Thomas William Baxter Aveling.

Memorials of the Clayton family. With unpublished correspondence of the Countess of Huntingdon, Lady Glenorchy, the Revs. John Newton, A. Toplady, etc., etc., etc online

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Online LibraryThomas William Baxter AvelingMemorials of the Clayton family. With unpublished correspondence of the Countess of Huntingdon, Lady Glenorchy, the Revs. John Newton, A. Toplady, etc., etc., etc → online text (page 3 of 42)
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the assailants, and closed his discourse with the prayer
— " Father, forgive them ; for they know not what they
do." Mr. Mitchell afterwards went to India, made his
fortune, and returned to England " to die in his nest."
In India he heard and received the life-giving truths of
the Gospel, and became a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Among other remorseful reminiscences of bygone years
was the disgraceful scene at Christchurch, which must
have been enacted somewhere, about the year 1776. It
happened that, as long after as 1812, Mr. Clayton's
second son was supplying, for a few weeks, the pulpit
of the countess's chapel at Cheltenham. After one of
the services, there walked into the vestry an elderly
gentleman, of a benignant aspect, who having introduced


himself as Mr. Mitchell, of Reading, inquired earnestly
of the preacher if his father was yet living ; because he
had, he said, especial reasons for wishing to see him,
and ask pardon of him before he (Air. Mitchell) should
close his eyes in death. " For I," added he, " was the
ringleader of a number of ignorant and foolish youths
who pelted and insulted your father in the market-place
at Christchurch, when beseeching sinners, for Christ's
sake, to be reconciled unto God; but I have obtained
mercy; and I long for an opportunity before I die " — and
as he spoke the big tears rolled down his cheek — " to
make my confession and apology to one whom I so
evilly entreated, in the days of ignorance and unbelief."
The desired interview was brought about; and the
meeting of the two men, under the circumstances
already detailed, may be easily conceived as most
affecting. They have now met in heaven, to join in
the new song — " To Him that loved us, and washed us
from our sins in His own blood ; to Him be glory and
dominion for ever."

The following letter from his patroness, bearing date
February 19th, 1775, was sent to him while in Corn-
wall : —

"Dear Clayton, — Agreeable to your wishes I send you a
release. This should have been sooner done, but being most
dangerously ill I left all business for a season. I think you
should introduce Gibbons into Cornwall, and leave him your
gown, and I will have one made at Bath to fit you, when you
come through here, that you may have with you at the college.
The work of the Lord is prosperous everywhere, and, by new
students being sent me, promises still more to be so. I am glad
to release you, as it is your wish ; and abundantly so, as I hope
Gibbons will be able, with your approbation, to succeed you.
The summer must have good help for Cornwall. I trust you
will have much comfort by hearing of the fruit of your faithful


labours. May the Lord bless your gracious soul with the
abundant increase of Gospel faith and love, and make you daily
feel the glory and happiness of an unreserved heart for His
service. It is the only true joy of a simple heart to become
wholly His. I hope to see you so soon, that I can only beg
your prayers ; believe me, you have ever mine.

"lam your ever faithful and affectionate friend,

" S. Huntingdon."

Mr. Clayton's growing power and acceptance, as a
preacher, led to still multiplied engagements, in some
of which he had to record signal escapes from imminent
dangers, in travelling the wild and mountainous districts,
whither he carried the message of reconciling mercy.
Keturning homewards, on one occasion, he was be-
nighted, and neither moon nor stars appeared. His
steed made a sudden halt, and continued immovable,
notwithstanding the various expedients, resorted to by
the rider, to urge him forward. After waiting for some
time, the moon appeared in her brightness, and
discovered that he was on the brink of a rocky preci-
pice, from which, had he and the animal fallen, they
must, in all probability, have been dashed to pieces.
The good providence of God preserved them both, by
means of the instinct and sagacity of the horse.

On another occasion, when preaching in the open air,
and surrounded by a ferocious band, intent on mischief,
there stood forth a man, remarkable for his stature and
athletic power, who was to make the signal for the
commencement of the assault; but this very man was
so touched by the youthful aspect of the preacher, his
entire composure, and earnest expostulations, that he
exclaimed with a stentorian voice, while he clenched his
fist in defiance, " The first man that throws a stone, or
an egg, or any other thing at this young parson, I'll


throw my fist in his face;" and having made this
menace he stood like a sentinel, with his fist douhled,
and in mute attention, till the service peacefully closed,
and the throng as peaceably dispersed.

Indiscreet kindness is sometimes as injurious as
boisterous rudeness, of which take the following
example. At one of the hospital tie farmhouses in
Wales, — and at that time there were comparatively few
that afforded an asylum to the persecuted itinerant, —
after twice preaching, followed by a long ride,
Mr. Clayton was courteously entertained. The good
lady of the house, full of generous feeling, prepared for
him, as he was retiring to rest, a tumbler of brandy and
water, made "very stifl." He tasted it, and exclaimed,
" I would not drink it for all the world ; it would derange
my head, and dishonour my ministry." "Pshaw!" she
replied, " what does it signify ? as you are so soon going
to bed." Upon which the young preacher ventured to
admonish her, that the sinfulness of excess is the same
in the sight of God, under all circumstances ; and that
Christians are bound to avoid the appearance of evil,
and to make their moderation known unto all men,
because the Lord is at hand. Through the protracted
life with which it pleased God to favour Mr. Clayton,
he was distinguished by a temperance, leaning to the
side of abstinence. On ordinary occasions he was
accustomed to restrict himself to two glasses of wine
per diem ; in company he might perhaps take a third
glass, — but a fourth never; and mixed liquor, except
when used for medicinal purposes, he held in utter
abhorrence. He would say, jocularly, that he took of
wine two glasses for himself, a third for his friends, and
if he were to take a fourth, it could only be for his


The usefulness of his ministrations, the politeness of
his manners, and the correctness of his habits, made
him a great favourite with his venerable patroness, and
led her to regard him in the light of a friend and a
confidant. On a particular occasion, rather inconsider-
ately, as she afterwards thought, she issued her orders
to commence the building of a large chapel, in the
environs of the metropolis. She was anxious to
countermand the directions she had given ; but how to
do this in time to stay proceedings was the difficulty;
the post was tardy, and not very regular in its delivery ;
the time of railroads and electric wires had not yet
come. She sent for Mr. Clayton, and inquired if he
thought he could ride post from the Principality to
London, on business of great emergency, without injury
to himself. He replied, that on her ladyship's business,
and under the protection and blessing of God, he would
willingly make the attempt. She then directed him
where to go in London, imparted very fully her reasons
and motives for recalling her previous commands, gave
him ample instructions as her plenipotentiary, and bade
him " God speed." Fully to estimate the arduousness
of the undertaking, it must be remembered that travel-
ling, at the time referred to, was a thing materially
different from what it has since become. The roads
were rough and devious, the accommodation at inns
imperfect, and the dangers manifold and great. The
young minister, however, set forth undaunted, and
taking a fresh horse at the end of each stage, pressed
forward, with little rest and scarcely a regular meal, till
he reached the place of destination, just in time to
prevent the signing of the contract for the building.
Towards the close of the journey, between Northampton
and St. Albans, he was, in consequence of this unusual


effort, seized with violent bleeding from the nose, which
he apprehended would delay his arrival in town, and
possibly defeat the design of the mission. But here his
medical knowledge assisted him; and having bathed
his forehead and face in the coldest water he could
procure, he supplied himself at a chemist's shop with
some lint, and made pledgets of that material, wherewith
he plugged the nostrils, stayed the bleeding, and
proceeded on his way. The journey was, otherwise,
accomplished safely, with no material inconvenience to
the rider, and with a speed almost incredible. Having
successfully completed the business intrusted to him,
he returned, as he came, to Trevecca, though not with
equal celerity, to receive the acknowledgments of his
noble patroness.

About this time Mr. Clayton's health became delicate,
and he betrayed symptoms, as it seemed, of pulmonary
disease, which naturally awakened in her ladyship's
benevolent heart much solicitude on his behalf. With
a view to his benefit she sent him to supply her chapel
at Tunbridge Wells, where he took the duty alternately
with the late Rev. Dr. Haweis, rector of Aldwinkle,
Northamptonshire, and one of her ladyship's chaplains.
Here Mr. Clayton recovered his strength, and proclaimed
the Gospel of the grace of God with great power and
general acceptance. Not a few listened to his message
to their conviction, conversion, and edification ; and the
preacher became in an eminent degree what is termed
"popular." After leaving Tunbridge Wells he came
to preach in London, and was followed by admiring
crowds to the Tabernacle in Moorfields, Spafields
chapel, Zion chapel, the Mulberry Gardens, and
Tottenham Court Road chapel.

The following letters of the countess were sent to


him, the first during one of his absences from London
preaching in the provinces, and the others on his return
to the Mulberry Gardens.

" Dear Clayton, — Hoping to find you at Lincoln, I write to
desire you would as soon as possible go to London. Your abode
is prepared at the Mulberry Gardens walk, and for all your
wants. The Lord's hand has been most graciously manifested
by His strength and power there. The people — a most precious
people — will expect you with impatience. You know how
to guard against such as you have had difficulties at Norwich
with. Let love and patience deal with dissenters, but let us
guard against becoming the dupes of any party. Love all in
their own way, but Jesus Christ above all other ways. — I am,
dear Clayton, entreating your being in London, in very great
haste, but ever your faithful and truly affectionate friend,

"S. Huntingdon.

" College, February 9t7i, 1777."

"College, April 1st, 1777.

" Dear Clayton, — The enclosed I thought would revive and
comfort all your hearts. Don't fail to read it on Sunday, and
after leave it with either Mr. Simpson or Mr. Leggat. There
is something of the right sort arising here, and most exceeding
promising cause for my heart to triumph in the mercies vouch-
safed to our poor labours. pray and rejoice. Nothing but
the hope that these accounts would revive our dear friends at
the Mulberry Gardens could make me write. Satan is angry,
but the Lord smiles ; and who then can fear ? A single eye or
an honest heart for Him shall carry all before it, in spite of
men and devils. Read it heartily. Pray fervently for more
blessing, and our cup shall overflow. for more, more faith,
and then let the devil and world do what they will. Our lively
young men have had a precious feast to-day. We all love and
pray for you. Love to your dear sister, dear Crole, and all our
friends at the Gardens.

" I am, ever faithfully and affectionately your friend,

" S. Huntingdon.

"A fall, coming out of chapel, has affected me much. The
devil had a hard blow, but wonderful mercy, only, saved my


life : but though his head is bruised, yet he docs wound our
heels ; this I found true."

" Dear Clayton, — Your letter of this morning has made me
most uneasy, on account of your health. While Mr. Shirley
stays at Norwich send and order Wills to the Mulberry Gardens,
and do you come to Wales, for the goat's milk, or Bristol
waters; and till then change with Dunn, for Woolwich. I
wish you could find out for me Matthew Wilks, that I might
write to him. I hear he is coming to Haverford West, to
preach ; this he will grieve me by to the highest degree, and
oblige me to disown him; as he must then stand against the
college and association, and that in most wicked defiance, which,
if lie knew fully, as an honest man, he would suffer death rather
than do. Was I sure where to find him, I would write to him
in much love and kindliness, to avoid distressing me in the way
he must do, and oblige me in honour for ever to disown him.
Should he take that step, a more dishonest foundation never
was laid, and God will never own it. Let me know where he
is, that I may write ; and if you can see him, beg him not to
go till he has heard from me. Fear not, the matters at the
Mulberry Gardens shall go well, though through the fire. All
that's kind to dear sister and Crole, and believe me, as ever,
"Your own affectionate and faithful friend, in haste,

"S. Huntingdon.

" College, April 4th, 1777.

" Dear Mr. Jones, of Langan, has preached to-day, and has
given us all a high feast. The Lord give such a spirit to all
His ambassadors."

The round of public services in London soon brought
on a recurrence of the symptoms already noticed, and
gave fresh cause of alarm to her ladyship, who forthwith
commended Mr. Clayton to her family physician in
town, and sought his advice.

The two following letters addressed to Mr. Crole and
Dr. Fothergill, so characteristic of the lady who wrote
them, and as both indicating her high regard for


Mr. Clayton, and her minute attention to the comfort
and health of her students, are given : —

"Dear Crole, — Clayton's letter, relative to his state of health,

has given me great uneasiness. I have heen praying, with a

heartfelt distress about him, to the Lord, and the best human

means of all kinds I am resolved he must pursue ; and I rely

upon you that no time may be lost in his going with the

enclosed to Dr. Fothergill. Let him send the letter up, and

wait for his appointment to see him. I have told the doctor

that my express orders to him are immediately to follow his

directions, if to the Hot "Wells, or to Wales for the goat's milk,

air, and quiet ; with an exact observation of the doctor's

prescriptions. I am sure his kindness to me will make him do

all for poor dear Clayton in his power. I rely on your seeing

him most exactly observing the doctor's orders, without delay ;

— he is so thin and tender, that time lost is of the utmost

importance to his health and life. He will press the doctor to

take a guinea. At nine, or rather before, every morning, he

may have a chance of seeing him ; otherwise to attend to the

doctor's appointments exactly. Time obliges me to add only

my love to your wife, and all that's kind to Clayton ; insisting

upon no trifling with his complaints, and I now remain,

" Your truly faithful and affectionate friend,

" S. Huntingdon.
"College, April Gth, 1777."

"College, South Wales, April Gth, 1777.

" My worthy Friend, — My high opinion and just degree of

confidence engage my request for your advice and instruction

to the bearer of this, Mr. Clayton, who is a student of mine, and

whose health is of much importance, for the best services. He

is truly an uncommon instance of grace, — not now but two and

twenty, — and has been a most useful instrument in the church

of Christ. The great and just regard all that know him have

for him renders this request from myself and others but the best

excuse for this particular trouble. He has my express orders

to immediately pursue whatever method you should advise,

whether to the Hot "Wells, or directly to "Wales for the goat's

milk, quiet, and air, with those prescriptions you should appoint;


which mar the Divine blessing abundantly attend. With my
keeping warm this "winter, and attending to your directions, I
have reason to be thankful that this last year in has been
spent in much more of the comforts of health than I could have
expected ; and being ever under the truest sense of my obliga-
tions to you, I must ever remain, my worthy friend,

" Your ever obliged and sincere friend,
" To Dr. Fothergill." " S. Huntingdon.

Country air and horse exercise having been recom-
mended, Mr. Clayton was appointed to the chapel at
Norwich, where he continued for a while preaching the
word and itinerating in the neighbourhood. Here his
ministrations were remarkably blessed. One instance
is on record of a conversion effected through his instru-
mentality, which, both directly and indirectly, was
attended with results of the highest importance. In
this cathedral city there lived, at the time of Mr. Clay-
ton's visit, a person of the name of Johnson, of whom,
in a letter sent to Mr. George Clayton, the Kev. W.
Eoaf, of Wigan, thus writes : — " He was a Pharisee.
The descriptions he gave of his pharisaical spirit were
really ludicrous. He limited himself to a certain
number of words per diem. He fully believed God
would some day signalize him by some miraculous
interposition, and point him out as the pattern for all
beings to imitate. He went to hear Mr. Clayton in
Norwich. The subject was the two builders. God
blessed the word. On his going home, he loathed
himself. He actually gave a dog the footpath, thinking
it a less odious creature than he felt himself to be.
This person, after being, I believe, at Trevecca college,
settled at Wigan. My chapel was built for him. There
he instrumentally converted Mr. Roby, who succeeded
him here a short time, and then went to Manchester.


Mr. Roby improved his death from the words ' My
father, my father ! ' His emotions were very deep,
and many of the people said, ' I may exclaim, My
grandfather ! ' &c. Who can tell the results which
have issued from that one sermon preached by Mr.
Clayton, at Norwich?"*

Having in a good measure recovered his health,
Mr. Clayton continued to preach in various parts of
the kingdom, under the immediate direction of Lady
Huntingdon ; and everywhere, through the Divine
blessing, with no ordinary degree of acceptance and
usefulness. Among other places he visited Tunbridge
Wells, where his labours were highly appreciated, and
whither, on the occasion of an attack of illness, she
resolved to send him again. Her wishes were commu-
nicated to him in the following letter : —

" Dear Clayton, — The state of your health, and the repeated
calls for you at Tunbridge Wells, make me hope that the
change there might, from the air, and Mrs. Marsden's care of
you, with little preaching, be the only thing that may prevent
your growing ' worse, by the extreme heat of the Mulberry
Gardens. I have had such difficulties about your leaving that
place, with the remark lest your health should suffer more by
your staying, that I have wrote to John Jones, at Norwich, to
come up (I do believe he is faithful to our work) and be
instructed by you before you leave it; apprising him clearly of
the various enemies to that work on aU sides we have. With
his judgment and faithfulness, I trust the Lord might bless him
among the people. I have ordered him to write to you; but
prevent him by a line if you should not approve him for the
Mulberry Gardens ; but I cannot find another, besides yourself,
I coidd alike rely on. When he comes to town, or the day you
can fix to be at Tunbridge Wells, write to Mr. Marsden, after

* In the Life of the Countess of Huntingdon, vol. 2, p. 347, Mr. Johnson is
represented as having been minister of St. George's, Manchester. This must
have been previous to his settling at Wigan.


consulting Mr. Coughland, to give out your being there, as they
are all so very anxious about it, and I shall never be forgiven if
you don't go. Collin gham shall succeed you there, when you
come off for the college, and he may easily change with Jones,
as Whitefoot is in Sussex. is just arrived out of Lincoln-
shire. Do hurry Hall down if he is not gone ; and on William's
return (which will be soon) he shall go there also, and if Wilks
wants help, Tyler or Thomas Jones may go, and I think Moody
to Harwich, and some one sent to Maidstone or to Dover, or
Kinfer to Maidstone, and some one to Dover. You cannot

conceive the grief P , by his evil actions, has occasioned me

— tore all the Worcester society to pieces, and divided it for
himself; but this to yourself only. I trust the Lord will
increase my faith and patience, and by this, His dear yoke will
be easy and His burden become light. Hint to J. Jones his

keeping clear of the T cle, till things are better than at

present. All your friends here ever are full of love for you.
In great haste, and. much fatigued with writing, I must conclude,
" Your ever faithful and affectionate friend,

"S. Huntingdon.

"College, April 22nd, 1777.

" You were much blest at the Wells, I find. May the Lord
more and more bless your honest soul, and crown your faithful
labours with success."

Cfjaptcr IF.



We now come to a most important period in
Mr. Clayton's history, when a crisis of great -moment
arrived, and his ecclesiastical relationships and move-
ments were to undergo an entire change. It was the
earnest wish of the countess that Mr. Clayton should
take orders in the Church of England, and with this
object she had procured the necessary testimonials, and
despatched him with her own warm recommendations
to the Bishop of Lincoln, from whose hands he was to
receive ordination.

At this point in Mr. G. Clayton's memoirs of his
father I break off, for the purpose of introducing the
following extracts from the " Diary of Henry Bourne,
of Dalby, Lincolnshire," which were obligingly sent me
by his daughter, Mrs. Allenby, senior, of Louth.

"April 24th, 1777. — This day brought a letter from Mr.
Waltham, informing us that lie found so many obstacles in his
way towards obtaining orders for the curacy of Dalby, that he
had laid aside all thoughts of proceeding; and we likewise
received a letter by the same post from Mr. Glascott, informing
us that, as Mr. "Waltham had desisted from his intentions, he had
written to Mr. Clayton, who is a student in Lady Huntingdon's
college, and wanted much to make his way into the Church of
England, if he could get his credentials signed ; and Mr. Glas-
cott engaged to inform us.


"May 9th. — Received another letter from Mr. Glascott, to
inform us that Mr. Clayton had got testimonials signed, and
that they were sent to be countersigned by the Bishop of
Landaff, and that he expected Mr. Clayton in a few days, at
Gainsborough, to which place he had requested the bishop to
forward the testimonials. The business is now to all appearance
in some forwardness. There are indeed tAvo bishops between
Mr. Clayton and us ; yet if God be for us, and if Lie has work
for this man to do amongst us, we know lie is able to remove
every obstacle. We desire not to be looking to man for the
accomplishing this important affair, but to God alone.

" May 11th. — This day brought another letter from Mr. Glas-
cott, respecting Mr. Clayton. The clouds, we hope, are dispersing
apace : for we received enclosed Mr. Clayton's testimonials, signed
by the Bishop of Landaff, informing us likewise that Mr. Clayton
would be with us in a few days, to get his title from Mr. Bickett,
and then proceed to the Bishop of Lincoln ; but as the paper
ouo-ht to be with the bishop three weeks before the ordination,
a difficulty seemed to arise in respect to that. As to-morrow it
will only be three weeks to Trinity Sunday, I waited immedi-
ately upon Mr. Bickett, got him to write a letter, with the
testimonials, to the bishop, which we purposed to send by the
post this evening ; but when I returned home I foimd my

Online LibraryThomas William Baxter AvelingMemorials of the Clayton family. With unpublished correspondence of the Countess of Huntingdon, Lady Glenorchy, the Revs. John Newton, A. Toplady, etc., etc., etc → online text (page 3 of 42)