The Reverend John Alonzo Clark was born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, in May 1801. In 1823 he was graduated from Union College near Albany, New York, and after several additional years of ministerial training he was admitted to orders in the Episcopal church on April 12, 1826. His professional career spanned the years of the Second Great Awakening, an evangelical movement which spread across much of the country, but was most strongly felt in portions of the Northeast -- particularly in the “burned-over” district of western New York and in southern New England. Clark represented the evangelical wing of the Episcopal church, and his sermons reflected the evangelical emphasis on the inherent sinfulness of man, the acceptance of Christ as Redeemer, and the neccesity of conversion through faith. He traveled extensively to preach in places as far afield as Palmyra and Geneva, New York; Providence, Rhode Island; and Philadelphia, engaging in missionary work in western New York from 1826–1829. Clark quickly gained a reputation as a notable preacher, and in 1829 he settled in New York City to take a position as Assistant Rector at Christ Church. In 1832 he moved on to Providence, where he assumed the title of Rector at Grace Church, and in 1835 he moved to Philadelphia and became Rector at St. Andrew’s Church.
Aside from his numerous sermons, Clark authored several longer works, including The Pastor’s Testimony (1835), Gathered Fragments (1836), and Glimpses of the Old World (1838). In 1835, Clark became a member of the American Tract Society, an organization committed to the evangelical ideal of saving souls for Christ. This goal was to be accomplished, in part, by the distribution of religious tracts to every family in the United States within one generation, and reflects a decided millennial fervor in their work. Clark’s health began to decline throughout the 1830s, and in 1837–38 he traveled to Europe in the hopes of regaining his strength. His health having failed to improve, however, he ultimately was compelled to resign his position at St. Andrews in 1843, and on November 27 of that same year he died.
Appleton’s Cyclopaedia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton, 1886-89. Grettler, David J. The Benevolence of Benevolent Institutions: The American Tract Society and Slavery. Newark, Del.: University of Delaware, 1985.
From the guide to the The Reverend John Alonzo Clark sermons, 1826–1842, (University of Delaware Library - Special Collections)