« AnteriorContinuar »
joice to call his brother in Christ, and whom he did not in honour prefer to himself, even in his own parish.
The private members also were men and women of God; and among these Miss Bosanquet always held, in general estimation, the chief place. Her superiority in natural and providential gifts,-her well-known entire devotedness,-her constancy and perseverance in the divine life,--her doing and suffering the whole will of her Master, all fitted her, as by a general consent, to be the consort of that great man, whose praise is in all the churches; whose admirable writings will live while piety and learning are honoured in the earth ; and which have forced even those who did not know his piety, or affected to lament that such talents should be so connected, to 'acknowledge his great superiority.
That the highest principles of the Christian religion should be brought into common life, is the greatest display of the power of divine truth that is possible, and the most glorious victory over the world. It is thus that righteousness shall cover the earth, and bring glory to Him that sitteth upon the throne. How poor, how questionable, are all the refinements of the closet, the study, or the cloister, when compared with the love of God and our neighbour, brought into act, and exhibited on right principles, amidst the common concerns and labours of life, and attended with its usual trials, afflictions, and mortifications! To persevere thus, is indeed the perseverance of the saints, and realizes that old saying, too often quoted by pride and apathy," It is a sight worthy of God, when he looks down from heaven, to see a virtuous mind unswervingly struggling with adversity.” Such a sight, I trust, the pious reader will behold in the
Life of Mrs. Fletcher. Her one support in all her trials was, in substance, that of Job-He knoweth the
way that I take, and when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.
What indeed can be so interesting to a mind well informed and disposed, as to behold the daily walk of one, who, from a very early age had devoted her whole life to God ? Not living in seclusion, but walking in what Jeremiah calls the highway,--the way of holiness, in which the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err? To see our Lord's sermon on the mount brought into daily and hourly practice, according to the evident design of its Divine Author. To see the house thus built upon the rock, the truth and love of God; and then to behold the rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon it! Surely they who contemplate the scene, and behold its stability, will exultingly exclaim,
It falls not ; for it is founded upon a rock! That such a person should be judged by men in the
flesh, while living to God in the spirit, will not be surprising to any who learn what religion is, by the word and Spirit of God, and who know the real character of man. Mrs. Fletcher was thus judged. The common imputations she outlived, or lived down. One perhaps may remain. It may still perhaps be said, she was an enthusiast. To many who use this word no answer need be returned. Any thing above the dead form of godliness is with them enthusiasm. A love to him who first loved us, and who gave himself for us, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God, which would at all equal in its attachment the love that is of earth and sense, is with them all madness, folly, or hypocrisy: wisdom is justified only by her children.
But more sober minds may object, that she too much minded impressions, dreams, and those inward feelings, which religious persons are supposed to be particularly exposed to. That such things should be condemned, toto genere, is hardly consistent with any true religion, seeing the oracles of God so frequently mentions them; and not as attached to the prophetic or ministerial character, but as given to those who walk with God in the humblest path of life. The wisest and best of men have not only spoken of such things with respect, but have made them a part of the religion which they have held forth to ages and generations, to communities and kingdoms. Concerning religious feelings and impressions, the liturgy of the Church of England, and her established institutes, bear the fullest and most honourable testimony ; setting the highest value on that mode of divine teaching, and of bestowing encouragement and consolation. We know the worship of our Church is so constituted, as, if possible, to impress the whole nation ; but there are parts of it that can only be considered as describing and edifying the children of God. How striking are those passages in the communion service, where those who spiritually eat the flesh of Christ, and drink his blood, are said, agreeably to the Holy Scriptures, to dwell in Christ, and Christ in them; to be one with Christ, and Christ with them! And in the seventeenth article, where there is the strongest description of those adopted children of God, (so strong indeed in some of the terms, that not a few have mistaken this scriptural account of them, as descriptive of Mr. Calvin's system) who by the counsel of God, are delivered from the curse and damnation due to sin, and brought through Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. «. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a
benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season : they through grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like unto the image of his only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.” And “as this godly consideration of their election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort—to such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, so it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation, and fervently kindle their love to God.”
Now with all this life, union, and holy fellowship, are there no corresponding feelings and enjoyments ? No tasting the powers of the world to come? No lively impressions of their heavenly inheritance ? No consciousness of His love to them, or their love to Him, in whom they dwell ? No peace
or joy in believing ? --If this were indeed so, then I am afraid, the life, the union, of which those feel. ings and impressions have been considered as the gracious marks, have no real existence; and the system which boasts of a peace, of which the possessor has no consciousness, a joy which raiseth not“ the mind to high and heavenly things," and a hope which is not full of immortality, may triumphantly take its place in the congregation of the dead !
But it will be asked, did she not lay an undue stress upon these things ? I believe not. I have not perceived it. On the contrary, I have seen, even when she believed herself led by the Spirit of God to do that good which was the settled purpose of her whole life, she mani
fested the greatest care to walk according to St. John's direction, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God. In obedience to this, she considered and pondered all her ways, and brought every purpose and act to the only sure touchstone, the unerring word of God. The same charge was often brought against Mr. Wesley, and for precisely the same reasons. Answering the most respectable of those who thus laid to his charge things that he knew not; viz. Dr. Gibson, the venerable Bishop of London, he replies, “In the whole compass of language, there is not a proposition which belongs less to me than this. I have declared again and again, that I make the word of God the rule of all my actions ; and that I no more follow any secret impulse instead thereof, than I follow Mahomet or Confucius."
Let Mrs. Fletcher be weighed in this balance, and I believe she will not be found wanting. She, like Mr. Wesley, and her excellent husband, served God in new. ness of the spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Hence her life was hid with Christ in God, and she had impressions, and consolations, which are the fruits and evidences of that life. But she well knew that the Spirit of truth never contradicts, never is inconsistent with Himself. His written Oracles, and his lively, and life-giving teaching, agree together. She humbly and earnestly attended to that direction—to the law, and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. A' writer of the present day has strangely said, that he knew of no witness, no influence, no teaching, but the written word of God. Perhaps he does not know any other. But there are many who walk with God who do. But if that writer only means, that he