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  • THE LIFE OF THE REV. ADAM CLARKE:
    BOOK 4, CH. 5, THE HUSBAND

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    CHAPTER 5

    THE HUSBAND

    We have already narrated the circumstances in which this holy relation was entered upon by the subject of our memoir. The union then consecrated endured, with an ever-effectual benediction, through the long years of a diversified but happy life. In the case of Adam Clarke and Mary Cooke, the marriage solemnity was the outward and visible sign of an inward, spiritual, and imperishable oneness, — the sacrament of an everlasting love.

    In the partner of his life Dr. Clarke ever found that Providence had given him “a help meet.” Mrs. Clarke possessed not merely the graces of a pleasing exterior; but those inward virtues of which St. Peter speaks as the true adorning of the holy woman, and which are in the sight of God of great price. She had a cultivated mind, a sound judgment, and a regenerated heart. She was the worthy companion, and often to good results the wise counselor and serviceable helper, of her hard-working and grateful husband.

    A mother in Israel, and a mother at home, she brought up a large family, and at the same time fulfilled what Mr. Wesley called, in reference to her gracious conduct, “the office of a deaconess,” in discharging, in every Circuit, the duties of a class-leader and a visitor of the sick and poor.

    These good works were coeval [began and existed together] with her religious life. At Trowbridge, where she was brought up, she no sooner became a subject of converting grace, than it displayed its effects in those incipient efforts at usefulness by which Miss Cooke was enabled to give important aid to the then feeble cause of Methodism in that town. So, onward from year to year, through the course of her extended life, with ever-enlarging knowledge and deepening experience, she labored with unobtrusive but successful endeavor to lead persons of her own sex into and onward in the way to heaven.

    At home, her influence formed the character of a remarkable family, the members of which in death and life have called her blessed. As to her husband, in all the changing scenes of their chequered history, her abiding and sanctified love, revealing itself in ceaseless ministries for his and their comfort in mind, body, and estate, shed a ray of solace upon the darkest hours, and heightened and perfected the bliss of those which were most prosperous.

    It is only to give a more true idea of this lovely character that I take the liberty to select a few sentences from one or two of her letters to Mr. Clarke. The following gives a specimen of those dispositions, sweet and blessed, which gave such a charm to his home. It was written so far back as the year 1791, at the time when they were just leaving Dublin for Liverpool; Mr. Clarke having already left for the Manchester Conference. I may just observe, that her beautiful writing is in the old Italian hand, so unlike the insignificant and illegible scrawl in which some young ladies are now taught to afflict the eyes of those who have the task of reading their compositions. “My spirit deeply feels how tedious are the moments of separation.

    Indeed, my best-beloved, as thou art all the world to me, so now, in losing thee, I wofully experience that I have lost all things except my God.

    Blessed be His holy name, He supports me still; and, was it not for His peculiar aid at this time, my heart would sink into hopeless melancholy.

    My spirits are exceedingly low, and the friends’ well-meant and kind officiousness serves to increase the dejection they strive to remove. The Turk, poor compassionate creature, says, ‘You cry so much, no good, no good; consume you.’ Yesterday I was very weak; in the evening could just stand alone. Through the night, while the rain poured in torrents against the windows, gloomy were my thoughts of the worst that could befall you. All the horrors of shipwreck were in a lively manner present to my imagination. At length I found something like composure from the thought that perhaps at the coming on of the rain the wind changed in your favor I have today gathered my little unpacked things into one place. This has helped to draw my mind from the thought of separation, and to bring the idea of reunion, seeing all my stuff and little matters drawn up in order for embarkation. Today I feel better, because I hope by this time you are in Liverpool. If we follow, we have promises of company. William Higley is determined on the voyage; and the poor Turk, if spared, will be our companion. He says, ‘Me no sick: me take care John and Adam. Madame Clarke sick, Phoebe sick.’ John is recovered charmingly, and with returning health he is also getting his good tempers back again. Adam is but poorly, thin, and sickly. I cannot help thinking that he will by and by follow his precious sister. I see her in him more and more.

    From another letter: “Bristol, 1789. — Mary Clarke to the dearly beloved of her spirit wisheth all peace, with every present and future blessing his heart can desire, or the God of love and omnipotence bestow. I have been led this morning to pray that my dear husband may be assisted by the Spirit of wisdom and power to declare the counsel of the Holy One unto the people; and in consequence I feel a comfortable persuasion that his word shall not fail of some good effect. I have often a presentiment of the power of the coming word, by having (as it seems) an infused energetic cry after it in my soul. I know not when I have felt more of it than last Thursday week, in the evening, when, immediately after singing the verse preceding the sermon, every power of my spirit instinctively (if I may say so) ascended in one ardent ejaculation, ‘Grant, O my God, the spirit of wisdom unto the speaker, and let Thy power be manifested now among the people!’ My soul then returned in confidence that a blessing should be given. Directly you gave out for a text, ‘The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.’ If you look back, you will remember that I believed not in vain, but according to my faith so was it then; and so have I generally found it “I am myself nearly as well as I can yet expect to be; but suffered much, very much, yesterday, by abstaining some hours too long from food. But from painful experience perhaps I shall learn a lesson of wisdom. As for little John, he is loving and saucy, and would give you a hundred kisses if you were here, though you sent him never a one Frances sends her love; and as for me, believe that with all possible affection I am thine most truly.”

    When, in subsequent years, the Doctor was carrying on his extensive literary undertakings, the few hours he could spare for the pen were rendered more unbroken than otherwise they could possibly have been, by the intervention of Mrs. Clarke in receiving visitors and transacting minor affairs connected with the business of the Society and Circuit; with which, by practice, she had become as conversant as any superintendent among us. She kept all the book-accounts; in the Doctor’s absence on his numerous journeys, opened all the letters which came for him, and, condensing the contents of them within the compass of one, for the saving of postage, transmitted it as a report to him. Thus, under date, “London, February, 1806,” she states that one letter was from Mr. _____, asking the loan of a few pounds; another, from Mr. Wrigley, concerning moneymatters of Mr. S_____; another, from Mr. Boyd, containing family-affairs; another, from Mr. Entwisle, just arrived, “which I have not yet had time to read through, but chiefly relating to chapel-building, expenditure, and whys and means, all submitted to you, as chairman of the District;” another, from Mr. Mr. Q_____, “the largest size folio-sheet, full, full on all sides and in every corner. It contains many good things, many learned things, many strange things, many unaccountable things, with the promise of many more things yet to come. A bundle of letters also, of three folio sheets, is come from Mr. Drew, addressed to Mr. Woolmer, and sent by him for Mr. Benson, to publish in the Magazine. It is a dialogue between himself and a Deist, on the top of a coach.”

    It will be evident that Dr. Clarke’s confidence in his wife was perfect. He had no secrets to conceal from her, nor wished to have. Their minds were in sound and healthy unison. His own personal life, and his public life, with all its encouragements and discouragements, were perfectly known to her; and that, with a return of gentle and wise counsel, and holy comfort, which greatly smoothed his pathway.

    By her pen, too, she helped her husband not a little. She would transcribe a manuscript for the press and at times, I imagine, she lent some aid in original composition, getting forward such works as admitted of that kind of participation. I speak not on this point with certainty, except the degree of it which may be gathered from an expression here and there of the Doctor’s. Thus, writing to her from Ireland: “Cannot you and John prepare a few sheets of the Concordance? The book is in the back study, and he knows the volume of Calmet from whence he is to correct the proper names. See YOU do the definitions, if there be any. A few sheets will do.”

    While engaged on the Commentary, “it was his frequent practice, at the close of the day at Millbrook, to read the notes he had written to Mrs.

    Clarke, and take her opinion of them. Sometimes, after he had done work, she would read aloud to him and the listening family some amusing and instructive book.” Such was she of whom it is no small honor to say, that she was worthy of being the wife of Dr. Adam Clarke. And for a more ample account of this exemplary lady I refer the reader to a work published by her daughter in 1851, with the title of “Mrs. Adam Clarke, her Character and Correspondence;” a volume which deserves a place by the side of the Memoirs of Mrs. Fletcher, Lady Maxwell, Mrs. Hester Ann Rogers, Mrs.

    Tatham, Mrs. Agnes Bulmer, and those other sanctified females whose “Holy Living has adorned so beautifully the religious communion to which they belonged.

    Dr. Clarke knew the value of the gift which Heaven had conferred upon him in this companion of his days. With each passing year his love became more tender, and the honor in which he held her, more high and sacred. The anniversary of their wedding was always a time of grateful joy. On one of those days, being away, he writes to her: “This day I have kept with comfort for above forty years. You are more regardless of these kinds of observances than I naturally am: with me such things have much weight; and now, being absent, I wish to show you that I carry the remembrance of it, and my respect for it, two hundred miles beyond my own dwelling.” On another, he presents her with a tender poem; and on another, with a gold watch, — “the beautiful dial of which,” he tells her, “is an emblem of thy face; the delicate pointers, of thy hands; and the balance, of thy conduct in thy family.” The only difference which the lapse of years made in his admiration of her was to strengthen it. Cowper’s sweet lines seem as if they had been written to express the sentiments of this true-hearted spouse: — “Thy silver locks, once auburn bright, Are still more lovely in my sight Than golden beams of orient light, My Mary. “To be the same through good and ill, In wintry change to feel no chill, With me is to be lovely still, My Mary.”

    In truth, religion, with its ever indestructible and celestial band, had made their union everlasting. They were one in Christ, and were persuaded that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, could separate them. They knew that, when time with them would be no more, they should live together with the Lord; and in the years of this life they lived to Him. For the God before whom they walked, and who had fed them all their days, and redeemed them, was their sun and shield, giving them grace, and about to give them glory, they walking uprightly. Their wish and vow, their purpose and their prayer, so to do, and so to be, might have been well told in the words which Lavater, in one of his household hymns, puts upon the lips of a Christian wife and husband To bear, endure, and love, and give, Be ours long as on earth we live; In tranquil confidence of soul, To consecrate to Thee our whole Made wiser with the flight of days, In joy and sorrow, Thee to praise; Till, in blest death, our souls depart, Till we behold Thee as Thou art.

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