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hand to work wickedness, till thou stretch out thy almighty hand, and save thy lost creature by free, unmerited grace.'. I seldom went to private prayer, but this thought came into my mind, * This may be the happy hour, when thou wilt prevail with God! But still I was disappointed. I cried to God; but my heart did not go with my lips. I prayed, but often could hardly keep awake. When overcome with heavineşs, I went to bed, beseeching God to spare me till the next day, that I might renew my wrestling with him, till I should prevail.
4. “On Sunday the 19th, in the evening, I heard an excellent sermon on these words, · Being justified by faith, we have peace with God throngh our Lord Jesus Christ. I heard it attentively, but my heart was not moved. ! was only still more convinced, that I was an unbeliever, and that till I had faith, I should never have peace. The hymn after sermon suited the subject; but I could not join in singing it. So I sat mourning, while others rejoiced. I went home, still resolving to wresile with the Lord, like Jacob, till I should become a prevailing Israel.
5. “I begged of God, the following day, to show me the wickedness of ins heart. 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 go to Christ with all our sins, and all our hardness of heart. On the 21st, I wrote down part of what filled my heart; namely, a confession of my sins, misery, and helplessness, together with a resolution to seek Christ even unto death. la the evening, I read the Scriptures, and found a sort of pleasure in seeing a picture of my own wickedness exactly drawn in the third of the Romans, and that of my present condition in the seventh. I often wished to be acquainted with somebody who had been in my condition; and resolved to seek for one to whom I might unbosom my whole soul. On Thursday, Satan beset me hard : I sinned, and grievously too. And now I almost gave up all hope ; I was on the brink of despair; and nevertheless continued to fall into sin as often as I had temptation. But I must observe, that though I frequently thought hell would be my portion, yet I never was much afraid of it: whether this was owing to a secret hope, or to hardness of heart, I know not. But I was continually crying out, Wnat stupidity! I see myself hanging over hell, as it were by a single thread! And yet I am not afraid, but sin on! O what is man without the grace of God! A very devil in wickedness, though inferior to him in power!' In the evening I went to a sincere friend, and told him something of my state. He endeavoured to administer comfort; but it was not suited to my state. When we parted, he gave me soine advice which was better suited to my condition. "God,' said he, ‘is merciful ; God loves you; and if he denies you any thing, it is for your good. You deserve nothing at his hands; but wait patiently for him, and never give up your hope.' I went home, resolved to follow his advice, though I should stay till death.
6. “I proposed to receive the Lord's Supper on the foliowing Sunday. I therefore returned to my room, and looked out a sacramental hymn. I learned it by heart, and prayed it over many times, intending to repeat it at the table. Then I went to bed with rather more hope and peace than I had felt for some time. But Satan waked, though I slept. I dreamed I had committed a grievous and abominable sin. I awaked amazed and confounded, but fell upon my knees and prayed with more faith than usual ; and afterward went about my business with an uncommon cheerfulness. It was not long before I was tempted by my besetting sin ; but I found it had no power. My soul was not even ruffled. I took no notice of this at first. But having withstood the temptation again and again, I perceived it was the Lord's doing. Afterward it was suggested, · It is presumption for such a sinner to hope for so I prayed, the more clearly I saw it was real. For though sin stirred all the day long, I always overcame it in the name of the Lord.
7. “ In the evening I read the experiences of some of God's children, and found mine agreed with theirs. Hereby my faith was strengthened, and my hope considerably increased : I intreated the Lord to deal with his servant according to his mercy, and take all the glory to himself. I prayed earnestly, and was persuaded I should have peace with God and dominion over sin; pot doubting but the full assurance also would be given in God's good time I continued calling on him for an increase of faith ; (for still I had some fear of being in a delusion ;) and having continued my supplication till near one in the morning, I opened my Bible on those words : Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain thee. He will not suffer the righteous to be moved.' Filled with joy, I fell upon my knees, to beg of God that I might always cast my burden upon him. “My hope was now greatly increased ; and I thought I saw myself conqueror over sin, hell, and all manner of affliction.
8. “With this comfortable promise I shut up my Bible, being now perfectly satisfied. As I shut it, I cast my eyes on that word, 'Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, I will do it.' So, having asked grace of God to serve him till death, I went cheerfully to bed.”
9. So far we have Mr. Fletcher's own account, under his own hand. From this time he “ had the witness in himself;" he knew that he had " redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of sins." But he still continued pleading with the Lord, to take a fuller possession of his heart; till, one day, as he was in earnest prayer, lying prostrate on his face before God, he saw, as it were, our blessed Lord, hanging and bleeding on the cross : and, at the same time, those words were spoken with power to his heart :
Seized by the rage of sinful men, He suffers both from men and God! I see him bound, and bruised, and slain. He bears the universal load 'Tis done! The Martyr dies !
Of guilt and misery! His life to ransom ours is given;
He suffers to reverse our doom, And, 'lo ! the fiercest fire of heaven And, lo! my Lord is here become Consumes the sacrifice !
The bread of life to me! 10. I believe this was in January, 1754, in the second year after he removed to Terp. Now all his bonds were broken; he breathed a purer air, and was able to say with confidence, “ The life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” By means of this faith, sin was under his feet. Knowing in whom he had believed, he could continually triumph in the Lord, and praise the God of his salvation.
11. From this time he walked cheerfully, as well as valiantly, in the ways of God. He closely followed his Master, denying himself, and taking up his cross daily. And, thinking he had not leisure in the day for the great work which he had in hand, he made it an invariable rule to sit up two whole nights in a week. These he dedicated to reading, meditation, and prayer, in order to enter more deeply into that communion with the Father and the Son which was the delight of his soul. Meantime, he lived entirely on vegetable food, and for some time on bread, with milk and water. None can doubt, if these austerities were well intended : but it seems they were not well judged. It is probable, they gave the first wound to an excellent constitution, and laid the foundation of many infirmities, which nothing but death could cure. VOL. VI.
CHAPTER II. FROM HIS CONVERSION TO HIS SETTLING AT MADELEY. 1. It was not long after he had himself “ tasted the powers of the world to come,” that he was pressed in spirit to exhort others to seek after the same blessing. And he was the more strongly excited to this, by seeing the world all around him “ lying in wickedness.” Being deeply sensible of the goodness of God on the one hand, and the misery of mankind on the other, he found an earnest longing
To pluck poor brands out of the fire,
To snatch them from the verge of hell. This he began to do a considerable time before he was admitted into holy orders. And even his first labours of love were far from being in vain. For though he was by no means perfect in the English tongue, particularly with regard to the pronunciation of it; yet the earnestness with which he spoke, (seldom to be found in English preachers,) and the unspeakably tender affection to poor, undone sinners, which breathed in every word and gesture, drew multitudes of people to hear him; and, by the blessing of God, his word made so deep an impression on their' hearts, that very few went empty away.
2. From this time, till he undertook the direct care of souls, he used to be in London during the sitting of the parliament, and the rest of the year at Tern Hall
, (as it was then called,) instructing the young gentlemen. Every Sunday he attended the parish church at Atcham. But when the service was ended, instead of going home in the coach, which was always ready, he usually took a solitary walk by the Severn side, and spent some time in meditation and prayer. A pious domestic of Mr. Hill's having frequently observed him, one Sunday desired leave to walk with him, which he constantly did from that time. The account which he (Mr. Vaughan, still living in London) gives of Mr. Fletcher is as follows:
" It was our ordinary custom, when the Church service was over, to retire into the most lonely fields or meadows, where we frequently either kneeled down, or prostrated ourselves upon the ground. At those happy seasons I was a witness of such pleadings and wrestlings with God, such exercises of faith and love, as I have not known in any one ever since. The consolations which we then received from God induced us to appoint two or three nights in a week, when we duly met after his pupils were asleep. We met also constantly on Sunday between four and five in the morning. Sometimes I stepped into his study on other days. I rarely saw any book before him besides the Bible and the • Christian's Pattern.' And he was seldom in any other company, unless when necessary business required, besides that of the unworthy writer of this paper.”
3. When he was in the country, he used to visit an officer of excise at Atcham, to be instructed in singing. On my desiring him to give me some account of what he recollected concerning Mr. Fletcher, he answered thus : “ As to that man of God, Mr. Fletcher, it is but little that I remember of him ; it being above nine-and-twenty years since the last time I saw him. But this I well remember, his conversation with me was always sweet and savoury. He was too wise to suffer any of his precious moments to be trifled away. When there was company to dine at Mr. Hill's, he frequently retired into the garden, and
contentedly dined on a piece of bread, and a few bunches of currants. Indeed, in his whole manner of living, he was a pattern of abstemious. ness. Meantime, how great was his sweetness of temper and heavenlymindedness! I never saw it equalled in any one. How often, when I. parted with him at Tern Hall, have his eyes and hands been lifted up to heaven to implore a blessing upon me, with fervour and devoutness unequalled by any I ever saw! I firmly believe, he has not left in this land, or perhaps in any other, one luminary like himself. I conclude, wishing this light may be so held up, that many may see the glory thereof, and be transformed into its likeness. May you and I, and all that love the Lord Jesus Christ, be partakers of that holiness which was so conspicuous in him!”
4. “Our interviews for singing and conversation," continues Mr. Vaughan, who was often present on these occasions, “were seldom concluded without prayer; in which we were frequently joined by her that is now my wife; (then a servant in the family ;) as likewise by a poor widow in the village, who had also known the power of God unto salvation, and who died some years since, praising God with her latest breath. These were the only persons in the country, whom he chose for his familiar friends. But he sometimes walked over to Shrewsbury, to see Mrs. Glynne, or Mr. Appleton, (who likewise now rests from his labours, after having many years adorned the Gospel ;) he also visited any of the poor in the neighbourhood, that were upon a sick bed; and when no other person could be procured, performed even the meanest offices for them."
5. It was in the year 1757, that he was ordained both deacon and priest. He was ordained at Whitehall; and the same day, being informed that I had no one to assist me at West-street chapel, he came away as soon as ever the ordination was over, and assisted me in the administration of the Lord's Supper. He was now doubly diligent in preaching, not only in the chapels at West-street and Spitalfields, but wherever the providence of God opened a door to proclaim the everlasting Gospel. This he frequently did, not only in English, but likewise in French, bis native language; of which he was allowed, by all competent judges, to be a complete master.
6. “ The first time,” says Mr. Vaughan," he preached in the country, was at Atcham church, on June 19, 1757. His text was, (a very bold beginning!) “ Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God?" James iv, 4. The congregation stood amazed, and gazed upon him as if he had been a monster; but to me he appeared as a messenger sent from heaven."
7. It was not soon that he was invited again to preach in Atcham church. But he was invited to preach in several other churches in the neighbourhood. He was first invited to preach at Wroxeter, and afterward at the Abbey church in Shrewsbury; but not being yet perfect in the English tongue, he wrote down all the sermons he preached in churches. But I doubt whether he preached above six times in the six months while he stayed in the country. On my telling him I wished he had more opportunities of preaching in this unenlightened part of the land, he answered, “ The will of God be done: I am in his hands; and if he does not call me to so much public duty, I have the more time for study, prayer, and praise."
8. In the year 1758, there were many French prisoners on their parole at Tunbridge. Being desired to preach to them in their own language, he readily complied. Many of them appeared to be deeply affected, and earnestly requested that he would preach to them every Lord's day.
But some advised them, first, to present a petition to the bishop of London for leave. They did so; and (who would believe it?) the good bishop peremptorily rejected their petition! If I had known this at the time, King George should have known it; and I believe he would have given the bishop little thanks. An odd incident followed: A few months after, the bishop died of a cancer in his mouth. Perhaps some may think this was a just retribution for silencing such a prophet, on such an occasion! I am not ashamed to acknowledge this is my own sentiment; and I do not think it any breach of charity to suppose that an action, so unworthy a Christian bishop, had its punishment in this world.
9. When he returned from London in the same year, he was more frequently invited to preach in several of the neighbouring churches. And before his quitting the country, he gave me a few printed papers, entitled, “A Christmas-box for Journeymen and Apprentices.” I mention it the rather because I suppose this was the first thing which he ever published.
10. It was in the beginning of June, 1759, that he returned the last time from London to Tern Hall; and being now less frequently called to public duty, he enjoyed his beloved retirement, giving himself up to study, meditation, and prayer, and walking closely with God. Indeed his whole life was now a life of prayer; and so intensely was his mind fixed upon God, that I have heard him say, “ I would not move from my seat, without lifting up my heart to God.” Wherever we met, if we were alone, his first salute was, “ Do I meet you praying ?” And if we were talking on any point of divinity, when we were in the depth of our discourse, he would often break off abruptly, and ask, “Where are our hearts now?" If ever the misconduct of an absent person was mentioned, his usual reply was, “Let us pray for him."
11. It was, as I remernber, about the close of this summer, that he was frequently desired, sometimes to assist, at other times to perform the whole service for, Mr. Chambers, then vicar of Madeley. On these occasions it was, that he contracted such an affection for the people of Madeley, as nothing could hinder from increasing more and more to the day of his death. While he officiated at Madeley, as he still lived at the Hall, ten miles distant from it, a groom was ordered to get a horse ready for him every Sunday morning. But so great was his aversion for giving trouble to any one, that if the groom did not wake at the time, he seldom would suffer him to be called, but prepared the horse for himself.
12. In answer to some queries concerning him, a gentleman who was intimately acquainted with him for many years wrote to me as follows:
DEAR SIR,—"My aversion to writing letters increases with my declining years. And yet I most wilingly pay this debt to the precious memory of an old friend. I dwelt near him only two or three years; but our intimacy was great. And perhaps I may be able to present you with some particulars which you have not seen before.
13. “About the year 1760, he showed me, at his lodgings, a rope with pulleys, which he used for exercise ; and added, with a smile, that the devil