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  • MM 1815, Amicable
  • Grand Chaplain, 1824-1827


From Proceedings, Page 1873-253:

REV. SAMUEL CLARKE, PRINCETON, Unitarian. 1823-1827.

REV. SAMUEL CLARKE. "A beloved brother and a faithful minister in the Lord," was the text of a commemorative discourse preached to the bereaved flock of this excellent man, a few weeks after his death, by his relative and friend, Rev. Dr. Hill, of Worcester. Fitter words could not have been chosen; and there are few to whom they more justly apply than to him whose name stands at the head of this sketch. During the fifteen years that he remained pastor of the First Church in Princeton he was an active member, first of the Lancaster, and then of the Worcester Association as now organized. And from the commencement of his ministry in Uxbridge till his death in November, 1859, though, on account of the distance, he declined an active participation in the doings of the Association, he did not lose his interest in the body; and, with some of the Brethren, he maintained habits of intimacy even to the last. Occasionally he attended our meetings; and his presence was always greeted with a cordial welcome. While an active member he was seldom absent, and never without a good and sufficient reason; and, though not a man of many words, what he said was judicious, pertinent and sound. To the writer he was endeared by habits of intimacy, through the long period of more than forty years, and by a substantial harmony of religious views.

We were nearly of the same age; we pursued our theological studies at the same time, and undfr influences very much alike. There was an interval of but a few months between the commencement of our respective ministries. We were members of the same Association; and there was a frequent interchange of ministerial and social visits at each other's houses. In the notice which is subjoined, while I shall studiously abstain from the language of indiscriminate eulogy, I cannot, I do not wish to, forget that the subject of my remarks was a personal friend. I shall not, however, rely solely on my own impressions, in the judgment I form, and the character I give of our beloved brother. I shall avail myself of the privilege, kindly allowed me, of giving extracts from the commemorative discourse of Dr. Hill, who is better qualified, probably, than any other person to portray the character of our common friend.

Mr. Clarke was born in New Boston, N. H., April 21, 1791, and was the son of Ninian Clarke, a man of large sympathies and a noble spirit, trusted by every one, and famed all the country around for his unflinching integrity." He was of Scotch descent; one of his ancestors having belonged to a company of emigrants, who, flying from persecution at home, had formed settlements in the mountainous region on the south-eastern borders of New Hampshire. "The tradition of his family is," we are told, "that in childhood he was set apart for the ministry, and never thought himself of being anything else." Nor can we doubt that this early act of self-consecration had a great and lasting influence on his life and character. It may have been the hinge on which his future destiny turned. With this leading object in view he looked to a collegiate education as the best means of qualifying himself for the office of a Christian minister. Taking leave of the home of his childhood he pursued his preparatory studies under the care of Rev. Mr. Bedee, of Wilton, N. H., and entered Dartmouth College, graduating with the class of 1812.

On leaving college he repaired to Boston, and entered on a course of theological studies under Rev. Dr. William E. Channing, whose character he admired, and whose friendship he enjoyed. Under the instructions of this eminent man, and the influences of the Boston pulpit, then in its glory, under the administration of such men as Freeman, Channing, Thatcher, Lowell and Ware; living, too, in the neighborhood of the university, then under the administration of President Kirkland; and holding intercourse with the noble band of young men at that time preparing for the ministry, under the direction of President Kirkland, and Professors Ware and Willard, and Andrews Norton, — he enjoyed advantages hardly inferior to those furnished by the best theological schools. It was my own good fortune to be one of the number; and the names of Everett, Frothingham, Damon, Gilman, Prentiss, associated with the names of other fellow-students of earlier classes still continuing their theological studies in the shades of their Alma Mater, —as Charles Eliot, Thomas B. English, Lemuel Capen, Cyrus Peirce, and others, — recall some of the happiest scenes and most valuable experiences of my life. The saintly and gifted John E. Abbot, too, for a brief period the almost idolized minister of the North Church, Salem, was a friend and fellow-student of Mr. Clarke; and Henry Ware, Jr., also, was just entering on a course of studies at Cambridge, preparatory to his short but devoted and most successful ministry.

Having received approbation he was invited to supply the pulpit in Princeton, Mass., made vacant by the resignation of Professor Murdock, of Andover. The pulpit had hitherto been occupied, for a series of years, exclusively by a minister of Calvinistic or Orthodox views; and, under such circumstances, it was not to be expected that all would be united in the choice of a minister who came to them under the auspices of a man like Dr. Channing, who was regarded as one of the champions of the liberal school of theology. A large majority, however, of the society united in giving Mr. Clarke a call, which he accepted; and his ordination took place June 18, 1817, the remonstrance of the church against his settlement being overruled by the ordaining council. The remonstrants seceded, and formed a new church, while those who remained gave their minister a cordial welcome, and with few, if any, exceptions, stood by him as friends and fellow-helpers to the last. His preaching was, from the first, and uniformly, serious, earnest, affectionate, in the true sense of a much-abused term evangelical.

"I have ever regarded him," says Dr. Hill, "as a man eminently conscientious and devoted; with whom the spiritual world was near, its concerns an ever-present, a momentous reality; and who, in the ministerial office, felt a weight of responsibleness pressing upon his thought, prompting his language, and spreading a look of unwonted gravity upon his countenance I do not think he was ever betrayed into light and frivolous talk. Although he could relax at the agreeable sally, he was serious beyond most men. Although he could unbosom himself in the freedom of private friendship, he was habitually contemplative and reserved; loving most to commune with his own thoughts, and to be engaged in the especial duties of his calling."

At the beginning of his ministry in Princeton, owing to the secession of a large part of the church-members, the communion-table was surrounded by a very small number of guests; but he had the gratification of welcoming, from time to time, large accessions, so that he had little occasion to mourn, with many of his brethren, that so few came to the holy feast. In this connection I present another extract from Dr. Hill's commemorative discourse: —

"The evidence which came to him, from time to time, of his usefulness in Princeton, where he had spent fifteen years of the very flower of his life, was among the most grateful. He knew that he had left impressions there, and was glad when he heard of it. In a conversation which I had with him, not long before his death, he told me that few things had ever afforded him such pure satisfaction as what he had just learned from his successor of another denomination, the clergyman of that place. He had just come from the dying-bed of a respected officer of his church. He had known him well, and could bear him testimony to the purity and blamelessness of his life. He had witnessed his exalted Christian character; and now, as he stood by, he had seen his countenance lighted up with ineffable peace, and heard his voice whispering in tones of triumph: 'Tell Mr. Clarke, if you ever see him, that for the first thought of religion, for the source of life's purest satisfaction, for the tranquillity of this hour, under God, I am indebted to him.'"

After a useful ministry of fifteen years, in consequence of impaired health he asked a dismission from his pastoral care, which was granted, June 18, 1832, just fifteen years, to a day, from the date of his ordination. After a respite of a few months he accepted an invitation to preach in Uxbridge, and was installed as pastor of the First Congregational Church and Society in that town, Jan. 9, 1833, which office he held to the day of his death. On entering this new field he fonnd himself surrounded and sustained by a band of earnest and devoted men and women, who gave him their sympathy, their confidence, and their affectionate respect. I well remember the company of aged and venerable men, some of whom had passed the bounds of fourscore years, who occupied the front seat of the old meeting-house, and who continued their regular attendance on the services of the temple till compelled, by physical inability, to withdraw. It was a beautiful spectacle, and one that often rises up before me as I call to mind our annual exchanges.

Nor must I omit to speak of the peculiar felicity of his domestic relations. He was married, Sept. 13, 1819, to Sarah Wigglesworth, of Newburyport, daughter of Michael and Charlotte Wigglesworth, and grand-daughter of Colonel Edward Wigglesworth, an officer in the war of the revolution, and intimately associated with Washington. Colonel Wigglesworth was a lineal descendant of Rev. Michael Wigglesworth, author of the quaint old poem, entitled "The Day of Doom." That kind Providence, " that shapes our ends," brought together these kindred souls, and led to a union for which he never ceased to be thankful, and which contributed in no small measure to his happiness and his professional success. Mrs. Clarke proved in every way fitted for the station she filled with so much grace aud dignity. To natural gifts of a high order she united a rich intellectual culture, with easy and peculiarly winning manners. She had, previous to her marriage, taught a school for young ladies, in which capacity she had gained a high reputation; and all these gifts and graces she brought with her into her new home, and conseorated them all to the service of her husband, her children, and the community in which they lived.

"Gifted with genius," Dr. Hill writes, "refined tastes, and an active intellect, Mrs. Clarke could not fail to win to her home even those whom no parochial ties could have drawn thither. She was a woman to win; for she combined, to a rare extent, large mental endowments with a capacity for the homeliest duties." With but scanty means she managed her domestic affairs with so much skill and with so little ado that the occasional visitor would not suspect, what was nevertheless true, that all the work of the family, even the most menial and distasteful, was done by her own hands, or those of her daughters.

Seldom has it been our lot to witness scenes of domestic felicity more attractive than that exhibited in the home over which our brother presided, and of which his companion was a chief ornament. It was a foreshadowing of those brighter scenes which are unfolded only to the vision of glorified spirits. At length, after a union of thirty-seven years, the time of parting oame. The event took place Sept. 8, 1856.

In a communication to the writer of these sketches, Mr. Clarke writes, " Her sickness was borne with wonderful cheerfulness; her departure was long anticipated with perfect composure, and in the closing scene she illustrated strikingly the peaceful triumph of our blessed faith. Her disease, in its whole progress and termination, was like that of Mary Ware. You may well say, that 'my loss is irreparable.' It is so. The light of my house is extinguished. But I do not complain. The memories of the past are delightful; and the anticipations of the future are comforting, strengthening, and cheering."

"After the death of his wife," we are told, "Mr. Clarke resumed his duties with unwonted vigor. . . But this could not last. The blow which had fallen left a wound that time could not heal. Always frail, his whole life interrupted by frequent sicknesses, he could bear the strain upon his faculties no longer." On a Sunday of July, 1859, while in the midst of his discourse, he fell exhausted to the floor of the pulpit, and was conveyed to his house in a state of. great feebleness. On the following Sunday I officiated in his place, and, while together, had much conversation on the scenes of former days, and the friends who had passed on. I saw him once for a few moments after this, but only to exchange brief salutations; the time for his departure was drawing near, and it came suddenly at last. On Saturday, Nov. 19, he saw the last of earth; and in obedience to his Master's call, he went up higher. He died ripe in years, rich in Christian experience, rich in the treasures that gold cannot purchase, laid up " where moth and rust do not corrupt, and where thieves cannot break through nor steal."

His funeral was attended by a large concourse of people of the various religious societies (in Uxbiidge). The business of the village was suspended; the stores were closed, and, although the day was stormy, the whole community seemed to wish to pay their last tribute of respect to the memory of a good man, and a truly Christian minister. It was well remarked by one of the oompany at the grave, "There lies a man who was more beloved than any other man in the town of Uxbridge."

Jan. 10, 1858, the twenty-fifth anniversary of his installation, Mr. Clarke preached an occasional discourse, which was published. In this discourse, speaking of his ministry in Princeton, he says, "There I was conseorated to the responsible duties of the Christian pastor's office. There, with youthful vigor and earnestness, I entered on the blessed work to which I had devoted my life. There I formed the domestic connection which was so long the light and bliss of my home, and whose memory, so blessed, will accompany me to my grave. There my children were born, whom a kind Father has thus far spared to be my comfort and joy in my declining years, and who, I may frankly and gratefully say, have honored their father and mother. There I formed friendships, — Christian friendships, which death will not dissolve, but which will, I trust, be perpetuated in that better land which is the home of all the pure and good. There I have reason to believe my ministry was not without healing, saving efficacy; for I know that many who have 'passed on' in their last peaceful hours look back to my ministrations as the instrumentalities, under God, of leading them to Christ; and there are those now there who always greet me, when we meet, as their spiritual father." After a review of the twenty-five years he had spent in Uxbridge, he thus trustingly speaks of the unknown future that lay before him : —

"At the time of life to which I have arrived, and especially with my impaired constitution, it is not wise in me to make any calculations in regard to the future. I have been gradually and gently descending these twenty-five years, and am now approaching the foot of the mountain. How soon I may reach the last step is unknown. If God has yet more work for me to do in his vineyard I will strive cheerfully to do it, as he shall give health and strength. I will ' not count my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.' . . . The time may have arrived, or may be near, when it shall be expedient for you that I retire, and give place to a younger and more vigorous laborer in the vineyard. If so, I will not, for a moment, stand in the way of a more efficient, and, it may be, successful minister of Christ. Years, and the events they have witnessed, and the changes they have wrought, have made you inexpressibly dear to my heart; and my attachments here are as strong as life. But such are my convictions of the importance of an efficient ministry, that I would not suffer my own feelings or wishes to lead me to continue my connection with you, as pastor, after my usefulness was essentially diminished, either in consequence of impaired intellect or continued ill-health. But I leave all with, God. His will be done." He closes his affectionate address with words of solemn import, well befitting the occasion: —

"And now, my friends, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and prepare you for the heavenly inheritance. Live in peace and love, and the God of peace will be with you. And when we shall stand, pastor and flock, in the unveiled presence of the. Infinite and Holy One, may I be able, with inexpressible joy, to say of you all, without an exception, 'Here, Lord, am I, and the children thou hast given me.'" Mr. Clarke had three children, one son and two daughters, all of whom survived their father. — Allen's Worcester Association.

Distinguished Brothers