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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 nightstudy, 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.

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

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 disinterested 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.

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

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. He 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


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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.

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

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prophet. Some part of his advice, in his correspondence with a young lady, may be styled injudicious, if not enthusiastic; and his apparently unmixed approbation of the proceedings of Mr. Wesley, and his itinerant preachers, strongly savours of the same spirit. His rapturous and triumphant frame of mind, at the approach of death, is however by no means to be ascribed to this influence. Who shall presume to say to what extent God may sometimes be pleased to visit and cheer his faithful servants under such circumstances? And, if visions of glory be sometimes then vouchsafed to the departing saint, upon whom might we expect them to descend sooner than upon this devout person ?

In truth, Fletcher displayed much less of what may be properly termed enthusiasm than has been commonly supposed. There is no single word in the English vocabulary more frequently distorted from its true meaning than this. In ordinary discourse, we find it perpetually confounded with great zeal in the cause of religion; whereas the most fervent zeal has no necessary or unavoidable connection with enthusiasm, meaning by the term "a heated imagination," though, in consequence of the frailty of human nature, even in the best of men, it may in some instances be combined with the last mentioned quality. Enthusiasm or fanaticism (for this is now the favourite watchword of partyspirit, as being perhaps the stronger and more sonorous expression of the two) implies, when used in reference to religion, either something which tends to encourage the belief of false revelations and false miracles, or something at least which tends to disfigure true religion, by unintentionally representing it under the form of an absurd theory, or an impracticable attainment. Let Mr. Fletcher's conduct be tried by these definitions, and he will be found to stand tolerably

clear of the charge. And if some few parts of his conduct seem to look like real enthusiasm, let him not be judged too harshly by those who are rescued from all danger in this respect, not by their superior piety, but by their cooler temperament. If they have less enthusiasm than Mr. Fletcher, let them ask themselves whether they have as much fervent and welldirected zeal.

It must be mentioned, to the honour of his Christian sobriety, that, in his parish of Madeley, we do not hear of those bodily agitations, those fanatical reveries, those occasional impostures, and those equivocal marks of conversion, to say the best of them, which have unhappily disgraced the journals of the Methodists. In the summer of 1773, there happened, at a place in his parish called the Birches, an awful convulsion of nature, by which the Severn was driven from its original bed, and formed for itself a new channel, and some very singular changes were produced in the face of the adjoining district. Fletcher improved the incident so far as to repair to the spot, where a large concourse of people were assembled, for the purpose of addressing them on the subject of religion. In availing himself of these local circumstances, in order to produce an impression on those of his parishioners who seldom visited the church, or who were too hardened to derive benefit from his ordinary ministrations; he appears only to have acted the part of a pastor properly zealous for the spiritual welfare of his flock. A vehement enthusiast would probably have gone farther, by interpreting the event as a decisive miracle, or a manifest judgment from Heaven.

In enthusiasm, as in all other qualities, there are many gradations.

The higher degrees of it are, unquestionably, as far as they influence the conduct, very per

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nicious: they have done great injury to the church, and afforded its enemies much occasion to blaspheme. But there are lower degrees of it, which are less injurious; and though I would not defend it in any degree, yet, in speaking of its milder shades, let us ever recollect the wise precept of Horace; Ne scutica dignum horribili sectere flagello. Do not visit a venial error with a scourge, only proper · for the punishment of an enormity. A spirit of enthusiasm, at all events is not the only, even if it were the worst, error of the modern church of Christ.

Mr. Cox seems to attribute the occasional irregularities of Fletcher almost entirely to the circumstance of his having been a foreigner, unused to the customs and discipline of the English Church. But this account of the matter is quite unsatisfactory; since he is represent ed by his biographer as excusing himself, upon one occasion, from a visit to Switzerland, on the ground of irregular preaching being there impracticable. He did not there. fore acquire his lax notions of church discipline in his own country. The truth is, he had not given the subject any close attention. Led away in this respect by the ardour of his zeal, and by his compassion for the souls of men, he allowed little scope to the exercise of his judgment; and, like Whitfield and Wesley, though by no means to the same extent, lost sight of clerical consistency and general consequences, in the prospect of immediate and extensive usefulness. His ill-advised connexion with Lady Huntingdon's college at Trevecca, arose from the influence of the same principle. -He is not to be accused of ambitious aims. He never aspired to be the leader of a sect. But, for a clergyman, he certainly too much identified himself with the wellintended, but in many respects unjustifiable, proceedings of the

Methodists. It ought, at the same time, to be mentioned to his credit that he withstood the entreaties of some of Mr. Wesley's co-adjutors urging him to become an itinerant preacher; and said, with his accustomed simplicity, that the snail was best in its shell, and that he would keep in his sentry-box till Providence should remove him.

If we are to judge of his general preaching by some outlines of unwritten sermons which have been preserved, he would appear to have been more highly gifted with the talent of invention than with that of selection and orderly arrangement. In the outline, for example, given by Mr. Cox, of a sermon on Luke xii. 20, there is no want of matter; but the discourse is broken down into too many parts, and some of his divisions are trifling or improper. Perhaps his taste in preaching would have been more correct, had he devoted more attention to the study of polite literature. This he totally neglected, during the latter years of his life. He had an imagination eminently formed to feel the full force both of the pathetic and the sublime. But he was too much absorbed in the plain obvious duties of his great work, to find time or patience for studying any thing that tended only subordinately to promote his paramount object. Still his preaching, however deficient in good taste, must have possessed the eloquence of nature and reality. One trait well deserves to be recorded. In the midst, says his biographer, of a most animated description of the terrible day of the Lord, he suddenly paused; every feature of his expressive countenance was marked with painful feeling; and striking his forehead with the palm of his hand, he exclaimed, "Wretched man that I am!-Beloved brethren, it often cuts me to the soul, as it does at this moment, to reflect, that while I have been endeavouring by the

force of truth, by the beauty of holiness, and even by the terrors of the Lord, to bring you to walk in the paths of righteousness, I am, with respect to many who reject the Gospel, only tying millstones round your necks, to sink you deeper in perdition!" The whole church, it is added, was electrified; and it was some time before he could resume his subject. Massillon's celebrated apostrophe on the day of judgment, which produced such emotion in his courtly audience, was adapted for the cultivated meridian of Paris: Fletcher's interruption was admirably suited to strike the rude villagers of Madeley. Massillon's was elaborate and sublime: Fletcher's was simple and pathetic. It was an arrow that went directly to the heart.

His powers of conversation appear to have been very remarkable. There are two instances related, in which he combated infidel, or at least sceptical, opponents, with such force of reasoning, such admirable restraint of temper, and such Christian meekness, as produced a very considerable effect upon their minds. He bad a clear and solid judgment, whenever he calmly exercised that faculty.


I can merely touch upon some minor excellencies of the character of this remarkable man.' was nothing in his conduct savouring of violence or vulgarity. His family being nobly allied, and his education liberal, he retained a polish and urbanity, which, while it never interfered with the faithful discharge of his ministerial duties, served to recommend him to persons of rank and influence. Yet such was his indifference to worldly distinctions, that owing to a mistake which he had never been at the pains to rectify, his wife for some time believed him to have been the son of a common soldier only, instead of a general officer. Even his eccentricities were respectable; and the circumstance of his going

round his parish, at five o'clock on Sunday mornings, with a bell, to summon the idlers of his flock to prepare for church, though it may excite a smile, can never seriously degrade him in the estimation of any liberal and reflecting mind.

Such was Mr. Fletcher, the Vicar of Madeley. He was, in many respects, a burning and a shining light; not indeed exempt from human frailty, but affording a memorable example of the power of genuine Christianity to purify, exalt, and enoble the character of man.-Let us, for a moment, imagine what such a person as Mr. Fletcher might have proved, without the influences of Divine grace, and the tuition of the Gospel of Christ. Probably he would have been still amiable, candid, benevolent, upright, and enterprizing. He might have proved, in his humbler sphere of action, what an Antoninus Pius was, upon the seat of the Roman empire. But all his exertions would have been confined to the temporal benefit of his fellow-creatures; and probably a conviction of the little he could perform for the alleviation of human misery, might in some degree have paralized his labours, and dried up the source of his philanthropy. But view him as a minister of Christ, impressed with a firm belief of the Gospel, and with a deep sense of his own personal responsibility, in delivering the message of reconciliation to a careless and corrupt world, and how are all his natural qualifications for usefulness stimulated and improved! He now finds an object worthy of the utmost ardor of his spirit. Inflamed with the love of God, and deeply touched with compassion for the souls of men, he possesses motives for exertion infinitely superior to any with which he could be furnished by mere worldly considerations. When checked by occasional discouragements, he supports his courage, prompts his

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