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  • THE LIFE OF THE REV. ADAM CLARKE:
    BOOK 4, CH. 3, THE PHILANTHROPIST

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    CHAPTER 3

    THE PHILANTHROPIST

    “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” The good works of the Christian derive their life and splendor from love, without which they would be “dead works,” and nothing worth. Of this principle the venerable man whose history we are now reviewing had an abiding conviction. That “vital spark of heavenly flame,” the love of God, kindled in his soul by the Eternal Spirit, revealed itself in a life of humble piety toward the great Supreme, and ceaseless efforts to promote the welfare of mankind. The more he knew of Christ his Saviour by a communion which grew more intimate with his years, the stronger were the impulses of his mind and heart to walk as He also walked who “went about doing good.”

    This living Christianity took one of its many forms of expression in sympathy for the friendless poor, and especially for them who were of the household of faith, whom he called “the representatives of Christ, and God’s best friends.” A few words from an early letter, written in Guernsey, will show the nature of this feeling: — “William Mahy, our local preacher, was obliged to put his four little innocents to bed in the day-time, and cover them up, to prevent them from starving; not having a morsel of coal to burn, nor money to purchase any. Had a portion of the cash wasted in the above way” (referring to a piece of extravagance) “been appropriated to the relief of this distressed good man, how gladly would the first scribe in heaven have registered it in the annals of eternity! When I consider the suffering state of these ‘more righteous than I,’ I can scarcely eat my morsel with contentment. If there is meaning in the expression ‘a bleeding heart,’ I think I have it for the poor. My very soul seems to f eel for them throughout the world, as my father, my sister, my mother, and my brethren. Forgive me, if, in detailing on this subject, which oppresses my heart, I have forgotten to write about the full salvation you inquired after: but is it not found in the compassions of Christ? And were not these exercised in continual outgoings for the poor? He lived for the poor, He died for the poor; and blessed is he who remembereth the poor, even supposing he is not able to help them. I know I feel the spirit and power of Christ, as I feel love modified into compassion and pity.” And this feeling led him to do whatever in him lay to relieve the distressed, and to do it in the Christian way, without the trumpet-tongue of the Pharisee, and not letting his left hand know what his right hand did. When he had little, of that little he gave willingly. He literally broke his bread and shared his morsel with the hungry, and taught his children to do the same. We have given an illustration of this on a former page. Writing to Mrs. Clarke from the Bristol Conference in 1798, he says: “I have just found out poor Mrs. C_____, with her mother and sister, living together in an indifferent upstairs room, St. James’s Churchyard, Horsefair. I must give her something. But what shall I do? I have but 2s. 6d. I must break in upon my Conference guinea.” We transcribe these words with delicacy; but do it to show what manner of a man Dr. Clarke really was. In after-life, when Providence gave him more, he was able to make his donations more weighty: — “Give poor Ellen that guinea for me.” — “Give Mrs. _____ a guinea for me.” — “I have just heard that Mr. _____ has become a bankrupt, and is in great distress. Can you show him any kindness? I have sent by Mrs. S_____ two guineas, which you will give to him, with my love. Do not delay.” The exercise of his medical skill often gave him great consolation, as he was enabled thus to relieve distress and to save life. He exulted, also, in witnessing good done by others. Writing on a journey, he mentions an inscription on a house in Rochester with which he was delighted: it set forth that Mr. ____ had by will bequeathed a certain sum to be laid out at all times upon poor travelers, “six of whom every night (provided they be neither rogues nor proctors) may have their supper and a night’s lodging, and fourpence a man next morning.” “Was not this noble?” says he: “Peace to the manes of this honorable fellow!”

    He set others to do good; not only by the general tenor of his doctrine and life, but by organizing associations for works of mercy to the body and the soul. Of this the Strangers’ Friend Society is a blessed monument.

    But Dr. Clarke’s benevolence took a wider range than the necessities of the body. Not content with supplying according to his power the hungry with food, and clothing the naked with a garment, but recognizing the loftier destines of our nature, he used every means at his command to meet the wants of the immortal mind. In the poorest orphan he beheld a being who could be brought to the knowledge of God as a Father, and become the heir of an endless life. To further the great cause of religious education was with him, therefore, a prominent duty; and by his long-continued appeals on behalf of Sunday-schools, those important institutions were greatly aided. But in the year 1830, his attention was especially attracted to a providential opening for the establishment of some day-schools in certain destitute neighborhoods in that part of Ireland where he himself had spent his childhood. A Christian friend, Miss Birch, who had already greatly aided him in his charitable enterprises, now united with three other ladies in placing funds at his disposal for this good work. The Rev. Samuel Harpur, superintendent of the Coleraine Circuit, had corresponded with him on the subject, and pointed out such localities as, having been left in entire destitution, presented the strongest claims. These preliminaries were followed up by a personal visit on the part of the Doctor himself, who in the spring of 1831 accomplished a long itinerancy in the north of Ulster, “about Magilligan, on Ahadowey; the upper parts of the parish of Mocosquin; a place called Cashel, near the mountains of Newtownlimavaddy, and on the side of the river Bann; the seacoast parts of the county Antrim; Port-Rush and its vicinity, where there was a large and increasing population, and where for miles there was no school of any kind, nor any sort of instruction, and where, consequently, ignorance and vice had almost uncontrolled sway.” As soon as the means were in existence, he gave Mr. Harpur the power to commence operations; so that, before his arrival, school s had been opened at Port-Rush and some other places, and suitable masters engaged for those yet contemplated. We give a specimen from a copious diary kept on this pilgrimage of mercy: — “April 13th. — Mr. Holderoft and myself left Coleraine in a car, and proceeded to Port-Stuart and Port-Rush I have scarcely ever seen a sight more lovely: though the children are all miserably poor, and only half clothed, they are all quite clean, their hair combed, and even their bare feet clean also. There are eighty children, and all behaving with decorum, — thus strangely changed in their conduct and habits. Wicked words no longer heard, and decency of behaviour everywhere observable. They have not only learned prayers, but how to use them. I discoursed with some of the principal inhabitants, who bore the strongest testimony to the great good already produced not only among the children, but also among their parents. They are at present ill off for a place sufficiently large; and I am straggling hard to get a piece of ground, on which a chapel and school-house may be erected, and believe I shall ultimately succeed. “April 14th. — We set off again this morning to visit the schools in the hill-country. Here” (at Cashel) “were seventy-five children, and not one pair of shoes among the whole. The children are in fine order, and promise well. The aspect of the country would almost affright one, — the most bleak and wild that can be imagined.

    Never did charity sit down in the form of an instructress more in her own character than in this waste. The school-house is large: I have agreed to take the place, pay the debt, and give 1. 10s. to put it in repair. Every Lord’s day it is now full of attentive hearers; for the master is a preacher. “April 18th. — We went today to a place called Croagh, where the whole youth of a large and populous district have been long without education. It had been published that I was expected.

    When we got within a mile of the place, we saw squads of children with their mothers coming down the hills and over the moors from all quarters to the school-house, which is little more than half finished. So a farmer had prepared a barn meantime. I proclaimed an adjournment to the barn, about half a mile off; and, setting out, they all filed after me, children and mothers. When at the place, I addressed the parents out of doors, and laid down the rules and conditions on which the children were to be admitted. Then, standing at the barn-door, I admitted them, one by one, to the number of one hundred and thirty-three; introduced the master gave his character and qualifications; specified the sort of teaching the children were to receive; the discipline under which they were to be brought, — to learn their duty to God, to their parents, to each other; to pray; to avoid every evil in word and deed, in spirit, temper, and desire; to be industrious, cleanly, orderly, respectful to their superiors, affectionate to their relatives, kind and obliging to their equals. After a good deal of exhortation, I then proceeded to bring all the children out of the barn, laying my hands upon their heads, and praying to God for His blessing upon them all.”

    Such is an extract from this pleasing record of operations which resulted in the establishment of schools which have ever since been centers of intellectual, religious, and social benefit to the neighborhoods where they stand. Towards the close of his life, Dr. Clarke made then over to the care of the Wesleyan Missionary Society.

    A yet more weighty undertaking was the establishment of a mission to the Zetland Isles. To this truly apostolic work Dr. Clarke brought the latest vigor of his life. The youthful evangelist in the sunny islands of La Manche, now changed by the lapse of years to the grey-headed elder, bends his way to tell the inhabiters of the storm-beaten rocks of the “ultima Thule” the majesty and grace of the same Redeemer.

    It was at the Conference of 1822, the year of the Doctor’s third presidency, that, in an extensive discussion on the missionary agencies of Methodism, the late Rev. Daniel McAllum, M.D., laid before his brethren an impressive account of the almost destitute condition of the Zetlanders as to the means of religious instruction. Dr. Clarke listened to those details with more than usual interest. He had himself descended, on the mother’s side, from a family which from remote generations lived the life of Scottish islanders in the Hebrides; and this circumstance would probably give a finer edge to the sensibility with which he felt the speaker’s appeals.

    Under the influence of these feelings he rose, urged on the Conference the duty of taking the work at once in hand, and concluded by proposing that two missionaries should be thereupon appointed to the Zetland Isles. The difficulty as to expenses he would not permit to interfere with the favorable leaning of the Conference toward the enterprise; already resolving that all he could do, or induce others to do, should be called freely into exercise to promote this plain work of mercy. Accordingly two ministers, the Rev. John Raby and the Rev. Samuel Dunn, were set apart for the new mission.

    No sooner had the Doctor returned from Conference, than he commenced operations for raising the necessary funds. There lived at that time at Pensford, near Bristol, a gentleman of great honor and piety, Robert Scott, Esq., who, with his excellent lady, was always willing to help the preachers in their enterprises to make the Saviour known to the nigh and to the far-off. To him the President made his first appeal; and with what effect, the annals of that mission will never cease to show. Mr. Scott gave the promise of a hundred pounds per annum for the support of the missionaries, and of ten pounds toward every chapel to be built in the islands. In fulfilling this promise, he always exceeded the amount at first stipulated, while his admirable wife, and her sister, the late Miss Granger, of Bath, added also their handsome donations. It should also be mentioned, that Mr. Scott subsequently bequeathed the sum of three thousand pounds in trust for the Zetland missions. Dr. Clarke was one of the trustees. From th e Honorable Sophia Ward, Miss Birch, Miss Williams, and other ladies, he also received considerable amounts in addition, by which he was enabled to inaugurate this undertaking with a fair prospect of perpetuity and success.

    The brethren appointed began and continued the arduous task assigned them in the spirit of true Christian missionaries. They went from isle to isle, in storm and sunshine alike, to dispense the word of life to a scattered population, who heard them with gratitude, and gave good evidence too that the Gospel had come to them not in word only, but with powerful grace. In this work the two preachers had to endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Their employment exposed them to much physical discomfort and danger, and their way was sometimes rendered the more discouraging by the opposition of the few Scottish clergy located in the islands. Though the state of the people sufficiently proved that this evangelic help was painfully needed, those gentlemen were far from being disposed to accord it their welcome. This, however, did not deter the two brethren or their successors from doing their duty, and doing it with a blessed return.

    To describe the minute and earnest interest which Dr. Clarke took in this mission would require details too multitudinous for our limits. By referring to the twelfth volume of his Works the reader will find a variety of papers, geographical, statistical, epistolary, and narrative, all bearing on the subject. Twice the Doctor undertook a pilgrimage by land and sea to visit the missionaries on their far-off stations, to see the people for himself, and to preach among them the riches of Christ. The first voyage was in 1826.

    On account of his then advanced period of life, and his frequent ailments, the project gave Mrs. Clarke and the family no small uneasiness; but their fears were allayed by the words of faith with which he addressed them. “It seems,” said he, “a work which God has given me to do: I must go on till He stops me. To sacrifice my life, at the command or in the work of God, is, as to pain or difficulty, no more to me than a burnt straw. My life is His, and He will not take it away out of the regular course, unless greatly to His glory and my good If I am enabled to take the journey, fear not for me; for I shall be most certainly supported through it. I am sure God will not bury me in the Northern Ocean.”

    Of this expedition we have a full account in a journal kept at the time. On the 1st of June, with his son, Mr. John Clarke, he left London; and at Edinburgh he was joined by Messrs. Campion and Mackey. It was not till the 9th that they could secure a passage to the islands, which at length was accomplished in the Admiralty’s cutter, the “Woodlark,” Captain Frembly. “We got on pretty well till” (June 15th) “we came to the Pentland Frith [a narrow inlet of the sea, or an estuary]. Here was a monstrous sea: tide conflicting with tide raised the billows to a fearful height; but, as the wind was fair, our cutter cut through all. Near the Fair Isle the wind changed, and blew a hurricane; the sea wrought and was tempestuous. We seemed to have arrived at the end of the globe, where nature existed in chaotic uproar. There appeared a visible rage and anger in every wave: such tremendous thunder, while the waves and the billows of the Almighty went over us At length the angry wind chopped about, the storm became more moderate, and we had at least a fair gale, though the sea was still tremendous.” On the 17th, they dropped anchor in Bressa-Bay, and the barren mountains of Zetland rose to their view. On landing he found three of the preachers “who had been on the look-out three days.”

    On the morrow, Sunday, June 18th, he preached in the new chapel at Lerwick, “a light airy building, in every respect a credit to the place.” The congregation large, respectable, attentive. The Sunday-school had eighty children; the teachers, some of the most respectable of the youth of the town. On Tuesday evening he preached again, and in a discourse on the “Sum and Substance of Apostolic Preaching” (subsequently published) gave an exposition of the doctrines of the Methodists. The rest of the week he spent in perambulations and passages among the islands, making minute observations on the country and the condition of the people, and imparting to them in conversation and public addresses counsels which he thought would do them good. He s peaks highly of the hospitality he received from several families; but notes that, on returning to Lerwick, “what with the incessant pain I had suffered, my different water-passages, the long and fatiguing walks, and this last ride” (among the mountains and rocks) “on the ponies, I was most excessively wearied, — indeed, so ill as to be obliged to take to my bed, where I suffered more pain than I have felt for years.” “June 20th. — I have met all the preachers, and made provisional appointments and arrangements which are for the Conference to ratify. I feel utterly incapable of additional fatigue. My natural force is abated, my eye is become dim, and my days of extra labor are over. — 30th. Distributed blankets, rugs, flannel shawls, and hymn-books among the poor people. — July 2nd. Preached to a large and deeply-attentive congregation from Luke 13:23: ‘ Are there few that be saved? ‘ and in the evening from Romans 15:4.”

    This sermon, on “God’s Mercy in the Gift of Revelation,” was afterwards published, with a dedication “to the gentry and inhabitants of the town of Lerwick.”

    The voyagers embarked on board the “Norna” on the 6th of July, and gained the bay of Aberdeen after six days’ conflict with the winds and tides. On the 12th the Doctor arrived in Edinburgh, and proceeded homeward most gratefully, though with pleasure chastened by the painful intelligence, which met him in the Scottish capital, that his dear friend and brother-in-law, Mr. Butterworth, was no more.

    Two years later Dr. Clarke made a second visitation to those remote stations. “I am now preparing,” (February 20th, 1828,) “to take another voyage to Shetland. There are some things that remain to be done for that interesting people, which I think no man can do but myself. My life is the Lord’s: I take it in my hand, and make it a most free-will offering to Him.

    His work there is the most glorious, deep, extensive, and steady I have ever known: for its support God has given me the hearts of the people, who have most liberally helped me. The preachers have been faithful and laborious. When I saw the effects of the labors of those two young men, Messrs. Dunn and Raby, I have been astonished.”

    The party on this second occasion embarked at Whitby, on the 18th of June; the passage excellent, as on the 21st they landed at Lerwick, having seen the sun that morning “rising between two and three o’clock, — no previous night.” From that day to the 18th of July, he was hard at work in various parts of the Zetland group, “from Sumburgh-Head south, to the Scaw of Unst in the north.” In the Societies he found, in Lerwick members, in Walls, 455, North Mavin, 115, Yell, 250, besides a number in Foula and the Fair Isle. He met the Sunday-school children, “to discover the most necessitous, that I might provide them with some clothing; “and on the 26th and 27th of June, he employed the chief part of the day in apportioning clothing of different kinds to the extremely poor in the different islands. “Having invited the magistrates, professional gentlemen, and merchants of the town to dine with me on board the ‘ Henry,’ they came; and for the place and circumstances the dinner was satisfactory, and all seemed pleased. The conversation turned upon subjects of science, and matters in which the reality of the invisible world is concerned, and was upon the whole both useful and improving. “Sunday, July 6th. — Having crossed the high hills, a congeries [disorderly collection, mass, heap] of serpentine rocks, we passed Haroldswick, and at length reached Northwick, (lat. 61 degrees) the farthest town or habitation north in the British dominions. Here I preached on Job xxii. 21: ‘Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace; that thereby good may come unto thee.’ There was no other sermon preached on this day between this spot and the North Pole. A press of people. I returned on foot, accompanied by six persons who had come sixteen miles to hear the preaching. I took them aboard to dine, and they are just gone off in our boat to regain the shore, most deeply affected.”

    On the 11th, he laid the foundation-stone of a chapel in the island of Foula.

    Once more arrived in Lerwick, early on Sunday, the 13th, “I went on shore to enjoy the luxury of clean things and a good washing. By the time this was done, the preaching-hour arrived, and without eating a morsel I had to go into the pulpit. It is strange I should have been capable of this after exposure on the deck for twenty hours. I found power in preaching. — July 17th, weighed anchor, and stood out of Bressa-Sound. May God grant us a prosperous voyage! Several friends came aboard, and many are following along shore to get the last view of us. God be with this people for ever!

    The full journal of these voyages may be seen in the twelfth volume of Dr. Clarke’s Works, along with several other papers relating to the Zetland Isles and the Wesleyan missions there. The same volume contains, also, a valuable mass of correspondence with the missionaries.

    The manifestations of benevolence unfolded in this chapter must not be regarded as fitful impulses or isolated facts in the conduct of Dr. Adam Clarke, but as occurrences which are but parts of a series which formed the general tenor of his life — a life spent in doing good, sanctified, adorned, ennobled by the spirit of that genuine Christianity which magnifies God in the highest, and creates the fruits of peace and good-will among men. “Thy care was fix’d, and zealously employ’d To fill thy odorous lamp with deeds of light, And hope that reaps not shame.”

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