BOOK 3, CH. 5,
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In these incessant engagements the year had passed away, and Mr. Clarke attended the annual assembly of the preachers at Leeds, A.D. 1806. On this memorable occasion, he was invested with the highest honor his brethren in the ministry could confer upon him, in being elected President of the Conference. It will be most pleasant to read such notices of those days as we find in his own letters to Mrs. Clarke.
One from Sheffield, on the way, acquaints us that his fellow travelers were twenty-two in number. “I was one of three on the box, with the coachman; Messrs. Bradford, Cole, and Goodwin were behind me; Mr. and Mrs.
Benson, inside From every quarter I find it is the unanimous design of the preachers to put me in the chair. Perhaps you will he surprised when I tell you that I am absolutely determined not to go into it. This purpose I believe none can shake. I have neither a state of mind nor nerves for such a work, and I would not take a handful of guineas to be obliged to preach the president’s sermon. — Dr. Coke is here.” “Leeds, July 25th. — We have got almost through our stationing work, and have much order and good-will among us When at Sheffield, I read over the Plan for the education of young preachers, before Mr. Holy and some other of the principal friends, who all highly approved of it. This day I got Mr. Moore to read it, from whom I expected considerable opposition; but I was disappointed, by receiving from him the following note on the back of the cover: ‘A very admirable letter. It answers almost all my objections, or rather my fears. If we were such ministers as we should be, the pious who are well informed, and even learned, would be glad to join themselves to us.’ He means that many pious, well-informed, and even learned men among our Societies, and who are local preachers, would be glad to become traveling preachers: but he contends that the preachers have no proper scriptural authority, [all this having been] already given up; so that the most vulgar and illiterate in a Leaders’ or Quarterly Meeting ca n, by the number of heads, or show of hands, carry any point of discipline or doctrine against the preachers. This is certainly true, and is a sore and increasing evil.” “July 27th. — This morning, according to appointment, I rode out to Armley, and preached at ten o’clock. The good people would have sent me back on horseback, but I excused myself, and walked home in company with Messrs. Bunting, Collier, and Button.
Brother Garrett we left behind, to follow the blow. I have to preach this evening again at the new chapel. This will be sore work. Mr. Bradburn preached this morning on Old Methodism, and acquitted himself, I hear, very well. How I shall get on, God knows; but I am pledged, and cannot recede. “The people are coming in, I am informed, from twenty miles’ distance and upwards. The following will show you, in some measure, their spirit and temper. A Quaker, airing himself in the street by his own house about six in the morning, saw a plain looking countryman covered with dust, carrying a very large great coat, and sweating at every pore. He accosted him: ‘Friend, whither art thou come? Thou appearest much fatigued.’ ‘ I am cooming to the Methodist Conference,’ says Bluntspurs: ‘ I am coom forty mile, and ha’ walked all t’ night.’ The Quaker, struck with his appearance and honest bluntness, said, ‘Friend, I like thy spirit: thee seemest sincere and zealous in this way: turn in hither, and refresh thyself; thou shalt be welcome to what the place can afford.’ Poor Gruff turned in, and found a hearty welcome. How valuable is this simplicity of spirit! and how much more happiness do these people enjoy, who are taking God at His word, than those who are disputing with their Maker Himself every particle o f His revelation! Scaliger, who understood thirteen languages, seeing the comparative happiness of the simple and ignorant, cried out once, ‘O that I had never known my alphabet!’ But it is probable that from these as many sources of comfort are sealed up, as there are causes of distress to those whose minds are cultivated. I shall leave this till after preaching “I am now returned from preaching to some thousands; thousands within, and hundreds without. To relieve the excessive press, a preacher was obliged to stand up without, while I wrought an hour and fifteen minutes within. At the last prayer we had an uncommon shaking, and some acts of solemn self-dedication took place, never, never, I hope, to be forgotten.” “July 25th. — This morning our Conference began, and the whole time before breakfast was employed in filling up the Deed, &c.
After breakfast, as I had heard from all quarters that they designed to put me in the chair, I addressed the Conference, and, having told them what I had understood, proceeded to give reasons why I could not go into the chair, and begged that no brother would lose a vote for me, as my mind was fully made up on the business. This produced a conversation I little expected. All the old preachers insisted on it that I was at present the proper person, and entreated me not to refuse. I insisted upon it that I would not, and solemnly charged every one who intended to vote for me to give his suffrage to some other. I then wrote [mine] for Mr. Barber, and showed my paper to those about me, who all followed my example. I trembled till this business was concluded: and what was the result? I was chosen by a majority of one half beyond the highest! I was called to the chair in the name of the Conference, and refused, begging that the next in number of votes might take it. We were thrown into a temporary confusion, during which Mr. T. Taylor and J. Bradford lifted me up by mere force out of my seat, and set me upon the table! I was confounded and distressed beyond measure, and, against all my resolutions, was obliged to take the seat. After recovering from my embarrassment, I began business, and have conducted it hitherto with order, and, I believe, much to the satisfaction of the brethren. Dr. Coke was chosen secretary, and between him and Mr. Benson there was a close run. We are now at the characters, and have got through seventy-nine Circuits. There are two or three knotty cases in reference to charges of false doctrine, which will soon come before us I do not see any sentence in _____’s book which is capable of bearing an evil construction. It is a poor milksop production, and the time and expense are thrown away upon it. — is too high; he has learned to bear no cross for Christ’s sake: perhaps he may now be schooled a little in this necessary science Pray, pray hard, for me. I am far from being comfortable in my mind. The thought of having to preach next Lord’s day before the Conference, and to admit those who have traveled four years, quite absorbs my spirits.” “July 29th. — Having a few moments, (sitting on the Conference board, the preachers beginning to assemble,) I devote them to you.
We have gone on well. When we came to the Wakefield Circuit, Mr. Marsden produced a letter from Mr. Pawson, containing his dying advice to the Conference. This was read, and a motion succeeded that it should be printed I have just now got the number of the preachers present: they amount to two hundred and three. I have long walks, and sleep, or rather watch, in a front room in the noisiest street in Leeds, in which there is scarcely a silent hour in the night. I have not had one night’s rest.” “July 30th. — We have now got through all the characters, except _____’s for Pelagianism [from the monk Pelagius (4th-5th c.) or his theory denying the doctrine of original sin.], and _____’s for denying the direct witness of the Spirit. Mr. _____ has had the questions proposed to him which were sent to Mr. _____, and has answered all to the perfect satisfaction of the Conference. Mr. _____, who was under the same accusation, has had the same questions put to him, and has not answered to their satisfaction The brethren are so incensed against evasive answers on this subject, that every man has Argus [a mythical person with a hundred eyes] eyes. The question which I sent to Mr. _____ was my own; but today it has been adopted without variation, to be used as the test on which the Pelagian heretics should be tried.
There is the utmost need to take heed to our doctrines I write this while the rest of the brethren are at their tea. I am nearly worn out with excessive exertions.” “Aug. 3rd — This morning I went to the new chapel, where the doctor” (Coke) “was to preach. Long before the time it was more than full. — Many hundreds were standing in the street when I got up to it. However, I squeezed in; and, as it was more than half an hour before the time, and the doctor was not come, I got a Prayer Book, went into the desk, and began to read prayers. This quieted the people. As the press was great at the door and in the street, four preachers stood up in different parts, and began to preach.
Thus, instead of one, we had five congregations. When we had finished the sacrament [of the Lord’s Supper, which was administered] to perhaps eight hundred people, we could scarcely get out, for the afternoon congregation was waiting to get in. I came home, and, having got a morsel of dinner, am come to scribe you a few lines, and to look for a text for this evening. A sore work lieth before me, and how I am to get through it I know not. I will leave this unconcluded till I return I have just returned. An amazing congregation; thousands, without and within. There was reason to fear some lives would he lost, the press was so great. I got on middlingly. Nearly all the preachers were present. I am now weary enough, and my cold still had. — There is no morning that I am not in the chapel (though nearly a mile from my lodging) before five o’clock. What is the use of lying in bed? I cannot sleep; my eyes are like those of a ferret. I know not when I shall he able to sleep again It is said that there are upwards of twenty thousand strangers come into town. It is like a county town in the time of election. The inns and private houses are overflowed, and the streets everywhere full.” “Aug. 6th — This has been a day of very great fatigue. I have been a good part of the afternoon examining the young men. I had each doctrine to define and explain. Though it almost totally exhausted me, I got through with precision I have in about half an hour to go and admit them all, in the presence of an immense congregation, crowds of which were rushing into the chapel before I left the Conference board. — We are still in great harmony. I have nearly as much authority as I could wish; and, when I choose to exert it, all I can desire. The brethren behave exceedingly well. I let them feel only that power with which they have invested me, and they properly respect it “Finding the chapel already full, a half an hour before the time, I immediately began.” He then describes the ordination service, as practiced at that time among the Methodists, and adds: “I then addressed them in a short speech, and pronounced the formal words of reception, in the name of God, whose mercy and love they were to proclaim; of Jesus Christ, whose atonement they were to witness; of the Holy Ghost, by whose influence they had been thus far fitted for the ministry, and by whose unction they were to alarm, convince, convert, and in holiness build up the souls of men: also, in the name of the Methodist Conference, by whose authority I acted; and in the name of the many thousands which constitute the church connected with them. Mr. Moore then prayed, and I pronounced the dismissal.” “Aug. 7th. — [As to the station for next year] I am returned for London; and may now give up, as at the highest pitch of honor Methodism can bestow upon me: president of the Conference, superintendent of London, and chairman of the London District, all at the same time The Lord knows I never sought it. Well, I would rather have one smile from my Maker than all this honor, and all the world could confer besides. “I own I should feel home very waste if you were not there to receive me when I come; and yet I wish you by all means to go and see your mother. If I possibly can, after resting a few days at home, I shall rejoice to accompany you and Mr. Butterworth to Trowbridge.”
The duties of the president, including extensive journeys in Scotland and Ireland, incessant correspondence, and a formidable amount of Connectional business, render it necessary that an additional preacher be stationed with him, as a helper in the ordinary labors of the Circuit.
Among the young men who appeared at the Leeds Conference for ordination was the Rev. David M’Nicoll, who preached at one of the services, and whose discourse gave the president such an idea of his capacity and character, as to determine his choice of an assistant for the coming year. “I have heard Mr. M’Nicoll,” says he, in a letter to Mrs.
Clarke, “this morning at five. He is a wonderful fellow. Although a Scotchman, he has excellent language, and such a flow of words as you have seldom heard. He will infallibly bear the bell in London. Your husband can, I believe, dig much deeper; but he certainly cannot fly so high.” And again, speaking of the men received into full connection: — “David M’Nicoll, who is coming to London, was o ne of them; and in a very neat, lively, and elegant manner, he testified of the hope that was in him.” Nor was the president disappointed in this high estimate. Mr. M’Nicoll gave early indications of a genius which, cultivated in after-years by a most extensive acquaintance with the best literature in the English language, made him one of the first preachers of the day. The blandness of his natural disposition, his vivid yet well-governed imagination, his fascinating musical talent, his wealth of information, and the artless simplicity of his manners, rendered him one of the most amiable companions; while the moral virtues of his heart and life, and the power which attended his pulpit-ministrations, commanded homage as well as affection. After the exertions of the Conference, Mr. Clarke availed himself of a few days’ relaxation, making one of a family-party in a tour into Wiltshire. In a series of well-written letters to his son Theodoret, he describes the most remarkable scenes and objects which attracted their attention. Mr. Butterworth, who was chief mover in the affair, had provided two carriages; and they set out for Devizes, from thence over Salisbury Plain, where the sight of shepherds with their flocks and dogs gave him huge delight. They visited Stonehenge; and then Wilton House, the seat of the earl of Pembroke, with its rare collections of coins and antique sculptures, and, without, its romantic vistas, temples, groves, and gardens; a spot which altogether won, as he says, his warm attachment. “We returned,” he writes, “to our inn, and partook of a most comfortable dinner. We were all as hungry as Greenland bears. I have seldom needed a meal so much, and have not been often more thankful to God for one.” On the road to Wilton, they passed by the church where, as he says, “that blessed man of God, Mr. Herbert, (the poet,) formerly preached. It is entirely surrounded with very fine tall yew-trees, and the mere sight of the place impressed my mind with solemnity and reverence.”
The next place was Wardour Castle, the seat of the earl of Arundel. The paintings here riveted his attention; one of them especially, “The Saviour after Death,” by Spagnoletto. “He” (the Saviour) “is represented as just taken down from the cross; the countenance indescribably expressive of death, and yet highly dignified; fully verifying the words, ‘No man taketh My life from Me:’ ‘ I give up My life for the sheep:’ for, though He groaned and gave up the ghost, after He had cried with a loud voice, yet it could not be said of Him, — Vitaque cum gemitu fugit indignata sub umbras.
No; you could see that He was ‘free among the dead:’ free — at liberty to resume His life whenever He pleased, as He had given it up according to His own good pleasure “The family-chapel is one of the most solemn little buildings I ever saw. It is laid out in the Romish taste; two lamps perpetually burning before the altar, on which is placed a costly crucifix.
Through a window of stained glass a sufficient measure of light makes every object visible enough, in conjunction with the lamps; indeed, the mixture of these two lights produces a sort of illumination which partakes at once of the cheerfulness of day and the solemnity of night He who can enter a place dedicated to the worship of God as he does into his own habitation or that of his horses, has (in my opinion) no proper notion of religious worship, and is never likely to derive much edification from his attendance on the ordinances of God Another thing impressed us, — the number of religious books which we saw in every apartment; such as the History of the People of God, the Imitation of Christ, &c.; and all these books seemed as if they were in frequent use.”
In the progress of their tour they came to the village of Amesbury. “It is situated among the hills in a chalky soil, and is neat, dry, and clean: there is one inn, the George, which, much to our satisfaction, afforded us a tolerable supper and beds. Almost our first inquiry was, ‘Are there any religious people here?’ “ The waiter, who was “an intelligent man,” directed them to some whom he considered such, and to one, as the leader of the rest, a baker, named Edwards. “Determined to find this ecclesiastical baker, we sallied out. It was a fine moonlight evening. I rapped at his door, and asked to see Mr. Edwards. He came, and invited us in. We entered, and told him we were strangers in the country, and that, on inquiring whether there were any religious people in the village, we had been directed to him.
As soon as we sat down, I asked him to what class of religious people he belonged. He replied, ‘ To Mr. Wesley’s people.’ “ After some conversation, “we were so pleased with the worthy couple, that we invited them to sup with us at our inn, where we spent a comfortable hour together.” The Sabbath was spent by the tourists in Bradford, where Mr. Clarke preached in the morning to a large and deeply attentive congregation. Some of the old people had heard him years before, when he came to their Circuit in his novitiate.
Refreshed and strengthened in mind and body by this pleasant excursion, Mr. Clarke resumed his duties in London with renewed vigor. “In labors” he was “more abundant,” and his influence became greater every day. We read that “to him that hath shall be given;” and the subject of our memoir, in being faithful to the talents confided to him, became more and more enriched with those heavenly gifts which rendered him in the pulpit an apostle indeed; in the study an instructor not of the ignorant only, but of the learned too; and in life “an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” Not only in his own communion was he regarded with affectionate reverence and homage, but in the church at large; and among the highest literary circles his character had begun to be known and admired. Some of the most distinguished men of the day, as Roscoe, Porson, Lord Teignmouth, Charles Butler, and Morrison of China, found pleasure and profit in his conversation and correspondence. A sermon on some public occasion would gather round his pulpit one of the most choice congregations in London; and a new work from his pen was welcomed with thankful respect by the good and by the great. Of this universal sentiment of esteem the senate of the university of Aberdeen only gave a suitable expression when they conferred upon him, in January, 1807, the diploma of Master of Arts; and, thirteen months afterwards, created him Doctor of Civil and Canon Law. These honors had been already merited; but the university knew that the man who was now invested with them gave pledges of yet greater things which would more abundantly vindicate their judgment of him, and contribute to the honor of the learned body who had enrolled him among their associates.
One of the verifications of these prognostics made its appearance in the following September, in the “Concise View of Sacred Literature,” — a work in which the learned author gives an analytical account of the great masterpieces of religious teaching, from the earliest times down to the middle of the fourth century; with the intention of resuming and completing the course in a subsequent volume: a purpose which, in process of time, was carried out with ability by his son, the Rev. J. B. B.
Clarke. A treatise on the Christian Eucharist, and an edition of Harmer’s Observations on the Scriptures, were also at this time in progress; but Dr. Clarke’s main efforts turned on the great labor of his literary life, his own Commentary on the Bible.
At the Liverpool Conference in 1807, Dr. Clarke was thankful to surrender the presidential seal into the hands of the Rev. John Barber, his successor in office, and to receive from his brethren the cordial expression of their approval of the spirit and manner in which he had fulfilled his duties.
Anxious to promote the temporal as well as the spiritual interests of his fathers and brethren in the ministry, he introduced to the attention of the Conference at this session a measure which he had closely meditated, and the adoption of which would, as he conceived, be the means of affording substantial consolation to many of the preachers who in future years should he found in age and decay without the means of temporal support.
The plan, indeed, was not adopted; but it has a record here, to illustrate the large and liberal thoughts of him who devised it. We will give the paper as it proceeded from his own pen: — “Bismillahi Arahmani Arraheemi! “Taking into consideration the very desolate state of the superannuated preachers and widows in the Methodist Connection, and well knowing that the provision made by the Preachers’ Aunuitant Society must in every case fall very far short of even providing them with the necessaries of life, it is proposed, — “1. That an asylum or college be erected with as much speed as possible for the reception of superannuated preachers, and the widows of those who have died in our Lord’s work. “2. That the asylum be erected in the vicinity of some large town, in a healthy situation, where the necessaries of life may be found cheap. “3. That the asylum consist of houses, each containing a sitting-room, two lodging-rooms, a study, a small kitchen, and a garden, _____ feet long, and the breadth of the house. “4. That the building enclose a large square of _____ feet; and that a commodious chapel, for the use of the institution and the vicinity, be built in the center or one end of the square. “5. That the place itself be taken in by the traveling preachers, as one of the regular places of the Circuit where it is situated; and that all the residents in the asylum shall meet regularly in class, and be subject to all the rules, regulations, &c., common to the Methodist Societies. “6. That no person shall be entitled to a place in this college who has not been a regular traveling preacher for the space of twenty years, and who has not been declared superannuated by the Conference merely on account of such bodily infirmities as render it impossible for him to continue in his work. “7. That no widow be admitted who has not been the wife of a traveling preacher for at least twenty years, or has not traveled with her husband during that time, or has not maintained an unblemished character. “8. That if any of the widows remarried with one of the superannuated preachers, she shall go to the apartments of her husband but should she marry with a person who is not a resident in the asylum, she shall leave it. “9. That each family have the house free of rent and taxes, and a certain sum be allowed annually for coals and candles. “10. That the superannuated preachers and widows resident in the asylum have the whole of the annuity which they can legally claim from the preachers’ fund, independent of all the privileges and advantages arising from their residence. “11. That no preacher or widow be obliged to enter this institution, or be entitled to its privileges, not being resident in it, unless there be no room for any proper claimant, and the funds be an such a state as to enable the managers to grant a certain portion of help to such persons. “12. That the principal friends throughout the Connection be solicited for subscriptions to purchase freehold premises, on which to erect the necessary buildings.”
This program was supplemented with the following postscript: — “The preceding plan was laid before the Conference by Brother Clarke; and he was required by the Conference to write an Address to the members and friends of the Societies, accompanied with the plan, soliciting subscriptions for the above laudable purpose; and the Conference order that the Address and plan be printed in the Minutes and Magazine. “J. BARBER, President. “T. COKE, Secretary.” At this Conference Dr. Clarke was appointed, in conjunction with Dr. Coke and Mr. Benson, to draw up a compend of Methodist doctrines, confirmed by Scripture, and illustrated from the writings of Mr. Wesley.
As the time drew on when, according to the usages of Methodism, Dr. Clarke would have to leave the metropolis, the Committee of the British and Foreign Bible Society expressed their sense of the value of his services to that great institution by an official request to the Conference, that the general custom might in his case be pretermitted [left off for a time]. To this unusual application, so honorable to each of the parties, the Conference, from an earnest desire to promote the interests of the Bible Society, gave their full consent. In the course of the year Dr. Clarke removed from City-road, and took up his residence at the Surrey Institution, to the librarianship of which he had allowed himself to be nominated under the circumstances disclosed in the following extract from a correspondence on the subject with Mr. Butterworth: — “Whether I propose myself for librarian to the Surrey Institution, or permit another to do so, is nearly the same thing. It is a fixed principle with me never to be a candidate for a public office, either in church or state; and from this I have never swerved. My heart is in every literary institution: I believe they are all ordered in the Divine Providence. Perhaps, I am as well qualified, in many respects, for the office, as I am for any of those I now fill. I must continue in London another year.” In short, he left the matter with the authorities of the Institution, and they elected him.
Invested with the office, he confronted its duties with his usual decision. “Mark,” says he, “I have all the books in both libraries to provide: I have to travel from shop to shop, to examine hooks, to compare prices before I purchase I have lectures, and the plan of lectures, and even their matter, to arrange: — I have to construct the whole machine, and to give it proper momentum and direction; to be incessant in labor, and to employ all my bibliographical and philosophical knowledge in those things; and, as I have taken them in hand, I shall do them, if God spare my life.”
Among the smaller pieces which Dr. Clarke published at this time, was a memoir of the last hours of that distinguished scholar, Professor Porson; a notice which details some literary conversations which the writer had with the illustrious Grecian, on some points relating to the archaeology of his favorite language. Another biographical sketch was written for the Wesleyan Magazine. It refers to a man as eminent for the sanctity of his life as the subject of the former memoir was remarkable for his attainments in Greek scholarship, — the Rev. John Pawson. This little piece will be always read with refreshment and edification by those who know anything of the power of religion in the soul. It presents a graphic portraiture of “a man of irreproachable integrity, of unspotted life, and of very extensive usefulness. As he honored God with his body, soul, and substance, so God honored him by giving him the highest affection and confidence of His church and people; with an unction and baptism of the Holy Ghost; a nd with such a victory and triumph over sin, death, and the grave, as would have been glorious even in the apostolic times.”
The labors of Dr. Clarke in the field of English history, in accomplishing the redaction [revision, editing, rearrangement] of a great portion of Rymer’s Faedera, will claim a more particular review in another chapter. I only refer to the subject here to notice a transaction in which he was engaged about this time, in the purchase of the diplomatic and private papers of Sir Andrew Mitchell, English ambassador to the court of Berlin during the seven years war. It was judged that documents which immediately related to a period so eventful should not be allowed to perish; and Dr. Clarke was requested to negotiate for their purchase, on behalf of the trustees of the Cottonian Library at the British Museum. He obtained the papers for 400; and, on his delivering them personally at the Museum, they were sealed up for thirty years, (according to the usual agreement in such cases,) to obviate injurious results to private or public parties who might be involved in the secrets of the transactions recorded in them. I may add here, from the family memorandum, that at the termination of this business Sir William Forbes, at whose instance it had been undertaken, inquired of a friend of the doctor, what compensation he should make to him for his trouble; but he was assured by that friend (Robert Eden Scott, Esq.) that Dr. Clarke would be found above receiving remuneration for acts of that kind. Sir William therefore contented himself with presenting to the doctor a copy of the Nova Reperta Inscriptionum Antiquarum, with a record on the fly-leaf expressive of the donor’s regard.
The same characteristic of disinterestedness shows itself in the manner in which he fulfilled the duties of librarian at the Surrey Institution. Finding that they were really incompatible with the momentous undertakings, ministerial and literary, in which his whole existence should be absorbed, he, at the end of ten months’ service, relinquished the situation, and refused to receive the salary. The council of the Institution attested their admiration of his important and generous services, by installing him as permanent honorary librarian to the Society. Dr. Clarke now removed his residence to Harpur-street, Bloomsbury.
In the department of biblical literature, in addition to some extensive engagements on behalf of the Bible Society, he took a zealous part in the measures adopted by the late Rev. Josiah Pratt, B.D., for a new edition of the London Polyglot. At the request of Lord Teignmouth, Dr. Burgess, bishop of St. David’s, and some other friends of this undertaking, he furnished a specimen sheet in royal folio, and another in octavo. This, under the title of “A Plan and Specimen of Biblia Polyglotta Britannica; or, an enlarged and improved Edition of the London Polyglot Bible, with Castel’s Heptaglot Lexicon,” was printed and circulated among the literati at home and abroad. But this noble and much-needed enterprise came to nothing for want of adequate patronage. A copy of the prospectus may be found in the British Museum.
But the time had now come, in which Dr. Clarke’s long preparatory labors enabled him to present to the world the first part of his own edition of the English Bible, with the Commentary which has given him a lasting name among the great biblical teachers of the church. In the early part of the year, he put forth a prospectus of the work, which excited general attention, and not the less on account of a controversial paper from the Rev. Thomas Scott, (himself one of the most valuable of the English annotators on the Bible,) who, in “The Christian Observer,” impugned the statement that Dr. Clarke had made in the prospectus, that the Septuagint was the version to which our Lord and His apostles had constant recourse, and from which they made all their quotations. The animadversions of this respected clergyman were answered by Dr. Clarke, through the medium of the same journal, in a paper which has been reprinted in his Miscellaneous Works. In the month of July following, the first portion of the Commentary made its appearance, and was soon in the hands not only of the reading people in the doctor’s own religious communion, (among whom, it received an enthusiastic welcome,) but of a multitude of the eminent and pious in every branch of the Christian church.
All this while the Methodist preacher was not merged and lost in the man of letters, and the companion of peers and prelates. In this respect Dr. Clarke was evermore the same man: he dwelt among his own people, and with heart and hand labored with his brethren for the promotion of the cause of Christ in the conversion of sinners, and the edification of the church redeemed by His precious blood; in the advancement of which both he and they found their peace, and glory, and joy. We have, indeed, but few documents relating to his Circuit-work at this period; but here and there in a letter we catch a glimpse of his manner of life. “I was up this morning about four, and fagged [toiled] till about a quarter past five, and then had to walk to City-road to attend the meeting at six.” So far were the interests of Methodism from being slighted by Dr. Clarke, they were advanced by the steps of his own progress. His pulpit-ministry was now in its effulgent meridian, and the growing influence of his name attracted many to the chapels in the metropolis who might otherwise have been strangers to them all their days.
So, wherever he went, in his occasional journeys, crowds assembled roused the pulpit where he was to preach even a passing sermon. Thus at St. Austel, in a tour which he took into the west in the autumn: — “Short as the notice was, we had the chapel quite full, and several of the principal gentry made part of the congregation. I preached on Ephesians 3:13, &c.; and though very weak, and quite fagged out, spoke an hour and twenty minutes. I met here many of my old friends, but the greater number are dead. “We got to Camelford late in the evening, and were followed by some of the principal of our St. Austel friends, among whom are Mrs. Flamank and Mr. S. Drew. Many more were to set off today, to be present at the preaching tomorrow; but the incessant rain must render it impracticable. The floods wash the sides of the room where I am now writing, and are so high in the streets, that the [communication between] the upper and lower parts of the town is cut off. I am to preach here twice tomorrow, and on Monday morning to leave for Launceston, Exeter, &c. Should I stay here any longer, I should have invitations from every part of Cornwall. If eating and drinking could make us happy, it would be enjoyed here in perfection: the finest salmon in the world for sixpence per pound; whitings, several pounds’ weight, for twopence each; large rabbits a shilling a couple; and so of other things. Here a man may maintain a large family with a small income. Will you come, and let your poor husband get out of that world to live in which he was never calculated? I corrected a revise this morning, and sent off by post. There are a few memoranda in it directed to Theo. I do not get much sleep at night, and this does not agree with me. I am seldom contented when from home, which prevents me from getting much benefit when abroad. The man lives ill at home who rejoices to go abroad, and returns to his family with reluctance. So it never was with me. I have been obliged to get the shoes, soled by Mr. _____ before I came away, re-soled. The soles put on by him were not worth twopence.”
We are not fastidious enough to reject these little details. The critic well says, that “biography is useless which is not true to life. Even the weaknesses of character must be preserved, however insignificant or humbling. The jest-book of Tacitus, the medicated drinks of Bacon, the preparatory violin of Bourdaloue, and the fancy-lighting damsons of Dryden, have their place and value. They are the errata of genius, and clear up the text. A French mathematician had doubts about the animal wants of Newton, and ,was disposed to regard him as an intellectual being in whom the mind’s flame had absorbed each grosser particle. It is certainly a precipitous fall from dividing a ray of light, or writing Comus, to weariness and dinner. But biography admonishes pride, when it displays Salmasius shivering under the eyes of his wife, or bids us stand at the door of Milton’s academy and hear the work of the ferule upstairs. It steals on the poet and the premier in their undress, — Cowley, in dressing-gown and slippers ; Cecil, with his treasurer’s robe on the chair;”- and, as we may add, on Adam Clarke, looking ruefully on the unstable foundation of his shoes. “Camelford. — I have finished my Sunday’s work. Preached this morning, and gave the sacrament. Mr. Drew preached in the afternoon, and I again at night. I assure you those were high times.
The day was very fine, and the people flocked together from all quarters. At the evening’s service, Mr. Butterworth and Mr. Johnson were so affected, that they were almost on the eve of making a glorious noise; and the latter was just going to break out in prayer, when prevented by the blessing being pronounced. This visit has done many great good. It is strange, but the chief members, in almost all the Societies round about, were convinced and brought to God under my ministry Our whole journey has been one of mercy. God has especially owned the word; many have been blessed. We had a crowd about us when we set off, and yesterday was a high day indeed.”