Anecdote Of Dr. Adam Clarke
( Originally Published 1851 )
The following singular narrative was given by Dr. Clarke at the conclusion of a sermon recently preached by him on behalf of the Royal Humane Society, and is extracted from the Wesleyan Preacher:---" Now, my dear hearers, I wish you to prepare yourselves for a story that will make you, perhaps, feel a little, and feel so much as will cause you to give some glory to God. I said I was acquainted with some of the principal originators of this Society, and I need not say I was well acquainted with Dr. Letsom, and I will relate the story as given to that good man. ' Doctor,' said I, ' you have been very much conversant with every thing respecting the Royal Humane Society. You have been now long engaged in that work, and you and your friends have been principally active in carrying on its provisions and plans and management, and dispersing its blessings throughout the land. Pray, what does your experience, Doctor, teach you respecting the state of those that evidently have been dead, and would have continued under the power of death, had it not been for the means prescribed by the Royal Humane Society. Have you ever found any that were conscious of the state into which they were departed?" ' I have never found one,' said he. ' Not of all those that have been revived, to your own knowledge, that were dead to all human appearance, where the heart has ceased its pulsation, the lungs no longer played, the blood no longer circulated, and there was every evidence that the person was finally deceased?' He again answered, ' No.' ' Doctor,' continued I, I have not been so long conversant with these matters as you have been; but my experience in things of that kind has led me to different information. I knew a person that was drowned; and that person to my own knowledge, had a perfect consciousness during the interim, and also declared many things concerning the state through which he passed.' ' But was the person really dead?' said the Doctor. ' Yes,' said I, ' completely drowned. I have no doubt of it whatever.' ' Had you the testimony from himself?' he inquired. ' 1 had, sir.' ' Could you trust in him ?' ' Most perfectly.' And then, assuming an attitude he was accustomed to assume when making anxious inquiry respecting any thing he saidó' I should wish to have had the examination of that person.' I looked him steadfastly in the face, and said, ' Ecce homo! Coram quem quaeritas adsum!' ' I am the very man that was thus drowned!' He arose immediately.
Well,' said he, ' what were the circumstances?' ' I will tell them simply,' said I. ' I was a fearless lad, and I went to the shore of a fine river that pours itself into the Irish sea, riding a mare of my father's. I was determined to have a swim. I rode the mare, and we swam on till we got beyond the breakers entirely; but when we had got over swell after swell, and were proceeding still onward to the ocean, the mare and myself were swamped in a moment! I was soon disengaged from the mare; and, as I afterwards found, she naturally turned, got ashore, and went plodding her way hack home. In a moment, I seemed to have all my former views and ideas entirely changed, and I had a sensation of the most complete happiness or felicity that it is possible, independent of rapture, for the human mind to feel. I had felt no pain from the moment I was submerged; and at once a kind of representation, nearly of a green color, presented itself to me; multitudes of objects were in it, not one of them, however, possessing any kind of likeness or analogy to any thing I had seen before. [n this state, how long I continued, He only knows who saved my life; but so long did I continue in it, till one wave after another for the tide was coming in rolled me to the shore. There was no Royal Humane Society at hand; I believe the place is not blessed with one of them to the present day. The first sensation, when I carne to life, was, as if a spear had been run through my heart. I felt this sensation in getting the very first draught of fresh air, when the lungs were inflated merely by the pressure of the atmosphere. I found myself sitting in the water, and it was by a swelling wave, that I was put out of the way of being overwhelmed by any of the succeeding waves. After a little time, I was capable of sitting up; the intense pain at my heart, however, still continued ; but I had felt no pain from the moment I was submerged till the time when my head was brought above water, and the air once more entered my lungs. I saw the mare had passed along the shore at a considerable distance, not as if afraid of danger, but walking quite leisurely. How long I was submerged, it would be impossible precisely to say; but it was sufficiently long, according to my apprehensions and any skill I now have in physiology, to have been completely dead, and never more to breathe in this world, had it not b for that Providence which, as it were, once more breathed into my nostrils and lungs the breath of this animal life, and I became once . more a living soul;' and at the space of threescore years, you have this strange phenomenon before you the Preacher before the Royal Humane Society."