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A general history of this work, including all the im. portant circumstances, has been already publisher, espe. cially in the journals of the Rev. Mr. John Welsey, the father of Methodism, so called. In these we see, as in the Gospel, the grain of mustard seed increasing and be. coming a great tree, to the astonishment of those who wit. nessed 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 all the writ. ings of that eminent instrument of God. This large sur. vey 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 attach. ed; 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 very word and action, toward even the greatest transgressors, demonstrated that he came not to destroy men's lives, but to save them. But he exposed and resisted all those who walked in the deceiva. bleness of unrighteousness, and who boasted, like their fathers, saying, The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are we! He looked for personal religion ; and all who attached it to names, ordi. nances, or communities, he answered with, Ye worship ye know not what. He enforced poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, mercifulness, and purity of heart; showing thus the beginning and progress of religion, as given to guilty, sinful, helpless creatures, in whom dwells 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 ; whose 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 in. volved the whole as necessary to salvation,-Without ho. liness no man shall see the Lord. They immediately fol. lowed 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, wood, hay, or stubble.
1 But did they spend their strength for naught? 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 she be not introduced, in these mé. moirs, among the excellent of the earth ;-all of whom with one voice would testify,
“ Blind we were, but now we see;
Lame, and lo! we leap for joy." “ 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 me. moirs are given to the public, and especially to that com. munity 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 denomina. tion; and especially to all who desire to walk even as Christ also walked, and who are conscious of an evil na. ture, opposing that will of God which is their sanctification. In this point of view especially these memoirs will be considered, I think, as very precious to all who fight this good fight of faith. The reader will find in them no paint; nothing to set the writer off; no extravagance; but plain life, raised and sanctified by constant attention to the duties and sacrifices of the Gospel ; and issuing in a constant pleading of the great and precious promises, by which we are made partakers of the Divine nature : with unremitting efforts to walk by that rule, IV hether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Luther observed that there never was a work of God in the earth that lasted longer, in any community, than the cominon life of man ; that is, upon an average, about thirty years. Generally about that period the vineyard which the Lord planted with his own right hand has been let out to husbandmen, who, yielding to their natural propensities, and accommodating the work of the Lord to the course of this world, have not been careful to render to him the required fruit. Hence the visible state of decay, or of death, in those communities which once manifested the Divine hand of him who formed them. But this work has lasted nearly thrice that time! There are none alive who witnessed its beginning, and but very few who knew its early days. If any such meet with this work, they will call to mind the very glorious time when it was alto. gether the work of God; when it was unsupported by any worldly power or wisdom, and had all that is earthly, sensual, and devilish, combined against it. They will see also a consistency in the design, and in the mode of exe. cution, which is truly edifying, and not of this world. The instruments employed in this work, and especially + that one so eminently called thereto, were not careful for such prosperity as worldly men desire. They knew, like their blessed Master, that all whom their Father
them would come unto them, and they did not desire to bring the world into his fold. The world is called, and redeemed ; but to add to the family of God all who obeyed that call,
was their only ambition, and the object of their incessant labours.
The great superintendent of this work, under God, looked not for what the world calls great talents in his helpers. In this respect also he gladly used those whom the Father gave him ; who were witnesses of the truths which they were called to teach : men who knew God (in the only way in which he can be truly and powerfully known) as being merciful to their unrighteousness, and remembering their sins no more. He was careful also to see that the true fruit accompanied their ministry, the justi. fication of the ungodly, and the sanctification of the unholy. He used to say, “ The best physician is not he who writes the best recipes, but he who makes the most curcs.” When men of learning united with him in this Divine work, he greatly rejoiced, and gladly received them. The late Mr. Fletcher was an eminent instance of that kind. His learning was deep, extensive, clear, and various; but, like his venerable friend, whom he always called father, he counted even all these estimable advantages as dung and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord. So abased was this great man in his own eyes, and so entirely did he take the Divine mould of the Gospel, that there was not one of those helpers in the work whom he did not rejoice 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 ac. knowledge his great superiority.
That the highest principles of the Christian religion should be brought into common life, is the greatest dis. play 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 prin. ciples, amid the common concerns and labours of life, and attended with its usual trials, afflictions, and mortifi. cations! To persevere thus is indeed the perseverance of the saints, and realizes that old saying, too often quo. ted by pride and apathy: “It is a sight worthy of God, when he looks down from heaven, to see a virtuous mind unswervingly struggle 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 sub. stance, 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 in. formed 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 de. scend, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon it! Surely they who contemplate the scene, and be. hold 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 surpris. ing 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 imputa. tions she outlived, or lived down. One perhaps may remain. It may still perhaps be said, she was an enthu. siast. 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