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- Fletcher of Madeley - 4/20 -


permitted to fall into a delusion; but the more I prayed the more I saw it was real, for though sin stirred all the day long, I always overcame it in the name of the Lord.

"In the evening I read some of the experiences of God's children, and found my case agreed with theirs, and suited the sermon I had heard on Justifying Faith. I called on the Lord for perseverance and an increase of faith, for still I felt some fear lest this should be all delusion. Having continued my supplication till near one in the morning, I then opened my Bible and fell on these words, 'Cast thy burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain thee. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.' Filled with joy, I fell on my knees to beg of God that I might always cast my burden upon Him. I took up my Bible again, and fell on these words, 'I will be with thee; I will not fail thee, neither forsake thee; fear not, neither be dismayed.' My hope was now greatly increased, and I thought I saw myself conqueror over sin, hell, and all manner of affliction.

"With this beautiful promise I shut my Bible, and as I shut it I cast my eye on the words, 'Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name I will do it.' So, having asked perseverance and grace to serve God till death, I went cheerfully to take my rest."

CHAPTER VI.

GIVEN UP TO THE FIGHT

Not content, as many are, with consciousness of sins forgiven, Fletcher at once began to plead that God would take fullest possession of his heart, and grant to him a deeper experience of His love. While lying upon his face in earnest prayer the Saviour strangely manifested Himself to his eye of faith, and it was revealed to him that Jesus had wondrously become his soul's inmost life, abiding in him to conquer sin.

This completely changed his spiritual position. The blessed realisation that in Christ he could triumph over sin and keep the world beneath his feet, filled him with a glad sense of freedom. He resolved that nothing should prevent him from experiencing this to the full: he gave all his leisure to prayer and meditation, living on vegetables, bread, milk and water, that he might be able to save time from the long courses of dinner, many a day lunching in the garden from a piece of bread and a few bunches of currants; also making it a rule to do without sleep two nights of each week in order to pray.

This extremely rigid rule of life was a mistake. Lack of proper rest and food at this period undoubtedly laid the foundation of his subsequent delicacy. Most men attend to the cravings of the body to the expense of the lightly-fed soul; all his life Fletcher gave less heed to physical needs than his not-too-robust frame required, and he paid the penalty.

As a natural gift, Fletcher possessed a very sweet and gentle spirit. Companionship with Christ grafted upon this an unusual humility, as simple as it was sincere. An instance of this is found in the fact that when the clergyman of Atcham Church (which Fletcher attended while at Tern Hall) invited adults who required instruction to join the children's catechumen class, gifted scholar though he was, he stepped out and took his place by the little ones as a matter of course, unmoved by the fact that he was the only adult who did not despise the proffered instruction.

Prayer, with Fletcher, was not a duty but a refreshment and an inspiration. Every Sunday morning, between four and five, and two or three nights in the week, after his pupils were asleep, he used to go out into the meadows, or on to the banks of the Severn, to meet an Excise Officer, a servant, and a poor widow. These four would pour out their whole souls to God in prayer, and wonderful were the manifestations of Divine love and grace vouchsafed to them.

The poor of Atcham village and its neighbourhood grew well accustomed to the fine, pure face of the Tern Hall tutor; sickness always drew him, and were there none at hand to nurse them as they needed he was quick to give help.

Thus continually brought face to face with the needs of ignorant and uncared-for men, it was no wonder that Fletcher should return to the thought (suggested to him many times previously) of devoting himself altogether to ministering the gospel of the grace of God. Before taking any step towards such a life, however, he asked the advice of John Wesley, whom he already looked upon as his spiritual guide. Apparently the answer he received was encouraging, for less than four months after he put the question, John Fletcher was ordained as a clergyman of the Church of England.

Straight from his ordination service in the Chapel Royal at St. James's, Fletcher hurried to Snowsfields Methodist Chapel to assist Wesley in a service there--a sufficiently unusual commencement of a clergyman's career!

CHAPTER VII.

TURNED FROM HOME.

Mary Bosanquet's determination to lay aside the ordinary pleasures of girlhood, and live a life of waiting upon God for the revelation of His will, came just two months after John Fletcher's ordination. Little enough happened to her for a couple of years, save that she succeeded in increasingly impressing those around her that it was useless to invite her into paths of worldliness and frivolity. When a girl of nineteen she stayed for seven weeks in Bristol, renewing there her friendship with Miss Sarah Ryan--to whom Fletcher wrote some of his famous letters--through whom, and through Mrs. Crosby, Mary was introduced to her future husband.

When she came of age Mary Bosanquet found herself mistress of her personal fortune, and more strongly than ever was she assured that she might do better work for God if she left her own home. Always afraid of moving before the Guiding Pillar, however, she feared exceedingly to take this step unless the express command were laid upon her.

One day her father asked for her solemn promise that she would not try to persuade her brothers to follow Christ.

"I am afraid I cannot promise that, father," she replied.

"Then you will force me to put you out of the house," was his rejoinder.

In preparation for whatever might follow, Mary took a lodging, and waited until she should be told to go, which quickly happened.

It was a pathetic departure. Before dinner a message reached her by a servant that she had better go to her lodging that night. During the meal no word was said, and Mary's heart was wrung by sorrowful questionings. "How shall I go, if they say no more to me? How shall I bear it, if they never invite me to see them again?"

Dinner being at last concluded, and the carriage announced, Mrs. Bosanquet swept out into the hall, remarking casually to Mary as she passed by :--

"If you will, the coach, when it has set us down, may carry you home to your lodgings."

"And we shall be glad to see you to dinner on Sunday," added her father.

Mary choked and could not reply, but she quickly recovered sufficiently to order her trunk downstairs, and, when cloaked and hooded, she passed down the staircase, she found all the servants assembled in a row to bid her farewell with tears.

The two rooms she had taken were fireless, dark, and unfurnished. A table and candlestick were quickly borrowed, and Mary sat down upon a broad window-seat to ponder what was to her a strange situation.

By the time her maid arrived, and invited her to a fire, and a sumptuous supper of bread, rank salt butter, and water, God had so comforted her and assured her of His favour and presence that she was filled with thankfulness and peace; the empty room and sparse, candle- lit meal seemed to her part of "a little heaven."

No beds could be put up at so late an hour; blinds and curtains were not in evidence. Mary Bosanquet lay that night upon the bare floor, and the pure, clear moonlight shone coldly upon her as she lay, but the fire of Divine love burned warm within her heart; she communed with her God in utter content.

CHAPTER VIII.

THE TERN HALL TUTOR.

For three years after his ordination Fletcher received no church appointment. He remained as tutor at Tern Hall, and preached wherever he could find an opening, either in French or in English.

Amongst ordinary church-goers his decided utterances made him far from popular, but the warm hearts of the Methodist people bade him hearty welcome, and these he learned to love truly and well. They introduced him to "many honourable women," several of whom became his friends and correspondents; none of them, however, impressed him as did Mary Bosanquet.

In writing to her brother nearly twenty-five years later he said of this meeting: "It was soon after my ordination that I saw Miss Mary Bosanquet. I had resolved not to marry, but the sweetness of her temper and her devotedness to God made me think that if ever I broke through my resolution it would be to cast my lot with one like her."

One may judge of the quiet but strong influence Fletcher exerted in his neighbourhood by an incident which happened during that autumn. To Tern Hall one night came a messenger from Salop, asking urgently for "the tutor." The letter he delivered bore no name, but it begged Mr. Fletcher to hasten at once to a certain inn, where he might find a


Fletcher of Madeley - 4/20

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