Born in Switzerland on September 12, 1729, John William Fletcher was educated at Nyon. As a young man he intended to enter the army. A series of circumstances foiled his plans. In visiting England in 1752, he fell under the influence of Methodism and determined immediately to become a pastor. Five years later he was ordained. After assisting John Wesley and preaching to French-speaking Swiss expatriates, he threw himself into assisting the vicar of Madeley.
Madeley was a hard town. Fletcher literally chased down sinners to share the gospel with them. No matter what the excuse they gave for not attending church, he tried to rob them of it, even walking through the streets ringing a bell loudly at five in the morning to deny them the pretense that they could not waken themselves on Sunday morning. He was a warm supporter of Sunday schools and set up one himself at Madeley.
No weather could keep him indoors. Wherever and whenever he was needed, there he was found. To help the poor he gave himself so greatly that his health broke, a condition aggravated by his constant exposure to the elements.
John Fletcher was strong in his insistence on regeneration. Only with a new birth, a new creation, did one belong to Christ. This is a constant theme of his sermons and writings. In a sketch telling of his conversion, he says he was a religious enthusiast at 18 but did not apprehend Christ from his heart. A nightmare in which he found himself rejected with the damned woke him to a real need for Christ. He saw that all the good works he'd done had been from pride or from fear of Hell, not for love of God. Nonetheless he felt that the fear he went through was an essential part of becoming a Christian.
In 1776 he had scripted a tract decrying the American Revolution. A copy was forwarded to the king of England. The latter wanted to repay him with any ecclesiastical "plum" Fletcher cared to name. Graciously he turned down his monarch, adding, "I want only more grace."
He wrote prolifically. And although born and reared in Switzerland, John Fletcher adopted the English language so thoroughly that he left fine works in it. He is considered one of the great early Methodist theologians.
John Wesley was dismayed to learn of Fletcher's death. The heartbroken 82-year old agreed to conduct the funeral. The text for Wesley's address leapt off the page at him: "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright." (Psalm 37:37)