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A. SHORT time after I was appointed to the Birmingham District, the papers of the late Mrs. Fletcher were put into my hands. I was informed at the same time, that the venerable person whose life was recorded in them, had mentioned me as one that she wished should prepare and publish her papers; and that an application to that effect would have been made to me before that time, but that *he distance of my former appointment had prevented it, Mrs. Fletcher having laid an injunction on her friend, to whom, by will, she had committed them, not to give them absolutely into the hands of any person whatsoever.
I examined those papers with no common interest. They gave an account not only of the writer's own life, but involved, in some respects, that of her admirable husband. I was certain that those records were desired, and would be received, by the most pious in these kingdoms, not as a common religious biography, but as the record of an uncommon work of God; and that they would not be expected to fall short of any account which has come forth in that great revival of scriptural Christianity in our day, concerning which we have so often been constrained to say, What hath God wrought?
I have often wished to see such a display of that work as would show its genuine nature and fruits^ free from the colouring of those writers who were not directly eoncerned in it; or of those who might be so anxious about its public reputation, as to forget, that the circumcision of the hearty is justified only by those children of the light and of the day who prove its power, and cry Abba, Father, by the Spirit of adoption; and whose praise is not of men but of God. It is much to be desired also to see such an account made living and powerful by being personified ;—to see an individual thus walking worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.
A general History of this work, including all the important circumstances, has been already published, especially in the journals of the Rev. Mr. John Wesley, the father of Methodism, so called. In these we see, as in the Gospel, the grain of mustard seed, increasing and becoming a great tree, to the astonishment of those who witnessed its small beginning,—who " saw the cloud arise little as a human hand." The display given us in that account, is distinguished by the same simplicity, purity, and classical beauty, which are observable in ail the writings of that eminent instrument of God. This large survey is highly satisfactory; but the aid of living testimony is necessary to bring it home to the hearts of those whose inquiry is, What shall I do to be saved? How shall I walk with God?
Religion is nothing less than the life of God in the soul of man. It is the offspring of God through faith, and is not, and cannot, be attached to churches or religious communities, though they are so highly necessary to its propagation and increase. It never was so attached; though while the covenant of God was established with the nation of the Jews, it had that appearance. But even then, all were not Israel, who were of Israel. The children of the promise, and not the children of the flesh, were counted for the seed. The Gospel, however, to the stumbling of the greatest part of that people, put an end to that appearance. The national covenant answered the design of Him who gave it. It foretold, typified, and prepared the way, of the only begotten Son of God. But who could abide the day of his coming? Who could stand when he appeared? It is true He was meek and lowly in heart, and his every word and action towards even the greatest transgressors, demonstrated that He came not to destroy metis lives, but to save them.. But he exposed and resisted all those who walked in the deceivableness of unrighteousness, and who boasted, like their fathers, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of (he Lord, the temple of the Lord are we! He looked for personal religion; and all who attached it to names, ordinances, or communities, he answered with—Ye worship ye know not what. He enforced poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, mercifuhiess, and purity of heart; showing thus the beginning and progress of religion, as given to guilty, sinfxd, helpless creatures, in whom dxvells no good thing; and who are thus to be made rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven: and who thus alone can be made new creatures, and meet for the inheritance among the saints in light, zvhose robes are washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.
These pure and high principles of Holy Writ, so agreeable to the exalted character of Jehovah, and to the fallen and wretched condition of man, were sought out and adopted by the band of brothers in the University of Oxford, nearly ninety years ago. One great truth involved the whole, as necessary to salvation— Without holiness no man shall see the Lord. They immediately followed after this, making every sacrifice, and ordering their whole life that they might attain it. Some time after the Lord showed them, that His way of conferring holiness was by faith? and that he justifies men, as being ungodly, through the redemption that is in Jesus, before he sanctifies them. They now knew the whole truth, and the Lord thrust them forth from their beloved retirement, to raise a holy people. This was the one design of these chosen instruments, and every thing short of it they counted, to use the language of St. Paul, v wood, hay, or stubble.
But did they spend their strength for nought? Were they disappointed of their hope? Were not a holy people raised up? Let the Life of Mrs. Fletcher speak. Let the pious reader say, if he be not introduced, in these memoirs, among the excellent of the earth ;—All of whom with one voice would testify,
** Blind we were, but now we see,
44 Some who have separated from other communities," says Mr. Wesley, "laid the foundation of that work, in judging and condemning others: we, on the contrary, in judging and condemning ourselves."
I cannot therefore but greatly rejoice that these memoirs are given to the public, and especially to that community of which the writer was so long a highly honoured and useful member. I cannot but think they will be a great blessing to the people of God of every denomination; and especially to all who desire to walk