It would not be compatible with the limits, nor was it included in the design, of this little book, to attempt a critical review of Dr. Clarke's numerous works. This is the less desirable, inasmuch as most of them, with their respective merits and defects, real or supposed, are familiar to those classes of readers for which they were composed. The following list contains the chief part of them, perhaps all that added to the writer's re-putation. Two or three small pieces which he published are not specified:-
Dissertation on the Use and Abuse of Tobacco: London, 1797. 8vo. --A Bibliographical Dictionary, containing a Chronological Account of the most curious books, in all departments of literature, from the infancy of printing to the beginning of the 19th century; to which are added, an Essay on Bibliography, and an Account of the best English translations of each Greek and Latin classic. 1802. 6 vols. 12mo and 8vo. -- The Bibliographical Miscellany, or a Supplement to the Bibliographical Dictionary, down to 1826. 2 vols. 12mo and 8vo. -- Baxter's Christian Directory abridged. 1804. 2 vols. 8vo. -- Claude Fleury's History of the Ancient Israelites, with an account of their Manners, Customs, &c., with a Life and fine Portrait of Claude Fleury. 1805. 12mo. -- The
Succession of Sacred Literature, in a chronological arrangement of authors and their works, from the invention of alphabetical characters to the year of our Lord 345. 1807. 12mo and 8vo, vol. 1st. -- Shuckford's Sacred and Profane History of the World connected, including Bishop Clayton's Strictures on the work, embellished with a set of maps. 1808. 4 vols. 8vo. -- Sturm's Reflections, translated from the German. 4 vols. 12mo. -- The Holy Scriptures, &c. &c., with the Marginal Readings, a Collection of Parallel Texts, and Copious Summaries to each Chapter; with a Commentary and Critical Notes, designed as a help to the better understanding of the Sacred Writings. 8 vols. 4to. 1810-26. -- Harmer's Observations. 4 vols. 8vo. -- Clavis Biblica; or, a Compendium of Scripture Knowledge. 8vo. -- Lives of the Wesley Family. 8vo. -- Three volumes of Sermons, besides several single discourses and detached pieces; and many anonymous articles in the Classical Journal, in the Eclectic Review, and in various other respectable journals. To these may be added the new edition of Rymer's Fædera, in folio, of which he saw the first volume, and part of the second, through the press. This work is now superintended by a commission under Government. Only three volumes have been published. The original edition, which consisted of twenty folio volumes, has long since disappeared; the second is rarely to be seen; and the third, which was printed at the Hague, in 1738, is exceedingly scarce.
Without attempting a formal review of these numerous and voluminous works, a few interesting particulars may be given concerning some of them.
The Commentary is entitled to our first attention. It was in a course of publication during seventeen years. It was begun, continued, and ended, with prayer. It was completed in the year 1826; and will for ever remain a monument of the author's genius, wisdom, learning, knowledge, and piety. In looking back upon the labors of his life, one wonders how he found time for such a work as this. But he began it early. We find him in the year 1785, only three years after his entrance into the ministry, considerably advanced in a systematic course of study. " Being convinced," he observes, " that the Bible was the source whence all the principles of true wisdom, wherever found in the world, had been derived, my desire to comprehend adequately its great design, and to penetrate the meaning of all its parts, led me to separate myself from every pursuit that did not lead, at least indirectly, to the accomplishment of this end." Thus we see, that, though unconsciously, (for this was laid out as a plan of private study,) yet, when scarcely more than a boy, he had actually begun to lay the foundation of the mighty work. Though, at first, he did not even commit to paper the result of his reading, and, even when he did, it was for some time without any view to publication, but solely to facilitate his own progress in acquiring a sound knowledge of the Scriptures, and although, moreover, he entirely changed his plan when he had proceeded a good way in purposed preparation for a printed work; yet there can be no doubt, that the fruits of his earliest reading and meditation on the sacred volume were found useful in the execution of his grand design. After he had made considerable preparation, he altered his plan so completely, that he could not make use of a page of what he had before written. " All," he remarks, " has been retranscribed, and innumerable additions and retrenchments made throughout." Many criticisms on the sacred text, with illustrations from ancient authors, were, after much time and labor spent in collecting them, thrown aside, as tending to a plan too extensive. Besides, he studied to be useful, rather than to appear learned. As to criticism, therefore, he confined himself almost entirely to pointing out the force and meaning of expressions incapable of simple translation. "I do not pretend," he repeats, " to write for the learned; I look up to them myself for instruction. All the pretensions of my work are included in the sentence that stands in the title it is ' designed as a help to a better understanding of the Sacred Writings.' " The work, put forth with these modest pretensions, was twice laid aside from indisposition, and once on account of a sudden rise in the price of paper. It was likewise unavoidably delayed by a multitude of other engagements. To crown the list of circumstances that retarded its appearance before the world, and to show the generosity and disinterestedness of the author, when he was ready to proceed with the publication, another Commentary by a friend of his (probably Mr. Benson) being announced and extensively advertised, Dr. Clarke withheld his own, not willing that the attention of the public should be divided between the two works, lest the sale of his friend's might be injured. At length, however, the part of Genesis, by Dr. Clarke, was brought out; and, at last, notwithstanding many fears that he would not live to complete it, or at least to carry the whole of it through the press, it was entirely published. The following is the Doctor's own account of his labors:-
"In this arduous labor I have had no assistants; not even a single week's help from an amanuensis; no person to look for common places, or refer to an ancient author; to find out the place and transcribe a passage of Greek, Latin, or any other language, which my memory had generally recalled, or to verify a quotation; - the help excepted which I received in the chronological department from my own nephew. I have labored alone for nearly twenty-five years previously to the work being sent to press; and fifteen years have been employed in bringing it through the press to the public and thus about forty years of my life have been consumed."
In presenting some portions of the work to the Duke of Sussex, Dr. Clarke gave his Royal Highness an account of his labors; from which account, as it differs, in some respects, from any other, we present some extracts:--Conscious that translators in general must have had a particular creed, in reference to which they would naturally consider every text, I sat down with a heart as free from bias and sectarian feeling as it was possible, and carefully read over, cautiously weighed, and literally translated, every word, Hebrew and Chaldee, in the Bible: and, as I saw it was possible, while even assisted by the best lexicons, to mistake the import of a Hebrew term, and knowing that the cognate Asiatic languages would be helps of great importance in such an inquiry, I collated every verse where I was apprehensive of difficulty, with the Chaldee, Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Persian, as far as the Sacred Writings are extant in these languages, with a constant reference to Readings collected by Kennicott and De Rossi, and to the Septuagint and Vulgate, the earliest translations of the Hebrew text which have reached our times. This reading and collation produced an immense number of notes on all parts of the Old Testament, which I was prevailed on, by several of my learned friends, to extend in form of a perpetual comment on the whole book. The Comment I put to press in 1810, after having been, for the thirty years preceding, employed on the reading, collating, &c., already mentioned. When I had finished in this way the Pentateuch, and the books of Joshua and Judges, I was advised by many of my friends, (who were apprehensive, from the infirm state of my health, that I might not live long enough to go regularly through the whole,) to omit for the present the Old, and begin with the New, Testament. I did so, and literally translated every word of that last best gift of God to man, comparing the whole with all the ancient versions, and the most important of the modern, and collated all with the various readings collected by Stephens, Fell, Courcel, Gherard of Maestricht, Bengel, Mills, Wetstein, and Griesbach, actually examining many manuscripts myself, illustrating the whole by quotations from ancient authors, Rabbinical, Greek, Roman, and Asiatic. I brought my Comment on the above plan down to the end of the Apocalypse. When this was finished, I returned to the Old Testament. In the prosecution of this work, I was led to attend, in the first instance, more to words than to things, in order to find their true ideal meanings, together with the different shades of acceptation to which they became subjected in their application to matters which use and circumstances, in the lapse of time, had produced. And, as I perceived an almost continual reference to the literature, arts, and sciences, of the ancient world, and of the Asiatic nations in particular, I made these things my particular study, having found a thousand passages which I could neither illustrate nor explain, without some general knowledge of their jurisprudence, astronomy, chemistry, medicine, surgery, meteorology, pneumatics, &c., and with their military tactics, and the arts and trades of common life. In such researches, connected with the studies previously mentioned, and in bringing down the Comment as before specified, I have consumed nearly forty years. And by this your Royal Highness will at once perceive, that, be the work ill or well executed, it has not been done in a careless or precipitate manner; nor have any means within my reach been neglected, to make it, in every respect, as far as possible, 'a Help to the better understanding of the Holy Scriptures.' In the course of all this labor, I have also paid particular attention to those facts recorded in the Bible, which have been the subject of animadversion by freethinkers and infidels of all classes and times. I trust I may say, that no such passage is either designedly passed by or superfluously considered; that the strongest objections are fairly produced and met; that all such parts of the Divine writings, are, in consequence, exhibited in their own luster; and that the truth of the doctrines of our salvation, has had as many triumphs as it has had attacks, from the rudest and most formidable of its antagonists. On all such subjects, I humbly hope that your Royal Highness will never consult these volumes in vain. And, if the grand doctrines that constitute what some. call orthodoxy (which prove that God is loving to every man, and that, from his innate, infinite, and eternal goodness, he will, and has made provision for, the. salvation of every human soul) be, found to be those which alone have, stood the test of 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. Thus, I have given a general account of the labor in which the principal part of my life and strength has been. consumed, -a labor which, were it yet to commence, with the knowledge I now have of its difficulty, millions of silver, and gold could not, induce me to. undertake."
For a more minute account of the labor which the Commentary cost its indefatigable author, the reader is referred to. his General Preface, and to the Postscript at the end, of Malachi. It may be sufficient in this place to add, as a specimen both of the labor itself and of the astonishing diligence with which it was performed, the following extract from the former of those articles-
"When I had formed the purpose of writing short notes on the New Testament, I collated the common printed text with all the manuscripts and collections from manuscripts to which I could have access. Scarcely had I projected this work, when I was convinced that another was previously necessary; viz, a careful perusal of the original text. I began this, and soon found that it was perfectly possible to read, and not to understand. Under this conviction, I sat down, determining to translate the whole, before I attempted any comment, that I might have the sacred text the more deeply impressed on my memory. I accordingly began my translation in June, 1794, and finished it in May, 1795; collating the original text with all the ancient and with several of the modern versions; carefully weighing the value of the most important various readings found in those, and in the most authentic copies of the Greek text." After an interval of two years, proceeds the Doctor, " I found I had not gone through the whole of my preliminary work. The New Testament, I plainly saw, was a comment on the Old; and, to understand such a comment, I knew it was absolutely necessary to be well acquainted with the text. I then formed the plan of reading, consecutively, a portion of the Hebrew Bible daily. Accordingly, in January, 1797, 1 began to read the original text of the Old Testament, noting down, on the different books, chapters, and verses, such things as appeared to me of most importance. This preliminary work I finished in March, 1798, having spent in it a little more than one year and two months; in which time I translated every sentence, Hebrew and Chaldee, in the Old Testament." The mere purification of the text of the authorized version (to which, in Dr. Clarke's opinion, the original alone is superior), from the corruptions in punctuation, &c., contracted during the lapse of years, was a work of great labor and anxiety. To the marginal readings he attached a high value, having found that they were to be preferred to those in the text, in the proportion of at least eight out of ten.
Notwithstanding some peculiarities of opinion which the work contains, it is allowed by impartial judges to be at once the most learned and the most useful commentary that has been published. The frankness with which the author declares his opinions, even where they are at variance with those commonly received upon the same subjects, has exposed him, though very unjustly, to the charge of being dogmatical, not to say heretical. Any appearances of this might more safely be attributed to the strength in which he conceived, and the force and freedom with which he expressed, his opinions. When the time came for speaking of himself -- when he issued, and when he had completed his Commentary, for instance, -- instead of praising himself, he spoke of himself in the humblest terms, and depreciated his own talents and learning in a strain almost painful to the reader. "Though perfectly satisfied," he observes, "with the purity of my motives, and the simplicity of my intention, I am far from being pleased with the work itself. Whatever errors may be observed, must be attributed to my scantiness of knowledge." When alluding to some points on which he differed from other men, he expresses the most liberal, manly, and Christian sentiments. Though he avows his firm belief in what he had put forth, he leaves others to the unmolested enjoyment of their own opinions, concluding with these remarkable words, "While God bears with us, and does us good, we may surely bear with one another." " I hope," he observes, in presenting a copy of his Notes on Genesis to Lord Teignmouth, " I have steered perfectly clear of all religious controversies, even while undisguisedly supporting my own views of Divine truth; and I farther hope, that no description of Christians will find themselves in any respect aggrieved by my work. I have never written on polemic divinity, and I abhor all religious contentions." In all matters of pure criticism, or of curious investigation, his opinion is delivered with the candor of a liberal inquirer after truth; it is never insisted upon so as to offend those who may differ from him. Of this, his famous hypothesis concerning the animal which tempted Eve, may be quoted as an instance. "If," he observes, "any person should choose to differ from me, he is at perfect liberty to do so. I make it [my opinion] no article of faith, nor of Christian communion. I crave the same liberty to judge for myself, that I give to others, to which every man has an indisputable right; and I hope no man will call me a heretic, for departing from the common opinion." As for the controversies among religious people, they are seldom mentioned in the work. " I simply propose," observes the author, "what 1 believe to be the meaning of a passage, and maintain what I believe to be the truth, but scarcely ever in a controversial way. I think it quite possible to give my own views of the doctrines of the Bible, without introducing a single sentence at which any Christian might reasonably take offense. And I hope that no provocation which I may receive, shall induce me to depart from this line of conduct." To this resolution Dr. Clarke strictly adhered. Although, before he had seen one line of the work, one gentleman (a Christian minister!) expressed great anxiety for its publication, that" he might tear it to pieces;" and although many vain but sufficiently zealous attempts were actually made by different writers to depreciate its worth; yet he answered them not a word, except once (in May, 1811) in the Classical Journal, in which some critics had raised a learned dust about the serpent which tempted Eve. The conclusion of his brief, and, as many have thought, triumphant reply, is worth quoting, as showing the opinion he entertained of anonymous animadversions:-- "An anonymous writer has a number of advantages. Should he make a thousand blunders, when they come to be detected, shame burns not his cheek: he is Nobody concealed, and probably would be nobody if known; and yet he claims the privilege, through the means of periodical publications, or anonymous pamphlets, to slander or destroy his neighbor's good name or reputation, while himself is covered with thick darkness! To the unfathered productions of such writers, no attention should be paid; but calumny meets with a pretty general reception, and the periodical publications are becoming proverbial for their conveyance of literary abuse. Though I believe I should find little difficulty to trace some to their bedchambers, yet, as I am pretty certain they may have good reasons for their concealment, I shall permit them at present to enjoy their retreat."
As to the few peculiarities of opinion, on account of which some have attempted to disparage the work, they affect not at all, certainly not injuriously, any essential, leading doctrine of religion. On this point, Dr. Clarke is well defended by Mr. J. Beaumont, when he observes, "Though I am not one of those who adopted those opinions, yet I always venerated the Doctor the more for his unflinching, uncompromising, unprevaricating honesty and faithfulness in this matter. He had undertaken and had announced himself to the world in the character of a commentator on the Bible; and, this being the case, it was not optional for him to withhold his deliberate sentiments on any portion of the volume."
The author of these pages cannot deny himself the satisfaction of transcribing what Mr. McNicol has so judiciously expressed concerning this great work:-- "Though critical and literary, above all other English commentaries embracing the whole Bible, it is also spiritual and practical, much beyond what might have been expected from a work of so much learning; and perhaps the unlettered Christian, who has the happiness to possess it, is no less frequently heard resounding its praises, because of the profit he receives from its pages, than the critical inquirer, on account of the valuable accessions it gives to his knowledge. The author has, in fact, so simplified his learning, at least in many instances, as to combine both objects in the same exposition. In many cases, this, of course, could not be done; and none should be blamed for not accomplishing a contradiction. That the work has some considerable defects, no one certainly will have the courage to deny. This the excellent author himself was free to admit. Much of it, he observed, was written in his younger days; and in his latter years he had carefully prepared a corrected and improved copy for a new edition, when it should be wanted. To name no other, one principal defect of the work, in the judgment of many, is the almost total omission to explain the sense of the prophetic Scriptures, owing to the conviction of the author, that prophecy is not susceptible of any clear and certain explanation. Many portions of it have been admirably executed. We might mention the Pentateuch, the Book of Job, the Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. On Job, he exercised much time and pains, thinking out his opinions on that difficult but interesting book with more than ordinary care and research. And with regard to the Acts, he writes, London, January, 1814, 'Acts will soon be finished. It has cost me more labor than any other part of the work. I think it by far the best I have yet done.' And if the opinion of an author, on his own writings, be admitted as authority, the comment on the Books of Moses was also among the most successful efforts of his pen. With regard to some other books, he had the candor to allow, that they did not by any means come up to his wishes; and perhaps the truth is, his strength of mind, gigantic as it was, could not be uniformly sustained throughout the whole of this prodigious undertaking."
It has been reported that the Doctor made large gains by his Commentary; but this, it has been said, is not the fact. Though all, or most of his works, had an extensive sale, he reaped but a small profit from them, compared with the expense in time, labor, and materials, which they cost him. And here let us correct an error to which an American Calvinistic divine has given currency. We refer to Dr. Mason, of New-York, who, according to Mr. Morris, informed the late Robert Hall, that, though the attempt had been made to sell an edition of Dr. Clarke's Commentary in the United States, it met with so little encouragement that the publisher desisted, re infecta. Now, the fact is, that not only was the edition completed, but that a very great number of copies met with a rapid sale; and, as Mr. Beaumont has eloquently remarked, "all over the United States of America, Dr. Clarke is read, and studied, and felt, and all but seen and heard, by the germinating mind of that new and teeming hemisphere."
In Germany also," as the same gentleman was told by a learned traveler who was present at the Doctor's funeral, "he would be lamented as much as in this country; for he was, beyond measure, respected and revered there, his works having revealed and praised him in their gates."
Of the Bibliographical Dictionary and the Succession of Sacred Literature, Mr. McNicol justly observes, that "the bibliographical information contained in them is extraordinary; especially considering his unfavorable circumstances as an active superintendent and preacher in the Methodist Connection. To persons engaged in literary and theological researches, these writings are of great value; for the knowledge they supply of scarce and valuable works on the most important subjects connected with ecclesiastical learning, must be highly prized by students in divinity: and the whole is interestingly enlivened by his own characteristic and instructive observations. Notwithstanding the multiplicity and magnitude of the books to which he refers, he trusted not, in general, to other bibliographers, but, wherever he could 'seize upon the volumes, carefully analyzed and described them for himself."
Dr. Clarke's enlarged publication of Fleury's Manners of the Ancient Israelites, has gone through four editions, although two several translations (one of which he adopted and improved) had previously appeared, neither of which sold. The success of his was due to the additions and improvements which he made. Fleury was a pious abbé, who refused to be a pluralist, declined preferment, and lived uncontaminated in the midst of a splendid court. This is an exceedingly useful work.
Harmer's Observations, as improved by Dr. Clarke, has had nearly equal success. The author himself published two editions of his valuable work. Afterwards, three several editions were issued by Dr. Clarke. The first of these, however, was totally destroyed by fire at the printing-office. The second came out a year after, with still further improvements upon Harmer. It was found necessary to remodel the whole work. This was accomplished, however, with a fidelity that affords a lesson to editors, especially those who differ from their authors. Dr. Clarke frequently dissented from Mr. Harmer; but he gave his reasons, instead of expunging what he disliked; so that the reader cannot complain that he is presented with a mutilated copy of the original of this work, which Dr. Clarke enriched with the fruits of the latest discoveries. He remarks, " Every man who wishes to understand the Scriptures, or who proposes to explain them to others, should not only possess a copy of this work, but endeavor thoroughly to understand its contents."
One of the most remarkable tracts which Dr. Clarke published, was one entitled, "A Letter to a Preacher, on his Entrance into the Work of the Ministry." This letter, originally intended for the guidance of the late Mr. Samuel Woolmer, has gone through four editions; and, besides abounding in excellent maxims, with some respecting which there may be, and no doubt is, a difference of opinion, gives a tolerable insight into the writer's character and habits. The third section is devoted to the "choice of texts;" and some curious instances (now, we should hope, uncommon) are mentioned of absurd and injudicious treatment. "A preacher took for his text, Isaiah
xxviii. 16, ' He that believeth shall not make haste.' On this he preached two sermons: his division was as follows: 'I shall first prove that he who believeth shall make haste; and secondly, show in what sense he that believeth shall not make haste.' On the first, which was a flat contradiction of the text, he spent more than an hour; and the congregation were obliged to wait a whole month, before he could come back to inform them, that he who believeth shall not make haste. Another, a citizen of no mean city, not a thousand miles from the place where I write, took his text from Psalm xxxiv. 19, 'Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.' ' In handling this text, I shall first prove that there is none righteous; secondly, that the afflictions of the righteous are many; 'and thirdly, that the Lord delivereth him out of them all.' " Two preachers with whom the Doctor traveled seem to have annoyed him not a little with their barbarous mutilations of Scripture. "Their texts were continually such as these:-- "Adam, where art thou?" "I have somewhat to say unto thee." "If thou wilt deal justly and truly with my master, tell me." "I have put off my coat, how shall I put it on?' "Thy mouth is most sweet,'" &c.
The fourth section is, "Concerning your behavior in the pulpit:" -- "Never shake or flourish your handkerchief; this is abominable: nor stuff it in your bosom; this is unseemly."
In the following 'remarks, we cordially concur: -" Seldom quote poetry in your sermons; to say the least of this custom, it certainly is not agreeable to the rules of congruity, to interlard prose discourses with scraps of verse. Reverse the business, and see how oddly a poem will appear, which has here and there scraps of prose in it. It must be granted, that many public speakers use it sometimes; but the very best speakers use it very seldom."
The following advices are extremely characteristic of the Doctor, who was, in every respect, a model for neatness, regularity, and good order. He did not despise little things:-- " Give the family where you lodge as little trouble as possible. Never desire any of them, not even the servants, to do anything for you that you can conveniently do for yourself. It is an odious thing to see a person, whose character should be the servant of all, pressing every body into his service; giving unnecessary trouble wherever he comes; turning a house upside down; and being dissatisfied with every thing that is done for him." In quoting the annexed, it ought to be observed, that the race addressed is now nearly, if not wholly, extinct; and, also, that the greater part of the letter is concerning matters of much more solemnity and importance: -"Never pull off your boots, shoes, or gaiters, in a parlor or sitting-room. Leave your hat, whip, great coat, &c., in the hall, lobby, or some such place. Do not leave your foul linen, dirty clothes, shoes, &c., about in the room where you lodge. After having left your bed uncovered for some time, to cool and air, lay on the clothes neatly when you quit your room; and always throw up your window when you go out. Empty the basin in which you have washed your hands, &c., and leave it always clean. Don't splash the walls or the floor. Wipe every drop of water off the wash-stand, and spread your towel always to dry, and, when dry, fold it loosely up, and place it on the head of the waterbottle. Never comb out your hair in a sitting-room, or before company; this is an unpardonable vulgarity: nor brush your clothes in a bed-room; this spoils the furniture. See that you spill no ink on the floors, tables, &c. Leave every thing in the place where you found it, and habituate yourself to put every chair you sit on in its proper place when you rise." But, though these advices may be now, in a great measure, unnecessary, the book contains, as before observed, many others of permanent utility, and, on that account, cannot be too highly recommended.
The pamphlet on the use and abuse of tobacco, evinces the very strong desire of Dr. Clarke to be useful to his countrymen. It has had the effect of inducing many persons who had accustomed themselves to the use of that noxious weed, in its various forms, to abandon their filthy and injurious habits; although it was not published with any more ambitious hope than that of deterring young beginners, and saving others from becoming ensnared by one or other of the three foes to health and cleanliness, against which, indiscriminately, the writer levels his denunciations; namely, the pipe, the snuffbox, and the quid. This tract, which has been widely circulated, and is now scarce, contains much valuable information, conveyed sometimes in a vein of irony or sarcasm. It chiefly consists of medical opinions against the use of tobacco in any form, except as a tincture, which, in very small quantities, has been found useful in cases of dropsy and dysury; and of instances in which disease and premature death have resulted from piping, snuffing, and chewing. If the writer of these pages may give an opinion, its arguments and statements are irrefragably condemnatory of all who indulge in such practices, especially professors of religion, and more especially Wesleyan Methodists, who are presumed, according to the rules of their Society, to have forsworn the use of tobacco and snuff. This pamphlet is more conclusive, perhaps, than that of "our noble King James," of whom, by the way, the Doctor, in another place, remarks, "that he was called a hypocrite by those. who had no religion, and a pedant by those who had not half his learning." It may be less than the least of all Dr. Clarke's other works in literary excellence; but it deserves this notice on account of its utility.
The Sermons' of Dr. Clarke form the only other publication which seems to require particular notice. Every person, accustomed to his ministry, must recognize in them the peculiarities of his manner. Each discourse contains a large portion of sound theology and of biblical exposition. Nearly every subject is treated in a manner more or less novel, but always clear and conclusive. Some of the sermons contain remarkable examples of the rare skill and effect with which he made his scientific attainments contribute to the elucidation of Scripture. "For comprehension of thought, clear and forcible argumentation, and profound views of divine truth," says a judicious writer in the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, "some of them are equal to the best sermons of Farindon, Barrow, or South; but, on the subject of personal godliness, incomparably superior. We know of no sermons in which so much learning is brought to bear upon the all-important subject of experimental religion." Sometimes, however, he expresses himself in very decided terms, on subjects, with respect to which, more moderate language would, perhaps, have been better; as, for instance, when he denounces organs as "heathenish accompaniments," and declares, that, if they be not abolished, singing will soon cease to be a part of divine worship. But they have been too long used, whether properly or improperly, for such a prediction to have much weight. Another instance, in which the Doctor may be said to have spoken without due consideration, is that in which, without any qualification, he commends the novels of the late Sir Walter Scott. He whose penetration could discover materialism in the Fifth Book of Paradise Lost, might surely have found something for a Christian minister to condemn in the works of the author of Waverley, especially when eulogizing their acknowledged merits. Among other persons to whom he presented copies of his published discourses, was the late Serjeant (or Sir Albert) Pell, who, in acknowledging the gift, styled the giver" one of the most learned men of his age;" and, as to the sermons, expressed his hope " that he was a better man than he was before he perused them."
It is a happy circumstance, that Dr. Clarke was induced to publish so many of his sermons during his life; for, as he never wrote those which he preached, his survivors would not have been able to supply them to the public. He was led to adopt that' measure through fear: of their being published from the notes of shorthand writers, for whom, he says, he spoke too quickly, though with sufficient distinctness. When he was preparing for the press the volume in which he thus speaks, several of his sermons were sent to him in the form in which they had been reported; and he found that they contained so little of what he had said, in his own words, or in its perfect shape, that 'he could make no use of them whatever. " They had given me a strange language," he observes, "worse, by many degrees, than my own. They had often perverted my sense, misrepresented my criticisms, and confounded my reasoning." To save his reputation from these injuries, he intimated his intention of making a distinction among his papers previous to his death, for the guidance of his executors, as to what portion of them should form his 'posthumous works.
It has been stated that Dr. Clarke did not write his sermons in order to their being preached, and that, therefore, when he resolved to publish them, the labor of writing them was unavoidable. It can have been no easy task so to possess his mind and memory with the subjects of discourse, as to preserve their resemblance in the pulpit and in the press; and that he succeeded' in accomplishing this, shows how profoundly he must have meditated them.
His style of writing was unstudied. He wrote as he thought, and his thoughts were not about the graces of speech. Like Mr. Wesley, he sacrificed all mere ornament to plainness and intelligibility -- the desire to shine to the wish to be useful. Dr. Clarke began his literary career as he finished it, studious of one thing only; and that was to convey the most information in the fewest and plainest words. Dr. Clarke's style wants the evenness and precision of Mr. Wesley's. He is sufficiently precise in the choice of words, but he is not precise in their arrangement. The punctuation of the Doctor's writings is also very loose. The redeeming qualities of his style consist in its pregnancy, and force, and vigor; in a sterling and plentiful vocabulary; and on practical subjects he wrote, as well as spoke, with the unction and energy which spring out of acute sensibility and intimate experience. He was, undoubtedly, an author of first-rate talent in the field in which he labored; and he evinces always the possession of a capacious and an acute understanding. Of his knowledge, it were superfluous to speak. "Through a studied, rather than a natural, dislike of what was fine and cautiously finished, (says Mr. McNicol,) he was by no means careful to prune and dress the produce of his exuberant mind. But even here he might probably have excelled, and might have attained a style of writing truly beautiful and eloquent, without at all impairing its perspicuity and force, but for that high philosophical, or rather theological, contempt, with which he usually spoke of such ornaments."
It is almost unnecessary to remark, that Dr. Clarke could not have composed the works which have been enumerated, without possessing a large library. He collected, indeed, some thousands of volumes in various languages, among which were many that were very ancient, scarce, and valuable. Of manuscripts, both ancient and oriental, he left behind him a valuable collection, amounting to nearly one thousand volumes, which is now in the possession of his youngest son. Of natural and other curiosities, he had a museum, which, taken in the aggregate, afforded specimens coeval with almost every age, and had been transmitted from various parts of the world. This collection was sold by auction, and was divided into no less than 355 lots, classed under the following heads:-- Minerals, shells, precious stones, &c.; coins and medals; Chinese drawings, charts, maps, engravings, &c.; ancient charters, charts, paintings, &c.; Hebrew rolls, and Cingalese and Persian manuscripts; Egyptian, Hindu, and other idols; mathematical and philosophical instruments; casts in China, from the antique, &c. &c.
Before we proceed to sketch the general character of Dr. Clarke, we will describe the mode and matter of his preaching. He never knew before-hand (such are his own words) one single sentence that he should utter. This was owing to the "verbal imperfection of his memory," an imperfection which has been stated to the reader. Mr. Everett must, therefore, be in error in the following statement:-- " Never was man more faithful to instruction imparted; his stores continued to accumulate till the close of his life. It was not barely a subject in the mass, that he could grasp and retain, but in its minutest details, recollecting the identical words in which several sentences might be expressed, with the intonations of the voice, the point, and particular bearings of those words, both in his native tongue and in foreign languages." But, though the memory of Dr. Clarke was forgetful of words, it was surprisingly retentive of things. Study and meditation, therefore, were his only preparation for the pulpit; and his subject was almost always taken from the Epistle or Gospel for the day, as appointed by the Church. His sermons seldom occupied less than one hour in the delivery; sometimes they occupied as much as two.
The Rev. J. B. B. Clarke has given a very realizing description of his father's preaching:-- " The appearance of my father, and his effect, while in the pulpit, upon a stranger, would probably be something like this:-- he would see a person of no particular mark, except that time had turned his hair to silver, and the calmness of fixed devotion gave solemnity to his appearance. He spreads his Bible before him, and, opening his hymn-book, reads forth, in a clear, distinct, full voice, a few verses, after the singing of which, he offers up a short prayer, which is immediately felt to be addressed to the Majesty of heaven. The text is proclaimed, and the discourse is begun. In simple, yet forcible, language, he gives some general information connected with his subject, or lays down some general positions drawn from either the text or its dependencies. On these he speaks for a short time, fixing the attention by gaining the interest. The understanding feels that it is concerned. A clear and comprehensive exposition gives the hearer to perceive, that his attention will be rewarded by an increase of knowledge, by new views of old truths, or previously unknown uses of ascertained points. He views with some astonishment the perfect collectedness with which knowledge is brought from far, and the natural, yet extensive, excursions which the preacher makes, to present his object in all its bearings, laying heaven and earth, nature and art, science and reason, under contribution, to sustain his cause. Now,' his interest becomes deeper; for he sees that the minister is beginning to condense his strength, that he is calling in every detached sentence, and that every apparently miscellaneous remark was far from casual, but had its position to maintain, and its work to perform; and he continues to hear with that rooted attention which is created by the importance and clearness of the truths delivered, by the increasing energy of the speaker, and by the assurance in the hearer's own mind that what is spoken is believed to the utmost and felt in its power."
The same writer adds the following interesting particulars: -" From the year 1784 to 1785, he preached five hundred and sixty-eight sermons, independently of lectures, expositions, &c.; and from 1782 to 1808, he preached no less than six thousand six hundred and fifteen sermons, also exclusive of exhortations, &c. During his abode in London, for three years, commencing 1795, he walked more than seven thousand miles, merely on journeys to preach in the city and its neighborhood, not reckoning his walking on other private and public business. Another remarkable fact concerning that period is, as stated by the late Mr. Buttress, of Spitalfields, his invariable companion, "though preaching at widely distant places, he never preached the same sermon twice, excepting on one occasion, at my particular request.' He hardly ever wrote a line as a preparation for preaching. I have now in my possession a slip of paper, about three inches long by one wide, containing the first words of a number of texts; and this was the sole list of memoranda on which he preached seven occasional sermons in various parts of the country. He never entered the pulpit but with diffidence, and with almost a painful sensation of his responsibility as a messenger of the Gospel of Christ Jesus. I have heard him say, that the thought of so inadequately declaring the counsels of God as to make the Gospel of none effect, to the salvation of sinners, frequently drank up his spirit, and made his soul tremble; and this, perhaps, operating as such a feeling ought to operate in a well-constituted mind, caused that fervor of exhortation which frequently marked his discourses, when all the energies of his mind, and power of his language, were drawn forth to describe the infinite mercies of the God of love."
The Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, for October, 1828, contains an able article concerning Dr. Clarke as a preacher, from which we have made the following selections:-- "Dr. Clarke's preaching is expository. Having read his text, his great business is to explain the terms in which it is expressed, and to ascertain the precise meaning of the Holy Ghost; and then to apply to the understandings and consciences of his hearers the hallowing truths thus discovered. He never sanctions, by his example, the practice which is so fashionable in some quarters, of selecting a text merely as a motto;  while the preacher proceeds to recommend his thesis by rhetorical ornaments, and to establish it by arguments of his own invention; leaving his hearers as ignorant of the contents of God's book as he found them. Dr. Clarke's own practice is in strict accordance with the advice which he gives to his brethren. 'All I have ever read on the subject,' says he, ' has never conveyed so much information to my mind on the original, and, in my opinion, the only proper mode, of preaching, as Nehem. viii. 8: " So they read in the book, in the law of God, distinctly; and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading."' Dr. Clarke's preaching is argumentative. He is never declamatory; and he seldom satisfies himself with a mere statement of what he conceives to be the truth. His object is to produce conviction. For the attainment of this object, he usually enters into a course of elaborate argumentation in every sermon. His argumentation, in some instances, is too abstract and recondite for the comprehension of ordinary people. We have sometimes heard people of strong sense and deep piety confess their inability to follow the learned Doctor through the labyrinths of consecutive deduction, into which he has entered in his theological discussions. Dr. Clarke's preaching is decidedly evangelical. No minister ever lived, who gave a greater prominence in his discourses to the vital truths of Christianity, or who contended for them with more consistency and zeal. In all his ministrations, there is a constant reference to the Divinity and Atonement of Christ, to the doctrine of free justification through faith in his blood, and to the renovation of human nature by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. In his estimation, the true and proper Divinity of Christ is not an opinion, that may be innocently and safely held or rejected, but the key-stone of the Christian religion. The atonement and intercession of Christ, he constantly represents as the only medium of access to God, and as available to obtain the pardon of sin, and adoption into the family of God, in behalf of every penitent believer, whatever may have been his past conduct. He every where directs the attention of his hearers to the holy Ghost, as the source of all strength, and comfort, and purity, in the human soul. These are principles of which Dr. Clarke never loses sight in the pulpit. The absolute necessity of this evangelical method of salvation, through the sacrifice of a Divine Victim, and by the inspiration of the third Person of the Holy Trinity, Dr. Clarke founds upon the universal depravity, guilt, and helplessness of fallen man.
Dr. Clarke's preaching, above that of almost every other man, is distinguished by enlarged views of the divine philanthropy. He lays great stress upon the doctrine of general redemption, and the consequent willingness of God to save every human being. Next to the denial of redemption by the death of Christ, no erroneous tenet seems to rouse his indignation more, than the limitation of that redemption to a part only of the human race, and the absolute abandonment of all the rest to irremediable misery and despair. The religion which Dr. Clarke so forcibly presses upon the attention of his hearers, is eminently experimental and practical. It does not consist merely in orthodox opinions, pure forms of worship, and correct moral conduct; but is deeply seated in the affections, as well as in the understanding, and is manifest in the uniform exercise of holy tempers, in a pure and upright and useful life. It is the Doctor's invariable practice to exhort every penitent sinner immediately to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and to expect that direct testimony of the Spirit in his heart which will exclude all guilty fear, and enable him to rejoice in God with 'joy unspeakable and full of glory.' As none can defend the doctrine of Christian perfection with greater ability, so there is not one who is in the habit of enforcing it with greater zeal and frequency. The religion which Dr. Clarke is in the habit of teaching, is eminently a happy religion. It finds men under the displeasure of God on account of their guilt and wickedness, and incapable of fellowship and communion with him; and it leads them to the enjoyment of the Divine favor, through faith in the sacrifice of Christ; and, by the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit, it qualifies them for uninterrupted intercourse with God.
Numerous as are the excellences of Dr. Clarke's preaching, we think it is in the application of his sermons that he appears to the greatest advantage. Whatever may be the subject of his discourse, or in whatever manner it may be treated, his applications are always faithful, pointed, impressive; and they are often distinguished by great variety of thought and expression. His applications bring the subject home to the understandings and consciences of his hearers in a manner the most direct and irresistible. They display the most perfect conviction in his own mind of the truth of God's word, and leave no room for doubt in the minds of others. They appear so manifestly to flow from the heart, and they indicate such an intense desire for the spiritual interests of all present, that they scarcely ever fail to command the deepest and most respectful attention. We never saw a congregation indifferent under Dr. Clarke's preaching; and we never saw a congregation unmoved under his applications. In this essential requisite of good preaching. perhaps, Dr. Clarke was never excelled. His popularity, which, we believe, has never suffered the least abatement in any of the places where he has been appointed to labor, is not at all occasioned by the modulations of his voice, or any thing peculiarly attractive in his action and manner; nor is it occasioned by the arts of a meretricious and secular eloquence, which some people profess so greatly to admire: these, indeed, are things to which, we should think, he has never paid a moment's attention through the whole course of his life it is rather to be attributed to the solid instruction which his ministry uniformly conveys, and to the hallowed feeling which, by the Divine blessing, it usually excites."
To the preceding may be added the opinions of several of Dr. Clarke's surviving brethren, opinions which are rendered the more interesting and the more credible by their virtual coincidence, while the semblance of repetition is lost in their verbal variety.
"The character of his preaching (says Mr. Entwisle) was simple, yet argumentative, and sometimes deep and metaphysical; but, generally, so plain, that the least informed in his congregation understood him. He seemed to have taken no pains to polish his style. His language was not adorned with rhetorical figures; he studied not words, but things; and, therefore, his style, the produce of a gigantic mind, was nervous and bold; and he often astonished his hearers with something quite novel in his illustrations of Divine truth. His preaching was energetic beyond what is ordinarily witnessed. In connection with the atonement of Christ, and the operations of the Holy Spirit, he held forth a free, present, and full salvation-a salvation from all sin, inward and outward, to be obtained by faith alone in Christ, and in those promises which are yea and amen in him. Thus he honored Christ, and Christ honored him; for, in all the circuits in which he labored, he had many seals to his ministry, from his entrance on the work, as I have heard many testify; and, having been once his colleague, and often succeeded him, I can bear my feeble testimony to the same."
The following has been collected from the elaborate discourse which Mr. D. McNicol preached on occasion of Dr. Clarke's death:-- " He himself thought his popularity was chiefly owing to the mighty power of the essential and peculiar doctrines of Methodism, which usually called forth all his fervor, He would sometimes say, with his own characteristic expressiveness, 'By constant hammering at these, I can out-congregation them all.' This opinion was unquestionably just to some extent; but many others, who have preached the same doctrines, have not been favored with such vast success. The truth seems to be, that God in his sovereignty accompanied the labors of this distinguished minister with an unusual effusion of his Holy Spirit; for no intellectual, or even moral, qualities of his discourses, admirable as they were, will fully solve the problem of his matchless popularity. His matter, it is true, was rich and copious; his heart was warm; and he possessed the power of selecting from his stores, almost at once, the suitable materials for the instant occasion, which he poured forth with energy and freedom, quite unshackled by the stiff severity of artificial preparation. His plan was to prepare his mind, rather than his paper of particular arrangements; to keep the fountain full, and he knew that at his bidding it would flow; and, by his commanding genius, he gave the proper measure and direction to the streams. But he was not altogether negligent of special preparation for the pulpit, particularly when some great public opportunity was presented for accomplishing an object of great usefulness. One usual object with him was to explain first the words, and then the things, of his subject. When this was finished, he proceeded to apply the considerations which he judged of most importance, with great strength of reasoning, infusing extraordinary warmth into his appeals and exhortations. Here he mightily excelled, and here he usually produced his most striking, his happiest, and most lasting effects. His sermons were also distinguished throughout by a most interesting heartiness, and a glow of spiritual sentiment, accompanied with the most enchanting simplicity that ever added beauty to the greatness of a great man. His prayers were usually distinguished by a holy and reverential boldness, as if he spoke to one with whom he was familiar, to one of whom he had an inexpressible estimation, but with respect to whom the predominant feeling of his heart was love. They were dignified, but simple; they were fervent, but often brief; they were literally collects, in which the whole collected meaning and ardor of his soul, for the time being, were darted forth at once. And by dwelling with peculiar astonishment and rapture, as he often did, on the love of God to fallen man, his faith and confidence increased both the fervor and the efficacy of his prayers."
The following is from the pen of Mr. Everett:-- " As a preacher, his action was far from varied, and not, perhaps, in every instance graceful to fastidious taste; but it was rarely ever otherwise than chaste, and always appropriate. His voice, though not round and melodious, was strong and clear; and, though unable at all times to manage its tones, which rendered it, in the more logical parts of his discourses, a little monotonous, yet, when the argument was brought to a close, and the people were wound up to conviction by it, there were out-breakings in the voice, as well as outpourings among the people, rarely heard and rarely witnessed, except from himself and under his own ministry. One instance, among many, I shall never forget. He was preaching on the occasion of opening a new chapel. His text led him to dwell on the love of God to man. After having established the doctrine of universal redemption by a process of reasoning equally original, powerful, and conclusive, and the hearers had apparently brought their hearts and their understandings to the subject-feeling and perceiving more and more the possibility, the certainty of present, personal salvation, he gave a sweep to his arm, drawing it towards himself, and grasping his hand, as though he had collected in it several objects of value, and then, throwing them, like alms, in the full bounty of his soul, among the people, 'Here,' he exclaimed at the close, in a strain the most impassioned, and with one of those sudden and peculiar elevations of voice for which he was remarkable, frequently melting the whole congregation into tears, ' Here,' he said, ' take the arguments among you-make the best of them for your salvation-I will vouch for their solidity-I will stake my credit for intellect upon them; yes, if it were possible to collect them into one, and suspend them, as you would suspend a weight, on a single hair of this gray head, that very hair would be found to be so firmly fastened to the throne of the all-merciful and ever-loving God, that all the devils in hell might be defied to cut it in two.' He was distinguished by the masculine grasp with which he laid hold of the essentials of religion. Though never loose and declamatory in his pulpit exercises, still there was thought without its apparent labor. His mind was like an immense mine; he seemed to have read all, to have known all; and, from the inexhaustible treasures within, was perpetually pouring forth from its own fullness. He never appeared to exhaust a subject; but, when he had preached one hour, seemed as though he could preach another, leaving his auditory always desirous of more, and wondering that he had finished so soon. The Bible appeared like a new book in his hands; the Divine Being seemed to let him further into its meaning, to give him a clearer and fuller insight into it, than most other men. All his pulpit expositions bore a stamp of their own. Profound and elevated as were his thoughts very often, he was never 'hard to be understood.' One of the finest compliments ever paid to a great man, was unintentionally paid to him by a poor woman in one of the Shetland Isles. She had heard of his celebrity, and went to hear him at Lerwick. On her return home, she remarked with great simplicity, ' They say that Dr. Clarke is a learned man, and I expected to find him such; but he is only like another man: for I could understand every word he said.' His favor in the eyes of the people was invariably on the increase. The sun of their approbation was nearer its meridian altitude at the close of life, and shone more brightly, than at any former given period; and it is not too much to state, that, when otherwise, there is some radical defect, -- something objectionable in those who, as they advance in influence, diminish in glory. No man was so extensively known, out of the pale of the church to which he belonged, as Dr. Clarke. To the character and writings of no man is Wesleyan Methodism so much indebted for the respectability it has attained, and for the influence it has exercised upon the mass of mankind, as to the productions of his pen."
"There was in his preaching," says Mr. Beaumont, not only intellectual perception, but also the power of moral suasion. Nothing could separate him and his faith. It was the air of authority in which his message was steeped, that made it altogether his own and perfectly unique. He demonstrated and expounded, perhaps as much as any uninspired man ever did, how the truth was as it was, and that it could not but be so. His manner of preaching was, beyond all comparison, forceful; and no one could listen to him without being assured, that he was as certain of the truth of what he' was enforcing, as of his own existence. The great and prominent characteristic of his preaching, was the high degree of unction that generally pervaded it. Hence it was, that a sermon from him was universally looked forward to, by the people, as a feast. To hear him was regarded by multitudes as the greatest treat of their lives. Some years since, when he was coming from the pulpit stairs, after preaching before the Conference, the subject having been the account of Barnabas, the late Mr. W. E. Miller stepped forward, flung his arms round his neck, wept a flood of tears, and said, 'Bless you! you are a man of God, full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost.' His ministry is thought to have been more successful than that of any of his contemporaries, except Mr. Benson, and not less than his; and certainly was far more successful than that of any minister now living. In any city, town, or village in England or Ireland, he could have crowded the largest chapel, on the morning of any week-day of the six; and, as to his collections, every body knows there was a marked difference between their amount and that of those of the most talented and eloquent of his contemporaries."
From the honorable testimony borne by Mr. Anderson, to the worth of Dr. Clarke, the following sentences have been extracted:-- --" Dr. Clarke was eminently distinguished, as a preacher, by the clearness and forcibleness with which he expatiated on the theology of the heart. He always avowed a strong predilection for preachers selecting large portions of God's word, as the basis of their public teaching and preaching. If ever those words of the Apostle had a verification in living man, it was in him:' Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom.' He also preached and taught the word of the Lord in that bold, free, generous, and unfettered manner which characterized the first ministers of the Lord Jesus. And, whilst he discarded every thing in religion that was visionary and enthusiastic, (no man having more of the rational in his creed and in his teaching,) he was largely gifted with the unction of the Holy One. It constituted the great charm of his public ministrations. It was the grand secret of his wonderful success. He held in abhorrence the miserable sentiment, that the Holy Ghost was exclusively bestowed on the first ministers of the Lamb. I think I hear him now, as Mr. Fowler described him to me, promising all present the gift of the Holy Ghost, with all the confidence of an Apostle; and demanding of his hearers, why the same Spirit should not fall on them while Adam Clarke preached the same Gospel, as when 'Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.' under other circumstances than those in which he was placed by a sound conversion to Christ, and a loud call to his ministry, he might have ranked amongst the giants of our country: he might have been a Porson, or a Parr, or a Johnson; but he never would have been an Adam Clarke!"
To all these testimonies it may not be superfluous to add the brief, but pointed, attestation of the Christian Advocate:-- "It is no small proof of his greatness in the pulpit, that his sermons were equally relished by the rich and the poor, by the learned and the illiterate. No man, perhaps, ever drew congregations so large, or of so mixed a character. Wherever he went, he was eagerly followed by all classes; and the scene, when Dr. Clarke formed the principal object in it, was like a special jubilee compared with an ordinary holiday. He brought his learning to bear upon his subject without any parade, and in the most instructive form; and his native fervor, joined with the clearness of his conceptions and the vastness of his resources, never failed to elevate and inform his hearers. There was a sort of cordiality in his preaching, that was its principal charm. You seemed to be listening to a man, who not only had his own heart filled with the love of God, but had large stores of it at his disposal for others. No man ever spoke more confidently and freely about God than he, probably from the peculiar bent of his studies; and you could not listen to him long without recognizing in him a man who held communion with the Father through his Son Jesus Christ."
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