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  • THE LIFE OF ADAM CLARKE: BOOK 4,
    BRISTOL CIRCUIT, DUBLIN


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    BRISTOL CIRCUIT

    In July, 1789, he removed finally from the Norman islands, and, leaving Mrs. C. and his son John, then about six months old, at Trowbridge, he proceeded to Leeds, where the Conference was that year held, and where he received his appointment for the Bristol Circuit.

    By this time his studies and confinement in the islands, had preyed a good deal on his health; and the cough, which he had got several years before by sleeping in a wet bed at Beeralston, became so severe and oppressive, that it threatened his death. Mr. Wesley himself saw this, and in a visit after Conference to Bristol, told the Society that “he believed they would soon lose their assistant.” He was, however, enabled to go through the work of the Circuit, which was very severe; and though there was but little prosperity in the Circuit, yet he left it both in its spiritual and temporal concerns, in a much better state than he found it. What contributed much to his ill health in Bristol was, all the lodging rooms were over the chapel, and the noxious effluvia from the breath of so many hundreds of people who assembled there throughout the week, made the place extremely unhealthy. The plan, of building all the lodging rooms over the chapel, and on which several of the original Methodist preaching houses were built, was greatly prejudicial to the health of the preachers and their families.

    In 1790 the Conference was held in Bristol, the last in which that most eminent man of God, John Wesley, presided: who seemed to have his mind particularly impressed with the necessity of making some permanent rule that might tend to lessen the excessive labor of the preachers, which he saw was shortening the lives of many useful men.

    In a private meeting with some of the principal and senior preachers, which was held in Mr. W.’s study, to prepare matters for the Conference, he proposed that a rule should be made that no preacher should preach thrice on the same day: Messrs. Mather, Pawson, Thompson, and others, said this would be impracticable; as it was absolutely necessary, in most cases, that the preachers should preach thrice every Lord’s day without which the places could not be supplied. Mr. W. replied, “It must be given up; we shall lose our preachers by such excessive labor.” They answered, “We have all done so: and you even at a very advanced age have continued to do so.” “What I have done” said he, “is out of the question, my life and strength have been under an especial Providence; besides, I know better than they how to preach without injuring myself; and no man can preach thrice a day without killing himself sooner or later; and the custom shall not continued.” They pressed the point no farther, finding that he was determined; but they deceived him after all by altering the minute thus, when it went to the press: — “No preacher shall any more preach three times in the same day (to the same congregation.)” By which clause the minute was entirely neutralized. He who preaches the Gospel as he ought, must do it with his whole strength of body and soul, and he who undertakes a labor of this kind thrice every Lord’s day, will infallibly shorten his life by it. He, who, instead of preaching, talks to the people, merely speaks about good things, or tells a religious story, will never injure himself by such an employment; such a person does not labor in the word and doctrine, he tells his tale, and as he preaches so his congregation believes, and sinners are left as he found them.

    At this Conference it was found very difficult to get a preacher for Dublin; for during Mr. Wesley’s life, an English preacher was generally appointed to that station, and he was considered the general assistant, that is, Mr. W.’s representative, over all the Irish Circuits and preachers. Mr. C. was proposed by several of the preachers, but Mr. W. refused because of the indifferent state of his health: however, they at last persuaded Mr. W. to consent, provided, when the proposal should be made to Mr. C., he should not object. It was accordingly laid before him; and, as it was his maxim never to choose a Circuit, nor object to his appointment, he agreed, and was sent over to Dublin, Aug. 1790.

    DUBLIN

    At the time of Mr. Clarke’s arrival in Dublin, he found himself exposed to many inconveniences. They had been building a new house for the preacher, with which they connected a large room for a charity-school.

    The preacher and his family were to occupy the lower part and first floor, and the charity-school was to extend over the whole of the building, on the second floor. Owing to the unprincipled builder, the house was not made either according to the time or plan specified. The builder was a knave, to whom the stewards of the society had trusted the agreement signed by each, which agreement he absolutely refused ever to produce. Bad brick, bad mortar, inferior timber, and execrable workmanship, were every where apparent; and the knave was safe, as he professed to have lost the agreement, but maintained that all was done according to the specification.

    The house not being ready, Mr. C. and his family were obliged to go into lodgings, which were far from being either comfortable or convenient, but it was n ear the chapel, and the new house was expected to be soon ready.

    The inconvenience of the lodging induced Mr. Clarke to enter the new house long before it was dry, which nearly cost him and his family their lives. He was shortly seized with a dreadful rheumatic affection in his head, which was supposed to be occasioned by a congestion of the bloodvessels of the brain; and in consequence of this supposition, his physicians were led to adopt a wrong treatment, which assisted the disease, and by both he was brought nearly to the gates of death. His recovery was slow and imperfect, and he was obliged, at the ensuing Conference to return to England.

    Dublin was not at that time a comfortable situation for a preacher. There had been disputes in the Society which had greatly injured it. Dr. Coke, with the approbation of Mr. Wesley, had introduced the use of the Liturgy into the chapel at Whitefriar Street, — this measure was opposed by some of the leading members of the Society, as tending to what they called a separation from the church; when, in truth, it was the most effectual way to keep the Society attached to the spirit and doctrines of the church; who, because they were without Divine service in church hours, were scattered throughout the city, some at church, and many more at different places of Dissenting worship, where they heard doctrines that tended greatly to unsettle their religious opinions; and in the end, many were lost to the Society. In consequence of the introduction of the Liturgy a very good congregation assembled at Whitefriar Street; and much good might have been done if the rich members of the Society had not continued hostile t o the measure, by withdrawing their countenance and support, which they generally did. At last, both sides agreed to desire the British Conference, for the sake of peace, to restore matters to their original state, and abolish the forenoon’s service; Mr. C., who at that time labored under the same kind of prejudice, gave his voice against the continuance of the Prayers, and, at his recommendation, the Conference annulled the service.

    This was the greatest ecclesiastical error he ever committed; and one which he deeply deplored for many years; and was thankful to God when in the course of Divine Providence, he was enabled many years after to restore that service in the newly erected chapel in Abbey Street, which he had formerly been the instrument of putting down in Whitefriar Street; — that very same party, to please whom it was done, having separated from the Methodists’ body, and set up a spurious and factious connection of their own, under the name of Primitive Methodism; a principal object of which was t o deprive the original connection of its chapels, divide its societies, and in every way injure its finances, and traduce both its spiritual and loyal character.

    It may be asked, “Why did Mr. C. in the year 1790, espouse the side of this party?” — It is but justice to say that, to that class of men he was under no kind of obligation: he had never asked nor received favors from any of them. They had neglected him, though he was on their side of the question, as much as they did those who were opposed to them: he and his family had nothing but affliction and distress while they remained in Dublin, and that party neither ministered to his necessities, nor sympathized with him in his afflictions. What he did was from an illgrounded fear that the introduction of the church service might lead to a separation from the Church, (which the prejudice of education could alone suggest) and he thought the different societies might be induced to attend at their parish churches, and so all kinds of dissent be prevented. But multitudes of those, whatever name they had been called by, never belonged to any church, and felt no religious attachment to any but those who were the mean s of their salvation. When, therefore, they did not find among the Methodists, religious service on the proper times of the Lord’sday, they often wandered heedlessly about, and became unhinged and distracted with the strange doctrines they heard: of this Mr. Clarke was afterwards fully convinced; and saw the folly of endeavoring to force the people to attend a ministry from which they had never received any kind of spiritual advantage, and the danger of not endeavoring carefully to cultivate the soil which they had with great pain and difficulty enclosed, broken up, and sown with the good seed, — the word of the kingdom.

    And to prove that no favor to that party, nor expectation from them, led him to advocate their cause, he did it when he had left their city and never intended more to return.

    While in Dublin, the most solemn event that ever occurred in the Methodists’ Connection, took place: — the death of the Rev. John Wesley. When Mr. C. heard of it he was overwhelmed with grief; all he could do, such were his feelings, was to read the little printed Account of his last moments. [8] Of the agitations occasioned by his death in the Methodists’ Connection, it is unnecessary to encumber this narrative, as they have already been sufficiently detailed. Mr. Wesley’s respect for Mr. C. was evidenced by the codicil to his last will, in which he made him with six others, trustees for all his literary property: and this codicil was at last found to supersede the will, and these seven administered to Mr. Wesley’s effects, and afterwards conveyed all their rights and authority to the Conference.

    Shortly after Mr. Clarke came to Dublin, be entered himself a medical student in Trinity College, and attended several courses of Lectures; one on the Institutes of Medicine, by Dr. Dickison, Regius Physician; one on Anatomy, by Dr. Cleghorn; and one on Chemistry, by Dr. R. Perceval.

    From these studies, aided by his own sedulous application he obtained a sufficiency of medical knowledge to serve his own large family in all common cases, and to keep what he ever considered the bane of families, all apothecaries from his door. When he thought that skill superior to his own was wanted, he employed some respectable physician: and always kept and prepared the medicines necessary for domestic use. His attendance on Dr. Perceval’s Lectures brought on an intimacy between him and that excellent man and eminent Physician, which has been unbroken for many years, and still flourishes with high respect on both sides.

    While in this city he formed a charitable institution, called “The Strangers’ Friend Society;” and on the same principles, he founded one the following year, at Manchester; and one afterwards in London: the Rules and Plan of which were adopted and societies of a similar kind formed in almost all the chief towns in England, which still subsist in all their vigor, and have done more public good than any charitable institutions ever formed in the kingdom.

    He buried one child, his eldest daughter, in Dublin; and returned to England, in the August of 1791.

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