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:

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Felix Neff Spends Himself in the High Alps

This is the day that … Felix Neff was born in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1798. His father died when he was young and his mother denied him expressions of motherly affection, hoping to increase his manliness. She was a deist, having no interest in worship of God, yet her son displayed a ready keenness for worship and faith.

Despite his religious interests and attendance he was not converted until he read Honey from the Rock by Thomas Willcock. He was struck by the fact that he could bring nothing to God and yet receive everything from Him. He wrote in the book, “Felix Neff has found peace here on these two pages”.

He went on to various forms of ministry, but his serious approach to religion did not go down well with those more given to wordliness. After 2 years of ministry in France, facing various oppositions, he, at the age of 24, was ready to commence his remarkable ministry in the French Alps.

He appreciated the chance to minister where he did not have to confront the shallow state of other ministers.

From village to village he travelled – “in dead of winter through drifts, the thunder of avalanches alone awakening the alpine stillness.  In four years he did not sleep five nights successively in the same place.  His stomach was destroyed by poor food and the irregularity of meal times.  He was always alone …” (A Book of Protestant Saints, by E. Gordon, page 201).

But he persevered.  He saw a “marked improvement in the moral life of the people” as they responded to his Christian teaching.  He introduced irrigation, taught better methods of potato culture, worked alongside the men of the village, helped build school houses – and even founded a teachers’ training college.

He became known as “the Apostle of the High Alps” of France. He described the conditions of the people thus. “The work of an evangelist in High Alps greatly resembles that of a missionary among the savages; the almost equal degree of uncivilization that prevails among them both, being a great obstacle to missionary labours. Among the valleys, under my charge, that of Freyssinieres is the most backward. Architecture, agriculture, education of every sort is in its very earliest infancy.”

However he did see revival there. “All the people seemed to give themselves up to reading, meditation and prayer; the young people especially seemed animated by a holy spirit; a heavenly flame appeared to have communicated itself from one to another. I had scarcely thirty hours’ rest during the week.”

And on his deathbed he wrote his final letter:  “I ascend to our Father in entire peace.  Victory!  Victory!  Through Jesus Christ.”

Felix Neff died at the age of 31.

Neff is called by some the David Brainerd of the High Alps. He had much in common with Brainerd. Both laboured in primitive conditions. Both were young. Both came to their field of labour under a cloud of misrepresentation. Both were highly self-sacrificing. Both remained unmarried. Both died at an early age from over-exertion under conditions of extreme hardship. Both experienced a work of reviving grace. Both were men of prayer.

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 I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Mary Bosanquet early Methodist Woman Preacher

This is the day that … Mary Bosanquet Fletcher was born in Leytonstone, in Essex England in 1739. (Some writers give the date of her birth as 12 September).

Her interest in the Christian faith began when she was only six years of age, through a Methodist maid employed by her parents. She took seriously Wesley’s preaching to “give all you can” using her own financial resources and her time to provide for persons in need. She became a class leader and then a preacher.

In 1763, she and Sarah Ryan took charge of a large house in Leytonstone, her birthplace, which became a sanctuary for the most destitute and friendless people in London. The house became a school, orphanage, hospital, and half-way house all-in-one. Thus she became one of John Wesley’s most faithful co-workers.

“People threw dirt at our People as they left on Sundays,” she wrote, “and they would put their face to the window and howl like wild beasts …”

But the work continued to grow. She travelled “far afield to speak at meetings, in the open air or more usually to meet classes.”

On 12 November, 1781, she married the godly Rev. John Fletcher, a Church of England clergyman who was very much in sympathy with the Methodist movement and who was John Wesley’s designated successor. John died four years later, leaving Mary to outlive him by almost 30 years.

Mary struggled with the calling to be a preacher, as did other Methodist women preachers. Wesley encouraged them, seeing the great effectiveness they had in their work. Wesley wrote to Mary, saying she had “an extraordinary call” to be a lay-preacher.

Maldwyn Edwards, Methodist minister and historian, writes that Mary Fletcher’s life was a “pattern of complete devotion to God in which she never withheld either her time or money or energy. Her incessant work for others, ranging from her care of children to her visitation of those in greatest need, and her undiminished zeal in communication “the glad tidings of salvation” may possibly have been paralleled in early Methodism, but never exceeded.”

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

Barclay Buxton Impacts Japan

This is the day that …. Barclay Foxwell Buxton was born in Essex, England, in 1860. His father, Sir Thomas Fowell Buxton, 1st Baronet, was sole owner of Truman, Hanbury, Buxton & Co and an elected member of British Parliament for almost twenty years who helped found the Anti-Slavery Society and who was instrumental in the abolition of slavery.

The Buxtons also had a famous Quaker connection. Barclay’s mother was Hannah Gurney, sister to the famous Quakers Joseph John Gurney and Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer (depicted on the Bank of England Five Pound Note in 2002). The Buxton family financially supported Elizabeth Fry’s prison reform work and became members of her Association for the Improvement of the Female Prisoners.

Barclay was converted (or came to assurance) during DL Moody’s eight-day Cambridge Crusade – it was Tuesday, 9 November, 1883, to be precise – and the gospel he had intellectually known for so long ‘now became crystal clear to him’.

In 1885 he was ordained to the Church of England priesthood … and almost immediately felt the call of the mission field.

Five years later we find him and his wife Margaret, with six others, sailing for Japan under the banner of the Church Missionary Society.

Barclay’s missionary impact was profound, especially considering others had laboured fruitlessly in Japan. He brought methods of evangelism and emphasis on the Holy Spirit not liked by all when he came to Japan in 1890. But people could not argue against his holy lifestyle and the results of his ministry. Within several weeks of his arrival over 700 people were attending his gospel services. By the end of the first year seven churches had been founded in the Matsuye and Yonago areas where he served.

He was a proponent of the doctrine of Entire Sanctification and of the Baptism with the Holy Ghost as a second work of grace, distinct from conversion, in the believers’ heart.

Eight years later Barclay Buxton and his fellow worker, A. Paget Wilkes, organised the Japan Evangelistic Band – an interdenominational mission dedicated to ‘evangelism, conventions and training national workers’.

The Buxton Estate is now home to All Nations Christian College, the largest Missionary Training College in Western Europe, which was co-founded by his son Godfrey Buxton.

Barclay Buxton died in 1946.

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

Charles Wesley – Hymnwriting begins

This is the day that … a Hymn was born.

Charles Wesley – on 23 May, 1738 – wrote in his journal:  “At nine I began a hymn on my conversion but was persuaded to break off for fear of pride.”

It was two days earlier – 21 May – that he had come to a saving knowledge of Christ through reading Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians! 

Then he penned the first of about 7000 hymns (and many of them had a dozen or so stanzas.  His poem on Whitefield had 536 lines).

But persist he did with that first hymn – “I prayed Christ to stand by me and finished the hymn…”

Two days later Charles and his brother, John (converted 24 May, 1738) were singing the hymn together “with great joy!”

But what was the hymn?  Almost certainly it was …

Where shall my wondering soul begin?
How shall I all to Heaven aspire?
A slave redeemed from death and sin,
A brand plucked from eternal fire.

And there are those who believe that he wrote at about the same time …

And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love!  How can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

So it was that on this day in 1738 the ‘Sweet Singer of Methodism’ began to write his hymns … and he never stopped until he was on his deathbed (in 1788) – and even then he dictated a hymn for his wife to write down …

In age and feebleness extreme
who shall a sinful worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope Thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart.
Oh could I catch a smile from Thee
And drop into eternity!