Adam Clarke was married, April 17, 1788. Born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, about 1760, he was to become a powerful evangelist and a significant author. However his early years at school gave the impression he was an underachiever. When he was about 8 years old a jibe about his lack of intellect prompted Adam to apply himself and the results were astounding.
Clarke mastered twenty languages and inquired into almost every branch of learning. He became proficient in Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Samaritan, Chaldee and Syriac versions of the Scripture and learned in all the oriental languages and most of the languages of Europe.
In his late teens Clarke’s curiosity led him to Methodist meetings where he remained to pray, seeking salvation. He says of this quest, “I regarded nothing, not even life itself, in comparison with having my heart cleansed from all sin; and began to seek it with full purpose of heart. Soon after this, while earnestly wrestling with the Lord in prayer, and endeavouring self-desperately to believe, I found a change wrought in my soul, which I have endeavoured through grace to maintain amid the grievous temptations and accusations of the subtle foe.”
Once saved he soon began exhorting others. He then traveled to England, and handed himself over to John Wesley. Wesley said to him, “Do you wish to devote yourself entirely to the work of God?” “Sir, I wish to be and to do whatever God pleases.” “I think you had better go out into the work at large,” said Wesley. Wesley then laid hands young Adam and sent him to the Bradford circuit. Clarke had twenty-three appointments and did most of his travelling on foot, carrying most of his belongings on his back.
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In his first year this ‘boy’ preacher delivered 506 sermons “and a great number of public exhortations, which he did not class as sermons”. In 1786 he was sent to France (the Norman Isles), for he was skilled in the French language, and many, many others. There he and his companions were initially persecuted but proved successful.
Clarke lived with remarkable focus and was determined to harvest the time available to him. He rose early and worked diligently at all his tasks. His advice to youth was, “The grand secret is to save time. Spend none needlessly. Keep from all unnecessary company. Never be without a praying heart, and have as often as possible a book in your hand.”
Back in England he married Miss Mary Cooke – “through their lives they were supremely happy” – and six sons and six daughters were born.
Clarke saw salvation as the most powerful effect that mankind could ever experience, and he saw it as an ongoing work of grace with limitless capacity to continue transforming human lives. “As there is no end to the merits of Christ incarnate and crucified; no bounds to the mercy and love of God; no let or hindrance to the almighty energy and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit; no limits to the improvability or the human soul, so there can be no bounds to the saving influence which God will dispense to the heart of every true believer.”
Best remembered for his massive Bible Commentary – despite a few oddities of interpretation … e.g. Eve was tempted by an orangutan – Adam Clarke was one of John Wesley’s right hand men.
Commenced 27 years earlier, his Commentary, finally completed on 18 March, 1825, on his knees, entitles Adam Clarke to be ranked “among the chief of expositors, a prince among commentators”, said C.H. Spurgeon.
After John Wesley’s death Clarke was elected president of the Methodist Conference three times. He was so reluctant to accept the responsibility that the first time (1806) his brethren had to carry him bodily and place him in the chair: but once there, he performed his duties with grace and success.
Dr Clarke died during a cholera epidemic on 26 August, 1832. He was away from home when he contracted the disease but his wife and children were able to reach him before he died. Just weeks before his death he had written in his journal, “I feel a simple heart: the prayers of my childhood are yet precious to me, and the simple hymns I sang when a child, I sing now with unction and delight. Philippians 1:21. May I live to Thee, die in Thee, and be with Thee to all eternity. Amen. – Adam Clarke.”
This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com
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