Are you a Christian?
BOOK 3, CH. 6,
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A few months later we find Dr. Clarke performing an extensive tour in Ireland, whither he had gone on some researches relative to the State Record Commission with which he had now been entrusted by the Government, and to meet the Irish preachers at their annual Conference.
His letters homeward detail some particulars of this expedition, which give us his revived impressions of years now receding into the immeasurable past. “Holyhead, May 30th. — I wrote to you from Shrewsbury, my very dear Mary, on Tuesday. Having slept there, we set off between five and six in the morning; and after traveling through the wildest, most uncultivated and uncultivatable country I ever saw, — vast mountains, sudden and tremendous precipices, huge overhanging rocks, rivers tumbling over the mountains; a country which exhibits all the disruptions which nature could have suffered by every sort of violence we got safe, eighty-five miles on the whole, a little before ten, to Bangor Ferry. A good supper, and went to bed; slept till just before five; crossed the ferry, breakfasted at the house where you and I and John had the bottle of fine cider twenty-two years ago, and then reached Holyhead The very sight of some of the precipices would have drunk up your soul.” “Dublin, 31st. — Having got a little breakfast, I set out to deliver my credentials to Mr. Mason, the secretary. Did not find him at home. Met him on returning, and appointed to meet him within two hours. Went to visit the preachers, and none of them at home.
N.B. The old breakfasting-out system still lasts. — I entered the house where we had suffered so many calamities, not without strong emotions. The school is now held in the parlor on the right, as you go in. I then called on Mr. _____, and found him embalming his already demi-mummized body with nicotian [tobacco] fumes.
Then to Mr. and Mrs. P. Then to H.-street, to see my cousin Boyd. They have a fine tall daughter, whom they call Eve. The father’s name you know is Adam. He knows the genealogy of our family most nobly, and tells me he can trace it up through seventeen Irish kings. Now, go to: could you have thought you were allied to one who can trace the pure current of his blood through seventeen monarchs? I hope you will now begin to think much of yourself. — leaving them, proceeded to the secretary’s, and examined with him different MS. indexes. He showed me uncommon kindness, and furnished me with letters to Trinity College. I posted thither, and met Dr. Barrett coming down his own stairs and going into the hall on an examination. He has appointed to meet me tomorrow at eleven. Returned to my lodging completely wearied, having walked over Dublin from one end to the other Tell John to see that nothing exceptionable in the natural history of the Defense of the Nachash be permitted to pass.” When journeying in the provinces, Dr. Clarke was careful to avail himself of opportunities for preaching the Gospel. Thus, at Charlemont: “Sunday morning. — The people thronging together from all quarters, it was found impracticable to preach in the chapel. We sent therefore to the commander of the fort to permit us the use of one of the yards, He readily acceded, and came himself and several of his men. It was a very stormy morning, and I was obliged to stand exposed to the wind and rain. We had a very good time, and as soon as finished I drove off for Dungannon. Here the crowd was great, and we had scarcely hope to stow them into the chapel, which is by far the largest I have seen since we left Dublin. As I now felt a touch of sore throat, I dared not venture in the open air a second time. We got to the chapel. Greatly crowded. Numbers without. Great grace rested upon all. Many of our old friends followed from Armagh and Charlemont, and others came from twenty miles around.”
From Magherafelt he writes: “We proceeded from Dungannon to Cookstown, where I had been published to preach in the Dissenting meeting-house When I got to the place, could hardly articulate, owing to the severe cold caught on Sunday morning. There was no remedy. Into the pulpit. It was supposed that three thousand were present, from far and near and wide. I went in, found I could not preach, and gave it over as a lost case. I, however, thought of saying a few words by way of exhortation. The people were as still as death. I spoke for forty-five minutes, and with much freedom. All the principal people were there, and several of the clergy. Yesterday we came to this place. It is astonishing to think of the concourse of people. We have no chapel here. Got the Presbyterian meeting-house, and preached with glorious power — I believe, to every relative I have in the kingdom: they had heard of my coming, and to the sixth or eighth generation were gathered together. I am now just setting off for Maghera.
In another letter: “From Castle-Dawson I proceeded toward Maghera, and stopped to view the place where I had spent the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth years of my checkered life. Half the house in which we lived, one of the best in that country, is pulled down I walked through the grounds where I had laughed and cried, sought birds’ nests, looked for fairies’ haunts, made good resolutions, and spent the most happy (and, perhaps, the most innocent) period of my life. Though I had left that place when about eight years of age, yet I remembered every hill and every hedge, where my brother and I used to see the fairies’ nocturnal fires. The orchard, from which I had eaten often of the choicest fruit, no longer exists.
Zion is ploughed like a field. The emotions to which these scenes now gave birth cannot be described They connect the long interval between four years of age and fifty To the poor woman I gave three tenpenny pieces, who received them as from heaven, and, addressing the child, said, ‘See, my dear, God has sent you a new coat by this gentleman; and may the blessing of God rest upon him and his family for ever! ‘ We soon got to Maghera, — looking over which before dinner, went to the quondam [former] dwelling of Dr. Bernard, the bishop of Limerick, celebrated in Boswell. This is also in a state of ruin; nothing like its former self, except the great beach-tree. Left the place with reflections not the most pleasant “The next morning I set out to visit the Grove, and to look for my old dwelling, and the school-house in the wood but could get no farther than the Grove.”
A poor woman was standing at the door. I said, ‘ Will you permit me to walk into your house?’ She said, ‘O, sir, it is not a proper place for such a gentleman as you to enter.’ I answered, ‘I have had the privilege of living in it for several years.’ I gave the children each a tenpenny piece.” Perambulating the neighborhood, “I came to a place called Port-Stuart, where I had often held religious meetings. None knew me. But, after I had discovered myself to one, the news ran, and the people came in every direction about me “Returned to Coleraine, where I had to preach Was not a little surprised to see Captain O’Neil’s and Mr. Crombie’s chariot sociable, and all their family, who came to hear preaching, — the first of the Methodist kind they had ever heard Preached, thank God, a glorious sermon, two hours. Everybody to hear; almost all, if not all, the gentry of the town, and some others from five or six miles distant. This day we went to the Giants’ Causeway It fell short of my expectation. — The pain of which I complained at home has continued with little intermission.”
From Antrim, on the longest day: “Yesterday left Coleraine for Ballymena, a journey of twenty-two miles. Thirty-two years ago I walked this same road to a lovefeast. Only one woman remains of those who were in Society at that time On my arrival today, as our own chapel was utterly insufficient, the Rev. Mr. Babbington, the rector, kindly offered me the use of his church, which, on the tolling of the bell, was soon filled with a great concourse, to whom I found considerable liberty in showing what were the doctrines of the apostles, from Acts 2:42. Today we left for Antrim, and here we should have had another church; but the rector happened to be away, and our people had not applied in time. Preached in the Presbyterian chapel.”
On the way to Antrim Dr. Clarke visited the Moravian settlement of Grace-Hill. They pressed him to give them an address in the chapel. “We entered,” he says, “ and I was surprised to find a large congregation. I desired the minister to give out one of his own hymns. He did so, and they all accompanied the organ in good full chorus. The hymn gave me excellent scope to speak on for half an hour.” They sang a parting hymn, and he commended them to God in prayer. The settlement contained at that time four hundred members. He preached again the same evening in Antrim, “a good deal to my hurt, as, my mental energy being greatly exhausted, I was obliged to exert the greater physical force; and this to me is ever unpleasant and hurtful.”
Sunday, June 23rd. — He preached twice in Belfast. Immense crowds. His voice failed in the evening; and again. at Lishurn next day. On the Wednesday at Lurgan, out of doors, “as nothing but a field would contain the thousands that gathered together. The day following it was agreed that I should rest: I go therefore to dine with Mr. Hamilton, and tomorrow preach at Portadown.”
From the latter place he writes: “Well, I am now returned from preaching to the largest congregation I ever addressed. I had almost all the town and all the country; peasantry, gentry, magistrates, preachers, and clergy. The grass does not cover the field more thickly than the people I found both strength and mind for the work, and trust God will not permit the word to have been spoken in vain.
In the same way the Doctor preached at Drogheda, making five times in the open air within the last eight days of the tour. On the 2nd of July he arrived in Dublin. “Mr. Butterworth and Joseph are well: they are both greatly improved by their journey; and I am conscious that I am much the worse every way. My clothes are worn out, and are not fit to appear in, even in the meanest congregation. I have had nothing but fatigue and suffering all the time. My love to everybody.”
The Conference which now opened, and at which Dr. Clarke had come to preside, consisted of about a hundred preachers from all parts of Ireland. “I assure you they are all equal, man for man, with the English preachers.
Yesterday I went to dine with the Rev. Dr. _____. Several of the clergy were present, and a number of genteel persons of both sexes. The house was elegant, and the entertainment splendid. But what we were brought together for, unless merely to eat, I am to this hour at a loss to divine. No topic of conversation was started, and no person seemed to notice another.
Whether this is to be attributed to self-sufficient confidence, or to a fear of each other, I do not pretend to say: but the repast ended, as it began, in comparative silence; and then I took French leave, heartily sorry I had lost so much time, or had, probably, been the means of preventing the company from enjoying theirs This day I dined at Major Sirr’s, at the Castle; where, had I not been confined for time, I should have spent a pleasant and profitable evening.”
The Conference ended on the 17th, leaving Dr. Clarke greatly exhausted.
Towards the close of his stay in Dublin, he accompanied Mr. Butterworth on a visit to the college of Maynooth, where they were “very politely received by Father De la Hogue, one of the professors. It costs our government 9,000 per annum. Mr. Knox is the treasurer. Students, three hundred. I saw nothing very remarkable. Their library is a poor one, and their chapel not elegant. The only thing I saw worth observation was the following, written in large letters above the fire-place in the kitchen: ‘Be clean, Have taste, Don’t want, Don’t waste.’ When coming away, I offered my hand to Father De la Hogue; but he declined receiving it. He had received us with the utmost politeness. I was a heretic, and therefore he would not give me the right hand of fellowship. His politeness and courtesy were, therefore, put on. What an execrable system, which cramps and freezes all the charities of human life! “I must now begin to do something for the Records the remaining part of this week.” — This latter employment now occupied him closely. “I am still driving from office to office, till nearly off my feet If it would do me any good, I have honor here in great abundance. People whom I have never known, both among the clergy and nobility, call on me and leave their cards. Invitations to the city, to the suburbs, to the country, are without end. Last Sunday evening, when I preached at the new chapel, the street was filled with chariots, coaches, berlins, and jaunting. cars; and I had lords, ladies, knights, doctors, clergy, laity, in full score. I wish you had been with me. I have been obliged to go to the barracks and dine with the officers, who behaved with the utmost politeness and respect.” On Dr. Clarke’s return to England, he had to encounter the grief occasioned by the decease of his mother. Her health had been for some time rapidly declining. He had seen her at Bristol on his way to Ireland, and had found her in the full possession of her faculties, calmly waiting for her translation to the eternal mansions. On the subject of the coming change she spoke with a devout serenity; and, on parting with her son, she commended him with earnest prayer to the blessing of God. Yet, in the course of his ministerial tour, the Doctor seems to have expected still once again to visit this beloved parent. Her decease, however, transpired so closely on the eve of his return, that no news of it had reached him on the way. “But,” says her granddaughter, “from the constrained manner and tearful eyes which but too eloquently replied to the almost first interrogation upon entering his house, ‘Is all well?’ the truth could not be concealed: upon which his countenance instantly grew pale, his lips quivered, he spoke not, but in the silence of the heart’s agony, with upraised eyes and heaving chest, he retired to his study.” “The heart knoweth its own bitterness.” We envy not the man who is not bowed down at the death of the mother who bare him, the guide of his youth, the moralist of his heart, and the encourager of every good feeling and worthy action: and such had been Mrs. Clarke to him who now mourned her departure. Her image was ever dear to his memory, and her earliest lessons had shaped the character and conduct of his life. Yet must his sorrow have been not without thankfulness for the grace shown both to himself and her, in sanctifying and saving them together; not without the full assurance of hope that they should alike have their perfect consummation and bliss in the everlasting kingdom of Him who had redeemed them.
The Rev. Thomas Roberts, the friend and neighbor of the departed matron, wrote to Dr. Clarke, on the occasion, a letter of condolence, in which he appropriately says: “You are justified in entertaining the best feelings when you reflect that good Mrs. Clarke was your mother. She lived just so long, and died so well, as to leave in the heart of her son nothing but acquiescence in the Divine will, and gratitude for that gracious dispensation of heaven which could not have been manifested in a manner more consolatory to the feelings of the man, the son, and the Christian.”
Dr. Clarke was speedily summoned from the indulgence of lonesome grief, to resume those life-absorbing efforts which Providence had ordained as the task of his existence, and in the fulfillment of which his own preparation for the rest that remaineth unto the people of God could be best carried on. In the stated work of the pulpit, in advancing the Commentary, and in discharging the duties resulting from his engagement with the Record Commission, the weeks and months passed rapidly away.
These avocations called him to Cambridge, to Oxford, and again to Ireland.
Connected with his sojourn at Cambridge in December, he makes a memorandum on the formation of a Bible Society in that town: — “Lord Hardwicke,” says he, “was in the chair, supported by Lord Francis Osborne, the dean of Carlisle, and several of the professors. The meeting lasted from eleven till four o’clock; and such speeches I never heard. Mr. Owen exceeded his former self; Mr. Dealtry spoke like an angel; and Dr. E.
D. Clarke, the traveler, like a seraph. Everything was carried, and the meeting ended in a blaze of celestial light. Every man seemed to swear that he would carry the Bible to all who never knew it, so far as the providence of God should permit him to go. For myself, I did not laugh and cry alternately; I did both together, and completely wet my pockethandkerchief with tears. Between two and three hundred young men of the University were the first movers in this business.” In the following April he visited Cambridge again, and was hospitably entertained at Corpus Christi College. During this sojourn he had several hopeful conversations with some of the junior gownsmen, who greatly pleased him “by their disposition and manners.” One of these, the Rev. Thomas Galland, M.A., became a distinguished ornament to the Methodist ministry.