Adam Clarke a Dedicated Life

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.”

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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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Adam Clarke the Literary Giant

This is the day that … The Reverend Adam Clarke died in 1832.

Born 1760 or 1762, in the little village of Moybeg, county of Londonderry, this friend and fellow preacher with John Wesley is especially remembered for his massive Bible commentary, which is still in print.

In his childhood his mother taught him to have strong faith in God, while his father was a village schoolmaster who needed to run a farm to supplement the meagre income. Adam and his brother also worked on the farm, attending school on each alternate day and having to pass on their lessons to the other before school the next day. This student-tutor experience stood him in good stead as both a preserver and interpreter of truth.

John Wesley rescued young Adam from a directionless youth by inviting him to study at the new Kingswood Methodist seminary. There Clarke excelled and Wesley invited him to become a circuit preacher at the age of 19, a profession he pursued for more than a quarter century.

He then devoted much of his time to literary research and to writing. His first work was A Dissertation on the Use and Abuse of Tobacco, followed by texts which catalogued or translated works from antiquity. Consequently he was elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and in 1806 received an LL.D. from the University of St Andrews. He was also chosen a member of the Royal Irish Academy and of other literary societies in the UK and America.

In 1810 he released the first volume of The Holy Bible, with a Commentary and Critical Notes. The completed work included eight volumes, the last of which was issued in 1826. Archbishop Lowndes acclaimed the work, pointing out that Clarke produced it single-handedly, amid all his other duties and distractions.

Spurgeon wrote in his Commenting on the Commentaries: “Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends, and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors … his commentary is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great man could have collected.” Adds Spurgeon, “Notwithstanding his peculiarities, Adam Clarke still stands a prince among commentators.”

One of those ‘peculiarities’ is surely the comment that Eve was tempted, not by a serpent, but by an orangutan! And his notes on the death of Judas are not for the dainty ears of my readers!

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Adam Clarke, Wesley’s Great Asset

This is the day that … Adam Clarke preached his first sermon.

He was about 21 years of age at the time – the date of his birth is uncertain – but this young Irishman had come to faith in Christ through the ministry of some itinerant Methodist preachers.

In 1778 (when he was perhaps 18 years of age) he joined the Methodist Church, led his sister, Hannah, to the Saviour, and found himself as ‘helper’ to Rev. Bredin. “Tomorrow,” said this wise man of God, “you will preach to the Methodists some five miles from Derry.” “I will do the best I can,” replied Adam, “with God’s help.”

Thus it was – on 19 June, 1782 – that Adam Clarke expounded I John 5:19: “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness”. The congregation was so impressed that they invited him to stay overnight and preach to them again at 5 o’clock the next morning – which he did!

Mr Bredin had seen the potential in this young man and already written to John Wesley in England. Wesley replied that he would be pleased if Adam Clarke came to England to assist in the work there.

The rest is history. Not only did Adam Clarke become one of Wesley’s most loyal preachers and president of the Methodist Conference, in 1806, but his fame lives on in his massive Bible Commentary – the work of 40 years.

He died of cholera on 26 August, 1832.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.