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- Fletcher of Madeley - 3/20 -
to supply him with the money he requested for the enterprise.
"I will go without it," he resolved, and counted the hours to the sailing of the man-o'-war.
A day or two before the appointed date a maid, who was serving him with breakfast, clumsily dropped the tea-kettle upon his leg, scalding him so severely that he had to take to his bed. While there the ship sailed, and in view of Fletcher's later life, it is a striking fact that she was never heard of again.
Though desperately disappointed, Fletcher was as keen as ever on becoming a soldier. He returned to Nyon, and, to his unbounded delight, learned that his uncle had procured him a commission in the Dutch Service, of which he was a Colonel.
Eagerly he made his way to Flanders, grudging the days of travel which kept him out of his ambition. Bent though he was in rough-hewing his way according to his desire, Providence was surely shaping for him an end other than he planned. On his arrival Fletcher found that peace was concluded; his soldiering capabilities were no longer required. Almost immediately his uncle died, and the door into the military profession seemed closed to him for ever.
A SWEET GIRLHOOD
Mary Bosanquet grew into sweet and graceful girlhood. "It is time she saw the world," decided her mother, and forthwith preparations were made for her to accompany the family, who were to spend three gay months in Bath. She dressed and danced as did the rest, but in the very ball-room found herself thinking, "If I only knew where to find the Methodists, or any who would show me how to please God, I would tear off all my fine things and run through the fire to them. If ever I am my own mistress I will spend half the day in working for the poor, and the other half in prayer."
Not long after this Mary's sister visited a friend who declared herself recently converted, and in her house Mary found her longed-for help and counsel--"the greatest comfort of my life," as she expressed it.
Association with this Mrs. Lefevre, who died when Mary was seventeen, led the girl to declare to her father that she desired to lead a better life than one of mere amusement, begging him to allow her to be left at home when the family visited the theatre and other scenes of gaiety. The opposition she met with was trying, but it served to strengthen her for the career which was to open to her in later life.
It was natural that Mary's friends should wish her to marry, but at the time when this was first put before her she heard Mrs. Crosby (one of Wesley's helpers) speak upon the necessity of holiness and the joy of a life fully devoted to God. With the gentleman who was striving to win her affections life would never have been the sacred thing Mary desired for herself, she therefore gave up all thought of marriage, began to dress plainly, and waited for God to show her _His_ way.
A NEW LIFE.
Checked in his military ardour, John Fletcher turned his thoughts again to study. His linguistic powers were great; it was to him a cheerful distraction to join a party of students who were proceeding to England to become familiar with the language.
At the first English inn at which they stayed Fletcher showed that simple confidence in his brother-man which so distinguished his later life by trusting a strange Jew with all his money for the purpose of changing it into English coin. His fellow-students exclaimed, "You will never see another crown of it!" but whether or not that quality in Fletcher which always expected the very best from a man worked salvation in this case as in many another, certain it is that the Jew returned with the £90 intact.
For eighteen months Fletcher studied English at a school in Hertfordshire, and afterwards became tutor to the two sons of a Member of Parliament named Hill.
He little knew then how important a link in the providential chain was that appointment. Up to this time, although he had deeply appreciated religion, had read his Bible and prayed much, using any leisure he could gain between his ordinary studies for the research of prophecy and the perusal of devotional books, yet he lacked any experience of living union with God; joy in Christ was an unknown bliss; the "peace which passeth all understanding" was unrevealed to him. To his brother Henry he thus described his condition:--
"My feelings were easily excited, but my heart was rarely affected, and I was destitute of a sincere love to God, and consequently to my neighbour. All my hopes of salvation rested on my prayers, devotions, and a certain habit of saying, 'Lord, I am a great sinner; pardon me for the sake of Jesus Christ!' In the meantime I was ignorant of the fall and ruin in which every man is involved, the necessity of a Redeemer, and the way by which we may be rescued from the fall by receiving Christ with a living faith. I should have been quite confounded if anyone had asked me the following questions: 'Do you know that you are dead in Adam? Do you live to yourself? Do you live in Christ and for Christ? Does God rule in your heart? Do you experience that peace of God which passeth all understanding? Is the love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit?'"
A vivid dream concerning the Day of Judgment was used to arouse him, and for some days he was so depressed and harassed in mind that he could not settle to any occupation for long together. Sunday arrived; no teaching demanded his mental application; he wandered listlessly from place to place, miserable and dejected. At length he sat down to copy some music. The door opened and in walked the butler, an old servant of the family, and a countryman of Fletcher's. For a moment he paused, then approaching the tutor, said firmly, but respectfully:--
"Sir, I am surprised that you, who know so many things, should forget what day this is, and that you should not be aware that the Lord's Day should be sanctified in a very different manner."
The man was a true Christian, deeply humble, and full of zealous love for God. The knowledge of many things he had borne patiently for Christ, coupled with the strange power with which he spoke, smote the tutor with a sense of his own shortcomings, and made him exclaim to his own heart, "I am not renewed in the spirit of my mind, and without this the death of Christ will not avail for my salvation!"
Not long after this Mr. Hill went up to London to attend Parliament, accompanied by his tutor and family. On the road they stayed for a meal and to change horses at St. Albans, and Fletcher went for a brisk walk through the streets to stretch his limbs.
The horses were put to, but the tutor did not appear. After some delay the post-chaise drove off, a horse being left in readiness for the tutor to mount and ride after them. When in the evening he overtook the party, Mr. Hill enquired why he stayed behind. He replied, "As I was walking I met with a poor old woman, who talked so sweetly of Jesus Christ that I knew not how the time passed away."
"I shall wonder," said Mrs. Hill, "if our tutor does not turn Methodist by-and-by."
"Methodist, Madame!" asked he, puzzled; "pray what is that?"
"Why, the Methodists are a people that do nothing but pray," was her rejoinder; "they are praying all day and all night."
"Are they? Then by the help of God I _will_ find them out," said he decidedly.
He not only "found them out," but joined a Methodist society, meeting with them whenever an opportunity presented itself.
Fletcher could not readily rid himself of the idea that "much doing" would make him acceptable unto God. Gradually, however, he was brought to consider the value of "saving faith," and writes in his diary:--
"Instead of going straight to Christ I have lost my time in fighting against sin with the dim light of reason, and the use of the means of grace. I fear my notions of Christ are only speculative, and do not reach the heart. _I never had faith_, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Then every thought, word, and work of mine have only been sin and wickedness before God, though ever so specious before men. All my righteousness is as filthy rags. I am a very devil, though of an inferior sort, and if I am not renewed before I go hence, hell will be my portion to all eternity....
"I begged of God to show me all the wickedness of my heart, and to fit me for His mercy. I besought Him to increase my convictions, for I was afraid I did not _mourn_ enough for my sins. But I found relief in Mr. Wesley's Journal, where I learned that we should not build on what we feel, but that we should go to Christ with all our sins and all our hardness of heart.
"On January 21st I began to write a confession of my sins, misery, and helplessness, together with a resolution to seek Christ even unto death, but, my business calling me away, I had no heart to go on with it. In the evening I read the Scriptures, and found a sort of pleasure in seeing a picture of my wickedness so exactly drawn in the third chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, and that of my condition in the seventh; and now I felt some hope that God would finish in me the work He had begun."
It would have been strange if at this important crisis the devil had let him alone. In many ways the enemy fought for his soul. Among other hindrances he was beset with temptations to evil thoughts, and, distressed beyond measure, he cried to God with a _definite_ faith which grew out of the very desperateness of his immediate need of help. Hope grew within his cheerless soul, for, as he says:--
"Having withstood two or three temptations, and feeling peace in my soul through the whole of them, I began to think it was the Lord's doing. Afterwards it was suggested to me that it was great presumption for such a sinner to hope for such a mercy. I prayed I might not be
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