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that the vehemence of his desire for a fuller manifestation of God, seemed sometimes to border upon unhappiness. But his ardent soul only felt the full impression of those words of the Apostle : •Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those that are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.'
18. “One end of his retiring to Newington was, that he might hide himself from company. But this design was in nowise answered; for company came from every side. He was continually visited by high and low, and by persons of various denominations ; one of whom being asked, when he went away, what he thought of Mr. Fletcher, said, “I went to see a man that had one foot in the grave, but I found a man that had one foot in heaven.' Among them that now visited him were several of his beloved and honoured opponents; to whom he confirmed his love (however roughly they had treated him) by the most respectful and affectionate behaviour. But he did not give up any part of the truth, for which he had publicly contended; although some (from whom one would have expected better things) did not scruple to affirm the contrary. Those of his particular friends who visited him here will not easily forget how he exhausted his whole soul in effusions of thankfulness: Mrs. Cartwright and Cavendish in particular, with his faithful and affectionate friend Mr. Ireland, will remember their interviews with him. And those of the family were almost oppressed by the outpourings of his love and gratitude, whenever they showed their love and care in the most inconsiderable instance; yea, so thankful, in proportion, would he be to even the meanest servant.
19. “ It was not without some difficulty that Mr. Ireland at length prevailed upon him to sit for his picture. While the limner was drawing the outlines of it, he was exhorting both him and all that were in the room, not only to get the outlines drawn, but the colourings also, of the image of Jesus on their hearts. He had a very remarkable facility in making allusions of this kind; in raising spiritual observations from every accidental circumstance; in turning men's employments, pleasures, and pains, into means of edification: This he did, in order to engage the attention of the thoughtless, the more deeply to fix the attention of the thoughtful, and to prevent the trifling away of time in unprofitable conversation. And such little incidents as used to pass away unnoticed by almost any other person, acquired from Mr. Fletcher's fine imagination a kind of grace and dignity. To give an instance : Being ordered to be let blood, while his blood was running into the cup, he took occasion to expatiate on the precious blood-shedding of the Lamb of God. And even when he did not speak at all, the seraphic spirit which beamed from his languid face, during those months of pain and weakness, was
A lecture silent, yet of sovereign use." 20. But it is necessary to be observed, that this facility of raising useful observations from the most trifling incidents was one of those peculiarities in him which cannot be proposed to our imitation. In him it partly resulted from nature, and was partly a supernatural gift. But what was becoming and graceful in Mr. Fletcher, would be disgustful almost in any other.
21. “One of those who visited him at Newington was Mr. William Perronet; a pious, sensible, and amiable young man, who was snatched hence in the bloom of youth. He often said, the first sight of Mr. Fletcher fixed an impression upon his mind which never wore off till it issued in a real conversion to God; ever accompanied with a most affectionate regard for the instrument of that happy change.”
Soon after he left Newington, he wrote the following letter :
“Mar 28, 1777. " TO MY VERY DEAR FRIENDS AND BENEFACTORS, CHARLES AND MARY
GREENWOOD. "My prayer shall always be, that the merciful may find mercy, and that the great kindness I have found under your quiet roof, may be showed you every where under the canopy of heaven. I think with grateful joy on the days of calm retreat I have been blessed with at Newington, and lament my not having improved better the precious opportunity of sitting, Mary-like, at the feet of my great Physician. May he requite your kind care of a dying worm, by abundantly caring for you and yours, and making all your bed in your sick. ness ! May you enjoy full health! May you hunger and thirst after righteousness, and be abundantly filled therewith! May you sweetly rest in Christ! May his protection be as a wall of fire round about you and yours! May his rod and staff comfort you under all the troubles of life, the decays of the body, the assaults of the enemy, and the pangs of death! May you stand in the clefts of the Rock of Ages, and be safely sheltered there, when all the storms of justice blow around! And may you always have such spiritual and temporal helps, friends, and comforts, as I have found in your pleasing retreat! You have received a poor Lazarus ; (though his sores were not visible ;) you have had compassion, like the good Samaritan; you have admitted me to the enjoynient of your best things; and now what can I say? what but, . Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift;' and thanks to my dear friends for all their favours? They will, I trust, be found faithfully recorded in my breast, when the great Rewarder of them that diligently seek him will render to every man according to his works; and a raised Lazarus shall then appear in the gate, to testify of the love of Charles and Mary Greenwood, and their godly sister!
“ I was a little better; but I now spit blood, more than I had done for weeks before. Glory be to God for every providence! His will be done in me, by health or sickness, life or death. ‘All from him is, and I trust, will be, welcome to
" Your obliged pensioner,
FROM HIS LEAVING NEWINGTON, TILL HIS RETURN FROM SWITZERLAND
TO MADELEY. 1. He continued with Mr. Greenwood at Newington, upwards of fifteen months. The physicians then advised him to make a trial of the Hot-Well water, near Bristol. “I was desired by Mr. and Mrs. Ireland,” (who took him down in April, 1777,) says Miss Thornton, “to bear them company thither; which I willingly did. Indeed I looked upon it as a call from God; nor could I desire a greater honour, than to share in the employment of angels, in ministering to a distinguished heir of salvation. At Brislington, near Bristol, he continued in the same holy, earnest course as at Newington. Every day he dránk the Hot-Well water, and it agreed with him well. So that he appeared to gather a little strength; though not so swiftly as was expected. And all the strength which he received, he laid out in labours of love, for the benefit of all those, rich or poor, whom providence cast in his way.
2. “Whenever he was in company, it was his general inethod, so far as his strength would admit, to pray particularly for every person present. And from his habitual prayer resulted that life and energy in his words, which every one that was blessed with his society felt more or less. Now and then
likewise he adventured to pray in the family. But he was not wary enough in this. He more than once so much exerted himself, that he was brought very low. As soon as he was well enough to write, he was intent upon finishing two treatises for the press. The plan of reconciliation, in particular, lay very near his heart. He longed to conclude it before he died, which he wished to do, breathing peace to Jerusalem, and pointing out to the children of God the most probable means of effecting it; of uniting together, in the bonds of peace and love, all the true ministers and followers of Jesus.”
3. From Bristol he wrote to a friend thus : " I thank God I am not afraid of any evil tidings: My heart standeth fast, believing in the Lord, and desiring him to do with me just what pleases him. With respect to my body, my physician hopes I shall do well. And so I hope and believe too. For health or sickness, life or death, is best when the Lord sends it.
“I am in hopes of seeing you soon ; though my friends talk of detaining me, to make a farther trial of the waters. I am forbid preaching; but, blessed be God, I am not forbid by my heavenly Physician to pray, believe, and love. This is a sweet work, which heals, strengthens, and delights : Let us do it, till we have recovered our spiritual strengih. And then, whether we shall be seen on earth or not, it will be all alike.
“O be hearty in the cause of religion! Be either hot or cold. It is a fearful thing to be lukewarm, and thereby fall into the hands of the living God. Be humbly zealous for your own salvation and for God's glory. And forget not to care for each other's salvation. The case of wicked Cain is very common; the practice of many says, with that wretch, “ Am I my brother's keeper?' O pray God to keep you by his mighty power through faith unto salvation! Keep yourselves in the love of God, and keep one another by example, reproof, exhortation, encouragement, social prayer, and a faithful use of all the means of grace. Use yourselves to bow at Christ's feet as your prophet. Go to him continually for the holy anointing of his Spirit, who will be a teacher always near, always with you and in you. If you have that inward Instructer, you will suffer no material loss, though your outward teachers should be removed.
“While you have the light of God's word, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of the light, fitted for the kingdom of eternal light; where, I charge you, prepare to meet with joy "Your affectionate, though unworthy brother and minister,
“ John FLETCHER. 4. I subjoin part of a letter wrote some time before, in the same spirit, to his parishioners at Madeley :
“ DecemBER 28, 1776 “MY DEAR PARISHIONERS,— The weakness of my body confining me from you, I humbly submit to the Divine dispensation. And I ease the trouble of my absence from you, by being present with you in spirit, and by reflecting on the pleasure I have felt in years past, in singing with you, ''Unto us a Child is born ; unto us a Son is given.' This truth let us receive with all readiness, and we shall meet in Christ, the centre of lasting union. And our hearts shall be full of the song of angels, ‘Glory be unto God in the highest! On earth peace, good will toward men!' In order to this, may the eyes of your understanding be more and more opened to see the need of a Redeemer, and to behold the suitableness, freeness, and fulness of the redemption wrought out by the Son of God! This wish glows in my soul so ardently, that it brings me down upon my knees while I write. And in that posture I entreat you all to consider and improve the day of your visitation ; and to prepare in good earnest to meet with joy your God and your unworthy pastor in another world! Weak as I was when I left you, I hear that many who were then healthy and strong, have got the start of me; and that some have been hurried into eternity without a moment's warning. May this awful event strike a deeper consideration into all our souls !
May the Vol. VI.
sound of their bodies, dashed in pieces at the bottom of the pit, rouse us to a speedy conversion, that we may never, through carelessness or delay, fall into the bottomless pit! Tottering as I stand on the brink of the grave, some of you also may crop into it before me. Let us all, then, prepare for our approaching change, and never rest till we are assured it will be a happy one. Let the long-suffering of God toward us, who survive the hundreds that I have buried, lead us all to repentance. Embrace Jesus Christ, who wept for you in the manger, agonized for you in the garden, bled for you on the cross, and now pleads for you on his mediatorial throne. Meet me not at the great day in your sins and in your blood. Meet me in the robe of Christ's merits, and in the white linen' (the purity of heart and life) “which is the righteousness of the saints.' Let all wickedness be gone for ever with the old year; and with the new year begin a new life; a life of renewed devotion to God, and increasing love to our neighbour.
Though I hope to see much more of the goodness of God in the land of the living than I do see, yet, blessed be the Divine mercy, I see enough to keep my mind at all times unruffled, and to make me calmly willing to resign my soul into the hands of my faithful Creator. I desire your public thanks for all the favours which he continually showeth me. May our thankfulness crown the new year, as the Lord's patience and goodness have renewed our life. Permit me to beseech an interest in your prayers also. Ask that I may be willing to receive all that God is willing to bestow. Ask that I may meekly suffer and zealously do all the will of God in my present circumstances; and that, living or dying, I may say, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If God calls me soon, I beg he may, in his good providence, appoint a more faithful shepherd over you. You need not fear but he will. For these many months you have had no famine of the word. And what God hath done for months, he can do for years ; yea, all the years of your life. Only pray. Ask, and you shall have. Meet me at the throne of grace, and you shall meet at the throne of glory “ Your affectionate, obliged, unworthy minister,
“ J. F." 5. To a friend, meantime, he wrote thus: “With respect to my soul, I calmly wait, in unshaken resignation, for the full salvation of God ; ready to trust him, to venture on his faithful love, and on the sure mercies of David, either at midnight, noon-day, or cock-crowing. For my time is in his hand; and his time is best, and shall be my time. Death hath lost his sting; and I thank God I know not what hurry of spirits is, or unbelieving fears, under the most trying circumstances. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!"
6. He now spent part of his time at Bristol, but the greatest part at Brislington. In one place or the other, as well as at Newington, he was visited by many respectable persons. Many of these were Calvinists; several of whom bore witness to his deep piety and exalted spirit. But a dissenting minister, after pressing him hard, with regard to some of his opinions, told him, with great warmth, “ Mr. Fletcher, you had better have been gasping for life with an asthma, or have had all your limbs unstrung by a palsy, than to have wrote those Checks." "Mr. Fletcher replied, “Sir, I then wanted more love, and I do so still :" and in his highest fervours of divine love, he always acknowledged his want of more.
7. Here, also, he missed no opportunity of instructing servants and children, suiting his discourse, in a manner peculiar to himself, to their capacity or their business. And what would have appeared low in another, did not appear so when spoken by him. Thus, he advised the cook to stir up the fire of Divine love in his heart, that it might burn up all the rubbish therein, and raise a flame of holy affection; to which, with the greatest cordiality, he would subjoin a short prayer. Thus, to the housemaid he said, “I entreat you to sweep every corner of your heart, that it may be fit to receive your heaven.y Guest.” To a poor man, who came there in a deep consumption, but little concerned for his soul, he said, in a very solemn manner, (laying one hand on his own breast, and the other on the poor man's,) “God has fixed a loud knocker al your breast and mine. Because we did not regard, as we ought to have done, the gentle knocks and calls of his Holy Spirit, his word, and his providences, he has taken fast hold here, and we cannot get out of his hand. O let this knocker awaken you, who are just dropping into eternal sleep!”
S. When one or another occasionally mentioned any unkind thing which had been said of him or his writings, if the person who had said it was named, he would stop the speaker immediately, and offer up the most fervent prayer for the person of whom he spoke. He did not willingly suffer any one to say any thing against his opponents; and he made all the allowances for them, which, on a change of circumstances, he would have wished them to make for him.
9. He continued at Brislington till the 1st of December, 1777. All other means having now been fairly tried, with very little effect, most of the symptoms being nearly the same as they were several months ago, it was determined, by the most skilful physicians, that nothing could save his life but a sea voyage. When this was fixed, Mr. Ireland (a friend in need) carried him back to Newington. While he was here, preparing for his voyage, he wrote as follows to one of his flock at Madeley :“I HEARTILY thank
kind letter. May the God of all grace and love, our common Father and our All, bless you all with all spiritual blessings, and with such temporal favours, as will best serve the end of your growing in grace.
“My desire is, if I should be spared to minister to you again, to do it with more humility, diligence, love, and zeal. But as matters are, you must take the will for the deed. And let us all praise God for all that is past, and trust him for all that is to come. The Lord enable you all to cleave to Christ, and in him to abide in one mind, striving together for the hope of the Gospel,' the fulness of the Spirit! Of this we have often discoursed together; but we have not pressed into it with sufficient ardour and violence. God give us the humble and violent faith which inherits the promises, that we may always triumph in Christ, in life and in death! I beg you would help me to thank the Author of all good for every blessing of this life ; but above all, for the lively hope of the next, and for Christ, our common hope, peace, joy, wisdom, righteousness, and salvation. In him I meet and embrace you all. God bless you, and crown you with loving-kindness and tender mercies! I live, if you stand. Do not let me want the reviving cordial of hearing that you stand together firm in the faith, deep in humility, and rejoicing in loving hope of the glory to come. Bless God much for the gift of his only-begotten Son. Be much in private prayer. Do not forget the assembling yourselves together, in little companies, as well as in public. Walk humbly, as in the sight of death and eternity ; and pray still for
“ Your unworthy servant,
“ J. F. “ Let none of your little companies want. If any do, you are welcome to