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  • ADAM CLARKE PORTRAYED
    Volume I, SECTION V.,
    1780, Friendship & Travels


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    SECTION V.

    1780.

    After Adam had been in Society some time, and given "a word of exhortation," he heard of a Quarterly Meeting to be held at Ballymena, a town midway between Belfast and Coleraine, and about twenty-six English miles from his father's house. Preaching, and a watch-night, were connected with the meeting; and, of the whole, he had formed the most exalted notion; and expecting to reap great benefit from such means, he resolved to attend. John McKenny, who was a classmate of Adam's, accompanied him to the town, both of them walking the whole of the way. The writer having been informed of the fact, inquired of Mr. Myles the particulars, who said, -" The Coleraine preachers visited Ballymena, and I was at that time on the circuit: I attended the quarterly meeting, and was present when Adam and John McKenny arrived: Adam had on a brown coat with brass buttons: he appeared very young, and was much disappointed, when told that there would be no preaching that night, in consequence of my being obliged to go to another part of the circuit. When I left, he collected the children around him, and addressed them: they were all in tears; and the people were so taken with him, that they got him to deliver an address to them in the evening. He stopped, at their request, over the next day, when we held a watch-night." "And did you not," inquired the writer, "chide the good people, for having pressed him to speak in public?" "Why, yes," he returned, a little embarrassed; "being so young, I was afraid of his misleading the people for want of experience." Passing through Ballymena, some years afterwards, with the once juvenile speaker, the writer took occasion to remind him of his early visit, when he noticed how he himself was affected -- the weeping of the children -- the affection of the friends -- and the displeasure of Mr. Myles. "I could not then," he observed, "recollect much about the persons of any of the people, and it was the first pulpit in which I had spoken." This, it should be remarked, was some time before he went to Mr. Bennet's, but it is noticed here in connection with another excursion, distinguished for public usefulness.

    One of those friendships which was of essential importance to Adam, was the one formed with the Rev. John Bredin, who, greatly his senior, directed him in his studies, as well as lent him books suitable for the prosecution of them. Mr. Bredin appears to have commenced his itinerant career some time about 1769, [45] and traveled successively both in England and Ireland. He was a man of considerable intellectual energy and shrewdness; and having command of language, ready utterance, -- and combining with the whole, a stout, well-proportioned figure, with handsome features, he passed with ministerial credit in the different circuits in which he traveled, and was extensively useful in his official character. But he suffered many years under great bodily affliction; and this united to a temper naturally harsh, he was an occasional source of trial to his best friends, and on this account justice was not always awarded to his various excellences. Severe, however, as he was, he was never known to speak to the disadvantage of an absent person. Returning, through indisposition, to second childhood, he died at an advanced age, in Belfast, Nov. 2, 1819. He was in what may be termed the palmy state of life, when Adam Clarke first became acquainted with him; but even then, before severe affliction had made inroads upon the temper of his mind, his manner and eccentricities rendered him occasionally anything but amiable as a constant companion. "Though he loved me dearly," said Adam, "he often treated me roughly, by placing me under severe discipline."

    After Mr. Bredin had been some time in the Londonderry circuit, "He asked my father and mother," observed Adam, "for the loan of me, eight or ten days, and to allow me to spend the time with him at Derry. The distance from my father's house was about thirty miles. Mr. Bredin was at Derry, when I set off; so I walked the whole of the way alone. Just before I left home, these words were impressed upon my mind; 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth much fruit, and that your fruit should remain that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.' [46] These words I could not shake off; they recurred again and again, -- nor the thought, that I might possibly be called to the work of the ministry, and that I might be able, perhaps, to preach some time, though hope was exceedingly distant. The day after my arrival at Derry, Mr. Bredin said to me, -- 'Adam, you must preach at New Buildings for me tonight.' I answered, I cannot preach, Sir; but I will speak to the people. 'You must take a text,' he replied, 'and preach from it.' I returned, 'I never did take a text; and cannot consent to it now.' After some other words, he peremptorily said, -- 'I insist upon your taking a text, and preaching from it, -- or you shall see my face no more.' The last sentence, I knew not how to interpret. To pacify him, I went, and literally, in the fear of God, of man, and of the devil. I thought, -- Well, I will go; I can only bring back the tidings, that I went, -- tried, -- failed, -- and brought a disgrace upon Methodism. -- I got to the place some time before the hour of preaching; and not knowing anyone, I wandered down the banks of a river, which connected itself with a beautiful sheet of water. My perplexity was exchanged for heaviness; I lay down on the grass -- prayed, -- wept, -- and read my Bible. At first, there did not appear a text in the whole Bible for me; -- I read, and prayed again; -- at length, these words occurred, -- 'We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.' My mind settled down on them, as the text. It was not long before a man came up to me, and asked me, (as I had then risen from the grass,) whither I was going? I told him I was a stranger, -- had been sent by Mr. Bredin, -- and inquired for the place of worship frequented by the Methodists. He asked, -- 'Are you the preacher?' I answered, -- Mr. Bredin has sent me; and I suppose I shall have to speak to the people. The man measured me apparently, with his eye, from head to foot, and then, in a tone of despondency, mingled with surprise, said, -- 'You are a young one to unravel the word!' I was struck with the man's manner, for he appeared serious, and with the word 'unravel,' which seemed to have a good deal of meaning in it. He accompanied me to the place, and for the first time, I ventured on a text, which was the one I have just mentioned." James Everett -- pleasantly, -- "And how did you succeed in unraveling the word?" Adam Clarke -- "O, I spoke to the good people about John being thrown into a caldron of boiling oil, and coming out of it unblistered, with whose history I was pretty well acquainted. I noticed also the state of the world, in its hostility to God and his servants, closing with some remarks on personal religion. The people pressed round me after service, one of them saying, -- 'You must preach at the Mount tomorrow morning at five o'clock.' To this I consented, as all seemed pleased; and accordingly, I spoke to the people at the place appointed the next morning." Adverting to some of the bitters mingled with the cup of pleasure in that visit, and also to some of the circumstances of the voyage on which he was, when part of the conversation took place, he turned to the address of Æncas to his conntrymen, when he wished to animate them to the patient endurance of the hardships connected with their passage to Latium, and, in the true spirit of his favorite poet, said, [47]--

    Forsan et hæc olim meminisse jnvabit, [48]-

    adding, -- "Though these are the words of a heathen, I have often profited by them." In most trials, persons will be enabled to say, -- "Perhaps it will be pleasant to remember even these things hereafter."

    Having addressed the Societies in Derry and other places, with each of which he had become popular, and his allotted time having expired Adam returned home. Among some of his conversational notices of Mr. Bredin, he observed, -- "I picked up an old book one day, entitled, -' The Godly Man's Picture; drawn with a Scripture Pencil;' in which was the following metaphor; -' Pardon of sin is a fine thread spun out of the bowels of free grace.' [49] I showed it to Mr. Bredin, who took occasion, not only to condemn it, but also all other figurative books. Hervey's Meditations was another which he blew up to the dog-star at once. That work was a favorite with the Antinomians when I was a lad. But Methodism has been the grand counteracting lever, which, by a supernatural force, has removed Antinomianism to the verge of time, and borne it away downward into the gulf of endless perdition." It is to the instructions and hostility of Mr. Bredin probably, supported afterwards by his own good sense, that we are to trace the beginnings of Adam's aversion to "Allegorical Preaching," which, in his "Letter to a Preacher on his Entrance into the Work of the Ministry," [50] he characterizes as a "deceitful handling of the word of God," -- as a "thriftless and unedifying art," and in which letter, Benjamin Keach and his disciples are treated very unceremoniously. [51] Mr. Bredin was so impressed with the piety, genius, and learning, of Adam, that he resolved to employ his influence in aiding each, and enlarging his sphere of usefulness. Mr. Moor remarks on this subject, -- "After an absence of two years, I was again appointed to the circuit. Mr. John Bredin had, in the interval, visited Coleraine. Before he departed, he wrote to Mr. Wesley, strongly recommending that our young friend should be received into Kingswood School, in order to complete his education. A favorable answer was returned, and he set out for that place soon after my arrival." [52]

    But before he is permitted to quit the homestead of his youth, a few particulars may be noticed. Between the time of taking his first text at New Buildings, (which was June 19th, 1782,) and his embarking for England, a period only of two months elapsed: but they were mouths of severe exercise. His parents, on learning what was contemplated, were exceedingly grieved; and strenuously, if not bitterly, opposed his departure. When speaking of it to the writer, he remarked,-

    "My mother was much grieved: her prayers were against me, as well as her conversation. 'What is this,' said she, 'that has come over you? Your father is advancing in life, -- your brother is gone, -- we have both been looking forward to you to fill his place, -- and now you are going to run up and down in the world like a vagabond.' That," he proceeded, "was her view of the subject. I said to her, 'Mother, I have made it a matter of prayer.' 'And so have I too,' she replied, 'and the curse of God will follow you for it.' This was like a scald upon my conscience for some days. "She spoke to me again upon the subject. I said, 'I do not wish to do anything contrary to the will of God; and it appears to be in favor of my going.' 'What,' she replied, 'do you think it is the will of God, that you should break the first commandment, given with promise? Honour thy father and thy mother.'

    "I continued to pray, to believe, and to fear: but had I known what I was soon to suffer, I should never have left home. Having to go to Coleraine on business, where I stopped a few days, I found my mother had relented. She, in the meantime, said to my father, -- 'I believe we must let this lad go: it may be, the hand of God is in it.'

    "Finding the way opening, I made some preparation for going. I had taken leave of several of my friends, and had also privately packed up my clothes. Just before I left, I was walking and praying in the garden, when my mother came to me. I was afraid; for I knew not how it was determined: she submitted to my leaving home, and it was not long before I took my departure."

    Forty-eight years after this time, when he was at Portstuart, and conversation turned upon early days, he was accosted by Mr. Galt; -- "I recollect seeing you on the morning you left Coleraine for England."

    A. C. -- "Are you correct in that?" Mr. G. -- "Perfectly so."

    A. C. -- "I was not aware of you being so old" Mr. G. -- "I will convince you of it by a single circumstance. You went into such a shop," -- naming the person to whom it belonged, "and there bought a pair of stockings."

    A. C. -- "You are right." Mr. G. -- "I stood by you at the time; and when you left, I joined with the young men in saying, -- Adam Clarke was a fool to go to England to learn to be a Methodist preacher!"

    A. C. -- "I had no notion of being a Traveling Preacher; all I had in view was the completion of my education." Mr. G. -- "Such was our opinion; and we affected to pity you."

    To Adam, in the circumstances under which he must now be viewed, the language of Scripture is by no means inapplicable; for, at the command of God, he was required, in a certain sense, "to forget his father's house; -- to sojourn in a strange country;" and to go forth scarcely knowing whither he went: but he was under the guidance of heaven, -- was encouraged by the voice of the servant of God, -- conducted by an especial providence to his destined place, and though for a time, the subject of severe trial, yet still, under the watchful eye, and tender care of Him, who has encouraged his servants in every season of actual or imaginable trial, by the glorious enunciation, -- "Lo, I am with you always." Far from resembling one of the silken sons of wealth and pleasure, setting forth upon his travels, in order to enlarge his knowledge of the world without, while ignorant of what has been denominated, -- "the little world within," and furnished with every convenience for his journey, our inexperienced traveler was not encumbered either with purse or wardrobe. It has been stated, that Mr. Wesley sent him five pounds previously to his leaving Ireland, for the purpose of defraying his expenses: but though this was every way worthy the foresight and benevolence of the reported donor, Adam had too much gratitude not to have acknowledged such a gift; and was too much alive to the excellences of Mr. Wesley, to have permitted an opportunity of doing him justice to have passed silently by; to say nothing of his having only three-halfpence when he arrived at Kingswood. When speaking of his leaving Ireland, he said; -- "I brought from home an English Bible, a Greek Testament, Prideaux's Connections, and Young's Night Thoughts; on the margin of the latter, I had written a number of notes. It was a favorite with some of my children; and had remained in the family when the others were gone, and had been replaced. Young, I twice re-captured; -- once from Annie, and once from Eliza; but where it now is, I cannot tell." He embarked Aug. 17th, 1782, at Derry, and arrived at Liverpool on the following Monday, Aug. 19th.

    Respecting the period of his short residence at Kingswood, little need be said; that it was, at least, an unprofitable course, there is very sufficient evidence; indeed, so far as the question of study is concerned, we have no record of its being attempted; and the quaint alternative, proposed by Mr. Wesley, that the school "must either be mended, or ended," would indicate not merely the necessity of its reformation, but a considerable degree of carelessness as to its existence at all; at any rate, the pretensions of the place were not such as to warrant the extravagant idea young Clarke had formed concerning it, nor to satisfy the high demands of his active and intelligent mind. As the youthful and inexperienced scholar had imagined this to be a school, distinguished from the Universities of Great Britain only by the superior basis of its discipline, and the higher aim of its instructions, it may readily be supposed, that bitter disappointment would be the result of this inconsiderate, and unwarranted conclusion: accordingly, from his entrance, the bright his of his hope was over-clouded, and his elevated thoughts of classic and intellectual delight were doomed to be overthrown. Considering these circumstances, and the readiness to receive the injury which a sensitive mind would be exposed to, upon having just left home, and the endearments and familiarities of friendship, for strangers and a "strange land," it cannot be matter of surprise, that Adam Clarke should feel pain, and even disgust, in the review of this period of his life.

    During his residence at Kingswood, nothing occurred to elicit any important trait of character; nor, with one exception, to determine or incline his future course, or conduct. The exception alluded to, is found in the circumstance of his digging up half a guinea, while working in the garden for exercise, and which he appropriated, under the sanction of his Principal, to the purchase of a Hebrew Grammar. Welcome as an oasis to the thirsty and wearied Arab, was the discovery of this coin to young Clarke, because it enabled him, by the purchase of the above-named grammar, to form the groundwork of his after attainments, in the difficult and important study of biblical criticism. Referring to this period of his life, in conversation with a friend, some years afterward, he remarked;-- "The first act of kindness shown me at Kingswood, was by Mr. Rankin; he conceived a partiality to me from the first: our acquaintance commenced at the close of a band-meeting, which he was appointed to conduct: both in these meetings and at love-feasts, I always made it a point to speak, but never for more than two or three minutes: I considered them in the light of present-experience meetings, occupying at most, in reference to our spiritual state, the interval of our last attendance; speaking of the varied experience of the week, something in the way in which a journal would be written. When I had said a little, and the exercise was concluded, Mr. Rankin inquired, whether I had ever led a class, or preached? I told him I had led a class in Ireland, and had occasionally spoken in public, but had never dared to call it preaching. He then requested me to meet a class at Mangotsfield, and to preach at Downend, to both of which places I went." Though he delivered an address to the congregation at Downend, it would seem that he did not take a text that time, unless there is a mistake in the name of the place. On the occasion of one of his latest visits at the house of R. Scott, Esq., of Pensford, several of the preachers were invited to meet him, among whom was the Rev. G. C____, who narrated the following fact; -- The attention of the company was engaged for some time, only upon ordinary conversation, and in that, the subject of these pages took no share; at length, coming out of his retirement of soul, and directing his eye to a young lady on the opposite side of the table, he said, -- (to the surprise of the company, who did not expect her to be known to him,) "A glass of wine with you Miss Wiltshaw, in remembrance of old times: it is now upwards of forty years since I came to this country, -- a raw lad. At this place, I first opened the book of God in this island, for the purpose of taking a text, and preaching on it. I had a good season, but was ashamed of my work as a performance, and was just going to slink away, when a venerable man, from whom I expected a rebuke, came, and laid his hand upon me, looked seriously, yet affectionately at me, repeating three times, -- 'Christ bless the word! Christ bless the word! Christ bless the word!' It was perfectly unexpected, and afforded the great encouragement; that venerable man, Miss Wiltshaw, was your grandfather."

    This address of the old disciple, was like a gleam of sunshine beaming upon the spirit of Adam, and assisted him to support the gloom which overhung his sky. Mr., afterwards Dr., Bailey of Manchester, was, at the period of Mr. Clarke's sojourn there, one of the masters of Kingswood School. He published a Hebrew Grammar, to which Mr. Clarke subscribed, and to the study of which, as above hinted, he attributed the voluminous and erudite Commentary upon the Holy Scriptures, which has since appeared: for he observed, -- "By means of that grammar, I was enabled to pursue a critical examination of the Old Testament, and while doing so, made the short notes which formed the ground-work of my Commentary."

    In the early part of September, Mr. Wesley paid a visit to Bristol, and sent for Adam, who left Kingswood, and was indulged with a kind greeting from that apostolic man, who, learning the desire of his young friend, "to do, and be what God pleased, laid his hand upon the head of the future minister, -- prayed with him, -- gave him his blessing, -- and sent him forth an early laborer into the vineyard of his Lord and Master. The immediate occasion of his appointment, is thus narrated by himself:-- "I was sent to Bradford, Wilts., in consequence of the rejection of a young man of the name of E. R____, who had been prematurely chosen, upon the recommendation of some of the aged matrons, who assumed a good deal in those days, and had not a little power. As the young man had, what is termed, an excellent gift in prayer, they thought he ought also to preach, and accordingly appointed a place and time in which to hear him: having sat in judgment upon him, the decision was favorable: they forwarded it to Mr. Wesley, employing this remarkable word in their recommendation, -- That the young man was a good ling-gwillen. On their recommendation, his name was entered 'upon trial,' in the Minutes, where it still stands." On being asked by the writer, what the old ladies meant by the singular expression they employed, he replied, -- "I cannot tell, unless they referred to his readiness in speaking, and meant a linguist. However, it was afterwards found," continued the narrator, "that he was not qualified for the work; and I was sent to the place, to which he had been appointed. About four years after that, I was in the Plymouth-dock circuit, and in giving tickets to one of the classes, found E. R____, as the leader. I did not recollect him at the moment, yet it occurred to me from the name, -- the place, -- and the demeanor of the man, that I had heard something of him, and hence inquired, -- 'Were you not appointed to a circuit once?' 'I was, Sir; and am the man in whose place you went out to travel.' Several years after that, I again visited Plymouth-dock, when I inquired from a friend after the welfare of E. R____, and found he had been dead some years."

    On the subject of A. Clarke's appointment to his first circuit, Mr. Moor remarks:-- "The intelligence of this change soon reached his native place, and his father, who had no objection to his being a linen merchant, and who, after the failure of that scheme, had rejoiced in the prospect of his son completing his education so as to be received into one of the Scotch Universities, was utterly confounded at the issue. He wrote to me, bitterly lamenting his disappointment in the blasted prospects of his son. This letter was followed up by a visit, during which I was obliged to listen for some time to his mournful strains. I had little hope of giving satisfaction to so disturbed a mind; and therefore briefly replied, I doubted not the day would come in which he would thank God for what he now deplored; adding, -- Mr. Wesley, Sir, has put great honor upon your son in appointing him to a fellowship in the ministry, without the usual preliminary trial; there are few persons whom he would thus distinguish." This touched the chord which made most harmony or discord within; and he departed, seemingly determined to hope the best; -- and that hope was verified. I afterwards saw this disappointed father himself at the head of the seminary, from which he had thought his son had been dishonorably removed."

    * * * * * * *

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