Page images

pected to form an aggregate of 200,000l. and by degrees a still larger amount. These retrenchments must be viewed with considerable satisfaction; but they seem in a great degree to stultify he reasoning employed for the preservation of the second postmastergeneralship. For our own parts, we regret that the reductions should have fallen so heavily on clerks with small salaries, who can ill support a diminution of income; and we should have preferred seeing 2500. saved to the public by the suppression of the above office, to the subduction of 101. from each of 250 clerks.

We are sorry to report some symptoms of insubordination among a part of the peasantry in Norfolk and Suf folk, whose displeasure seemed directed chiefly against the use of machinery. We allude to the circumstance with a view to remind those of the country clergy and gentry who peruse our pages, of the peculiar duty incumbent upon them, at the present moment, of watching against the first risings of a discontented or factious spirit in themselves or those under heir influence. Whatever part of the community happens, for a time, to be in a state of depression, is apt to cool in its loyal and Christian principles. The landed interest has long supported a character for attachment to the civil and religious institutions of the country; and on the whole is per

haps far less likely to become unfriendly or indifferent to them than some other classes of the community. But it must be remembered that till lately the agricultural interest has had little comparatively to try the strength of its principles. Now therefore, when considerable depression is felt among in particular, who are closely conits members, it behoves the clergy this portion of society, to guard against nected, by means of their tithes, with the first inroads of a complaining or factious spirit.

We notice the

point, chiefly because, in some of the late proceedings of agricultural meetings, observations were made by some leading members of the landed interest, in a strain very different from what we had been accustomed to hear in those quarters. We do not by any means regret that country gentlemen should become staunch advocates for retrenchment and econo

my; but let them beware of enlisting as the partizans of a systematic opposition, or of throwing unnecessary difficulties in the way of those who are appointed to conduct the affairs of state.

The condition of Ireland remains much as before. An inquiry is about to be instituted in Parliament into the tithe-system in that country, which we trust may lead to some beneficial arrangement as respects that fruitful source of ill-will and litigation.


S.; W. C.; F.; W.; VERIDICUS; F. S.; G. E. L.; CHRISTIANUS; H.; C. W.; RESPONDENS; S. F.; and A CONSTANT READER, are under consideration.

It is not our plan to insert Obituaries, or papers as "original communications," which have appeared, or are announced, to appear, in other periodical publications.

Bean's Family Prayers, or Cotteril's, or Jeuks's revised by Mr. Simeon, would probably answer our correspondent's purpose.

A CONSTANT READER may procure information on the subject of his inquiry from the publications of the National Society, the British and Foreign School Society, &c.

We have not received the work mentioned by B. C.

A LANCASHIRE CURATE may send his donation of books for the Calcutta College Library, to the Secretary of the Society for propagating the Gospel, St. Martin's Library, London.

We have left Mr. Bugg's papers at the publisher's; also the packet of A CONSTANT. FEMALE READER.

Much religious and literary intelligence arrived too late.

[blocks in formation]

P. 76, col. 2. line 35, for it, read my interpretation of John iii. 5.


No. 244.]

APRIL, 1822. [No. 4. Vol. XXII.


Tothe Editorofthe Christian Observer.
T has been a very frequent re-

parish priest is more useful in the
reality, than entertaining in the
posthumous narration. Being con-
fined for the most part to one sphere
of ministerial exertion, and con-
sisting in the repetition of duties,
which, however important, are still
nearly uniform, it presents little,
comparatively speaking, to gratify
curiosity, or to excite expectation.
Those at least who require the sti-
mulus of amusement will turn from
the history of one who has "kept
the noiseless tenor of his way" in
a course of pastoral usefulness and
activity, to divert themselves with
the memoirs of the statesman, the
warrior, or the navigator; to ol-
low the footsteps of the traveller
through distant countries, and
amongst barbarous tribes; or per-
haps to attend on the adventures
of some imaginary hero, whom the
skill of the novelist has dressed up
in the colours of nature or the
tinsel of romance.

But the life of an exemplary Christian minister, while it always communicates instruction, which is more than can be said of the writings just mentioned, is not always incapable of affording entertainment. Peculiarity of character, for example, may make amends for the want of variety of incident. It is this circumstance which renders the life of Skelton one of the most amusing pieces of biography, in modern times. There the eccentric Irishman is constantly seen in contact with the faithful minister of the sanctuary; and this combiCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 244.

nation, though it may not be at all times the most happy, certainly gives a relief to the picture that

Among Christian pastors who have adorned their profession by piety, fidelity, and zeal, there will be found no one, perhaps, whose history better deserves to be recorded than the late Mr. Fletcher, the far-famed Vicar of Madeley. His life, independently of those peculiarities of character which render it an interesting exhibition to the philosophic observer of mankind, affords more variety than we usually meet with in the career of a minister of the Gospel. And even the circumstance of his having been a foreigner, naturalized as it were upon English ground, attracts attention by its rarity; and adds something to the interest which the view of his talents, virtues, and attainments is so well calculated to excite.

It is my intention, in the present paper, to offer some observations upon this extraordinary man. In attempting to delineate his life and character, I shall select my incidents chiefly from the last published biographical memoir of Mr. Fletcher, recently given to the world by the Rev. R. Cox, Perpetual Curate of St. Leonard's, Bridgenorth. I am not aware that Mr. Cox has added much to the stock of materials amassed by Mr. Benson, Mr. Gilpin, and other memorialists of Mr. Fletcher. Indeed, his work is professedly a compilation; so much so that he often incorporates the words as well as the facts of his originals in his narrative, wherever they seemed pro

2 C

per to his purpose. Still his memoir is the best that has appeared; Mr. Gilpin's consisting of only detached memoranda, and Mr. Benson's being liable to consider able exception, as those of your readers will recollect who have perused your Review of it in your volume for 1805, p. 349. As a sober Christian, Mr. Cox has not represented his hero as the subject of miraculous deliverances, though doubtless his life affords, as does that of many an unrecorded individual, some remarkable instances of the constant presence of a merciful superintending Providence; as a lover of peace, he has abstained from interlarding his narrative with unprofitable controversies; and as a consistent churchman, he has not been indifferent to, much less extolled, those parts of Mr. Fletcher's conduct which were open to censure on the score of ecclesiastical discipline. On these grounds, such a narrative as Mr. Cox has drawn up was much wanted, notwithstanding the several memoirs of Mr. Fletcher which have been already written. I will only add in this age of book-making, that Mr. Cox's narrative has the merit of comprizing much in a little, and giving the purchaser the full value of his money, in solid matter of fact and interesting information.

I shall first present your readers with a rapid sketch of Mr. Fletcher's life, and then proceed to offer some reflections on his character, interwoven with a few of the most interesting anecdotes which are related of him.

It is well known that his original name was Jean Guillaume de la Flechere. He was born at Nyon, in Switzerland, in the year 1729, of respectable, and even distinguished parentage; his family being, by the report of one of his nephews, allied to the house of Sardinia. His father had been an officer in the French service. The childhood of Fletcher appears to have been distinguished by tokens of reflection

and piety, very unusual at that period of life. At an early age, he was sent to the university of Geneva, where he soon became remarkable by his talents and application. He frequently spent the greater part of the night in study. At the same time, his constitution was vigorous and active. He was fond of fencing and swimming; and he excelled particularly in the latter accomplishment. After going through the usual course of study, at the university, he was sent by his father to Lentzbourg, where he studied German, and, after leaving that place, remained for some time at home, engaged in learning Hebrew, and reading mathematics. He had evinced a disposition to enter the church, to which his parents were not averse; but, feeling some conscientious scruples on the subject, particularly respecting the Calvinism of the Geneva Articles, he directed his views towards the army. This was a profession by no means unsuited to his personal courage, and the natural vivacity of his temper. He had an uncle in the Dutch service, who had procured him a commission. But the ratification of peace soon afterwards cooled his military ardour; and, having now no particular engagement, he visited England, partly to improve himself in literature, and partly with the hope of obtaining some situation for his support. This visit to our country seems to have been a tide in his affairs, which, under Providence, determined the future current of his life. He was recommended to a Mr. Burchell, in Hertfordshire, under whose direction he studied the English language and polite literature. Being a younger son, and his provision slender, he was induced to accept a situation, in which he might support himself, without being a burden to his family, and accordingly, he engaged himself as tutor in the family of Mr. Hill, M.P. for Shrewsbury.

His views now opened again gra

dually towards the ministerial office. He thought much and deeply upon the subject, and gave himself to study and an abstemious regimen. In both these he appears to have carried matters to an extreme, and in some degree to have injured his constitution. In the year 1756, he lost his father; and in the month of March, of the following year, entered into full orders in the Church of England. He was now twentyeight years of age. Between this period and his entrance upon the vicarage of Madeley, he preached in different places, as occasion offered; and assisted Mr. Wesley, whose cast of piety was in many respects similar to his own. During this interval, also, he was urged by his mother, in the most pressing manner, to visit her in Switzerland; but, strange to say, he refused to comply with her request. She was now a widow, and her son was comparatively at leisure. He ought, therefore, doubtless to have obeyed the summons; and the reasons which he assigned for not doing so, savour strongly of that spirit of enthusiasm from which his character was by no means free, and which had probably derived strength and influence from his recent connexion with Mr. Wesley and the Methodists.

Through the influence of Mr. Hill, Mr. Fletcher was presented, in 1759, to the vicarage of Madeley, which he retained, without any other preferment, during the remainder of his life. The value of the living was very moderate, and the duty was laborious; but it was just such a sphere of exertion as he was qualified to occupy and adorn. Though a perfect gentleman in mind and manners, his extreme simplicity, and his rigid habits of life, perhaps rendered his labours more acceptable and successful in a populous country parish, than they would have been in the midst of a polished and luxurious metropolis. His devout zeal and activity will be noticed hereafter. He was particularly

happy in bringing religious truth to bear with force upon rude, uncultivated minds. He had for his enemies, publicans, colliers, and profligates; and he appears to have understood the art of dealing with them, quite as well as Whitefield or Wesley, but with more mildness of spirit, and greater simplicity of deportment.

After ten years of indefatigable exertion at Madeley, he at length consented to visit his relations on the Continent. On the eve of his departure, he had to contend with some Roman Catholics, who had opened a chapel in his parish, and succeeded in preventing them from making any great progress in that neighbourhood. Accompanied by his friend Mr. Ireland, he now visited the south of France, with part of Italy, and took Switzerland on his return. In this journey he displayed much active and enlightened curiosity, in inquiring into the doctrine and worship of the Catholics. He also visited the remnant of the poor Huguenots, who had been the victims of Lewis's tyranny, on the revocation of the' Edict of Nantes. He went to them in the character of a pilgrim, charmed the cottagers of the Cevennes with his manners and conversation, edified them by his prayers and instructions, attended on their sick, and had much discourse with the Protestant pastors of the country. He afterwards proceeded to Marseilles and Genoa, and thence to Rome. Here his zeal against Popery burst forth in imprudent remarks, which, but for the caution of his fellow-traveller, might have been productive of uu-' pleasant consequences. The Appian Way reminded him of St. Paul; and he alighted from his carriage, that he might not ride over ground where the Apostle had formerly walked, chained to a soldier. After visiting the ruins of Herculaneum and Pompeii, he returned home by way of Switzerland, and preached with success at Nyon, his native

place. At his departure, weeping multitudes crowded round his carriage. He arrived in England in the summer of the year 1770, after an absence of five months.

The next remarkable circumstance of his life was his connexion with Lady Huntingdon's seminary at Trevecca, in South Wales. He seems to have acted there in the capacity of an authorised visitor and general superintendant; but he soon found it necessary to withdraw from his office. The doctrinal sentiments of the Foundress materially differed from his own; and divisions sprang up in the college, which involved him in a painful controversy. As no man was naturally more averse to doctrinal disputes than Mr. Fletcher, so few men upon the whole, and considering all the circumstances of the case, have conducted them in a more Christian spirit. He certainly was, on some occasions, severe in his remarks, though in general he maintained a far better temper than most of his allies and opponents in the whole of that singularly acrimonious controversy. With regard to his powers as a polemic, he will hardly be thought a match, in metaphysics, for President Edwards, even by those who think that President Edwards is in the wrong.

Mr. Fletcher soon after engaged, upon religious grounds, in the political controversy respecting the right of resistance to taxation claimed by our American Colonies. His praise of the British Constitution will be cordially admitted by many, who might disapprove of his general reasoning on the question of colonial dependence. "To be a subject of Great Britain," said he, "is to be the happiest subject of any civil government in the world." His incessant studies and labours began now to affect his health. Change of air being recommended, he again quitted Madeley in the autumn of 1776, and, after spending some time in travelling and making visits to his friends, without

reaping the expected benefit, he determined upon another journey to his native mountains. panied again by his friend, Mr. Accomİreland, he travelled through France to Aix and Montpellier, and so far recovered strength as to be able to preach at both those places. In the Spring of the year 1778, he again visited Nyon, and continued in that neighbourhood nearly three years; during which time, the climate, together with the affectionate restored him to health. attentions of his friends, gradually turned to England in April, 1781. He re

Mr. Fletcher, from his age, as well as from the state of his health and habits, appeared unlikely to marry : fifty, he united himself to Miss Bobut now, at length, when turned of sanquet, an old acquaintance, and a lady of eminent piety and respectable connexions. took place in November, 1781. The marriage This union, during the short time it lasted, seems to have been remarkably happy. It was founded on Christian principle, and cemented by a similarity of taste and temper. In the object of his choice he found "

an help meet for him," ertions. The remainder of his life, with respect to his ministerial exwith few interruptions, was passed in the bosom of his beloved parish, and in unwearied labours for the souls of men.

he at last fell a sacrifice; for, venTo those labours turing into the pulpit, one Sunday, under the influence of a cold and fever, he so increased his disorder, that he only survived the effort about a week, and expired on Sunday, August 14, 1785, in the fiftysixth year of his age. bed corresponded with the uniform His deathtenor of his life. We are informed by his friend, Mr. Gilpin, that he experienced not merely the ordinary consolations, but the triumphs, of faith; and that, when deprived of the power of speech, his countenance discovered him to be secretly engaged in the contemplation of eternal things.-I shall not detail

« PreviousContinue »