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The Life of John Fletcher: Chapter 9 - From His Marriage Till the Beginning of His Last Illness

      1. From the time of his settling at Madeley with Mrs. Fletcher, he had no return of his consumptive disorder. On the contrary, by the blessing of God on her peculiar care and tenderness, not only his health was confirmed, but his strength restored as in the days of his youth. In the meantime he took care to employ all his returning strength in the work of faith and the labor of love. "I have yet strength enough," says he to Mr. Charles Wesley, Dec.19, 1782, "to do my parish duty without the help of a curate. Oh that the Lord would help me to do it acceptably and profitably! The colliers began to rise in this neighborhood: happily the cockatrice's eggawas crushed before the serpent came out. However, I got many a hearty curse from the colliers for the plain words I spoke on that occasion. I want to see days of power both within and without: but in the meantime I would follow closely my light in the narrow path. My wife joins me in respectful love to Mrs. Wesley and yourself.

      J. F."

      More particularly Mr. Fletcher was diligent in that which he had always found to be one of the most difficult parts of his duty. There were in the parish of Madeley no less than eighteen public houses. They were continual nurseries for sin, particularly on Sunday evenings. It had been, for many years, his unwearied endeavor to put an end to these abuses. Yet, as he very seldom had a church warden who was heartily willing to second him therein, his endeavor were almost ineffectual, producing very little fruit. But for two years God was now pleased to favor him with a church warden who was resolved to act according to his oath: he then cheerfully renewed his endeavor, visiting several of these houses every Sunday, (all of them in their turn.) In every one he bore a faithful testimony; and in some it was attended with much good. Oh that no one of those who have been at any time within the reach of his voice may finally inherit that curse, Behold, ye despisers, and wonder, and perish.

      2. For many years he had felt, with the deepest sensibility, the disconsolate condition of poor, uninstructed children: and some years ago he began a school, wherein he taught them himself every day. After pursuing this method for some time, he erected a school in Madeley Wood. But afterward his thoughts were much engaged concerning the utility of Sunday schools: especially after they were recommended to him by Mrs. Darby, an intelligent and pious person, whom he always found ready to promote every good work. He then earnestly set about promoting them in his own parish. Three hundred children were soon gathered together, whom he took every opportunity of instructing, by regular meetings, for some time before the schools were opened. These meetings he attended with the utmost diligence, till the very Thursday before his illness. In order to encourage the children, his method was to give them little hymn books, pointing them to some friend or neighbor who would teach them the hymns, and instruct them to sing. The little creatures were greatly taken with this new employment: insomuch that many of them would scarce allow themselves time to eat or sleep, for the desire they had of learning their lessons. At every meetinga after inquiring who had made the greatest proficiency, he distinguished them by some small rewards.

      3. In instructing of children, one great difficulty is to draw and fix their attention. He had a singular gift for doing this, as appears by the following anecdote, and others that might be related, if need were:-- Once when he visited Kingswood school, having collected all the youths together, and secretly addressed the throne of grace, he called for pen, ink, and paper, told the scholars he came to seek for volunteers for Christ, and desired all those who were willing to enlist in his service, to enter their names on the paper. A peculiar blessing attended the proposal: it led several of them to a serious concern for their souls, and to a resolution of giving themselves up to live and die in the Lord's service. At another time when he had a considerable number of children before him in a place in his parish, as he was persuading them to mind what they were about, and to remember the text which he was going to mention; just then a robin flew into the house, and their eyes were presently turned after him. "Now," said he, "I see you can attend to that robin. Well, I will take that robin for my text." He then gave them a useful. lecture on the harmlessness of that little creature, and the tender care of its Creator.

      4. When he observed that the number of children, instead of falling off, as was expected, increased continually, he wrote some proposals to the parish, which were received with the greatest unanimity. Many of the rich as well as the trading people lent their helping hand, not only to defray the expense of teachers, but also to raise a convenient house in Coalbrook Dale, for the instruction of the numerous children that were on that side of the parish.

      5. He prefaced the proposals thus:-- "Our national depravity turns greatly on these two hinges, the profanation of the Lord's day, and the neglect of the education of children. Till some way be found of stopping up these two great inlets of wickedness, we must expect to see our workhouses filled with aged parents forsaken by their prodigal children, with wives forsaken by their faithless husbands, and with the wretched offspring of lewd women and drunken men. Nay, we may expect to see the jails, and even the gallows, largely stocked (to the perpetual reproach of our nation) with unhappy wretches ready to fall a sacrifice to the laws of their country. 'It is a common observation, (says Dr. Gibson, late bishop of London,) that public criminals, when they come to their unhappy end, and make their dying declarations to the world, generally charge the sinful courses in which they have lived, to the neglect and abuse of the Lord's day, as the first occasion of leading them into all other wickedness. And considering how frequently these declarations are repeated, and how many other instances of the same kind, though less public, are notorious enough to those who will observe them; they may well be a warning to us to consider a religious observation of the Lord's day as the best preservative of virtue and religion, and the neglect and profanation of it as the greatest inlet to vice and wickedness.'

      "A pious clergyman farther observes:-- 'The want of education in children is one of the principal causes of the misery of families, cities, and nations; ignorance, vice, and misery, being constant companions. The hardest heart must melt at the melancholy sight of such a number of children, both male and female, who lie in gross ignorance and habitual profanation of the Lord's day. What crowds fill the streets and fields, tempting each other to idleness, lewdness, and every other species of wickedness? Is it any wonder that we should have so many undutiful children, unfaithful apprentices, disobedient servants, untrusty workmen, disloyal subjects, and bad members of society! Whence so much rapine, fornication, and blasphemy! Do not all these evils center in ignorance and contempt of the Lord's day? And shall we do nothing to check these growing evils!'

      "Persons concerned for the welfare of the next generation, and well wishers to Church and state, have already set us a fair example in Stroud, Gloucester, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol, and many country parishes. They have attempted to remedy these evils by setting up Sunday schools, which, by keeping children from corrupting one another, by promoting their attendance on Divine worship, and by planting the first principles of useful knowledge in their minds, and of piety in their hearts, bid fair for a public reformation of manners, and for nipping, in the bud, the ignorance and impiety which are everywhere so common among the lower and more numerous classes of people."

      6. The proposals concerning Sunday schools in the parish of Madeley were as follows

      I. It is proposed, That Sunday schools be set up in this parish, for such children as are employed all the week, and for those whose education has been hitherto totally neglected.

      II. That the children admitted into these be taught reading, writing, and the principles of religion.

      III. That there be a school for boys, and another for girls, in Madeley, Madeley Wood, and Coalbrook Dale, six in all.

      IV. That a subscription be opened to pay each teacher one shilling per Sunday, and to buy tables, forms, books, pens, and ink.

      V. That two treasurers be appointed to ask and receive the contributions of the subscribers.

      VI. That whosoever subscribes one guinea a year shall be a governor.

      VII. That three or four inspectors be appointed, who are to visit the schools once a week, to see that the children attend regularly, and the masters do their duty.

      VIII. That a book be provided for setting down all receipts and expenses; and another for the names of the teachers and scholars.

      IX. That the schools be solemnly visited once or twice a year; and a premium given to the children that have made the greatest improvement.

      7. As to the success of his unwearied labors, although he was much discouraged when he first returned from abroad, finding so many of those who had once run well, grown weary and faint in their minds; yet it was not long before he found fresh cause to rejoice, and to know that God was with him of a truth. It was not long before he observed a general reformation had taken place in the parish. And it was not only an outward reformation, even of many that had been notorious for all manner of wickedness; but an inward also: many, both young and old, having learned to worship God in spirit and in truth. A considerable number of these still mourn their loss of him, as sheep bereaved of their shepherd. And yet one cannot doubt but a still larger company of his own children have hailed him on the celestial shore. But the season is coming when all secrets shall be laid open; and all the jewels of his crown shall be made manifest in that day.

      8. One instance of the effect of his ministry, he mentioned some years since at Bristol. "One Sunday," said he, "when I had done reading prayers at Madeley, I went up into the pulpit, intending to preach a sermon which I had prepared for that purpose. But my mind was so confused that I could not recollect either my text or any part of my sermon. I was afraid I should be obliged to come down, without saying any thing. But having recollected myself a little, I thought I would say something on the first lesson, which was the third chapter of Daniel, containing the account of the three worthies cast into the fiery furnace: I found, in doing it, such an extraordinary assistance from God, and such a singular enlargement of heart, that I supposed there must be some peculiar cause for it. I therefore desired, if any of the congregation had met with any thing particular, they would acquaint me with it in the ensuing week.

      9. "In consequence of this, the Wednesday after, a person came, and gave me the following account:-- Mrs. K. had been for some time much concerned about her soul. She attended the church at all opportunities, and spent much time in private prayer. At this, her husband (who is a butcher) was exceedingly enraged, and threatened severely what he would do, if she did not leave off going to John Fletcher's church: yea, if she dared to go any more to any religious meetings whatever. When she told him she could not in conscience refrain from going, at least to the parish church, he grew quite outrageous, and swore dreadfully if she went any more he would cut her throat as soon as she came home. This made her cry mightily to God that he would support her in the trying hour. And though she did not feel any great degree of comfort, yet having a sure confidence in God, she determined to go on in her duty, and leave the event to him. Last Sunday, after many struggles with the devil and her own heart, she came down stairs ready for church. Her husband asked her whether she was resolved to go thither? She told him she was. 'Well then,' said he, 'I shall not, as I intended, cut your throat; but I will heat the oven, and throw you into it the moment you come home.' Notwithstanding this threatening, which he enforced with many bitter oaths, she went to church, praying all the way that God would strengthen her to suffer whatever might befall her. While you were speaking of the three Hebrews whom Nebuchadnezzar cast into the burning fiery furnace, she found it all belonged to her, and God applied every word to her heart. And when the sermon was ended, she thought if she had a thousand lives she could lay them all down for God. She felt her whole soul so filled with his love, that she hastened home, fully determined to give herself to whatsoever God pleased; nothing doubting but that either he would take her to heaven if he suffered her to be burned to death, or that he would some way deliver her even as he did his three servants that trusted in him. But when she opened the door, to her astonishment and comfort she found her husband's wrath abated, and soon had reason to believe that he was under a concern for the salvation of his soul. The next Lord's day, contrary to his former ungodly custom, he attended Divine service at the church, and even received the Lord's Supper. These good impressions, however, it is feared, have not produced any lasting change on his heart and life. But I now know why my sermon was taken from me, namely, that God might thus magnify his mercy."

      "Many were the dangers he went through in the course of his ministry; but the Lord delivered him out of them all. One of these Mrs. Fletcher relates in the following words

      "My husband having appointed to preach one Sunday at a church about fourteen miles off, I felt some concern for his riding so far, and doing the whole Sunday's duty twice: especially as it was necessary for him to return home the same night. The evening being exceeding dark and wet, I was strongly led to commend him to God in prayer. While I was doing this, it was suggested to me that his horse was fallen, and had thrown him over his head: and the whole scene appeared to be clearly represented before my eyes. 'My God,' said I, 'he is thine. His life, his limbs, his health, all are thine! I commit him to thee by faith.' Immediately that word was impressed on my heart, The righteous is in the hand of the Lord: and there shall no evil touch him. And it filled my soul with such a sweetness that I could feel no fear. The night was uncommonly bad, which occasioned many friends to continue with me. And while they expressed their great uneasiness at his staying two hours lunger than we could well account for, I was obliged to hide the calmness I felt by silence, lest some should have supposed it insensibility. At last he came well, and praising God; but asked for water to wash himself, because his horse had fallen, and thrown him with great force over his head. Yet, glory be to God, he was noway hurt, except having a little skin grazed from one of his fingers. As he set the Lord always before him, so he found his help in every time of need."

      10. In the beginning of the year 1783, his kind friend and host, Mr. Greenwood, was called away. On this mournful occasion he writes as follows to Mrs. Thornton

      "Yesterday I received your melancholy, joyful letter, as I came from the sacrament, where the grace of God had armed me to meet the awful news. And is my merciful host gone to reap the fruit of his mercy to me? I thought I should have been permitted to go first and welcome him into everlasting habitations; but Providence has ordered it otherwise, and I am left behind, to say, with you and dear Mrs. Greenwood, The Lord gave, and has taken away, and blessed be His holy name.

      "The glory with which his setting sun was gilded, is the greatest comfort by which Heaven could alleviate his loss. Let me die as he did, and let my last end be like his! I was so sensibly affected by your account, that I could not help reading part of your letter at church in the afternoon, and desiring all the congregation to join me in thanksgiving, for the late mercies he had vouchsafed to my generous benefactor. On such occasions let sighs be lost in praise; and repining in humble submission and thankful acquiescence. I hope dear Mrs. Greenwood mixes a tear of joy with a tear of sorrow. Who would not be landed on the other side the stream of time, if he were sure of such a passage? Who would wish his best friend back on the shores of sorrow, so triumphantly left by Mr. Greenwood?

      "So Mr. and Mrs. Perronet are no more; and Lazarus is still alive! What scenes does this world afford? But the most amazing is certainly that of Emmanuel crucified and offering us pardons and crowns of glory! May we ever gaze at that wonderful object, until it has formed us into love, peace, and joy! We thank you for the sweet name you still call us by, and we heartily take the hint, and subscribe ourselves your affectionate, grateful friends, and ready servants in Christ, "J. and M. F."

      11. Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher had been earnestly requested by several serious persons at Dublin, to come over and spend a few weeks in that city, for the purpose of promoting the interests of religion, by their godly exhortations and example. As long as civility or piety would suffer it they declined the Journey: but, after being repeatedly urged to undertake it, at the united instances of the Methodist society, they judged it improper any longer to withhold their consent, lest in disregarding the solicitations of a willing people, they should disobey the summons of God. Accordingly, in the summer of this year, (1784,) they accepted the invitation, and appeared for a season in another kingdom, as two burning and shining lights. A gentleman of Dublin, who enjoyed much of their company during this holy visit, writes as follows:

      "I wish it were in my power to send you any anecdotes of our dear deceased friend. But, unless I were to send you an account of the words and actions of every day, I know not where to begin. One particular circumstance, however, I will relate. Upon his going to leave us, knowing the scanty pittance he received from his parish, we thought it but an act of common honesty to refund him the expense he had been at in Coming, and to bear his charges back again. Accordingly, after he had preached, on the last evening of his stay among us, the steward and trustees united to press his acceptance of a small purse, not as a present, but as a debt justly due to him. But he firmly and absolutely refused it. At length, being very urgent with him, and importunate to an excess, he took the purse in his hand. 'Well,' said he, 'do you really force it upon me? Must I accept of it? Is it entirely mine? And may I do with it as I please?' ' Yes, yes,' we all replied. 'God be praised, then, God be praised,' said he, casting his brimful eyes to heaven, 'behold what a mercy is here! Your poor's fund was just out: I heard some of you complaining that it was never so low before. Take this purse. God has sent it you, raised it among yourselves, and bestowed it upon your poor. You cannot deny me. It is sacred to them. God be praised! I thank you, I heartily thank you, my dear kind brethren.'

      "Thus was his free Gospel a bountiful provision for our poor, while this last generous action served to harrow in the precious seed that his labor of love had been sowing among us. Indeed, it was a crowning of his labors, a sealing of his message that will never be forgotten by us, that is registered in the pages of eternity, and will follow him among those works that he ever gloried to cast at the feet of Jesus."

      12. From Dublin, Aug.23, he wrote to Lady Mary Fitzgerald as follows:-"

      Honored and Dear Madam, -- I see the truth of those words of our Lord, In me ye shall have peace, comfort, strength, and joy; be of good cheer. We came here to see the members of our Lord, and we find you removed, and removing farther still than you now are. What does this providence teach us? I learn that I must rejoice in the Lord above all his members, and find them all in him, who fills all in all; who is the life of all our friends, the joy of all our brethren. If our Lord be your life, your strength, and your all, you cannot go from your spiritual friends; they will meet you in the common center of all life and righteousness; there they will bless you, rejoice in your joy, and sympathize in your sorrow.

      "If Providence call you to England by Scotland, by which route your ladyship apprehends so much difficulty, you know we must, at least, go to heaven by a way equally painful, -- the narrow way, the way marked with blood, and with the tears and cross of the Son of God; and if we follow him weeping, we shall return with ever lasting joy on our heads. Even now the foretaste of those joys is given to us through hope, for by hope we are saved. Let our faith and hope be in God, rooted and grounded in him, who gives vital heat to our hearts, and who fans there the spark of grace which his mercy has kindled; and may that spark, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, become a fire of holy love, heavenly zeal, and heavenly glory. Such power belongeth to the Almighty.

      "My dear partner, who, like myself, is deeply sensible of your ladyship's kindness in remembering us, joins me in thanks for your obliging note, and in cordial wishes that all the desires of your believing soul may be granted you both for time, death, and eternity. We subscribe ourselves with grateful sincerity, honored madam, your devoted servants in our bleeding Lord, "J. and M. F."

      13. While in Dublin, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher were entertained chiefly at the house of William Smyth, Esq. On their return to Madeley, in November, they expressed their gratitude for the kindness shown them in the following words

      "Dear Sir, -- The many great favors you have loaded us with, during our long stay under your hospitable roof, prompted us to make the earliest acknowledgment of our obligations, and to beg you would receive our warmest thanks for such unexpected and undeserved tokens of your brotherly love. But the desire of filling our only frank has hindered their being more early traced upon paper; though they have been, are now, and, we trust, shall ever be deeply engraven on our heart. You have united for us the Irish hospitality, the English cordiality, and the French politeness. And now, sir, what shall we say? You are our generous benefactor, and we are your affectionate, though unprofitable servants. In one sense we are on a level with those to whom you show charity in the streets; we can do nothing but pray for you, your dear partner, and yours. You kindly received us for Christ's sake; may God receive you freely for his sake also! You have borne with our infirmities: the Lord bear with yours also! You have let your servant serve us: the Lord give all his servants and his angels charge concerning you, that you hurt not your foot against a stone, and may be helped out of every difficulty! You have given us a most pleasing resting place, and comfortable apartment under your roof, and next your own chamber: the Lord grant you eternal rest with him in the heavenly mansions! May he himself be your habitation and resting place for ever; and place you and yours with his own jewels, in the choicest repository of precious things! You have fed us with the richest food: may the Giver of every perfect gift fit you for a place at his table, and may you rank there with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! You have given us wines: may you drink with Christ himself the fruit of the vine, new in your Father's kingdom! You have given us a rich provision for the way: when you cross the flood, the deep flood of death, may you find that your heavenly Lord has made such a rich provision of faith, righteousness, hope, and joy for you, that you may rejoice, triumph, and sing, while you leave your earthly friends to go home! which, by the by, is more than we are enabled to do; for, instead of singing in our cabins, there was very different melody.

      "However, we could soon, with grateful, joyful hearts, look back from the British to the Irish shore, and greet in spirit the dear friends we had left there. The Lord bless and increase them in spiritual, and if best for them, in temporal goods also! The Lord crown them and theirs with loving kindness, and mercies equal to the love of our God, and the merits of our Saviour! And now, dear sir, what shall I add? I cannot now even see my Bible, but through the medium of your love, and the token with which it alternately loads my pocket and my hand. I cannot even seal a letter with a good wafer,. but I find a new call to repeat my thanks to you. I would begin again, but my scrap of paper is full, as well as my heart and I must spare a line to tell you that I had the pleasure of seeing our kind benefactress, Mrs. Smyth, safe at Bristol, with her little charge and Lady Mary. We remain, dear sir, your most affectionate and most obliged pensioners and servants,"J. and M. F."

      At the same time they addressed an affectionate letter to the members of the Methodist society in Dublin, from which I present the reader with the following short extract:"To all the dear brethren who, after kindly inviting John and Mary Fletcher, patiently bearing with them and their infirmities, and entertaining them in the most hospitable, Christian manner, have added to all their former favors that of thanking them for their most pleasant and profitable journey: "Brethren and Dearly Beloved in The Lord, We had felt shame enough under the sense of your kindness and patience toward us, and of our unprofitableness toward you, when at Dublin. You needed not have added to our shame, by the new token of your love, the friendly letter we have received from you. We are indebted to you, dear brethren; we owed you the letter of thanks you have gratuitously sent. But in all things you will have the pre-eminence, and we are glad to drink the cup of humility at your feet. May the Lord, who can part the sea by the touch of a rod, and could at first cause the earth to bring forth abundantly all manner of trees and plants without seed, so bless the seed of the word, which we sowed in great weakness among you, as to make it produce a full crop of humble repentance, cheerful faith, triumphant hope, and the sanctifying influences of God's Spirit in your hearts, in all your families, in all your assemblies, and in your whole society! If your profuse liberality toward us abounded to the comfort of our poor brethren, we doubly rejoice on your account, and on theirs."

      14. The laying the foundation of the Sunday schools at Madeley was the last public work in which he was employed. But, as the liberal man is ever devising liberal things, he had several plans in his mind for providing for a great number of desolate children, brought up only to beg and steal. Such this populous parish, and indeed most others, afford in great abundance. He had likewise proposed writing various little tracts, for the use of the schools. But He who cannot err, saw good to call his servant hence to enjoy, rather than leave him here to do and suffer.

      15. I shall conclude this chapter with some short extracts from two or three of his letters to his friends, written during the last year of his life. These I shall here insert with a view to show that his ideas of, and zeal for, spiritual, experimental, and practical religion, including universal holiness of heart and life, continued unvaried to the end of his days, and that to the last he "walked by the same rule" by which he had walked from the beginning, "minded the same things," and persevered "to press to the mark, for the prize of his high calling," never satisfied with what he had attained.

      September 13, 18?1, he writes to Mr. Ireland thus:-- "Surely the Lord keeps us both in slippery places that we may still sit loose to all below. Let us do so more and more, and make the best of those days which the Lord grants us to finish the work he has given us to do. Oh let us fall in with the gracious designs of his providence: trim our lamps, gird our loins, and prepare to escape to the heavenly shore, as Paul did, when he saw the leaky ship ready to go to the bottom, and made himself ready to swim to the land.

      "I keep in my sentry box till Providence remove 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 door, so that if I happen to overdo myself, I have but a step from my pulpit to my bed, and from my bed to my grave. If I had a body full of vigor, 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 race horse, it would be ridiculous indeed. I thank God, my wife, who joins me in thanks to you for your kind offer, 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 laborer.

      "She sweetly helps me to drink the dregs of life, and to carry with ease the daily cross. Neither of us are 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 hath overcome for us."

      Jan.21, 1785, he says to Mrs. Thornton:-" Between the living and the dead, (being dying worms ourselves,) what manner of people ought we to be in our generation? If we cannot be what we would, burning and shining lights, showing forth the glory, the mercy, the love of our Lord, as those who flame with indefatigable zeal, and run a race of immense labors, let us at least lie meekly at Christ's feet as Mary, or patiently hang on the cross as our common Lord.

      "I want much to know how you all do in soul and body: as for me, I make just shift to fill up my little sentry box, by the help of my dear partner. Had we more strength we should have opportunity enough to exert it. Oh that we were but truly faithful in our little place! Your great stage of London is too high for people of little ability and little strength, and therefore we are afraid of venturing upon it, lest the consequence should be our bringing new burdens on our generous friends. We should be glad to rise high in usefulness; but God, who needs us not, calls us to sink in deep resignation and humility. His will be done!"

      To Mr. Henry Brooke, Feb.28, his words are:-- "We are all shadows. Your mortal parent hath passed away; and we pass away after him. Blessed be the Author of every good and perfect gift for the shadow of his eternal paternity displayed to us in our deceased parents. What was good, loving, and lovely in them, is hid with Christ in God; where we may still enjoy it implicitly, and where we shall explicitly enjoy it when he shall appear. A lesson I learn daily is to see things and persons in their invisible root, and in their eternal principle; where they are not subject to change, decay, and death; but where they blossom and shine in the primeval excellence allotted them by their gracious Creator. By these means I learn to walk by faith, and not by sight; but, like a child, instead of walking straight and firm in this good, spiritual way, I am still apt to cling here or there; which makes me cry, 'Lord, let me see all things more clearly, that I may never mistake a shadow for the substance, nor put any creature, no, not for a moment, in the place of the Creator; who deserves to be loved, admired, and sought after, with all the powers of our souls.'

      "Tracing his image in all the footsteps of nature, or looking for the Divine signature on every creature, as we would look for the king's image on an old, rusty medal, is true philosophy; and to find out that, which is of God in ourselves, is true wisdom, genuine godliness. I hope you will never be afraid, nor ashamed of it. I see no danger in these studies and meditations, provided we still keep the end in view,-- the all of God, and the shadowy nothingness of all that is visible.

      "With respect to the great pentecostal display of the Spirit's glory, I still look for it within and without; and to look for it aright is the lesson I am learning.

      "I am glad your partner goes on simply and believingly. Such a companion is a great blessing, if you know how to make use of it. For 'when two of you shall all agree touching any one thing in prayer, it shall be done.' My wife and I endeavor to fathom the meaning of that deep promise; join your line to ours, and let us search what, after all, exceeds knowledge, -- I mean the wisdom and the power, the love and faithfulness of God. Adieu. Be God's, as the French say; and see God yours in Christ."

      The last letter, probably, which he wrote, dated July 19, 1785, about three weeks before his death, and a fortnight before he was taken ill, is addressed to his faithful friend, Mr. Ireland, in the following words

      "My Dear Friend, -- Blessed be God, we a still alive, and, in the midst of many infirmities, we enjoy a degree of health, spiritual and bodily. Oh how good was the Lord to come as Son of man to live here for us, and to come in his Spirit to live in us for ever! This is a mystery of godliness: the Lord make us full witnesses of it!

      "A week ago I was tried to the quick by a fever with which my dear wife was afflicted: two persons whom she had visited, having been carried off, within a pistol shot of our house, I dreaded her being the third. But the Lord hath heard prayer, and she is spared. Oh what is life! On what a slender thread hang everlasting things! My comfort, however, is that this thread is as strong as the will of God, and the word of his grace, which cannot be broken. That grace and peace, love, and thankful joy, may ever attend you, is the wish of your most obliged friends, J. and M. F."

Back to John Fletcher index.

See Also:
   Chapter 1 - Of His Parentage and Youth
   Chapter 2 - Account of His Conversion
   Chapter 3 - Conversion & Orders
   Chapter 4 - Faithfulness in Ministry
   Chapter 5 - Excursions & Visits
   Chapter 6 - Decline of Health
   Chapter 7 - Leaving Newington
   Chapter 8 - Of His Marriage
   Chapter 9 - From His Marriage Till the Beginning of His Last Illness
   Chapter 10 - His Character
   Chapter 11 - His Character By Mrs. Fletcher and Others
   Chapter 12 - His Death


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