Are you a Christian?
BOOK 2, CH. 2,
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There are men enough, not only among the shallow and unlearned, but among the erudite and intellectual, to whom the statements we are to make in this chapter would seem mere foolishness; while the Christian discerns in them the sure and intelligible evidences of a Divine intervention, and the practical tokens of that great redeeming design which has brought our sininfected and perishing nature under an economy of regenerating grace. Our present task, however, is not to battle with the prejudices of the world, but to give the details of this work of mercy in such plain words of truth as may tend to edify the believer, and to light the steps of the sincere inquirer to the path of peace.
The grace of God, which bringeth salvation, dawned upon the mind of Adam Clarke with the morning hour of life, and preoccupied his heart with a disposition toward the holy and the Divine. Some of the child’s first thoughts were “Thoughts that wander through eternity.”
Let us hear him recount a reminiscence of those first days: “Near where Mr. Clarke lived was a very decent orderly family of the name of Brooks, who lived on a small farm. They had eleven children, some of whom went to Mr. Clarke’s school: one, called James, was the tenth child, a lovely lad, between whom and little Adam there subsisted a strong attachment. One day, when walking hand in hand, in a field near the house, they sat down on the bank, and began to enter into a very serious conversation. They both became much affected, and this was deepened into exquisite distress by the following observations made by little Brooks: ‘O, Addy, Addy, what a dreadful thing is ETERNITY! and how dreadful to be put into hellfire, and to be burned there for ever and ever!’ They both wept bitterly, and, as they could, begged God to forgive their sins; and they made to each other strong promises of amendment, and departed from each other with full and pensive hearts. “I was then truly and deeply convinced that I was a sinner, and liable to eternal punishment; and that nothing but the mercy of God could save me from it: though I was not so conscious of any other sin as that of disobedience to my parents, which at that time affected me most forcibly. When I left my little companion, I went home, told the whole to my mother with a full heart, expressing the hope that I should never more say any bad words, or refuse to do what she or my father might command. She was both surprised and affected, and gave me much encouragement, and prayed heartily for me. With a glad heart she communicated the information to my father, on whom I could see it did not make the same impression; for he had little opinion of pious resolutions in childish minds, though he feared God, and was a serious, conscientious Churchman. I must own that the way in which he treated it was very discouraging to my mind, and served to mingle impressions with my serious feelings that were not friendly to their permanence. Yet the impression, though it grew faint, did not wear away. It was laid deep in the consideration of eternity, and of my accountableness to God for my conduct, and the absolute necessity of enjoying His favor, that I might never taste the bitter pains of eternal death. Had I had any person to point out the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, I believe I should then have been found as capable of repentance and faith (my youth and circumstances considered) as I ever was afterwards. But I had no such helper, no ‘messenger,’ ‘one among a thousand,’ who could show man his righteousness.”
The neighborhood in which he lived had not at that time the privilege of the plain Gospel. The inhabitants were chiefly of the Protestant confession, and were pretty equally divided between the Established and Presbyterian communions. The rector of Agherton was the Rev. Mr. Smith, “a good man, full of humanity and benevolence,” who preached the truth so far as he knew it; “but on the way in which a sinner is to be reconciled to God, he was either not very clear, or was never explicit.” On the other hand, in the Presbyterian congregation, “the trumpet gave a very uncertain sound, as both pastor and people were verging closely on Socinianism. We do not wonder, then, that “a general forgetfulness of God prevailed in the parish,” and that “there was scarcely a person in it decidedly pious, though there were several that feared God, and but few who were grossly profane.”
The religious state of the Clarkes, as a family, partook at that time of the general tone. An old friend of theirs, the Rev. Henry Moore, speaking of them as he knew them in his juvenile days, says, “The family were what is generally called good sort of people, honest people, clearing their way by sober industry. They thought they must be good in order to go to heaven, and had a wholesome fear of being found wicked. They likewise embraced the common forms of religion.” The schoolmaster of Agherton was a steady member of the Episcopal Church, but not strongly awake to the importance of vital religion, nor savingly enlightened with an experimental knowledge of its consolations and hopes. But his worthy and faithful wife, albeit a stranger (like himself) to the refined enjoyments of personal godliness, seems to have had a deeper sense than he of the need of that which they had not yet attained. Her mind was habitually serious, and her whole conduct in the training of the family betokened an earnest solicitude for their everlasting welfare. Like many other great and good men, Dr. Clarke owed an unspeakable debt to his mother for the influence she exerted over the formation of his character. Looking back on those pristine days, he said on one occasion, “For my mother’s religious teachings I shall have endless reason to bless my Maker.” She was the instrument of imprinting on his conscience those ethical convictions which in after-time germinated, by the grace of God, into great and fruitful virtues. She would garnish and fortify her instructions with pithy adages, which her children’s memories never lost. Was the conversation, for example, about the transient nature of this life’s affairs? she would conclude with, — “Thus we may say, Come weal or woe, It will not be always so:” - like the motto that the eastern legend tells us king Solomon furnished for a brother monarch, who requested of him some sentiment which, inscribed on his ring, should be suited to cheer him under misfortune, and to temper his joy in the season of prosperity, — “This also shall pass away!”
But the treasury from which our good mother drew her choicest gems to enrich the minds of the children, was the written word of God; and in the matter of discipline, and the infliction of punishment, it was often found that a text of Scripture, well applied, did infinitely better execution than the rod. Dr. Clarke says that his mother “had read the Bible with great care and much profit And if the children did wrong at any time, she had recourse to it uniformly, to strengthen her reproofs, and to deepen conviction. With the Scriptures she was so conversant and ready, that there was scarcely any delinquency for the condemnation of which she could not find a portion. She seemed to find them at the first opening, and would generally say, ‘See what God has guided my eye to in a moment.’
Her own reproofs her children could in some measure bear; but when she had recourse to the Bible, they were terrified, — such an awful sense had they of the truth of God’s word, and the majesty of the Author. Adam one day disobeyed his mother, and the disobedience was accompanied with some look or gesture that indicated an undervaluing of her authority. This was a high affront: she immediately flew to the Bible, and opened on these words, which she read and commented upon in a most awful manner: ‘ The eye that mocketh his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it.’ The poor culprit was cut to the heart, believing the words had been sent immediately from heaven. He went out into the field with a troubled spirit, and was musing on this horrible denunciation of Divine displeasure, when the hoarse croak of a raven sounded to his conscience an alarm more terrible than the cry of fire at midnight. He looked up, and perceived the ominous bird, and, actually supposing it to be the raven of which the text spoke, he took to flight with the greatest perturbation.” Dr. Clarke imagines that the severe Puritanic creed, which his mother had derived from the Scotch Calvinists, led her more frequently to represent the Supreme Being as a God of justice than as the God of mercy. The consequence was, the children dreaded God, and obeyed only through fear.
Yet, perhaps, this was the way to awaken in the minds of the young a sense of responsibility and an assurance that retribution will ever track the footsteps of guilt.
To the faithful admonitions of this stern but loving instructress, her son ever attributed, under God, that fear of the Divine Majesty which prevented him from taking pleasure in sin. “My mother’s reproofs and terrors never left me, till I sought and found the salvation of God. And sin was generally so burdensome to me, that I was glad to hear of deliverance from it. She had taught me such reverence for the Bible, that if I had it in my hand, even for the purpose of studying a chapter to repeat as a lesson, and had been disposed with my class-fellows to sing, whistle a tune, or be facetious, I dared not do either while the book was open in my hands. In such cases, I always shut it, and laid it down beside me. Who will dare to lay this to the charge of superstition?” — The boy was right. Would that all men were like-minded!
No sight has a greater sacredness and beauty than that of a devout mother leading her child to God in prayer. It was Adam’s privilege to have a mother who could pray for him, and with him, and teach him to pray for himself. As soon as the children could speak, she taught them, in the Lord’s Prayer, to call God “our Father.” As they grew older, they were instructed to ask His blessing on their parents and relatives. The evening devotions of the elder ones included the Apostles’ Creed, and occasionally a versified Collect, which the Doctor remembered to his latest day: —
AT MORNING PRAYER
“Preserve me, Lord, amidst the crowd, From every thought that’s vain and proud; And raise my wandering mind to see How good it is to trust in Thee. “From all the enemies of Thy truth, Do Thou, O Lord, preserve my youth; And raise my mind from worldly cares, From youthful sins and youthful snares. “Lord, though my heart’s as hard as stone, Let seeds of early grace be sown, Still water’d by Thy heavenly love, Till they spring up in joys above.”
“I go to my bed as to my grave, And pray to God my life to save; But, if I die before I wake, I pray to God my soul to take. “Sweet Jesus, now to Thee I cry, To grant me mercy ere I die; To grant me mercy, and send me peace, That heaven may be my dwelling-place.”
These compositions, it must be confessed, are homely enough; but they were made for home use, whoever wrote them. Adam Clarke always entertained a fond attachment to them. “They contain,” said he, “the first breathings of my mind towards God; and even many years after I had known His power to my salvation, I continued to repeat them as long as I could with propriety use the term youth.”
When on Sundays Mrs. Clarke held a little service with her children, in addition to a portion of Catechism she would read a chapter, sing part of a psalm, offer a prayer, and then fix their minds on some important sentence in the chapter, making them repeat the words; a method which secured their attention, and imbued their minds more thoroughly with the truth. “The world,” in the sinister import of that term, — “the flesh,” as denoting the bondage of our nature to corrupt propensions, — and “the devil,” as the name for the great tempter and accuser of mankind, — may, with the man who yields acquiescent obedience to their impulses, be regarded as words only: but he who has begun to struggle against the tide which is bearing the other to perdition unawares, and who will clean escape their corruptions, will speedily learn that these words are but the names of mighty realities, whose antagonism to his salvation he can only overcome by the mightier power of God. Now, even in the secluded part of Ireland where Adam Clarke was brought up, the world could offer him seductions, which, if yielded to, could not have failed to enlist him among her votaries, and lead him from depth to depth in sin.
One form which these temptations took was the pleasure he found in the amusement of dancing. The years of mere childhood were passed, and he was a growing youth. He had learned to play on the violin, and, becoming fond of music, joined a class who took lessons from a master. There was another in the neighborhood who gave lessons in dancing as well as music. Adam’s master, “willing to stand on equal ground with his competitor, proposed to his pupils to divide the usual hours into two parts; to teach singing in the former, and dancing in the latter. This brought him several additional scholars, and the school went on much to his advantage.
At first Adam despised this silly adjunct to what he always deemed of great importance, and for a considerable time took no part in it. At length, through much persuasion, his steadfastness was overcome. By long looking, the thing began to appear harmless; by and by, graceful; and lastly, an elegant accomplishment. It was now, ‘Cast in your lot with us.’ He did so; and, as it was always a maxim with him to do whatever he did with his might, he bent much of his attention to this, and soon became superior to most of his schoolfellows. Formerly he wen t to the school for the sake of the singing, now he went most for the sake of the dancing: leaving his understanding uninfluenced, it took fast hold of his passions. If prevented at any time from going, he felt uneasy, sometimes vexed, and often cross; his temper in such cases being rarely under his own control.” “Mald ave,” says he, “when about thirteen years of age, I learned to dance. I long resisted all solicitations to it, but at last I suffered myself to be overcome, and learnt and profited beyond most of my fellows. I grew passionately fond of it; would scarcely walk but in measured time, and was constantly tripping, moving, and shuffling, in all times and places. I began now to value myself, which, as far as I can recollect, I had never thought of before. I grew impatient of control, became fond of company, wished to mingle more than I had ever done with young people. I got, also, a passion for better clothing than that which fell to my lot in life, and was discontented when I found a neighbor’s son dressed better than myself. I lost the spirit of subordination, did not love work, imbibed a spirit of idleness, and, in short, drank in all the brain-sickening effluvia of pleasure. Dancing and company took the place of reading and study; and the authority of my parents was feared indeed, but not respected. And few serious impressions could prevail in a mind imbued now with frivolity. Yet I entered into no disreputable assembly, and in no one case ever kept any improper company.
Nevertheless, dancing was with me a perverting influence, an unmixed moral evil; for, although by the mercy of God it led me not to depravity of manners, it greatly weakened the moral principle, drowned the voice of conscience, and was the first cause of impelling me to seek my happiness in this life. Everything yielded to the disposition it had produced, and everything was absorbed by it. I have it justly in abhorrence, for the moral injury it did me; and I can testify, (as far as my own observations have extended, and they have had a pretty wide range,) I have known it to produce the same evil in others. I consider it, therefore, as a branch of that worldly education which leads from heaven to earth, from things spiritual to things sensual, and from God to Satan. Let them plead for it who will; I know it to be evil, and that only. They who bring up their children in this way, or send them to those schools where dancing is taught, are consecrating them to the service of Moloch, and cultivating the passions so as to cause them to bring forth the weeds of a fallen nature with an additional rankness, deep-rooted inveteracy, and inexhaustible fertility. Nemo sobrius saltat, ‘ No man in his senses will dance,’ wrote Cicero, a Heathen. Shame on those Christian parents who advocate a cause by which many sons have become profligate, and many daughters have been ruined.” This temptation, however, had not a lasting power; and before he was fifteen years of age, he had got entirely free from the dangerous snare. His love of mental cultivation returned with greater force; and that vigor of intellect which gave such a character to his future life began now to move him with impulses after knowledge which throbbed on with his life, and kindled that unquenchable desire that led him to separate himself to intermeddle with all wisdom. From a mere child, he had been a great reader of tales and books of imagination suited to his years; for some of which — as the History of the Seven Wise Masters, the Seven Champions of Christendom, Robinson Crusoe, the Peruvian Tales, and the Thousand and One Nights — he always maintained a kind of grateful affection, not only for the entertainment they had given him, but for the strength they had imparted to his mental instinct to seek pleasure in the region of the intellect, and the communion they had opened to him with things that lie beyond the immediate province of the senses. But now, with the enlargement of his mind, he felt the need of a higher and more congenial aliment, and a satisfying acquaintance with the realities of truth. But, for want of a proper guide, he was even here in danger of taking a wrong track at the outset. With a mind characteristically eager in investigation, he was not content to read such books as expounded the outward phenomena of nature, but longed to penetrate, also, the arcana of the spiritual world. He had a notion that it was possible to attain such a knowledge of those unseen agencies which reveal their effects in the appearances of the outward world, as would enable the possessor of it to wield those agencies according to his own will; that men once lived who had won this secret, and that some might even then be living who enjoyed it. He had heard that among the gypsies many vestiges of this precious lore were handed down from father to son; and, learning that a wandering party of that singular people had pitched their little camp at a distance of some miles, he sallied forth in quest of them. After some ingratiating talk, he told them what he had come for. The conversation which followed was highly satisfactory; for he found, to his great joy, that they had at least a great part of a book for a sight of which he had been devoured by desire, — the Occult Philosophy of Cornelius Agrippa. The gypsies were not disposed to part with these precious sibylline leaves, but gave him full permission to read them on the spot, and make whatever extracts he pleased. Adam made full proof of his opportunity; and day by day, so long as the wanderers haunted that part of the country, he might have been seen in their out-ofthe- way retreat, with ink-bottle and notebook, appropriating in unspeakable eagerness the hieratic secrets of the great master. The pleasure afforded by these excursions was enhanced by the memory of a sore disappointment he had undergone some time before, when, being informed that a certain schoolmaster who lived many miles away had a copy of Cornelius Agrippa in his library, he made a pilgrimage for the purpose of borrowing it, or, at least, of inspecting it, but met with a decisive refusal.
On that occasion, (we mention it to show the lad’s eagerness in this pursuit,) his mother had attempted to dissuade him from going, as the distance was great, and the way unknown. “Never fear, mother,” said he: “I shall find it well enough.” “But you will be so weary by the time you get there, that you will not have strength to return.” To which be answered, “Never fear, mother: if I can get there, and get the book, I hope to get as much out of it as will bring me home without touching the ground.”
On the influence which these early impulses had upon his mind in following years, we shall have to write hereafter. But, even at this inexperienced period of life, his own good sense, and a reverential fear of being guilty of what was unlawful in the sight of God, tamed in his soul the inordinate desire after a species of knowledge which is either forbidden, or injurious to him who employs it, when obtained. A paper he read in an odd volume of the Athenian Oracle, which he met with about that time, made a wholesome impression on his mind, and contributed to set it in a more profitable direction. He had quieted some misgivings on the subject of spiritual incantations by the thought, that what was done in these ways was done with reference to, and dependence on, the power of God. By His terrible name all spirits were to be invoked, employed, bound, or loosed.
But the writer in the Athenian Oracle, to the question, “Is that magic lawful whose operations are performed in the name of God, and by solemn invocations of His power?” gave, by way of answer in the negative, the quotation from the Gospel where our Lord has declared, “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Warned off, then, from this enchanted ground, Adam betook himself, though (it must be confessed) not without some lingering and looking back, into the more open and honest fields of actual knowledge. In the excellent works of Ray, on the Wisdom of God in the Creation, and of Derham, on Astro-Theology, he found a clue to the true physico-theology, and was led by those great masters “from nature up to nature’s God.” He sought the Eternal, where, in one of His ways of revelation, He is willing to make Himself known, — namely, in His works.
Though not at that time in the language of one who became a favorite sage in other years, he could yet say with him in effect, “Waken my faculties to behold Thee, and to gaze, with the vision of the heart, on Thy grandeurs; and teach me to make known Thy wondrous acts: for I see Thy name in the works of Thy hands. The heavens are moving in lines of measure, the spheres revolve in their orbits, among them the earth has her abiding-place; she is suspended by the bands of Thy love. The sun shining in his might, the moon pouring silver streams as from a fountain, clusters of stars like flowers in a garden, the outspread pavilion of the skies, and the variegated landscapes of the world, all speak of Thy deep wisdom.” Thus the things that are seen became to him a heart-stirring memento of the everpresent Deity. The heavens at night spoke, and told him how great is God; the spheres sang; the deep down on the shore, as he stood on the rocks, was heard lifting up a voice in the great chorus. “His praise the winds, that from four quarters blew, breathed soft or loud;” and the pine-woods waved their tops, with every plant, in sign of worship. Already the future commentator was musing on that text, “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.”
But the time was at hand when he should no longer stand wondering in the outer court of the Great Unseen, but be admitted within the temple of salvation, and worship and serve Him with them who have access to the Deity Himself: for God, who commanded light to shine out of darkness, was about to shine into his heart, to give him to behold His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. We have had occasion to allude to the low state of religion in the neighborhood where Adam Clarke then lived; but it was by no means so bad as that which was found in many other parts of the three kingdoms. A much deeper ignorance shrouded the myriads of the Irish Catholic population: nor were the peasantry of England more enlightened; while, in the more crowded towns and cities, vice and immorality prevailed in frightful measures. On the Continent the state of things was infinitely worse. European Christendom had reached the zero of apostasy; Voltairism had come like an evil blast upon the people; and the shadow of atheism fell, colder than death, upon the millions. But God was now revealing in our land His signal mercy. There was the voice of one crying in the desert, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The Gospel had become a freshly-uttered oracle from heaven. The sower had gone forth to sow: the Sun of righteousness, breaking through the clouds, shed healing beams; and the showers of heavenly influence gathered over his path. WESLEY was then fulfilling his course, and approaching, indeed, the consummation of that illustrious career in which he had been made the instrument of wondrous good, not only in our island-home, but across the ocean too, in the distant lands of the West. The agencies of Methodism were becoming more extensive and more potent every year; and, in the order of a merciful Providence, some of the devoted men who toiled in the great work were led to visit the hamlets and villages of the north of Ireland.
The Clarkes had hitherto known nothing of these men. A stray anecdote of one of them, which Adam met with in a newspaper, gave him the first intimation of their existence. One day it was rumored in the neighborhood that there would be preaching that evening at a farm-place, called Burnside; a barn, with a cottage attached to it. Adam went, along with a companion of his, a son of Counsellor O’Neil. It was now that he saw for the first time a Methodist preacher, — a tall thin man, with serious-looking countenance, and long hair. Adam heard the sermon with inward reasonings, and not without some feeling. His mind seemed to be drawn to the man; and, when the service was over, he lingered near him. The preacher turned, and with deep solemnity exhorted him to give himself to God. Adam was so far impressed as to wish to hear this doctrine more largely. He seized the first occasion, and heard Mr. Brettell again. The text was, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock.” The effect of this sermon was to show hi m, that the consequence of slighting the call of mercy would be everlasting ruin. Meanwhile the preachers stationed at Coleraine had made arrangements for regularly visiting that neighborhood as a part of their Circuit; and Mr. Brettell was followed by Mr. Thomas Barber, a truly apostolic man, under whose ministry a multitude of people in various parts of the country had been awakened to repentance. Mrs. Clarke herself was now induced to attend. She heard, and immediately pronounced, “This is the doctrine of the Reformers; this is true and unadulterated Christianity.” The Lord had opened her heart to receive His truth, and she forthwith opened her dwelling to its messengers, where, from time to time, they found a welcome resting-place, and brought the blessing of their Master with them; for salvation came to that house. Mrs. Clarke now joined the newly-formed Society. As for Adam, though not violently affected, he had become seriously bent on the salvation of his soul. Anxious to hear the Gospel at every opportunity, he rose at four in the morning to complete his day’s work, so as to be able to go here and there in the evening to listen to the word; and his chief study now, in the intervals he could spare from toil, was the examination of what he heard by the test of the written word of God, — “searching the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so.” In short, he had now matriculated in the school of Jesus Christ, in which alone the divine or the Christian can be formed; and he sat at the feet of a master who could make him wise to salvation. His Scripture-reading had hitherto been desultory; but he now began to read the New Testament regularly through, and that with deep attentive and earnest prayer. One consequence was, his mind became enlightened to comprehend the analogy of the faith; the great redeeming plan, so harmonious with itself and with all truth. From these oracles of the living God he learned his creed, and never changed it. Another and yet more important consequence was, he was gradually enabled to lay hold upon the truth, thus revealed, with that faith of the heart which made him a new creature. The Spirit was working his great work of mercy in his soul; convincing him of sin, righteousness, and judgment; awakening him alike to a sense of guilt, and a despair of escaping its punishment, if left to his own bankrupt resources. “All his past diligence, prayer, reading, and so forth, now appeared as nothing; multitudes of evils, which before were undiscovered, were now pointed out to his conscience as with a sunbeam.
He was filled with confusion and distress; wherever he looked, he saw nothing but himself. The light which penetrated his mind led him into all the chambers of the house of imagery; and everywhere he saw idols set up in opposition to the worship of the true God. He wished to flee from himself, and looked with envy on stocks and stones; for they had not offended a just God, and were incapable of hearing his displeasure. “The season was summer time. The fields were in their beautiful dress; the flocks and herds browsed in the pastures, and the birds caroled in the sky and in the woods; but his eyes and ears were no longer inlets to pleasure.
In point of gratification, nature was to him a universal blank, for he felt himself destitute of the image and approbation of his Maker; and besides this consciousness there seemed to be needed no other to complete his misery. He said, with one of old, ‘O that I knew where I might find Him, that I might come even to His seat! Behold, I go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive Him; on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him.’” Let us not be told here anything about moody melancholy or ignorant fanaticism. There is not a vestige of fanaticism in the case. Here is a young man of education, sound in health, steady in nerves, vigorous in intellect, and, so far as outward morality is concerned, of well-regulated and virtuous habits of life; but thoughtful betimes of the great question which, sooner or later, shakes every human soul, — How can a fallen sinner be reconciled to God? The Bible is in His hand, and the light of the Holy Spirit shining in His conscience. Can we wonder, then, at his solicitude?
He had within himself a dread sense of wrongness before his Divine Judge; and the all-absorbing care of his heart was, “How can I be set right?” Was not this a rational inquiry? Who is the insane fanatic, — the man who in these circumstances, common to us all, asks the question, “What must I do to be saved?” or he who wilfully ignores it?
He who would be saved feels the need of THE SAVIOR; and whatever interferes with the clear view of the Divine majesty and power of the adorable Being who is revealed in the Gospel in that most blessed character, will interfere with that man’s salvation. With such an obstacle Adam Clarke had just now to contend, through painful doubts on the Divinity of Jesus Christ, which some Unitarian acquaintances of his had thrown upon his mind. But in his well-read New Testament he had the infallible antidote to this evil, and he overcame it. He found also some help to faith in partaking for the first time of the Holy Communion; but still he could not lay hold on the promises of God, so as to be delivered from those fears of perdition which sometimes rose within him like an agony. In after-days he saw the value and purpose of those exercises. “It was necessary 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 com e 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.”
At length, however, the day of deliverance, the “time of finding,” came.
He had been brought to that point in which, had it been longer delayed, the spirit that God had made would have failed before Him. We shall be most sure in giving the recital in his own words: — “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 mental anguish. He fell down on his knees in the earth, and prayed; but seemed to be without power or faith. He arose and endeavored to work, but could not; even his physical strength seemed to have departed from him. He again endeavored to pray; but the gates of heaven appeared 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 put an end to them. No fear of hell produced those 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 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 thrilled through his 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. His physical strength returned, and he could bound like a roe. He had 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 could to his earthly father; he had freedom of access, and freedom of speech. He was like a person who had got into a new world, where, 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 this, 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. Barber what had taken place.
The man of G od took off his hat, and, with tears flowing down his cheeks, gave thanks to God. ‘O, Adam,’ said he, ‘I rejoice in this. I have been in daily 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 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 though 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 all the week. The next Lord’s day there was a lovefeast in Coleraine: he went to it, and during the first prayer kneeled in a corner, 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 the foot, and girt about the paps 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, O Lord Jesus! ‘ Immediately he felt as if God had shone upon 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 bore this witness in his conscience, and he could no more have doubted of it, than he could of the reality of his own existence. ‘Meridian evidence put doubt to flight.’” Adam Clarke, having thus found the liberty of God’s children, felt a powerful instinct in his heart to enjoy communion with them of whom he could now say, “Their Father is my Father; and their God, my God.” He accordingly lost no time in becoming a member of the Methodist Society; thus, at once, giving his heart to God, and his hand to His cause and people. Some months before, he had accompanied his mother to her classmeeting, but was not at that time in such a state of mind as to render the manner in which the hour was spent sufficiently attractive to induce him to repeat the visit. Now, a great change had been wrought in this respect also; for his heart had become as theirs, and his name took its place in their registries, to abide in them for ever. This was the right procedure. Had he remained aloof from the church, as too many do in similar cases, he, as they do, would have deprived himself of a Divinely appointed means of succour for the mind in the temptations of life, and would probably have f ailed, after all, of the grace of God. But he looked at the Christian church as a Divine institution, and felt it his duty to God, to man, and to himself, to be identified with it. And to what part of it should he so naturally unite himself as to that which had been the means of his conversion? And in doing this, it was the steadfast conviction of his long life, he had done rightly. Unlike the weak-minded and worldly, he was not to be warned off from the fulfillment of a grand duty by the vain bugbear of a name. On the contrary, if there were any reproach in bearing the name of “Methodist,” he was the more willing to bear it for the love which now reigned in his heart to Him who was called the Nazarene.
I have before me an autograph memorandum inserted on the title-page of his old copy of the Minutes of Conference, in these words: “I joined Society in the year of our Lord 1778, at Mullihical, near Coleraine. Adam Clarke.” If born in 1760, he must therefore, at the time of these transactions, have been in his eighteenth year. We doubt not that the alliance he was then enabled to make with the disciples of Christ helped to preserve him from the seductions of the world, which become at that period so potent to the young, as well as to confirm his best tendencies to insure his final salvation, and meanwhile to introduce his uncertain step, into a pathway which led to a great and good career. And so long as he found pleasantness and peace in the company of them whose “fellowship” was “with the Father, and with His Son Christ Jesus,” he was led by the same Spirit, and enabled to maintain his confidence in the mercy which had forgiven him. The witness of the Divine Comforter proved not a transient but a perennial grace. He had come to abide; and the day-star had risen upon his heart with an unsetting light, to bring that knowledge of salvation through the remission of sins which became the strength, the glory, and the joy of his life; “a staff when he was weary, a spring when he was thirsty, a screen when the sun burned him, a pillow in death.”