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Title: Fletcher of Madeley
Author: Allen, Margaret
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Team.



[Illustration: John Fletcher]

FLETCHER OF MADELEY

BY BRIGADIER MARGARET ALLEN



THE SALVATION ARMY PRINTING WORKS,
ST. ALBANS.



CONTENTS



INTRODUCTION

I.     AT THE CASTLE
II.    IN THE MANOR HOUSE
III.   EARLY ADVENTURES
IV.    A SWEET GIRLHOOD
V.     A NEW LIFE
VI.    GIVEN UP TO THE FIGHT
VII.   TURNED FROM HOME
VIII.  THE TERN HALL TUTOR
IX.    THE VICAR OF MADELEY
X.     AN ALARMED PARISH
XI.    THE VICAR'S SERMONS
XII.   SCANTY ENCOURAGEMENTS
XIII.  THE ORPHAN HOME
XIV.   A SEEKER AFTER GOD
XV.    SANCTIFIED LETTER-WRITING
XVI.   AN UNFORTUNATE PURCHASE
XVII.  THE COLLEGE OF TREVECCA
XVIII. A PEN OF POWER
XIX.   FAILING HEALTH
XX.    BY THE SHORES OF LAKE LEMAN
XXI.   A WONDERFUL WEDDING
XXII.  LIFE AT MADELEY
XXIII. "GOD IS LOVE!"
XXIV.  EXTRACTS FROM FLETCHER'S LETTERS
XXV.   EXTRACTS FROM FLETCHER'S WRITINGS



INTRODUCTION.

BY COMMISSIONER RAILTON.



There is a great difference between a red-hot man and a Red-hot
Library book. We have no desire at all to pander to the common idea of
our day that "it does not matter what you belong to," by any of these
books. Very little reflection will show anyone the immeasurable
distance between the sort of clergyman this book describes and the
mere leader of formalities holding a similar position in these days of
ease and self-satisfaction.

John Fletcher was a marvel, if viewed only on his bodily side. At a
time when clergymen had far more opportunity than they have even
to-day to retire into their own houses and do nothing for the world, he
pressed forward, in spite of an almost dying body, to work for God
daily, in the most devoted manner. That he was able to continue his
labours so long was simply by God's wonder-working mercy. We cannot
judge him because he remained in the strange position (for anyone who
cares about God or souls) in which he was found. No other sphere was
perhaps possible for him at that time. It must not, however, for that
reason be imagined that the Salvationist can conceive of a red-hot
life mixed with the reading of prayers out of a book, or the teaching
of any poor soul to turn to such heathenish folly.

We can gladly take whatever is red-hot out of such a life without
allowing ourselves to be poisoned in any respect whilst so doing. But
it seems necessary, at the very outset, to call attention to this,
lest at any time it should be argued that, after all, the Salvationist
life is no better, in our opinion, than the stiffest and most formal
specimen of Christianity.

About this fervent soul, whose wife was one of the few preaching women
of her century, there could have been little voluntary formality, and
if he was able to exist amidst the framing that others had set up for
him, it may be an encouragement to anyone who is shut out for a time
from the free, happy worship that God  desires, and left with no
alternative but to be content with "Divine services" where God's
wishes are too often made of no effect by the arrangement of man.

But what will be the Salvationist's condemnation if, with all the
opportunities he has to cultivate the utmost freedom in prayer and
service, he never attains to that intimacy with God, that delight in
communion with Him, that power to force others into God's presence,
which John Fletcher's life discloses to us?

The mere thought of Fletcher, if you read these pages carefully, will
ever bring back to you an impression of nearness to God and
companionship with Him which is scarcely conceived of in our day
amongst the majority of those who ought to lead men to the Father. Do
not let us excuse ourselves for any lack of that communion which must
be His continual delight. If we prjde ourselves upon our repudiation
of forms of worship that men have invented, and glory in the
manifestations of Christ at the street corner and in the public-house,
to which we have become accustomed, let us take care that we do not
grieve Him by contentment with the general action of The Army or of
the Corps, or of the Brigade, in the absence of any close contact
between our own souls and God or the lost.

This book will be useless unless it brings us continually right up to
the personal questions which it is so eminently calculated to raise:
Am I on such terms with God as this man was? Can He equally reckon
upon my continual obedience and faithfulness? Is He sure to hear and
answer me also? Do I share with Him that agony for souls, that
inexhaustible pity and love which will never let one perish, for whom,
by any extremity of sacrifice, I can do anything? Do I breathe out the
breath of God upon those with whom I come in contact, making the world
feel that I have no harmony with any of its aims or inclinations, but
that I really belong to Heaven?

By inference, rather than directly, this life is a tremendous
confirmation of the old faith. John Fletcher gained all he had because
he believed the Bible just as it stands. He knew from his own
experience and from daily intercourse with Him that the promises it
contains come direct from the mouth of God, and not from the "sublime
imagination" of some Jew poet, as the contemptible deceivers of our
day would have us believe. If there were any delusion about that old
Book, then John Fletcher was one of the most pitiful specimens of a
degraded superstition this world ever contained. But where, amongst
all the applauded doubt-preachers of our day, is there to be found a
man of love and prayer and power approaching to this one?

Do not let us be discouraged as to the possibility of a life as holy
as this amidst the circumstances of our rushing warfare. John Fletcher
was, after all, only a thorough disciple of Him who had not where to
lay His head. None of us are called to live amidst denser crowds, more
hurry, worry, or contention of any sort than was the daily lot of our
Heavenly Master. This book would draw us farther from Him, not nearer,
if it only made us thirst for retirement and stillness, for hours of
meditation or privacy. It is, not the imitation of Fletcher, but the
imitation of Christ to which these pages are meant to call us. Most of
us may never possess many of the charming traits of this most refined
gentleman. We may perhaps suit God's purposes amidst the rough crowd
all the better for that. But, depend upon it, close intercourse with
the Nazarene is as possible amidst the throngs of London, or Glasgow,
or New York, or Madras, as it was in the alleys of Jerusalem or
Capernaum, and intimacy with Jesus is, after all, the one thing
needful for every disciple.

But whoever is red-hot will ceaselessly be thinking and planning for
the worst; that is to say, not only for those commonly called the
worst, whose wild career of sin strikes all decent people with horror,
but for the far more seriously in danger, who turn their very religion
into a form or an amusement, and care nothing for any real intercourse
with God. These are the people perhaps most difficult of all to get
at, the people whom we shall never be likely to make any impression
upon unless we combine with the greatest possible activity an
intensity of spiritual heat and power of which we suppose Fletcher was
one of the grandest specimens the world ever had. Do not let us resent
or run away from any reproach as to our own comparative coldness and
inefficiency which this story may bring to us. How much better to
writhe and be aroused under any such reproofs now than only to awake
to them when life is slipping away! Alas! for the readers who shall
close this book without resolving to be as holy and useful as God
commands us all to be!

LONDON, _April_, 1905.



THE LIFE OF JOHN FLETCHER.



CHAPTER I.

AT THE CASTLE



In the nursery of a fine old Swiss castle, on the shores of Lake
Leman, stood a small boy of seven, confronted by his white-capped
nurse.

"You are a naughty boy!" she exclaimed. "Do you not know that the
devil is to take away all naughty children?"

The little fellow opened wide his clear, truthful eyes, into which
there crept a deepening look of trouble--trouble rather than fear; big
tears rolled down his pinafore, and when tucked away for the night,
Jean Guillaume De La Fléchère crept out of his cosy cot, sank upon his
knees, and began the first real prayer of his life: "O God, forgive
me!" Nor would he be interrupted until the inward sense of pardon
comforted his sorrowing little heart. Many years later he described
this time as the shedding abroad of the love of God within him.

Colonel De La Fléchère's family mansion commanded as fine a view of
Swiss scenery as could be found in the neighbourhood. "Hill and dale,
vineyards and pastures, stretched right away to the distant Jura
mountains. At a few paces from the château was a terrace overlooking
Lake Leman, with its clear blue waters and its gracefully curved and
richly-wooded bays. On the right hand, at a distance of fifteen miles,
was Geneva, the cradle of the Reformation in Switzerland; on the left,
Lausanne and the celebrated Castle of Chillon. High up in the heavens
were Alpine peaks, embosoming scenes the most beautiful; and not far
away was Mont Blanc, 'robed in perpetual and unsullied snow.'"
(Tyerman.)

In this earthly paradise the little Jean received his first
unconscious training, breathing not only the clear mountain air into
his lungs, but a no less important atmosphere of refinement, of
culture, and of nobility into his mental and moral being.

He was devoted to his mother, who could never say he wilfully
disobeyed her. One day, however, she deemed him lacking in reverence
for her, because, when rebuking a member of the family over-sharply,
John turned upon her a long look of evident reproof. She promptly
boxed his ears, but was more than mollified when the boy lifted his
clear eyes to hers, brimful of tenderness, and said simply, "Mother,
when I am smitten on one cheek, and especially by a hand I love so
well, I am taught to turn the other also."

It was not priggishness, but submissive affection, and she read it
aright.



CHAPTER II.

IN THE MANOR HOUSE.



In the château at Nyon Jean De La Fléchère was keeping his tenth
birthday (September 12th, 1739). Away in old England the Lord of the
Manor of Leytonstone, Essex, was giving his first caresses to a tiny
baby girl, later to be known as little Mary Bosanquet, and forty years
later still as the wife of the saintly John Fletcher, Vicar of
Madeley.

Mary was but a four-year-old baby when she received her first definite
conviction that God hears and answers prayer. She was a timid little
maiden, and the greatest comfort she had in the world was the fact
that she possessed a real Father in Heaven, strong, mighty, and
willing to protect and help her. Sunday evenings in Forest House--as
the Bosanquet mansion was called--were devoted to the children. On
those occasions Mary's father taught her sister and herself the Church
catechism. At five years old his youngest daughter asked questions
concerning true Christians according to the Word of God, which might
well have encouraged evasion on the part of her parent. She reasoned
out everything told her; but her eager and earnest questions being so
constantly put carelessly by, gave her childish mind the impression
that the Bible did not mean all it said, therefore a sensible person
would make due allowance for its threatenings.

As this thought began to take well hold of Mary, a Methodist girl
entered the household as nurse, whose conversations with the children
were a great enlightenment to them both.

In a year or two the nurse left them, but not before she had implanted
in little Mary's mind the truth that it was not being united to any
church or people which would save her, but that she must be converted
through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the fruits of
believing in Him as a personal Saviour would be power to love and
serve God with a holy heart. That was excellent, but it had not been
so explained to the child that she could understand the process either
of "faith" or of "conversion." The result was perplexity.

Not a few children in bygone days have had to suffer long Sunday
afternoon agonies over the harrowing pictures of Foxe's "Book of
Martyrs," this being then considered a profitable and bracing Sabbatic
"exercise" for hundreds of sensitive little ones whose dreams were
haunted, and whose waking hours in the dark were rendered terrific by
vivid imaginings of racked, tortured, and burning saints. Mary was one
of these. Yet so troubled was her little heart over the ungrasped
subject of faith that one day, while gazing upon these fearful
pictures, she exclaimed to herself, "Oh! oh! I do think it would be
easier to _burn_ than to _believe!_"

Mary seems to have been busy with these thoughts for nearly two years.
She had not passed her eighth birthday when we find her sitting by
herself for "a good think," and wondering "_What_ can it mean to
have faith in Jesus?"

Vexed with the mystery of the subject, her childish soul rose in
rebellion against God for having chosen so hard a way into salvation,
and she exclaimed aloud--

"Oh, if I had to die a martyr, I could do it; or give away all I have,
I could do that; or when I grow up to have to be a servant,  that
would be easy; but I shall never, never, _never_ know how to
believe!"

Two lines of an old hymn drifted instantly through her mind--

  Who on Jesus relies, without money or price,
  The pearl of forgiveness and holiness buys.

It was the light she needed. The Spirit of Love had taken pity upon
the little girl. From that moment the plan of salvation was clear to
her, and she cried out--

"I do, I do rely on Jesus; yes, I _do_ rely on Jesus; and God
counts me righteous for all He has done and suffered, and hath
forgiven all my sins!"

She felt that a great weight had been lifted from her heart. Before
this it seemed that everything in the world was easier than to
believe, now it appeared the simplest plan God could have devised. Had
there been but a kindly and understanding person near to whom Mary
could talk freely, she might have been a happy, trusting little
Soldier of Jesus from that hour, but there was no one to help her into
the sunshine of a child's daily faith and love and service, and
religion became to her rather a subject for morbid thought. Terribly
afraid of sin, not understanding temptation, wholly uninstructed how
to get victory over her temper and other failings, she grew
discouraged, and feared she had sadly grieved God. With all this shut
up in her soul, perhaps it was no wonder that her mother should
sometimes exclaim: "That girl is the most perverse creature that ever
lived; I cannot think what has come to her."



CHAPTER III.

EARLY ADVENTURES.



From the bathing-place of Nyon château a slim, tall lad shot out into
the blue water, as much at home there, evidently, as he had been while
racing on the terrace. His long hair was bound by a strong ribbon,
which the active movements of the swimmer at length loosened. In some
unexplainable manner the ribbon caught and wound itself about the
boy's feet, tying his head to his heels, and rendering a full stroke
impossible. With all his might he struggled and tore, but the bond
only grew tighter. He was in deep water, no help within call, and the
awful thought came that there, in the budding of his bright young
life, he must be cut off and die a helpless prisoner. He stayed his
struggles, almost paralysed at the thought, and that instant the
ribbon gave way and he recovered himself.

Nor was that his only narrow escape from death in the same lake. Five
miles from the shore a rocky island reared its head.

"It would be a fine feat to swim there from land," said young Fletcher
to four of his companions. They agreed, and the five set forth.
Fletcher and one other lad succeeded in reaching the island, but found
its smooth cliffs sank so steeply into the water that there was no
possibility of climbing them. Despairingly they swam around the islet
again and again, finding at last a bare foothold to which they clung
until a boat fetched them off. The other three could swim but half the
distance to the island, and would have sunk exhausted had not a
passing boat picked them up.

A third time young Fletcher narrowly escaped drowning; on this
occasion it was in the Rhine, where the river is wide and very rapid.
The current swept him far from home, nor could he land for the sharp
rocks on either hand. At length he was flung violently against one of
the piles of a powder mill, lost consciousness, and disappeared,
rising again on the other side of the mill (according to an onlooker,
who took out his watch) _twenty minutes after_ his head had
vanished beneath the water. Surely a guardian angel accompanied Jean
De La Fléchère in all his earthly wanderings!

Although a good rider and practised swimmer, the life of this young
fellow was not by any means wasted in athletics and sport; he studied
hard to prepare himself for the University of Geneva, succeeding most
brilliantly. His extraordinary diligence, no less than his striking
ability, distinguished him among the other students, and he bore off
first prizes with ease, studying early and late that he might acquire
the knowledge he loved. After leaving the University he gave himself
to the acquirement of the German language, and studied Hebrew and
higher mathematics.

All this he did with the idea of becoming a minister of the Gospel,
but the more he thought about the burden which he would assume by so
doing, the less he felt able for his suggested task.

"Go into the army, Fletcher," pleaded some of his friends, and it was
not long before he turned the power of his clear brain to work upon
military engineering. He became very keen on his chosen profession,
and at the time when Portugal was despatching troops to Brazil,
Fletcher hied himself to Lisbon, gathered together a company of young
Englishmen, accepted a Captain's commission, and agreed to sail upon a
certain day in the Portuguese Service.

His father, Colonel De La Fléchère, refused to sanction the step, or
to supply him with the money he requested for the enterprise.

"I will go without it," he resolved, and counted the hours to the
sailing of the man-o'-war.

A day or two before the appointed date a maid, who was serving him
with breakfast, clumsily dropped the tea-kettle upon his leg, scalding
him so severely that he had to take to his bed. While there the ship
sailed, and in view of Fletcher's later life, it is a striking fact
that she was never heard of again.

Though desperately disappointed, Fletcher was as keen as ever on
becoming a soldier. He returned to Nyon, and, to his unbounded
delight, learned that his uncle had procured him a commission in the
Dutch Service, of which he was a Colonel.

Eagerly he made his way to Flanders, grudging the days of travel which
kept him out of his ambition. Bent though he was in rough-hewing his
way according to his desire, Providence was surely shaping for him an
end other than he planned. On his arrival Fletcher found that peace
was concluded; his soldiering capabilities were no longer required.
Almost immediately his uncle died, and the door into the military
profession seemed closed to him for ever.



CHAPTER IV.

A SWEET GIRLHOOD



Mary Bosanquet grew into sweet and graceful girlhood. "It is time she
saw the world," decided her mother, and forthwith preparations were
made for her to accompany the family, who were to spend three gay
months in Bath. She dressed and danced as did the rest, but in the
very ball-room found herself thinking, "If I only knew where to find
the Methodists, or any who would show me how to please God, I would
tear off all my fine things and run through the fire to them. If ever
I am my own mistress I will spend half the day in working for the
poor, and the other half in prayer."

Not long after this Mary's sister visited a friend who declared
herself recently converted, and in her house Mary found her longed-for
help and counsel--"the greatest comfort of my life," as she expressed
it.

Association with this Mrs. Lefevre, who died when Mary was seventeen,
led the girl to declare to her father that she desired to lead a
better life than one of mere amusement, begging him to allow her to be
left at home when the family visited the theatre and other scenes of
gaiety. The opposition she met with was trying, but it served to
strengthen her for the career which was to open to her in later life.

It was natural that Mary's friends should wish her to marry, but at
the time when this was first put before her she heard Mrs. Crosby (one
of Wesley's helpers) speak upon the necessity of holiness and the joy
of a life fully devoted to God. With the gentleman who was striving to
win her affections life would never have been the sacred thing Mary
desired for herself, she therefore gave up all thought of marriage,
began to dress plainly, and waited for God to show her _His_ way.



CHAPTER V.

A NEW LIFE.



Checked in his military ardour, John Fletcher turned his thoughts
again to study. His linguistic powers were great; it was to him a
cheerful distraction to join a party of students who were proceeding
to England to become familiar with the language.

At the first English inn at which they stayed Fletcher showed that
simple confidence in his brother-man which so distinguished his later
life by trusting a strange Jew with all his money for the purpose of
changing it into English coin. His fellow-students exclaimed, "You
will never see another crown of it!" but whether or not that quality
in Fletcher which always expected the very best from a man worked
salvation in this case as in many another, certain it is that the Jew
returned with the £90 intact.

For eighteen months Fletcher studied English at a school in
Hertfordshire, and afterwards became tutor to the two sons of a Member
of Parliament named Hill.

He little knew then how important a link in the providential chain was
that appointment. Up to this time, although he had deeply appreciated
religion, had read his Bible and prayed much, using any leisure he
could gain between his ordinary studies for the research of prophecy
and the perusal of devotional books, yet he lacked any experience of
living union with God; joy in Christ was an unknown bliss; the "peace
which passeth all understanding" was unrevealed to him. To his brother
Henry he thus described his condition:--

"My feelings were easily excited, but my heart was rarely affected,
and I was destitute of a sincere love to God, and consequently to my
neighbour. All my hopes of salvation rested on my prayers, devotions,
and a certain habit of saying, 'Lord, I am a great sinner; pardon me
for the sake of Jesus Christ!' In the meantime I was ignorant of the
fall and ruin in which every man is involved, the necessity of a
Redeemer, and the way by which we may be rescued from the fall by
receiving Christ with a living faith. I should have been quite
confounded if anyone had asked me the following questions: 'Do you
know that you are dead in Adam? Do you live to yourself? Do you live
in Christ and for Christ? Does God rule in your heart? Do you
experience that peace of God which passeth all understanding? Is the
love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit?'"

A vivid dream concerning the Day of Judgment was used to arouse him,
and for some days he was so depressed and harassed in mind that he
could not settle to any occupation for long together. Sunday arrived;
no teaching demanded his mental application; he wandered listlessly
from place to place, miserable and dejected. At length he sat down to
copy some music. The door opened and in walked the butler, an old
servant of the family, and a countryman of Fletcher's. For a moment he
paused, then approaching the tutor, said firmly, but respectfully:--

"Sir, I am surprised that you, who know so many things, should forget
what day this is, and that you should not be aware that the Lord's Day
should be sanctified in a very different manner."

The man was a true Christian, deeply humble, and full of zealous love
for God. The knowledge of many things he had borne patiently for
Christ, coupled with the strange power with which he spoke, smote the
tutor with a sense of his own shortcomings, and made him exclaim to
his own heart, "I am not renewed in the spirit of my mind, and without
this the death of Christ will not avail for my salvation!"

Not long after this Mr. Hill went up to London to attend Parliament,
accompanied by his tutor and family. On the road they stayed for a
meal and to change horses at St. Albans, and Fletcher went for a brisk
walk through the streets to stretch his limbs.

The horses were put to, but the tutor did not appear. After some delay
the post-chaise drove off, a horse being left in readiness for the
tutor to mount and ride after them. When in the evening he overtook
the party, Mr. Hill enquired why he stayed behind. He replied, "As I
was walking I met with a poor old woman, who talked so sweetly of
Jesus Christ that I knew not how the time passed away."

"I shall wonder," said Mrs. Hill, "if our tutor does not turn
Methodist by-and-by."

"Methodist, Madame!" asked he, puzzled; "pray what is that?"

"Why, the Methodists are a people that do nothing but pray," was her
rejoinder; "they are praying all day and all night."

"Are they? Then by the help of God I _will_ find them out," said
he decidedly.

He not only "found them out," but joined a Methodist society, meeting
with them whenever an opportunity presented itself.

Fletcher could not readily rid himself of the idea that "much doing"
would make him acceptable unto God. Gradually, however, he was brought
to consider the value of "saving faith," and writes in his diary:--

"Instead of going straight to Christ I have lost my time in fighting
against sin with the dim light of reason, and the use of the means of
grace. I fear my notions of Christ are only speculative, and do not
reach the heart. _I never had faith_, and without faith it is
impossible to please God. Then every thought, word, and work of mine
have only been sin and wickedness before God, though ever so specious
before men. All my righteousness is as filthy rags. I am a very devil,
though of an inferior sort, and if I am not renewed before I go hence,
hell will be my portion to all eternity....

"I begged of God to show me all the wickedness of my heart, and to fit
me for His mercy. I besought Him to increase my convictions, for I was
afraid I did not _mourn_ enough for my sins. But I found relief
in Mr. Wesley's Journal, where I learned that we should not build on
what we feel, but that we should go to Christ with all our sins and
all our hardness of heart.

"On January 21st I began to write a confession of my sins, misery, and
helplessness, together with a resolution to seek Christ even unto
death, but, my business calling me away, I had no heart to go on with
it. In the evening I read the Scriptures, and found a sort of pleasure
in seeing a picture of my wickedness so exactly drawn in the third
chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and that of my condition in the
seventh; and now I felt some hope that God would finish in me the work
He had begun."

It would have been strange if at this important crisis the devil had
let him alone. In many ways the enemy fought for his soul. Among other
hindrances he was beset with temptations to evil thoughts, and,
distressed beyond measure, he cried to God with a _definite_
faith which grew out of the very desperateness of his immediate need
of help. Hope grew within his cheerless soul, for, as he says:--

"Having withstood two or three temptations, and feeling peace in my
soul through the whole of them, I began to think it was the Lord's
doing. Afterwards it was suggested to me that it was great presumption
for such a sinner to hope for such a mercy. I prayed I might not be
permitted to fall into a delusion; but the more I prayed the more I
saw it was real, for though sin stirred all the day long, I always
overcame it in the name of the Lord.

"In the evening I read some of the experiences of God's children, and
found my case agreed with theirs, and suited the sermon I had heard on
Justifying Faith. I called on the Lord for perseverance and an
increase of faith, for still I felt some fear lest this should be all
delusion. Having continued my supplication till near one in the
morning, I then opened my Bible and fell on these words, 'Cast thy
burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. He will never suffer
the righteous to be moved.' Filled with joy, I fell on my knees to beg
of God that I might always cast my burden upon Him. I took up my Bible
again, and fell on these words, 'I will be with thee; I will not fail
thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.' My hope
was now greatly increased, and I thought I saw myself conqueror over
sin, hell, and all manner of affliction.

"With this beautiful promise I shut my Bible, and as I shut it I cast
my eye on the words, 'Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name I will do
it.' So, having asked perseverance and grace to serve God till death,
I went cheerfully to take my rest."



CHAPTER VI.

GIVEN UP TO THE FIGHT



Not content, as many are, with consciousness of sins forgiven,
Fletcher at once began to plead that God would take fullest possession
of his heart, and grant to him a deeper experience of His love. While
lying upon his face in earnest prayer the Saviour strangely manifested
Himself to his eye of faith, and it was revealed to him that Jesus had
wondrously become his soul's inmost life, abiding in him to conquer
sin.

This completely changed his spiritual position. The blessed
realisation that in Christ he could triumph over sin and keep the
world beneath his feet, filled him with a glad sense of freedom. He
resolved that nothing should prevent him from experiencing this to the
full: he gave all his leisure to prayer and meditation, living on
vegetables, bread, milk and water, that he might be able to save time
from the long courses of dinner, many a day lunching in the garden
from a piece of bread and a few bunches of currants; also making it a
rule to do without sleep two nights of each week in order to pray.

This extremely rigid rule of life was a mistake. Lack of proper rest
and food at this period undoubtedly laid the foundation of his
subsequent delicacy. Most men attend to the cravings of the body to
the expense of the lightly-fed soul; all his life Fletcher gave less
heed to physical needs than his not-too-robust frame required, and he
paid the penalty.

As a natural gift, Fletcher possessed a very sweet and gentle spirit.
Companionship with Christ grafted upon this an unusual humility, as
simple as it was sincere. An instance of this is found in the fact
that when the clergyman of Atcham Church (which Fletcher attended
while at Tern Hall) invited adults who required instruction to join
the children's catechumen class, gifted scholar though he was, he
stepped out and took his place by the little ones as a matter of
course, unmoved by the fact that he was the only adult who did not
despise the proffered instruction.

Prayer, with Fletcher, was not a duty but a refreshment and an
inspiration. Every Sunday morning, between four and five, and two or
three nights in the week, after his pupils were asleep, he used to go
out into the meadows, or on to the banks of the Severn, to meet an
Excise Officer, a servant, and a poor widow. These four would pour out
their whole souls to God in prayer, and wonderful were the
manifestations of Divine love and grace vouchsafed to them.

The poor of Atcham village and its neighbourhood grew well accustomed
to the fine, pure face of the Tern Hall tutor; sickness always drew
him, and were there none at hand to nurse them as they needed he was
quick to give help.

Thus continually brought face to face with the needs of ignorant and
uncared-for men, it was no wonder that Fletcher should return to the
thought (suggested to him many times previously) of devoting himself
altogether to ministering the gospel of the grace of God. Before
taking any step towards such a life, however, he asked the advice of
John Wesley, whom he already looked upon as his spiritual guide.
Apparently the answer he received was encouraging, for less than four
months after he put the question, John Fletcher was ordained as a
clergyman of the Church of England.

Straight from his ordination service in the Chapel Royal at St.
James's, Fletcher hurried to Snowsfields Methodist Chapel to assist
Wesley in a service there--a sufficiently unusual commencement of a
clergyman's career!



CHAPTER VII.

TURNED FROM HOME.



Mary Bosanquet's determination to lay aside the ordinary pleasures of
girlhood, and live a life of waiting upon God for the revelation of
His will, came just two months after John Fletcher's ordination.
Little enough happened to her for a couple of years, save that she
succeeded in increasingly impressing those around her that it was
useless to invite her into paths of worldliness and frivolity. When a
girl of nineteen she stayed for seven weeks in Bristol, renewing there
her friendship with Miss Sarah Ryan--to whom Fletcher wrote some of
his famous letters--through whom, and through Mrs. Crosby, Mary was
introduced to her future husband.

When she came of age Mary Bosanquet found herself mistress of her
personal fortune, and more strongly than ever was she assured that she
might do better work for God if she left her own home. Always afraid
of moving before the Guiding Pillar, however, she feared exceedingly
to take this step unless the express command were laid upon her.

One day her father asked for her solemn promise that she would not try
to persuade her brothers to follow Christ.

"I am afraid I cannot promise that, father," she replied.

"Then you will force me to put you out of the house," was his
rejoinder.

In preparation for whatever might follow, Mary took a lodging, and
waited until she should be told to go, which quickly happened.

It was a pathetic departure. Before dinner a message reached her by a
servant that she had better go to her lodging that night. During the
meal no word was said, and Mary's heart was wrung by sorrowful
questionings. "How shall I go, if they say no more to me? How shall I
bear it, if they never invite me to see them again?"

Dinner being at last concluded, and the carriage announced, Mrs.
Bosanquet swept out into the hall, remarking casually to Mary as she
passed by :--

"If you will, the coach, when it has set us down, may carry you home
to your lodgings."

"And we shall be glad to see you to dinner on Sunday," added her
father.

Mary choked and could not reply, but she quickly recovered
sufficiently to order her trunk downstairs, and, when cloaked and
hooded, she passed down the staircase, she found all the servants
assembled in a row to bid her farewell with tears.

The two rooms she had taken were fireless, dark, and unfurnished. A
table and candlestick were quickly borrowed, and Mary sat down upon a
broad window-seat to ponder what was to her a strange situation.

By the time her maid arrived, and invited her to a fire, and a
sumptuous supper of bread, rank salt butter, and water, God had so
comforted her and assured her of His favour and presence that she was
filled with thankfulness and peace; the empty room and sparse, candle-
lit meal seemed to her part of "a little heaven."

No beds could be put up at so late an hour; blinds and curtains were
not in evidence. Mary Bosanquet lay that night upon the bare floor,
and the pure, clear moonlight shone coldly upon her as she lay, but
the fire of Divine love burned warm within her heart; she communed
with her God in utter content.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE TERN HALL TUTOR.



For three years after his ordination Fletcher received no church
appointment. He remained as tutor at Tern Hall, and preached wherever
he could find an opening, either in French or in English.

Amongst ordinary church-goers his decided utterances made him far from
popular, but the warm hearts of the Methodist people bade him hearty
welcome, and these he learned to love truly and well. They introduced
him to "many honourable women," several of whom became his friends and
correspondents; none of them, however, impressed him as did Mary
Bosanquet.

In writing to her brother nearly twenty-five years later he said of
this meeting: "It was soon after my ordination that I saw Miss Mary
Bosanquet. I had resolved not to marry, but the sweetness of her
temper and her devotedness to God made me think that if ever I broke
through my resolution it would be to cast my lot with one like her."

One may judge of the quiet but strong influence Fletcher exerted in
his neighbourhood by an incident which happened during that autumn. To
Tern Hall one night came a messenger from Salop, asking urgently for
"the tutor." The letter he delivered bore no name, but it begged Mr.
Fletcher to hasten at once to a certain inn, where he might find a
soul who wanted God. Without a question the tutor set out on his five-
mile walk, not knowing whether beggar or duke demanded his help. He
found the eldest son of a baronet, whom God's Spirit had rendered so
strangely wretched on account of sin that he could neither eat nor
sleep. Doctors had done their best to remove this remarkable malady,
but the one remedy lay in the touch of the hand of the Great
Physician, and, almost in despair, his soul cried, "Oh, that I knew
where I might find Him!"

The visit of that October night resulted in correspondence which was
blessed to Sir Richard Hill's conversion, although the young man
became in later years one of Fletcher's most active opponents in a
doctrinal controversy.

This time of waiting for God to show his future sphere of work was
much blessed to Fletcher in spiritually preparing him for it. Through
an incident in which he was much misunderstood by many, he learned the
all-important lesson to a preacher, that a sermon full of the most
vigorous ideas is as nothing if not inspired by the living Spirit.

His own account of the matter is brief but instructive:--

"Just as I was going to resume my daily course of business I was
called to preach in a church at Salop, and was obliged to compose a
sermon in the moments I should have spent in prayer. Hurry and the
want of a single eye drew a veil between the prize and my soul. In the
meantime Sunday came, and God rejected my impure service and abhorred
the labour of my polluted soul; and while others imputed my not
preaching to the fear of the minister who had invited me to his
pulpit, and to the threatenings of a mob, I saw the wisdom and
holiness of God, and rejoiced in that providence which does all
without the assistance of hurrying Uzzah."

During the holidays Fletcher would betake himself to London, giving
all his time to service in connection with a chapel in Seven Dials.
The sermon he did not preach bore fruit in his own heart, and to his
beloved friend, Charles Wesley, he wrote: "May God water the poor seed
I have sown, and give it fruitfulness, _though it be only in one
soul!_ But I have seen so much weakness in my heart, both as a
minister and a Christian, that I know not which is most to be pitied--
the man, the believer, or the preacher. Could I at last be
_truly_ humbled and _continue so always_, I should esteem
myself happy in making this discovery. I preach _merely_ to keep
the chapel open until God shall send a workman _after His own
heart_."

During the famous earthquake of nine years before a little Welsh girl
named Mary Price was then attending a London school. The children were
frightened nearly out of their wits by the upheaval, the crash of
broken glass, the long subterranean rumbling, and, in common with many
London residents, in that hour little Mary promised to serve God. For
nine years she strove and prayed, but found no way by which she could
come near to Him. Persuaded by a friend who knew her inward sorrow,
she sought out the despised Methodist meeting-house in Seven Dials,
and there heard Fletcher preaching for his "one soul." Light flashed
through all her being as she listened, and that morning Mary Price saw
the "Way" to unerring "Truth" and everlasting "Life," entering later
on into lifelong communion with Him whom her spirit had so earnestly
sought.

For fifty-nine years Mary was a shining light in the kingdom of grace.



CHAPTER IX.

THE VICAR OF MADELEY.



At thirty years of age Fletcher was pressed to become a missionary to
Antigua, but was prevented by the advice of Charles Wesley, who
foresaw for him a more useful service in England.

Introduced by John Wesley to the famous Countess of Huntingdon,
Fletcher was further commended to her by the poet-brother in such a
manner as led her to urge him to become chaplain to her household. On
the understanding that the appointment should not interfere either
with his preaching, or the work he had taken up amongst French
prisoners and refugees, he accepted the post, and through it became
acquainted with many great spirits who ranked amongst the noble of the
earth.

A great work was at this time being done at Everton, the parish of the
Rev. John Berridge, and Fletcher made special efforts to see and
profit by it. He introduced himself to the noted clergyman as a
convert seeking instruction and advice. Berridge, noting his foreign
accent, asked him his nationality.

"A Swiss from the Canton of Berne," was the reply.

"From Berne! Ah, then you can give me some account of a young
countryman of yours, one John Fletcher, who has lately preached a few
times for the Mr. Wesleys, and of whose talents, learning, and piety
they both speak in terms of high eulogy. Do you know him?"

"I know him intimately, and did those gentlemen know him as well they
would not speak of him in such terms, for which he is more obliged to
their partial friendship than to his own merits," was the unexpected
reply.

"You surprise me," objected Berridge, "in speaking so coldly of a
countryman in whose praises they are so warm."

"I have the best of reasons for speaking of him as I do--I am John
Fletcher."

Berridge melted at this, and insisted upon his occupying his pulpit
the following morning. For three days Fletcher remained at Everton,
joined there by the Countess of Huntingdon and two well-known
clergymen, Martin Madan and Henry Venn. The services were, perforce,
held in the open-air, for on the third day ten thousand persons
gathered to hear the word of God. Many fell to the ground overpowered
by the influence of the Spirit, and numbers cried for mercy.

Fletcher's life as a tutor now ended. Mr. Hill was extremely anxious
to benefit him, and to this end offered him the living of Dunham, in
Cheshire, explaining that the duty was light, the income £400 a year
(a good sum in those days), and the surrounding country delightful.

"Dunham will not suit me," said Fletcher quietly; "there is too much
money and too little labour."

"What shall we do? Would you like Madeley? My nephew is the patron,
and I am sure the present Vicar would be only too glad to exchange it
for anything so good as Dunham."

"It would suit me exactly," quoth Fletcher, kindling at the thought.
He had preached there, and knew the rough character of its colliers
and forgemen.

Curiously enough, the old Vicar of Dunham died suddenly. The day after
the event Mr. Hill met his nephew at the Shrewsbury races, and in that
unlikeliest place of all, it was arranged that the Madeley living
should be presented to Fletcher.

It was a matter of course that he should consult his friend Charles
Wesley, but though he longed, if God so led, to undertake the work, he
feared greatly that many who were violently opposed to some of his
views would resist the appointment, and that the greatest barrier of
all, the Bishop of Lichfield, would refuse to countersign his
testimonials.

An extract from one of his letters to the Countess of Huntingdon shows
how all these obstacles were removed:--

"The difficulty of getting proper testimonials, which I had looked
upon as insurmountable, vanishes at once; the three clergymen that had
opposed me with the most bitterness signed them; the Bishop of
Lichfield countersigns them without the least objection; the lord of
the manor, my great opposer, leaves the parish; and the Vicar, who
told me that I should never preach in that church, now recommends me
to it, and tells me he will induct me himself. Are not these the
intimations of the will of God? It seems so to me."

So it came to pass that in the parish book was made the following
entry:--

"_John Fletcher, clerk, was inducted to the vicarage of Madeley the
17th of October, 1760.--John Fletcher, Vicar._"



CHAPTER X.

AN ALARMED PARISH.



In the same month as Mary Bosanquet was cast out of her father's home
to commence life anew as a toiler for God, John Fletcher settled down
to his work in the parish of his choice.

Madeley lies three or four miles from the foot of the Wrekin in a
winding glen, through which flows the River Severn. So far it was a
place of beauty, but in no other sense. The colliers and iron-workers
of Coalbrookdale and Madeley were ignorant, brutal, and much given to
drunkenness and profanity. The Sabbath was ignored, decency frequently
flouted, bull-baiting a favourite pastime, and religion a matter of
coarse ridicule and bitter scorn. After their day's work the
inhabitants frequently held nights of revelry, lasting until dawn,
when dancing, drunkenness, and obscenity reigned supreme.

Fletcher commenced his campaign with great earnestness and zeal. He
had no idea of contenting himself with preaching to a handful of
feeble folk twice upon a Sunday; he counted every day lost if he had
not in it brought some of his people face to face with the
requirements of God. In cottages, at street corners, or in the church,
he held a service just as often as he could gather sufficient people
together; he visited the public-houses, and even appeared at the
midnight carousals, warning men of the wrath of God, and urging them
to flee to Jesus for mercy.

The parishioners of Madeley grew decidedly uncomfortable. They desired
nothing so much as to be left alone, and the influence of this new
parson was a force with which they found it necessary to reckon. They
grew to dread the sudden opening of their tavern and dance-room doors,
and the appearance of the pale, pure-faced man, whose eyes glowed like
coals, and whose words burned and stung as he rebuked sin.

They were not used to being continually confronted with the claims of
God; they did not relish the urgency with which Fletcher insisted upon
_conversion_ rather than church-going. They turned upon him in
public; they maligned him in private; they disturbed his informal
meetings; they cursed his name. One thing they were bound to do,
however, they respected his courage and goodness, and that alone was
sufficient eventually to turn the tide.

It was a lonely time for Fletcher. He was a young man, with no
companion; he was of cultured mind, and greatly missed some kindred
intelligence and friendly spirit with which he might commune of the
things which pressed upon his soul. Little wonder that his heart
should turn towards the sweet-spirited woman whose face dwelt in his
memory with gentle persistence. He looked upon the idea of marriage,
however, as a snare to draw his thoughts from his work, and he fought
it down as something unworthy of his high calling.

"I am driven to the Lord," he wrote to the Countess of Huntingdon,
"and He comforts, encourages, and teaches me. The devil, my friends,
and my heart have pushed at me to make me fall into worldly cares and
creature snares . . . but I have been enabled to cry, 'Nothing but
Jesus and the service of His people,' and I trust the Lord will keep
me in the same mind."

Fletcher lived with the utmost frugality, for some time doing without
even a servant, and taking his meals at a neighbour's house. An idea
of his simplicity of life may be gained from a story told by one who
was at a boarding-school at Madeley which Mr. Fletcher frequently
visited:--

"One morning he came in just as the girls had sat down to breakfast.
He said but little while the meal lasted, but when it was finished he
spoke to each girl separately, and concluded by saying to the whole,
'I have waited some time on you this morning, that I might see you eat
your breakfast; and I hope you will visit me to-morrow morning to see
how I eat mine.' He told them his breakfast-hour was seven o'clock,
and obtained a promise that they would visit him. Next morning they
went at the time appointed, and seated themselves in the kitchen. Mr.
Fletcher came in quite rejoiced to see them. On the table stood a
small basin of milk and sops of bread. Mr. Fletcher carried the basin
across the kitchen and sat down on an old bench. He then took out his
watch, laid it before him, and said, 'My dear girls, yesterday morning
I waited on you a full hour while you were at breakfast; I shall take
as much time this morning in eating my breakfast as I usually do, if
not rather more. Look at my watch!' He immediately began to eat, and
continued in conversation with them. When he had finished he asked how
long he had been at breakfast. They said, 'Just a minute and a-half,
sir.' 'Now, my dear girls,' said he, we have fifty-eight minutes of
the hour left,' and he then began to sing--

     "Our life is a dream!
      Our time as a stream
      Glides swiftly away,
  And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.

"After this he gave them a lecture on the worth of time and the worth
of the soul. They then all knelt down in prayer."



CHAPTER XI.

The Vicar's Sermons.



The Vicar of Madeley led no idle life. He started Friday evening
lectures; on Sunday afternoon he catechised the school-children, spent
many hours of every day in visiting the sick and poor, and hesitated
not at all to sit up whole nights with any who lacked attention. To
the careless landowners and farmers whom he failed to get into his
church he addressed the first of his published sermons, with a preface
which urged them to _read_ his message if they would not listen
to it.

With Fletcher there was no preaching against the absent wrong-doer, no
haranguing evil in the abstract, but there was never lacking a
definite and personal denouncement of present and personal sin. One
tremendous word loomed large before his hearers, nor could any
misunderstand when he talked about SIN, and the arousing thought was
pressed ever closer to them by his pointed use of the word YOU. Here
is an example:--

"Did you ever make a prey of the poor and helpless? Are you like the
horse-leech, ever crying, 'Give, give!' still wanting more profit, and
never thinking you have enough? Do you take more care to heap up
treasure on earth than in Heaven? Have you got the unhappy secret of
distilling silver out of the poor man's brow, and gold out of the
tears of helpless widows and friendless orphans? Or, which is rather
worse, do you, directly or indirectly, live by poisoning others, by
encouraging the immoderate use of those refreshments which, if taken
to excess, disorder the reason, ruin the soul, and prove no better
than slow poison to the body? If your business calls you to buy or
sell, do you use falsehoods? do you equivocate? do you exaggerate or
conceal the truth in order to impose upon your neighbour, and make a
profit of his necessity or credulity? If any of these marks be upon
you, God's word singles you out and drags you to the bar of Divine
justice to hear your doom in the text, '_The wicked shall surely
die_.' Oh, see your danger; repent and make restitution! Why should
you meet the unjust steward in Hell, when you may yet follow Zacchaeus
into Heaven?...

"Perhaps your conscience bears you witness that you are not a swearing
Christian, or rather a swearing infidel. Well, but are you clear in
the point of adultery, fornication, or uncleanness? Does not the guilt
of some vile sin, which you have wickedly indulged in time past, and
perhaps are still indulging, mark you for the member of a harlot, and
not the member of Christ? Do you not kindle the wrath of Heaven
against yourself and your country, as the men and women of Gomorrah
did against themselves and the other cities of the plain? If you
cherish the sparks of wantonness, as they did, how can you but be made
with them to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire? Do not flatter
yourselves with the vain hope that your sin is not so heinous as
theirs. If it be less in degree, is it not infinitely greater in its
aggravating circumstances? Were these poor Canaanites _Christians_?
Had they Bibles and ministers? Had they sermons and sacraments? Did
they ever vow, as you have done, to renounce the devil and all sinful
lusts of the flesh? Did they ever hear of the Son of God sweating
great drops of blood, in an agony of prayer, to quench the fire of
human corruption? Oh, acknowledge your guilt and danger, and by
deep repentance prevent infallible destruction!"

Faithful and fearless utterances such as these made him famous, but
not popular: inconsistent professors resented them deeply; open
sinners raged at the unsparing denunciations which they could not fail
to appropriate, yet out of the latter class came some of Fletcher's
best and most encouraging converts.

Much of his success in getting men to listen to unpalatable truths lay
in his gentleness of manner and rare humility of mind, but "gentlest
of human beings" as he has been described, he had the courage of a
lion in fight, and for his Master's sake he knew no palliation of
unrighteousness, even though his truth-telling made the bitterest of
enemies.

_By nature_ Fletcher was not a meek man; he had "a fiery
passionate spirit," says one of his biographers, "insomuch that he has
frequently thrown himself on the floor, and lain there most of the
night bathed in tears, imploring victory over his own temper. And he
did obtain the victory, in a very eminent degree. For twenty years and
upwards before his death no one ever saw him out of temper, or heard
him utter a rash expression on any provocation whatever.... I never
saw him in any temper in which I myself would not have wished to be
found at death."

A friend who lived for some time in his house writes thus:--

"His enemies wrested his words, misrepresented his actions, and cast
out his name as evil; but whether he was insulted in his person or
injured in his property; whether he was attacked with open abuse or
pursued with secret calumny, he walked amid the most violent assaults
of his enemies, as a man invulnerable, and while his firmness
discovered that he was unhurt, his forbearance testified that he was
unoffended."

To a man with talents trained as were his, with a power of expression
which could melt into uncommon eloquence when he chose, with learning
to illuminate, judgment to balance his effects, and extreme quickness
of perception to adapt illustration and appeal to any audience,
Fletcher might have made for himself a mighty name. Instead of this,
"his design was to _convert_ and not to _captivate_ his
hearers; to secure their eternal interests, and not to obtain their
momentary applause.... He spake as in the presence of God, and taught
as one having Divine authority. There was an energy in his preaching
that was irresistible. His subjects, his language, his gestures, the
tone of his voice, and the turn of his countenance, all conspired to
fix the attention and affect the heart. Without aiming at sublimity,
he was truly sublime, and uncommonly eloquent without affecting the
orator."



CHAPTER XII.

Scanty Encouragements.



Fletcher's encouragements at Madeley were at first sufficiently scanty
to have disheartened many an earnest man.

Two Marys were amongst his earliest converts. Mary Matthews, of
Madeley Wood, went to hear him with the mind of the Pharisee, but she
left his presence with the heart of the publican. Having obtained the
pardon of her sins, she opened her little house for preaching, and
stood firm, although threatened by some of the villagers with a drum-
led mob, and eventually haled before the magistrates and fined £20 for
the offence of turning her cottage into a conventicle.

Mary Barnard, a lame old women of ninety, counted no pain or distance
too great to prevent her from making her toilsome journey to the
church where she "first saw the light," and, uneducated as she was,
her definite testimony to the power of the cleansing Blood often
cheered the preacher who had blessed her.

Fletcher's methods were unique for the times in which he lived. There
was no hiding from him. Those who tried to escape his influence by
avoiding his preachings were pursued into their various haunts and
homes under all kinds of circumstances and at all hours. Some
pretended that they could not awake in time to get ready for his early
services; he responded by going out himself with a bell and sounding
such clashing peals in various parts of the parish that there remained
no shadow of excuse for their sleeping after 5 a.m.!

He adopted the practice of dealing with criticisms and objections from
the pulpit, a course sufficiently unusual to attract much attention to
what he had to say.

Work as he might, however, Fletcher received so little encouragement
that he was frequently burdened with the fear lest he had mistaken the
Divine appointment.

One day, when he was much oppressed in this way, he was summoned to
bury a parishioner. At once he lost sight of his own trouble in the
opportunity of dealing out red-hot truths to a crowd of people. One
man was so convicted that he broke out into a storm of bad language,
fighting as best he knew how the strange influences of the Spirit.
These were too strong for him, however, and he melted into tears of
penitence. How gladly the Vicar gave him the pardon he asked for his
behaviour, and led him further still into the joy of sins forgiven,
can never be told. From that time he became an active helper in the
parish, and one of Fletcher's greatest encouragements.

The conversion of this man, however, seemed only the signal for
greater opposition on the part of some of the colliers. A number of
them were baiting a bull near Madeley Wood Meeting-house one night
when he was expected there to preach. "We'll wait here and _bait the
parson!_" they cried, settling at once who should pull him off his
horse, and who should set the dogs upon him.

Mr. Fletcher, all unsuspectingly, prepared for his walk to the wood,
but on the threshold was met by a messenger who had forgotten to give
notice of the burial of a child who was even then being carried up for
its funeral. Here was a duty which could not be put off; the Vicar
stayed to attend to it, and so missed his preaching appointment.

The men waited in vain, then repaired to a public-house to drink and
curse their ill-luck. As they swore horrible oaths a huge china punch-
bowl standing in the room fell in small fragments. This so impressed
one of the number that he rose and left the place, vowing there and
then to break with his old companions, and seek the salvation of his
soul.

A somewhat well-known story is connected with Fletcher's sensitiveness
to the influence of the Spirit with regard to his message for men. He
had entered the pulpit one Sunday morning at Madeley to preach a
sermon prepared for the purpose, when all remembrance of it fled; he
could not even recall the text. Instantly throwing himself upon the
Spirit of God for guidance, he turned to the First Lesson for the day,
which happened to be the history of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
As soon as he began to make some remarks upon it thoughts flowed,
words burned, and he found himself so strangely upheld and inspired
that he felt certain God intended the word for someone of whom he was
not himself aware. So sure did he become of this fact that he
requested to be privately informed if this were the case.

Three days later a woman called at the vicarage and told him that she
had for some time been greatly concerned about her soul through
attending his services. Her husband noticed her habits of private
prayer, and in a violent rage threatened her with frightful
consequences if she did not refrain from her church-going. She told
him her conscience would not allow that, and with terrible oaths he
cried, "I'll cut your throat as soon as you come back, if you go!"

The poor woman only prayed the harder, and when Sunday morning came
she dressed herself for church as usual. As she passed through the
kitchen her husband bellowed out, "I shall not cut your throat as I
said, I shall heat the big oven and throw you into it the minute you
get back." To the accompaniment of savage swearing she closed the door
and made her way to the church, praying all the time that God would
strengthen her to suffer whatever might befall her.

In grateful amaze she drank in every word of Fletcher's impromptu talk
upon the three martyrs in the fiery furnace, and to herself she cried
softly, "If I had a thousand lives I'd lay them all down for Jesus!"

Knowing the brutal nature of her husband--a butcher by trade--she was
quite prepared for the worst that might happen to her, but God kept
her in utter and perfect peace when she actually saw flames issuing
from the oven. She was even _joyful_ as she opened the door to
death.

Then, to her unspeakable astonishment, she saw her husband upon his
knees, beseeching God to pardon his sins. He caught her in his arms,
crying, "Forgive me, wife; oh, forgive me if you can!" turning from
her only to cry yet more earnestly to God for the mercy he had been
led by the Spirit Himself to seek.

With here and there such incidents to cheer him, Fletcher found, after
two years of rough work and numberless hindrances, that public respect
was taking the place of open opposition, and the word of truth, sown
in difficulty and hardness, was beginning to bring forth fruit in many
hearts. Wesley says of him:--

"Having chosen this narrow field of action, he was more and more
abundant in his ministerial labours, both in public and in private,
not contenting himself with preaching, but visiting his flock in every
corner of his parish. And this work he attended to, early and late,
whether the weather was fair or foul, regarding neither heat nor cold,
rain nor snow, whether he was on horseback or on foot. But this
farther weakened his constitution, which was still more effectively
done by his intense and uninterrupted studies, in which he frequently
continued with scarce any intermission fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen
hours a day. But still he did not allow himself such food as was
necessary to sustain nature. He seldom took any regular meals, except
he had company; otherwise, twice or thrice in four and twenty hours he
ate some bread and cheese or fruit. Instead of this, he sometimes took
a draught of milk, and then wrote on again. When one reproved him for
not affording himself a sufficiency of necessary food, he replied,
'Not allow myself food? Why, our food seldom costs my housekeeper and
me together less than two shillings a week!'"



CHAPTER XIII.

THE ORPHAN HOME.



Isolated as was the life she lived at Hoxton, Mary Bosanquet was not
wholly severed from her parents. At intervals her father would drive
up in his carriage, bringing her some present and renewing his
persuasions to her to live at home upon the terms of spiritual silence
on which he had previously insisted. But though, to all appearance
peculiarly alone, the two years spent in her solitary lodging was a
time of the richest blessing, during which she entered into such
communion with God as influenced the whole of her after-life.

An almost curious sensitiveness to the sorrows and needs of men so
possessed her that all consideration of self or repining at her
condition was entirely shut out, and with this insight into the woe of
the world came a wonderful baptism of Divine love. God became all in
all to her soul, and she lived in the spirit of Gerhardt's inspired
hymn:--

  Oh, grant that nothing in my soul
    May dwell but Thy pure love alone;
  Oh, may Thy love possess me whole,
    My joy, my treasure, and my crown!
  Strange flames far from my heart remove,
    My every act, word, thought, be LOVE!

It was inevitable that her Methodist friends should suggest to her a
less lonely life; some of them, indeed, went so far as to speak of her
in connection with Mr. Fletcher.

"Ah, if I were to marry _him_," she thought, "he would be a help
and not a hindrance to my soul!"

She little knew that Fletcher had been fighting the same thought.
Indeed, it was not long after this that, in answer to Charles Wesley's
practical suggestion, that a wife would be helpful in his lonely work,
Fletcher drew up as quaint a set of _Reasons for and Against
Matrimony_ as have ever been committed to paper:--


   FOR.

  1. A tender friendship is, after the love of Christ, the greatest
     felicity of life; and a happy marriage is nothing but such a
     friendship between two persons of different sexes.

  2. A wife might deliver me from the cares of housekeeping, etc.

  3. Some objections and scandals may be avoided by marriage.

  4. A pious and zealous wife might be as useful as myself; nay, she
     might be much more so among my female parishioners, who greatly
     want an inspectress.


   AGAINST.

  1. Death will shortly end all particular friendships. The happier
     the state of marriage, the more afflicting is the widowhood;
     besides, we may try a friend and reject him after trial; butwe
     cannot know a wife till it is too late to part with her.

  2. Marriage brings after it a hundred cares and expenses; children,
     a family, etc.

  3. If matrimony is not happy, it is the most fertile source of
     scandal.

  4. I have a thousand to one to fear that a wife, instead of being a
     help, may be indolent, and consequently useless; or humoursome,
     haughty, capricious, and consequently a heavy curse.


Fortunately for Mary Bosanquet, towards the end of these two years
there came to London her friend Mrs. Ryan (housekeeper of Wesley's new
Room at Bristol), who fell ill, was nursed by her with great devotion,
and afterwards taken home to share her rooms.

"I acknowledge," she writes, "I neither gained honour, gold, nor
indulgence to the flesh by uniting myself to a sickly, persecuted
saint; but I gained such a spiritual helper as I shall eternally
praise God for."

Shortly after their union a house of Miss Bosanquet's at Leytonstone
became vacant, and in March, 1763, the Friends moved into it, and
began private and public meetings under their own roof-tree.

One evening, as Miss Bosanquet was speaking to a large company
assembled in her kitchen, the fore-gate bell clashed with a mighty
peal. The servant went to answer it, and meantime there strode through
the back door into the kitchen four ill-looking men with clubs in
their hands. The servant hurried back trembling, saying that a
messenger had come to warn them of a great mob coming to upset them,
the ringleaders being four men with clubs.

Mary Bosanquet cast a glance at her audience and answered the maid
aloud, "Oh, we do not mind mobs when we are about our Master's
business. 'Greater is He that is for us than all that can be against
us.'" Then calmly she continued her subject, unhindered by any.

Having upon her table a few copies of the simple "Rules for the
Society of the People called Methodists," she handed one of them to
each of the four ringleaders, begging their acceptance that at their
leisure they might see the nature of the profession made by the
worshippers. They received them with respectful bows, and no more was
heard of "mobs" for that night.

The house was a lonely one, open on one side to the forest, and in it
at that time lived only Mary Bosanquet, Mrs. Ryan, a maid, and Sally
Lawrence, a little child of four years, whom Miss Bosanquet had taken
from her mother's coffin to her own warm care. When the nights became
dark, a disorderly crowd would gather at the gate to pelt the
worshippers with dirt, afterwards invading the yard to reach the
unshuttered windows, where they would roar like so many wild beasts.
But the protecting hand of God kept them from any real bodily harm.
"The Lord was with us," wrote the lady of the house most sweetly, "and
preserved us under Love's almighty shade."

Little Sally was the first of many orphans who followed. Through
various misfortunes and deaths around her, Miss Bosanquet quickly
found herself mothering six of them. The number grew until twenty
children and several grown people found a home beneath her hospitable
roof at one time. This family involved much nursing, for there were
never more than six in the house in perfect health.

Miss Bosanquet adopted for the whole household what was almost a
uniform of dark purple cotton; she fed them upon simple diet, kept
them to regular hours for meals and employment, trained the children
for service, and nursed sick people until they were well. Hers was
indeed a House of Mercy!



CHAPTER XIV.

A SEEKER AFTER GOD.



Five years had passed since Fletchcr entered Madeley as its Vicar, and
with the result of his labours he was  anything but satisfied.

Of the fifth year he wrote: "This last year has been the worst I have
had here--barren in convictions, fruitful in  backslidings." And to
the same correspondent (Miss Hatton, of Wem) he wrote later:--

"The coming of Mr. Wesley's preachers into my parish gives me no
uneasiness. As I am sensible that everybody does better, and is more
acceptable than myself, I should be sorry to deprive anyone of a
blessing; and I rejoice that the work of God goes on, by _any
instrument_, or in _any place_."

This was characteristic of him--ever depreciative of self, and
rejoicing in other men's labours.

Not only Wesley's itinerants, but the great preacher himself visited
Madeley, and it is significant that the straight-speaking old man did
not take the same pessimistic view of Fletcher's work as he did
himself. After preaching to crowds of his people, Wesley speaks of
Madeley as a great and encouraging "prospect." "There are many
adversaries indeed," writes the Father of Methodism, "but yet they
cannot shut the open and effectual door."

It was not for lack of invitation, but rather because he was so
engrossed in his work that the Vicar of Madeley had up to this time
confined his labours to his own parish. Now, however, he was persuaded
to make an evangelistic visit to Breedon, in Leicestershire, also to
Bath and Bristol.

While in Bath--conducting an extension of the opening services of Lady
Huntingdon's new chapel--he wrote his first Pastoral Letter to his
flock at home. Never were letters written less to please the ear, or
to make a bid for the affections of a people; honest, faithful
exhortations they were, plain to hurting-point, but made of wonderful
blessing to those to whom they were read. A sample of one will be of
interest:--

"Some of you wonder why you cannot believe, why you cannot see Jesus
with the eye of your mind, and delight in Him with the affections of
your heart. I apprehend the reason to be one of these, or perhaps
altogether:--

"1. You are not poor, lost, undone, helpless, despairing sinners in
yourselves. You indulge spiritual and refined self-righteousness; you
are not yet dead to the law, and quite slain by the commandment. Now
the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to none but the poor in spirit. Jesus
came to save none but the lost. What wonder, then, if Jesus is little
to you, and if you do not live in His kingdom of peace, righteousness,
and joy in the Holy Ghost?

"2. Perhaps you spend your time in curious reasonings, instead of
casting yourselves as forlorn sinners at the feet of Christ, leaving
it to Him to bless you when and in the manner He pleases. Know that He
is the wise and Sovereign God, and that it is your duty to lie before
Him as clay, as fools, as sinful nothings.

"3. Perhaps, also, some of you wilfully keep idols of one kind or
another; you indulge some sin against light and knowledge; and it is
neither matter of humiliation nor of confession to you. The love of
praise, that of the world, that of money, and that of sensual
gratifications, when not lamented, are as implacable enemies to Christ
as Judas and Herod were. How can ye believe, seeing ye seek the honour
that cometh from men? Hew, then, your Agags in pieces before the Lord.
Run from your Delilahs to Jesus resolutely. Cut off the right hand and
pluck out the right eye that offends you. 'Come out from among them,
and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and I will receive you.'
Nevertheless, when you strive, take care not to make yourself a
righteousness of your own striving. Remember that justifying
righteousness is finished and brought in, and that your goodness can
no more add to it than your sins diminish it. Shout then, 'the Lord
your righteousness!' And if you are undone sinners, humbly, and yet
boldly, say, 'In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.'"

There was no false comforting, or fine talk about "only believe" with
John Fletcher! If any lacked faith, he cut down to the roots to find
out why.

The preaching tours named were followed by many others. London,
Brighton, and Oathall were visited, in the first of which he
officiated for Whitefield in Tottenham Court Road Chapel.

We may judge by a letter to Whitefield that he would have gone yet
more frequently if he could, as he remarks, "I should be glad to be
your curate some time this year, but I see no opening, nor the least
prospect of any. What between the dead and the living, _a parish
ties one down more than a wife_."

He was not without distinguished visitors at the vicarage, however,
hostess though he had none; the Countess of Huntingdon, accompanied by
Lady Anne Erskine and Miss Orton, accepted the frugal provision for
comfort with which John Wesley had previously contented himself; the
scarlet coat and gold lace of a famous officer of Dragoons (Captain
Scott) was seen in his garden--a man, by the way, who preached daily
to his soldiers, and frequently exhorted in a Methodist meeting-house
in the full blaze of his regimentals--and was mounted by Fletcher upon
his horse-block to address large crowds which gathered to hear him.
Whitefield was also expected, but could not then avail himself of the
invitation, and, later on, he differed very seriously from the Vicar
regarding the doctrine of free salvation which it was ever his glory
to preach.

Before and beyond everything else John Fletcher was _a seeker after
God_. To assist himself in this supreme endeavour he drew up the
following rules for nightly use:--

1. Did I awake spiritual, and was I watchful in keeping my mind from
wandering this morning when I was rising?

2. Have I this day got nearer to God in times of prayer, or have I
given way to a lazy, idle spirit?

3. Has my faith been weakened by unwatchfulness, or quickened by
diligence this day?

4. Have I this day walked by faith and eyed God in all things?

5. Have I denied myself in all unkind words and thoughts? Have I
delighted in seeing others preferred before me?

6. Have I made the most of my precious time, as far as I had light,
strength, and opportunity?

7. Have I kept the issues of my heart in the means of grace, so as to
profit by them?

8. What have I done this day for the souls and bodies of God's dear
saints?

9. Have I laid out anything to please myself when I might have saved
the money for the cause of God?

10. Have I governed well my tongue this day, remembering that "in a
multitude of words there wanteth not sin"?

11. In how many instances have I denied myself this day?

12. Do my life and conversation adorn the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

By way of encouraging others to keep themselves thus in touch with
God, Fletchcr formed what he called a _Religious Society_, into
whose fellowship he brought all he could whom he found desirous of
living the life of full salvation which he everywhere advocated. He
laid before them a set of home-questions which he urged upon them as a
useful form of self-examination. A sample of these will show how
practical was the religion he both lived and preached.

"Do I feel any pride? Am I dead to all desire of praise? If any
despise me, do I like them the worse for it? Or if they love and
approve me, do I love them more on that account? Is Christ the life of
all my affections and designs, as my soul is the life of my body? Have
I always the presence of God?...Am I saved from the fear of man? ...
Am I always ready to confess Christ, to suffer with His people, and to
die for His sake?...Am I willing to give up my ease and convenience
to oblige others, or do I expect them to do so to my hours, ways, and
customs?...Do I never take that glory to myself which belongs to
Christ?...Am I courteous, not severe; suiting myself to all with
sweetness; striving to give no one pain, but to gain and win all for
their good?...Do I perform the most servile offices, such as require
labour and humiliation, with cheerfulness?...Is every thought
brought into subjection to Christ?...Do I think no evil, listen to
no groundless surmises, nor judge from appearances? How am I in my
sleep? If Satan presents any evil imagination, does my will
immediately resist or give way to it? Do I bear the infirmities of age
or sickness without seeking to repair the decays of nature by strong
liquors? Or do I make Christ my sole support, casting the burden of a
feeble body into the arms of His mercy?"



CHAPTER XV.

Sanctified  Letter-Writing.



Fletcher's correspondence was an unusually heavy one; his letters make
quite as spiritual reading as his sermons, yet he gave the choicest of
reasons for _not_ writing to one man who expected a letter: "Tell
Mr. Keen," he wrote to Whitefield, "I am a letter in his debt, and
_postpone writing it till I have had such a sight of Christ as to
breathe His love through every line_."

Many pearls of thought were contained in these epistles; while the
advice in them was quaintly put, it was always helpful, and never
hurled at random.

"Your dulness in private prayer," wrote he to Miss Hatton, "arises
from the want of familiar friendship with Jesus. To obviate it, go to
your closet as if you were going to meet your dearest friend; cast
yourself at His feet, bemoan your coldness, extol His love to you, and
let your heart break with a desire to love Him. Get _recollection_
--a dwelling within ourselves--a being abstracted from the creature
and turned towards God. For want of such a frame, our times of prayer
are frequently dry and useless; imagination prevails, and the heart
wanders, whereas we pass easily from recollection to delightful
prayer."

To the same person, however, he recommended the cultivation of a
wholesome naturalness in religion which would ensure acknowledgment of
its beauty in those around her:--

"There is no sin in _looking cheerful_. '_Rejoice
evermore_'; and if it is our duty always to be _filled with
joy_, it is our duty to _appear_ what we are in reality. I
hope, however, your friends know how to distinguish between
_cheerfulness_ and _levity_.

"Beware of stiff singularity in things _barely indifferent_: it
is _self_ in disguise; and it is so much the more dangerous when
it comes recommended by a serious, self-denying, religious
appearance."

It is evident from a glance at his correspondence that Fletcher's
extremely frugal habits and large generosity to others gave not a
little anxiety to those who loved him. A wealthy merchant of Bristol,
named Mr. Ireland, a constant, true, and close friend, sent him a
parcel of broadcloth as a gift, beseeching him kindly not to send his
coat again to be patched. His thanks were thus concluded:--

"Your broadcloth can lap me round two or three times; but the mantle
of Divine love, the precious fine robe of Jesus's righteousness, can
cover your soul a thousand times. The cloth, fine and good as it is,
will not keep out a hard shower; but that garment of salvation will
keep out even a shower of brimstone and fire. Your cloth will wear
out; but that fine linen, the righteousness of saints, will appear
with a finer lustre the more it is worn. The moth may fret your
present, or the tailor may spoil it in cutting it, but the present
which Jesus has made you is out of reach of the spoiler, and ready for
present wear. Let me beseech you, my dear friend, to accept of this
heavenly present as I accept of your earthly one. I did not send you
one farthing to purchase it; it came unsought, unasked, unexpected, as
the seed of the woman came. It came just as I was sending a tailor to
buy me cloth for a new coat, and I hope when you next see me it will
be in your present; now let Jesus see you in His. Accept it freely.
Wear no more the old rusty coat of nature and self-righteousness. Send
no more to have it _patched_. Make your boast of an unbought
suit, and love to wear the livery of Jesus."

John Fletcher's letters all tended to the same point as his sermons--a
personal appeal to the soul to whom he addressed himself. To the Rev.
Joseph Benson he wrote:--

"The few professors I see in these parts are so far from what I could
wish them and myself to be, that I cannot but cry out, 'Lord, how long
wilt Thou give Thine heritage to desolation and barrenness? How long
shall the heathen say, Where is now their indwelling God?' I hope it
is better with you in the north. What are your heart, your pen, your
tongue doing? Are they receiving, sealing, spreading the truth
everywhere within your sphere? Are you dead to praise or dispraise?
Could you quietly pass for a mere fool, and have gross nonsense
fathered upon you without any uneasy reflection of self? The Lord
bless you! Beware of your grand enemy, earthly wisdom and unbelieving
reasonings. You will never overcome but by child-like, loving
simplicity."

In writing to his schoolmaster at Madeley, the Vicar gives a real
home-thrust, yet in so kindly a manner that it could hardly be
resented:--

"If I were not a minister I would be a _schoolmaster_, to have the
pleasure of bringing up children in the fear of the Lord. That
pleasure is yours, relish it, and it will comfort and strengthen you
in your work. The joy of the Lord and of charity is our strength.
Salute the children from me, and tell them I long to show them the way
to happiness and Heaven. Have you mastered the stiffness and shyness
of your temper? Charity gives a _meekness, an affability, a child-
like simplicity and openness_, which nature has denied you. Let me
find you shining by these virtues, and you will revive me much. God
bless your labour about the sheep and the lambs!"

An insight into his own persevering way of working may well be gained
from the directions he give's in a letter written from Bristol to Mr.
Wase, of Madeley:--

"MY DEAR BROTHER,--Go to Mrs. Cound, and tell her I charge her, in the
name of God, to give up the world, to set out with all speed for
Heaven, and to join the few about her who fear God. If she refuses,
call again; call weekly, if not daily, and warn her from me till she
is ripe for glory.... Give my love to George Crannage; tell him to
make haste to Christ, and not to doze away his last days."

To the whole of his parishioners he wrote, on one occasion, an epistle
through which we gain a glimpse of the tenderness and beauty of his
spirit, chastened still more, as it then was, by affliction:--

"MY DEAR COMPANIONS IN TRIBULATION,--All the children of God I love;
but of all the children of God, none have so great a right, to my love
as you. Your stated or occasional attendance on my poor ministry, as
well as the bonds of neighbourhood, and the many happy hours I have
spent with you before the throne of Grace, endear you peculiarly to
me. . . .

"I sometimes feel a desire of being buried where you are buried, and
of having my bones lie in a common earthen bed with yours; but I soon
resign that wish, and exult in thinking that, whatever distance there
may be between our graves, we can now bury our sins, cares, doubts,
and fears, in the one grave of our Divine Saviour. If I, your poor
unworthy shepherd, am smitten, be not scattered, but rather be more
closely gathered unto Christ, and keep near each other in faith and
love, till you all receive our second Comforter and Advocate, the Holy
Ghost, the third Person in our _Covenant God._ He is with you;
but if you plead the promise of the Father, 'which,' says Christ, 'ye
have heard of Me, He will be _in_ you.' He will fill your souls
with His light, love, und glory, according to that verse which we have
so often sung together:--

  "Refining Fire, go through my heart,
    Illuminate my soul;
  Scatter Thy life through every part,
    And sanctify the whole.

"This indwelling of the Comforter perfects the mystery of
sanctification in the believer's soul. This is the highest blessing of
the Christian covenant on earth. Rejoicing in God our Creator, in God
our Redeemer, let us look for the full comfort of God our Sanctifier.
So shall we live and die in the faith, going on from faith to faith,
from strength to strength, from comfort to comfort, till Christ is all
in all to us all."



CHAPTER XVI.

AN UNFORTUNATE PURCHASE.



Mary Bosanquet was doomed to suffer through her friends. She was
greatly tried by interfering advisers, and through ill-given counsel
she took steps which caused anxieties to thicken and debts to
accumulate. It was anything but an easy life, yet it was illuminated
by wonderful answers to prayer. On one occasion she had to find a
large sum of money in the course of a day or two.

"You had better borrow it until your own half-yearly cheque comes in,"
said Mrs. Ryan.

They tried, but were unsuccessful. Miss Bosanquet went to prayer, and
it seemed to her as if the Lord Jesus Christ stood by her side and
repeated some words she had lately read: "Christ charges Himself with
all your temporal affairs, while you charge yourself with those that
relate to His glory." Such power accompanied the utterance as "wiped
away every care," as she put it to herself. While yet she thanked her
Lord for His promise a knock came to her door. A man had called to
bring her just the amount she needed.

Not a little trouble came to Mary Bosanquet through a Miss Lewen who
stayed in her house, received much good, and was nursed through an
illness which proved unto death.

Many ill-natured persons credited the kindly hostess with an effort to
secure Miss Lewen's fortune for her work, but the reverse was the
case, she having cost the little House of Mercy many pounds without
contributing anything towards it.

A man named Richard Taylor was her next trial--a debtor and
improvident, with a wife and family of small children. Being
recommended to her good graces, he stayed for a time in her household
while trying to arrange with his creditors. He accompanied Miss
Bosanquet, Mrs. Ryan, and Mrs. Crosby upon a troublesome journey to
Yorkshire, taken with the double purpose of benefiting Sarah Ryan's
fast-failing health, and of seeking a larger and more suitable Orphan
Home than the one in Leytonstone. The latter object was accomplished,
but Mrs. Ryan gradually sank, and to her friend's great sorrow they
had to bury her in the old churchyard of Leeds.

The northern Home involved three times the work required by the other;
wheat had to be ground to flour before home-made bread could be baked,
cows managed and milked, men-servants overlooked; all the details, in
fact, of a country house and a large household came under review. This
alone would have brought more than enough responsibility, but on the
advice of Richard Taylor and another Yorkshire friend, Miss Bosanquet
unfortunately bought a farm with malt-kilns attached, and began to
build a house suitable for the size of her family.

The investment turned out an unhappy failure. The work of God
prospered mightily, but the settling of Taylor's affairs cost her
between £200 and £300; the house was an inn-of-call for all Methodists
travelling through the district (which could not be without incurring
much expense); the farm and kilns swallowed increasingly large sums of
money, and Taylor was an extravagant manager.

Had it not been for the unfailing kindness and help of a gentleman who
many times proposed to Miss Bosanquet in vain, she would have come out
of the affair penniless. Friends greatly urged this marriage upon her.
Her rule in these cases was to ask herself, "Should I be holier or
happier with this man?" The answer was invariably "No!" and in this
particular instance the thought of her saintly friend at Madeley arose
to make the idea doubly disagreeable to her.

In great distress, she began to live on bread and water in order to
economise, and go no further into debt, but the night following this
forlorn effort God came very near and comforted her with the promise
of deliverance in a way she knew not. She says:--

"He showed me (by a light on my understanding) that all my trials were
appointed by Himself; that they were laid on by weight and measure,
and should go no farther than they would work for my good. . . . I had
depended on creatures for help, and therefore He had let me feel the
weight of my burdens, that I might be constrained to cast them afresh
on Him; and that, when He had proved and tried me, He would deliver me
from all my outward burdens. As a pledge of the inward liberty He
would afterwards bring me into, and that the ways and means of my
deliverance were in His own hands, and should appear in the appointed
time, those words were again brought powerfully to my mind--'If thou
...put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.... Yea, the Almighty
shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver...and
shalt lift up thy face unto God.... Thou shalt also decree a thing,
and it shall be established unto thee; and the light shall shine upon
thy ways.'...It was a profitable and melting time."

Thus, even in the midst of her troubles, was Mary Bosanquet comforted
of God.



CHAPTER XVII.

The College of Trevecca.



An important episode in the life of John Fletcher was his association
with the College of Trevecca, opened by the Countess of Huntingdon,
for young men who desired to devote themselves to the service of
Christ. A gratuitous education for three years, with lodging, board,
and clothing, was provided for each student, the young men being
afterwards free to enter whatever church they preferred.

Above all, it was important that the College should have a President
whose advice could be relied upon concerning the choice, conduct and
work of both masters and students--practically an unsalaried head of
affairs. To this post was called the Vicar of Madeley, and though
naturally unable to be resident in the College, he accepted the duties
of President, and, as such, gave most valuable service.

A little later than this Fletcher undertook to be Chaplain (one of
three) to the Earl of Buchan, who was known as one of the most devoted
Christians of his rank.

Notwithstanding these duties, Fletcher's work became increasingly
itinerant in character. Wesley says:--

"For many years he regularly preached at places eight, ten, and
sixteen miles off, returning the same night, though he seldom got home
before one or two in the morning. At a little Society which he had
gathered about six miles from Madeley, he preached two or three times
a week, beginning at five in the morning.... In some of his journeys
he had not only difficulties, but dangers likewise, to encounter. One
day, as he was riding over a wooden bridge, just as he got to the
middle thereof, it broke in. The mare's forelegs sank into the river,
but her breast and hinder parts were kept up by the bridge. In that
position she lay as still as if she had been dead, till he got over
her neck and took off his bags, in which were several MSS., the
spoiling of which would have occasioned much trouble. He then
endeavoured to raise her up, but she would not stir till he went over
the other part of the bridge. But no sooner did he set his feet upon
the ground than she began to plunge. Immediately the remaining part of
the bridge broke down and sunk with her into the river. But presently
she rose and swam to him."

Other adventures befell Fletcher in his travels, some of them ending
in the narrowest escapes from injury and death.

In the early part of the year 1770 Fletcher visited Italy, France, and
his native Switzerland, with his friend Mr. Ireland. Few details are
preserved, but it seems to have been an uncommonly lively tour. Mr.
Ireland tells of the Vicar's enthusiasm for unmasking various
practices of the Italian priests, which placed them frequently in
danger of their lives.

During this trip they met with a classical scholar who said he had
"travelled all over Europe, and had passed through all the societies
in England to find a person whose life corresponded with the Gospels
and with Paul's Epistles." Almost defiantly he demanded of Mr. Ireland
if he knew a single clergyman or Dissenting minister in his native
land possessed of £100 a year who would not desert his living for any
other if offered double that amount. Mr. Ireland triumphantly pointed
to his travelling companion, saying, "_That_ man would not!"

The traveller turned to Mr. Fletcher and began a religious argument,
which the two kept up at intervals for a whole week. The Vicar
overcame his opponent again and again, and though the latter lost his
temper continually over his repeated defeats, the calm, sweet
reasonableness of Fletcher's spirit, as much as the overwhelming
weight of his arguments for Jesus Christ, made a lasting impression
upon his mind. Eight years later he showed his appreciation by
becoming the Vicar's host in Provence, and treating him with the
greatest reverence and attention.

While in Paris he was sent for to visit a sick woman. Information
having been given to a magistrate which ascribed to him wrong motives,
a garbled case was got up, and an order of apprehension was issued
from the King. An officer called at the house where the friends were
staying to serve the order. Mr. Ireland stepped out and, without
mentioning his name, said quietly, "Sir, have you an order for me?" "I
have," responded the officer, taking him for Fletcher. They went off
together, and Mr. Fletcher was well out of the city before the
magistrate disgustedly discovered the mistake.

When in the south of France, Fletcher determined to visit the
Protestants of the Cevennes Mountains, and nothing would serve him but
that he should perform the long and difficult journey on foot, with
but a staff in his hand. He disdained to appear well cared for, and on
horseback, at the doors of those whose fathers were hunted for their
faith from rock to rock. He set out in his own fashion, therefore; on
the first night of his travels begging the use of a chair in some
humble cottage until morning. The peasant was reluctant to admit his
strange guest, but when he had heard him talk and pray, himself, no
less than his wife and children, were affected to tears. "I nearly
refused to let a stranger into my house," related the peasant to his
neighbours, "but when he came I found more angel than man."

Nor was this the only person who held such an opinion. Wesley tells of
another visit paid by the Vicar upon his way to call upon a minister
of the district. A little crowd was assembled at the door of a house
where a mother and her newly-born child were dying. The room was also
filled with neighbours. Fletcher went in, spoke gently to the people
present of the effects of the sin of our first parent, and pointed
them to Jesus. "Jesus!" he exclaimed, "He is able to raise the dead,
to save you all from sin, to save these from death. Come, let us ask
Him!"

In prayer he had wondrous liberty. The child's convulsions ceased, the
mother became easy, and strength flowed into her as he prayed. The
neighbours gazed astonished, and silently withdrew, whispering to one
another when without the house, "_Certainly it was an angel!_"

On their journey from France to Italy the travellers arrived at the
Appian Way. Fletcher stopped the carriage and descended, remarking to
his friend, "I cannot _ride_ over ground where the Apostle Paul
once _walked,_ chained to a soldier;" and taking off his hat he
walked up the old Roman road praising God for the glorious Gospel
preached by His servant of long ago.

Nor was this affectation upon Fletcher's part. Nothing was further
from his thoughts at any time than to _make an impression_ upon
those around him. Perhaps for this very reason the mark he did make
was indelible. No man ever spent an hour with the Vicar of Madeley
without being spiritually better for it.

Arrived at Nyon, he was pressed to occupy several pulpits. Crowds
flocked after him from place to place, sinners were awakened, scoffers
silenced, and many were brought to seek Jesus as the only Saviour.

One aged minister besought him to prolong his visit, if only for an
additional week. When assured it was impossible, he turned to Mr.
Ireland with tears running down his cheeks. "Oh, sir," he exclaimed,
"how unfortunate for my country! During my lifetime it has produced
but one angel of a man, and now it is our lot to. lose him."

The parting from these good people was almost overwhelming. Some of
the multitude which gathered to say good-bye followed the carriage for
over two miles, unwilling to lose sight of one who had brought them so
near to God.

More than ordinary welcome awaited him at Trevecca. Joseph Benson--
headmaster of the College, and Fletcher's biographer in latter days--
wrote of it thus:--

"He was received as an angel of God. It is not possible for me to
describe the veneration in which we all held him. Like Elijah in the
schools of the prophets, he was revered; he was loved; he was almost
adored; not only by every student, but by every member of the family.

"And, indeed, he was worthy. . . . Though by the body he was tied down
to earth, _his whole conversation was in Heaven_. His _life_,
from day to day, was _hid with Christ in God._ Prayer, praise,
love, and zeal, all ardent, elevated above what one would think
attainable in this state of frailty, were the element in which he
continually lived. As to others, his one employment was to call,
entreat and urge them to ascend with him to the glorious source of
being and blessedness. He had leisure, comparatively, for nothing
else. Languages, arts, sciences, grammar, rhetoric, logic, even
divinity itself, were all laid aside when he appeared in the
schoolroom among the students. His full heart would not suffer him to
be silent. He _must_ speak, and they were readier to hearken to
this servant and minister of Jesus Christ than to attend to Sallust,
Virgil, Cicero, or any Latin or Greek historian, poet, or philosopher
they had been engaged in reading. And they seldom hearkened long
before they were all in tears, and every heart catched lire from the
flame that burned in his soul.

"These seasons generally terminated in this. Being convinced that to
be 'filled with the Holy Ghost' was a better qualification for the
ministry of the Gospel than any classical learning...after speaking
awhile in the schoolroom, he used frequently to say, 'As many of you
as are athirst for the fulness of the Spirit, follow me into my room.'
On this, many of us instantly followed him, and there continued till
noon, _for two or three hours_, praying for one another till we
could bear to kneel no longer.... I have sometimes seen him...so
filled with the love of God that he cried out, 'O my God, withhold Thy
hand, or the vessel will burst!' But he afterwards told me he was
afraid he had grieved the Spirit of God, and that he ought to have
prayed that the Lord would have enlarged the vessel, or have suffered
it to break, that the soul might have had no further bar to its
enjoyment of the Supreme Good."

Few headmasters have had the opportunity to speak of the President of
their college as the headmaster of Trevecca was led to do of Fletcher.



CHAPTER XVIII.

A PEN OF POWER.



Early in the new year of 1771 the happy relations of Fletcher and
Wesley with the Countess of Huntingdon were shattered by unfortunate
differences in theology, Mr. Fletcher, held by certain utterances of
Wesley against Calvinistic doctrine, finding himself, as a result,
obliged to resign his Presidency of Trevecca College. Circumstances,
regretted most of all by himself, drew Fletcher into a long Calvinian
controversy, and to the publication of his famous "Checks to
Antinomianism," and remarkable and closely-reasoned vindication of the
doctrines by which he held, abounding in the plainest of plain speech.

The Calvinian controversy was long and bitter, being succeeded by a
Unitarian controversy, which became equally prominent. Both
disturbances were productive of much discussion, of many pamphlets, of
"Vindications," and "Answers," and "Circulars," and "Letters." Into
this word-war Fletcher was drawn much against his own preference, but
when once the fight had been entered upon, it was almost impossible
for him to extricate himself until it was fought out.

"What a world!" he wrote to Benson; "methinks I dream when I reflect
that I have written on controversy; the last subject I thought I
should have meddled with. I expect to be smartly taken in hand and
soundly drubbed for it. Lord, prepare me for it, and for everything
that may make me cease from man, and, above all, from your unworthy
servant."

Enemies there were, not a few, who rejoiced at an opportunity of
hurling abuse at a good man--some of the sharp and stinging things
they said amounted to actual slander. To know how keen was the fight,
how bitter and provoking the attacks made, one must read the
correspondence and pamphlets then issued; but in the midst of it all
Wesley was able to write of his friend:--

"I rejoice not only in the abilities, but in the temper, of Mr.
Fletcher. He writes as he lives. I cannot say that I know such another
clergyman in England or Ireland. He is all fire, but it is the fire of
love. His writings, like his constant conversation, breathe nothing
else, to those who read him with an impartial eye."

The controversy was much to be deplored on account of the personal
element brought in at all points, yet Fletcher's clear and eloquent
writings in his "Checks" was a fine service rendered to the Christian
faith. Once more to quote Wesley:--

"In his 'Checks to Antinomianism,' one knows not which to admire most
--the _purity_ of the language, the _strength_ and _clearness_
of the argument, or the _mildness_ and _sweetness_ of the
spirit that breathes through the whole. Insomuch that I nothing
wonder at a serious clergyman, who, being resolved to live and die
in his own opinion, when he was pressed to read them, replied, 'No,
I will never read Mr. Fletcher's "Checks," for if I did I should be
of his mind.'"

In January, 1773, a memorial letter was written to the Vicar of
Madeley by John Wesley, asking him to become his successor as leader
and head of the Methodist people. Indeed, the venerable Father of
Methodism would have had his instant aid, for his letter concludes:--

"Without conferring, therefore, with flesh and blood, come and
strengthen the hands, comfort the heart, and share the labour of "Your
affectionate friend and brother, "JOHN WESLEY."

Fletcher's response was tentative; not wholly a refusal, yet not an
acceptance:--

"I would not leave this place," he concluded, in reply, "without a
fuller persuasion that the time is _quite_ come. Not that God
uses me much here, but I have not yet sufficiently cleared my
conscience from the blood of all men. Meantime, I beg the Lord to
guide me by His counsel, and make me willing to go anywhere, or
nowhere, to be anything, or nothing.

"Help by your prayers till you can bless by word of mouth, Rev. and
dear Sir, your willing, though unprofitable servant in the Gospel.

                                                      "J. FLETCHER."

Wesley was greatly against his saintly friend hiding his light under
the bushel of a country vicarage. Thirteen years later he wrote his
own opinion of Fletcher's mission:--

"He was full as much called to sound an alarm through all the nation
as Mr. Whitefield himself. Nay, abundantly more so, seeing he was far
better qualified for that important work. He had a more striking
person, equally good breeding, an equally winning address, together
with a richer flow of fancy, a stronger understanding; a far greater
treasure of learning, both in languages, philosophy, philology, and
divinity; and, above all (which I can speak with fuller assurance,
because I had a thorough knowledge both of one and the other), a more
deep and constant communion with the Father, and with the Son, Jesus
Christ."

Before a year had passed Fletcher's health began to fail, and he was
glad to devote himself to the writing which proved so useful and
convincing. To Mr. Ireland he wrote:--

"My throat is not formed for the labours of preaching. When I have
preached three or four times together it inflames and fills up; and
the efforts which I am then obliged to make heat my blood. Thus I am,
by nature, as well as by the circumstances I am in, obliged to employ
my time in writing a little. O that I may be enabled to do it to the
glory of God!"

Perhaps nothing he wrote more fully conduced to that lofty purpose
than his famous "Polemical Essay on the Twin Doctrines of Christian
Imperfection and a Death Purgatory"; than which few clearer, more
convincing, or more able vindications of Scriptural holiness have ever
been written. Can aught be plainer than the definition of Christian
perfection which follows:--

"...Christian perfection is nothing but the depth of evangelical
repentance, the full assurance of faith, and the pure love of God and
man shed abroad in a faithful believer's heart, by the Holy Ghost
given unto him, to cleanse him, and to keep him clean, 'from all
filthiness of the flesh and spirit'; and to enable him to  fulfil the
law of Christ' according to the talents he is entrusted with, and the
circumstances in which he is placed in this world.... This is evident
from the descriptions of Christian perfection which we find in the New
Testament."

In a practical, almost homely, manner, Fletcher deals with questions
we often hear put to-day. For instance :--

"_How many baptisms, or effusions of the sanctifying Spirit, are
necessary to cleanse a believer from all sin, and to kindle his soul
into perfect love?..._ If you asked your physician how many doses
of physic you must take before all the crudities of your stomach can
be carried off, and your appetite perfectly restored, he would
probably answer you that this depends upon the nature of those
crudities, the strength of the medicine, and the manner in which your
constitution will allow it to operate, and that, in general, you must
repeat the dose, as you can bear, till the remedy has fully answered
the desired end. I return a similar answer: If one powerful baptism of
the Spirit 'seals you unto the day of redemption,' and 'cleanses you
from all' moral 'filthiness,' so much the better. If two or more are
necessary, the Lord can repeat them.

"_Which is the way to Christian perfection? Shall we go to it by
internal stillness, agreeably to the direction of Moses and David ...
or shall we press after it by an internal wrestling according to the
commands of Christ?..._ The way to perfection is by the due
combination of prevenient, assisting free grace, and of submissive,
assisted free will.... 'God worketh in you to will and to do,' says
St. Paul. Here he describes the passive office of faith, which submits
to, and acquiesces in, every divine dispensation and operation.
'Therefore work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,' and,
of consequence, with haste, diligence, ardour, and faithfulness....
Would ye then wait aright for Christian perfection? Impartially admit
the two Gospel axioms, and faithfully reduce them to practice. In
order to this, let them meet in your hearts, as the two legs of a pair
of compasses meet in the rivet which makes them one compound
instrument.... When your heart quietly rests in God by faith, as it
steadily acts the part of a passive receiver, it resembles the leg of
the compasses which rests in the centre of a circle; and then the
poet's expressions, 'restless, resigned' ("_Restless, resigned, for
God I wait; for God my vehement soul stands still_."--Wesley),
describes its fixedness in God. But when your heart swiftly moves
towards God by faith, as it acts the part of a diligent worker; when
your ardent soul follows after God, as a thirsty deer does after the
water-brooks, it may be compared to the leg of the compasses which
traces the circumference of a circle; and then these words of the
poet, 'restless' and 'vehement,' properly belong to it.

"Is Christian perfection to be instantaneously brought down to us? or
are we gradually to grow up to it? Shall we be made perfect in love by
an habit of holiness suddenly infused into us, or by acts of feeble
faith and feeble love so frequently repeated as to become strong,
habitual, and evangelically natural to us?"

Such are the difficulties with which Fletcher deals, patiently and
fully turning them inside out, comparing and contrasting, defining and
enlarging, leading the reader step by step to the conclusion that
Christian perfection is essentially the perfection of _love_,
love, "the highest gift of God, humble, gentle, patient love," shed
abroad in the heart of the believer by the perpetual anointing of the
Holy Spirit.

As he finds his climax in Wesley's words, let us read them in the
sense of his own quotation:--

"All visions, revelations, manifestations whatever, are little things
compared to love.... The Heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing
higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else. If you look for
anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are
getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, 'Have
you received this or that blessing?' if you mean any thing but more
love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting
them upon a false scent. Settle it, then, in your heart, that, from
the moment God has saved you from all sin you are to aim at nothing
but more of that love described in 1 Cor. xiii. You can go no higher
than this till you are carried into Abraham's bosom."

One of the Greenwood family, with whom Fletcher frequently stayed,
made a reference to this production of his thought, which it were well
to remember: "Whoever has had the privilege of observing Mr.
Fletcher's conduct will not scruple to say that _he was a living
comment on his own account of Christian perfection_.... As far as
man is able to judge, he did possess perfect humility, perfect
resignation, and perfect love."



CHAPTER XIX.

FAILING HEALTH



Unwilling as he might be for further controversy, Fletcher quickly
discovered that he had not yet done with it. Toplady, Vicar of a Devon
village, and so-called author of "Rock of Ages," bitterly attacked a
tract of Mr. Wesley's on Predestination, referring to some of his own
Calvinian heresies. Wesley had neither time nor inclination to wage a
paper war with an angry man. The work was undertaken by Fletcher, who
found himself plunged afresh into the troubled waters of religious
controversy. In his very Introduction Fletcher refuses to have
anything to say to the personal charges vindictively hurled by his
opponent:--

"These charges," he writes, "being chiefly founded upon Mr. Toplady's
logical mistakes, they will, of their own accord, fall to the ground
as soon as the mistakes on which they rest shall be exposed. May the
God of truth and love grant that if Mr. Toplady has the honour of
producing the best arguments, I, for one, may have the advantage of
yielding to them! To be conquered by truth and love is to prove
conqueror over our two greatest enemies--error and sin."

He then proceeds to deal with each of Toplady's _seventy-three_
arguments in favour of Predestination, abolishing them one by one, but
in a cool, calm, reasonable way which contrasts nobly and sweetly with
the angry prejudice of the other.

His preaching tours were interfered with by this work, but he deemed
himself to be doing as much, if not more, for God by pouring the
daylight of heavenly reason upon the errors which darkened the minds,
narrowed the perspective, and burdened the hearts of so many in that
day of Calvinian controversy.

Strangely enough, Fletcher's next essay was into the arena of
_political_ strife--or, as he terms it, "Christian politics"--
being led thereto by a pamphlet of Wesley's upon the American War of
Independence then raging. He thoroughly prepared himself, not
unnecessarily, for the storm which was to follow; for the minds of men
were divided, and political speech has ever tended to undue licence
and heat.

The Government of George III., however, considered that Fletcher had
uttered words as valuable as they were timely. The Secretary of State
for the Colonies introduced the tract to the Lord Chancellor, and he
to the King. It was not long before Fletcher was asked if he would
entertain the idea of any preferment in the Church; was there aught
which the Lord Chancellor might do for him in this way? His reply
chimed with every act of his life.  "I want nothing," answered the
saintly man; "nothing but more grace."

It was at this time that Fletcher's health showed grievous signs of
failure. His arduous toil, long journeys, close writing, and
insufficient food, had told all too surely upon a delicately-organised
frame. A violent cough beset him, with slight but frequent hæmorrhage.

John Wesley advised an open-air cure, pressing him to spend some
months on horse-back, touring with him through parts of England and
Scotland. They set out together in the early spring, and travelled
1,100 or 1,200 miles in this way (not, however, into Scotland), taking
such journeys as were suited to the invalid's strength. So greatly did
he profit by some weeks in the saddle that Wesley declared if he would
only have continued it for a few months longer he would have become a
strong man once more.

In May, 1776, however, we find him at Bristol Hot Wells, debarred from
his parochial work. Wesley suggested more saddle-cure, proposing a
five-hundred mile tour to Cornwall, but Fletcher had by that time
resigned himself to the hands of a physician who forbade the exertion,
being out of sympathy with a remedy so far in advance of the times.

This medical adviser, however, mistook his case, reducing him to great
weakness. A specialist who then undertook him restored his strength
somewhat by more generous diet, although the relapse which followed
was so serious that his friends thought him to be dying, and his
congregation sang an intercessory hymn composed for the occasion.

From his multiplicity of remedies and advisers, however, Wesley
rescued him once more, put him in the saddle, and led him through
Oxfordshire, Northampton, and Norfolk, bringing him home greatly
benefited for the open air.

Fresh-air treatment, however, needs wisely conducting in the untoward
climate of England, and a self-prescribed ride upon a winter's day of
bitter frost threw Fletcher again into suffering and danger. Friends
nursed him in London, and a noted specialist was brought to him by Mr.
Ireland, whose kindness was ever unfailing; while two or three
physicians regularly attended and gave their best advice. Rest,
silence, and a diet of the richest milk seemed most to help him, but
it was a real sacrifice for him to hold his peace concerning the
intense love of Jesus which filled his soul. Often by signs he would
"stir up those about him to pray and praise."

"When he was able to converse, his favourite subject was _the
promise of the Father, the gift of the Holy Ghost_, including the
rich, peculiar blessing of union with the Father and the Son mentioned
in the prayer of our Lord, recorded in John xvii. 'We must not be
content,' said he, 'to be only cleansed from sin; we must be filled
with the Spirit.' One asking him, What was to be experienced in the
full accomplishment of _the promise_ of the Father? 'Oh,' said he,
'what shall I say? All the sweetness of the drawings of the Father,
all the love of the Son, all the rich effusions of peace and joy in
the Holy Ghost, more than ever can be expressed are comprehended
here! To attain it, the Spirit maketh intercession in the soul, like
a God wrestling with a God.'"

Fletcher's conversation had a savour all its own. He heard and saw
nothing which did not in some way suggest to him the ways and love of
God. He was much in the habit of spiritualising all allusions of an
earthly nature, and what in some men would have sounded like
_cant_ was refined by his inner spirituality to sanctified
quaintness. For instance, Mr. Ireland with great difficulty persuaded
Fletcher to sit for his portrait. While the artist was busy, his
subject used the time in exhorting all in the room to spare no pains
to get the outlines and colourings of the image of Jesus impressed
upon their hearts. During the barbarous blood-letting to which his
physicians subjected him, he would talk very tenderly of "the precious
blood-shedding of the Lamb of God." On being entertained in the house
of a friend he besought the cook to "stir up the Divine fire of love
within his heart, that it might burn up all the rubbish therein, and
raise a flame of holy affection"; while he addressed the housemaid as
follows: "I entreat you to sweep every corner of your heart, that it
may be fit to receive your Heavenly Guest!"

The Rev. Henry Venn met Fletcher at the house of Mr. Ireland, where
they stayed together for six weeks. Referring to this visit some years
later, Mr. Venn remarked to another clergyman:--

"Sir, Mr. Fletcher was a luminary--_a luminary_, did I say? He
was a _sun!_ I have known all the great men for these fifty
years, but I have known none like him. I was intimately acquainted
with him.... I never heard him say a single word which was not proper
to be spoken, and which had not a tendency to minister grace to the
hearers.... Never did I hear Mr. Fletcher speak ill of anyone. He
would pray for those who walked disorderly, but he would not publish
their faults."

Little wonder that both saint and sinner loved this Christly man!



CHAPTER XX.

BY THE SHORES OF LAKE LEMAN.



Unaware of the sickness of her saintly friend (whom she had not met
for fifteen years), Miss Bosanquet was one day extremely startled to
be asked, "Do you know that Mr. Fletcher is dying?" She at once began
to entreat the  Lord for him, and while upon her knees received the
assurance of James v. 15: "The  prayer of faith shall save the sick,
and the Lord shall raise him up."

Just at that time the Methodist Conference was held in Bristol, and
Fletcher, who had returned to the ceaseless care of Mr. Ireland near
by, was one day assisted by him into the assembly. A letter written by
one who was present gives an interesting picture of the scene:--

"The whole assembly stood up as if moved by an electric shock. Mr.
Wesley rose, _ex cathedrâ_, and advanced a few paces to receive
his highly-respected friend and reverend brother, whose visage seemed
strongly to bode that he stood on the verge of the grave, while his
eyes, sparkling with seraphic love, indicated that he dwelt in the
suburbs of Heaven.... He addressed the Conference, on their work and
his own views, in a strain of holy and pathetic eloquence, which no
language of mine can adequately express. The influence of his spirit
and pathos seemed to bear down all before it....He had scarcely
pronounced a dozen sentences before a hundred preachers, to speak in
round numbers, were immersed in tears.... Mr. Wesley, in order to
relieve his languid friend from the fatigue and injury which might
arise from a too long and arduous exertion of the lungs through much
speaking, abruptly kneeled down at his side, the whole congress of
preachers doing the same, while, in a concise and energetic manner,
he prayed for Mr. Fletcher's restoration to health, and a longer
exercise of his ministerial labours. Mr. Wesley closed his prayer with
the following prophetic promise, pronounced in his peculiar manner,
and with a confidence and emphasis which seemed to thrill through
every heart--'HE SHALL NOT DIE, BUT LIVE, AND DECLARE THE WORKS OF THE
LORD?'"

This prophecy was afterwards blessedly fulfilled.

Madeley yearned for its now beloved Vicar, and thinking that all would
be well if he were only once more in their midst, one of his
parishioners brought a horse, designing to walk by him all the way
from Bristol to Madeley. Two or three others came and entreated him to
travel home in a post-chaise, but his physicians forbade his return to
the scene of his old labours, and his parishioners, perforce, returned
disappointed.

Miss Bosanquet thought to help the cure she now expected, and sent a
favourite remedy of her own, which Fletcher acknowledged in a long
letter, but did not try.

Before the year (1777) was spent, Fletcher had so far recovered his
strength as to be able to travel, and, accompanied by Mr. Ireland, two
of his daughters, and other friends, started for Switzerland, that
once more Fletcher might breathe his native air.

A continental journey by post-chaise in December was not unlikely to
prove trying, but though the axle-tree broke, and they were left on
the side of a snow-covered hill with nine miles to walk in the
piercing cold of a north wind, Mr. Fletcher bore the fatigue and cold
as well as any of the party. By the end of February he was able to
ride fifty-five miles in a day. A couple of months later he was
welcomed to his father's house at Nyon once more, where the sweet,
pure air, much riding and plenty of goats' milk conduced to the
healing process at work within him.

"We have a fine shady wood near the lake," he wrote to a friend,
"where I can ride in the cool all the day, and enjoy the singing of a
multitude of birds." Of the way in which he spent his time he says, "I
pray, have patience, rejoice, and write when I can; I saw wood in the
house when I cannot go out; and eat grapes, of which I have always a
basket by me."

"I met some children in my wood gathering strawberries," runs a letter
to Mr. Ireland, who had not accompanied him to Nyon; "I spoke to them
about our _common_ Father. We felt a touch of brotherly
affection. They said they would sing to their Father, as well as the
birds, and followed me, attempting to make such music as you know is
commonly made in these parts. I outrode them, but some of them had the
patience to follow me home, and said they would speak with me. The
people of the house stopped them, saying I would not be troubled with
children. They cried, and said _they were sure I would not say so,
for I was their good brother_. The next day, when I heard this, I
enquired after them, and invited them to come and see me, which they
have done every day since. I make them little hymns, which they sing.
Some of them are under sweet drawings.... Last Sunday I met them in
the wood; there were a hundred of them, and as many adults. Our first
pastor has since desired me to desist from preaching in the wood...
for fear of giving umbrage; and I have complied, from a concurrence of
circumstances which are not worth mentioning; I therefore now meet
them in my father's yard."

In the following winter Fletcher made an eighty-mile journey in order
to assist his English medical adviser and friend, William Perronet, to
secure a Swiss inheritance which he had gone to the Continent to
claim. Part of the distance had to be performed on a sledge through
"narrow passes cut through the snow...frequently on the brinks of
precipices"; some of it was traversed on foot amid hardship and
danger. But neither distances nor difficulties prevented Fletcher from
speaking to all whom he could find ready to listen of Christ and His
boundless love. William Perronet declared that he had preached the
Gospel, not only by words and example, but by _looks_ also,
wherever he went.

From the early days of his frugal feasting upon bread and currants,
Fletcher strongly believed in the plentiful use of fruit as food. His
grapes were succeeded the following summer by a black-cherry diet, and
for severe rheumatism he drank a decoction of pine-apple. He had also
great faith in exercise, riding in preference to driving, walking
whenever he had strength, and when unable to go out of doors allowing
himself three minutes of jumping just before dinner. This may sound a
curious form of exertion, yet it was recommended to him by two
physicians.

Despite the blessing Fletcher was to the people around him--some of
whom pleaded with him _on their knees_, with tears, to remain
with them--there were many in authority who took the greatest
exception to his "irregular" ways of doing good. He was actually
"summoned before the Seigneur Bailiff, who sharply reprimanded him for
preaching against Sabbath-breaking and stage plays." He forbade Mr.
Fletcher preaching in any of the churches of his native country.
Curiously enough, the minister who led this opposition died suddenly,
as he was dressing for church, and a house was given over to the
Vicar's use that he might there exhort the many who came to him for
help and teaching.

While in Switzerland he composed a French poem called "La Louange"
(Praise), which he afterwards enlarged under the title of "Grace and
Nature," dedicating it, by permission, "To the Queen of Great
Britain." He also wrote "The Portrait of St. Paul--the true Model for
Christians and Pastors"; which was translated and published after his
death.

Fletcher arrived in England in April, 1781, preaching at City Road
Chapel on his way to Mr. Ireland's house near Bristol, where, because
his friend was ill, he stayed a month, returning to Madeley in May,
after having been absent four and a-half years.

He found his parish under a cloud, "but, alas!" he exclaimed, "it is
not the luminous cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night. Even
the few remaining professors stared at me the other day when I
preached to them on these words: 'Ye shall receive the Holy Ghost, for
the promise is unto you.'"

So sad was he about the spiritual condition of his parishioners, that
he applied to Wesley for one of his helpers, who was then a master in
Kingswood School; believing truly that two who were of one mind, both
living in communion with the Holy Ghost, had great hope of bringing to
life a dead parish, even though one were not an authorised curate, and
the other but a sick vicar. Fletcher had learned to look _past
man_--to God and God alone.



CHAPTER XXI.

A WONDERFUL WEDDING.



There existed no "chance" or "ill-fortune" for Fletcher. Whatever
happened was subject, he believed,  to the over-ruling providence and
direction  of God, and for him there was no second causes, no human
marplots. He could always sing--

  Thrice comfortable hope
    That calms my troubled breast;
  My Father's hand prepares the cup,
    And what He wills is best.

When in answer to a letter of his to Miss Bosanquet on Christian
Perfection there was sent to him a reply which, by the forgetfulness
of a friend, lay in a drawer for three years undelivered, he wrote on
the morning of its belated arrival:--

"You speak, Madam, of _a letter from Bath_; I do not recollect,
at present, your having favoured me with one from that place. Is it my
lot to be tried or disappointed in this respect? Well, the hairs of
our heads, and the letters of our friends, are all numbered; not one
of the former falls, not one of the latter miscarries, without the
will of Him to whose orders we have long since fully and cheerfully
subscribed."

Miss  Bosanquet was at this time in dire difficulties at Cross Hall.
Perplexed by contrary advice, embarrassed by ever-increasing financial
loss, opposed by those who ridiculed her work as a mission to the
mean, "a call to the care of cows and horses, sheep and pigs," and
criticised even by those to whom she acted as daily benefactor, her
path was by no means an easy one, and eagerly she looked to the Lord
for deliverance, although she knew not whence it would come.

She suffered more than she could ever describe through the public work
she was called to do. "None, O my God, but Thyself, knows what I go
through for every public meeting!" she exclaimed in her diary. Yet,
though this shrinking was combined with exceedingly delicate health,
she never shirked her duty, but went steadily on with housekeeping,
farming, nursing, or public speaking, just as the Lord gave it to her
to do--even consenting to stand upon a horse-block at Huddersfield to
address a crowd whom otherwise she could not have reached. "Indeed,
for none but Thee, my Lord," she cried after that ordeal, "would I
take up this sore cross!... O do Thine own will upon me in all
things!"

On the seventh day of June, a month after Fletcher's return to
Madeley, was the fourteenth anniversary of Miss Bosanquet's troubled
sojourn in Yorkshire. "On that day," she relates, "I took a particular
view of my whole situation, and saw difficulties as mountains rise
around me. Faith was hard put to it. The promises seemed to stand
sure, and I thought the season was come; yet the waters were deeper
than ever."

During this time, however, their correspondence had been renewed, and
to Fletcher the thought of Mary Bosanquet was bringing more than
ordinary comfort and joy.

Finding his health so greatly improved, he thought he might venture
upon a still closer friendship, and the very day after Miss
Bosanquet's "mountains" and "deeper waters" seemed to hem her in, a
new door opened for her in a proposal of marriage, which assured her
of the regard Fletcher had secretly treasured for her for twenty-five
long years.

In August Mr. Fletcher travelled to Yorkshire to attend Wesley's
conference at Leeds, and Mary Bosanquet's diary contains this brief
record:--

"We corresponded with openness and freedom till August 1st, when he
came to Cross Hall and abode there a month; preaching in different
places with much power, and having opened our hearts to each other,
both on temporals and spirituals, we believed it to be the order of
God we should become one, when He should make our way plain."

That Fletcher could love, and that ardently, will be seen from a
letter written a few weeks later to the woman of his choice:--

"O Polly! generous, faithful Polly! Dost thou indeed permit me to
write to thy friends, and to ask the invaluable gift of thy hand? That
hand, that is _half_ mine shall be wholly mine...Polly! I read
thy letter, and wondered at the expression in it--'_If you think me
worth writing for._' Ah, my holy, my loving, my lovely, my precious
friend, I think thee worth writing for _with my vital blood_; I
am only sorry that I had not thee beside me to write with thy
_wisdom_...

"'Difficulties!' If thou hast any I shall gladly share them with thee,
and think myself well repaid with the pleasure of praying and praising
_with thee_ and _for thee_. Therefore, do not talk of _struggling
through alone_. I charge thee, by thy faithfulness, let me be _alone_
as little time as thou canst...

"I thank thee for that believing sentence--'But all shall be right.'
The worst thy friends can do is to keep thy money, which I look upon
as dung and dross in comparison of thee. Ah, Polly! with the
_treasure_ of _thy_ friendship, and the _unsearchable_ riches of
Christ, how rich thinkest thou I am? Count--cast up--but thou wilt
never make out the amazing sum....

"I embrace thee in spirit, and more than mix my soul with thine."
(From "Wesley's Designated Successor.")

Of the oneness established between them John Wesley writes
interestingly:--

"He (Mr. Fletcher) was upon all occasions very uncommonly reserved in
speaking of himself, whether in writing or conversation. He hardly
ever said anything concerning himself, unless it slipped from him
unawares. . . . This defect was indeed, in some measure, supplied by
the entire intimacy which subsisted between him and Mrs. Fletcher. He
did not willingly, much less designedly, conceal anything from her.
They had no secrets with regard to each other, but had indeed one
house, one purse, and one heart. Before her, it was his invariable
rule to _think aloud_; always to open the window in his breast."
The story of Mary Bosanquet's deliverance from her Cross Hall
embarrassments is practically a leaf from God's Providence Book.

At the end of October the aspect of her difficulties had in no sense
changed, but it was borne in upon both herself and Mr. Fletcher that
they should act as though God were indeed working for them. They
agreed to marry in a fortnight, but for the first week all remained as
it was. In the beginning of the second week a gentleman arrived to buy
Cross Hall for £1,620. Three days later another purchased the farm
implements and stock. One by one, each inmate of the house was
provided for with the exception of a poor cripple with great
infirmities, whose home had been with Miss Bosanquet for sixteen
years. The very night before the wedding even she was provided for.
Sally Lawrence, the adopted girl, was to be taken with them to
Madeley.

One little item still remained to trouble the bride--a little payment
for the estate was not to be made immediately, and in order to provide
certain sums to settle the various Cross Hall inmates in suitable
homes, as well as to pay a few current accounts, £100 was required.
The matter was laid in faith before Him to whom belongs all the silver
and the gold, and by the next post came a bank-note for £100 as a
present from Mary Bosanquet's youngest brother!

The diary is brief as usual concerning the wedding, but it meant very
much to both of them that, without a hindrance remaining, the bride
should be able to write:--

"So, on Monday, the 12th of November, 1781, in Batley Church, we
covenanted in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost, 'to bear each other's burdens,' and to become one for ever."

Mrs. Crosby gives us a look-in upon that memorable marriage day:--

"On the morning of the day several friends met together. They reached
Cross Hall before family prayers. Mr. Fletcher . . . read Rev. xix. 7-
9: 'Let us be glad, and rejoice, and give honour to Him, for the
marriage of the Lamb is come,' etc. Mr. Fletcher then spoke from these
verses in such a manner as greatly tended to spiritualise the
solemnities of the day. He said, 'We invite you to our wedding, but
the Holy Ghost invites you to the marriage of the Lamb. The bride, the
Lamb's wife, represents the whole Church, triumphant and militant
united together. You may all be the bride, and Jesus will condescend
to be the Bridegroom. Make yourselves ready by being filled with the
Spirit.' He then engaged in prayer. . . . They were married in the
face of the congregation; the doors were opened, and everyone came in
that would. We then returned home, and spent a considerable time in
singing and prayer. There were nearly twenty of us....

"From dinner, which was a spiritual meal as well as a natural one,
until tea-time, our time was chiefly spent in prayer or singing. After
singing the covenant hymn Mr. Fletcher went to Mrs. Fletcher and said
to her, 'Well, my dearest friend, will you unite with me in joining
ourselves in a perpetual covenant to the Lord? Will you with me serve
Him in His members? Will you help me to bring souls to the Blessed
Redeemer? And in every possible way this day lay yourself under the
strongest ties you can, to help me to glorify my gracious Lord?' She
answered, 'May God help me so to do!'

"In the evening Mr. Valton preached in the hall from 'What shall I
render unto the Lord for all His benefits? I will take the cup of
salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.' His words did not fall
to the ground; many were greatly refreshed. After the preaching there
was a sweet contest among us; everyone thought, 'I, in particular, owe
the greatest debt of praise'; at length we agreed to sing--

  "I'll praise my Maker while I've breath,
  And when my voice is lost in death
    Praise shall employ my nobler powers;
  My days of praise shall ne'er be past,
    While life, and thought, and being last,
         Or immortality endures!"



CHAPTER XXII.

LIFE AT MADELEY.



When a post-chaise drove up to Cross Hall on January and, the crack of
the whip made sweet music in the ears of Mrs. Fletcher, for behind
those horses she was to make her bridal journey to Madeley, where they
were to take up their work together in the name of the Lord.

Cries the praiseful diary:--

"How shall I find language to express the goodness of the Lord! I know
no want but that of more grace. I have a husband in everything suited
to me. He bears with all my faults and failings in a manner that
continually reminds me of the text, 'Love your wives as Christ loved
the church.' His constant endeavour is to make me happy; his strongest
desire is for my spiritual growth. He is, in every sense of the word,
the man my highest reason chooses to obey."

Fletcher himself had greatly changed his opinion since the indictment
of his "Reasons for and against Matrimony." To a friend he wrote his
new sentiments thus:--

"God declared it was not good that man, a social being, should live
alone, and therefore He gave him a helpmeet for him. For the same
reason our Lord sent forth His disciples, two and two. Had I searched
the three kingdoms I could not have found one brother willing to share
gratis my weal, woe, and labours, and complaisant enough to unite his
fortunes to mine; but God has found me a partner, _a sister_, _a
wife_, to use St. Paul's language, who is not afraid to face with
me the colliers and bargemen of my parish, until death part us.

"Buried together in our country village, we shall help one another to
trim our lamps, and wait for the coming of the Heavenly Bridegroom."

Mrs. Fletcher's introduction to her husband's parishioners was
sufficiently homely and simple. The Madeley kitchen was full of those
who had come from a distance, and who were accustomed to take
refreshments there between the two services. He led her forward into
their midst, adding to his introduction the words, "I have not married
this wife for myself only, but for your sakes also."

Only a few weeks later they were honoured by a visit from John Wesley
himself, who, friend of method as he was, felt anxious that they
should lay down an exactly regular way of ordering their time, even as
Mary Bosanquet had done for her larger household in the past.

Whether they complied with the suggestion or not is unrecorded, but
Mrs. Fletcher makes beautiful mention of interruptions to her ordinary
routine, caused by unexpected visitors:--

"I have this day been engaged in company, and sweetly met the order of
God therein."

Blessed secret of peace!

God had so united this saintly man and woman in love and grace that
they had abundant cause to write of each other as we find them doing.
Once more to the diary:--

"May 30th, 1782.... I have the kindest and tenderest of husbands; of
so spiritual a man, and so spiritual a union, I had no adequate
conception."

To Charles Wesley Fletcher writes in his turn :-

"I thank you for your hint about exemplifying the love of Christ and
His Church. I hope we do.... My wife is far better to me than the
Church to Christ, so that if the parallel fails, it will be on my
side."

Between November, 1782, and January, 1783, peace was made by Great
Britain with America, France, and Spain. Fletcher made this the
occasion of another poem, written in French, entitled, "An Essay upon
the Peace of 1783. Dedicated to the Archbishop of Paris."

Five months after their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher were invited to
visit the Methodists of Dublin. The Vicar had been absent so long from
his people that he found further absence just then impossible. Sixteen
months later, however, Dr. Coke came from Dublin and renewed the
invitation, which they accepted.

They set forth upon their five-day journey, attended by the faithful
Sally Lawrence, Mr. Fletcher preaching unannounced at Shrewsbury and
Llangollen by the way. They spent seven weeks in Dublin, and from
accounts written by others, the preaching of the Vicar and the
faithful class-leading and personal dealing of his wife were blessed
in a remarkable manner. A great revival of pure religion followed; as
an evidence of which the membership of the Methodist Society in that
city was permanently raised from five hundred to one thousand, and a
great hunger to know God and to like Him was awakened in the hearts of
the people.

One church, indeed, opened its doors to him, but when it was known
that he was preaching also in Methodist meeting-houses he was given to
understand how unwelcome he would be in any of the pulpits of his
clerical brethren. The French Church alone said, "Come!" and many
flocked there who could understand no word of what he said. When asked
why they went when this was the case, they replied, "We went to look
at him, for heaven seemed to beam from his countenance."

The grateful Methodists thought it only fair to refund the travelling
expenses of the Vicar and his wife, handing him a purse of twenty-five
guineas for that purpose. At first he refused it, but being greatly
pressed, he thanked them very heartily, and gracefully handed it over
to the Society fund for the sick poor, which he had heard was in a
very needy condition.

Life at Madeley was very full. Fletcher regularly visited the eighteen
public-houses of his parish, some of them every Sunday, in addition to
his other work, and, as a result of his labours and observations, he
wrote a pamphlet entitled "Three National Grievances," in which he
dealt largely with drunkenness and smuggling. Taxation was the third
"grievance," wholly influenced in Fletcher's mind by the other two.
The pamphlet was sent to every Member of Parliament, being intended to
show them the necessity for Social Reform.

In the wonderful way of quietly busy men, Fletcher made time to teach
in his Madeley School every day, visiting another as often as occasion
permitted, which he had established in Madeley Wood. He also founded
Sunday Schools, and quickly gathered into them three hundred children,
whom he further dealt with in special children's meetings, which were
to him a great delight. He had a unique fashion of teaching; quick to
avail himself of every passing incident as illustration; he never
failed to keep their attention or to engage their affection--the
latter being accomplished without any effort upon his part. Until the
Thursday before his death, Fletcher kept up these meetings, and he
left behind him an unfinished catechism designed for the use of the
little ones he so much loved.

Much of the Vicar's time was occupied in visiting the sick. He would
show himself intensely grieved if he were not at once apprised of any
illness, and as he preached so much on the far outskirts of his
parish--ten, twelve, and sixteen miles distant--the calls were many.
Whenever they came he was ready. On the bitterest winter's night he
would give his unfailing answer through the window to any messenger,
"_I will be with you immediately_"; and through storm or frost he
set off at once to give the comfort of his presence and the power of
his prayers.

With supreme disregard of personal need, Fletcher was never happier
than when he had given away every penny in the house. He religiously
avoided debt, paying ready money for all he had, but when due claims
were met he loved to pillage the household resources for the benefit
of his sick poor. Whether _he_ had any dinner mattered little,
but delight seized hold upon him when his helpmate was discovered in
the preparation of delicacies for his parish invalids.

Mrs. Fletcher would often take some article to his wardrobe and find
the drawers almost swept clear of linen. Others, he thought, had
needed the garments more than he.

A poor widow called one day to pour out a story of difficulties with
which she found herself burdened. Money there was none at the moment,
but the Vicar was not to be cheated out of this new chance of helping
another. Striding into the kitchen, he laid hands upon the pewter
dishes, of whose polish Sally Lawrence was so proud, and handed them
to the widow with the remark that "a wooden trencher served better."

Day by day, indeed, John Fletcher lost himself in the needs and spirit
of his Master, finding in his increasingly clear view of God, his ever
more intimate fellowship with Christ, abiding treasure and keen
delight which were beyond even his power of felicitous expression. It
was in keeping with his hourly experience that he exclaimed in a
letter to Lady Mary Fitzgerald :--

"Who are we, my lady, that we should not be swallowed up by the holy,
loving, living Spirit, who fills Heaven and earth? Whether we consider
it or not, there He is, a true, holy, loving, merciful God. Assent to
it, my lady, believe it, rejoice in it. Let Him be God, _all in
all;_ your God in Christ Jesus. What an ocean of love to swim in--
to dive into!"



CHAPTER XXIII.

"GOD IS LOVE!"



In spite of its beautiful situation, Madeley was wont at times to be
swept by a malignant fever, which carried away many of its victims to
the grave. Shortly before the visit of Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher to
Dublin, such a visitation had occurred, the faithful Sally being
attacked by it, and nursed to convalescence by mistress and friend.

Two years later it became Sally's turn to play the part of nurse, for
Mrs. Fletcher, who had visited two parishioners who were dying of the
pestilence, was herself stricken.

It was a terrible time of testing for her devoted husband. In anguish
of mind, but with true surrender of his will to God, he yielded his
treasure upon an altar of sacrifice akin to that of Abraham's
building; but in answer to his devotion and prayer he received her
again as alive from the dead.

With a peculiarly solemn joy he welcomed his wife back to his side to
share the work they so truly loved, but anxious lest he should place
too much reliance upon the precious things God had given him here, he
would call to her several times in a day to drop every duty for a few
moments that together they might enjoy communion with God. Says Mrs.
Fletcher:--

"We spent much time in prayer for the fulness of the Spirit, and were
led to an act of _abandonment_ (as we called it) of our whole
selves into the hands of God, to do or to suffer whatever was pleasing
to Him."

       *       *       *       *       *

Only a fortnight after his wife's recovery Fletcher was out visiting
his people from three in the afternoon until nine at night, and,
August though it was, he returned with a chill.

The following Sunday he almost fainted while reading prayers in the
church. His wife pressed up to the desk with a friend or two, and
begged him to leave the service to another. He gently refused; windows
were opened, some flowers brought to refresh him with their sweet
scent, and he was able to mount the steps of the pulpit, where he
preached with power from "_How excellent is Thy lovingkindness, O
God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of
Thy wings_."

The communion service which succeeded was a very lengthy one, but he
administered to those who came until nearly two o'clock, breaking the
silence with many verses of hymns and exhortations.

When the long service was over, Mrs. Fletcher led him straight to bed,
but the exertion had been too much; he fainted, and the two following
days lay upon a couch and slept much.

Mrs. Fletcher, very simply but touchingly, tells the story of those
few last days:--

"On Wednesday, August 10th, he told me he had received such a
manifestation of the full meaning of the words, '_God is love_,'
that he could not express it. 'It _fills me_,' he said, 'it
_fills_ me every moment. O Polly! my dear Polly! _God is
love_! Shout! Shout aloud! Oh! it so fills me that I want a gust of
praise to go to the ends of the earth. But it seems as if I could not
speak much longer. Let us fix upon a sign between ourselves' (tapping
me twice with his finger). 'By this I mean that _God is love, and we
will draw each other into God. Observe! by this we will draw each
other into God._' Sally coming in, he cried, 'O Sally! _God is
love!_ Shout, both of you! I want to hear you shout His praise!'
All this time his medical attendant hoped he was in no danger. He knew
his disease to be the fever; but as he had no bad headache, slept much
without the least delirium, and had an almost regular pulse, the
symptoms were thought to be favourable.

"On Thursday, August 11th, his speech began to fail, but to his
friendly doctor he would not be silent while he had any power to
speak, often saying, 'O Sir, you take much thought for my body; give
me leave to take thought for your soul.' When I could scarcely
understand anything he said, I spoke the words, '_God is love!_'
Instantly he caught them, and broke out in a rapture, 'God is
_love_, _love_, _love!_ O for the gust of praise I want
to sound.' Here his voice again failed. If I named his sufferings he
would smile, and make the sign.

"On Friday, August 12th, finding his body covered with spots, I so far
understood them as to feel a sword pierce through my soul. As I knelt
by his bed, with my hand in his, entreating the Lord to be with us in
this tremendous hour, he strove to say many things, but could not. At
length, pressing my hand, and often repeating the sign, he breathed
out 'Head of the Church, be head to my wife!'"

Mrs. Fletcher then repeated two lines in which he had always found
great comfort:--

  Jesu's blood, through earth and skies,
  Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries.

With much difficulty he responded :--

  Mercy's full power I soon shall prove,
  Loved with an everlasting love.

"If Jesus is very present with thee lift thy right hand," said his
wife, as she bent over him. He raised it. Waiting a moment or two she
said, "If the prospect of glory opens before thee, repeat the sign."
Twice he lifted that feeble right hand in testimony, then fell into
_coma_, lying with his eyes open and fixed.

While this was taking place in the Vicarage the church close by was
the scene of many tears. Fletcher's people gathered there from time to
time to pour out their supplications to God that He would spare their
beloved pastor; but none could find it in his heart to lead a service,
or raise a hymn.

In the cottages whole families sat waiting for news, while messengers,
who went to and from the Vicarage, were waylaid on every side for
tidings of joy or sorrow.

Numbers of poor villagers were wont to come from a distance every
Sunday, being entertained in their Vicar's kitchen between the
services. These lingered about the house in distress, unable to
persuade themselves to seek their distant homes while one so dear to
them lay probably dying.

"If we could only _look_ at him once more!" they whispered
pleadingly.

Accordingly the door of the sick room was flung wide, the curtains
drawn back from the bed, and this infinitely pathetic procession of
peasants crept softly past the open door, each one pausing for a long
look of love upon him whom they revered as spiritual father and saint.

For the first time in their experience there was no kindling light in
his eye, no gleam of welcome from the lips which had so often parted
in smiles and blessing. His spirit hovered on the borders of a land
beyond their reach.

That Sabbath Day had scarcely spent itself when from earthly sleep
Jean Guillaume De La Fléchère entered into eternal waking, so one in
spirit with his Lord that the change could have been no more
surprising than to Enoch of old.

To the woman who knelt at his bedside until that last dread moment,
the parting was no ordinary sorrow.

"I am truly a desolate woman, who hath no helper but Thee!" she
wailed.

"Three years nine months and two days I have possessed my _heavenly-
minded husband_; but now the sun of my earthly joy is _set for
ever!_ and my soul is filled with an anguish which only finds its
consolation in a total abandonment and resignation to the will of God.

"That awful night, when I had hung over my dear husband for many
hours, expecting every breath to be his last, and during which time he
could hot speak to, nor take any notice of me, a flood of unspeakable
sorrow overspread my heart, and quite overwhelmed my spirit.... My
fatigue had been great; I was barely recovered from my fever, and this
stroke so tore my nerves that it was an inlet to much temptation. In
former parts of my life I have felt deep sorrow, but such were now my
feelings that no words I am able to think of can convey an adequate
idea thereof.

"The next morning, O my God! what a cup didst Thou put into my hand!
Not only my beloved husband, but, it appeared to me, my Saviour also
was torn from me! Clouds and darkness surrounded both soul and body.
The sins even of my infancy came before me, and assaulted me as thick
as hail! I seemed to have no love, no faith, no light--and yet I could
not doubt but I should see the smiling face of God in glory!...An
unshaken belief that Christ would bring me through all, was my great
support; and it seemed to me that I must have been annihilated had I
been moved from that anchor.... All my religion seemed shrunk into one
point, viz., a constant cry, '_Thy will be done! I will, yes; I will
glorify Thee! even in this fire._'"

It was at first a matter of some distress to Mrs. Fletcher that she
must leave the home where they had been so happy together. Every other
place alike looked desolate. To her relief it was arranged that she
should rent the Vicarage as long as she wished to do so, working as
she chose among the people of the parish. The son of the patron of the
living became the new Vicar, and as he did not intend to reside at
Madeley Mrs. Fletcher was allowed to recommend the Curate.

Thus, by God's grace, was the labour of the saintly Vicar carried on
and confirmed. The sweetness of his spirit lingered in fragrant
influence upon the hearts of those whom he had blessed in life, and
though eulogies abound of his remarkable talent, his gentle courtesy,
his unfailing kindness, his beauty of holiness, none who spoke of him
could ever forget that for himself he had only claimed the position
which almost every morning and evening of his later life he had thus
defined:--

  I nothing have, I nothing am;
  My treasure's in the bleeding Lamb,
      Both now and evermore.

In the desolate stillness of Madeley Vicarage, where she lived for
thirty years after bidding him farewell, Mrs. Mary Fletcher performed
the last bit of earthly service she might do in the name of her
beloved; she wrote the inscription, which appears on the following
page, for his tombstone in the old churchyard they had so often
crossed side by side.

              HERE LIES THE BODY OF
       THE REV. JOHN WILLIAM DE LA FLÉCHÈRE,
                  VICAR OF MADELEY,
         WHO WAS BORN AT NYON, IN SWITZERLAND,
              SEPTEMBER THE 12TH, 1729,
   AND FINISHED HIS COURSE AUGUST THE 14TH, 1785,
                   IN THIS VILLAGE,
             WHERE HIS UNEXAMPLED LABOURS
               WILL LONG BE REMEMBERED.

     HE EXERCISED HIS MINISTRY FOR THE SPACE OF
                  TWENTY-FIVE YEARS
                   IN THIS PARISH
           WITH UNCOMMON ZEAL AND ABILITY.

        MANY BELIEVED HIS REPORT, AND BECAME
           HIS JOY AND CROWN OF REJOICING;
       WHILE OTHERS CONSTRAINED HIM TO TAKE UP
           THE LAMENTATION OF THE PROPHET:

   "ALL THE DAY LONG HAVE I STRETCHED OUT MY HANDS
       UNTO A DISOBEDIENT AND GAINSAYING PEOPLE;
       YET SURELY MY JUDGMENT IS WITH THE LORD,
              AND MY WORK WITH MY GOD."

                    -------------

            "HE BEING DEAD, YET SPEAKETH."



CHAPTER XXIV.

EXTRACTS FROM FLETCHER'S LETTERS.



       *       *       *       *       *

CHRIST-EXALTING JOY.

_To_ SARAH RYAN, _Wesley's housekeeper at Bristol, and to her
friend_, DOROTHY FURLEY:

"_October 1st_, 1759.

"DEAR SISTERS,--I have been putting off writing to you lest the action
of writing should divert my soul from the awful and delightful worship
it is engaged in. But I now conclude I shall be no loser if I invite
you to love Him my soul loveth; to dread Him my soul dreadeth; to
adore Him my soul adoreth.

"Sink with me before the throne of Grace; and, while the cherubim veil
their faces, and cry out in tender fear and exquisite trembling,
'Holy! Holy! Holy!' let us put our mouths in the dust, and echo back
the solemn sound, 'Holy! Holy! Holy!' Let us plunge ourselves in that
ocean of purity. Let us try to fathom the depths of Divine mercy; and,
convinced of the impossibility of such an attempt, let us lose
ourselves in them. Let us be comprehended by God, if we cannot
comprehend Him. Let us be supremely happy in God. Let the intenseness
of our happiness border upon misery, because we can make Him no
return. Let our head become waters, and our eyes a fountain of tears--
_tears_ of humble repentance, of solemn joy, of silent admiration, of
exalted adoration, of raptured desires, of inflamed transports, of
speechless awe. My God and my all! Your God and your all! Our God and
our all! Praise Him! With our souls blended into one by Divine love,
let us with one mouth glorify the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; our
Father, who is over all, through all, and in us all. "I charge you
before the Lord Jesus, who giveth life and more abundant life; I
entreat you by all the actings of faith, the stretchings of hope, the
flames of love you have ever felt, sink to greater depths of self-
abasing repentance; rise to greater heights of Christ-exalting joy.
And let Him, who is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that you
can ask or think, carry on, and fulfil in you the work of faith with
power; with that power whereby He subdueth all tilings unto Himself.
Be steadfast in hope, immovable in patience and love, always abounding
in the outward and inward labour of love; and receive the end of your
faith, the salvation of your souls. "I am, dear sisters, your well-
wisher,

"JOHN FLETCHER."

       *       *       *       *       *


"Only a Methodist!"


To CHARLES WESLEY:

"MADELEY, October 12th,  1761.

"MY DEAR SIR,--You have always the goodness to encourage me, and your
encouragements are not unseasonable; for discouragements follow one
another with very little intermission. Those which are of an inward
nature are sufficiently known to you; but some others are peculiar to
myself, especially those I have had for eight days past, during
Madeley wake.

"Seeing that I could not suppress these bacchanals, I did all in my
power to moderate their madness; but my endeavours have had little or
no effect. You cannot well imagine how much the animosity of my
parishioners is heightened, and with what boldness it discovers itself
against me, because I preached against drunkenness, shows, and bull-
baiting. The publicans and maltmen will not forgive me. They think
that to preach against drunkenness, and to cut their purse, is the
same thing.

"My church begins not to be so well filled as it has been, and I
account for it thus: the curiosity of some of my hearers is satisfied,
and others are offended by the word; the roads are worse; and if it
shall ever please the Lord to pour His Spirit upon us, the time is not
yet come. The people, instead of saying, 'Let us go up to the house of
the Lord,' exclaim, 'Why should we go and hear a Methodist?'

"I should lose all patience with my flock if I had not more reason to
be satisfied with them than with myself. My own barrenness furnishes
me with excuses for theirs; and I wait the time when God shall give
seed to the sower and increase to the seed sown. In waiting that time,
I learn the meaning of this prayer, 'Thy will be done.'

"Believe me, your sincere, though unworthy friend,

"J. FLETCHER."

       *       *       *       *       *

THE BELIEVER'S SONG.

To _Miss_ HATTON:

"MADELEY, _January 9th_, 1767.

"MY DEAR FRIEND,--The dream of life will soon be over; the morning of
eternity will soon succeed. Away then with all the shadows of time!
Away from them to the _Eternal Substance--to Jesus, the First and
the Last, by whom, and for whom, all things consist_. If you take
Jesus to be your head, by the mystery of faith, you will be united to
the resurrection and the life. The bitterness of death is past, my
dear friend. _Only_ look to Jesus. He died for you--died in your
place--died under the frowns of Heaven, that we might die under its
smiles. Regard neither unbelief nor doubt. Fear neither sin nor hell.
Choose neither life nor death. All these are swallowed up in the
immensity of Christ, and are triumphed over in His Cross. Fight the
good fight of faith. Hold fast your confidence in the atoning,
sanctifying blood of the Lamb of God. Confer no more with flesh and
blood. Go, meet the Bridegroom. Behold He cometh! Trim your lamp.
Quit yourself like a soldier of Jesus. I _entreat_ you, as a
companion in tribulation; I _charge_ you, as a minister, go, at
every breath you draw, to Him, who says, 'Him that cometh unto Me, I
will in no wise cast out'; and 'He that believeth in Me, though he
were dead, yet shall he live.' Joyfully sing the believer's song, 'O
Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be
to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!'
Let your surviving friends triumph over you, as one faithful unto
death as one triumphing in death itself."

       *       *       *       *       *

CHRIST THE TRUTH.

_To Mr._ CHARLES PERRONET, _who was suffering great affliction
of body and mind:_

"1772, September 7th.--MY VERY DEAR FRIEND,--No cross, no crown; the
heavier the cross, the brighter the crown.

  "Oh, for a firm and lasting faith,
  To credit all the Almighty saith!

"Faith--I mean the _evidence of things not seen_--is a powerful
cordial to support and exhilarate us under the heaviest pressures of
pain and temptation. By faith, we live upon the _invisible_,
_eternal_ God; we believe that _in Him_ we live, move, and
have our being; insensibly we slide from _self_ into _God_,
from the visible into the invisible, from the carnal into the
spiritual, from time into eternity. Here our spirits are ever young;
they live in and upon the very fountain of strength, sprightliness,
and joy. Oh! my dear friend, let us rest more upon the _truth as it
is in Jesus_. Of late, I have been brought to feed more upon Jesus
as _the truth_. I see more in Him in that character than I ever
did. I see Christ _the truth_ of my life, friends, relations,
sense, food, raiment, light, fire, resting-place. All out of Him are
but shadows. All _in Him_ are blessed sacraments; I mean visible
signs of the fountain, or vehicles to convey the streams of inward
grace."

       *       *       *       *       *

UNINTERRUPTED PEACE.

_To_ CHARLES WESLEY:

"MADELEY, _May 11th_, 1776.

"MY DEAR BROTHER,--What are you doing in London? Are you ripening as
fast for the grave as I am? How should we lay out every moment for
God? For some days I have had the symptoms of an inward consumptive
decay--spitting of blood, etc. Thank God! I look at our last enemy
with great calmness.

"I still look for an outpouring of the Spirit, inwardly and outwardly.
Should I die before that great day I shall have the consolation to see
it from afar. Thank God! I enjoy uninterrupted peace in the midst of
my trials, which are, sometimes, not a few. Joy also I possess; but I
look for joy of a superior nature. I feel myself, in a good degree,
dead to praise and dispraise. I hope, at least, that it is so, because
I do not feel that the one lifts me up, or that the other dejects me.
I want to see a Pentecost Christian Church; and, if it is not to be
seen at this time upon earth, I am willing to go and see that glorious
wonder in Heaven. How is it with you? Are you ready to seize the crown
in the name of the Redeemer _reigning_ in your heart? We run a
race towards the  grave. John is likely to outrun you, unless you have
a swift foot.

"Let us pray that God would renew our youth, as that of the eagle,
that we may bear fruit in our old age. I hope I shall see you
_before_ my death; if not, let us rejoice at the thought of
meeting in Heaven."

       *       *       *       *       *

A WITNESS IN WORD AND DEED.

_To certain Methodists at Hull and York who invited him to visit the
great Methodist county:_

"LONDON, _November 12th_, 1776.

"MY DEAR BRETHREN,--I thank you for your kind letters and invitations
to visit you, and the brethren about you. I have often found an
attraction in Yorkshire. My desire was indeed a little selfish; I
wanted to improve by the conversation of my unknown brethren. If God
bids me be strong again, I shall be glad to try if He will be pleased
to comfort us by the mutual faith both of you and me. My desire is
that Christ may be glorified both in my life and death. If I have any
desire to live at any time, it is principally to be a witness, in word
and deed, of the dispensation of _power from on high_; and to
point out that kingdom which does not consist in word, but in
_power_, even in _righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy
Ghost_, the _Spirit of power_. I am writing an essay upon that
important part of the Christian doctrine.

"Should I be spared to visit you, the keep of a horse, and the poor
rider, will be all the burden I should lay on you; and that will be
more than my Heavenly Master indulged Himself in. I am just setting
out for Norwich with Mr. Wesley, whose renewed strength and immense
labours astonish me. What a pattern for preachers! His redeeming the
time is, if I mistake not, matchless.

"Should I never have the pleasure of thanking you in person for your
brotherly regard, I beg you will endeavour to meet me in the Kingdom
of our Father, where distance of time and place is lost in the fulness
of Him who is _all in all_. The way ye know--the penitential way
of a heart-felt faith working by obedient love."

       *       *       *       *       *

IN THE BALANCES.

_To Mr._ IRELAND:

"NEWINGTON, _January 29th_, 1777.

"Thanks be to God, and to my dear friend, for favours upon favours,
for undeserved love and the most endearing tokens of it!

"I have received your obliging letters, full of kind offers; and your
jar, full of excellent grapes. May God open to you the book of life,
and seal upon your heart all the offers and promises it contains! May
the treasures of Christ's love, and all the fruits of the Spirit, be
open to my dear friend, and unwearied benefactor!

"Last Sunday, Providence sent me Dr. Turner, who, under God, saved my
life, twenty-three years ago, in a dangerous illness; and I am
inclined to try what _his_ method will do. He orders me asses'
milk, chicken, etc.; forbids me riding, and recommends the greatest
quietness. He prohibits the use of Bristol water; advises some water
of a purgative nature; and tries to promote expectoration by a method
that so far answers, though I spit by it more blood than before.

"With respect to my soul, I find it good to be in the balance--awfully
weighed every day for life or death. I thank God the latter has lost
its sting, and endears to me the Prince of Life. But oh, I want
Christ, my resurrection, to be a thousand times more dear to me; and I
doubt not He will be so, when I am _filled_ with the spirit of
wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him. Let us wait for that
glory, praising God for all we have received, and trusting Him for all
we have not yet received. Let our faith do justice to His veracity;
our hope to His goodness; and our love to all His perfections. It is
good to trust in the Lord; and His saints like well to hope in Him."

       *       *       *       *       *

MAKE HASTE TO CHRIST.

_To Mr._ WILLIAM WASE:

"BRISTOL, _November_, 1777.

"MY DEAR BROTHER,--Go to Mrs. Cound, and tell her I charge her, in the
name of God, to give up the world, to set out with all speed for
Heaven, and to join the few about her who fear God. If she refuses,
call again; call weekly, if not daily, and warn her from me till she
is ripe for glory. Tell the brethren at Broseley that I did my body an
injury the last time I preached to them on the Green; but, if they
took the warning, I do not repine. Give my love to George Crannage;
tell him to make haste to Christ, and not to doze away his last days.

"The physician has not yet given me up; but, I bless God, I do not
wait for his farewell, to give myself up to my God and Saviour. I
write by stealth, as my friends here would have me forbear writing,
and even talking; but I will never part with my privilege of writing
and shouting, '_Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory' over
sin, death, and the grave 'through Jesus Christ._' To Him be glory
for ever and ever! Amen!"

       *       *       *       *       *

DIG HARD FOR HIDDEN TREASURE.

_To the Methodists in and about Madeley:_

"MY DEAR COMPANIONS IN TRIBULATION,--Peace and mercy, faith, hope, and
love be multiplied to you all from the Father of mercies through the
Lord Jesus Christ, by the spirit of grace! I thank you for your kind
remembrance of me in your prayers. I am yet spared to pray for you.
Oh, that I had more power with God! I would bring down Heaven into all
your hearts. Strive together in love for the living faith, the
glorious hope, the sanctifying love once delivered to the saints. Look
to Jesus. Move on; run yourselves in the heavenly race, and let each
sweetly draw his brother along, till the whole company appears before
the redeeming God in Sion.

"I hope God will, in His mercy, spare me to see you in the flesh; and
if I cannot labour for you, I shall gladly suffer with you. If you
will put health into my flesh, joy into my heart, and life into my
whole frame, be of _one heart_ and of _one soul_. Count
nothing your _own_ but your _sin_ and _shame_; and bury
that dreadful property in the grave of our Saviour. Let all you are
and have be His who bought you. Dig hard in the _Gospel_ mines
for hidden treasure. Blow hard the furnace of prayer with the bellows
of faith until you are melted into love, and the dross of sin is
purged out of every heart. Get together into Jesus, the heavenly ark,
and sweetly sail into the ocean of eternity; so shall you be true
miners, furnacemen, and bargemen. Farewell, in Jesus! Tell Mrs. Counds
I shall greatly rejoice if she remembers Lot's wife."

       *       *       *       *       *

THE DREGS OF LIFE.

_To Mr_. IRELAND:

"MADELEY, _September 13th_, 1784.

"MY DEAR FRIEND,--I keep in my sentry-box till Providence removes me.
My situation is _quite suited_ to my little strength. I may do as
much or as little as I please, according to my weakness; and I have an
advantage, which I can have nowhere else in such a degree--my little
field of action is just at my own door, so that if I happen to overdo
myself, I have but to step from my pulpit to my bed, and from my bed
to my grave. If I had a body full of vigour, and a purse full of
money, I should like well enough to travel about as Mr. Wesley does;
but as Providence does not call me to it I readily submit. The snail
does best in its shell; were it to aim at galloping, like the
racehorse, it would be ridiculous indeed. My wife is quite of my mind
with respect to the call we have to a sedentary life. We are two poor
invalids, who between us make _half_ a labourer.

"We shall have tea cheap and light very dear; I don't admire the
change. Twenty thousand chambers walled up, and filled with foul air,
are converted into so many dungeons for the industrious artisan, who,
being compelled by this murderous tax, denies himself the benefit of
_light_ and _air_. Blessed be God! the light of Heaven and
the air of the spiritual world are still free.

"My dear partner sweetly helps me to drink the dregs of life, and to
carry with ease the daily cross. We are not long for this world--we
_see_ it, we _feel_ it; and, by looking at death and his
conqueror, we fight beforehand our last battle with that last enemy
whom our dear Lord has overcome for us. That we may triumph over him
with an humble, Christian courage, is the prayer of my dear friend,
yours,

"JOHN FLETCHER."



CHAPTER XXV.

EXTRACTS FROM FLETCHER'S WRITINGS.



THE SIN OF UNBELIEF.

"Unbelief is a sin of so deep a dye that the devils in hell cannot
commit the like. Our Saviour never prayed, wept, bled, and died for
devils. He never said to them, 'Ye will not come unto Me, that ye
might have life.' They can never be so madly ungrateful as to slight a
Saviour. Mercy never wooed their stubborn, proud hearts as it does
ours. They have abused grace, it is true, but they never trampled
mercy underfoot. This more than diabolical sin is reserved for thee,
careless sinner. Now thou hearest Christ compassionately say in the
text, 'Ye will not come unto Me,' and thou remainest unmoved; but the
time cometh when Jesus, who meekly entreats, shall sternly curse; when
He who in tender patience says, 'Ye will not come unto Me,' shall
thunder in righteous vengeance, 'Depart from Me, ye cursed; depart
unto the second death--the fire prepared for the devil and his
angels.' In vain wilt thou plead then as thou dost now, 'Lord, I am no
adulterer; I am no extortioner; I used to eat at Thy table; I was
baptised in Thy name; I was a true churchman; there are many worse
than I am.' This will not admit thee into the Kingdom of Christ. His
answer will be, 'I know you not; you never came to Me for life.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

READING NOT PREACHING.

"Reading approved sermons is generally supposed to be preaching the
Gospel. If this were really so, we need but look out some school-boy
of tolerable capacity; and, after instructing him to read, with proper
emphasis and gesture, the sermons of Tillotson, Sherlock, or Saurin,
we shall have made him an excellent minister of the Word of God. But,
if preaching the Gospel is to publish among sinners that repentance
and salvation, which we have experienced in ourselves, it is evident
that experience and sympathy are more necessary to the due performance
of this work than all the accuracy and elocution that can possibly be
acquired.

"When this sacred experience and this generous sympathy began to lose
their prevalence in the Church, their place was gradually supplied by
the trifling substitutes of study and affectation. Carnal prudence has
now for many ages solicitously endeavoured to adapt itself to the
taste of the wise and the learned. But, while '_the offence of the
cross_' is avoided, neither the wise nor the ignorant are
effectually converted.

"In consequence of the same error, the ornaments of theatrical
eloquence have been sought after, with a shameful solicitude. And what
has been the fruit of so much useless toil? _Preachers_, after
all, have played their part with much less applause than
_comedians_; and their curious auditories are still running from
the pulpit to the stage, for the purpose of hearing fables repeated
with a degree of sensibility, which the messengers of truth can
neither _feel_, nor _feign_."

       *       *       *       *       *

PRIDE IN APPAREL.

"I cannot pass in silence the detestable, though fashionable, sin,
which has brought down the curse of Heaven, and poured desolation and
ruin upon the most flourishing kingdoms--I mean pride in apparel. Even
in this place, where poverty, hard labour, and drudgery would, one
should think, prevent a sin which Christianity cannot tolerate even in
kings' houses, there are not wanting foolish virgins, who draw
iniquity with cords of vanity, and betray the levity of their hearts
by that of their dress. Yea, some women, who should be mothers in
Israel, and adorn themselves with good works as holy and godly
matrons, openly affect the opposite character. You may see them offer
themselves first to the idol of vanity, and then sacrifice their
children upon the same altar. As some sons of Belial teach their
little ones, to curse, before they can well speak, so these daughters
of Jezebel drag their unhappy offspring, before they can walk, to the
haunts of vanity and pride. They complain of evening lectures, but run
to midnight dancings. Oh, that such persons would let the prophet's
words sink into their frothy minds, and fasten upon their careless
hearts: 'Because the daughters of Sion are haughty, and walk with
stretched-forth necks and wanton eyes, the Lord will smite with a sore
the crown of their head, and discover their shame: instead of well-set
hair, there shall be baldness, and burning instead of beauty.'"

       *       *       *       *       *

WHAT IS SAVING FAITH?

"What is _saving_ faith? I dare not say that it is 'believing
heartily' my sins are forgiven me for Christ's sake; for, if I live in
sin, that belief is a _destructive_ conceit, and not _saving_ faith.
Neither dare I say, that 'saving faith is _only_ a sure trust and
confidence that Christ loved me, and gave Himself for me;' for, if I
did, I should almost damn all mankind for four thousand years. Such
definitiohs of saving faith are, I fear, too _narrow_ to be just, and
too _unguarded_ to keep out Solifidianism. To avoid such mistakes; to
contradict no Scriptures; to put no black mark of _damnation_ upon any
man, that in any nation fears God and works righteousness; to leave no
room for Solifidianism, and to present the reader with a definition of
faith adequate to _the everlasting Gospel_, I would choose to say,
that justifying or saving faith is _believing_ the saving truth _with
the heart unto_ internal, and (as we have opportunity) _unto_ external
_righteousness_, according to our light and dispensation. To St.
Paul's words (Rom. x. 10), I add the epithets _internal_ and
_external_, in order to exclude, according to I John iii. 7, 8,
the filthy imputation, under which fallen believers may, if we credit
the Antinomians, commit internal and external adultery, mental and
bodily murder, without the least reasonable fear of endangering their
faith, their interest in God's favour, and their inadmissible title to
a throne of glory."

       *       *       *       *       *

THE EYE OF FAITH.

"_Believing_ is the gift of _the God of Grace_, as _breathing_,
_moving_, and _eating_ are the gifts of _the God of Nature_. He gives
me lungs and air, that I may breathe; He gives me life and muscles,
that I may move; He bestows upon me food and a mouth, that I may eat;
but He neither _breathes_, _moves_, nor _eats_ for me. Nay, when I
think proper, I can accelerate my breathing, motion, and eating: and,
if I please, I may _fast_, _lie down_, or _hang myself_, and, by that
means, put an end to my _eating_, _moving_, and _breathing_. _Faith_
is the gift of God to believers, _as sight_ is to you. The parent of
good freely gives you the light of the sun, and organs proper to
receive it. Everything around you bids you use your eyes and see;
nevertheless, you may not only drop your curtains, but close your eyes
also. This is exactly the case with regard to faith. Free grace
removes, in part, the total blindness which Adam's fall brought upon
us; free grace gently sends us some beams of truth, which is the light
of _the sun of righteousness_; it disposes the eye of our
understanding to see those beams; it excites us, in various ways, to
welcome them; it blesses us with many, perhaps with all the means of
faith, such as opportunities to hear, read, enquire, and power to
consider, assent, consent, resolve, and re-resolve to believe the
truth. But, after all, _believing_ is as much our own act as
_seeing._ We may in general do, suspend, or omit the _act_ of faith.
Nay, we may do by the eye of our faith, what some report Democritus
did by his bodily eyes. Being tired of seeing the follies of mankind,
to rid himself of that disagreeable sight, he put his eyes out. We
may be so averse from _the light, which enlightens every man_ that
_comes into the world;_ we may so dread it because our works are
evil, as to exemplify, like the Pharisees, such awful declarations
as these: _Their eyes have they closed, lest they should see:
wherefore God gave them up to a reprobate mind, and, they were
blinded_."

       *       *       *       *       *

FROM ANIMAL MAN TO SPIRITUAL MAN.

"What is the state of a soul that is born again; and in what does
regeneration consist? In general, we may say, it is that great change
by which man passes from a state of nature to a state of grace. He was
an animal man; in being born again he becomes a spiritual man. His
natural birth had made him like to fallen Adam--to the old man,
against whom God had pronounced the sentence of death, seeing it is
the wages of sin; but his spiritual birth makes him like to Jesus
Christ--to the new man--which is created according to God in
righteousness and true holiness. He was before born a child of wrath--
proud, sensual, and unbelieving, full of the love of the world and of
self-love, a lover of money and of earthly glory and pleasure, rather
than a lover of God; but, by regeneration, he is become a child and an
heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ. The humility, the purity,
the love of Jesus, is shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit
which is given to him, making him bear the image of the _Second
Adam_. He is in Christ a new creature; old things are passed away,
all things are become new. All the powers and faculties of his soul
are renovated. His understanding, heretofore covered with darkness, is
illuminated by the experimental knowledge which he has of God and of
His Son Jesus Christ. His conscience, asleep and insensible, awakes
and speaks with a fidelity irreproachable. His hard heart is softened
and broken. His will, stubborn and perverse, yields, and becomes
conformable to the will of God. His passions, unruly, and earthly, and
sensual, submit to the conduct of grace, and turn of themselves to
objects invisible and heavenly. And the members of his body, servants
more or less to iniquity, are now employed in the service of
righteousness unto holiness."

       *       *       *       *       *

TASTES THAT CORRESPOND.

"To rejoice in the pleasures that are at God's right hand, it is
needful to have senses and a taste that correspond thereto. The swine
trample pearls under their feet. The elevated discourse of a
philosopher is insupportable to a stupid mechanic; and an ignorant
peasant, introduced into a circle of men of learning and taste, is
disgusted, sighs after his village, and declares no hour ever appeared
to him so long. It would be the same to a man who is not regenerated,
if we could suppose that God would so far forget His truth as to open
to him the gate of Heaven. He would be incapable of those transports
of love which make the happiness of the glorified saints. It would be
insupportable for him now to meditate one hour on the perfections of
God; what then shall He do among the _cherubim_ and _seraphim_, and
_the spirits of just men made perfect_, who draw from thence their
ravishing delights? He loves the pleasures and comforts of an animal
life; but are these the same with the exercises of the spiritual
life? His conversations, his readings, his amusements, as void of
edification as of usefulness, rarely fatigue him; but an hour of
meditation or prayer is insufferable. If he be not born again, not
only he cannot be in a state to rejoice in the pleasures of Paradise,
any more than a deaf man to receive with transport the most exquisite
music; but the ravishing delights of angels would cause in him an
insupportable distaste. Yes, he would banish himself from the
presence of God rather than pass an eternity in prostrating himself
before the throne, and crying day and night, _Holy, holy, holy, is
the Lord of hosts, who is, and who was, and who is to come!_ We
conclude that the gate of Heaven must be opened upon earth by
regeneration, and by the love of God, or that it will remain shut for
ever; and that a local paradise would be only a sorrowful prison to a
man not regenerated, because, carrying nothing thither but depraved
and earthly appetites and passions, and finding nothing there but
spiritual and celestial objects, disgust and dissatisfaction would
be the consequence; and, like Satan, his own mind would be his hell."

      *       *        *       *        *

WISE WORDS TO THE SINNER.

"I conjure you by the majesty of that God before whom angels rejoice
with trembling; by the terror of the Lord, who may speak to you in
thunder, and this instant require your soul of you; by the tender
mercies, the bowels of compassion of your Heavenly Father, which are
moved in your favour, all ungrateful as you are! I conjure you by the
incarnation of the Eternal Word, by whom you were created; by the
humiliation, the pains, the temptations, the tears, the bloody sweat,
the agony, the cries of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ! I
conjure you by the bonds, the insults, the scourgings, the robes of
derision, the crown of thorns, the ponderous cross the nails, the
instruments of death which pierced His torn body; by the arrows of the
Almighty, the poison of which drank up His spirit; by  that mysterious
stroke of Divine wrath, and by those unknown terrors which forced Him
to exclaim, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me!' I conjure you
by the interests of your immortal  soul, and by the unseen accidents
which may precipitate you into eternity; by the bed of death, upon
which you will soon be stretched, and by the useless sighs which you
will then pour out, if your peace be not made with God! I conjure you
by the sword of Divine justice, and by the sceptre of grace; by the
sound of the last trumpet, and by the sudden appearance of the Lord
Jesus Christ, with ten thousand of His holy angels; by that august
tribunal, at which you will  appear with me, and which shall decide
our lot for ever; by the vain despair of hardened sinners, and by the
unknown transports of regenerate souls! I conjure you from this
instant work out your salvation with fear and trembling! Enter by the
door into the sheepfold. Sell all to purchase the pearl of great
price. Count all things dung and dross in comparison of the excellency
of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Let Him not go till He blesses you
with that faith which justifies, and that sanctification without which
no man shall see the Lord. And, soon transported from  this vale of
tears into the mansions of the just made perfect, you shall cast your
crown of immortal glory at the feet of Him that sitteth upon the
throne, and before the Lamb who has redeemed us by His blood: to whom
be the blessing, and the honour, and the glory, and the power for ever
and ever! Amen."





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