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  • THE LIFE AND LABORS OF ADAM CLARKE -
    CHAPTER 16


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    CHAPTER 16

    We have now to notice, as briefly as possible, Dr. Clarke's general character. Of this the details of his life are so illustrative, that mere description may by some be thought to be unnecessary. But it is interesting to hear what survivors, of competent knowledge and ability, have to say concerning the distinguished dead. Of all the estimates of the general character of Dr. Clarke that have yet appeared, that formed by Mr. McNicol is by far the amplest and the best considered. We regret that our limits will not permit us to appropriate a larger portion of his judicious and discriminating observations.

    "In all the relations of life" (says this eloquent and philosophical writer), "as pastor, husband, father, master, friend, he was remarkably affectionate, condescending, affable, gentle, kind, meek, humble, cheerful, courteous, and communicative. Adam Clarke was an eminent example of true greatness; a Minister, a writer, and a Christian man, much above the ordinary standard of these characters; a class rather than an individual; not a star, but a constellation; a lofty pattern of faithful and ardent devotedness in the most responsible and difficult departments of the service of God,, to which men can be called on earth; a noble evidence of the value of sanctified abilities; and an instructive instance of the power of religion in forming human nature to a character of righteousness and charity; a man of whom it may be said, as truly as it ever was affirmed of any statesman or patriot, he would lay down his life for his country, and would not do a base thing to save it; one who would neither tread upon an insect, nor crouch to an emperor. The name of Adam Clarke is a name, of which the native honors can only be reflected - not augmented by any number of subjoined initials, expressive of his well-won academic reputation."

    In discussing his claims to the title of a learned man, Mr. McNicol makes the following remarks:-- "That he should have been profound, and critical, and absolutely unparalleled, in every branch of learning and of study, is not to be believed of any man that ever lived; and he was himself the last person in the world to make the least approach to any such pretensions. On the other hand, we heed not the witticisms of those who would insinuate, that he was not in the main a man of deep, and accurate, and extensive learning. It is most likely, the truth lies between the two extremes, - and much nearer the side of extravagant eulogium than the other of mean and pitiful depreciation. However he may have been even greatly excelled in certain lines of study, for our own parts, we believe, that, both for variety and quantity of useful knowledge, or knowledge in the general, Adam Clarke was not surpassed by any individual of his time. He had studied most of the sciences with great assiduity; the arts of rhetoric and of composition, - as we have said, he deliberately undervalued. As to languages, he paid the greatest attention to those termed oriental. Several of the European languages he did not profess to know perfectly. It does not appear that he was very extensively acquainted with the German critics and theologians in general. It was true he made the great body of his knowledge subservient to divinity, and with admirable effect; but, had his studies been less general, or at least, as to many of them, more superficial had he concentrated his talents, his time, and his native powers of thinking, so as to originate and perfect some great work in one department of theology, he would most likely have excelled himself. His original capacity was vigorous and substantial, but far from fine and flexible. He mistook himself in saying, as be sometimes did, that he labored on a barren soil. The soil was good, but encumbered, and difficult of culture. His understanding possessed great force, was clear and sound, and fitted to investigate, and, what is of the first importance in the operations of the mind, to arrange and generalize the subjects of his thoughts. But, in the fervor 'of these operations, and in his great impatience to pass on to other objects, he sometimes failed in that exactness of method, in that perfect exercise of judgment, and in that nice balancing of things, of which, notwithstanding, he was perfectly capable. His imagination was vivid and excursive; but was not considered by himself as deserving any special cultivation and direction. His powers of invention were fruitful in the extreme; and the tact and compass of his wit beyond those of most men.

    His unexampled industry was both an integral part and a general principle - at once a cause and an effect -- of his greatness. It was this industry, pursued with matchless energy, that made his mighty powers to tell with such force upon almost every subject to which he directed his attention. Learned men, who can appreciate such labors, are no doubt astonished at the efforts which could produce both the kind and the quantity of his writings. In this spirit is the following advice in a private letter to a young man:-- 'Study yourself half to death, and pray yourself whole to life. Do something -- something that you can look at -- something that will be worth having when you are not worth a rush. I declare, I think, if I were you, I would dig, water, manure, lop off, tie up, lead along, &c. &c. &c., till my garden should bloom and blossom like the rose, and my whole ground be like Carmel." While others slept, or banqueted, or idled out their despicable days in gossiping and folly, he kept the glorious harvest of this issue full in view, and plowed with all his heifers, reckless of the sun and rain. Thus he ran, for, in regard to him, the word was often literally applicable; thus he ran his lengthened and laborious, but honorable, career; mindless of all things which entered not into the essence of the duty just in hand. His life, indeed, is a study for a statesman or a warrior; and, if some men, in commerce or in trade, would transcribe the wonderful decision of his character into their own, it would multiply their fortunes.

    In the natural constitution of his mind, he was somewhat humorsome and restless, and very prone to indulge in metaphysical investigations; and perhaps, with only a small portion of religion, he might have been, very much unsettled, both in his theological opinions and in the habits of his life. But decided, powerful, and progressive piety banded all his other noble qualities, directed them to their capable elevation of improvement, and kept them up to their own due pitch, beyond what could have been effected by any principles of merely human strength.

    "His moral and religious character was beyond all praise. In this respect, his 'peace flowed like a river, and his righteousness like the waves of the sea.' His integrity was immovable; he held it fast with the firm and resolute grasp of a lion. Rectitude and benevolence were, indeed, the two great principles and component parts of his moral excellence. Another cause of his greatness may be found in the discipline of his mental struggles, and of the vast variety of impressive situations, companies, and circumstances, through which he passed during the most improvable part of his life. To men of a certain cast, all such privations and collisions are extremely favorable, as the means of giving mental power.

    "The wealth of his mind, like real property, seemed to increase with good management, in a compound ratio, that placed him far above the common ranks, and enabled him to exercise the liberal disposition so native to his heart, in largely augmenting the scantier intellectual stores of others. The nature and magnitude of the subjects which he studied, gave him greatness. He has said, without the least reference to its effect upon himself, that oriental literature was peculiarly calculated to sublime the mind. He loved to be familiar with men and books, where greatness, combined with goodness, might be closely contemplated. In this view he was ceaseless in his praise of Mr. Wesley. On the same principle, he admired, and studied, and, in some degree, caught, the moral dignity of Dr. Johnson. St. Augustine's City of God was a work on which he set a high value, because of the prodigious reach of mind which he believed it contained. And many others might be mentioned, which he had studied on the same principle. But his greatness essentially consisted in the combination of his distinguished powers and excellences;--capacity, energy, piety, and a wide arena and full scope for the exercise and proof of all. Had one of these important requisites been wanting, the whole must have failed; the snapping of a single link would have ruined the whole series. And his simplicity was far from having the most unimportant share in the imposing aggregate, but gave a higher interest to his greatest qualities; like a transparent cloud on distant rocks, it imparted a peculiar softness and enlargement to them all.

    "As to politics, he was extremely loyal to the monarchy, but frequently disliked the measures of the ministry. To the principles of the system so strenuously supported by Mr. Pitt, he was strongly opposed, believing that their tendency was to enslave mankind. During the whole of the late war, he scarcely ever cast his eye on the public prints; not merely on account of his disapproval of the policy which led to the contest, but because, as a Christian, and a man of humanity, he could feel no kind of pleasure in the daily perusal of dispatches which were filled with blood and slaughter. "If he spoke at times with undue strength of expression, on systems of religion different from his own, it was the ardent love of Methodism, by which God had 'saved his soul, that occasioned this excess. With the men who held those systems, he was often very happy to hold a generous communion. There was, indeed, a general tendency in his mind to a high state of feeling. This was frequently observable in his language, his wit, in all his motions, not excepting the energy of his looks, and his walk.

    "With regard to his humility, it may be said, that, however free and familiar he might be among his friends, yet among the learned, the great, and those he deemed his superiors, he was blushingly modest. The same feeling, though in different proportions, attended him on all occasions. Of himself, he did not entertain high notions; of his brethren, he often did, and spoke in their praise, sometimes with a degree of enthusiasm. Self-taught scholars are often charged with speaking too much of themselves in connection with their learning, while the collisions and rivalship of the academy are thought to prevent this. To some extent it may be so; for, if a man should, for the most part, stand alone in the company he keeps, the practice may grow upon him as a habit, and yet he may not be a proud man. Whatever custom of this kind, or of a confident manner, has been noticed in connection with our departed friend, who was commonly the instructor of his own circle, those who knew him best will believe, that it did not arise from pride,' but rather from the warmth of his temperament, and his deep conviction of the truth of his sentiments. Among the poor, the idea of condescension never seemed to cross his thoughts. He was perfectly as one of themselves, and would stoop to anything which might contribute to their comfort. For example, while visiting the hovel of distress and poverty, and perceiving that, from the condition of the bed, it must be a very uneasy one, he has had the patient removed for a few minutes, and straitened up the cordage himself with great dexterity.

    "It was his piety, the sustaining sense of the Divine presence, the conscientious conviction that he was serving God in a high and responsible employment, and the all-absorbing influence of his subject upon his own mind;-- it was these, and neither pride nor hardihood (for he disliked the gaze of the public, and even of mixed company), that supplied him with the admirable self-possession and command of his thoughts, which was never known to forsake him.

    "There is good reason to believe that his private devotions were regular and frequent.

    Little singularities and discrepancies have, perhaps, too carefully been marked by his observers. These defects lay rather in the physiology and instinct of a warm temperament, than in any obliquity of his principle and purpose. Again, they were not always rightly named eccentricities. They were, in some instances, bold and proper deviations from the unprofitable usages of life; and the true eccentricity, in such cases, lay on that side. And, even here, he often showed the power of his intellect: for he had his reasons; and he frequently discovered, that, even in smaller, concerns, he judged by his common sense, and a constant regard, not to current opinion, but to the nature and absolute propriety of things. But, in the grand principles of character and duty, he showed a noble consistency and dignity through life. Here, there was no hesitation, nothing changeable or contradictory."

    The following sentences are extracted from the warm eulogy which Mr. Beaumont poured out of the fullness of his heart, on the occasion of the death of Dr. Clarke:-- "In losing him, we seem as if a lighthouse had been upset in the midst of the ocean. There never was a man more highly and sincerely honored while 'he lived, or more deeply and deservedly lamented when he died; In his conduct amongst men, he was remarkably plain and manly-natural, simple, honest, ingenuous, and unaffected. His conversation was not learned, except when circumstances so combined as to render it a duty to give it that particular character. As his discourse combined the agreeable with the edifying, he was listened to with delight. He was the very reverse of moroseness; his heart was the region of cheerfulness, and on his tongue was the law of kindness. A more expansive and generous mind, I know not. His judgment of his brethren was never harsh or severe; and he was always ready to put the best construction on their sayings and doings, which truth and justice would admit, and almost more than that. His character had nothing hidden or equivocal about it; it was all wide, open, candid, and majestical. There was a magnanimity, a strength, a fullness, a freshness, an originality, about his modes of thinking and acting, which were as evident to the eye of observation as the lineaments of his face. And, though he meddled with politics much less than some of his brethren, he was never indifferent to any thing that bore, directly or indirectly, upon the weal or the woe of this great empire, which he longed to see filled with knowledge and righteousness."

    Mr. H. Moore, who had known Dr. Clarke longer than any man who survived him, bore the following high testimony to his moral purity:-- " Our Connection, I believe, never knew a more blameless life than that of Dr. Clarke. He had his opponents; he had those that differed from him, sometimes in doctrine, sometimes in other things; but these opponents, whatever they imputed to him, never dared to fix a stain, either upon his moral or religious character. He was, as Mr. Wesley used to say a preacher of the Gospel should be, 'without a stain;' or, as a greater than he had said, Dr. Clarke could have said, 'Which of you convinceth me of sin?' Let not that universal consistency, that rigid regard to justice, that blameless conduct which was so manifested in our departed brother -- Oh God, grant that none of these may be lost, either upon his friends, upon any that knew him, or any that hear of him!"

    The following are Mr. Everett's remarks concerning the humility, the peculiarities, and the consistency of Dr. Clarke:-- "With all his learning, he was perfectly exempt from parade-shunning, rather than courting, public gaze. It was partly owing to this that apositive promise could rarely be abstracted from him to preach out of his regular plan, till near the time; and, of two chapels that have required a supply on any ordinary occasion, he has selected the least, and gone into the country, when it appeared to others that he ought to preach in the town. The crowd, which has an element of its own, and which seems to be the only situation in which some men can breathe and support existence, was, of all others, the situation in which he appeared incapable of living. His peculiarities of conduct were the result of order, and only appeared such when brought to bear upon the irregularity of others; and his peculiarities of opinion were often the result of learning, research, and experience. But whatever may have been the peculiarities of Dr. Adam Clarke, he goes through the world without a stain upon his moral character -- without any shiftings in his professions and principles -- and with all the essentials of our holy religion in his creed."

    We conclude with a few extracts from the affectionate, but still impartial, portrait of Dr. Clarke, which his youngest son has drawn:-- " In personal appearance, there was nothing particularly remarkable in my father. He was about five feet nine inches high, and, in the latter years of his life, had a tendency to a full habit of body. His frame was one of considerable strength, his limbs straight and well-proportioned, and his person unbowed to the last hour of his life. His features were characteristic of the benevolence of his mind.

    "His personal habits were those of unintermitted industry, unencumbered by busy haste, and directed by the exactest order. What he had to do was performed at once and to the best of his power. I never once saw my father idle. Even in his relaxations, his mind was occupied, either in contriving and affording entertainment for others, or else in deriving healthful pleasure to himself;. and he gained a game at marbles with as much delighted satisfaction as any of the children with whom he played.

    My father's mind never rested still upon its acquirements. 'Onward,' was its motto, while perseverance and method enabled him to overcome every obstacle and difficulty. But one chief excellency of his power consisted in his ability to use knowledge. Greater critical scholars than he there have been, and many, possibly, more deeply versed in the various departments of learning and science; but I believe that there never was an individual who could use to such purpose all the stores which he possessed. He possessed an astonishing power of gathering together rays of light from the whole circuit of his knowledge, and pouring them, in one bright beam, upon any point which he wished to illustrate or explain.

    "The treasures of knowledge which his unwearied industry had drawn together, were all made subservient to the more effective execution of his ministerial office. Even the estimation in which he was held as a man of learning, was, in some measure, made tributary to the advance of piety; for, in his view, the chief value of his fame consisted in his being able to reflect the light with which he himself shone, upon that excellent body of Christians with whom he was identified.

    "As regards the religious feeling of my father, little needs to be said. The religion of Christ Jesus, in all its fullness of saving power, and renewing influence, and sustaining might, was all his enjoyment, his hope, and, his trust. He lived, as it were, in a constant intercourse with heaven. There have been few men whose views were so clear concerning the straight course of honest uprightness, and whose conduct was so little warped by interest or expediency. His word once passed, he would no more accept of a refused offer than he would be induced to break a positive commandment. His moral courage partook of the same inflexible property. Whatsoever he thought it right should be done, that he possessed resolution to do he always possessed the dominion of his own mind. Though constantly living before the public view, he seldom personally appeared before it; and, so disinterested were his feelings, that he never once used the influence which he possessed with some of the highest and the worthiest in the land, in behalf of his own family. I am persuaded that he derived no little satisfaction from the thought, that he was never looked on as an expectant or dreaded as a requisitionist. [47] Persons of all ages, capacities, and conditions in life, have, at various times, been inmates at his house; and none ever left it but with regret, so much could he win upon all classes by his affable manners, cheerful and informing conversation, and the unintermitted kindness of his considerate attention. It was on this account that his friends were many, and his acquaintances few.

    Dr. Clarke's conversational powers were very considerable, and extremely diversified; and they were at all times suitable to the company, and the circumstances of those around him. With the young, he would enter into his own childish labors, disappointments, and encouragements, always blending religious and moral truths with the details of his well-told narrative. To the Sanguine feelings of rising youth, he would speak of the shadows which experience throws over the glare of untried life, of the shoals and quicksands which sometimes cause shipwreck, yet insisting on how much energy of purpose, and strength of good resolve, enabled a man to cope with advantage against many and mighty evils, when the wide field of life and usefulness lay before him. He was at all times remarkably social in his habits and dispositions; and his conversation abounded in instructive and humorous anecdotes. While speaking on subjects connected with religion, his sayings were the wisdom of experience, resulting from the knowledge which his own spirit had gained in the deep things of God.

    "An economist of time himself, he could not bear to" see it wasted by others; and, even when his little grandchildren were around him for a time, he always kept them engaged according to their ability. To one he would give a book of pictures to look over, -- to another, different bits of colored stones, or paper, to arrange on the floor, -- to a third, a piece of board with a little hammer and some nails, to drive in, and pull out again; and so on, in order that even their infancy should not know the evils consequent on idleness.

    When the hours of study were over, and he joined the other members of his family, in order to rest his eyes, Mrs. Clarke, or one of the party, was in the habit of reading aloud all the evening, on which occasions his observations on the works, the sentiments, the opinions, of the author and the times, were fraught with important information, but ever treated with a rigid regard to that fair and manly construction which he put upon all things of which he had to judge; but any evidence of' absolutely false sentiment, or unsound reasoning, he analyzed and rooted up, that his family aught not drink in injurious opinions or prejudicial errors.

    As the head of a family, his conduct was most exemplary. Regularity kept everything in order. Kindness was the ruling power; and the observance of every religious and moral duty, made all the inhabitants of his abode unitedly a Christian household. None who were in want, left his door unrelieved. He has several times been known, when near his own gate, to give away his shoes, in order to cover the feet of another. To his servants, his behavior was perhaps over-indulgent, his natural kind-heartedness making their situation, want of education, imperfect acquaintance with moral obligation, all so many pleas for allowances, and reasons for the excuse of errors.

    "The present feelings of my mother are testimonies that the choice of her youth continued to the last the object toward which all her affections turned and were satisfied. His conduct to his children was such as to endear him to them from the earliest age. He was their companion in their play, and often devoted hard-earned time to their amusement. He very seldom directly praised any of his children, in several instances having seen the ruinous effects of this practice. Among other things, he would never allow us to receive money from visitors at his house, as he desired his children to feel, that whatsoever in this way was proper for them, their parents would give. Had he a top, or a whip', or a hoop, to give away, he would always make even the least do something before he obtained it;-- he must run a certain distance, or jump a certain height, or perform some other feat: thus, in all things, striving to create a wholesome spirit of independence, by making the gift so far the result of their own exertions." Here, then, is an example for the young. Not perfect, indeed; but, therefore, imitable: yet not materially imperfect; and, therefore, the more worthy of imitation. Feeble in constitution, slow of understanding, and depraved in heart (as who is not?), by strict temperance, by intent study, and by faith and prayer, he became strong in body, profound in knowledge, pure in heart; and all his attainments he unreservedly and unremittedly devoted to the public good, in the most extended sense. Finally, whatever were his faults, he had one virtue which outweighed them all. This was the oil by means of which the wheel of his activity was kept in smooth and ceaseless revolution, in spite of frequent jars and constant friction. He was distinguished by a placable temper, a forgiving disposition; and, instead of resenting injuries, he, like his Divine Master, prayed for his enemies, and sought to do them good.

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