Are you a Christian?
BOOK 2, CH. 7,
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The Norman Isles, those beautiful spots which adorn the French waters of La Manche, were now to be the scenes of evangelic agencies whose results have made a multitude of families in them the better for time and eternity.
Some while before the arrival of Mr. Brackenbury upon those shores, several persons in Jersey had been awakened to a concern for the salvation of their souls, and had formed themselves into a kind of religious community for mutual edification. They were a little flock without a shepherd, and too feeble in their circumstances to attempt a regular churchorganization under a stated ministry. A regiment of soldiers arrived just then from England, among whom were some pious men who had heard Captain Webb preach at Southampton and Winchester. The word of truth ministered by that good servant of God and the king had been so blessed to them, as to urge them to recommend to these Jersey Christians to open a communication with Mr. Wesley, in the hope that he would be induced to supply them with on e of his preachers. They did so, through the intervention of Mr. Jasper Winscomb, one of the early Methodists of Hampshire. At the following Conference of 1783, Mr. Wesley read Mr. Winscomb’s letter to the assembly, and asked, “Whether any preacher found it in his heart to obey the call?” It was then that Mr. Brackenbury offered his services. In him the Conference did not fail to see the man every way designated by Providence and Grace to initiate this new enterprise under the most favorable auspices. Nor were they disappointed by the events. He lost no time in fulfilling his commission. Having found his way to Jersey, he hired an old “religious house,” which happened to be vacant, near the sea, and commenced the public preaching of the Gospel. A procedure so novel excited conflicting feelings among the people of the vicinity: some were pleased and grateful; others stirred up to opposition, and that, at times, of a riotous and dangerous character. Mr. Brackenbury kept steadily to his work, and soon began to make a sound impression.
Another place was opened, at St. Mary’s, and then another. Some pious young men of good talent were raised up to exhort, and then to act as local preachers; Societies were formed; in short, the Methodist tree had struck its roots.
When Mr. Clarke joined Mr. Brackenbury as his colleague, they made no delay to extend their operations to the other islands. Accordingly, after preaching a few times in Jersey, Mr. Clarke proceeded to attempt the introduction of the good cause into Guernsey. At the present time the English language is fast superseding the French in both the greater islands; and even in those days the majority of the townspeople were conversant with both tongues; so that the missionary found no difficulty in getting an audience, though, as yet, too little accustomed to speak French to venture a sermon in it. His first preaching-place in Guernsey was a large warehouse at Les Terres, just without St. Peter-lePort; and among the congregation he found some who were willing to open their houses in different parts of the town for occasional services. Under these circumstances, he commenced those three years which have borne such ample fruit unto life eternal. In some neighborhoods, he found French indispensable; and, in conducting a service in that language, was under the necessity, to him a disagreeable one, of reading a discourse which he had previously prepared. While the good word sunk into the hearts of not a few with saving effect in both islands, it stirred up a spirit of opposition in them who were of the contrary side.
Some specimens of this we may extract from his own statements. “One Sabbath-morning, Mr. Clarke, accompanied by Captain and Lieutenant W., having gone to preach at La Valle, a low part of Guernsey, always surrounded by the sea at high water, to which at such times there is no access but by means of a sort of causeway; a multitude of unruly people, with drums, horns, and various offensive weapons, assembled at the bridge, to prevent his entering the islet. The tide being a little out, he ventured to ride across about a mile below the bridge without their perceiving him, got to the house, and had nearly finished his discourse before the mob could assemble. At last they came in full power, and with fell purpose.
The captain of a man-of-war, the naval lieutenant, and the other gentlemen who had accompanied him, mounted their horses, and rode off at full gallop, leaving him in the hands of the mob. That he might not be able to escape, they cut his bridle in pieces. Nothing intimidated, he went among them, got upon an eminence, and began to speak to them. The drums and horn s ceased, the majority became quiet, only a few from the outskirts throwing stones and dirt, from which, however, he managed to defend himself; and after about an hour they permitted him to depart in peace. On returning to St. Peter’s, he found his naval heroes in great safety. “He had a more narrow escape one evening at St. Aubin’s, in Jersey. A desperate mob of some hundreds, with almost all instruments of destruction, assembled round the house in which he was preaching, which was a wooden building with five windows.
At their first approach, the principal part of the congregation issued forth, and provided for their own safety. The Society alone, about thirteen persons, remained with their preacher. The mob, finding that all with whom they might claim brotherhood had escaped, resolved to pull down the house, and bury the preacher and his friends in the reins. Mr. Clarke exhorted the friends to trust in that God who was able to save, when one of the mob presented a pistol at him through the window opposite to the pulpit, which twice flashed in the pan. Others had got crows, and were busily employed in sapping the foundation of the house. Mr. Clarke, perceiving this, said to the people, ‘If we stay here, we shall be all destroyed. I will go out among them; they seek not you, but me.
After they have got me, they will permit you to pass unmolested.’
They besought him with tears not to leave the house, as he would infallibly be murdered. He, seeing that there was no time to be lost, as they continued to sap the foundations, said, ‘ I will instantly go out among them in the name of God.’ Je vous accompagnerai, (‘I will go with you,’) said a stout young man. As the house was assailed with showers of stones, he met a volley of these, as he opened and passed through the door. It was a clear full-moon night, after a heavy storm of hail and rain. He walked forward. The mob divided to the right and left, and made an ample passage for him and the young man who followed him to pass through. This they did to the very skirts of the hundreds who were assembled with drums, horns, spades, forks, bludgeons, to take the life of a man whose only crime was proclaiming to lost sinners redemption through the blood of the cross. During the whole time of his passing through the mob, there was a deathlike silence, nor was there any motion but what was necessary to give him a free passage. Either their eyes were holden that they could not know him; or they were so overawed by the power of God, that they could not lift a hand or utter a word against him. The poor people, finding all was quiet, came out a little after, and passed away, not one of them being either hurt or molested. In a few minutes, the mob seemed to awake as from a dream, and, finding that their prey had been plucked out of their teeth, they knew not how, attacked the house afresh, broke every square of glass in the windows, and scarcely left a whole tile upon the roof. He afterwards learned, that their design was to put him in the sluice of an overshot water-mill, by which he must have been crushed in pieces! “The next Lord’s day he went to the same place. The mob rose again; and, when they began to make a tumult, he called on them to hear him a few moments; when those who appeared to have most influence grew silent, and stilled the rest. He spoke to them to this effect: — ‘ I have never done any of you any harm; my heartiest wish was, and is, to do you good. I could tell you many things, by which you might grow wise unto salvation, would you but listen to them. Why do you persecute a man who never can be your enemy, and wishes to show that he is your friend? You cannot be Christians, who seek to destroy a man because he tells you the truth. But are you even men? Do you deserve that name? I am but an individual, and unarmed; and hundreds of you join together, to attack and destroy this single unarmed man. Is not this to act like cowards and assassins? I am a man, and a Christian. I fear you not as a man: I would not turn my back upon the best of you, and could probably put your chief under my feet. St. Paul th e apostle was assailed in like manner by the Heathens: they also were dastards and cowards. The Scripture does not call them men; but, according to the English translation, certain lewd fellows of the baser sort; or, according to your own, which you better understand, les batteurs de pave, — la canaille. O, shame on you, to come in multitudes to attack an inoffensive stranger in your island, who comes only to call you from wickedness to serve the living God, and to show you the way which will lead you to everlasting blessedness ‘ He paused — there was a shout, ‘He is a clever fellow: he shall preach, and we will hear him.’ They were as good as their word: he proceeded without any further hindrance from them, and they never after gave him any molestation.
The little preaching-house being nearly destroyed, he some Sabbaths afterward attempted to preach out of doors. The mob having given up persecution, one of the magistrates of St. Aubin took up the business; came to the place with a mob of his own, and the drummer of the regiment stationed at the place; pulled down Mr. Clarke while he was at prayer, and delivered him into the hands of the canaille he had brought with him. The drummer attended him out of the town, beating the ‘Rogues’ March’ on his drum, and beating him frequently with the drumsticks, from the strokes of which, and other misusages, he did not recover for some weeks. But he wearied out all his persecutors. There were several who heard the word gladly; and for their sakes he freely ventured himself, till at last all opposition ceased.”
From the rude encounters he had thus sometimes to meet in the discharge of his mission-work, Mr. Clarke found a grateful relief in Guernsey in the privilege of residing with the family of Mr. De Jersey, at Mon Plaisir, an old manor farm-house, about a mile from St. Peter’s. Every attribute of this favored spot, the Hesperide climate, [Hesperides, nymphs in Greek mythology who guarded a tree of golden apples] the scenery, the commodious and tranquil mansion and gardens, where the myrtle and laurels rise to the proportions of stately trees, and the orange ripens in the open air, all combined to render it a most desirable asylum for the student bent on learning, or the laborer sighing for repose. The writer of these pages can never forget the pleasure with which, during a ministerial residence in Guernsey, he has often visited this spot; where, under the leafy shade of a bower formed of the entwined boughs of a cluster of figtrees, the family used to tell him how, in that very summer-house, Dr. Adam Clarke had spent so many hours in reading his Bible and writing his sermons. The family of Mon Plaisir, of whom the Rev. Henry De Jersey, now of the French Conference, is one of the worthy representatives, embraced the cause of Methodism with their whole heart. One of the first of the many good offices which the elder Mr. De Jersey performed, for the service of the good cause among them, was to build a room on the north side of the house that should serve for a domestic chapel, to which he could invite the inhabitants round about. Mr. Clarke, as the chaplain of the place, held stated services in this room on Thursday and Saturday evenings; offering the first prayer in English, and preaching the sermon in French, with a prayer in the same language.
In these sequestered shades our friend applied himself with new vigor to those more solemn studies which were destined to give character to his after-life. He had long felt that the vow, so foolishly made four years before, to have nothing more to do with Greek and Latin, was wrong in itself, as well as unadvised, and that he could conscientiously renounce it.
In resuming those languages, he found that long cessation from classical reading rendered it necessary for him to begin again in that department with the grammars themselves. But, having by dint of effort recovered his lost ground, he brought his new acquisitions to bear upon the study of the Septuagint Bible and Greek Testament, for the purposes, and in the manner, to which we shall have occasion to refer more fully hereafter. It was now, also, that with a moderate knowledge of Hebrew he struck out into the study of Chaldee and Syriac, by the help of Bishop Walton’s “Introduction to the Oriental Languages,” the Scholia Syriaca of Leusden, and some other works to which he had access in the public library at Jersey. Before he left the islands, he obtained possession of a copy of Walton’s Polyglot Bible of his own. True to those instincts which Providence and Grace had implanted in his heart, he began even now to turn this biblical knowledge to account, by committing to paper memoranda for notes on the Gospels, which formed the first nucleus of his future Commentary.
Meantime the great objects of his mission were carried on with energy. In the course of the year he was moved to attempt the introduction of preaching into the island of Alderney. In recounting to Mr. Wesley the manner in which this was carried into effect, he says: “My design being made public, many hindrances were thrown in my way. It was reported that the governor had threatened to prohibit my landing; and that, in case he found me on the island, he would transport me to the Caskets (a rock in the sea, about three leagues W. of Alderney, on which there is a lighthouse). These threatenings, being published here, rendered it very difficult for me to procure a passage, as several of my friends were against my going, fearing bad consequences; and none of the captains who traded to the island were willing to take me, fearing to incur the displeasure of the governor; notwithstanding that I offered them anything they could reasonably demand for my passage. I thought at last I should be obliged to hire one of t he English packets, as I was determined to go, by God’s grace, at all events. “Having waited a long time, watching sometimes day and night, I at last got a vessel bound for the island, in which I embarked; and after a few hours, though not without some fatigue and sickness, we came to the S. W. side of the island, where we were obliged to cast anchor, as the tide was too far spent to carry us round to the harbor. The captain put me and some others to shore with the boat.
I knew not where to go: I had no acquaintance in the place, nor had any one invited me thither. For some time I was perplexed, till that word of the God of missionaries came powerfully to me, ‘ Into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give.’ From this I took courage, and proceeded to the town, which is about a mile distant from the harbor. After having walked some way into it, I took particular notice of a very poor cottage, into which I felt a strong inclination to enter. I did so, with a ‘Peace be unto this house,’ and found in it an old man and woman, who, having understood my business, bade me welcome to the best food they had, to a little chamber where I might sleep, and (what was still more acceptable) to their house to preach in. On hearing this, I saw plainly that the hand of the Lord was upon me for good; and I thanked Him, and took courage. “Being unwilling to lose any time, I told them I would preach that evening, if they could procure me a congregation. This strange news spread rapidly through the town; and long before the appointed hour a multitude of people flocked together, to whom I spoke of the kingdom of God. It was with difficulty I could persuade them to go away, after promising to preach to them again the next evening. “I then retired to my little apartment, where I had scarcely rested twenty minutes, when the good woman of the house came and entreated me to come down and preach again, as several of the gentry, among whom was one of the justices, were come to hear what I had to say. I stepped down immediately, and found the house once more quite fall. Deep attention sat on every face, while I showed the great need they stood in of a Saviour, and exhorted them to turn at once from their iniquities to the Living God. I continued in this good work about an hour, having received peculiar assistance from on high; and concluded with informing them what my design was in visiting the island, and the motives which had induced me. Having ended, the justice stepped forward, exchanged a few very civil words with me, and desired to see the book out of which I had been speaking. I gave it into his hand: he looked over it with attention, and asked me several questions, all which I answered apparently to his satisfaction. Having bestowed a few more hearty advices on him and the congregation, they all quietly departed; and the concern evident on many of their countenances fully proved that God had added His testimony to that of His feeble servant. The next evening I preached again to a large attentive company, to whom, I trust, the word of the Lord came not in vain. “But a singular thing took place the next day. While I sat at dinner, a constable, from a person in authority, came to solicit my immediate appearance at a place called the Bray, (where several respectable families live, and where the governor’s stores are kept,) to preach to a company of gentlemen and ladies, who were waiting, and at whose desire one of the large store-rooms was prepared for that purpose. I went without delay, and was brought by the lictor [an officer attending the consul or other magistrate] to his master’s apartment, who behaved with much civility, told me the reason of his sending for me, and begged I would preach without delay. I willingly consented, and in a quarter of an hour a large company was assembled. The gentry were not so partial to themselves as to exclude several sailors, smugglers, and laborers, from hearing with them. The Lord was with me, and enabled me to explain, from Prov. xii. 26, the character and conduct of the righteous, and to prove that such an one was beyond al l comparison more excellent than his ungodly neighbor, however great, rich, wise, or important he might be in the eyes of men. All heard with deep attention, save an English gentleman, so called, who walked out about the middle of the discourse. “The next Sabbath morning, being invited to preach in the English church, I gladly accepted it; and in the evening preached in the large warehouse at the Bray, to a much larger congregation, composed of the principal gentry of the island, together with justices, jurats, constables, &c. The Lord was again with me, and enabled me to declare His sacred counsel without fear. “The next day, being the time appointed for my return, many were unwilling that I should go; saying, ‘We have much need of such preaching, and such a preacher: we wish you would abide in the island, and go back no more.’ The tide serving at about eleven o’clock in the forenoon, I attended at the beach, in order to embark; but the utmost of the flood did not set the vessel afloat. I then returned to the town: the people were glad of my detention, and earnestly hoped that the vessel might set fast, at least till the next spring-tides. Many came together in the evening, to whom I again preached with uncommon liberty; and God appeared to be more eminently present than before. This induced me to believe that my detention was of the Lord, and that I had not before fully delivered His counsel. The vessel being got off the same night about twelve o clock, I recommended them to God, promised them a preacher shortly, and setting sail arrived in Guernsey in about twenty-one hours. Glory be to God for ever! Amen.”
But this uninterrupted tension of mind, and extraordinary labor of body, began to make serious inroads on his constitution, and in the spring of this year reduced Mr. Clarke to the brink of the grave. A complication of disorders seemed to have fastened on him. He had been declining for some weeks, till at length he sank in utter prostration. We have a memorandum of this illness from himself, written shortly after to a friend in England: — “Being attacked,” says he, “from so many quarters, there was little prospect of my lingering long, especially as I had been slowly wasting for some months. The people were greatly alarmed, and proclaimed a day of fasting and prayer, to snatch their poor preacher from the grave. Their sorrow caused me to feel: for myself I could neither weep nor repine; but I could hardly forbear the former on their account. The doctor on his second visit found that I was severely attacked by jaundice, and so took the cure of that first in hand; but withal observed, that I should not regain my health properly till I resumed my former habit of riding. Through much mercy, I am now greatly mended; my cough is almost entirely removed. I am yet confined to my room, and am very much enfeebled. Indeed, considered abstractedly from my spirit, I am little else than a quantity of bones and sinews, wrapt up in none of the best-colored skin When almost at the worst, I opened my Septuagint on the ninety-first Psalm, and on the last three verses, which are much more emphatical than the English, particularly the middle clause of the fifteenth verse, — ‘ I am with him in affliction.’ Blessed be my God and Saviour, I have found it to be so.
A voyage across the Channel, and a visit to some loved friends in England, contributed to restore his wasted strength. Two or three incidents on the passage back are worthy of preservation, as unfolding some personal characteristics. At Southampton, having a few hours to spare before embarking. He preached by special request to a miscellaneous congregation. who heard with great seriousness, and some of whom escorted him to the boat, “wishing him more blessedness than their tongues could express.” Among the passengers were a party of military officers, a lieutenant in the navy, and some gentlemen, so called.” With these he had several altercations, in consequence of his reproving them for blasphemous language. On the Sunday their profanity seemed purposely augmented, he remonstrated, but only to find that a transient cessation was followed by still more objectionable conduct. The preacher, however, was not to be daunted. Acting on the maxim, “Ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito,” he went among them again, and insisted on their putting a stop to such wickedness. They demanded by what authority he bore himself in this manner. He replied, “I am a servant of Jesus Christ, and the authority by which I denounce your wickedness I have from God.” It ought to be mentioned, in justice to the officers, as well as to the credit of their reprover, that they acceded to his wishes.
In the month of May he resumed his labors in the islands, and in the following September had the great gratification of receiving a visit from Mr. Wesley, who was accompanied by Dr. Coke and Mr. Bradford. In Jersey they lodged at Mr. Brackenbury’s, and in Guernsey at Mon Plaisir.
Obliged at length by in appointment at Bristol on a particular day to leave Guernsey whatever wind was blowing, Mr. Wesley availed himself of an English brig touching at the island on her way from France to Penzance.
Mr. Clarke had obtained liberty to return with the party for a few days’ visit to England. The wind blew fairly for their course to Penzance as they sailed out of Guernsey road, but soon slackened till it died away, and then, rising in the opposite quarter, freshened into a stiff contrary breeze; and much time was spent in frequent tacking before they could well clear the island. I will now recount what followed in Mr. Clarke’s own words: “Mr. Wesley was sitting reading in the cabin, and, hearing the noise and bustle occasioned by putting the vessel about to stand on her different tacks, he put his head above, and inquired what was the matter? Being told the wind was become contrary, and the ship was obliged thus to tack, he said, ‘ Then let us go to prayer.’ His own company who were upon deck walked down, and at his request Dr. Coke, Mr. Bradford, and Mr. Clarke went to prayer. After the latter had ended, Mr. Wesley broke out into fervent supplication, which seemed to be more the offspring of strong faith than of mere desire, in words remarkable as well as the spirit, feeling, and manner in which they were uttered. Some of them were to the following effect: — ‘Almighty and everlasting God, Thou hast Thy way everywhere, and all things serve the purposes of Thy will: Thou holdest the winds in Thy fists, and sittest upon the waterfloods, and reignest King for ever.
Command these winds and these waves that they obey THEE, and take us speedily and safely to the haven whither we would be.” The power of his petition was felt by all. He rose from his knees, made no kind of remark, but took up his book, and continued his reading. Mr. Clarke went upon deck, and what was his surprise when he found the vessel standing on her right course with a steady breeze, which slackened not, till, carrying them at the rate of nine or ten knots an hour, they anchored safely near St. Michael’s Mount in Penzance Bay! On the sudden and favorable change of the wind Mr. Wesley made no remark: so fully did he expect to be heard, that he took it for granted he was heard. Such answers to prayer he was in the habit of receiving, and therefore to him the occurrence was not strange.
Of such a circumstance how many of those who did not enter into his views would have descanted [sung] at large, had it happened in favor of themselves! Yet all the notice he takes of this singular circumstance is contained in the following entry in his Journal: — ‘ In the morning, Thursday, (September 6th, 1787,) we went on board with a fair moderate wind. But we had but just entered the ship when the wind died away. We cried to God for help; and it presently sprung up exactly, fair, and did not cease till it brought us into Penzance Bay.’
On landing, Mr. Clarke volunteered to become the avant-courier of the party, and, riding on, preached at Redruth, St. Austel, and Plymouth; in each place announcing for Mr. Wesley on the following evening, till at Bath Mr. Wesley proceeded to Bristol, and Mr. Clarke to Trowbridge.
This latter place had long had an attraction for him, which had now become too strong to be surmounted. In fact, ever since his residence in that Circuit, he had cherished a deep attachment to a lady who was the object of his first and everlasting love. She was the eldest of several sisters who resided at Trowbridge with their mother, the widow of Mr. John Cooke, formally a substantial clothier of that town. These ladies had been frequently hearers of Mr. Wesley, Mr. Brackenbury, and others of the Methodist preachers; and the two younger sisters had been so moved by the word as to give themselves to the Lord, and to His people according to His will. Mrs. Cooke also found much pleasure in extending to Mr. Wesley, and some of the other ministers, the hospitalities of her house on their occasional visits. Miss Cooke, who, with much feminine delicacy, was distinguished, nevertheless, by much coolness of thought and firmness of character, did not at first accede to these Methodistic tendencies; but, struck with the beautiful effects of the new faith in the life of her sisters, she was induced to accompany them to the humble preaching-room, and was herself gradually brought under the converting power of the Gospel.
Made a partaker of this great benefit, she consecrated heart and life to her Saviour’s cause, and became a helper of the faith of others,in inviting them to the house of prayer, and, as a leader of a class, in watching over the incipient piety of some who had obeyed the heavenly call they heard there. It was in those sweet days that Adam Clarke and Mary Cooke learned to love each other with a pure friendship, which, hallowed by all the sanctities of religion, endured with their years, and proved itself at last more strong than death.
At this period, however, there were obstacles to their union too formidable to be overcome. Mrs. Cooke, while she entertained a high esteem for Mr. Clarke as a young man of learning, piety, and promise in the Christian ministry, was yet too well aware of the rough experiences of a Methodist preacher’s life not to feel an almost invincible reluctance to a marriage which would, to all human appearance, identify her beloved daughter’s life with penury and discomfort. Nor did Mr. Wesley himself, who had been led to entertain a personal affection for the young people, (who, on their part. looked up to him with a true filial reverence as their father in Christ,) regard the question of their union without serious misgiving. At first, coinciding with the wishes of Mrs. Cooke, he gave the thing his entire disapproval, and threatened Mr. Clarke with his heaviest displeasure, “if he married Miss Cooke without her mother’s consent.” Subsequently, his opinion was somewhat modified; and, in reply to a letter written by Adam Clarke in urging a favorable consideration of the marriage, he tells him, — “While your health is so indifferent, you have no business to marry: therefore my consent, at present, would do you no good. Wait patiently, at least till your health be restored; then strange revolutions may happen, and things unexpected take place to make your way more easy.
In October, after a most stormy passage, we find him again at work in the islands. In the Stations of the July Conference, Robert Carr Brackenbury and Adam Clarke stand for Jersey, and two other preachers for Guernsey, — William Stephens for the English congregations. and John De Queteville for the French work. In consequence of this arrangement, Mr. Clarke spent the greater portion of his time in Jersey, alternating with the other islands.
Mr. Brackenbury continued his zealous labors, and supplemented them with pecuniary help toward the support of the rising cause; an instance of which I find in a letter of Mr. Clarke, addressed to him in the month of November in this year, in which he acknowledges the receipt of 80, seventy of which were for public purposes, and the remaining ten for himself. This eminent Christian gentleman and eloquent preacher of the word of God thus labored in all ways to promote the interests of a cause to which he had consecrated his existence; and he has left for himself an imperishable name in the annals of early Methodism. He died in 1818, beloved and regretted by the thousands to whom in word and deed he had been as an angel of God. The sentiment of the Methodist Connection at large on the bereavement occasioned by his decease is well expressed in the Magazine of that year: — “As this revered and lamented friend of religion and virtue, and eminent servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, had adorned and preached the Gospel among us, with great approbation and success, for upwards of forty years, we exceedingly regret not being allowed to give a sketch of his exemplary life and great usefulness; which we are prevented from doing by his own particular request, ‘that nothing should be said or written concerning him.’ We much question. However, whether such a request, dictated, doubtless, by his extreme and, we think, mistaken modesty, ought to be so strictly observed as to deprive the church and the world for ever hereafter of the edification, encouragement, and comfort which even an imperfect narrative of his life, and delineation of his character, would certainly have afforded them; and much more such a biographical account of him as we know his bereaved and mourning partner would be well able to lay before the public.”
In the Rev. John De Queteville, Mr. Clarke had a zealous and effective colleague. He was a native of Jersey, and one of the first-fruits of the Methodist ministry in that island. A short time after he had begun to preach the Gospel to the French-speaking population, he was ordained by Dr. Coke, whom he accompanied to Paris for the purpose of founding, if possible, an evangelical mission in that capital. The project at that time failed. The atheistic frenzy of the Revolution had not sufficiently subsided in the public mind to induce the Parisians so much as to listen to the word of God. Dr. Coke purchased one of the confiscated churches, and opened it for public preaching. They found none willing to hear, but many to revile the truth which they had rejected; and, in walking the streets, the preachers were threatened with the exaltation of the lamp-post. A rabble surrounded them, not once nor twice, with the old terror-time cry of A la Lanterne!
Dr. Coke saw that the enterprise was as yet a hopeless one; and , by the kind offices of a friend, who negotiated for him with the public minister, he was released from his bargain for the church, and returned to England. Mr. De Queteville resumed his labors in the islands, and spent a long and honorable life in building up the cause of God among them. A man naturally of impetuous temper, he became, by the sanctifying grace of God, a pattern of holiness and active benevolence. I knew him in the evening of his days, at his quiet little parsonage at St. Jacques’, waiting, with the venerable and amiable partner of his life, to be called into the presence of the Saviour, “All praise, all meekness, and all love.”
Converted to God, he became a Methodist minister, and labored many years in connection with the Conference, honored and admired, wherever he was known, as a man of noble exterior, a Christian gentleman, and an eloquent and powerful expositor of the Gospel. He was subsequently induced to enter the ministry of the Episcopal Church. Mr. Hawtrey held the incumbency of St. James’s church, in Guernsey for some years; but removed, towards the close of his life, to a parish near Windsor. At his decease, the officers of the garrison at Windsor testified their veneration for his memory, by solemnizing his funeral with military honors. Although separated from his former brethren in the mere matter of church ceremonies, Mr. Hawtrey, as I knew from personal intercourse with him in Guernsey, never lost his love for the cause of Methodism. His affections were ever true to it, and his devout wishes attended its progress. As already stated, he buried good old Jean De Queteville; and I shall never forget how, when standing by his side at the aged laborer’s grave, beneath the serene and cloudless heaven, and surrounded by the grand panorama of island-landscapes and unruffled seas, with uplifted eyes. and a face illuminated with faith and hope. He gave us to hear again “a voice from heaven, saying, Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Yea, saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them.”
Reverting to Mr. Clarke’s days in the islands, we find that, as health returned, he resumed all his former pursuits, preaching “before day and after nightfall,” and diligently improving the intervening hours by close study, or personal intercourse with his flock. Among these were some who had long known the Lord, and whose steadfast piety made a sacred impression on his own mind. With these “deeply experienced Christians,” as he describes them in a letter to Miss Cooke, he felt it a privilege to be permitted to have any communion. Compared with them, he speaks of himself as being “a very little child.” The most remarkable were two females, one elderly, the other young. “The former,” says he, “seems to possess all the solemnity and majesty of Christianity: she has gone, and is going, through acute bodily sufferings; but these add to her apparent dignity: her eyes, every feature of her face, together with all her words, are uncommonly expressive of ETERNITY. To her I put myself frequently to school during my short abode in the island, and could not avoid learning much, unless I had been invincibly ignorant or diabolically proud. The latter seems possessed of all that cheerful happiness and pure love which so abundantly characterize the Gospel of Christ. Peace, meekness, and joy, judiciously immingled by the sagacious economy of the Holy Spirit, constitute a glorious something, affectingly evident in all her deportment, which I find myself quite at a loss to describe. Two such I know not that I have before found: they are indeed the rare and excellent of the earth; the one ‘not grave with sternness,’ nor the other ‘ with lightness free.’ “ Among the converts whom the Lord gave him as the seals of his ministry was a soldier, whose case merits a record. Writing at the time he was confined by illness, Mr. Clarke says: “Yesterday a soldier belonging to the Train, whom the Lord gave, together with his wife, some time ago to my feeble labors, came to see me. I have seldom seen more affection, commixed with as much of childlike simplicity as you can conceive, evidenced before.
He looked in my face pitifully, and saying, ‘I heard you were sick,’ sat down in a chair, and melted into tears. Yes; and yet he is a soldier. It is amazing, this man was a very great slave to drunkenness. One morning last summer, having got drunk before five o’clock, (!) he some way or other strolled out to Les Terres, and heard me preach. and was deeply affected. ‘ What, and he drunk?’ Yes. After preaching he took me by the hand, and with the tears streaming down his cheeks, betwixt drunkenness’ and distress, he was only capable of saying a very few words: ‘O sir, I know you are a man possessed by the Spirit of God.’ He went home, and, after three days’ agonies, God in tender mercy set his soul at liberty. His wife also set out for the same heaven in good earnest, and shortly found peace.
Both joined the Society, and have walked ever since most steadfastly in faith and good works.”
The congregations at St. Peter’s were not without their fluctuations. “It is strange to see how times change. Last winter I had in general a congregation made up of several of the most reputable persons in the island: — to keep me among them, they offered to provide handsomely for me, which kind offer I again and again rejected. However, they continued to hear, believing I spoke the words of truth and soberness, and, as they phrased it, ‘ in the best manner they had ever heard.’ ‘Pity it was that I could not be permitted to preach in the church at least every Sunday.’ However, this, like all things under the sun, must have an end. By and by, one of these gentry stayed away, another attended less frequently, then he dropt off; such and such did not come, and therefore I lost some more; and so on, till hardly a soul of them came either on Sabbaths or other days. I was then as a person who had been in honor and continued not; and my ministry was at last confined to the poor, the best friends of my God. These cleaved closely to me, and praised God that the candlestick was yet in its place.
With these I endeavored to keep on my way, and the dropping in of one now and then to the Society held up my hands. Persecutions arose, and evil reports were liberally spread abroad: this made it rather dangerous for any of my quondam [former] friends to take any notice of me. Then I was obliged fully to walk alone; but through the strength of God I was enabled to weather every trying circumstance. Finally, as things cannot be long at a stay under the sun, the time for a revolution must again take place; and the honor that I sought not, had, and lost, would, as unsought for, again return.
One — another — and another have ventured back, heard, were pleased and profited once more, brought others along with them, till at last I have all back again, with an accession of several new ones; and now I am an honorable man, and surely a great many good things would not be too good for me now, would I accept them. Thus you see, my dear Mary, there is but as one day between a poor man and a rich. It is well, it is ineffably well, to have a happiness that is not affected by the change to which external things are incident. What a blessing to be able to sit calm on the wheel of fortune, and to prosper in the midst of adversity!”
Nor did the mercy of God withhold from him this inwardly satisfying beatitude. “Blessed be the Lord, it has been a time of much good both to my body and mind. Since I wrote last, the Lord has opened His heaven most benignly in my soul; and, with that, has given me to discover Him, as one uniform, uninterrupted, eternal Goodwill towards all His creatures.
When I look into myself, I am astonished that He condescends to pay me the smallest visit; but when I contemplate Him in the above attribute, my astonishment ceases, though I cannot forget myself Were I like Mohammed’s feigned angel, having ‘seventy thousand heads, each actuated by as many tongues, and each uttering seventy thousand voices,’ I should think their eternal utterance of His praise an almost no tribute to a God so immeasurably good. And yet where am I going? I have but one tongue, and that speaks very inexpressively. The choicest blessings of heaven are given to me; and how seldom, comparatively, is it used in showing forth His excellency, or acknowledging how deeply His debtor I am! O my God, what reason have I to be ashamed and confounded! But Thou wilt have mercy!”
The spring of the year 1788 became a memorable epoch in his life. The opposition to his marriage with Miss Cooke had so far given way at Trowbridge, partly by the kind offices of Mr. Wesley, and partly by the strengthening influence of Mr. Clarke’s character on the minds of the opponents of that measure, that his way was considered to be now sufficiently plain to admit of the fulfillment of the vows the two parties had so long held sacred. Accordingly, Mr. Clarke and Miss Cooke were married in Trowbridge church, on the seventeenth of April. Upon this event I cannot do better than give the doctor’s own reflection, written many years after: — “Few connections of this kind were ever more opposed; and few, if any, were ever more happy. The steadiness of the parties during this opposition endeared them to each other: they believed that God had joined them together, and no storm or difficulty in life was able to put them asunder Mrs. Cooke, many years before her death, saw that this marriage was one of the most happy in her family, in which there were some of the most respectable connections; one daughter having married that most excellent man, Joseph Butterworth, Esq., M. P., a pattern of real Christianity, a true friend of the church of God, and a pillar of the state; and another having married the Rev. Mr. Thomas, rector of Begelly, in South Wales, an amiable and truly pious man.”
Eleven days after their wedding, Mr. and Mrs. Clarke embarked at Southampton for the islands. The steam-packet had not then appeared on our seas, and a voyage which can now be made in as many hours took them on this occasion not fewer than eight days to accomplish. The reception which awaited Mrs. Clarke in Guernsey was all that herself or her husband could desire. The worthy family at Mon Plaisir had sent over a trusty domestic to attend on Mrs. Clarke, and on their arrival welcomed them with true family hospitality. From Madame De Saumarez, (the mother of Sir James De Saumarez, who commanded the “Ocean” at Trafalgar,) Miss Lempriere, (whose brother wrote the once much-used “Classical Dictionary,”) and other ladies of Guernsey, she also received most kind attentions. As to Mr. Clarke, his marriage not only conduced to his own personal comfort, but greatly increased his influence among the people. Henceforward with an undivided mind he toiled for their edification. His labors were still distributed between Jersey and Guernsey, his headquarters being in the former island. At Les Terres he had continued to preach in English twice on Sundays, on the Wednesday evening, and Friday morning. The place was so crowded as to render the erection of a large chapel, if possible, highly expedient; and already measures were taken for such a purpose, with a decision and liberality which gave every promise of success.
These operations were sustained, during the following year, by a new appointment from the Conference of 1788; in the “Minutes” of which the stations for the islands are, — Jersey, Messrs. Brackenbury and Clarke; and Guernsey, Messrs. Bredin and De Queteville. Mr. Clarke appears to have worked alternately in the islands, a quarter in each. The winter of this year was unusually severe, and one night in the month of January he had a narrow escape from perishing by the cold. In going to preach at St. Aubin, the snow lying in great depth inland, he was obliged to follow the sea-mark along the bay. Accompanied by a young man, the same who had stood by him at the time when the house was beset, (as before recounted,) they arrived at the town wet through, and benumbed with the wind and sleet.
Mr. Clarke preached, though exhausted, and then set out with his companion to retrace their way, between four and five miles, to St. Helier’s. Meanwhile a heavy snow had set in, and the night grew worse and worse. He set out, having taken no kind of refreshment, and began to plod his way, with faint and unsteady steps. “At last a drowsiness, often the effect of intense cold when the principle of heat is almost entirely abstracted, fell upon him. ‘Frank,’ said he to the young man, ‘I can go no farther till I get a little sleep: let me lie down a few minutes on one of these snow-drifts, and then I shall get strength to go on.’ Frank expostulated, ‘O sir, you must not: were you to lie down but one minute, you would never rise more. Do not fear: hold by me; I will drag you on, and we shall soon get to St. Helier’s.’ He answered, ‘ Frank, I cannot proceed: I am only sleepy, and even two minutes will refresh me;’ and he attempted to throw himself upon a snow-drift, which appeared to him with higher charms than the finest bed of down. Francis was then obliged to interpose the authority of his strength. — pulled him up, and continued dragging and encouraging him, till, with great labor and difficulty, he brought him to St. Helier’s.” Th ere can be no doubt that, but for the providential company of Frank Bisson, he would have that night perished on the snow; and he ever after entertained a lively sense of obligation to him, of which he had the opportunity of giving a practical evidence more than once.
To the erection of the chapel in Guernsey many difficulties had risen, and all the more formidable from the determined opposition of the bailiff, the chief magistrate of the island. Several letters on these matters passed between our missionary and Mr. Wesley, whose counsels, inculcative of gentleness in words and conduct, perseverance, and fervent prayer, were followed by Mr. Clarke and his friends with entire success. The disinclination of the bailiff suddenly gave way. Mr. Wesley himself was surprised at the genial change of mind in this gentleman; and he says, “I really think the temper and behaviour of the bailiff are little less than miraculous.” In fact, he sold them a piece of ground from his own property, promised to subscribe fifty pounds himself, before the building was begun added ten pounds more, and engaged a pew for himself and family. Among the other subscribers we find the name of Mr. Walker for a hundred pounds, and that of Mr. De Jersey for a hundred. The latter tried friend lent them al so three hundred, with — “Pay it as you can; or, if I never receive a farthing of it, I shall be well contented.” He was about to build a house for his daughter and son-in-law, Mr. De Queteville; but declared that not a stone of it should be laid till the chapel was finished.
Some difficulty was encountered about the legal settlement of the chapel according to what is called “the Conference plan;” the jurisdiction of the English Court of Chancery, in which the Wesleyan chapels are enrolled, not extending to the Norman Isles. But even this obstacle was overcome, and Mr. Clarke had the satisfaction of being able to write: “We have a large chapel built here. It is astonishing to think how this handful of people have done it; but God was with us. What is nearly as wonderful is, that, notwithstanding the English laws are not admitted here, yet I have got it settled on the Conference plan by a public Act of the Royal Court. I am about, therefore, to leave this people on a good footing, prospering in the ways of God, and well established in spiritual and temporal matters.”
In Jersey, too, a similar movement took place for the erection of a chapel at St. Helier’s; and, along with these efforts to promote the material consolidation of the good cause, the preachers had the unspeakable joy of witnessing the manifestation of the Divine power in the upbuilding and beautifying of the spiritual temple of the church. I will conclude these annals of Mr. Clarke’s missionary life, by transcribing a manuscript letter, which gives some remarkable details on this subject. It is addressed to Mr. Wesley, and was probably the last he wrote to him from the islands. The date is “Jersey, July 15th, 1789.” “My Reverend Father In Christ, “In my last I gave you a short account of the prosperity of the work of God among us, and the prospect we had of an increase.
Since that time the Lord has indeed wrought wonderfully. You perhaps remember the account I gave you of the select prayermeeting I had just then established for those only who had either attained, or were groaning after, full redemption. I thought that, as we were all with one accord in the same place, we had reason to expect a glorious descent of the purifying flame. It was even so.
Soon five or six were able to testify that God had cleansed their souls from all sin. This coming abroad, for it could not be long hid, (the change being so palpable in those who professed it,) several others were stirred up to seek the same blessing, and many were literally provoked to jealousy, among whom one of the principal was Mr. De Queteville. He questioned me at large concerning our little meeting, and the good done. I satisfied him in every particular; and, being much affected, he said, ‘‘ ‘ T is a lamentable thing that those who began to seek God since I did should have left me so far behind. Through the grace of Christ, I will begin to seek the same blessing more earnestly, and never rest till I overtake and outstrip them, if possible.’ For two or three days he wrestled with God almost incessantly. On the 30th of June he came into my room with great apparent depression of spirit, with the earnest inquiry, ‘ How shall I receive the blessing, and what are its evidences?’ I gave him all the directions I could, exhorted him to look for it in the present moment, and assured him of his nearness to the kingdom of God. He returned to his room, and after a few minutes, spent in wrestling faith, his soul was fully and gloriously delivered. He set off for the country, and like a flame of fire went over all the Societies in the island, carrying the glorious news wherever he went. God accompanied him by the mightily demonstrative power of His Spirit, and numbers were stirred up to seek, and several soon entered into, the promised rest. I now appointed a lovefeast on the 5th inst. Such a heaven opened on earth my soul never felt before. Several were filled with pure love; and some then and since have, together with a clean heart, found the removal of inveterate bodily disorders under which they had labored for a long time. This is an absolute fact, of which I have had every proof which rationality can demand. One thing was remarkable, there was no false fire; no, not a spark that I would not wish to have lighted up in my own soul to all eternity; and, though God wrought both in bodies and souls, yet everything was under the regulation of His own Spirit, and fully proclaimed His operation alone. To speak within compass, there are not less than fifty or sixty souls who, in the space of less than a fortnight, have entered into the good land, and many of them established, strengthened. and settled in it; and still the blessed work goes daily on. “This speedy work has given a severe blow to the squalid doctrine of sanctification through suffering, which was before received by many, to the great prejudice of their souls. Several of your particular acquaintances, my dear sir, have had a large ‘share in this blessing; and, among others, Mrs. Guilliaume, Madame De Saumarez, and Miss Lempriere. The former is one of the greatest monuments of God’s power to sanctify that I have seen. The latter are blessedly brought out of [their former] dreary state. Several, who had long been adepts in making Procrustes’ bed, are now redeemed from every particle of sour godliness.”
The Divine blessing on the labors of Brackenbury, Clarke, and their colleagues in the islands, was seen in the numerical and moral strength which the cause had thus already attained. Mr. Clarke left 248 members in Jersey, and 105 in Guernsey. At the present time, chapels of the French and English Methodists are found in all parts of the islands. There are more than three thousand members in Society; who, beside sustaining thirteen ministers, English and French, in their own service, contribute some seven hundred pounds per annum to the cause of foreign missions.