Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

ART. VI.-An Account of the Infancy, Religious and Literary

Life of Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.A.S., 8c. Written by One who was intimately acquainted with him from his boyhood to the sixtieth year of his age. Edited by the Reverend J. B. Clarke, M.A., Trin. Coll., Cambridge. London. 3 vols. Svo.

1832-3. IT T must needs have ever been matter of great solicitude to John

Wesley to know what was to become of Methodism when he should be no more. He could not but feel, that, whilst he lived, he was the be all’of the singular society he had constructed; and he could not but have perceived the danger there was, that, when he should die, he would be its end all. He enjoyed, it is true, a very long life, in which to consolidate his plans; he was not called upon to surrender his functions to others till most of those contingencies which were likely to derange his machinery had arisen and been met. Still the genius of the man-his capacity for government—did not appear fully manifest till after his departure. So deep had he laid his foundations in the knowledge of human nature, that after death had deprived the Methodists of their leader-when their form of government became of necessity, and according to his own appointment, changed from a monarchy, which it was under him, to a republic, which it was to be under the Conference, the character of their institution remained essentially the same; they continued a people still loyal to their king and true to the constitution of their country, even as Wesley had enjoined them to be: and whilst the Dissenters, properly so called (for the Methodists do not acknowledge themselves such), exhibited deep and deadly hatred to the Church Establishment, they, with every natural impulse, it might have been supposed, to the same sentiments, felt themselves still, as it were, under the spell of their patriarch, though no longer in the flesh with them, and did not decline to attend the services of the Church, partake of her sacraments, and even adopt her forms of devotion. This is the greatest triumph of Wesley. He himself was held to the Church by associations early and strong-he had for his father a faithful minister of that Church ; another, for his elder brother, to whom he was under deep obligations, a man of the most masculine sense and the kindest heart. He was bred at Oxford, had been a successful student there, and was fellow of his college. Wesley, therefore, had lived within the penetralia of the temple, and well understood by practical experience the knowledge the Church diffused from her seats of learning, and the charities she inspired by her parochial ministrations. These restraints he never shook off in the days of his boldest visions as the founder of an order; but that he

should

should have been able to impress it upon his followers, who had no such early bias, to take the same equivocal ground as himself, and that, whilst with hiin tliey were to disturb the harmony and discipline of the Church—there is no denying that--they were with him, too, to bear her some reverence, and regard her with some good-will: this is a most remarkable feature of his power, who, Though dead, could yet speak so distinctly; and who, if he were now alive, in this season of the Church's danger, would not be the man to stand silently by, consenting to her destruction at the hands of those unnatural confederates, the Infidel, the Dissenter, and the Papist.

We have here the life of one of the most influential of Wesley's immediate followers, in three volumes; the first written by Dr. Clarke himself - the two latter by his youngest daughter, her father supplying her with materials, who moreover perused the whole manuscript up to the year 1830, and attached his signature to each sheet, in testimony of its truth : the whole edited by the Rev. J. B. Clarke, the doctor's youngest son.

Adam Clarke was born at Moybeg, an obscure hamlet in Londonderry, about the year 1760. His father was a village schoolmaster of a superior order, and Adam, if we understand the narrative right, was one of his scholars; a lad of hardy habits, and as yet unapt to learn. It was intended that he should be brought up by his grandfather, but not liking the restraint of his grandmother's apron-strings, and having a great passion for looking into a draw-well on the premises-whether in early quest of truth, is not said-he incurred the old lady’s displeasure by keeping her in a state of alarm for his life, and was accordingly sent home. We do not perceive that Dr. Clarke notices this as one amongst the many instances he discovers of a special Providence that was over him—it was probably, however, not the least signal. Whatever was his want of capacity to acquire knowledge, his feelings were quick and tender; and one day, as he and a little school-fellow were seated on a bank together, the children fell into serious conversation on futurity,—.0 Addy, Addy,' said his companion, what a dreadful thing is eternity; and O, how dreadful to be put into hell-fire, and to be burnt for ever!' and thereupon they wept bitterly, begged God to forgive them their sins, which were chiefly those of disobedience to their parents, and made to each other strong promises of amendment. His mother, who came to the knowledge of this incident, pondered it in her heart with a mother's satisfaction; his father, who seems to have been an austere, ill-judging man, had no opinion of pious resolutions in children ; and Adam was old enough to find discouragement in this indifference, and to feel that smoking flax had been quenched.

His companion on this occasion was one James Brooks, the tenth child of his parents. When this boy's mother went to pay her tithe to Dr. Barnard, the rector of Maghera, afterwards Bishop of Limerick, and well known as the friend of Johnson, and a member of The Club, the poor woman said, “Sir, you have the tenth of all I possess except my children: it is but justice you should have the tenth of them too; here is my tenth son, take him and provide for him.' Dr. Barnard took the child at her word, clothed him, and sent him to school, where he ever went by the name of Tithe. Traits of this kind, where they relate to men of any distinction, are valuable as keys to character.

The nearest neighbour Adam Clarke's father had was one Pierce Quenlin, a very fat man. Adam beheld him with disgust, as a loathsome object; a feeling which was rendered yet more intense by a dumb fortune-teller, called, in the Scottish dialect of Ulster, a spae-man,

who
gave

Adam to understand that it would be one day his own lot to be fond of the bottle and to have a big belly. He thought that the spae-man might be right, nevertheless that God could overrule evils even great as these ; and accordingly, he stole into the field, kneeled himself down in a furze-bush, and prayed heartily, saying, ' O Lord God, have mercy upon me, and never suffer me to be like Pierce Quenlin!' He adds, that he continued throughout life to entertain a wholesome dread of drunkenness and fat. Upon such trifles in our tender years do some of the most invaluable safeguards of our future virtue depend. He still remained a dunce; was reproached by his teacher, and scoffed at by his school-fellows; till at last a taunt of the latter kind stung him in the right place--he felt as if something had broke within him ;' and from that day forward he made rapid advances in whatsoever he put his head unto’-arithmetic only excepted.

The circumstances of the family were strait, so much so, indeed, that his father and mother, with their first-born child, (Adam was their second,) had actually embarked for America, and were only prevailed upon to abandon their enterprise by the most earnest entreaties of their friends. Mr. Clarke, therefore, found it convenient to combine his school with a small farm; this he cultivated after the plan of Virgil's Georgics, a work of which he was a great admirer: though whether the system of agriculture which suited the Campagna di Roma would consort so well with the village of Maghera or Moybeg, in the township of Cootinaglugg, in the parish of Kilchronagan, in the barony of Loughinshallin, in the county of Londonderry,' might admit of a reasonable doubt. However, his crops, says his son, were as good as his neighbours'.' Meanwlfle, Adam and his brother were em

ployed

ployed in the labour of husbandry, and in the studies of the school by turns: he whose duty it was to read the Georgics, communicating his lesson to him whose duty it had been to apply them. The pence they thus gained were laid out in books—such nursery tales and wild romances as were wont to make

up

the youthful library before the march of knowledge had superseded them by treatises on political economy, and taught us to put away childish things ere yet we are men. The use of such books, Adam Clarke defends, as creating an appetite for reading, the foundation of all knowledge; leading the mind to the contemplation of a spiritual world, such as it was; and, in some instances, as in the case of Robinson Crusoe, impressing the child with such a notion of the providence of God, as nothing was ever likely to efface afterwards.

Mention has already been made of Adam Clarke's mother. She was a Presbyterian of the old Puritan school—a person powerful in the Scriptures—and whenever she corrected her children she gave chapter and verse for it. Such a practice, if generally adopted by parents, would soon render the Bible the rule of life, and go far to make religion operative. From her he received his early religious impressions. It might seem that St. Paul dropped his hints about Timothy's breeding expressly to put mothers in mind of the magnitude of their trust. That eminent disciple, as he turned out, knew the Scriptures from a child, though his father was a Greek; but then there had been faith unfeigned in his grandmother Lois, and in his mother Eunice, and by their means he was what he was. Adam Clarke was now far in his teens, but as yet without any settled plan of life. His friends wished him to assist his father in his school, and eventually to succeed him in it, but the proposal was not to his taste. He was afloat, and in a condition therefore to be appropriated, when, in the year 1777, the Methodists first appeared in his neighbourhood. Hitherto he had been in the habit of attending both Church and Meeting-house, the former chiefly, but with no great edification from either ; indeed the Presbyterian congregation here, as elsewhere, was fast drooping into Socinianism. He was now led by curiosity to hear a serinon of the new preacher. It was after another fashion—after that described by the hand of a master in one of the most powerful of his poems

• Repent, repent, he cries aloud,
While yet ye may find mercy-strive
To love the Lord with all your might;
Turn to him, seek him day and night,
And save your souls alive!

• Repent,

[ocr errors]

* Repent, repent, though ye have gone,
Through paths of wickedness and woe,
After the Babylonian harlot,
And, though your sins be red as scarlet

They shall be white as snow!' In short, Christ crucified, and redemption through his blood, was the burden of his sermon; and Mrs. Clarke, who accompanied her son, and who was as yet his oracle in matters spiritual, pronounced rightly enough— This is the doctrine of the Reformers.' From that time the house of the Clarkes was open to such preachers as came to those parts, and young Adam was soon added to the number of the converts. It was still, however, some time before he had assurance of his salvation, a doctrine then strongly insisted upon by the Methodists, but• One morning,' we quote his own account of an incident which he ever represented as the epoch of his life, in great distress of soul he went out to work in the field. He began, but could not proceed, so great was his spiritual anguish. He fell down on his knees on the earth and prayed, but seemed to be without power of faith. He arose, endeavoured to work, but could not ; even his physical strength ap. peared to have departed from him. He again endeavoured to pray, but the gate of Heaven seemed barred against him. His faith in the atonement, so far as it concerned himself, was almost entirely gone; he could not believe that Jesus had died for him; the thickest darkness seemed to gather round and settle on his soul. He fell flat on his face on the earth, and endeavoured to pray, but still there was no answer; he arose, but he was so weak that he could scarcely stand.

It is said the time of man's extremity is the time of God's opportunity. He now felt strongly in his soul, Pray to Christ; another word for, Come to the holiest through the blood of Jesus. He looked up confidently to the Saviour of sinners, his agony subsided, his soul became calm; a glow of happiness seemed to thrill through his whole frame; all guilt and condemnation were gone.' -vol. i. pp. 99. 102.

The field in which this crisis befel him, this wrestle, as it were, with the angel, he used to visit with intense interest in the latter years of his life, when his journeys to Ireland brought him into its neighbourhood, and would have gladly got possession of it by purchase. Yet we should have thought Dr. Clarke might have been led to suspect the nature of this evidence, when a few years afterwards, according to his own account, it appears that he became a universal

sceptic, save only that he believed in the being of a God, and the truth of the sacred writings'-(p. 130); a point very far below that fulness of faith which his former assurance must have reached ; and, indeed, how his doubts could have stopped where they did, we are quite at a loss to understand. For when he had arrived at the condition of distrusting his own

senses,

[ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »