Adam Clarke, LL.D, (1760?-1832): church leader in early Methodism
Wells, Raymond James
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Adam Clarke was a church leader in early Methodism during the greatest transitional era in English history. He became a Methodist preacher of the Gospel when John Wesley—nine years before his death— laid his hands upon the Irish lad and made him an Itinerant helper. Clarke emerged into prominence in the period of crisis after Wesley when the very existence of the Societies was threatened. That the Conference—without the unifying presence of "Wesley—was able to initiate changes to meet the spiritual demands of the people, and that the Connexion was able to pursue a separate, middle course, was due to the distinguished leadership of preachers such as Adam Clarke.However, because of his magnum opus, the Commentary on the Holy Bible, Clarke is known today mainly as a Biblical scholar. Hence, the significance of his general leadership in the difficult post-Wesley period has never been properly recognized or evaluated. This study reveals that his motivation for leadership came from his strong evangelical purpose. For, as a child of the Wesleyan Revival, Clarke's single aim during his half-century of ministry was to advance the cause of Christianity in every part of the world that all men might be converted to Christ. Hence, while inheriting a strong attach ment for the Establishment, he became a Wesleyan preacher in order to be most useful. Moreover, he became a diligent student of the Bible in order to expound God's Word effectively. During the 1790's he pro¬ moted changes in the Conference that would satisfy the people's demand for the sacraments. In the early nineteenth century he shared the fruits of his Biblical research with others by use of his pen in order to assist in the understanding of God's Word. Likewise, he assisted Evangelicals and Dissenters in translating Bibles, as in their humani¬ tarian efforts, in order to share the blessings of God's great plan of salvation. He also sought to use his influence among Government leaders, with whom he became acquainted while working on the Public Records, to increase religious liberty.Clarke would have been a more influential Wesleyan churchman had he given stronger leadership to the "Moderate-Conservatives" during the growth of rigid Conservatism; however, having a strong aversion to party politics, he preferred to remain a man of peace. He would have been recognized more widely as a Wesleyan theologian had he not rejected the eternal Sonship, but he followed his own independent thinking. Despite these and other weaknesses, his leadership was effective in improving the quality of Wesleyan preaching and in raising the level of denominational literature. Few preachers did more than Clarke to promote the general interests of the Connexion-- particularly evangelism, missions, education, and charities. That Wesleyan Methodism was able to expand in the nineteenth century and to become a Church recognized universally, was due in a large part to the appropriate leadership of Adam Clarke--not only as a Biblical scholar, but also as an effective preacher, independent theologian, influential churchman, and honored public figure.