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MEMOIR OF MR. ISAAC HINTON CLARK,
OF SOUTHWARK :
BY HIS SON-IN-LAW, MR. WILLIAM LEWIS. The late MR. ISAAC HINTON CLARK was born in Lynn, Norfolk, April 16th, 1799. His parents were converted to God, and became members of the Wesleyan-Methodist Society, in early life; each of them receiving the Lord's Supper for the first time, on the same occasion, at the hands of the Rev. John Wesley, about the year 1788. They were married a short time after; and from the first adopted the manner of life, and mode of dress, common to the Methodists of that day of this primitive and pious couple it need only be further said, that, having trained their children in the fear of God, and served their generation according to His will, they " fell asleep," and their mortal remains were deposited, and now rest, beneath the chapel at Southwark.* In the order of Divine Providence the family removed to London, in 1806, and for several years attended the Great Queen Street chapel.
Mr. Clark, (in a memorandum found amongst his papers since his decease,) referring to this period of his life, writes, “I was at this time obedient to my parents, and generally attentive to those things in which I was instructed. I remember having serious thoughts about death, and fears as to my eternal safety." He goes on, however, to state, that his schoolfellows were extremely wicked," and that, to the grief of his parents and the disappointment of his teacher, he imbibed their spirit and followed their example; “but,” he observes, " amidst my sin and folly, the good Spirit strove with me. I was often truly miserable, and was finally brought to feel, and acknowledge myself to be, a lost and wretched sinner." The family removing into the Borough, he was invited, when about sixteen years of age, to become a teacher in Crosby Row (Snow's Fields) Sunday-school; but he soon found he was in almost total ignorance of the things which he was required to teach. On this he remarks, "I felt confounded and ashamed, and
• A Memoir of Mr. Robert Clark appears in this Magazine, for March, 1856, page 202,
VOL. XIX.-FIFTH SERIES.
was led to humble myself under the mighty hand of God.” From this time he began to seek that wisdom which “cometh from above."
In the year 1815 Mr. Clark was admitted a member of the Methodist Society at Southwark, receiving his first ticket from the late Rev. James Buckley. The class-meeting became to him a means of grace: the advice of his leader and the statements of his brethren as to their religious experience affording him both instruction and encouragement. As yet, however, he had not realized a sense of the forgiveness of sins. “Sometimes,” he writes, "the blessing appeared very near, but I was afraid to lay hold of it.” After passing through circumstances which proved a trial of his faith and steadfastness, he began to seek the Lord with greater diligence than heretofore ; and it was not long ere the promise, “ And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart," (Jer. xxix. 13,) was happily, in his case, fulfilled. He had been present at a lovefeast in Bermondsey, and was in the act of leaving the room in which it had been held," when," he relates, “I felt such peace of mind, and such an assurance of the favour of God through Christ, that all my fears vanished, and I was enabled to say, 'Abba, Father :' My Lord, and my God.'” And now, being “born of the Spirit,” he went forth to work and speak for his Lord and Saviour as he was unable to do previously. His faith was seen by his works, and by his works his " faith was made perfect.” He devoted his time and strength to the Sabbathschool, and in this much-loved sphere continued to labour, almost without intermission, until sickness finally laid him aside. How successful he was in leading young people to the Saviour, eternity alone can disclose. · A gentleman who now occupies an official position in the Church writes, “It is about forty-five years since I first knew my dear friend, though it appears but as yesterday when I became one of the scholars in his class. I was then scarcely able to value him as I have done since; but I was deeply impressed with his cheerful earnestness.... The one great subject of early piety formed the substance of every lesson. I feel thankful to God for the instruction then given : it led me in after years to Christ and to become a Methodist."
In the year 1824 Mr. Clark was married to Miss Jane Griffith, a teacher in the school, and a most amiable and sincere Christian. In 1825 he was asked to take charge of a class. In obedience to this request, which he regarded as a call of God, he went to the appointed place of meeting "oppressed," as he states, “ with the sense of his utter helplessness and unworthiness.” The fol. lowing note is found within the cover of several of his class-books: “I was appointed to this class by the Rev. Richard Reece, and met it for the first time on the 19th of July, 1825, two members being present besides myself."
The following extracts from the memorandum before referred to, which now assumes the form of a diary, will be appropriate here. They reveal the spirit in which Mr. Clark's duties as a classleader were performed, his increasing interest in the prosperity of the work of God, and his own growth in grace :
"I feel deeply the responsibility of holding office in the Church. I now lead the responses in the morning service, sometimes officiate in the burial of the dead, and lead a class. It is a great privilege to be thus employed. Lord, keep me humble : save me from spiritual pride, and otherwise unfitting myself for the services of Thy house.”
"I have experienced meltings of heart under the Word to-day. My misdoings have indeed been brought to my remembrance: I bless God for this. I believe I hate sin more and more : I have been prevented attending the covenant-service; but I now resolve, the Lord being my Helper, to devote body and soul to Him.”
"I can truly say, it is my one desire to serve the Lord. But although I am in the enjoyment of His love, I feel I am living at too great a distance from Him, O Lord, draw me, and I will run after Thee!'"
"I am greatly encouraged by the prosperity of my class...... I have not to mourn over backsliders, but to rejoice over an increase of members this quarter. At the renewal of tickets all were present. Lord, help me to give Thee all my heart!"
Under date April 16th, 1834, he says, “ This day I am thirtyfour years of age. O, had I been faithful, how rich in knowledge and experience I might have been! Spiritually I am but a dwarf. The work I have undertaken in the Church, especially leading a class, appears altogether above me. I tremble at my responsibilities, and pray that I may be kept humble, and willing to be a "hewer of wood or drawer of water, so that I may glorify Him who hath done so much for me." Yesterday was truly a feastday at Southwark. The sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered to perhaps more than five hundred persons, my spiritual strength was renewed, and I enjoyed great peace through believing,-a more than usual serenity of mind, and a stronger confidence in God my Saviour. O that I may abide in Him and He in me !” “ It is clear that my heart is not yet wholly taken up by God. I still feel that a deeper work of grace is necessary. Help me, O Lord, to give myself entirely to Thee !”
January 1st, 1836, he writes, “Last night at the watch-night service, during the moments of silent prayer, my mind was filled with peace --not ecstatic joy, but an unspeakable abundance of peace. May this year be the best I have ever enjoyed !...... This day I have again covenanted to be the Lord's. I hope to be more faithful in the discharge of all the important duties devolving upon ine than ever. O God, be Thou my strong tower, whereunto I may continually resort, and in Thy strength may I go forward ! Send us prosperity, and build up Thy Church!”
If Mr. Clark felt that conversion was a necessary qualification for the work of Sabbath-school instruction, he was also convinced that to lead a class successfully, the entire consecration of his heart to God was indispensable; and to this altitude of Christian experience he perseveringly aspired. He was not an enthusiast, but was “in labours more abundant.” It is not often that a Methodist leader is privileged as he was to meet his class at the same hour, on the same evening of the week, and in the same place, for a period of forty-four years. The amount of good resulting from the intercourse of leader and members during these long years cannot be adequately estimated ; doubtless many, with their spiritual adviser and friend, have realized the answer to the prayer of the 503rd hymn, so often sung at the conclusion of the meeting, and have received
" In heaven a happy lot
With all the sanctified.” He was also engaged as a prayer-leader and tract-distributor. Indeed, he sometimes said, when mistaken for a Methodist preacher in country places which he visited, “I am not a preacher, but I think I have done nearly everything else but preach."
A fellow-labourer and colleague writes :-"I first became acquainted with the late Mr. Clark in the year 1817, at which time I was a little boy, and he an active and zealous teacher in the Crosby Row Sunday-school. Our acquaintance from that period to the day of his death was uninterrupted. As there was no department of Christian labour with which he did not sympathize, it is difficult to select any one feature of his character as more remarkable than another ; but it has always struck me that his affectionate interest in the young, and his tender and constant regard for the aged and poor, were the most conspicuous. For the welfare of the rising generation, those of the congregation and of the Sabbath-schools especially, his solicitude was intense. He paid great attention to the sick, and his visits were always acceptable. In all the duties he undertook he was most punctual and diligent, doing nothing by halves, or by fits and starts. The prosperity of the cause of God at Southwark lay very near his heart; he was intimately acquainted with all its interests and
all its details...... While we mourn our loss, we are thankful he was spared so long, and enabled to do so much." We are assured that "the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord," and Mr. Clark did not fail to recognize in his personal history the gracious superintendence of Divine Providence. The perusal of his diary abundantly corroborates the testimony of his family, that every joy and sorrow, every trial and blessing, every event and circumstance of his daily life were to him occasions for either praise or prayer.
In the year 1831 he was called to resign his beloved wife, and to commit her remains and those of an infant son to the tomb. This affliction was borne with fortitude and resignation. religion he enjoyed was not a plant of tender growth, the conditions of whose existence are calm and sunshine. It resembled rather the sturdy tree whose roots strike deeper, and whose branches spread yet more and more, bearing a richer foliage and more abundant fruit, notwithstanding the cloud, and storm, and tempest, which pass over it. The following extracts from his diary refer to his great bereavement:-“ How astonishing is the goodness of God! how the back is fitted for the burden'! For some time I have been greatly exercised, but my spirits have never failed me. I have been able to look up, and Divine support has been given me." Again he says, “ The doctor speaks plainly as to the loss I am likely to sustain. I cannot realize it, although it appears so evident. When I look at my three little ones, my heart is ready to break; but, bless the Lord! I know His promise.” After the severe stroke had fallen upon him, he writes, “In looking back upon what has taken place, I feel as if I had been dreaming. Truly God moves in a mysterious way; and yet He is not unmindful of His unworthy servant. How great is His mercy towards them that fear Him! Lord, help me to follow on to know Thee, that my flesh also may rest in hope, and that I may have a part in the first resurrection.'
The son and two daughters who were left motherless were tenderly cared for, and still survive to mourn the loss of their devoted parent. In addition to his own heavy charge, another responsibility now devolved upon him,-his brother-in-law, a widower, died, leaving three little orphan children. Of these helpless ones Mr. Clark became the guardian and protector, labouring for and watching over them as his own. Two of them found an early grave; the third, who still lives, reveres his memory, gratefully ascribing to the care and counsel of Mr. Clark the foundation of his temporal prosperity, and to his faithful exhortations and prayers, under God's blessing, his spiritual and eternal hopes.