Are you a Christian?
BOOK 4, CH. 2,
HONOURED BY THE GREAT AND GOOD
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HONOURED BY THE GREAT AND GOOD
The fallen heart of man is not so utterly abandoned and debased as to have lost all sensibility to the praiseworthiness of the things that are pure, and honest, and of good report; for, among the heathens themselves, the wreath was given to the patriot, and shrines and statues rose to the fame of the wise and the just. Nor does Christianity discountenance such tributes to social worth. Religion attests her veneration for those who have lived for the public good, by inscribing their names on her temples; and the enlightened of all nations speak with reverence of Westminster Abbey, and like solemn places, as spots sacred to all humanity. The recollections they inspire create a wholesome influence on society at large, as the well-earned honors thus awarded are not only memorials to the dead, but incentives to virtuous effort among the living.
The true Christian has, indeed, a higher reward in view than any of these things can yield him. They are not the recompense to which he aspires, — compared with which the most glittering prizes of the world are only meteors in a changing sky. And if, instead of these honorable awards, dishonor and death would be the issue of his efforts, he would labor on, in the promotion of human welfare, to do the will of God. But if, on the other hand, his fellow-men recognize in him a merit which calls forth some tokens of commendation, he delays not to consecrate that tribute “to the greater glory of the Most High,” by employing the increasing influence it may confer upon him, as a talent to be improved in His service, and to His praise.
King Solomon has written that “a man shall be commended according to his wisdom:” — if this rule hold good, as it did in the instance of him whose course we are reviewing, the amplitude of the laudatory testimonials with which he was greeted will sufficiently prove the estimate his contemporaries had formed of him, as one of the master-spirits of the intellectual world.
From the ancient University of Aberdeen he had received, in 1807, the diploma of Master of Arts. The application to the Faculty for its conferment, made by the late Professor Porson, was perfectly unknown to Mr. Clarke who, as soon as he became aware of the circumstance, wrote to Mr. Porson as follows: — “It is only within a few hours that I have been informed of a request made to you by one of my friends for your recommendation to King’s College, Aberdeen. This was utterly without my knowledge, nor had I even the slightest intimation that anything of the kind was projected. I have such high notions of literary merit, and the academical distinctions to which it is entitled, that I would not in conscience take, or cause to be taken in my behalf, any step to possess the one, or to assume the other. Everything of this kind should come, not only unbought, but unsolicited. I should as soon think of being learned by proxy, as of procuring academical honors by influence; and, could one farthing purchase me the highest degree, I would not give it. Not that I lightly esteem such honors; I believe them, when given through merit, next to those which come from God: but I consider them misplaced when conferred in consequence of recommendation in which the person concerned has any part, near or remote. As I wish to stand us high as justice will permit in your good opinion, and as I should justly conclude I had deservedly forfeited it, if known to hunt after a title, I deem it necessary, on the hint I have received of this matter, to trouble you with these lines. What you have said of me I know not, but I am satisfied you would say nothing but what is kind and just; and to deserve and to have the smallest measure of the approbation of a man who stands at the head of the republic of letters, would be to me a very high gratification.”
The faculty of King’s College had already become too well acquainted with Mr. Clarke to be disinclined to meet the overture of the great Cambridge professor; and the degree was immediately conferred. The newly-created Master was thus advised of the honor by Professor Bentley, under date of January 31st, 1807: — “I have the pleasure to announce to you that the University and King’s College, Aberdeen, have this day unanimously conferred the degree of Master of Arts on Mr. Adam Clarke, member of the Philological Society of Manchester, and author of several literary works of merit. Mr. Scott is the promoter in this faculty, and I was obliged to him for seconding me in my proposal. Let me assure you, I look not on this as the measure of your merit; but it may be considered as a step: and, while I live, I shall not cease to wish, and (as far as it may be in my power) endeavor to promote, your due honor and fame.”
Some thirteen months afterwards the senate of King’s College attested their proper appreciation of his learning and labors by creating him Doctor of Laws. This act was announced to him in most complimentary terms by Mr. Bentley, under date of March 3rd, 1808: — “I have the pleasure to inform you, that this University has this day given another proof of its estimation of your merit, by unanimously voting to you the highest designation in its gift, that of LL.D. Permit me to add my sincere congratulations on the occasion, and to wish that you may long live to enjoy the rewards and fruits of your useful and meritorious labors. You are already as much possessed of the degree as it is possible to be; but I shall soon have the honor to transmit to you the demonstration of it in the sign manual of all the members of the Senatus Academicus.”
It may be added, that so entirely were these transactions divested of all pecuniary relationships, that the college refused to accept even the customary fees given on those occasions.
In 1813 Dr. Clarke was elected a Fellow of the Antiquarian Society. His nomination, which had the signature of one of the commissioners of the State Records, having been suspended at Somerset House for the usual period of six weeks, his election was unanimous. This connection with the Antiquarian Society was attended both with pleasure and profit to him, from the congeniality of the studies carried on by its members, with those in which all his life he felt a peculiar interest.
The Royal Irish Academy inscribed Dr. Clarke’s name among those of its members in 1821; a distinction which gave him the more satisfaction, from the circumstance that it was a token of esteem from his own countrymen.
A similar mark of respect was shown by the Eclectic Society of London, — an association consisting only of men who have distinguished themselves in literature or science. The chancellors of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were at that time the vice-patrons of the Society; the patron, H.R.H. the duke of Gloucester, whose seal was affixed to the diploma.
He had also the honor of being instituted a Member of the American Historical Institute.
It should be observed, that, as none of these distinctions had been sought by Dr. Clarke, so they were not overweeningly doted upon when received. He “bore his faculties meekly:” in truth, they gave him at times more pain than pleasure. He walked humbly with God, and with men; still ambitious, not of the laurel-wreaths that fade away, but of the crown which is incorruptible.
It is a fact, however, that from all ranks of society Dr. Clarke received most unequivocal tokens of real respect. Among the members of the Church of England, distinguished laics [laymen] and dignified clergymen made no secret of their personal regard for the learned Methodist divine. A pleasant incident illustrative of this took place at an anniversary meeting of the Prayer-Book and Homily Society. Dr. Clarke was on the platform, which was crowded by some of the elite of the Church. One of the speakers took occasion to refer to him, as “the worthy Doctor, who of all the men I know who are not of our Church, comes the nearest to it both in doctrine and friendship:” whereupon Dr. Clarke, in a speech which followed, ventured, in alluding to the reference to himself, to state his own connection with the Church by baptism, confirmation, and communion; adding, “If, after all, I am not allowed to be a member of it, because, through necessity being laid upon me, I preach Jesus to the perishing multitudes without those most respectable orders that come from it, I must strive to be content: and if you will not let me accompany you to heaven, I will, by the grace of God, follow after you, and hang upon your skirts.” Mr. Wilberforce, who was sitting beside the chair, rose, and in his usual animated style said: “Far from not acknowledging our worthy friend as a genuine member of the Church, and of the church of the first-born whose names are written in heaven, — far from denying him to be of the company who are pressing in at the gate of blessedness, — we will not indeed let him follow; he shall not hang on our skirts, to be as if (dragged onwards; we will take him in our arms, we will bear him in our bosoms, and carry him into the presence of his God and our God.”
On the publication of his little manual, “The Traveler’s Prayer,” he received complimentary letters from the Bishops Blomfield, Ryder, and Herbert Marsh. The latter prelate told him that, though long accustomed to read, study, and admire the Liturgy of the Anglican Church, he felt that Dr. Clarke’s discourse on the Third Collect developed beauties in it which he had never seen before. Blomfield, bishop of London, gave him a general invitation to visit him at Fulham Palace whenever he could make it convenient. On one occasion, after a frank conversation, as they were descending the stairs towards the hall-door, his lordship quoted in Latin the well-known sentence: “Seeing you are such a man, I wish you were altogether our own.” The bishop liked Dr. Clarke’s simple, genuine character, as well as his learning. He was a frequent reader of his Commentary.
The late earl and countess of Derby took several occasions of testifying the veneration and regard they had learned to entertain for him. Their personal acquaintance with him began after he had come to reside at Millbrook. He received (to quote a letter of his own) “a polite message, stating that, if agreeable to me, they would wait on me for the purpose of inviting me to Knowsley Hall. I fixed the next day at twelve; and they came There were thirteen persons, all nobles.” Much conversation took place. Among other topics, the countess, who seemed “far, very far from being indifferent to the life of God in the soul,” asked him for a copy of his sermon on “Salvation by Faith,” which he presented to her ladyship, with the kindred discourse on the “Love of God.” This led to other visits on both sides, and not without some good improvement.
Among the members of the royal family there were some who showed a personal respect for Dr. Clarke. His Commentary was not only in their libraries, but often in their hands. The duke of Kent, the father of our august sovereign, attended personally at City-road chapel to hear the Doctor preach for the Royal Humane Society; and the duke of Sussex gave him repeated evidences of a more than ordinary esteem.
That illustrious prince, among other excellent traits of character, was distinguished by an ardent love for Biblical learning. His own knowledge of the sacred tongues was more than respectable, and his library contained a magnificent collection of the Scriptures in the principal languages and editions in which they had been given to the world. The duke had fifteen hundred Bibles; and for many years he spent two hours every morning in reading the Scriptures. Now Dr. Clarke had a copy of the London Polyglot which contained in the Epistle Dedicatory a laudatory reference, by Walton, to Oliver Cromwell. The Protector dying before the actual publication of the work, this passage was suppressed, and the epistle modified so as to dedicate the Polyglot to the returning monarch. A few of the republican copies, nevertheless, found their way into the world; and from that in his own possession Dr. Clarke re-reprinted a few exemplars of the Dedication, in type exactly resembling the original. To render the likeness still more complete, he tinted the paper by an infusion of tobacco to the shade which time had given to the pages of the Polyglot. The duke of Sussex, having heard of this, expressed a wish to have one of those sheets for his own copy, and made the request for it through his surgeon, William Blair, Esq., who was a personal friend of Dr. Clarke: upon which the Doctor wrote a letter to His Royal Highness, accompanied by the only copy of the reprinted Dedication which remained, and a reprint of the titlepage to the fifth volume of the Polyglot, containing the New Testament, found only in a very few copies. In acknowledging the gift through his secretary, Mr. Pettigrew, “His Royal Highness” (writes that gentleman) “commands me to say that he trusts, whenever you come to London, you will honor him with a visit, when he will be very proud to show you his library, and be most happy to make the acquaintance of a man for whose talents and character he has so exalted an opinion.” Dr. Clarke, in reply, “made his humble acknowledgments, and should he come to town would feel himself honored in receiving any commands from His Royal Highness.”
Being in London about three months after, to preach for the Missionary Society, the Doctor was invited to meet the royal duke at Kensington Palace. “I went,” (says he, writing to Miss Clarke,) “and was received by His Royal Highness in his closet, and was led by himself through his library, where he showed me several curious things, and condescended to ask me several bibliographical questions, desiring his librarian from time to time to note the answers down. Dinner came. The company: H. H. H.; Dr. Parr, the highest Greek scholar in Europe; Sir Anthony Carlisle; the Rev. T. Maurice, of the British Museum; the Hon. _____ Gower, Colonel Wildman, Sir Alexander Johnstone, Lord Blessington, Mr. Pettigrew, and Adam Clarke. We sat down about seven o’clock, and dinner was over about half-past nine. I wished much to get away, (though the conversation was to me unique, curious, and instructive,) fearing your mother would be uneasy. I cannot give you the conversation, but you may judge by the outline “I was informed I must remain till all the company had departed, which was about twelve o’clock. When they were all gone, the duke sat down on the sofa, and beckoned me to come and sit beside him, on his right hand; and he entered for a considerable time into a most familiar conversation with me. At last a servant in the royal livery came to me, saying, ‘Sir, the carriage is in waiting.’ I rose up, and His Royal Highness, rising at the same time, took me affectionately by the hand, told me I must come and visit him some morning when he was alone, (which time should be arranged between me and his secretary,) bade me a friendly ‘good night,’ and I was then conducted by the servant to the door of the palace, when, lo, and behold, one of the royal carriages was in waiting, to carry a Methodist preacher, your old weather-beaten father, to his own lodgings.”
In the following November Dr. Clarke presented the duke with copies of the parts of his Commentary which had then been completed, and along with them a letter describing the history of the work, and the studies which had produced it. Referring to the pains he had taken to set the doctrines of the Bible in the clear light of evidence, he adds: “On all such subjects I humbly hope your Royal Highness will never consult these volumes in vain. And if the grand doctrines which prove that God is loving to every man, and that from His Infinite and Eternal Goodness He wills, and has made provision for, the salvation of every human soul, be found to be those alone which have stood the above sifting and examination, it was not because they were sought for beyond all others, and the Scriptures bent in that way in order to favor them, but because these doctrines are essentially contained in and established by the oracles of God.”
The duke of Sussex, acknowledging this offering in a long autograph letter, expressed his belief in the Divine origin and truth of the holy volume, and his despair of ever being able fully to understand all its mysteries. This, however, says he, “ought in no wise to slacken our diligence, nor damp our ardor, in attempting a constant research after the attainment of truth; as we may flatter ourselves, although unable to reach the goal, still to approach much nearer to its portals.” And again: “The objects, besides many others, which seem to have occupied the greatest and most valuable part of your active life, cannot fail of being most interesting to the historian, the theologist, the legislator, and the philosopher. To these details I shall apply myself; and, as my heart and mind improve, I shall feel my debt of gratitude towards you daily increasing, — an obligation I shall ever be proud to own.”
In April, 1825, he was favored with another invitation to Kensington. The Doctor was accompanied this time by his son, Mr. J. W. Clarke, who had been included by His Royal Highness’s command. Writing to Miss Clarke, her father says: “We reached Kensington about six o’clock. The duke soon made his appearance, (for by this time the whole company were in the pavilion,) and, singling me out, took me by the hand, and led me forward to two Indian gentlemen, saying, ‘Here is my friend Dr. Adam Clarke, who will speak Persic or Mabic with any of you.’ Previously to dinner, all the company were ushered into the room where the MSS. and early printed books are kept. The duke of Hamilton remarking upon the probable date of some of them, from their illuminations, John gave two or three opinions, heraldically, [dealing with armorial bearings] which were happy and decisive The profusion of plate was amazing. I ate about an ounce of turbot, and did not taste one drop of fluid of any kind. His Royal Highness two or three different times recommended viands [articles of food] from the head of the table to John, and pledged and sent him some Trinity College ale. He soon felt at home, and took his part in discussions on antiquities and heraldry, which were well received The conversation referred to several points of language and criticism.”
Hitherto the Doctor had been the guest of the Prince; but, on coming to reside at Haydon Hall, he had the honor of receiving His Royal Highness in more than one friendly visit. On the first occasion he was accompanied by Mr. Pettigrew, his librarian. Dr. Clarke received his august visitor with a truehearted and genial politeness. During dinner the prince entered freely into social and intellectual conversation, and spent several hours after with the Doctor among his books. Sometime subsequently the duke made a second visit, having previously intimated his wish to have the pleasure of dining at Haydon Hall. He came as early as two o’clock, and employed the interval before dinner in reading portions of the Bible, and making references in Hebrew criticism. He was greatly delighted with inspecting a set of Hebrew manuscripts which Dr. Clarke had been fortunate enough to purchase from the Vanderhagen family in Holland; manuscripts which Kennicott mentions in the Introduction to his great Bible, with the lamentation that with all his efforts he had not been able to have access to them for collation. — It was just subsequent to this visit that the Rev. Joseph Clarke, the Doctor’s youngest son, was appointed chaplain to the duke of Sussex.
In closing these details, we must remark that the veneration and honor in which Dr. Clarke was held in his lifetime, have now long survived his own appearance among us, and seem to gather new strength as years roll on. In the very week in which these lines are penned, the public newspapers give an account of a meeting held in the court-house in the town of Coleraine for the purpose of founding “a memorial to Dr. Adam Clarke, in the erection of a Methodist chapel at Port-Stewart, in the parish of Agherton, where he was brought up; and of a memorial obelisk and statue, to be raised at Port-Rush, as the most conspicuous site, and in the focus of observation for travelers and tourists to the Giants’ Causeway.” It appears that such a purpose has been formed not only by the Methodists of that part of Ireland, but by the great body of the most influential inhabitants.
Among the names of the managing committee are those of a nobleman, Lord Robert Montague, a member of Parliament, five justices of the peace, the treasurer for the county, several military officers, four aldermen, a number of the clergy, and some of the principal landed gentlemen in that part of the kingdom; the chairman, J. C. Knox, Esq., of Jackson Hall. Such demonstrations reflect an honor on those who make them, as well as on the character of him whom they are designed to commemorate. As opposed to the too common and heartless ingratitude of the world, the veneration shown for men who have widened the horizon of human knowledge, or helped to confirm our souls in virtue, is something beautiful and desirable. When human society shall be regenerated from its blind debasement, such benefactors will receive the reverence of nations.