s house a short time before the ensuing Conference; and though every assistance was afforded him by the amiable Society of Coleraine, and the affectionate family in which he received his education, he sunk apace, and having suffered awhile with the utmost patience and resignation, he fell asleep in Jesus, June 18th, 1786, aged 18 years and two months, and soon gained the blessed region where the inhabitant shall no more say, I am sick. He had the happiness of seeing his mother and grandmother brought to an acquaintance with the truth, before his departure; and his last words to them, as his holy soul prepared to take its flight into the eternal world, were, “Follow me!” Mr. Wm. West preached his funeral sermon out of doors, to an audience that no house could contain: and the high estimation in which he was held, was evinced by the many thousands who attended his remains to the grave. The funeral procession extended more than half a mile. The evening before he died, he desired to be carried out in his chair to see the setting sun: his desire was complied with; and, having beheld it awhile with pleasing emotion, till it sunk under the horizon, he observed, ‘This sun has hitherto been partially obscured to me, but it shall be no more so for ever! ‘And about the time it began to re-enlighten that part of the earth, his happy soul soared away to the regions of glory. “To many it might appear that this amiable young man was taken away in the midst of his usefulness. But a little reflection will show us that God’s ways are all equal. He never removes any of his servants till they have accomplished the work he has given them to do. Extraordinary talents are not given merely in reference to this world. — They refer also to eternity; and shall there have their consummation, and plenitude of employ. Far be it from God to light up such tapers to burn on for a moment in the dark night of life, and then to extinguish them for ever in the damps of death.
Heaven is the region where the spirits of just men made perfect live, thrive, and eternally expand their powers in the service, and to the glory of Him from whom they have derived their being. “The extensive learning of Mr. Coleman, was his least excellence.
This indeed, he accounted but dross and dung in comparison of the excellence of the knowledge of Jesus Christ crucified. Through this, the world and all its enjoyments were crucified to him. It was this, that opened the kingdom of heaven to his soul, supported him in his sufferings, and caused him to triumph over death. “His very retentive memory has already been noted: when he was about fourteen years of age, he had the whole of the Common Prayer by heart. He had made himself such a master of the Aeneid of Virgil, and the Paradise Lost of Milton, at the same age, that on the mention of any line in either of those poems, he could immediately tell the book in which it occurred, and the number of the line! His natural disposition was uncommonly amiable. — His own excellencies were so deeply hidden from himself, that the foot of pride never appeared to come against him. He was a steady friend, and a most affectionate and dutiful child. His manner, both in preaching and conversation, was plain and artless. He humbled himself at the feet of all: and the invariable language of his heart, both to God and man, was “What I know not, that teach thou me.” * For the salvation of his neighbors Adam Clarke felt an ardent concern: he spoke to each of them concerning spiritual things as often as he had opportunity — went to the houses of several, and wherever it was acceptable, prayed with them, and read a portion of the Holy Scriptures, and endeavored to expound those portions which best suited the state of their minds.
He did not confine his labor to his immediate neighborhood, but went several miles into the country, in all directions, exhorting and beseeching the people to turn to God. In such work he spent the whole of the Sabbath. Often he had to travel four, six, and more miles on the Sabbath morning to meet a class. As those classes generally met about eight o’clock in the morning, he was obliged in the winter season, to set out two hours before daylight; and frequently in snow, rain, frost, &c.; nor did any kind of weather ever prevent him from taking these long journeys. Having the love of God shed abroad in his heart, he loved the souls of men, and found no difficulty in obedience: — “Love feels no load.” Obedience is painful only to him who has not the love of God in his soul.
In the summer time, after having met one of those distant classes, it was his custom to go to the top of some mountain or high hill and, having taken a view of the different villages which lay scattered over the lower country, arrange them in his mind, proceed to that which was nearest, walk into it and enter the first open door; and, after accosting the inhabitants with “Peace be to this house,” ask them if they were willing he should pray with them? When they consented, he then inquired whether they had any objection to call in a few of their neighbors? When this was done, he generally gave out a verse of a hymn, sung it, and then gave them an exhortation, prayed with them, and departed to another village, pursuing the same method. It is remarkable that, in no case was he ever refused the permission he sought. He was very young, and this, with his very serious deportment, and the singularity of his conduct, made in all cases a powerful impression in his favor, which his prayers and exhortations never failed to increase. On this plan he has in the course of one day, visited nine or ten villages at considerable distances from each other, and from his own home; and spoke publicly as many times! In these excursions he never went to those villages where the Methodists had established preaching; but to those principally which had no helper; lying at a considerable distance as they generally did from places of public worship. This was sore travail, as, besides speaking so many times, he has walked above twenty miles, and often, had little if any thing to eat. But he went on his way rejoicing, and could always sing — “When I do my Master’s will, I carry my heaven about me still.” Though, as we have seen, he was never expert at figures, yet he wished to learn some of the more ornamental branches of the mathematics; and for this end his father placed him under the care of a very eminent mathematician in Coleraine. He continued with this gentleman only long enough to learn Dialling in a general way: I mention this circumstance because the last secular act of his life, by which he endeavored to gain his bread, was performed in this science. An acquaintance Mr. S. H. desired A. C. to make him a horizontal brass dial for his garden. Adam provided the brass, laid on the lines, engraved it himself, and charged for the instrument five shillings! He called for this moderate compensation for his skill and labor two or three times; and the last, just before he left the kingdom: but he never received the cash. He had made several before, for small profits: this last terminated all his operations in gnomonics.
About the winter of 1778 he attempted to learn French. There was no person in the neighborhood that could help him in the language. Mr. Edward Murphy, of great eminence as a classical teacher, and who then kept his school in the church of Desart Martin, not far from Maherafelt, was the only person who could teach the language in that country. He went thither, lodged with a friend, several miles from the place, attended Mr. Murphy’s school, walking out every morning and back every night, in the depth of winter, and sat in the cold church without fire, during the day.
This was severe work; but in no case did ever A. C. find a royal road to any point of knowledge, or branch of learning.
Adam had often amused himself with making short hymns, and turning several of the Psalms of David into meter. He once even undertook Solomon’s Song; and turned the the first chapters into stanzas of four lines, eights and sixes! but no fragments of these early productions remain, or can be recovered. When his judgment became a little more matured, he devoted his rhyming hours to much better purposes, and paid no attention to the fruit of his juvenile attempts in this line, for which he entertained no kind of respect, but merely as they were proofs of a pious and sincere mind.
He was put apprentice to Mr. Francis Bennet, a linen merchant of Coleraine; and a distant relative of his own, with every prospect of secular advantage. This was in opposition to the opinion of all his religious friends; who were fully persuaded that God had called him to a different employment. His parents, however, not being able, as has already been shown, to put him in the regular ministry, thought an apprenticeship with Mr. Bennet, on the advantageous ground which his kindness caused him to propose, was a direct opening of Providence, which would eventually lead to a respectable competency. As to himself, he was entirely passive: as yet he knew not the design of the Lord, and his grand point was, — not to get money, but to save his soul.
He went at first a month on trial; that being ended, as much to Mr. B.’s satisfaction, as he could reasonably wish; his parents were expected to take the first opportunity to have him formally bound. This was strangely neglected from time to time till at last he had been with Mr. Bennet eleven months. During this time, his religious friends strongly and incessantly exhorted him not to enter an apprenticeship, as God had most assuredly called him to the work of the ministry. He laid these things before his parents, who gave them their most decided negative, and insisted on his continuance with Mr. B. This brought him into great perplexity: he had begun to doubt whether the business was such a one as would well comport with his spiritual profit. He thought he saw several things in it that he could hardly do with a clear conscience; and particularly he saw that he must necessarily be much exposed to public company, in attending fair and markets, in order to purchase the linen from the weavers. A clear conscience he thought would be better than the best inheritance; and he was perfectly willing to earn his bread with the sweat of his brow at the most laborious and servile employment, rather than gain thousands with the prospect of suffering spiritual loss.
Mr. John Bredin, an eminent minister of God, was then on the Coleraine and Londonderry circuit. He paid much attention to Adam, lent him hooks, and took considerable pains to instruct him in the most important matters, and to cultivate his mind. He, supposing that God had called him to the work of the ministry, wrote concerning him to the late Rev. J.
Wesley; who kindly offered to take him for a time to his great school, at Kingswood, near Bristol; where he might increase his classical knowledge, have the opportunity of exercising his ministerial talents in the various societies in that neighborhood, and thus be better qualified for the general work of the ministry. This he laid before his parents, who received the proposal rather with indignation than with mere dissatisfaction; and entered a strong protest against it. At the same time Mr. Bennet made him a very advantageous offer: told him if he did not like his business he would advance him money, either to be employed in some business at home, or to trade in Irish produce, (butter, hides, and tallow) to England. This proposal he diligently concealed from his parents, as his mind now strongly led him to embrace the proposal of Mr. Wesley, and to go to England. He accordingly thanked Mr. Bennet for his kind offer, but told him that he had made up his mind to quit the business: and in a short time they parted in a state of friendship and affectionate attachment, which has continued to the present day.
Before I conclude this part of my narrative, I must mention some circumstances which took place while he was with Mr. Bennet.
On many accounts his residence in Coleraine was highly useful to his religious growth, and his increase in useful knowledge; though he had same trials of the most distressing kind. He had now the opportunity of sitting under a very instructive and powerful ministry, several times in the week; and conversing with a deeply religious and sensible people. He had, and enjoyed, all the means of grace. The preaching at five o’clock in the morning, he found peculiarly useful, because it was always on subjects immediately connected with Christian experience, and with the life of God in the soul of man. He met also with some valuable and sensible friends in that most excellent society, among whom were Mr. Robert Douthitt, from whose conversation and almost parental tenderness, he reaped the highest profit. The two Hunters, Andrew and William, cared much for his soul, and watched over him for good. He had a useful companion in Mr. John M’Kenny, whose son is now one of the Missionaries in the Island of Ceylon. Indeed the whole of that most excellent and intelligent society, labored to promote his welfare, all believing that God had called him to fill some important office in his church.
Dr. Clarke used to say, “Two books lent me by Miss Young, of Coleraine, afterwards Mrs. Rutherford, were rendered useful to me beyond and all others I had ever read, the Bible excepted. One was Mr. Wesley’s Abridgment of Mr. Baxter’s Saints’ Everlasting Rest, and the other the Journal of Mr. David Brainard, Missionary among the American Indians.
From the first I got a deeper acquaintance with experimental Christianity: and from the second I imbibed the spirit of a Missionary. The former contributed to make me a better Christian; and the latter formed my mind to the model of the Christian Ministry. If I continue to he a Christian, I owe it, under God, to the former; if I ever was a preacher, I owe it, under the same grace, to the latter.” On this account he always expressed the highest respect for Mrs. Rutherford: — he considered her as a mother in Israel, and as one who had been instrumental to him of great good. Mr. Rutherford’s preaching was also a great blessing to him. He was a good and useful preacher, and an unblemished Christian. He was accustomed to come to the parish of Agherton, where A. C.’s father resided, and to preach in different places. Adam heard him every where; and in returning from the places of preaching, was in the habit of walking behind Him, and took delight in literally treading in his steps: this was before he had any personal acquaintance with him. One evening Mr. R. noticing a little lad trotting after him, whom he had often observed at the preaching, turned about and said, “Well, child, God hath said, I love them, that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.” He said no more, and Adam pondered these words in his heart; and thus reasoned on them: “What does he mean by they that seek me early? I rise early, and my first work is prayer — is that what is meant? No, it is they who seek God early in life — when they are young: then, thus I seek, and thus I will seek the Lord.
He said also, they shall find me: others, perhaps, may seek and not find; but God says to the young, they SHALL find.” This gave him great encouragement. Other preachers took no notice of him; probably supposing that one so young, could not be expected to have much concern far his soul. Experience, however, has indisputably shown that the true light that lighteneth every man that cometh into the world shines often very powerfully on infant minds: and that we cannot be too attentive to their cultivation, and that the best fruits may be expected from a careful management of such soils. But to return. — For several months after Adam came to Mr. Bennet’s, he had a grievous cross; not to say plague, in one of the servants. She was excessively boisterous and profane: rejected, in the most awful manner, every good advice which was given to her; she seemed to have an implacable enmity against Adam, because he was religious: and strange to tell, on no other ground. — Persecution about religion is rarely, if ever, the work of the human heart merely, for persecution on such an account, is as unnatural, as it is absurd. It is the two spirits that are in opposition to each other. Every genuine Christian has the spirit of God in him; every sinner that of the devil. The latter works on all the fallen nature, on that carnal mind especially which is enmity against God; and thus the poor miserable sinner is diabolically impelled to act against his own interests, often against the clear convictions of his own conscience; and thus to war against his Maker. Such was certainly the case with that servant. Adam bore all her insolence and insults without even a complaint. “O Molly, Molly” he would say, “you will surely repent for this: why will you sin against God, and your own soul? have I ever done you any harm? have I even spoken one cross or unkind word to you? Her principal answer was, “Ah, d_____ your Methodism; and d_____ the Methodists.” He continued to pray strongly for her, that God might convert her soul. His prayers were at last heard: she was struck with the deepest convictions a human heart could feel, or human mind bear. She literally roared for the disquiet of her soul.
He was now obliged to use every kind of persuasive, — ransack the Bible for promises to sinners penitent, — to prevent her from falling into absolute despair. She was sometimes so terrified at the apprehension of God’s judgments, the sinfulness her heart, and the wickedness of her life, that she appeared to choose strangling rather than life; and was often on the verge of laying violent hands upon herself. Her continual application to him for direction and advice, was at last excessively burdensome: because her mind was so distracted, that she could scarcely profit by any. She had been a strong sinner; and now she was arrested by a strong hand. At last, after passing through indescribable mental agony, she was enabled to behold the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world, and found redemption in his blood, the remission of her sins. Now, indeed, the lion became a lamb. All her fierce and violent tempers were removed; she became meek and gentle, diligent in business, and fervent in spirit serving the Lord. He saw her thirty years after this, and found her walking steadily in the way that leads to the kingdom of God. Let no one despair of the salvation of even the most hardened. This woman has since acknowledged that she has often felt the keenest twinges of conscience when she has been most violent in her contradicting and blaspheming.
He had another severe cross while in this family. There was an old relative of the family, who was what is commonly called bed-ridden, and being left to the care of of servants she was totally neglected. She had all the infirmities of old age, was very disagreeable in her manners, and crooked in her tempers. On these accounts, the servants, who had no religion, and little humanity, left her entirely to herself except when they carried her a morsel of food. Adam was accustomed to go into her room every night to speak to her about her soul, and pray with her. Seeing her most deplorable and desolate state, he took upon him, after remonstrating with the maidservants in vain, to perform for her the most humiliating services; which, with the circumstances that required them, are such as cannot be described. These he continued for several months. Death at last relieved her from life, and a load of uncommon wretchedness, and him from an oppressive load under which nothing but the grace of God, working on a nature full of benevolence and charity, could have supported him. Known to God alone, are the services he performed for this woman, and the distress he suffered in performing them.
With another circumstance, which took place during his residence with Mr. Bennet, this part of the narrative shall be closed.
He had long held it his duty to reprove sin wherever he met with it, and indeed he could scarcely go anywhere without meeting it. His manner of reproof was the most mild and humble. If they were his inferiors, he spoke to them at once: if they were his equals or a little above, he sought to find them alone, and then affectionately mentioned the impropriety of their conduct, both as it respected God and themselves. If they were removed above him several degrees, he generally wrote to them; always signing his name: for he could not endure the pusillanimity of shrinking under the covert of darkness, in order to hide himself from the cross of Christ, while endeavoring to perform what he believed to be his duty: most took it well, and from others he never heard. This however became a heavy burden to him; and he longed to get out of that public life where he witnessed little else than vanity, profaneness, and wickedness. His spirits were greatly worn down, and his bodily strength prostrated. The earliest entry found in his Journals relates to this; from which I shall make the following Extracts, as they show the tenderness of his conscience, and the uprightness of his heart. I shall give them in his own artless phrase. “Sept. 17, 1781. Rose before five, went to the Barracks a place so called, where the Methodists preached. Came back full of heaviness, owing, I believe, to my not reproving sin; for I heard _____ swear ‘faith’ on Sunday night. Resolved to speak concerning this the first opportunity. Spoke this morning; _____ I believe has taken it ill. Seeing it is my duty, Lord, give me strength to persevere in it! Though all the world should be my enemy, if God he on my side they cannot be successful against me. Reproved two others for swearing, before 12 o’clock. Lord Jesus, put a stop to the tide of iniquity by which the sons of corruption are carried down the stream of sin; and turn a pure language upon the hearts of the people! Amen! “Sept. 18. Rose this morning with a serene mind. Spent a considerable time in prayer. O may I be preserved this day from all the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil through the power of that grace which is ever ready to help me! Amen. Read the xvth chap. of John: O may I be a lively experiencer of the blessed promises contained in it. Christ tells us, if we abide in him, he will abide in us: and that severed from him, we can do nothing. Forbid it, gracious Lord! that I should ever leave thee! Then shall I not fear the power of any adversary. Reproved two or three others today, for swearing: I dare not suffer sin upon my brother. — Read the xvith chap. of John: eternal praise be to the Lamb of the Most High God, for the promise — “In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in me ye shall have peace.” What solid comfort to the believer is contained in the 24th verse, — Hitherto ye have asked nothing in my name: ask and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”
It was the opinion of an eminent divine, that much temptation, as well as prayer and reading are necessary to the Christian and a minister. It is requisite that he who is to be a judge of so many cases of conscience, should clearly understand them. But is this possible, unless he have passed through those states and circumstances, on which these cases are founded? I trow not. He who has not been deeply exercised in the furnace of affliction and trial, is never likely to be a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. How can a man, inexperienced in spiritual trials, build up the Church of Christ?
That he might not trust in himself or any thing he had acquired, there was given him a thorn in the flesh, a messenger; of Satan to buffet him. As his grand enemy could not succeed in tempting him to commit outward sin, he strove with all his skill and cunning, to harass his mind; and cause him to push the principles which regulate moral conduct beyond their natural boundaries. Fasting, abstinence, and the most solemn regard for truth, he carried to the utmost pitch of scrupulous observance. He became so scrupulous about his food, and practiced such an excessive degree of selfdenial, that he was worn down to little else than skin and bone.
As he saw the world full of hollow friendship, shallow pretensions to religion, outsides of all kinds, and real substantial wickedness, he was led to contemplate the Almighty as the God of truth, and the God of justice.
His views of him under these characters, often nearly swallowed up his soul: and the terror of the God of truth and justice made him afraid. He became doubly watchful in all his conduct: guarded the avenues of his heart, took care to do nothing for which he had not the authority of God’s Word, and the testimony of his conscience; and spoke little and with extreme caution. From this he was led to analyze his words in such a way, in order that he might speak nothing but what was indubitable truth; that at last every thing appeared to him to be hypothetical, and a general system of doubtfulness in every thing relative to himself took place. This had a very awful, and indeed almost fatal, effect upon his memory, so much afraid was he lest he should say any thing that was not strictly right, and on many subjects he would not get full information that he might no longer affirm or deny any thing. He distrusted his memory and the evidence of his senses so much, that the former seemed to record transactions no longer, and the latter only served for personal preservation. When he has gone on an errand, and returned, he has given in the most embarrassing account. “Adam, have you been at _____?” “I think I have, Sir.” “Did you see Mr. _____?” “I believe I did.” “Did you deliver the message?” “I think so.” “What did he say?” “I cannot say: I am not sure that he said so and so, if I have ever been there and seen him; — and I am not sure that he did not say what I think I have just now told you.” “Why, Adam, I cannot tell what you mean! Pray be more attentive in future.” After some time, the empire of doubt became so established, that he appeared to himself a visionary being: and the whole world as little else than a congeries of ill-connected ideas. He thought at last, that the whole of life, and indeed universal nature, was a dream: he could reflect that he had what were termed dreams, and in them all appeared to be realities, but when he awoke, he found all unreal mockeries: and why might not his present state be the same? At length he doubted whether he ever had such dreams; whether he ever made such reflections, or whether he ever now thought or reflected! However ideal all this may appear to the Reader, his sufferings in consequence were most distressingly real. He spoke to a particular friend on the subject: he stared, was confounded, new nothing of the matter, and could give him no advice. After suffering exquisitely, he went to one of the preachers, and began as well he could to lay his case before him: the Preacher said abruptly — “What, are you going mad? — It is a shame for you to be occupied with such nonsense. He hastened away from him, and never after opened his mind to another person on the subject. In this state of distress and misery he continued for three weeks, and they appeared like centuries. He prayed much, immediately forgot that he had prayed, and went to prayer again! He either forgot to do what he was ordered; or forgot when he had done it that he had been thus employed, and wondered to find the work done which he had been sent to execute, though himself a little before had been the agent! It is worthy of remark that all this time the being of God, and the truth of the Sacred Writings, had never become a subject of doubt. These were the foundations; had these been ideally destroyed, what could his righteous soul have done? He was sifted as wheat; all the trials he ever came through, were nothing compared with this. Why was it suffered? Partly for his own sake, and partly for the sake of others. He ever felt from this how sovereignly necessary was the curb and superintendence of reason, to bind, control, connect and arrange the figments of imagination and the excursions of fancy: and he found that reason itself was nothing, or nothing to be depended on longer than it acted under the incumbent energy of the living God. This taught him the precarious nature of imagination and fancy, the excellence of reason, and the necessity of a continual indwelling influence of the Divine Spirit. But, as many of the states through which he passed were, in the order of the all-wise providence of God, in reference to his ministerial character; so was this. He has often said, “I believe there is not a state, or stage of feeling or trial that any person can be in, that God has not either led me through, or permitted me to be dragged through; insomuch, that in all my ministerial life, and the vast multitude of cases of conscience which came before me, I never met with one that I did not understand; so that I can say with the apostle, “Blessed be God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 2 Corinthians 1:3,4.”
But the Reader is no doubt anxious to know how this charm has dissolved; and how the soul of this distressed young man was delivered? It was simply as follows: — It has already been seen that he was both harassed in his mind, and perplexed and injured in his memory: he needed a twofold help and, when they became indispensably necessary, God sent them.
While in this distracted state, he went one evening to the prayer-meeting; for he was most punctual and conscientious in all the means of grace. One of those who engaged in prayer who knew nothing of his state, was led to pray thus: “Lord, if there be any here, against whom the accuser of the brethren hath stood up, succor that soul, and cast the accuser down.”
Immediately he thought, “I am the person: the accuser of the brethren hath stood up, and is standing up against me: Lord, cast him down, and deliver me!” It was immediately done: he was enabled to penetrate the wiles of the seducer; and the divine light and consolation instantly returned.
How he was succored in the ravages made on his memory will next appear.
One day Mr. Bennet having desired him to do something, which he had done, but had forgotten; and, being questioned on it, answered in his usual way of doubtfulness, but rather from a conviction that it was undone; Mr. B. , knowing that it was done, said to him in a solemn manner, “Adam, you have totally lost your memory: — you are in a very deplorable state, — you have not a particle of memory remaining.” With these words Adam seemed to awaken as from a deep trance. He turned his eye inwardly, saw his mind in total confusion: nothing had rule: confusion seemed confounded by confusion — every where appeared the “Non bene junctarum discordia semina rerum.” He flew to prayer, which was ever his strong hold: God shone upon his mind and gave him a renewed consciousness of his favor. He thought he would try and see whether his memory were impaired: he took up Mr. Blair’s Poem on the Grave, and attempted to commit to memory the first paragraph: with great labor he succeeded: but found it very difficult to recollect the lines consecutively. When he could repeat the paragraph off book, in its natural order, he thought he would not burden his mind any farther for the present, and laid down the book and went to his work.
After a short time he endeavored to repeat those lines; but what his surprise to find them entirely fled!
Speaking on the subject he said, “I do not recollect that I remained master of a single line! It seemed that either every thing was effaced from my memory, or that memory itself was extinct. I took up the book again, and, after a few efforts, recovered the paragraph, with the addition of a few more lines. Went again to work, and after some time, tried my memory again, and found all gone but two or three of the first lines! I took up the book again, recovered what I had learnt, and, as before, added a few more; and was satisfied that I could say the whole consecutively without missing a line, or indeed a word. Went to my work; after some hours tried my memory again, and found all gone but about double the quantity of the beginning to what I had left of the last recollection. Thus I continued for some time, getting and losing, but recollecting additionally more of the commencement, till at last, I could repeat in all circumstances, and after any pause, about two hundred lines. I then gave it up, and by various exertions, left my memory to acquire its wanted tone and energy by degrees: but this it never did completely. “From that day to this, my memory has been comparatively imperfect — much inferior to what it was before. It could readily take in great things; not so readily small: it could perfectly recollect ideas, and general description, but not the particular words: could give the substance of a conversation at any time, and almost at any distance of time, but not the particular terms used in that conversation: — and so of reading. To bring it to what it is, required strong and frequent exercise: but there is a certain point beyond which it has refused to go, or I have not had skill or patience enough to carry it. But this imperfection in relation to verbal minutia, I consider a wise dispensation of a kind Providence.
Had my memory been as circumstantially perfect, as it once was, I should no doubt have depended much on it, less on God, and perhaps neglected the cultivation of my understanding and judgment. In a word, I should have done probably what many eminent memorists have done, especially some preachers, meanly stole the words from my neighbors; being able to repeat verbatim, the sermon I had read, or that which I had heard; and delivered it in the pulpit as if it were my own; and this might have at least led me to ‘Deal in the wretched traffic of a truth unfelt.’ I have been therefore obliged to depend much on the continual assistance of God in my ministerial labors, and cultivate my judgment and understanding to the uttermost of my power: for I never dared to expect the divine assistance and unction so essentially necessary to me, unless I had previously exercised my judgment and understanding as far as possible. Now, Strange as it may appear, from this very circumstance — the verbal imperfection of my memory — I have preached perhaps sermons, on all kinds of subjects, and on a great variety of occasions, and did not know beforehand, one single sentence that I should utter. And were I to preach before the king, or the two universities, I must preach in this way or not at all. “But let no man misunderstand me: I did not enter the pulpit or take my text till I was satisfied I understood the subject, and could properly explain and reason upon it. According to the fable in my favorite Aesop, I whipped the horses, and set my shoulders to the wheel, and then called upon Hercules, an was sure to obtain his help.”
This is Dr. Clarke’s own account of this solemn business; and we may see from it, how much vigorous a mind may rise above its circumstances; and by assiduous cultivation and industry, supply its adventurous or natural defects. In consequence of this, the plan of his preaching was new and uncommon: it is always interesting, and ever popular: for, by the demonstration of the truth, he commended himself to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
It is worthy also of remark, that this state of comparative obliviscence to which his memory was reduced, did not affect any thing that had occurred previously: it had its operation only on matters which took place posterior to the circumstance mentioned above. Those things he could ever recollect in detail. These only in sum or aggregate, with now and then some exceptions.
On this subject I am aware that much difference of opinion exists in the Established Church: some holding the doctrine, others denying it. 2 The above account of his early friend was written by Dr. Clarke for the “Methodist Memorial.”