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The Life of John Fletcher: Chapter 11 - His Character By Mrs. Fletcher and Others

      1. Having, in the preceding chapter, presented the reader with the character of Mr. Fletcher, drawn by the masterly pen of the Rev. Mr. Gilpin, a near neighbor and intimate friend, who knew him well, I shall now offer to his consideration one equally just and striking, drawn by a person still more intimate with him, and more thoroughly acquainted with his manner of life, and the most secret springs of his whole deportment. "From Mrs. Fletcher," as Mr. Wesley has observed, "he concealed nothing. 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. And to this we are indebted for the knowledge of many particulars which must otherwise have been buried in oblivion."

      2. The following are mostly her own words, for where they are clear and expressive, as they generally are, it is not judged right to alter them for altering's sake. "Whatever he might be with regard to charity," says she, "he was no less eminent for the spirit of faith. Indeed, he was not so much influenced by impressions (which many mistake for faith) as abundance of people have been; but by a steady, firm reliance upon the love, and truth, and faithfulness of God. His ardent desire was so to believe as to become a partaker of all the great and precious promises: to be a witness of all that mind which was in Christ Jesus. And being conscious that he must be crucified with his Master, or never reign with him, he gave himself up to him, to lie in his hand as the passive clay. He would often say, 'It is my business, in all events to hang upon the Lord, with a sure trust and confidence that he will order all things for the best, as to time and manner. Indeed, it would be easy to be a believer; nay, in truth, there would be no room for faith, if every thing were seen here. But against hope to believe in hope; to have a full confidence in that unseen power which so mightily supports us in all our dangers and difficulties, this is the believing which is acceptable to God. Sometimes when I have expressed some apprehension of an approaching trial, he would answer, 'I do not doubt but the Lord orders all wisely; therefore I leave every thing to him.' In outward dangers, if they were ever so great, he seemed to know no shadow of fear. When I was speaking once, concerning a danger to which we were then particularly exposed, he answered, 'I know God always gives his angels charge concerning us: therefore we are equally safe everywhere.'

      3. "Not less eminent than his faith was his humility. Amid all his labors for God and for the good of souls, he ever preserved that special grace, the making no account of his own labors. He held himself and his own abilities in very low esteem; and seemed to have that word continually before his eyes, 'I am an unprofitable servant.' And this humility was so rooted in him, as to be moved by no affront I have known many, even of the most provoking kind, offered him; but he received them as his proper portion; being so far from desiring the honor which cometh of men, that he took pleasure in being little and unknown." "Perhaps it might appear," observes Mr. Wesley, "from some passages of his life, that in this he even leaned to an extreme. For genuine humility does not require that any man should desire to be despised. Nay, we are to avoid it, so far as we possibly can, consistently with a good conscience; for that direction, Let no man despise thee, concerns every man as well as Timothy."

      "It is rare," proceeds Mrs. Fletcher, "to meet withaan eminent person who can bear an equal. But it was his choice and his delight to prefer every one to himself. And this he did in so free and easy a manner, that in him it appeared perfectly natural. He never willingly suffered any unkindness shown to him to be mentioned again: and if it were, he generally answered, 'Oh let it drop; we will offer it in silence to the Lord.' And indeed the best way of bearing crosses is to present them all in silence to God.

      4. "From this root of humility sprung such patience as I wish I could either describe or imitate. It produced in him a mind most ready to embrace every cross with alacrity and pleasure. For the good of his neighbor, nothing seemed hard, nothing wearisome. Sometimes I have been grieved to call him out of his study two or three times in an hour: especially when he was engaged in composing some of his.most important works. But he would answer with his usual sweetness, 'Oh my dear, never mind that. It matters not, if we are but ready to meet the will of God. It is conformity to the will of God that alone makes an employment excellent.' He never thought any thing too mean, but sin; he looked on nothing else as beneath his character. If he overtook a poor man or woman on the road, with a burden too heavy for them, he did not fail to offer his assistance to bear part of it. And he would not easily take a denial. This proof indeed of condescension and kindness he has frequently given.

      "In bearing pain he was most exemplary, and continued to be more and more so to the last. Nor was his descending to the capacities of the ignorant the least remarkable or least humbling part of his ministry. And he had a most resolute courage in reproving of sin. To daring sinners, it is well known, he was a son of thunder! and no worldly considerations were regarded whenever he believed God had given him a message to deliver to any of them.

      5. "One considerable part of humility is, to know our own places, and stand therein. Every member has its peculiar appointment in the human body, where the wise Creator has placed it. And it is well that each should continue in its place. For every dislocated bone gives pain, and causes disorder, and must continue so to do, till it be replaced in its proper socket. Just so every dislocated affection or disposition must occasion disorder, give pain to the soul, till it be restored to its own place; till it be entirely fixed on, or resigned to God; till a person gives his whole self to the disposal of infinite Wisdom. This is the proper place of every rational creature; and in this place he invariably stood. Whatever he believed to be the will of God he resolutely performed, though it were to pluck out a right eye, or to lay his Isaac on the altar. When it appeared that God called him to any journey, he immediately prepared for it without the least hesitation: although, for the last three or four years of his life, he hardly ever travelled to any considerable distance without feeling some tendency to a relapse into his former disorder. And it was generally some weeks after his return before he recovered his usual strength."

      6. His disengagedness from the world and love of the poor, Mrs. Fletcher joins together. "Never," says she, "did I behold any one more dead to the things of the world. His treasure was above; and so was his heart also. He always remembered that admonition of the apostle, No man that warreth entangleth himself with the things of this world. It was his constant endeavor to preserve a mind free and disencumbered: and he was exceeding wary of undertaking any business that might distract and hurry it. Nevertheless, in his worldly concerns, knowing himself to be a steward for God, he would not, through carelessness, waste one penny. He likewise judged it to be his bounden duty to demand what he knew to be his right. And yet he could well reconcile this with that word, He that will have thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. [14] But whether he had less or more, it was the same thing upon his own account; as he had no other use for it, after frugally supplying his own wants, and the wants of those dependent on him, but to spread the Gospel, and assist the poor. And he frequently said he was never happier than when he had given way the last penny he had in his house. If at any time I had gold in my drawers, it seemed to afford him no comfort. But if he could find a handful of small silver when he was going out to see the sick, he would express as much pleasure over it, as a miser would in discovering a bag of hid treasure. He was never better pleased with my employment than when he had set me to prepare food or physic for the poor. He was hardly able to relish his dinner if some sick neighbor had not a part of it; and sometimes when any of them was in want, I could not keep the linen in his drawers. On Sundays he provided for numbers of people who came from a distance to hear the word: and his house, as well as his heart, was devoted to their convenience. To relieve them that were afflicted in body and mind was the delight of his heart. Once a poor man, who feared God, being brought into great difficulties, he took down all the pewter from the kitchen shelves, saying, 'This will help you, and I can do without it: a wooden trencher will serve me just as well.' In epidemic and contagious distempers, when the neighbours were afraid to nurse the sick, he has gone from house to house, seeking some that were willing to undertake that office. And when none could be found, he has offered his service to sit up with them himself. But this was at his first coming to Madeley. At present there is in many, (and has been for many years,) a most ready mind to visit and relieve the distressed.

      7. "He thoroughly complied with that advice, -'
      Give to all something: to a good, poor man,
      Till thou change hands, and be where he began.'

      "I have heard him say that, when he lived alone in his house, the tears have come into his eyes when five or six insignificant letters have been brought him, at three or fourpence apiece; and perhaps he had only a single shilling in the house to distribute among the poor, to whom he was going. He frequently said to me, 'Oh Polly, can we not do without beer?. Let us drink water, and eat less meat. Let our necessities give way to the extremities of the poor.'

      8. "But with all his generosity and charity he was strictly careful to follow the advice of the apostle, Owe no man any thing. He contracted no debt. While he gave all he had, he made it a rule to pay ready money for every thing; believing this was the best way to keep the mind unencumbered and free from care. Meanwhile his substance, his strength, his life were devoted to the service of the poor. And, last of all, he gave me to them. For when we were married, he asked me solemnly, 'Whether I was willing to marry his parish?' And the first time he led me among his people in this place, he said, 'I have not married this wife only for myself, but for you. I asked her of the Lord for your comfort, as well as my own.'

      9. "All his life, as well as during his illness, particularly at Newington and Brislington, (as has been largely related,) he was grateful, in a very high degree, to those who conferred the least benefit upon him, yea, or even endeavoured so to do."

      It will be pleasing and edifying to the reader to see how he was wont to express his gratitude on these occasions. To one he says:-- "Your absence made me postpone thanking you for all the kindness you showed me when at Bristol; and to lay me under still greater obligations, you have sent me a hamper of wine and broadcloth; as if it were not enough to adorn and cover the outside, but you must also warm and nourish the inside of the body.

      "I have now the opportunity of telling you, without farther delay, that you should have a little mercy on your friends, in not loading them with such burdens of beneficence. How would you like to be loaded with kindnesses you could not return? Were it not for a little of that grace which makes us not only willing, but happy, to be nothing to be obliged and dependent -- your presence would make me quite miserable. But the mountains of Divine mercy which press down my soul, have inured me to bear the hills of brotherly kindness.

      "I submit to be clothed and nourished by you, as your servants are, without having the happiness of serving you. To yield to this is as hard to friendship as to submit to be saved by free grace, without one scrap of our own righteousness. However, we are allowed, both in religion and friendship, to ease ourselves by thanks and prayers, till we have an opportunity of doing it by actions. I thank you, then, my dear friend, and pray to God that you may receive his benefits as I do yours. Your broadcloth can lap me around two or three times; but the mantle of Divine love, the precious fine robe of Jesus' 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 a shower of brimstone and fire. Your cloth will wear out, but that fine linen, the righteousness of the 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; but the present which Jesus has made you is out of the reach of the spoiler, and ready for present wear; nor is there any fear of cutting it out wrong; for it is seamless, woven from the top throughout, with the white unbroken warp of thirty-three years' perfect obedience, and the red weft of his agony and sufferings unto death.

      "Now, my dear friend, let me beseech you 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; and it came just as I was sending a tailor to buy me some cloth for a new coat; immediately I stopped him, and I hope when you next see me, it will be in your present. Now let Jesus see you in his. Walk in white, adorn his Gospel, while he beautifies you with the garment of salvation. Accept it freely: wear no more the old, rusty coat of nature and self-righteousness: send no more to have it patched: [15] make your boast of an unbought suit; and love to wear the livery of Jesus. You will then love to do his work: it will be your meat and drink to do it: and that you may be vigorous in doing it, as I shall take a little of your wine for my stomach's sake, take you a good deal of the wine of the kingdom for your soul's sake. Every promise of the Gospel is a bottle, a cask, that has a spring within, and can never be drawn out. But draw the cork of unbelief, and drink abundantly, Oh beloved, nor be afraid of intoxication; and if an inflammation follow, it will only be that of Divine love.

      "I beg you will be more free with the heavenly wine, than I have been with the earthly, which you sent me I have not tasted it yet, but whose fault is it? Not yours, certainly, but mine. If you do not drink daily spiritual health and vigour out of the cup of salvation, whose fault is it? Not Jesus' but yours for he gives you his righteousness to cover your nakedness, and the consolations of his Spirit to cheer and invigorate your soul. Accept and use. Wear, drink, and live to God. That you may heartily and constantly do this, is my sincere prayer for you and yours."

      To the same, he writes at another time:-- "I thank you, my dear friend, for all your favors, and all your attention to me. Your more than fraternal love covers me with confusion, and fills me with acknowledgments. What returns shall I make? I will drink the cup of thanksgiving, and I will bless the name of the Lord. I will thank my dear friend, and wish him all the temporal blessings he has conferred upon me, and all those spiritual ones which were not in his power to bestow. Live in health; live piously; live content; live in Christ; Live for eternity; live to make your wife, your children, your servants, your neighbours happy, as far as their happiness depends on you; and may the God of all grace give back a hundredfold to you and your dear wife, all the kindnesses with which you have loaded me The Lord make you happy as a father, a master, and a Christian! The God of peace be with you without interruption!"

      To another, his language on some similar occasion is, "Your kind letter I received in the beginning of the week, and your kind present at the end of it. For both I heartily thank you; nevertheless, I could wish it were your last present, for I find it more blessed to give than to receive; and in point of the good things of this life, my body does not want much, and I can do with what is more common, and cheaper than the rarities you ply me with.

      "Your bounty upon bounty reminds me of the repeated mercies of our God. They follow one another as wave does wave at sea; and all to waft us to the pleasing shore of confidence and gratitude, where we can not only cast anchor near, but calmly stand on the Rock of ages, and defy the rage of tempests."

      10. "Another uncommon talent which God had given him," says Mrs. Fletcher, "was a peculiar sensibility of spirit. He had a temper the most feeling of any I ever knew. Hardly a night passed over, but some part of it was spent in groans for the souls and bodies committed to his care. I dreaded his hearing either of the sins or sufferings of any of his people, before the time of his going to bed, knowing how strong the impressions would be on his mind, chasing sleep from his eyes.

      "And yet I have heard him speak of a time, twelve or fourteen years ago, when he was greatly tempted to think that he was not sensible enough of the afflictions of his fellow creatures. He thought Christ bore our infirmities, and carried our sorrows: but, said he, 'I have not that Christlike temper: I do not bear the sorrows of others. After being for some time buffeted with this temptation, he prayed that a measure of this spirit might be given to him. Not long after, as he was visiting a poor sick family, so lively a sense of their affliction on a sudden fell upon his mind, that he could scarce get home. As soon as he sat down in his house, his soul was penetrated with such a sense of the woes of mankind as utterly depressed and overcame him, and drank up his spirits, insomuch that he could not help himself, nor move from one chair to another; and he was no more able to walk or help himself than a new born child. At the same time he seemed to lose the use of his memory, and of all his faculties. He thought, What is this? Is it a disease? Is it a stroke of the palsy? Rather is it not an answer to my own ill judged, though well intended prayer? Did I not ask a burden unsuitable to a finite, and capable of being borne only by an infinite Being? He remained some hours in this situation. Then it came into his mind, If this be a purely natural event, the will of the Lord be done! But if it be the answer to an improper prayer, God will answer again by removing it. He cried to the Lord, and was restored to strength both of body and mind.

      11. "When we were at Leeds in the year 1784, I had another proof of the tender sensibility of his heart. Oh how deeply was he affected for the welfare of his brethren! When any little disputes arose between them, his inmost soul groaned under the burden. And by two or three o'clock in the morning, I was sure to hear him breathing out prayers for the peace and prosperity of Sion. When I observed to him, I was afraid it would hurt his health, and wished him to sleep more, he would answer, 'Oh Polly, the cause of God lies near my heart!'

      "Toward me his tenderness was exerted in its utmost extent. My soul, my body, my health, my ease and comfort were his daily study. We had no thought, either past or present, which we purposely concealed from each other. My spiritual advancement was his constant endeavor; and to this he was continually stirring me up, inviting me to walk more closely with God; urging that thought, 'Oh my dear, let us pray for dying grace; for we shall not be here long.' His temporal affairs he committed solely to me, though he was always ready to assist me in the smallest matters.

      12. "One article more remains to be spoken of, namely, his communion with God. Although he enjoyed this, more or less, at all times, and in all places, yet I have frequently heard him observe that the seasons of his closest communion were always in his own house, or in the church: usually in the latter. It is much to be lamented that we have no account of it from his own pen. It was his constant endeavor to set the Lord before him, and to maintain an uninterrupted sense of his presence. In order to this, he was slow of speech, and had the greatest government of his words. Indeed, he both acted, and spoke, and thought, as under the eye of God. And thus he remained unmoved in all occurrences; at all times and on every occasion possessing inward recollection. Nor did I ever see him diverted therefrom on any occasion whatever, either going out or coming in, whether by ourselves or in company. Sometimes he took his journeys alone; but above a thousand miles I have travelled with him; during which neither change of company, nor of place, nor the variety of circumstances which naturally occur in travelling, ever seemed to make the least difference in his firm attention to the presence of God. To preserve this uniform habit of soul, he was so watchful and recollected, that to such as were unexperienced in these things it might appear like insensibility. But no one could converse in a more lively and sensible manner, even on natural things, when he saw it was to the glory of God. He was always striving to raise his own, and every other spirit, to a close and immediate intercourse with God. And I can say, with truth, all his union with me was so intermingled with prayer and praise that every employment, and every meal, was, as it were, perfumed therewith."

      13. I subjoin to the above an extract of a letter which I wrote to Mr. Wesley in the year 1786, concerning the character of Mr. Fletcher, and which was published in the former edition of his Life. For although, as Mr. Wesley observed, most of the particulars thereof are contained in the preceding pages, yet as they are here placed in another order, and have also several new circumstances intermixed, it is hoped they will be both agreeable and profitable to every person of piety.

      As to drawing the character of that great and good man, as I then observed, it is what I will not attempt: but if I can suggest any thing that will assist the reader to form a proper idea of, and excite him to imitate his excellences, I shall think my little labor well bestowed. With this view I have looked over most of his letters, and observe in them all, what I have a thousand times observed in his conversation and behaviour, the plainest marks of every Christian grace and virtue.

      Perhaps if he followed his Master more closely in one thing than another, it was in poverty of spirit. It is one branch of this to think meanly of ourselves. And he certainly thought thus of himself in every respect; as a Christian, as a preacher, and as a writer. I need not say how he shone in all those characters; but he knew not that he shone in any of them. How low an opinion he had of himself manifestly appears from his placing himself at the feet of all, and showing a continual desire to learn from every company he was in. He paid all due deference to the judgment of others, readily acknowledged whatever was good in them, and seemed to think himself the only person in whom there dwelt no excellence worth notice. Hence it was, that he often wrote and spoke, as we have seen in many parts of these memoirs, as if he had not received that grace which he undoubtedly had received. Indeed, he overlooked what he had attained, through the eager desire he had of higher and greater things; and, as many of his letters show, thought very meanly of his own attainments, through the continually increasing views which he had of the Divine purity, and of the high degree of conformity thereto, which is attainable even in this world.

      14. As difficult as it is to think meanly of ourselves, it is still more difficult to be willing that others should think meanly of us. And how eminent he was in this respect appears from hence, that he was constantly upon his guard, lest any expression should drop, either from his lips or pen, which might tend to make any one think well of him, either on account of his family, or learning, or parts, or usefulness. Yea, he took as much pains to conceal his excellences as others do to show theirs; having the same desire to be little and unknown, which many have to be known and esteemed.

      15. Blessed are they that mourn, said the Lord Jesus. And this blessedness was as certainly his as that just mentioned. He was a man of a serious spirit, one that stood at the utmost distance from levity of every kind. Though he was constantly cheerful, as rejoicing in hope of the heavenly inheritance, yet had he too deep a sense of his own wants and the wants of the Church of God, as also of the sins and miseries of mankind, to be at any time light or trifling. I have a letter before me, (dated December, 1771,) which at once gives us a picture of his seriousness, watchfulness, and earnestness; and contains advices well deserving the consideration of all that fear God:-" There is undoubtedly," said he, "such a thing as the full assurance of faith. Be not discouraged on account of thousands who stop short of it: it is our own fault if we do not attain it. God would give us ample satisfaction if we did but deeply feel our wants. Both you and I want a deeper awakening, which will produce a death to outward things and speculative knowledge. Let us shut our eyes to the gilded clouds without us: let us draw inward, and search after God, if haply we may find him. Let us hold fast our confidence, though we are often constrained against hope, to believe in hope. But let us not rest in our confidence, as thousands do: let it help us to struggle and wait till he come. Let us habituate ourselves to live inwardly. This will solemnize us, and prevent our trifling with the things of God. We may be thankful for what we have, without resting in it. We may strive, and yet not trust in our striving; but expect all from Divine grace."

      16. In these words Mr. Fletcher gives us not only an example of holy mourning, but likewise of hungering and thirsting after righteousness. In this he was peculiarly worthy of our imitation. He never rested in any thing he had either experienced or done in spiritual matters. But this one thing he did forgetting those things that were behind, and reaching forth unto those things which were before, he pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus: he was a true Christian racer, always on the stretch for higher and better things. Though his attainments, both in experience and usefulness, were above the common standard, yet the language of his conversation and behaviour always was, Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect; but I follow after, if by any means I may apprehend that for which I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. He had his eye upon a full conformity to the Son of God; or what the apostle terms the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. Nor could he be satisfied with any thing less.

      17. And he was meek, like his Master, as well as lowly in heart. Not that he was so by nature; but a man of strong passions, and prone to anger in particular: 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 spirit. And he did not strive in vain: he did obtain the victory in a very eminent degree. Yea, so thoroughly had grace subdued nature; so fully was he renewed in the spirit of his mind, that for many years before his death, I believe, he was never observed by any one, friend or foe, to be out of temper, nor heard to utter a rash expression, on any provocation whatever; and provocation he sometimes met with, and that in a high degree; especially from those whose religious sentiments he thought it his duty to oppose. I have often thought the testimony that Bishop Burnet (in the History of his own Times) bears of Archbishop Leighton, might be borne of him with equal propriety. "After an intimate acquaintance with the archbishop for many years, and after being with him by night and by day, at home and abroad, in public and in private, on sundry occasions and in various affairs; I must say I never heard an idle word drop from his lips, nor any conversation which was not to the use of edifying. I never saw him in any temper in which I myself would not have wished to be found at death." Any one that has been intimately acquainted with Mr. Fletcher will say the same of him. But they that knew him best will say it with the most assurance.

      18. Hence arose his readiness to bear with the weaknesses, and forgive the faults of others; which was the more remarkable, considering his flaming zeal against sin, and deep concern for the glory of God. Such hatred to sin, and such love to the sinner, I never saw joined together before. This circumstance, above others, convinced me of the height of his grace, perceiving that he bore so much of his Master's image, whose hatred to sin and love to sinners are equally infinite. He took all possible pains to detect what was evil in any of those that were under his care; pursuing it through all its turnings and windings, and stripping it of all its disguises. Yet none were so ready to excuse it when it was confessed, and to conceal it even from his most intimate friends. He never mentioned the faults of an absent person unless absolute duty required it. And then he spoke with the utmost tenderness, extenuating, rather than aggravating them. None could draw his picture more exactly than St. Paul has done, in the thirteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. Every feature in that masterly piece of apostolic painting was found in him. Let all that knew him, especially his intimate friends, recollect the spirit and behaviour of this servant of the God of love; and then let them judge whether I exaggerate when I say he suffered long and was kind: he envied not: acted not rashly was not puffed up: did not behave himself unseemly: sought not his own: was not provoked. He thought no evil, rejoiced not in iniquity, but rejoiced in the truth. He covered all things, be believed all things, hoped all things, and endured all things. It would be easy to enlarge on all these particulars, and show how they were exemplified in him.

      19. But waiving this, I would only observe that, with regard to two of them, kindness to others, and not seeking his own, he had few equals. His kindness to others was such, that he bestowed his all upon them: his time, his talents, his substance. His knowledge, his eloquence, his health, his money were employed day by day for the good of mankind. He prayed, he wrote, he preached, he visited the sick and well: he conversed, he gave, he labored, he suffered, winter and summer, night and day: he endangered, nay, destroyed his health, and in the end gave his life also for the profit of his neighbours, that they might be saved from everlasting death. He denied himself even such food as was necessary for him, that he might have to give them that had none. And when he was constrained to change his manner of living, still his diet was plain and simple. And so were his clothing and furniture, that he might save all that was possible for his poor neighbours.

      He sought not his own in any sense: not his own honor, but the honor of God, in all he said or did: he sought not his own interest, but the interest of his Lord, spreading knowledge, holiness, and happiness, as far as he possibly could. He sought not his own pleasure, but studied to please all men for their good to edification: and to please Him that had called him to his kingdom and glory. And yet it is certain he found the greatest pleasure in pleasing God and his neighbor. For nothing could give a higher delight than this to his pious and benevolent mind.

      20. In the meantime he was a man of peace, and spared no pains to restore it where it was broken. He gave numberless proofs of this amiable disposition. When we were at Trevecka, (to mention but one instance,) two of the students were bitterly prejudiced against each other. He took them into a room by themselves, reasoned with them, wept over them, and at last prevailed. Their hearts were broken: they were melted down: they fell upon each other's neck and wept aloud. The pains which he took to make peace at the Leeds conference, in 1784, will not easily be forgotten. And although he could not prevail so far as might have been desired, yet his labor was not in vain.

      But I do not attempt to draw 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.

      21. To the above, Mr. Wesley adds:-- "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, Ouk aschmonei. 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 ves vestigia tendit
      Componit furtim subsequiturq; decor.'

      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.'"

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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