Are you a Christian?
BOOK 3, CH. 7,
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In June Dr. Clarke resumed his travels in Ireland. “Left London,” writes he, “at six A.M., in the Liverpool coach, having under my care a young lady, Miss O’Connor, a perfect stranger to me, but whom I was requested to protect to Dublin. I soon found that she was a Roman Catholic, but of an amiable disposition, and, in her own way, conscientiously religious. At the place of our last changing between Frescot and Warrington, Mr. Nuttall, Mr. Fisher, and their man and carriage, were waiting; and took me and my little ward to their place, called Nut Grove, where they were distractingly glad to see me. On our journey I observed that my ward had a French work, called Journal du Chretien, (the Christian’s Diary,) in which there is a prayer, and what is called ‘an act of devotion,’ for the morning and evening of each day. Poor little thing, though she had no place of retirement to do these devotions, yet such is her fear of God, that she could not neglect them; and therefore, at the proper time, both morning and evening, she took out her book, and read her little devotions. I rejoiced to show her that a heretic, so called, loves the same God.” “June 11th. — I preached in Liverpool to an immense crowd. I understand a Roman Catholic lady, who had long been seeking rest for her soul, came to the preaching. She was deeply convinced that the foundation of her hope must be alone in the death and merits of Christ. Her heart appeared as if broken under the word, and God showed her the way of salvation by faith through the blood of the cross.” The Doctor preached again on the 14th at Brunswick chapel, “on the providence and mercy of God; who wrought for His own Name, and I have reason to believe much good was done.
We had a bad night at sea: one mast was split, and the wind was against us. Through mercy, we reached Dublin in safety.” “A gentleman at the Custom-House, seeing ‘Dr. Clarke’ on different boxes, (for it was on all Miss O’Connor’s,) came out into the mob that surrounded us, and inquired for Dr. Clarke. I answered. He took me into the Custom-House, instantly passed all the boxes, would take no money, saw us both into a jingle, and told the fellow to beware he took no more than his fare, which was six schillings and sixpence; and so we got safely to Mr. Keene’s.”
Dr. Clarke’s health was again distressingly impaired. He suffered so much, that existence seemed at times a martyrdom. Through the grace given to him, his will bore up with an indomitable energy, and carried him through the labors of the pulpit, or preaching in the open air, the presidency of the Conference, and the researches of the State Record business, while many a man in like affliction would have been at home in his bed. “We this day commence our operations on the Lodge Manuscripts, and I shall open my way with the chancellor of Christ-church, perhaps call on Dr. Barrett and others. Major Sim’s family fully expected me to lodge there; but our people and the preachers have taken fire at the proposal. I found here an affectionate letter from Mr. Averell, who is wanting to convey me to Cork, &c. But such a journey is now utterly out of my power. Another letter was in waiting from Mr. Mayne, of Drogheda; an extract from which will not displease you: ‘Dear Doctor, — Our people anxiously desire to see you; and the public at large, to hear you once more. Pray do visit us. The last time you were here, God gave a Roman Catholic to your ministry. He is thoroughly steady, and his wife has since died in the Lord Jesus. Come, therefore: who knows but God may give you another?’ I know what both you and Mr. Butterworth will say; and, please God, I shall obey you. There I shall go, God willing, — I think, Wednesday, — preach to them on Thursday, and return on Friday, if this horrible seizure” (of affliction) “will give me so much respite. But it so thoroughly embitters every comfort, that I cannot rejoice in anything without trembling. For eight days I have swallowed nothing, cold or hot, solid or fluid, without great, often extreme, pain. I am in constant pain, and often in agony indescribable.” “June 22nd. — When in Liverpool, I preached two sermons; and it appears that God has owned them in a signal manner. They have produced a universal stir. A Roman Catholic lady was thoroughly converted under the first: she has since joined Miss Titherington’s class, and given a wonderful testimony. The trustees waited on me formally to thank me for my visit, and to request that I would come to them next year. — Yesterday preached at Wesley chapel, and at Whitefriars’-street. High fever, and utmost exhaustion.
Cough most oppressive today.” “June 26th. — I am just this minute returned from Drogheda. Mr. Tobias, Mr. F., and John accompanied me. Yesterday morning they entertained us with a public breakfast: you know I not only do not like, but detest, such meetings. How ever, as it was done to honor me, I endeavored to receive it in good part, and gave them a sort of sermon for about half an hour. [The interval to the evening was spent in an excursion to the scene of the battle of the Boyne, and some other remarkable spots.] I went into all the hovels in this most miserable village, (Munsterboyce,) where Mr. Butterworth’s bounty enabled me to leave a handful of silver last year. I found them in the same or worse misery; and, trusting in God, I opened my stock, and according to their different necessities divided with them, at least, as much as last year I got a torrent of most hearty prayers for me and mine. I was not a little tried when I found I must preach in the new market-place in the open air The hour came, and I went to the spot. There were about a thousand people; many Catholics, and among them two or three priests. There were also two clergymen. What good may have been done, I know not. If God have glory, my labor is not in vain.” “July 1st. — We began our Stationing Committee this morning, and have just got through forty Circuits. Tomorrow will finish that part of the work; and on Friday we enter on the regular work of the Conference.”
The business of the Stationing Committee brought more vividly before Dr. Clarke’s mind his own approaching change of Circuit; a subject which, in his peculiar circumstances, excited some uneasiness. It is on this point that he here adds: “Now, my dear Mary, with respect to going to Liverpool: I am far from being happy in London. I feel uncomfortable in Harpur-street.
I am maintained by the Society, and they have no adequate work for their money. I do not think I am acting with justice, to take the maintenance of a preacher, while not doing one-half of his work. Added to this, it is a considerable expense to Mr. B. to make up taxes and deficiencies You know I am not partial to Liverpool; yet here there seems to be an open door. Not only the Catholic lady was converted when I preached there on my way hither, but also a deist. Perhaps by others, more accustomed to see God’s hand in these matters, these would be considered tokens for good, and particular calls. What can I do? My own mind leads me to give up at once, because I cannot do the full work; and neither my judgment nor conscience will allow me to eat bread in this way, which I have not earned.
Indeed, the business is come to a crisis with me. In my present way I shall go on no longer. I have suffered greatly in my mind last year on this account; and shall I commence another in the same circumstances? My day of digging is over; and, as to begging, I never could do it. But I may still earn a little bread; though, from all appearances, not long. But that I must leave. I feel I am too much in the bustle of life, and to this there is no congeniality in my nature. My heart and soul have long said, ‘O that I had in the wilderness the lodging place of a wayfaring man!’ But I am brought on the eve of Conference, without plan, arrangement, or prospect of being put in circumstances where my mind can be at ease My cough and oppression still continue unabated, and I am not able to take as much sleep as is necessary to support life.”
We transcribe these sentences, however reluctantly, to show the honorable feelings of the writer, and to make them serve to explain some of the aftermovements of his life. But, while we read them, let us bear in mind that he who was giving way to morbid self-accusations was all the while one of the most hard working men among all his contemporaries in the Lord’s vineyard. Let us hear him in the next letter: — “July 5th. — From six in the morning till four, in the Conference.
Before I go in the morning, writing till within the few minutes it takes to trot to the chapel. As soon as I come home, up with the pen, and continue every minute till I go to bed, except the very short time I take to get a little food. I do not get half sleep. I have preached this morning at seven, at Gravel-walk. Before I went, hard at work. The congregation was vast, and the place very hot. Spent myself; but, as soon as I came home, to work again, and continued till half-past one. Then to Whitefriars’, to preach to an immense congregation. Worked two hours. Home, and, except about half an hour for dinner, at the writing again; and now it is about eight o’clock P.M., when I sit down to write to you. — I received yours with the proof, and have hurried much to correct it. This morning I received a letter from the Speaker and Mr. Cayley, inquiring when I shall return, and requesting me to come to the Tower, and see what they are doing there for me; requesting me also to go to Oxford, and collate a copy of the Boldon-Book, in the Bodleian library. One day only is allowed me in the Tower before I go to Oxford. I must go straight to London, and then to Oxon even before Conference.
The above orders are made out to me in the form of respectful requests. You know I must either go on or stop. I am in a continual fever, and my breast gets no time to heal; the oppression and cough are grievous. Is there any such a fool as I am alive? My life is incessant labor and anxiety.”
What follows shows a heart fall of sympathy for the trials of his afflicted brethren: — “Yesterday poor John Grace, one of our best preachers, was buried. He had set out for Conference, was taken ill on the road, and died at Mountrath. The circumstances of this case are distressing and horrible.
Before leaving his Circuit, he had an inflammation in his chest; riding increased it. When he came to a friend’s house at Mountrath, perceiving him to be very ill, they sent for a doctor named _____. This rascal ordered him to drink cold water, and pronounced aloud in the family that his disorder was a dangerous, malignant, and highly-infections fever. The people of the house took the alarm, and requested that he might be removed. No one would take him in. Poor Henry Deery, his colleague, ran away into the town, found an empty house, got a bed, &c., into it; and, just as they were going to hurry the dying messenger of Christ into it, the whole neighborhood rose, having heard of the vile quack’s decision, and absolutely refused to let him be brought there. The family where he lay were in the utmost distress, — the doctor insisting that, to preserve them from the infection, he must be removed within an hour. Poor Deery was at his wits’ end. A waste shattered building contiguous to the house was pitched on as the only asylum. Deery went and got bundles of straw, and stopped up the breaches and crevices in the walls. Poor John Grace was then rolled up in the bed-clothes; the bed was got into this place, and he was lifted over a wall, to be stretched on that from which he never more removed He called out for some cold water. It was brought; and, having drunk it, he said, ‘I shall soon drink of that over, the streams of which make glad the city of God.’ There was just time enough to send for his poor wife, who got to the wretched hovel in time to close the eyes of her husband, the father of her five children. Such was the end of John Grace, alter having spent twenty-five years in the public ministry of the word. O God, how unsearchable are Thy ways!” “July 11th. — I am never happy from home, and even journeys of pleasure to me are journeys of pain. Company I do not love, no matter of what description; and I scarcely can ever find freedom in places where even good cheer, good breeding, good sense, and religion itself predominate.” (A strange man, according to his own view of himself, just then.) “To many places of this kind I am invited in this city: great crowds of the best of the people are gathered together to do me honor. I wonder that such invitations are repeated, as I often sit like a person speechless, or one in whose mouth there are no reproofs. Those who are strangers to me must have, in every sense, a mean opinion of me; for, though I hope I in general conduct myself according to the rules of good breeding, yet I cannot be polite, — i. e., pay compliments without rhyme or reason. I cannot be a pleasing companion to those who may think themselves entitled to this kind of entertainment; and, as I rarely speak in public company, I consequently neither please nor instruct by my conversation. In short, I never was made for the world.”
It may have been true enough that the Doctor, in common with many other eminent scholars, had occasionally these feelings of constraint in society: but that such feelings were so habitual as to become characteristic, is more than will be admitted by many persons, yet surviving, who remember and can never forget the genial glow of his conversation in the social circle. “July 14th. — Tomorrow, please God, I sail for England, as I shall finish the Conference with a forenoon’s sitting. Their financial affairs here take up so much time. The business transacted at the District-Meetings in England is all done here in open Conference: a fearful waste of time. But for this we should have done three days ago.” “Chester, July 18th. — From Bangor-Ferry to St. Asaph, and thence to Holywell and this city, where we arrived after one. Never have I felt myself so exhausted. In the last two stages I was nearly (completely done in). My whole vital energy seems nearly gone; and I would sacrifice not a little to be in London, as I have seriously feared whether I shall not be laid up. I suppose it is the effect of fatigue and anxiety, and that a day or two of rest will restore me. But where should I get rest? Here I am among perfect strangers; and the cry is, preach, preach. I have promised to preach tomorrow morning.”
Seventeen days after the last date we find him again leaving London for Oxford, from which he writes: — Aug. 5th. — We reached Oxford between eight and nine. It being the raceweek, we found it difficult to procure a lodging at the Angel, but succeeded at the Mitre. This morning Mr. Gabriel’s friend procured us the lodgings in Broad-street, where I now write. I have waited on Mr. Gaisford, Regius Professor of Greek, with the Speaker’s letter. He received us very politely, and invited us to dine in public hall in Christchurch. We have accordingly dined today in the first college of the first university in the world.”
Writing Aug. 8th, he refers to this again: “It was no small gratification to me to sit on the same seat and eat at the same table where Charles Wesley sat and ate nearly one hundred years ago. At Christchurch the Speaker was educated. I believe he wrote strongly to his college to show me every respect and they have done so. “After my labor yesterday at the Bodleian, I went to visit several colleges, and, among the rest, Lincoln, of which Mr. J. Wesley was fellow. One of the poorest-looking of the colleges; but it has been the parent, under God, of the greatest work of a spiritual and reforming nature that has appeared upon earth since the second century. How many millions have been saved since John and Charles Wesley first gave themselves to God in this place! And yet this city is like the coiners in our Mint: it has made the gold for others, and is not thereby enriched. I have been here four days, and have not seen the face of a Methodist. I am going this evening to look for some, that I may hear some kind of preaching tomorrow (Sunday) that will do me some good. Nobody that I meet knows anything of them. In this case, how like is Oxford to Jerusalem and Zion! The law proceeded from the latter, and the word (doctrine) of the Lord from the former; but how little did either Zion or Jerusalem retain of either! So this great work of God, which began in and proceeded from Oxford, has hallowed the whole nation, and yet Oxford has not profited by it. The lines of Virgil came to my mind; which Theo. may translate to you: — ‘Sic vos non vobis mellificotis apes; Sic vos non vobis nidificotis aves; Sic vos non vobis vellera fertis oves; Sic vos non vobis fertis aratra boves.’ “As far as Methodism is concerned, they may be applied to the ancient and learned city and university of Oxford.”
Resuming his work in London, in the pulpit, the committee-room, and especially that of the Bible Society, — in visiting the sick, and in carrying on an extensive correspondence, always answering letters as soon as he had received them, — the departing year left him swallowed up in a complication of duties which tasked his strength to the utmost. In grappling with these obligations, days, weeks, and months were all too short. “You know,” says he, writing to a friend, “that when I am at home I am never an hour disengaged, being as mere a slave as any on this side the Pillars of Hercules. Every hour has its work, and such work as requires every minute of the sixty. Judge, then, how much of my London labor was behind, after an absence of five weeks. I was almost terrified to return, knowing what a chaos I should find, to reduce to order. I have been laboring to bring up my lee-way, — tugging at the oar for life. You may think that, during my excursion, I must have acquired a measure of additional health, an d am the better able to ride out the storm. I gained no ground, but lost some. You shall judge. I traveled by mail two nights and a day to Liverpool; set off for Stockport, to preach for their schools: collection, 122. I then rode off for Manchester; preached the same evening for the schools: collection, 154. Without waiting to eat, took coach for Nut-Grove, near St. Helen’s, where I arrived about two o’clock on Monday morning. In the course of that week I preached again and again.
The next Sabbath morning I had to preach before three hundred ministers two hours, enough to (thoroughly exhaust) or (prostrate) *[See Transcriber Note-2] a strong man for a fortnight. The next Sabbath, at Warrington, for a Sunday-school. Friday, for Worcester, to open a new chapel: collection 211, 4s. One hour out of the chapel, and I began again, a second sermon: collection, 100 0s. 9d. Without waiting to eat, set off on my way to Liverpool. At Penkridge I lay down about three hours and a half, bought a penny roll, rode again , and traveled eighty miles without stopping to take a morsel of food but my penny roll. After various excursions and fatigues, which my paper will not permit me to enumerate, I got back to London with a decrease both of mental and corporeal energy, to gird myself to new labors no less exhausting or depressing than those through which I have passed.”
At the Conference of 1814, which was held in Bristol, Dr. Clarke was elected for the second time to the presidential chair, and, against his own inclinations, was desired to prolong his residence in London. The preceding year had been distinguished in the annals of Methodism by the formation of the Wesleyan Missionary Society. In itself essentially a missionary institution, Methodism has always put forth an evangelizing energy which lives with its life and extends with its extent, “spreads undivided,” and, we may safely add, yet “operates unspent.” The Wesleys themselves labored as missionaries in Georgia; and, while as yet the system in England had but comparatively “a little strength,” it stretched its arm across the Atlantic, and turned vast regions of that continent from a moral wilderness into a fruitful field. In 1769 Messrs. Boardman and Pilmoor went from the Conference, with fifty pounds, to America, and laid the foundation of what is now the Methodist Episcopal Church, with its universities, schools, Bible and Missionary Societies, its apostolic bishops, its thousands of ordained ministers, its thousands more of local preachers and exhorters, and a body of communicants greatly exceeding a million.
Among the men who took a prominent part in these great movements was one whose revered name is indissolubly joined with the cause of Christian missions, the Reverend Dr. Thomas Coke. This great evangelist carried the Gospel to myriads beyond the western sea, both on the continent and in the islands. The slave-population of the West Indies heard from his lips the truth which was destined to set them free the truth which, as to civil liberty, trained them to receive it, and meanwhile made multitudes of them partakers of the more glorious liberty of the sons of God. In the prosecution of these blessed embassies the Doctor crossed the Atlantic ocean eighteen times; and at length, at an advanced age, fulfilling the last wish of his heart, — the establishment of a mission to India and the East, — he died at sea on the 2nd of May, 1815.
The West-India missions had not only been originated, and hitherto superintended, by Dr. Coke, but, we may say, they had been supported by him; largely from his own private resources, and more adequately by his unwearied diligence in collecting for them, literally from door to door.
The present writer well remembers him, as coming again and again to his father’s house, book in hand, to receive the accustomed subscription. He may be also permitted to record his reminiscence of hearing the Doctor preach his last sermon in England, on the eve of his embarkation for the East; the text being the prophecy in the sixty-eighth Psalm: “Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.” It may be easily conceived that the loss of such a man would be felt as a heavy blow to the Methodist missions. But He whose ways are not as our ways willed that this very loss should tend rather to the furtherance of the Gospel. A new sense of obligation to take this great cause in hand more fully took possession of the minds both of ministers and people; and the result was the rapid organization of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, which, rising from small beginning, has taken a rank among the beneficent institutions of Christianity scarcely second to any. Its ordained agents, including those who have relation to the affiliated Conferences, are more than six hundred in number, besides some nine hundred salaried catechists, interpreters, exhorters, &c., and more than ten thousand unpaid agents. By its means the Gospel is preached in more than twenty languages at three thousand six hundred and fifty places in various parts of Europe, India, China, Southern and Western Africa, the West Indies, Australia, Canada, and Eastern British America. Within the forty years of its existence, immense multitudes, who are now with the dead, have heard by it the tidings of salvation; and myriads have been gathered into the church, who, in life and death, have given good evidence that they found those tidings true; while at present 114,528 church-m embers are under the care of the missionaries, with 94,500 children, who receive instruction in their schools.
Into this new development of Christian zeal Dr. Clarke entered with his whole soul. Henceforward a new claim on his time and strength, as an advocate of the missionary cause, was often enough made; but never, if it could be met, was it slighted or refused. At the first Missionary Meeting held in City-road chapel, December, 1814, he presided, and delivered an inaugural discourse, which was afterwards published under the title of “A short Account of the Introduction of the Gospel into the British Isles; and the Obligation of Britons to make known its Salvation to every Nation of the Earth.” The Commentary, too, was now in rapid progress; and, in transmitting one of the parts to the Speaker of the House of Commons, the author accompanied it with a letter, an extract from which is here given, on account of the references made in it to that communion whose interests and honor the Doctor ever delighted to identify with his own: — “As the people with whom I am religiously connected are not only very numerous, but of considerable weight in the land, I have not hesitated to show them that those sacred oracles from which they derive the principles of their faith and practice are in perfect consonance with those of the British Constitution, and the doctrines of the Established Church: not that I doubted their loyalty or attachment to the State or the Church, but to manifest to them and future generations the absolute necessity of holding fast that ‘form of sound words’ which distinguishes our National Church, and ever connects the fear of God with honor to the king. “Sir, it is with the most heartfelt pleasure that I can state to you, that this immense body of people are, from conscience and affection, attached to the constitution both in Church and State; and the late decisions in behalf of religious toleration have powerfully served to rivet that attachment.”
The duties of Dr. Clarke’s second presidential year were largely augmented, as already intimated, by the formation of various Branch Missionary Societies in different parts of the kingdom; for which, and other religious interests, he undertook extensive journeys, in the course of which we find him preaching and holding public meetings in Bristol and Bath, in Exeter, Plymouth, and some parts of Cornwall; and then, northward, in Birmingham, Liverpool, and other places. Everywhere crowds hung upon his lips, and the word preached came with the saving power of grace to the hearts of many, while it stirred up the various churches thus visited, by thoughts of “whatsoever things are true,” and “honest,” and “lovely,” and “of good report,” to give the greater diligence in making their own election sure, and promoting the cause of their Saviour in the world. At the Conference held in Manchester, he gave up the insignia of the office he had so well sustained into the hands of his successor, the Rev. John Barber, a venerable servant of Christ, who, as the event proved, was then within a flew months of the termination of his earthly course.
With Dr. Clarke the time had now happily come when the same Providence which had dictated his longer residence in London, was about to open to him the doors of a more tranquil retreat, where he would be enabled, with greater freedom from interruption, to prosecute those theologic essays he was so anxious to complete before the arrival of the fast-approaching time when he too should “cease at once to work and live.” “I have made up my mind,” says he, “if God will open me a way, to leave this distracting city, and get out of the way even of a turnpike-road, that I may get as much out of every passing hour as I can. I ought to have no work at present but the Commentary; for none can comprehend the trouble, and often anguish, which the writing of these notes costs me; and what adds to the perplexity is the multitude of little things to which almost incessantly my attention is demanded. Matters are come to this, — if I do not at once get from many of my avocations, I shall soon be incapable of prosecuting any. I must hide my head in the country, or it will shortly be hidden in the grave.”
This was a decision which, in regard to various philanthropic institutions in London, to which he had long given his gratuitous and effective aid, as well as to the feelings of a multitude who had greatly profited under his ministry, could only be unwelcome, except for the personal relief it would give to one so highly honored and esteemed, whose added years, it was well believed, would be fully consecrated to the same great objects which had commanded the days of the past.