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particulars; as those of your readers who do not recollect the pathetic scene of his last hours, may refer to your Review of Benson's Memoir, already mentioned, or to the extracts from Southey's Life of Wesley, in your vol. for 1820, p. 756. There is an anecdote related of him, which conveys a high idea of the expressiveness of this good man's countenance. When he was at Dublin, during the latter part of his life, he preached at the French Church there, to the descendants of the persecuted Huguenots. Amongst his hearers were some, who were totally unacquainted with the French language. Being asked why they went to hear a sermon which they could not understand, they replied, "We went to look at him; for heaven seemed to beam from his countenance."-The portrait prefixed to Mr. Cox's Memoir, certainly justifies, in some degree, this sentiment of admiration. It is >the countenance of a man intent upon heavenly things, and mingling all the charities of the Gospel of Christ with its ennobling principles and glorious prospects.
Having detailed as much of the outline of the life of this remarkable person as was necessary to my purpose, I propose cursorily to examine some of the principal features of
and endeavoured to conceal himself. But his conduct presently struck him with remorse. What,' said he, do I run away from my father? Perhaps I shall live to have a son that will run away from me.'" This was a remark which, in a mere child, discovered a spirit of reflection and a sense of duty betokening no ordinary character in after life. The language of Dr. Price respecting him speaks a volume, when we consider the person from whose lips it came. He is said to have expressed "his satisfaction at being introduced to the company of one whose air and countenance bespoke him fitted rather for the society of angels, than for the conversation of men."
Mr. Cox rightly attributes the unabated influence of his devotional spirit to "the power which he so pre-eminently possessed, of living as in the presence of God, by habitual recollection." not perhaps sufficiently considered how difficult of attainment is such a degree of piety among Christians engaged in the ordinary concerns of life. The faithful minister of the sanctuary has in this respect a manifest advantage over most of the laity, by the general bearing and tendency of his studies and pursuits; though very few indeed, even amongst this highly favoured class of individuals, are found to approach the standard of Mr. Fletcher's spirituality of habit. In the case of Christians busied about their worldly occupations, such an attainment is still more difficult. The constitution of the human mind admits but of one train of ideas at the same time: consequently, wherever an elevat
The most striking peculiarity of Mr. Fletcher's character was doubtless his uniform and exalted piety; that devotional spirit which seems hardly ever to have abandoned him, and which threw a sort of unearthly and angelic lustre over the whole current of his life. It made its appearance in childhood; was perhaps a little impaired during the first years of youth, but soon burst forth with new vigour, and continued ed to burn with a bright and steady flame throughout the remainder of his days. One anecdote, mentioned by Mr. Cox, I shall relate. "One day, while quite a child, having displeased his father, he ran away from him to avoid correction,
spirit of piety is maintained in the soul, it must be kept up, under the needful influences of Divine grace, by a frequent recurrence of the thoughts to God and religious considerations. This is indeed truly difficult amidst the common occupations of life; but it is not
tempers and habits, than at first sight appears.
impracticable. There are examples to be found, rare examples indeed, of men who can carry a highly devotional spirit along with them, even into the counting-house or the exchange, and who contrive to preserve a steady frame of cheerful piety in the transaction of their worldly affairs, without, at the same time, betraying any want of prudence, management, or dexterity. Their talent is truly enviable; and their happy art must have been taught them by a Divine Instructor; whose influences however, for our encouragement be it remembered, will not be withheld from any who humbly endeavour to copy their bright example, and to follow them as they followed Christ Jesus.
Again; the characteristic qualities of the mind and heart may perhaps be of such a nature as to afford some individuals an advantage over others, in the cultivation of this habitual piety. A feeling heart and a lively imagination give a certain impulse and development to religious principle; which impulse will be found less operative in a cold and calculating disposition. Were it true that any of the fallen posterity of Adam are formed by nature to feel the steady influence of piety, it might be said with apparent propriety, that Fletcher was one of these bright instances; yet even he, pre-eminent as were his Christian graces, possessed an evil nature at war with the spirit of his mind, and which required the renewing and sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. Still we may perhaps allowably conjecture, that the soil, when once impregnated with the seed of Divine grace, was aided, in some small degree, by the liveliness and elevation of his fancy, and the warm sensibility of his heart; though at the same time it may be fairly replied that these qualities were equally open to the influence of the world and of sin; so that,after all, the balance is more equal among Christians of different
I should be much concerned, if these observations, naturally suggested by the subject under review, should be construed into any apology for indifference with regard to the cultivation of a high tone of piety and devotion. Truly would I say, God forbid that this should be their effect. On the one hand, let the highly devotional Christian, imitate the conduct of Fletcher, and of one far greater than Fletcher, in being careful not to break the bruised reed, or to quench the smoking flax; and let him manifest the influence of his charity, in not judging harshly of those sincere believers who fall short of his own attainments. And, on the other, let those weaker Christians, who perceive in themselves a great want of the spirit of habitual and constant piety, cease to think it an impossible acquisition, and be encouraged, by the example of such men as Fletcher, to seek after continual advances in the Divine life.
Great humility in his intercourse with others was another striking peculiarity of this extraordinary person. Some amusing instances of this are produced by his biographers. He refused to visit the poor Protestants of the Cevennes on horseback, saying to his fellowtraveller, who had objected to his pedestrian propensities; "Shall I make a visit on horseback, and at ease, to those poor cottagers, whose fathers were hunted along yonder rocks, like partridges upon the mountains?" At another time, his friend, the Rev. Mr. Gilpin, perceiving a funeral waiting at the church gate, took thesurplice,and commenced the service: but he had hardly entered the desk, when Mr. Fletcher, who had been visiting a sick person, came into the church; and gently drawing away a lad, who was officiating in the absence of the clerk, took his place, and acted as clerk to Mr. Gilpin.-Nothing seemed
bard, nothing wearisome, which tended to promote the good of his neighbours. Mrs. Fletcher was frequently grieved to call him out of his study two or three times in an hour; especially when she knew he was engaged in some importantwork. But on such occasions he would answer, with his usual piety, "Oh, never mind. It matters not what is the employment,if we are but ready to meet the will of God. It is conformity to his will alone that makes any employment excellent." If he overtook a poor person on the road, with a burden too heavy for him, he would offer to bear a part of it, and would not easily take a denial. To a person unacquainted with the whole of his character, these instances might seem to border upon a voluntary and ostentatious humility. But I do not suspect him of having been, at any time, actuated by those motives of ambition, which may sometimes have influenced the Franciscan Friar in his professions of poverty, whether of purse or spirit. If there was one feature which predominated above another in Mr. Fletcher, it was simplicity. But, though the instances just mentioned do not impeach his sincerity of heart, they detract a little from the credit of his judgment, and are parts of his character savouring too much of needless singularity to be proposed as a model for imitation.
There were, however, many circumstances in which his humility shone to more advantage.
It does not always happen that persons of a studiousanddevotional temper are distinguished for bodily exertion and active usefulness. Some, who have been too much addicted to what is called Mysticism in religion, may be said to have wasted their days amidst the clouds of abstract contemplation, when they might have been more properly employed in discharging their duties upon the level of active life. We are informed by Burnet, that even the learned, argumentative, and excel
lent Bishop Pearson was more distinguished for exertion in his study, than in his diocese. I am not about to compare Fletcher with Bishop Pearson in point of learning and judgment. The latter was far superior in these respects. But perhaps, in return, this good prelate might have been able to derive a useful lesson from Fletcher's unwearied assiduity in his pastoral office, had he lived to witness it. Here he was "instant in season, and out of season." He may be said to have strictly followed the advice of St. Paul to Timothy, in "giving himself wholly" to his ministerial labors. "In his daily walks through his parish," says Mr. Cox," there was hardly an individual who escaped his notice; and he had for each a word in season, adapted to his character, circumstances, and capacity. Always in his work, he was never out of his way. Whole nights he waited on the humblest and most infectious sick. If he heard the knocker in the coldest winter night, his window was instantly opened; and when he understood either that some one was hurt in the pits, or that a neighbour was likely to die; no consideration was ever paid to the darkness of the night, or the severity of the weather; but this answer was uniformly given, I will attend you immediately." He at last fell a sacrifice to zeal in his public ministrations, when a little seasonable prudence would proba bly have lengthened his life. But it is not given to any human being to possess wisdom at all times; and those great and daring spirits, who have performed more in twenty years of exertion, than ordinary men do in fifty, have not unusually become thevictims of an ardour utterly disproportionate to the short spau of human existence. Their very conviction of its shortness has sometimes cut them off before the ordinary term of life, by stimulat ing them to a career of exertion beyond their strength. But, with
out any wish to detract from Fletcher's zeal, something must be attributed likewise to his physical powers. He is represented as a man of a constitution naturally vigorous, which, if it were injured, at one time, by an excess of study, was, on the other hand, improved by the most rigid tem perance. The man, who, in his youth, more than once swam five miles at a stretch, must have been gifted with great muscular strength, and with a texture of animal fibre not easily disordered.
expressive of the pecuniary liberality of this excellent individual but it is not my object to trespass too much with details; and it will be easily believed, that a man who was benevolent and disinternight-ested in so remarkable a degree, would not be wanting in almsgiving, or any other duty of Christian charity, so far as he had the opportunity. Indeed he carried the practice of this virtue to an extremity of self-denial and persoual privation, which reminds one more of the days when the disciples had all things in common, and no man called any thing his own, than of the ordinary dispositions or allotments of modern Christians.
I come next to his disinterestedness.-This was a very striking feature of his character. When offered the living of Dunham, in Cheshire, which was worth about 4007. a year, he thanked his patron, and replied, "Alas! sir, Dunham will not suit me: there is too much money, and too little labour." He afterwards accepted Madeley, on the ground of its being a wider field of exertion, though without half the pay. On some of his tracts being shewn to the King by the Chancellor, an offer of preferment was immediately made him: but he answered, with his characteristic simplicity, that "he wanted nothing but an increase of grace."-This reply will perhaps remind some of your readers of the anecdote of Pere Bernard; a man who was constant in his unpaid attendance upon the unfortunate persons of his time at Paris, who suffered by the hands of the executioner. He refused a rich abbey offered him by Cardinal Richelieu; and when theCardinal, upon another occasion, desired him to say what he could do for him, the father replied, "All I want, my lord, is a better tumbril to conduct my penitents to their place of suffering." The tub of Diogenes was a poor and paltry subject of contentment, when compared with this benevolent ambition of the good Pere Bernard.
Several anecdotes are related in Mr. Cox's work, and the other memoirs of Mr. Fletcher, strongly
His courage and intrepidity were very remarkable.-There is an anecdote related by his biographers on this subject so striking, that I cannot resist the temptation of presenting it to your readers. Mr. Fletcher had a very profligate nephew, a military man, who had been dismissed from the Sardinian service for base and ungentlemanly conduct. He had engaged in two or three duels, and dissipated his resources in a career of vice and extravagance. This desperate youth waited one day on his eldest uncle, General de Gons, and, presenting a loaded pistol, threatened to shoot him unless he would immediately advance him five hundred crowns. The general, though a brave man, well knew what a desperado he had to deal with, and gave a draft for the money, at the same time expostulating freely with him on his conduct. The young madman rode off triumphantly with his illgotten acquisition. In the evening, passing the door of his younger uncle, Mr. Fletcher, he determined to call on him, and began with informing him what General de Gons had done; and as a proof, exhibited the draft under De Gons's own hand. Mr. Fletcher took the draft from his nephew, and looked at it with astonishment. Then, after some remarks, putting it
principle, together with its influence in overcoming the wildest and most desperate profligacy, were never more finely illustrated than by this anecdote. It deserves to be put into the hands of every self-styled man of honour," to shew him how far superior is the courage that dares to die, though it dares not sin, to the boasted prowess of a mere man of the world. How utterly contemptible does the desperation of a duellist appear, when contrasted with the noble intrepedity of such a Christian soldier as the humble Vicar of Madeley !
If Mr. Fletcher's reply to his nephew, as given by his biographers, be correct, it exhibits a specimen of indignant eloquence which was never perhaps surpassed, and has not often been equalled. Here indeed was a dignus vindice nodus; an occasion worthy of the man.
into his pocket, said,-" It strikes me, young man, that you have possessed yourself of this note by some indirect method; and in honesty I cannot return it, but with my brother's knowledge and approbation." The nephew's pistol" was immediately at his breast. "My life," replied Mr. Fletcher with perfect calmness, "is secure in the protection of an Almighty Power; nor will he suffer it to be the forfeit of my integrity and of your rashness." This firmness drew from the nephew the observation that his uncle De Gons, though an old soldier, was more afraid of death than his brother. "Afraid of death!" rejoined Mr. Fletcher: "do you think I have been twentyfive years the minister of the Lord of Life, to be afraid of death now? No, sir: it is for you to fear death. You are a gamester and a cheat, yet call yourself a gentleman! You are the seducer of female innocence, and still say you are a gentleman! You are a duellist, and for this you style yourself a man of honour! Look there, sir; the broad eye of Heaven is fixed upon us. Tremble in the presence of your Maker, who can in a moment kill your body, and for ever punish your soul in hell." The unhappy man turned pale, and trembled alternately with fear and rage. He still threatened his uncle with instant death, Fletcher, though thus menaced, gave no alarm, sought for no weapon, and attempted not to escape. calmly conversed with his profligate relation; and, at length perceiving him to be affected, address ed him in language truly paternal, till he had fairly disarmed and subdued him. He would not return his brother's draft, but engaged to procure for the young man some immediate relief. He then prayed with him, and, after fulfilling his promise of assistance, parted with him, with much good advice on one side, and many fair promises on the other. The power of courage, founded on piety and
CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 244.
Of Mr. Fletcher's force and vivacity in writing, many instances might be produced; but for these I must refer the reader to his publications. It is, however, but just to add, that some of his most spirited passages are by no means equal, ly remarkable for exactness, power of discrimination, or refinement of taste. It should be remembered, in abatement of any literary defects, that he was writing in a language not his own; and, for a foreigner, his prompt command of our vernacular tongue is often surprising.
Mr. Fletcher was certainly not free from some tincture of enthusiasm, properly so called. When quite a youth, his remonstrance with a widow lady, who had been provoked, by the ill conduct of her profligate sons, to utter a sort of hasty imprecation against them, looks perhaps too much like the presumption of denouncing a judg ment upon her for her impiety. Awful to relate, however,-though certainly not in consequence of Fletcher's prediction, all her three sons shortly met with an untimely grave, and she called Fletcher ever afterwards her young