PLYMOUTH DOCK CIRCUIT,
At the Conference, which was held in London this year, strong application was made to Mr. Wesley to appoint Mr. C. a second year to the St. Austell circuit, and with this application he at first complied: but the people of Plymouth Dock, who had suffered by a rent made in the society by the secession if Mr. W. Moore, who had carried with him more than fifty of the society, requested Mr. W., most earnestly, to appoint Mr. C. for them, as one that was most likely to counteract the influence of the disaffected party. To them Mr. W. yielded, and Mr. C. receiving this appointment, entered on this new circuit, Aug. 27, 1785.
This circuit included the following places, partly in Devon, partly in Cornwall, Plymouth, Dock, Torpoint, Stonehouse, Plympton, Tavistock, Launceston, Trelabe, Tregar, Ex, Burrowcot, Dixbeer, Collory, Altarnun, Beeralston, Hull, Pitt, and Butternelle. Several of these were new places, taken in the course of that year. The preachers were John Mason, Adam Clarke, and John King: with Messrs. Mason and King he lived and labored in the utmost harmony, and Methodism prospered greatly; as in the course of that year they doubled the society. Of the fifty that went off with Mr. Moore in Dock, several returned, and in place of those who continued in the secession, more than one hundred were added to that society in the course of the year. The congregations became immense, and from the Dockyard, and the ships in the Hamoaze, multitudes flocked to the preaching, and many were brought to God. Cleland Kirkpatrick, (who had his arm shot off in an engagement with the famous Paul Jones, and was then cook of the Cambridge man-of-war) joined the society at that time, and became afterwards a traveling preacher: in which office he still continues.
The days in which Mr. Clarke’s labors were not required in Plymouth or Dock, he made excursions into different parts of Cornwall, preached in new places, and formed several new societies. He preached also in Dock at five o’clock in the morning throughout the year: and generally went about to the different houses in the dark winter mornings, with his lanthorn to awake those whom he thought should attend the preaching!
It was, while he was on this circuit, as has been already anticipated, that the vow relative to the total abandonment of classical learning, was broken: and here, having more leisure than he had previously, he bent his mind to study. In this he was greatly assisted by James Hore, Esq. of the R N; afterwards purser of the Venerable, in which Admiral Duncan gained the victory over the Dutch fleet, under De Winter; and who died in the same service, in the Egyptian expedition. This gentleman lent him books, and among the rest, Chambers’ Encyclopedia, 2 vols. fol. In this work, which was a library itself; he spent almost every spare hour: here his philosophical taste was gratified, and his knowledge greatly increased. It is almost impossible to conceive how much he profited by this work; he made nearly every subject there discussed, his own; and laid in a considerable stock of useful knowledge, which he laid under constant contribution to his ministerial labors. He has often said, “I owe more to Mr. Hore, than to most men, for the loan of this work. The gift of a thousand indiscriminate volumes, would not have equaled the utility of this loan.” It is with pleasure that he has recorded, “The eldest daughter of this most worthy man, a young lady of great excellence, is now the wife of the Rev. Henshaw, one of the most respectable as well as useful, of the present body of itinerant Methodist preachers.” Of the Encyclopedia of Mr. Chambers, he could never speak without the highest commendation, as being far before every other work of the kind: and in its original form, allowing for late discoveries and improvements, far surpassing the vastly voluminous French Encyclopedie, thirty-five vols. fol., professedly formed after its model, and all others in our own country, which indeed has been the land of Encyclopedias, Cyclopedias, Dictionaries of Arts and Sciences, &c. And, with the above allowances, beyond comparison preferable to those editions of the same work, which have been made since his time, by different hands, wi th all their professed improvements by the immense additions of encumbering, heterogeneous and discordant materials. When he was able to purchase a book of any magnitude, he bought this; and has ever preserved a copy of it in his library, in grateful remembrance of the great service which he formerly derived from it.
This work, castigated to the present improved state of science, and enlarged about one third or one half; so that it might make three or four volumes folio, without changing Mr. Chambers’ plan, would comprehend all that is essentially necessary for a work of this kind; and be highly acceptable to the public, instead of those vast voluminous works which are beyond the purchase of those persons who need them most, and would profit most by them; and in which, disjointed and shapeless lumber is of more frequent occurrence than valuable furniture, or useful implements.
To help him in his Hebrew studies, he had purchased Leigh’s Critica Sacra: a work of great study and research, and invaluable to a biblical student. It not only gives the literal sense of every Greek and Hebrew word in the Old and New Testaments, but enriches almost every definition with philological and theological notes drawn from the best grammarians and critics. To this work the best edition of which is that of Lond 1662, with a Supplement to both parts, most succeeding lexicographers have been greatly indebted. He was also laid under great obligations to a lady to whom he was personally unknown, Miss Kennicott, of Dock who hearing of his thirst for knowledge, lent him her brother’s (Dr. Kennicott) edition of the Hebrew Bible, two vols. fol. with various readings collected from nearly 700 MSS., and early printed editions. This work which he carefully studied, gave him the first knowledge of Biblical Criticism. The work had been but lately published; and had he not seen it in this providential way, several years must have elapsed before it could have fallen under his notice.
This year the society at Dock built a new chapel at Windmill Hill, much more commodious than that which they had opposite the Gun-Wharf Gate; but so much had the congregations increased that this new erection was soon found to be too small. When the seats of this chapel were in course of being let, he noticed for the first time, what he had occasion to notice with pain often after: — How difficult it is to satisfy a choir of singers; of how little use they are in general, and how dangerous they are at all times to the peace of the Church of Christ. There was here a choir, and there were some among them who understood music as well as most in the nation; and some, who taken individually, were both sensible and pious.
These, in their collective capacity, wished to have a particular seat, with which the trustees could not conveniently accommodate them, because of their engagements to other persons. When the singers found they could not have the places they wished, they came to a private resolution not to sin g in the chapel. Of this resolution, the preachers knew nothing. It was Mr. C.’s turn to preach in the chapel at the Gun-Wharf, the next Sabbath morning at seven; and there they intended to give the first exhibition of their dumb-show. He gave out, as usual, the page and measure of the hymn. All was silent. He looked to see if the singers were in their place; and behold, the choir was full; even unusually so. He, thinking that they could not find the passage, or did not know the measure, gave out both again; and then looked them all full in the face; which they returned with great steadiness of countenance! He then raised the tune himself; and the congregation continued the singing. Not knowing what the matter was, he gave out the next hymn as he had given out the former, again and again, — still they were silent. He then raised the tune, and the congregation sang as before. Afterwards he learned, that as the trustees would not indulge them with the places they wished, they were determined to avenge their quarrel on Almighty God: for He should have no praise from them, since they could not have the seats they wished! The impiety of this conduct appeared to him in a most hideous point of view: for, if the singing be designed to set forth the praises of the Lord, the refusing to do this, because they could not have their own wills in sitting in a particular place, though they were offered, free of expense, one of the best situations in the chapel, was a broad insult on God Almighty. They continued this ungodly farce, hoping to reduce the trustees preachers, and society, to the necessity of capitulating at discretion; but the besieged, by appointing a man to be always present to raise the tunes, cut off the whole choir at a stroke. From this time, the liveliness and piety of the singing were considerably improved: for now, the congregation, instead of listening to the warbling of the choir, all joined in the singing; and God had hearty praise from every mouth. Mr. C. has often witnessed similar disaffection in other places, by means of the singers; and has frequently been heard to say: “Though I never had a personal quarrel with the singers, in any place, yet, I have never known one case where there was a choir of singers, that they did not make disturbance in the societies. And it would be much better, in every case, and in every respect, to employ a precentor, or a person to raise the tunes, and then the congregation would learn to sing — the purpose of singing would be accomplished, — every mouth would confess to God, — and a horrible evil would be prevented, — the bringing together into the house of God, and making them the almost only instruments of celebrating his praises, such a company of gay, airy, giddy, and ungodly men and women, as are generally grouped in such choirs — for voice and skill must be had, let decency of behavior and morality be where they will. Every thing must be sacrificed to a good voice, in order to make the choir complete and respectable. Many scandals have been brought into the church of God by choirs and their accompaniments. Why do not the Methodist preachers lay this to heart?
At the conduct of the singers in Plymouth Dock, Mr. C. was much grieved, because there were among them men of sound sense, amiable manners, and true piety: and so they continued in their individual capacity; but when once merged in the choir, they felt only for its honor, and became like to other men! Disturbances of this kind which he has witnessed in all the large societies, have led him often seriously to question, whether public singing made any essential part in the worship of God! — most of those who are employed in it being the least spiritual part of the church of Christ; generally proud, self-willed, obstinate, and intractable: besides, they uniformly hinder congregational singing, the congregation leaving this work to them; and they desiring it so to be left.
In the way of incident, there was nothing remarkable in the course of this year. Methodism prospered greatly, and he was happy in the friendship of several excellent people in different parts of the circuit, but especially in Dock. Mr. Mason, whom he considered as an apostolic father, was very useful to him: his upright, orderly, and regular conduct, furnished him with lessons of great importance: and from him he learned how to demean and behave himself in civil and religious society. Of him he spoke with high commendation in a small work, entitled, A Letter to a Preacher, which has gone through four editions to the present year 1819; and when this excellent man died, Mr. C. was desired, by the Conference held in London in 1810, to draw up his character, which he did in the following terms: — “Mr. Mason made it the study of his life to maintain his character as a preacher, a Christian, and a MAN; the latter word taken in its noblest sense: and he did this by cultivating his mind in every branch of useful knowledge within his reach; and his profiting was great. In the history of the world, and the history of the church, he was very extensively read. With anatomy and medicine he was well acquainted; and his knowledge of natural history, particularly of botany, was very extensive. In the latter science he was inferior to few in the British empire. His botanical collections would do credit to the first museum in Europe; and especially his collections of English plants, all gathered, preserved, classified, and described by his own hand. But this was his least praise: he laid all his attainments in the natural sciences, under contribution to his theological studies: nor could it ever be said that he neglected his duty as a Christian minister, to cultivate his mind in philosophical pursuits. “He was a Christian man; and in his life and spirit, adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour. The decency, propriety, and dignity of his conduct were, through the whole of his life, truly exemplary.
And his piety towards God, and his benevolence towards man, were as deep as they were sincere. — I am constrained to add, — ‘He was a MAN; take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again.’
He died, Friday, April 27, 1810, aged seventy-eight years, and lies buried at West Meon, in Hampshire; his general residence some years before his death.”
Mr. Mason might have lived at least ten years longer, for his constitution was good, and his habits perfectly regular, had he not unfortunately, taken to a milk diet for several of his latter years. This did not afford sufficient nutriment to his body. He was strong boned and six feet high, and the nourishment derived from this most inadequate diet, was not sufficient to clothe his bones with healthy and vigorous muscles. The consequence was, he began to stoop, and his feet &c. became ricketty; and he sunk rather through want of due nourishment, than by weight of years, or unavoidable bodily infirmities. What became of his collections of fossils, minerals, and plants, I do not know: I believe, they were all scattered and lost, except a Hortus Siccus, in forty-three vols. 8vo., which he presented to his friend Mr. Clarke several years before his death.
From him, while they traveled together at Plymouth, Mr. Clarke had the following anecdote; which, as the parties are now long dead, can on that account, do no harm to be related, and should be most extensively published.
A. B. and his wife C. B., were members of the Methodists’ Society, in Portsmouth Common: and in decent and respectable circumstances. C. B. was frequently troubled with indigestion, and consequent flatulencies. A female neighbor said to C. B.: “There is a very fine bottle which has done me much good, and I was just as you are; and I am sure it would do you much good also. Do try but one bottle of it.” — “What do you call it?” — “Godfrey’s Cordial.” — “Well, I will try it, in God’s name, for I am sadly troubled, and would give any thing for a cure, or even for ease.” A bottle of this fine spirituous saccharine opiate, was bought and taken secundum artem; and it acted as an elegant dram! “O, dear, this is a very fine thing; it has done me good already; I shall never be without this in the house.” A little disorder in the stomach called the bottle again into request: it acted as before, and got additional praises. By and bye, the husband himself got poorly with a pain in his stomach and bowels; the wife sa id, “Do, A., take a little of my bottle, it will do you much good.” He took it; but then, as he was a man, it must be a stronger dose. “Well, C., this is a very fine thing, it has eased me much.” — Though the wife was not cured, yet she was very much relieved! So bottle after bottle was purchased, and taken in pretty quick succession. The husband found it necessary also to have frequent recourse to the same; and now they could both bear a double dose; by and bye it was trebled and quadrupled; for, former doses did not give relief as usual: but the increased dose did. — No customers to the quack medicine venders were equal to A. B. and his wife. — They had it at last by the dozen, if not by the gross! Soon, scores of pounds were expended on this carminative opiate, till at last they had expended on it their whole substance. Even their furniture went by degrees, till at last they were reduced to absolute want, and were obliged to take refuge in the Poorhouse. Here they were visited by some pious people of th e Society — saw their error, deplored it, and sought God for pardon. A good report was brought of this miserable couple to the Society: it was stated that, they saw their folly, and were truly penitent; and it was a pity to permit a couple, who in all human probability, had much of life before them, to linger it out uselessly in a wretched workhouse. A collection was proposed for their relief; among the principal friends; it was productive, for a considerable sum was raised. They were brought out, placed in a decent little dwelling, and a proper assortment of goods purchased with the subscription already mentioned, and they were set up in a respectable little shop. Many of the friends bound themselves to give A. B. and his wife their custom: — they did so, and the capital was soon doubled, and they went on in religious and secular things very prosperously.
Unfortunately, the wife thought her indigestion and flatulencies had returned, were returning, or would soon return; and she once more thought of Godfrey ‘s Cordial, with desire and terror. “I should have a bottle in the house: surely I have been so warned that I am not likely to make a bad use of it again.” — “C., I am afraid of it, said the husband. “My dear,” said she, “we have now experience, and I hope we may both take what will do us good and that only.” — Not to be tedious another bottle was bought, and another, and a dozen, and a gross; — and in this they once more drunk out all their property, and terminated their lives in Portsmouth Common Workhouse!
The Reader may be astonished at this infatuation: but he may rest assured that the case is not uncommon: Daffy’s Elixir, Godfrey’s Cordial, and Solomon’s Balm of Gilead, have in a similar manner impoverished, if not destroyed, thousands. On this very principle they are constructed. They are intended to meet the palate, and under the specious flame of medicines, they are actually used as drams; and in no few cases engender the use of each other. Thus, drops beget drams; and drams beget more drops; and they, drams in their turn, till health and property are both destroyed; and, I may add, the soul ruined by these truly infernal composts. It would, it is true, be easy to expose them; and it is difficult to refrain: — “Difficile est Satiram non scribere, nam, quis iniquae Tam, patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se?”
But who dares do this? The iniquity is licensed by the State: and government makes a gain by taxation of that which is destroying the lives and morals of the subject!
As the time of conference drew nigh, there was a strong and general desire in the Societies to have Mr. C. appointed a second year for the Plymouth Dock circuit: and there was every probability that this wish would have been met by Mr. Wesley, had it not been for the following circumstance: — Robert Carr Brakenbury, Esq., who had been long a member of the Methodists’ Society, and ranked among their preachers, had gone over to the Norman Islands and had preached successfully, especially in the Island of Jersey, where he had taken a house, and set up a family establishment.
At this Conference he applied to Mr. Wesley for a preacher to assist him: and Mr. C. was fixed on, as having, some knowledge of the French language. To the regret of the circuit, and not entirely with his own approbation, he was appointed; and was ordered to hold himself in readiness to sail in company with Mr. Brakenbury, as soon as the latter could settle his affairs at his seat at Raithby, Lincolnshire, so as to admit of absence for three months.
In the meantime Mr. C. went and paid a visit to his brother, Surgeon [Tracy] Clarke, who, as we have already seen, was now settled at a place called Maghull, near Liverpool. While Mr. C. was on this visit, he preached different times in that neighborhood, several were awakened, and a society was formed, which having gone through many vicissitudes, still exists, though not now in a state of great prosperity. On his return from Liverpool by Bristol, to go to Southampton, where he was to embark for the Islands; as Mr. Brakenbury was not yet come, he visited his old circuit (Bradford) and spent several days at Trowbridge, where he had always a parental reception at the house of Mr. Knapp, where the preachers generally lodged. There were in the society of this place, several young women, who were among the most sensible and pious in the Methodists’ connection, particularly the Miss Cookes; Mary, Elizabeth, and Frances: the two later having been among the first members of the society in this town. With these you ng ladies he occasionally corresponded, especially with the second, ever since he had been in that circuit. This correspondence, as it had been chiefly on matters of religious experience, improved his mind much, and his style of writing. He found it of great advantage to have a well educated and sensible correspondent; and as neither had anything in view but their religious and intellectual improvement, they wrote without reserve or embarrassment, and discussed every subject that tended to expand the mind or ameliorate the heart. About two years before this, the eldest sister Mary had joined the society; and became one of Mr. C.’s occasional correspondents. On this visit a more intimate acquaintance took place, which terminated nearly two years after in a marriage, the most suitable and honorable to both parties, and prosperous in its results that ever occurred in the course of Divine Providence. Of her good sense, prudence, piety, and rare talents for domestic management and the education of a family, too mu ch cannot easily be said. — “Her works praise her in the gates, and her reputation is in all the churches.”
Having tarried here a few days, he received a letter from Mr. B., appointing a day to meet him at Southampton. He set off and got there at the time appointed; but Mr. B. was detained nearly a fortnight longer.
During this delay, Mr. C. was kindly entertained at the house of Mr. Fay, in whose son’s school-room he had the opportunity of preaching several times during his stay.
He also visited Winchester, on the invitation of Mr. Jasper Winscomb, and preached there frequently: and spent much of his time in the cathedral, examining the monuments, and making reflections on the subjects they presented. As these were entered under heads, in a species of Journal, I shall select a few. They were all written between the 11th and 19th of October, while waiting the arrival of Mr. Brackenbury. [Note: The variation in the spelling of the preceding name: “Brackenbury” and the earlier rendition, “Brakenbury,” was in Clarke’s original text. — DVM]