Clarke, Adam Lld
Clarke, Adam Ll.D., a Wesleyan Methodist minister, distinguished as a divine, an antiquarian, and an Oriental scholar, was born at Moybeg, Londonderry Co., Ireland, in 1760 or 1762 (his own mother could not fix the date). His father, who was a classical teacher, was a member of the Church of England, but his mother, who was of Scottish origin, was a Presbyterian. Adam, when a boy, was remarkable for physical vigor, but seemed rather stupid than otherwise, until about his eighth year, when the sarcasms of a school- fellow upon his dullness seemed to rouse him from a lethargy. From that time he made rapid progress in learning, especially in the Latin language. In his 17th year his mind was brought, by the ministry of Mr. Brettell and Mr. Barber (Methodist preachers), under religious impressions, and in 1778 he joined the Methodist society at Mullica Hill, near Coleraine. He soon became a class-leader and home-missionary. Having been recommended to the notice of Wesley, he was sent by him in 1782 to Kingswood School, where he did not remain long. His sufferings there are amusingly detailed in his autobiography. While digging one day in the garden at Kingswood he found a half guinea, with which he bought a Hebrew Bible; and this (he says in his Autobiography) "laid the foundation of all his knowledge of the sacred writings of the Old Testament." Towards the end of 1782 he was sent out by Wesley as an itinerant preacher, and he remained in this laborious work with few interruptions until 1815. A more earnest, faithful, and diligent preacher never lived, and few more popular have ever appeared in England. To the last the chapels where he preached were filled to overflowing. Every part of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as Guernsey, Jersey, and the Shetland Islands, shared in his toils as preacher and missionary. In 1795 he was appointed to London, and again in 1805; and he now remained in the metropolis ten years, full of labors in the pastoral work, in the benevolent enterprises of the day, and in literary pursuits. He was thrice elected (1806, 1814,1822) president of the British Conference.
While a traveling preacher, he found time for much study, especially in Oriental literature. In 1802 he published a Bibliographical Dictionary (6 vols. 12mo), which at once gave him a literary reputation. Before this, as early as 1798, he began to gather materials for a Commentary on the Bible, the first part of which was published in 1810, and the last in 1825. "In this arduous work," he says, "I have had no assistants, not even a single week's help from an amanuensis; no person to look for commonplaces, or refer to an ancient author, to find out the place and transcribe a passage of Latin, Greek, or any other language (which my memory had generally recalled), or to verify a quotation, the help excepted which I received in the chronological department from my own nephew, Mr. John Edward Clarke. I have labored alone for twenty-five years previously to the work being sent to the press, and fifteen years have been employed in bringing it through the press, so that nearly forty years of life have been so consumed" (Autobiography).
His literary labors in London from 1805 to 1815 (during which he "was abundant also in labors as pastor and preacher") were enormous. Soon after his settlement in the city he was called into the committee Of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and for years he directed largely its publications in Oriental languages. In 1806 he published The Bibliographical Miscellany (2 vols;.), a supplement to his Bibliographical Dictionary. In 1807 the University of Aberdeen gave him the degree of M.A., and in 1808 that of LL.D. In 1808 also appeared his Succession of Sacred Literature, vol. 1 (vol. 2 by his son, J. B. B. Clarke, 1830, 8vo). At the end of that year the Bible Society requested that the rule of the Conference under which Dr. Clarke would be compelled to leave London might be suspended in his case, in order that he might remain in their service longer. The request was granted. In the same year the British government entrusted to him the arrangement, for publication, of old state papers, in continuation of Rymer's Foedera. On this laborious and comparatively unprofitable task he spent the best part of ten years, being relieved from it in 1819. After the organization of the Wesleyan Missionary Society in 1814, he preached, spoke, and traveled largely in its service. During all this time he was working on his Commentary, and in studying for it made himself more or less completely master, not only of Greek and Hebrew, but also of the Oriental languages. He had long been acquainted with the languages of modern Europe. These varied and extraordinary labors at length injured his health, and in 1815 he withdrew from London to a small estate at Millbrook, Lancashire. Here he continued to prosecute his literary labors, and especially his Commentary, which was now in an advanced state of preparation. In 1823 he returned to the vicinity of London, and fixed his residence at Haydon Hall, where he spent the remainder of his days, engaged in literary labor, and also in the service of the Church in various ways. Among his most important labors of this period was the organization of Methodism in the Shetland Islands, to which he made two missionary journeys (1826 and 1828). During the summer of 1832 he exerted himself too much, and died at Bayswater, Middlesex, August 26 of that year, of cholera.
Dr. Clarke's life was one of almost unparalleled industry as preacher, pastor, student, and author. His literary reputation rests chiefly upon his Commentary (last ed. Carlton and Porter, N. Y. 1866, 6 vols. 8vo), which has had a wider circulation than any other in the English language, except, perhaps, Matthew Henry's. It is now superseded by later works, but will always be cited with respect for its multifarious learning, and for the frequent originality and acuteness of its annotations. As a theologian, Dr. Clarke was an Arminian, and held the Wesleyan theology entire, with the exception of the doctrine of the Eternal Sonship of Christ. His error on this point drew out those admirable works, Watson's Remarks on the Eternal Sonship (Works, Lend. ed. vol. 7), and Treffry's Inquiry into the Doctrine of the Eternal Sonship (3d ed. Lond. 1849).
Besides the works mentioned, Dr. Clarke also published Discourse on the Eucharist (Lond. 1808, 8vo); Memoirs of the Wesley Family (Lond. 8vo, N. Y. 12mo, several editions). He also edited, with numerous additions, Baxter's Christian Directory Fleury's Manners of the Israelites Shuckford's Sacred and Profane History; Sturm's Reflections on the Being and Attributes of God; and Harmer's Observations on various Passages of Scripture (1808, 4 vols. 8vo). His contributions to periodicals, and his minor writings, pamphlets, etc. are too numerous to be mentioned. His Miscellaneous Works have been collected since his death (Lond. 13 vols. 8vo). See Clarke, J. B. B., Life of A. Clarke (Lond. 3 vols. 8vo); Southey, Quarterly Revelation 51, 117; Etheridge, Life of A. Clarke (Lond. 1858, N. Y. 1859, 12mo); Everett, Adam Clarke portrayed (Lond. 1843; 2d ed. 1866, 2 vols.); Stevens, History of Methodism, 2:291, et al. A monument to the memory of Dr. Clarke was erected at Port Rush, Ireland, in 1859, by contributions from both the Old and the New World.