ST. AUSTELL CIRCUIT, 1784-5
On Saturday, Aug. 28, he reached this town, and found that he was appointed to labor with Mr. Francis Wrigley, (this was the second time) and Mr. William Church. The Circuit took in the eastern part of the county of Cornwall from the north to the south sea, and included the following places: St. Austell, Mevagizzey, Tywardreath, Lostwithiel, Port-Isaac, Camelford, Trenarren, Trewint, Sticker, St. Stephens, St. Ewe, Polglaze, Tregony, Polperro, Liskeard Fursnuth, Penfurder, Pelynt, Meadows, Ruthernbridge, Trelill, Amble, Grampound, Tresmear, St. Tiddy, Bodmin, Gunwen, Bokiddick, Fowey, St. Teath, Trewalder, Delabole Quarry, Landreath, Broad-oak, Trenarrand, Bocaddon, Tintagel, Michaelstow, St. Minver, and Padstow: forty places; besides occasional visits to several others, where preaching was not as yet established. This Circuit was exceedingly severe; the riding constant; the roads in general bad; and the accommodations, in most places, very indifferent. But the prospect was widely different from that of hi s last Circuit. Here there was a general spirit of hearing; and an almost universal revival of the work of God. Thousands flocked to the preaching: the chapels would not contain the crowds that came; and almost every week in the year, he was obliged to preach in the open air, in times when the rain was descending from heaven, and when the snow lay deep upon the earth. But the prosperity of Methodism made every thing pleasant; for the toil in almost every place was compensated by a blessed ingathering of sinners to Christ, and a general renewing of the face of the country.
In St. Austell, the heavenly flame broke out in an extraordinary manner; and great numbers were there gathered into the heavenly fold. Among those whom Mr. Clarke joined to the Methodists’ Society, was Samuel Drew, then terminating his apprenticeship to a shoemaker; and since become one of the first metaphysicians in the empire, as his works on the immateriality and immortality of the Soul of man, the identity and Resurrection of the Human Body, and the Being and Attributes of God, sufficiently testify. A man of primitive simplicity of manners, amiableness of disposition, piety towards God, and benevolence to men, seldom to be equaled; and for reach of thought, keenness of discrimination, purity of language, and manly eloquence, not to be surpassed in any of the common walks of life. He shortly became a local preacher among the Methodists: and, in this office he continues to the present day. In short, his circumstances considered, with the mode of his education, he is one of those prodigies of nature and g race which God rarely exhibits: but which serve to keep up the connecting link between those who are confined to houses of clay, whose foundations are in the dust, and beings of a superior order in those regions where infirmity cannot enter, and where the sunshine of knowledge neither suffers diminution nor eclipse. — George Michal, inventor of the patent window frame; Joseph Avard, now a magistrate in Prince Edward’s Island; and several others, who have since become distinguished either in literature or mechanics; were joined by Mr. Clarke, to the Methodists’ Society, in St. Austell, in the course of that year.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, Mr. C. went to a place called Trego, to Farmer P_____’s, where there had been preaching for some time, and a small society formed, and where he was to preach that night and the next morning. he had gone through a tedious journey, and by unknown ways, in order to get to this place; and was much fatigued on his arrival. Only the good woman was within, the rest being at harvest. She asked him if he had dined: he said, no. She then brought him the remains of a cold apple pie, of the rudest confection; the apples were not peeled, even the snuffs and stalks were on them, and the crust was such, that, though the apples in baking shrunk much, yet the crust disdained to follow them, and stood over the dish like a well-built arch, almost impenetrable to knife or teeth.
He sat down to this homely fare, thanked God, and took courage. After a little the good woman brought him some cream, saying, “I’ll give you a little cream to the pie; but I cannot afford it to my own family.” This appeared odd to him. He had nothing beside this pie, except a drink of water. He went and cleaned his horse, and waited till the farmer came in from the field; between whom, in substance, passed the following dialogue: — “Who art thou? I am a Methodist preacher: my name is Adam Clarke.” “And what is thee comin here for?” “To preach to yourself, your family, and your neighbors.” “Who sent thee here?” “I received a plan from Mr. Wrigley, and your place stands for this night and tomorrow morning.” “I expect other friends tomorrow, and thou shalt not stay here.” “Why, — will you not have the preaching?” “I will have none of thy preaching, nor any of thy brethren.” “But will it not be wrong to deprive your family and neighbors of what may be profitable to them, though you may not desire it?” “Thee shalt not stay here: I will have no more Methodist preaching.” “Well, I will inform Mr. Wrigley of it; and I dare say he will not send any more, if you desire it not: but as I am a stranger in the country, and know not my way, and it is now towards evening, I hope you will give me a night’s lodging, and I will, please God, set off tomorrow morning.” “I tell thee, thee shalt not stay here.” “What, would you turn a stranger out into a strange country of which he knows nothing, and so late in the evening too?” “Where was thee last night?” “I was at Polperro.” “Then go there.” “It is out of my reach: besides, I have to preach at Bodmin tomorrow evening.” “Then go to Bodmin.” “I have never yet been there; am not expected there tonight; and know no person in the place: — pray give me the shelter of your roof for the night.” “I tell thee, thou shalt not stay here.” “Are you really in earnest?” “I am.” “Well then, if I must go, can you direct me the way to Ruthernbridge; I was there on Thursday, and am sure I shall be welcome again.” “Thee must inquire the road to Bodmin.” “How far is Ruthernbridge hence?” “About fifteen or sixteen miles; so thee hadst best be getting off.” “I will set off immediately.”
Mr. C. then went and put on his boots, repacked his shoes &c. in his saddle-bags and went to the stable and saddled his horse; the farmer standing by and looking on, but lending no assistance. He then mounted his horse, and spoke to this effect: — “Now, Sir, I am a stranger, and you refused me the common rites of hospitality: I am a messenger of the Lord Jesus, coming to you, your family, and your neighbors, with the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ; and you have refused to receive me: for this you must account at the bar of God. In the mean time I must act as my Lord has commanded me; and wipe of against you even the dust of your floor that cleaves to the soles of my feet.” So saying he took his right foot out of the stirrup, and with his hand wiped off the dust from his sole: he did the like to his left foot, and rode slowly off saying, “Remember, a messenger of peace came to your house with the gospel of Jesus; and you have rejected both him and his message!” He went on his way; and the farmer turned into his house. What was the consequence? A Methodist preacher was never afterwards within his house, or before his door. The little society that was there, went to other places; ruin came on him, and his family became corrupt, and were at last, finally scattered! and he died not long after.
After a tedious ride Mr. Clarke got to Mr. Varcoe’s, at Ruthernbridge, where he was affectionately received; — preached out of doors the next morning; — and then rode to Bodmin, and preached to a vast congregation out of doors in the evening, in the butter-market. When he began, the bells struck out, and entirely drowned his voice, so that his giving out the hymn could not be heard. When he was about half through his first prayer, the bells were stopped, nor was there the least disturbance or noise till he had finished the whole of his work. He then rode back to Ruthernbridge, and spent a comfortable evening with that affectionate family. The Reader is left to his own reflections concerning the man who turned away the message of salvation from his door; particulars might be given of the evils that fell upon that family; but enough has been said.
On Dec. 17, of this year, (1784,) Mr. C. met with an accident that had nearly proved fatal to him. When he came out first to preach he had no horse, — a gentleman of Bradford knowing this, said, he would give the young preacher a horse, — and among other good qualities for which he extolled him said he was an excellent chaise horse. Mr. Wesley was by, and said, “One of my horses troubles us very much for he often takes it into his head that he will not draw. Had I not better take your horse, Mr. R., and let brother Clarke have this one? He may be a good hack though a bad chaise-horse. The change was made, and he got Mr. W.’s horse, of which he was not a little proud, because it had been the property of Mr. W.; but this horse was the most dangerous creature he ever mounted. and he scarcely ever rode him a journey of ten miles, in which he did not fall at least once: and by this his life was often brought into danger.
His friends often endeavored to persuade him to dispose of this dangerous beast, but his affection for its quondam owner, caused him to turn a deaf ear to every entreaty and remonstrance; as he was afraid if he parted with the beast he might fall into hands that would not use him well. This evening had nearly terminated the business: it was a hard frost, and coming over the down above Ruthernbridge, the horse fell, according to custom, and pitched Mr. C. directly on his head. He lay some time senseless, but how long he could not tell. At length having come to himself a little, he felt as if in the agonies of death; and earnestly recommended his soul to his Redeemer: however, he so far recovered, that with extreme difficulty he reached the house. As a congregation attended, the good people, not knowing how much injury he had sustained, entreated him to preach, — he could not draw a full breath, and was scarcely able to stand: however, he endeavored to recommend to them the salvation of God. His pain was so great that he got no rest all night: the next day a person was sent with him to stay him up on his horse, that he might get to Port Isaac, where he could obtain some medical help. He suffered much on this journey, as every step the horse took seemed like a dart run through his body. He got at last to Port Isaac, Dr. Twentyman was sent for, and bled him. It appeared that some of the vertebrae of the spine had been materially injured. He was desired to remain in the house for some days, — this he could not consent to do, as there were four places in which he was expected to preach the following day. This he did at the most obvious risk of his life; but from this hurt he did not wholly recover for more than three years! After this narrow escape he was persuaded to part with his horse, which he changed with a farmer, who had a high reverence for Mr. W. and promised to use the horse mercifully.
On Saturday, Jan. 1, 1785, he thus writes, “A God of infinite love has brought me to the beginning of another year! Though I have often provoked Thee, and been unfaithful to Thy grace, yet I am a monument of Thy sparing and forbearing mercy. The blessings I have received from Thee in the year that is past, may well astonish me! Thou hast prospered my labor, and many souls have been awakened and blessed under my ministry. I have been exposed to the most imminent deaths, and yet rescued from the pit of corruption. I have sustained the most grievous temptations, to well circumstanced sins, and yet, by the grace of God, I stand! I have gone through labors almost above human strength, and yet am supported! What a miracle of power and mercy! — O, what shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me! May I live the ensuing year, more to Thy glory than ever, for Christ’s sake, amen!”
On the 6th of this month, he saw a wonderful phenomenon while riding between St. Austell and Meadows. A body of fire, something like a comet, with the head foremost, and the tail terminating in a point, rose out of the west and directing its course eastward, traversed nearly a quadrant of the heavens, leaving a fiery highway after it, through the whole of its course, till it had entirely expended itself. Its duration was nearly a minute; but after the fire had disappeared, the oblique, or wavy path which it had made, was visible for at least fifteen minutes. It seemed as if it had left a deeply indented path in the sky. His reflections on this phenomenon are pleasing, though they partake much of the state of his mind, which was considerably depressed at that time: on this account they need not be inserted.
On a review of the events of this year, as they respect Mr. C. , we find them presenting to us one uninterrupted scene of prosperity. The spirit of hearing, as has already been remarked, was almost universal, — the congregations very large, and numbers were awakened, converted, and joined to the Lord. The societies were not only much increased, but they were built up on their most holy faith; and the stream of pure religion deepened as it spread. The vicious and profligate became ashamed of their own conduct; and those who did not yield to the influences of the grace of God, were constrained to assume a decent exterior. The spiritual prosperity would have been unrivaled had it not been for some antinomian Calvinists, who envious at the prosperity of the Methodists, insinuated themselves into some of the societies, and spread their poison among the people. However, the bit and curb of God were put in their jaws, and although they disturbed and in a measure hindered the work, they were not permitted to prevail. — They drew some of the less fixed of the society in St. Austell with them, and formed a party, but they converted no sinners to God.
Mr. C.’s labors were here continual, and almost oppressive: besides the preaching out of doors in all weathers, through spring, summer, autumn, and winter, he often preached twice, even thrice, on week-days; and three Sabbaths out of four he preached regularly four times each day in different places; being obliged, to supply them, to ride many miles. This as well as the injury he received by the fall already mentioned greatly damaged his constitution. He lost his appetite, was prostrated in his strength, lost his flesh, and often bled so copiously at the nose, even in the pulpit, that his friends feared, and not without reason, for his life. Besides innumerable public exhortations, he preached in about eleven months, 568 sermons, and rode in his work many hundreds of miles. He indeed gave up his own life as lost, and felt himself continually on the verge of eternity. He endeavored to walk with God, kept up a severe watch on his heart and conduct, and gave no quarter to any thing in himself; that did not bear the stamp of holiness. His popularity was great, but he was not lifted up by it; he felt too much of weakness, ignorance, and imperfection in himself; to allow the foot of pride to come against him; therefore his popularity promoted his usefulness, and of it he made no other advantage.
As his labors were great, and his time almost wholly employed, he could make little progress in mental cultivation: yet even this was not wholly neglected. He read some treatises on different parts of Chemistry, and having borrowed the use of a friend’s laboratory, he went through the process of refining silver, that he might be the better able to comprehend the meaning of those texts of scripture where this operation is referred to.
He read also several Alchemistic authors, the perusal of which was recommended to him by a friend who was much devoted to such studies; and he also went through several of the initiatory operations recommended by professed adepts in that science. This study was the means of greatly enlarging his views in the operations of nature, as he saw many wonders performed by chemical agency. It may surprise the Reader that he took the pains to read over Basil Valentine, Geo. Ripley, Philalethes, Nich.
Flammel, Artephius, Geber, Paracelsus, the Hermetical Triumph, all the writers in Ashmole’s Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, &c. &c.; not with the hope of finding the Philosopher’s stone, but rerum cognoscere causas; and to see nature in her own laboratory. This study served to divert his mind from that intensity of thought on other matters, which before was preying upon itself.
In this circuit he met with that almost rarest gift of heaven, a true friend; a friend that loveth at all times — the Amicus certus, qui in re incerta cernitur: this was Mr. Richard Mabyn, of Camelford, a man who took him to his bosom, watched over him with the solicitude of the most affectionate father, bore with his weakness, instructed his ignorance, and helped him forward in his Christian course, by his prayers. His house was his only home on earth; and for him and his most affectionate wife he felt a filial respect and tenderness. This patriarchal man is still alive, and a pillar in the Church of God in that place: and the friendship between him and Mr. C has never known diminution or decay, though it has now lasted upwards of thirty-five years. He was one of those friends who was as dear as a brother; and on whose mind, the changes and chances of time made no impression in respect to the object of his friendship. May the sun of his spiritual prosperity never be clouded, but shine brighter and broader till its setting! Local distance has long separated them; though Mr. C. has contrived occasionally to pay him a visit in Camelford. However, they cannot be long separated Mr. M. in the course of nature must soon pass Jordan; and his friend Mr. C. cannot be long behind him, — they will shortly be joined ——”In those Elysian seats Where Jonathan his David meets.”  While in this county he felt a desire to examine its antiquities, but time would not permit him. Afterwards, on his visits to see Mr. Mabyn, he examined the logging-stones and rock basins on Raw-tor, of which he wrote a new theory;  and took down the inscription from what is called Arthur’s tombstone, on the place where the famous and decisive battle was fought between Arthur and his son-in-law Mordred; in which, though the latter was slain, and his army totally routed, yet the former received his death’s wound, and shortly after died at Glastonbury. On this stone Mr. C. wrote a Dissertation  stating it to be the tombstone of one of Arthur’s sons.