Page images

not easily be forgotten. And although he could not prevail so far as might have been desired, yet his labour was not in vain.

“ But I do not attempt his full character: I will only add what the Apostle • recommends to the Philippians was exactly copied by him. He was • blameless and harmless, a son of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; shining among them as a light in the world.””

I think one talent wherewith God had endued Mr. Fletcher has not been sufficiently noted yet : I mean his courtesy; in which there was not the least touch either of art or affectation. It was pure and genuine, and sweetly constrained him to behave to every one (although particularly to inferiors) in a manner not to be described, with so inexpressible a mixture of humility, love, and respect. This directed his words, the tone of his voice, his looks, his whole attitude, his every motion. This seems to be intended by St. Paul, in those words, oux aoxnuover ; not so well expressed in our translation by, “ behaveth not itself unseemly.” Do not the words literally mean, “ is not ill bred ?”—behaves on all occasions with decency and good breeding ? Certainly, so did Mr. Fletcher. Never did any man more perfectly suit his whole behaviour to the persons and the occasion: so that one might apply to him, with great propriety, the words of the ancient poet :

Illum quicquid agit, quoquo vestigia tendit

Coinponit furtim, subsequiturque decor.-[Tibullus.] I cannot translate this ; but I can give the English reader a parallel, and more than a parallel :

Grace was in all his steps, heaven in his eye,
In all his gestures sanctity and love.



“Some time before he was taken ill,” says Mrs. Fletcher," he mentioned to me a peculiar manifestation of love which he received in his own house, with the application of those words, Thou shalt walk with me in white.' He added, "It is not a little thing so to hang upon God by faith, as to feel no departure from him, and no rising in the heart against him. But this does not satisfy me; I often feel something far beyond this; yea, I sometimes find such gleams of light and love, such wafts, as it were, of the heavenly air; so powerful, as if they would just then take my soul with them to glory! But I am not filled : I want to be filled with all the fulness of God.' In con. formity to these sentiments, when he was in his last illness, he expressed himself thus : · I am filled, most sweetly filled.' This conveyed much to my mind, as I understood by it the accomplishment of his large desires.

“Some time before the beginning of his last sickness, he was peculiarly penetrated with the nearness of eternity. There was scarce an hour in which he was not calling upon us to drop every thought and every care, that. we might attend to nothing but the drinking deeper into God. We spent much time in wrestling with God, and were led, in a peculiar mannei. to abandon our whole selves, our souls and bodies, into the hands of God; ready to do, and willing to suffer, whatever was well pleasing to him.

“ And now the time drew near, when his faith was to be called to its last grand exercise; that, eyeing his Lord, he might

True in the fiery trial prove,

And pay him back his dying love. A little betore, being on his knees in prayer for light, whether he should go to London or not; the answer to him seemed to be, . Not to London, but to thy grave.'* When he acquainted me with this, he said, with a heavenly smile, . Satan would represent it to me as something dreadful, enforcing those words: The cold grave! The cold grave!' On the Sunday following, (I think it was the next day,) that anthem was sung in the church: • The Lord is my Shepherd; therefore can I lack nothing. He shall feed me in green pastures, and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort. He shall concert my soul, and bring me forth in the paths of righteousness, for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff shall confort me. Thou shalt prepare a table before me, against them that trouble me. Thou hast anointed my head with oil, and my cup shall be full.'

“ In his return home, he observed in how uncommon a degree those words had been blessed to his soul. And from that very time I do not remember to have seen in him the least marks of temptation. He showed an unusual cheerfulness and liveliness in every part of his work; and seemed to increase in strength of body, as well as in strength of soul. Truly it was to him according to his faith: he feared no evil; and his cup was filled with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.'

“ On Thursday, August 4, he was employed in the work of God from three in the afternoon till nine at night. When he came home, he said, • I have taken cold;' but seemed not to regard it. He was far from well on Friday and Saturday ; but was uncommonly drawn out in prayer. On Saturday night he was abundantly worse, and his fever appeared very strong. I begged that he would by no means think of going to church in the morning. But he told me, it was the will of the Lord ; in which case I never dared to persuade. In reading prayers, he was very near fainting away. I got through the crowd, and entreated him to come out of the desk. But he let me and others know, in his sweet manner, that we were not to interrupt the order of God. I then silently retired to my pew, where all around me were in tears. When the windows were opened, by which he appeared to be a little refreshed, he went on ; and then preached with a strength and recollection that surprised us all.

“After sermon he walked up to the communion table, uttering these words, • I am going to throw myself under the wings of the cherubim, before the mercy-seat.'

The service lasted till near two. Sometimes he was constrained to stop; being hardly able to stand upon his feet. The people were deeply affected, which they were not able to conceal; groans and weeping were on every side. Gracious Lord! how was it my soul was kept so calm in the midst of the most tender feelings? Notwithstanding his extreme weakness, he gave out several verses of hymns, and lively sentences of exhortation. As soon as ever the service was over, we hurried him to bed. When he lay down, nature being quite exhausted, he immediately fainted away. He afterward dropped into a sleep for some time, and, on waking cried out, with a pleasant smile, .Now, my dear, thou seest I am no worse for doing the Lord's work. He never fails me when I trust in him.' Having eaten a little dinner, he dozed most of the evening; now and then waking, with the praises of God in his mouth. At night his fever returned; but it was not violent; and yet his strength decreased amazingly. On Monday and Tuesday we had a little paradise together. He lay on a couch in the study; and, though often changing posture, was sweetly pleasant, and frequently slept a good while together. When he was awake, he delighted in hearing me read hymns, and treatises on faith and love. His words were all animating, and his patience beyond expression. When he had a very nauseous medicine to take, he seemed to enjoy the cross; according to a word which he was used often to repeat, 'We are to seek a perfect conformity to the will of God; and leave him to give us pleasure or pain, as it seemeth him good.'

* I verily believe, if he had then gone to London, he would have been alive at this day. But I blame no one for thinking otherwise.

" I asked him, whether he had any advice to leave me, if he should be taken from me. He replied, 'I have nothing particular to say: the Lord will open all before thee. I said, 'Have you any conviction that God is about to take you?' He said, “No; not in particular. Only I always see death so inexpressibly near, that we both seem to stand on the verge of eternity.' While he slept a little, I besought the Lord, if it was his good pleasure, to spare him to me a little longer. But my prayer seemed to have no wings; and I could not help mingling continually therewith, Lord, give me perfect resignation! This uncertainty made me tremble, lest God was going to put into my hands the bitter cup with which he lately threatened my husband. Some weeks before. I myself was ill of a fever, and not without danger. My husband then felt the whole parting scene, and struggled for perfect resignation. He said, “O Polly, shall I ever see the day when thou must be carried out to bury? How will the little things which thy tender care has prepared for me, in every part of the house, wound and distress me! How is it? I think I feel jealousy! I am jealous of the worms! I seem to shrink at the thought of giving any dear Polly to the worms.'

“Now all these reflections returned upon my heart, with the weight of a millstone. I cried to the Lord, and these words were deeply impressed on my spirit: Where I am, there shall my servants be, that they may behold my glory.' This promise was full of comfort to my soul. I saw that in Christ's immediate presence was our home, and that we should have our reunion in being deeply centred in him. I received it as a fresh marriage for eternity: as such I trust for ever to hold it. All that day, whenever I thought of the expression, “to behold my glory, it seemed to wipe away every tear, and was as the ring whereby we were joined anew.

“Awaking some time after, he said, “Polly, I have been thinking it was Israel's fault that they asked for signs. We will not do so; but abandoning our whole selves to the will of God, will lie patiently before him; assured that he will do all things well.'

"• My dear love,' said I, “if ever I have done or said any thing to grieve thee, how will the remembrance wound my heart, if thou shouldest be taken from me!' He entreated me, with inexpressible tenderness, not to allow the thought ; declaring his thankfulness for our union, in a variety of words written on my heart, as with the adamantine pen of friendship deeply dipped in blood.

“ On Wednesday, after groaning all day long, under the weight of the power of God, he told me, he had received such a manifestation of the full meaning of those words, 'God is love,' as he could never be able to express, • It fills my heart,' said he, every moment. O Polly, my dear Polly, God is love! Shout! shout aloud ! I want a gust of praise to go to the ends of ihe earth ! But it seems as if I could not speak much longer. Let us fix on a sign between ourselves. Now,' said he, (tapping me twice with his finger) • I mean, 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 out, “O Sally, God is love! Shout, both of you! I want to hear you shout his praise ! All this time the medical friend, who attended him diligently, hoped he was in no danger; as he had no head. ach, but much sleep without the least delirium, and an almost regular pulse, So was the disease, though commissioned to take his life, restrained by the power of God.

“ On Thursday his speech began to fuil. While he was able, he spoke to all that came in his way. Hearing that a stranger was in the house, he ordered her to be called up. But the uttering only two sentences made him ready to faint away.. And while he had any power of speech, he would not be silent to his friendly doctor: O sir,' said he, you take much thought for my body; permit me to take thought for your soul.' When I could scarce understand any thing he said, I spoke these words, .God is love.' Instantly, as if all his powers were awakened, he broke out in a rapture, "God is love! love ! love! O for that gust of praise! I want to sound'Here his voice again failed. All this time he was in much pain, and suffered many ways; but still with such unutterable patience as none but those that were present can conceive. If I did but name his sufferings, he would smile and make the sign.

“On Friday, observing his body covered with spots, I felt a sword pierce through my soul. As I was kneeling by his side, with my hand in his, intreating the Lord to be with us in this tremendous hour, he strove to say many things, but could not articulate the words. All he could do was to press my hand, and frequently repeat the sign. At last he breathed out, • Head of the Church, be head to my wife!'

“ When I was forced to leave him for a few moments, Sally said to him, • My dear master, do you know me?' He replied, "God will put his right hand under you.' She added, “O my dear master, should you be taken away, what a disconsolate creature will my poor dear mistress be!' He replied, God will be her all in all!' “He always took a peculiar pleasure in repeating or hearing those words,

"Jesus' love through earth and skies,

Mercy, free, boundless mercy, cries.' Whenever I repeated them to him, he would answer, · Boundless, boundless, boundless!' He now added, though not without much difficulty,

Mercy's full power I soon shall prove,

Loved with an everlasting love.' “ On Saturday, in the afternoon, his fever seemed quite off, and a few friends standing near his bed, he reached his hand to each; and looking on a minister, said, 'Are you ready to assist to-morrow?' His recollection surprised us, as the day of the week had not been named in the room. Many were of opinion he would recover; and one of them said to him, • Do you think the Lord will raise you up ?' He strove to answer, and could just pronounce, .Raise me up in the resurr'-meaning in the resurrection. To another, who asked the same question, he said, "I leave it all to God.' “ In the evening the fever came again, and with greater violence than

The mucus then falling on his throat, almost strangled him. supposed the same painful symptom would grow more and more violent to the last. Asel felt this exquisitely, I cried to the Lord to remove it; and, glory be to his name, he did. From that time it returned no more.

"As night drew on, I perceived him dying very fast. His fingers could hardly make the sign, which he scarce ever forgot; and his speech seemed quite gone. I said, My dear creature, I ask not for myself; I know thy soul ; but for the sake of others, if Jesus is very present with thee, lift up thy right hand. Immediately he did. If the prospect of glory sweetly opens before thee, repeat the sign.' He instantly raised it again, and in half a minute, a second time. He then threw it up, as if he would reach the top of the bed; after this, his hands moved no more. But on my saying,

Art thou in pain ?' he answered, • No.' From this time he lay in a kind of sleep, though with his eyes open and fixed. For the most part he sat upright, against pillows, with his head a little inclining to one side ; and so remarkably composed, yea, triumphant, was his countenance, that the least trace of death was scarce discernible in it. Twenty-four hours he was in this situation, breathing like a person in common sleep. About thirty-five minutes past ten on Sunday night, August 14, his precious soul entered into the joy of his Lord, without one struggle or groan, in the fifty-sixth year of

“And here I break off my mournful story; but on my bleeding heart the fair picture of his heavenly excellencies will be for ever drawn. When I call to mind his ardent zeal, his laborious endeavours to seek and save the lost, his diligence in the employment of his time, his Christ-like condescension toward me, and his uninterrupted converse with heaven; I may well be


It was

his age.

allowed to add, My loss is beyond the power of words to paint. I have often gone through deep waters; but all my afflictions were nothing to this. Well; I want no pleasant prospect but upwards, nor any thing whereon to fix my hope but immortality.

** From the time I have had the happiness and honour of being with him, every day more and more convinced me he was the Christian. I saw, I loved in him the image of my Saviour; and thought myself the happiest of women in the possession of the most sympathizing and heavenly friend. My sorrow bears a due proportion ; but it is alleviated by that thought, United in God, we cannot be divided. No; we are of one household still; we are joined in him as our centre, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.' It is said of New Testament believers, ' They are come to the spirits of just men made perfect;' to the glorious privilege of communion with the Church triumphant. But this is far more apparent to the eyes of celestial spirits, than to ours, which are yet veiled with flesh and blood. Yet as there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, and as the prayers of saints still on earth are represented by incense in the hands of the elders, I can only consider departed spirits, and ministering angels, as one innumerable company, continually surrounding us. And are they not as nearly united to their fellow soldiers now, as when they were in the body? What should hinder? Gratitude and affection are natives of heaven, and live for ever there. Forgetfulness is a property of mortality, and drops off with the body. Therefore they that loved us in the Lord will surely love us for ever. Can any thing material interrupt the light or presence of a spirit? Nay,

Walls within walls no more the passage bar

Than unopposing space of liquid air, “ On the 17th, his remains were deposited in Madeley church yard, amidst the tears and lamentations of thousands. The service was performed by the Rev. Mr. Hatton, rector of Waters Upton, whom God enabled to speak in a pathetic manner to the weeping flock. In the conclusion, at my request, he read the following paper :

" As it was the desire of my beloved husband to be buried in this plain manner, so out of tenderness he begged that I might not be present. And in every thing I would obey him.

“ Permit me then, by the mouth of a friend, to bear an open testimony to the glory of God, that I, who have known him in the most perfect manner, am constrained to declare, that I never knew any one walk so closely in the ways of God as he did. The Lord gave him a conscience tender as the apple of an eye. And he literally preferred the interest of every one to his own.

“He was rigidly just, and perfectly loose from attachment to the world. He shared his all with the poor, who lay so close to his heart, that, at the approach, of death, when he could not speak without difficulty, he cried out,

© my poor! What will become of my poor!'. He was blessed with so great a degree of humility, as is scarce to be found. I am witness how often he has rejoiced in being treated with contempt. Indeed it seemed the very food of his soul to be little and unknown.

“His zeal for souls, I need not tell you. Let the labours of twenty-five years, and a martyr's death in the conclusion, imprint it on your hearts. His diligent visiting of the sick occasioned the fever which, by God's commission, tore him from you and me.

And his vehement desire to take his last leave of you with dying lips and hands, gave (it is supposed) the finishing stroke, by preparing his blood for putrefaction. Thus has he lived and died your servant. And will any of you refuse to meet him at God's right hand in that day?

“He walked with death always in sight. About two months ago, he came to me and said, “My dear love, I know not how it is, but I have a strange impression, death is near us, as if it were to be some sudden stroke upon one of us.

And it draws out all my soul in prayer, that we may be ready.' He VOL. VI.


« PreviousContinue »