George Clark

The Life And Ministry Of George Clark

Earthen Vessel 1848:

Memoir of the Late George Clark, Many Years Pastor of the Baptist Church at Ivinghoe, Bucks. 

The Christian reader is here presented with a very short account, only a few memorandums, respecting a very poor, yet very rich disciple of Jesus; an humble unassuming follower of the Lamb: of one who, though illiterate in worldly learning and science, was yet will taught of God in things that are divine; and who, in a very remarkable way and manner, was sent and conducted by him (who directeth all the movements of his own ministers) in his own time, to the small town of Ivinghoe, in Buckinghamshire; where he was the honored instrument, in the Lord’s hand, of first introducing the preaching of the everlasting gospel; and where subsequently a good sized meeting house was erected for the Lord’s worship, and a church of Christ was formed, principally composed of persons whom the Lord had given to him as seals to his ministry. 

George Clark, of Braunstone, in Northamptonshire, was born June 21, 1762, He was brought up to the business of a tammy weaver. About the latter end of the year 1788, it pleased the Lord to call him by his grace, and to awaken him, under the ministry of Mr, John Simmonds, pastor of the Baptist church at Braunstone; and, on the 2nd of June, 1789, he was baptised, and joined the church of Christ in that place. In the year 1797, the church encouraged him to the exercise of his gifts in the work of the ministry, Accordingly he began to preach occasionally in four or five surrounding villages, under the sanction of the church. But soon after, the Lord in his providence began to prepare a way for his removal from Braunstone, having a work for him to do at Ivinghoe. His trade of a weaver declined, and having a wife and family of four small children, and no visible means of support for himself and them, he was obliged to seek after some other employment. Accordingly he went to work for about six months, as a navigator, in a navigable canal then forming in Warwickshire. Being again without employ, he heard of a canal that was going on near Tring, in Hertfordshire; and felt it much impressed on his mind, that, if he went to seek for one Mr. Thomas Andrews, whom he knew, and who was a master on the Grand Junction Canal, that he would give him work. Before he set out in quest of this gentleman, as he lay one night musing on his bed, he thought he heard some one call, “George Clark,” more than once. On this he arose in his bed and answered, as he supposed, the person who called. On laying down again, it seemed to him as though he heard some one say, “Go to a place between Stony Stratford and Chesham, and you will be told what you call do.” Stone Stratford he had heard of; but never before, to his recollection, of Chesham. In a short time he set out on his journey; directed, no doubt, even as Abram was, to a place which the Lord would afterwards shew him. Coming to Stony Stratford (about 30 miles from home), he enquired for Mr. Andrews, and was told that he was somewhere near Tring; but, that if he went to a place called Ivinghoe, a person there, named Jarrett, could inform him more particularly. To Ivinghoe, under divine leadings, he came towards the close of the day, wearied with his journey. Finding, on enquiry there, that he must go on to Tring to see Mr. Andrews, he endeavored to obtain a bed at Ivinghoe, at some of the lodging houses, but without success. All he could get was permission from a gentleman, at the request of one of his men, for him to sleep in his stable for the night. When just at this instant, Mr. Jarrett, who was clerk to Mr. Meacher, a respectable brewer in the place, took him to his house to tea. Here at his friend’s house, he met with two or three ladies, who professed to be Dissenters. They began to converse with him, to enquire if there were any Meetings where he came from, and if he ever went to any of these? To these queries his reply was, “Yes.” Then they asked him if he could read; and if he would read a chapter in the Bible to them? He did so. They then asked him if he could pray. He replied that, “he sometimes tried to pray.” They said to him, “then perhaps you will try to pray with us now.” “Yes,” he said; “I will try;” and so he engaged in prayer with them to the Lord of all his mercies. As soon as he had done praying, one of the ladies said to him, “you shall not sleep in the stable, but you shall have a bed at my house.” When he arose in the morning, he had but sixpence left, which he gave to one of the servants in the house, and case himself again entirely on the providence of his Lord and Master. Those ladies in the house where Mr. Clark read and prayed, were almost all that made any profession of religion in the whole place; and they worshipped at New Mill Baptist meeting, under the ministry of Mr. Clement. 

Mr. Clark succeeded in obtaining employment at Tring; and on coming to his work, he soon met with some religious friends, one or two of whom knew him before. They invited him to go to Chesham to hear Mr. Sleap; which he did. And having engaged in prayer with the friends at their prayer meeting before public service, when he had finished, Mr. Sleap, who then stood by him, said to him, “You shall preach for me today.” Mr. Clark replied, “I cannot.” “But you shall (said Mr. Sleap), and I will give it out.” Which accordingly he did after the morning service, that “a friend, a navigator, would preach that evening.” Mr. Clark was very unwilling to engage in this service, and seemed as it were determined in his own mind to avoid it, by not staying the evening service at Chesham. But his two friends, who came along with him, held him like a prisoner, and would not let him go out of their sight until they obtained his promise that he would stay. He preached in the evening from Col. 4:2—“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;” to a numerous auditory: many brethren from the other dissenting places of worship in the town being there. This service of his in which he was so loath to engage, was not in vain in the Lord; for thirteen years after, Mr. Clark received information that a person had come forward and joined the church, declaring that the Lord first met with her under that discourse. 

The circumstance of his preaching at Chesham soon spread abroad; and the female friends at Ivinghoe, with whom he first read and prayed, having now heard that the man was a Preacher of the Gospel, as well as one that could pray; they laid claim to him, called him their Preacher, and were determined to send for him to come to Ivinghoe, to preach Christ and him crucified. This was acceded to very reluctantly by Mr. Clark, who had made it up in his own mind to preach no more; but the Lord had otherwise determined respecting him. The neighboring ministers invited him to preach for them, and encouraged him to go forward in the work. Mr. Meacher also, of Ivinghoe, said, he wished the gospel could be brought into that neighborhood; and that if Mr. Clark would preach in Ivinghoe and the surrounding villages, he would try to obtain houses, and license them for preaching in. Places were at length obtained at Ivinghoe, Pistone, Cheddington, Horton, and Ivinghoe-Aston. In all these places Mr. Clark statedly poached, and also continued working as a navigator upon the canal, about a year and nine months; when the above named gentleman took him into his employ, in which service he continued about four years. During this period, good had been done through the word preached; and on Mr. Clark leaving his employ, the people were not willing to part with their preacher, and the poor preacher was not willing to part from his people; they were dear to each other. So he got work again upon the canal; and the people opened a collection for him on Easter Sunday 1804, which they engaged to continue quarterly. Nince of them also said, that they saw baptism to be their duty to attend unto; and wished Mr. Clark to baptize them, which he did. “Feeling it incumbent upon us (he writes) to walk in all the ordinances of God, we desired to be formed into a church.” Mr. Clark was invited to take the pastoral charge over them. On the 13th of November, the church was formed, and Mr. Clark ordained over them as their pastor. 

“On March 9, 1813, we held a meeting to conclude whether we could build a meeting house at Ivinghoe. When our neighbors came forward and subscribed £502s6d and fifty persons entered into a club, to pay a penny a week till the building was paid for.”—“May 3, 1813—The dwelling house of William Watts of Ivinghoe, with the garden, and a piece of orchard on which to build a Meeting House, and have a Burying Ground for the use of the particular Baptist church at Ivinghoe, was purchased by a committee for £300. 

The meeting house was immediately built; it was opened for worship on July 21st, 1813. The chapel cleared from debt, Oct. 1825. 

The work on the navigation being finished, and as the church and congregation at Ivinghoe continued very poor generally; so Mr. Clark’s income being always very small from his people, and his family large and increasing, he was obliged to look out for work again in his weaving business, which he obtained at Tring; but little help could be obtained by it; so that he was often much straightened in his temporal circumstances. About this time he had contracted a small debt with two persons at Ivinghoe, who were no friends to the religion of Jesus. They laid a plan to put both the sums together, and thus to make it sufficient to cast him into prison. This was a great trial to him; he felt for the cause of Christ, and for his family. And the enemies of religion said that, “When they had sent him to jail, they should get rid of the Dissenters, Parson and all together.” These things lay heavy on his mind, and caused him to pour out his soul to God in earnest prayer. On the Lord’s Day previous to the day fixed by them to put the business into an attorney’s hand, he went into the field, and under an hedge he wrestled hard with his God for delivered; and then went and preached (as he thought) the last Lord’s day he should be permitted, to the few despised people that seemed included to hear him: but the God of all grace and mercy overruled things far otherwise to his expectation. On Monday morning Mr. Clark arose first, and proceeded to provide the breakfast; and when both were at the table partaking of the same, Mrs. Clark said, “I think we shall be provided for now.” Mr. Clark observed, “Why?” “O (replied Mrs. Clark), I have had such a dream since you went down stairs; I thought I saw a man coming down the park with a letter in his hand (the park was before Mr. Clark’s house), and when he brought it, there was money in it.” “O nonsense,” says Mr. Clark. But surely when breakfast was over, as Mr. Clark was sitting at his look at work, he cast his eyes towards the window which looked into the park, and sure enough he saw a man (the postmaster) coming down the park with a letter in his hand. And when he came to the door he said, “Mr. Clark, I have brought you two letters; they came yesterday, but as I knew you was not at home I did not bring them till this morning.” The postage was 2s., being both double letters; which small sum Mr. Clark had not, at that time, as much in the house to pay. On opening the letters, there was a £5 in one, and some pounds in the other. So that the dear man of God was delivered from this great trouble; for he had enough money sent to pay his creditors, and some to spare. Reader! Remember Him who hath said, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” Ps 50:15. When Mr. Clark paid the two persons their respective demands, they directly became his friends; and continued so until the day of their death: and one of them, there is great reason to hope, died triumphant in Jesus. 

But Mr. Clark had many trial all his journey through life; and the dear man used to say, that, “he hoped the Lord would bless him with a contented mind, for troubles, trials, difficulties, and tribulations were left as legacies to the servants of the Lord.”

On Lord’s day morning, the 14th August, he seemed not so well as he lately had been; nevertheless he went into the House of God, and entered on his beloved work. Having read a portion of the Word, he engaged in prayer; and while so engaged was taken with excessive pain, and prevented from proceeding. Being conveyed home, and to his bed, he suffered much through the day; deriving no benefit from medical aid. And so continued in the pains of death until 5 o’clock next day (Monday) afternoon, when he fell asleep in Jesus, August 15, 1831, in the seventieth year of his age; having been pastor of the church of Christ at Ivinghoe 27 years.

George Clark of Ivinghoe, was an honest man: he began, he continued, he ended well. He was faithful unto death. 

George Clark (1762-1831) was a High-Calvinist Particular Baptist preacher. He served 27 years as the pastor of the church meeting at Ivinghoe, Buckinghamshire.