Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Clarke, Matthew (1664-1726)

CLARKE, MATTHEW, the younger (1664–1726), independent divine, was the son of Matthew Clarke, the elder [q. v.], who was ejected in 1662 from Narborough, Leicestershire, and took up his abode in a solitary house in Leicester Forest; here on 2 Feb. 1664 his only son, Matthew, was born, and educated by his father, who undertook the preparation of a certain number of young men for the ministry. The father being a distinguished orientalist, Matthew's education, besides Latin, Greek, Italian, and French, included several oriental languages; he had the advantage of completing his education under the Rev. John Woodhouse of Sheriffhales, Shropshire, a famous tutor of the time.

In 1684, after a stay of two years in London under the pastoral care of the Rev. G. Griffith, to fit himself for pulpit duties, he began his ministry in Leicestershire as his father's assistant. A visit to London in 1687 resulted in his taking the care of a congregation at Sandwich, Kent, for nearly two years; but in 1689 he returned to London and became joint pastor with the aged Stephen Ford of the independent church in Miles Lane, where a year or two later he was ‘solemnly ordained to the pastoral office with the imposition of the hands of several ministers.’ In 1694 Ford died, and in 1696 Clarke married a daughter of Robert Frith, several times mayor of Windsor, who bore him one son and one daughter. In 1697 Clarke was chosen to give the Tuesday morning lecture at Pinners' Hall, and from this time till the end of his life his influence among his brethren and his reputation as a preacher were constantly on the increase. Twice he was chosen by the protestant dissenters to represent them—in 1708, when he presented a message of condolence to Queen Anne on the death of Prince George, and in 1722, when he congratulated George I on the discovery of the Pretender's plot. In 1707 overwork brought on a severe illness, which left his health much shattered. A special thanksgiving service was held by his congregation on his recovery. In 1715 he broke his leg, but recovered easily. The later years of his life were much embittered by the ‘Salters' Hall’ controversy. It was proposed that all ministers should subscribe to the first of the Thirty-nine Articles. Clarke was a subscriber, but contented himself with preaching one doctrinal sermon on the subject, and refused to regard all non-subscribers as heretical. This caused his orthodoxy to be called in question, which in his weak state of health occasioned him much vexation. He died on 27 March 1726, and was buried in Bunhill Fields. Dr. Watts composed his epitaph.

Clarke published several sermons during his lifetime. In the year after his death these with some others not before printed, fourteen in all, were published with a memoir and his funeral sermon, by the Rev. Daniel Neal, M.A. From this memoir the lives in Wilson's ‘Dissenting Churches’ (i. 474) and Bogue and Bennett's ‘History of Dissenters’ (ii. 351) are taken.

[Neal's Memoir, 1727.]

R. B.