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- Fletcher of Madeley - 10/20 -
said Mrs. Ryan.
They tried, but were unsuccessful. Miss Bosanquet went to prayer, and it seemed to her as if the Lord Jesus Christ stood by her side and repeated some words she had lately read: "Christ charges Himself with all your temporal affairs, while you charge yourself with those that relate to His glory." Such power accompanied the utterance as "wiped away every care," as she put it to herself. While yet she thanked her Lord for His promise a knock came to her door. A man had called to bring her just the amount she needed.
Not a little trouble came to Mary Bosanquet through a Miss Lewen who stayed in her house, received much good, and was nursed through an illness which proved unto death.
Many ill-natured persons credited the kindly hostess with an effort to secure Miss Lewen's fortune for her work, but the reverse was the case, she having cost the little House of Mercy many pounds without contributing anything towards it.
A man named Richard Taylor was her next trial--a debtor and improvident, with a wife and family of small children. Being recommended to her good graces, he stayed for a time in her household while trying to arrange with his creditors. He accompanied Miss Bosanquet, Mrs. Ryan, and Mrs. Crosby upon a troublesome journey to Yorkshire, taken with the double purpose of benefiting Sarah Ryan's fast-failing health, and of seeking a larger and more suitable Orphan Home than the one in Leytonstone. The latter object was accomplished, but Mrs. Ryan gradually sank, and to her friend's great sorrow they had to bury her in the old churchyard of Leeds.
The northern Home involved three times the work required by the other; wheat had to be ground to flour before home-made bread could be baked, cows managed and milked, men-servants overlooked; all the details, in fact, of a country house and a large household came under review. This alone would have brought more than enough responsibility, but on the advice of Richard Taylor and another Yorkshire friend, Miss Bosanquet unfortunately bought a farm with malt-kilns attached, and began to build a house suitable for the size of her family.
The investment turned out an unhappy failure. The work of God prospered mightily, but the settling of Taylor's affairs cost her between £200 and £300; the house was an inn-of-call for all Methodists travelling through the district (which could not be without incurring much expense); the farm and kilns swallowed increasingly large sums of money, and Taylor was an extravagant manager.
Had it not been for the unfailing kindness and help of a gentleman who many times proposed to Miss Bosanquet in vain, she would have come out of the affair penniless. Friends greatly urged this marriage upon her. Her rule in these cases was to ask herself, "Should I be holier or happier with this man?" The answer was invariably "No!" and in this particular instance the thought of her saintly friend at Madeley arose to make the idea doubly disagreeable to her.
In great distress, she began to live on bread and water in order to economise, and go no further into debt, but the night following this forlorn effort God came very near and comforted her with the promise of deliverance in a way she knew not. She says:--
"He showed me (by a light on my understanding) that all my trials were appointed by Himself; that they were laid on by weight and measure, and should go no farther than they would work for my good. . . . I had depended on creatures for help, and therefore He had let me feel the weight of my burdens, that I might be constrained to cast them afresh on Him; and that, when He had proved and tried me, He would deliver me from all my outward burdens. As a pledge of the inward liberty He would afterwards bring me into, and that the ways and means of my deliverance were in His own hands, and should appear in the appointed time, those words were again brought powerfully to my mind--'If thou ...put away iniquity far from thy tabernacles.... Yea, the Almighty shall be thy defence, and thou shalt have plenty of silver...and shalt lift up thy face unto God.... Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee; and the light shall shine upon thy ways.'...It was a profitable and melting time."
Thus, even in the midst of her troubles, was Mary Bosanquet comforted of God.
The College of Trevecca.
An important episode in the life of John Fletcher was his association with the College of Trevecca, opened by the Countess of Huntingdon, for young men who desired to devote themselves to the service of Christ. A gratuitous education for three years, with lodging, board, and clothing, was provided for each student, the young men being afterwards free to enter whatever church they preferred.
Above all, it was important that the College should have a President whose advice could be relied upon concerning the choice, conduct and work of both masters and students--practically an unsalaried head of affairs. To this post was called the Vicar of Madeley, and though naturally unable to be resident in the College, he accepted the duties of President, and, as such, gave most valuable service.
A little later than this Fletcher undertook to be Chaplain (one of three) to the Earl of Buchan, who was known as one of the most devoted Christians of his rank.
Notwithstanding these duties, Fletcher's work became increasingly itinerant in character. Wesley says:--
"For many years he regularly preached at places eight, ten, and sixteen miles off, returning the same night, though he seldom got home before one or two in the morning. At a little Society which he had gathered about six miles from Madeley, he preached two or three times a week, beginning at five in the morning.... In some of his journeys he had not only difficulties, but dangers likewise, to encounter. One day, as he was riding over a wooden bridge, just as he got to the middle thereof, it broke in. The mare's forelegs sank into the river, but her breast and hinder parts were kept up by the bridge. In that position she lay as still as if she had been dead, till he got over her neck and took off his bags, in which were several MSS., the spoiling of which would have occasioned much trouble. He then endeavoured to raise her up, but she would not stir till he went over the other part of the bridge. But no sooner did he set his feet upon the ground than she began to plunge. Immediately the remaining part of the bridge broke down and sunk with her into the river. But presently she rose and swam to him."
Other adventures befell Fletcher in his travels, some of them ending in the narrowest escapes from injury and death.
In the early part of the year 1770 Fletcher visited Italy, France, and his native Switzerland, with his friend Mr. Ireland. Few details are preserved, but it seems to have been an uncommonly lively tour. Mr. Ireland tells of the Vicar's enthusiasm for unmasking various practices of the Italian priests, which placed them frequently in danger of their lives.
During this trip they met with a classical scholar who said he had "travelled all over Europe, and had passed through all the societies in England to find a person whose life corresponded with the Gospels and with Paul's Epistles." Almost defiantly he demanded of Mr. Ireland if he knew a single clergyman or Dissenting minister in his native land possessed of £100 a year who would not desert his living for any other if offered double that amount. Mr. Ireland triumphantly pointed to his travelling companion, saying, "_That_ man would not!"
The traveller turned to Mr. Fletcher and began a religious argument, which the two kept up at intervals for a whole week. The Vicar overcame his opponent again and again, and though the latter lost his temper continually over his repeated defeats, the calm, sweet reasonableness of Fletcher's spirit, as much as the overwhelming weight of his arguments for Jesus Christ, made a lasting impression upon his mind. Eight years later he showed his appreciation by becoming the Vicar's host in Provence, and treating him with the greatest reverence and attention.
While in Paris he was sent for to visit a sick woman. Information having been given to a magistrate which ascribed to him wrong motives, a garbled case was got up, and an order of apprehension was issued from the King. An officer called at the house where the friends were staying to serve the order. Mr. Ireland stepped out and, without mentioning his name, said quietly, "Sir, have you an order for me?" "I have," responded the officer, taking him for Fletcher. They went off together, and Mr. Fletcher was well out of the city before the magistrate disgustedly discovered the mistake.
When in the south of France, Fletcher determined to visit the Protestants of the Cevennes Mountains, and nothing would serve him but that he should perform the long and difficult journey on foot, with but a staff in his hand. He disdained to appear well cared for, and on horseback, at the doors of those whose fathers were hunted for their faith from rock to rock. He set out in his own fashion, therefore; on the first night of his travels begging the use of a chair in some humble cottage until morning. The peasant was reluctant to admit his strange guest, but when he had heard him talk and pray, himself, no less than his wife and children, were affected to tears. "I nearly refused to let a stranger into my house," related the peasant to his neighbours, "but when he came I found more angel than man."
Nor was this the only person who held such an opinion. Wesley tells of another visit paid by the Vicar upon his way to call upon a minister of the district. A little crowd was assembled at the door of a house where a mother and her newly-born child were dying. The room was also filled with neighbours. Fletcher went in, spoke gently to the people present of the effects of the sin of our first parent, and pointed them to Jesus. "Jesus!" he exclaimed, "He is able to raise the dead, to save you all from sin, to save these from death. Come, let us ask Him!"
In prayer he had wondrous liberty. The child's convulsions ceased, the mother became easy, and strength flowed into her as he prayed. The neighbours gazed astonished, and silently withdrew, whispering to one another when without the house, "_Certainly it was an angel!_"
On their journey from France to Italy the travellers arrived at the Appian Way. Fletcher stopped the carriage and descended, remarking to his friend, "I cannot _ride_ over ground where the Apostle Paul once _walked,_ chained to a soldier;" and taking off his hat he walked up the old Roman road praising God for the glorious Gospel preached by His servant of long ago.
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