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MR. FLETCHER's gentleness towards opponents, illustrated in an
ecdotes related by the Rev. MelviLLE HORNE. “All of Mr. Fletcher's opponents were able, and most of them humorous, writers. This circumstance frequently obliged him, contrary to the habitual gravity of his character, to encounter them with their own weapons; and this perhaps made him pass for a bitter writer with those who could not bear to see their own sentiments treated with the same freedom with which they treat those of a contrary description. They who wish to judge according to truth would do well to read MR. FLETCHER'S works before they censure him; and to bear in mind that the respect due to truth will justify a degree of freedom with doctrine, which esteem and love will not allow towards the persons of its advocates. I will not recriminate on his respectable opponents; but relate an anecdote which will exhibit his patience and gentleness under severe and rude censures. When apparently in dying circumstances at Bristol, a Dissenting Minister called upon him. Though he had been forbidden to converse, and the gentleman was a stranger, MR. FLETCHER admitted and received him with his usual courtesy. But the visitor, instead of conversing on such subjects as were suitable to MR. FLETCHER's christian character and afflicted circumstances, entered warmly on controversy; and told him, He had better have been confined to his bed with a dead palsy, than have written so many bitter things against the dear children of God.' "My brother, said Mr. FletchER, 'I hope I have not been bitter. Certainly I did not mean to be so: but I wanted more love then, and I feel I want more now.' This mild answer silenced him; and sent him away, I trust better acquainted with MR. FLETCHER's spirit, and his own. They are not generally of the best spirits themselves, who are first to complain of the spirits of their opponents." _(pp. 147, 148.)
“On his way to Ireland Mr. FLETCHER preached in a large town; and towards the conclusion of his sermon stated his sentiments respecting the eminent degree of holiness to which a Christian might attain in this life. All the Ministers of the place attended to hear him; and all but one staid to shake him by the hand after the service. That one was the principle Clergyman, a polished gentleman, and an old acquaintance. In the morning MR. FLETCHER, who suspected no offence, said to MR. GILBERT, 'I had not the pleasure last night of shaking hands with my friend MR.
I cannot think of quitting the town without seeing him.' As you are acquainted with him, perhaps you will walk with me. They, accordingly, called; and were introduced: but when he presented his hand with his usual respectful cordiality, it was rudely declined. I never preach any thing,' said his friend, but what I experience. Do you, Mr. FLETCHER, experience that eminent degree of holiness, that Christian PerVol: VI.
fection, which you spoke of last night?" Unprepared for discussion, especially with an angry disputant, he answered mildly, “My dear brother, we serve the same blessed Lord ;-why then should we disagree because our liveries are not turned up exactly alike?' Finding his friend still rude and repulsive, he suddenly caught his hand, kissed it, and, bowing low, said, 'God bless you, my brother," and retired. It is creditable to the religious principles of this gentleman, that MR. FLETCHER's patient kindness was not without effect. On his return from Ireland his friend called upon him, asked his pardon in the handsomest terms, and treated him with the most respectful distinction.'” (pp. 150, 151.) Occurrences during MR. FLETCHER's attendance at the Annual
Conferences of the Methodists. “MR. FLETCHER was sometimes present at MR. WESLEY's Annual Conference, when his sermons and godly conversation became the theme of every tongue. On one of these occasions he was desired to pronounce the sentence of expulsion against a Preacher; and he performed this delicate and painful duty with such a happy mixture of solemnity, feeling, and affection, accompanied with such awful and pathetic warnings, as drew tears from every eye. At the same Conference he preached a sermon on the Old Prophet, who beguiled the Man of God that came from Judah; in which he drew such a pathetic picture of the personal degradation and misery of a backsliding Minister, and of the corruption and injury he introduced into the church of Christ, as produced a general and deep sensation, not easily to be forgotten.
“At the last Conference he attended, when MR. WESLEY was about to read over his own pame and those of all the Preachers, that any present might object to whatever was deemed reprehensible in them, MR. FLETCHER rose to withdraw. He was eagerly recalled, and asked why he would leave them. 'Because,' said he, it is improper and painful to my feelings for me to hear the minute failings of my brethren canvassed, unless my own character were submitted to the same scrutiny. They promised, if he would stay, that his character should be investigated. On these terms he submitted ; and, when his name was read, an aged Preacher rose, bowed to him, and said, 'I have but one thing to object to MR. FLETCHER: God has given him a richer talent than his humility will suffer him duly to appreciate. In confining himself to Madeley, he puts his light comparatively, under a bushel ; whereas, if he would come out more among us, he would draw immense congregations, and would do much more good. In answer to this, he stated the tender and sacred ties which bound him to his parish ; its numerous population; the daily calls for his services; the difficulty of finding a proper substitute ; his increasing infirmities, which disqualified him for horse-exercise ; his unwillingness to leave Mrs. FLETCHER at home; and the expense
of travelling in carriages. In reply to his last argument, another Preacher arose, and observed that the expence of his journeys would be cheerfully paid; and that, though he knew and highly approved MR. FLETCHER's disinterestedness and delicacy in pecuniary transactions, yet he feared there was a mixture of pride in his objection; for that by no importunity could he be prevailed on to accept a present to defray his expenses on his late visit to Ireland. A little explanation, replied MR. FLETCHER, with his characteristic meekness, will set that matter right. When I was so kindly invited to visit my friends at Dublin, I had every desire to accept their invitation : but I wanted money for the journey, and knew not how to obtain it. In this situation I laid the matter before the Lord, humbly requesting that, if the journey were a providential opening to do good, I might have the means of performing it. Shortly afterwards I received an unexpected sum of money, and took my journey. While in Dublin, I heard our friends commiserating the distresses of the poor, and lamenting the inadequate means they had to relieve them. When, therefore, they offered me a handsome present,what could I do? The necessary expenses of my journey had already been supplied; my general income was quite sufficient; I needed nothing. Had I received the money, I should have given it away. The poor of Dublin most needed, and were most worthy of, the money of their generous countrymen. How then could I hesitate to beg that it might be applied to their relief? You see, brethren, I could not in conscience do otherwise than I did.'” (pp. 153–156.)
" In the contests of humility, kindness, and affection, it was impossible to overcome MR. FLETCHER. Every one who knew him can produce instances of this kind. I shall mention only a few. The Rev. Moseley CHEEK had once been preaching in his parish; and on their way home, in a dark night, and in a deep dirty road, MR. FLETCHER carefully held the lanthorn to him, while he himself walked through the mire. Pained to see his senior and superior so employed, he made fruitless attempts to take the lanthorn from him. What, my brother, said MR. FLETCHER, "have you been holding up the glorious light of the Gospel, and will you not permit me to hold this dim taper to your feet?'
"Once observing my coat dusty with riding, he insisted on brushing it; yet would not afterwards be prevailed on to let me perform the same office for myself. MRS. FLETCHER, who perceived our contest, said with a smile, 'Then suffer me to do it; for I assure you, my dear, you need it as much as MR. HORNE.' . If you please, my love,' was the reply, you shall do it; for you are a part of myself.'” (pp. 148, 149.).
From the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.
66 ON THE DUTY OF CHRISTIANS TO GIVE ATTENDANCE TO
The advice of St. Paul to TIMOTHY, as recorded in 1 Tim. iv. 13, is, “Give attendance to reading." It may be reasonably expected, that every Minister of Jesus Christ will be diligent in the exercise here recommended, both for the purpose of his own intellectual and spiritual improvement, and in order that he may be increasingly qualified for the important labours connected with the preaching of the Gospel, and for the fit discharge of the complicated duties of the Pastoral Office. But while it is admitted that this advice is peculiarly binding on such as are engaged in the Christian Ministry, it may also be safely contended, that it is the duty of every private Christian conscientiously to employ some portion of his time in the same profitable exercise. To"" search the Scriptures,” is the duty of every man.
Our Lord said to the Jews, “ Search the Scriptures, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me." And as those Scriptures of the Old Testament, to which he referred, as well as the inspired writings of the New Testament, are now put into our hands, it is surely an important part of our business and privilege to peruse those “lively oracles.” They contain that “sure word of prophecy whereunto we do well to take heed,” and are able to make us wise unto salvation.” It is not sufficient, as some may imagine, that a man occasionally hears the Scriptures read and expounded; it is his duty to consult the inspired Word for himself. The “great things" contained in it, are of universal and individual concernment; and great
indeed is that man's ingratitude to God, who, after having received such a revelation from heaven, a revelation pointing out the only way to happiness here and hereafter, neglects to acquaint himself with it by a frequent and attentive perusal. The divine oracles contain the standing rule both of faith and practice; and are the depository of those laws by which we shall be judged, and acquitted or condemned, in the last day. How needful therefore is it, that every man should be furnished with an accurate knowledge of the sacred code! And, assuredly, the edification and comfort connected with a constant and devout reading of the Holy Scriptures, will richly repay those who thus employ a large portion of their hours of leisure.
But though the reading of the Scriptures must ever be considered as the paramount duty of every man, and the Sacred Volume is never to be neglected for any other book; yet this is not the only book that may be read with profit. There are many
human compositions which may be perused with great spiritual advantage. The works of pious and learned men, who have written upon experimental and practical religion, or who have ably explained and illustrated the evidences and doctrines of the Gospel, have been made an eternal blessing to thousands. For what purpose has God given to different persons talents, by which they are well fitted to convey instruction and comfort to others, through the medium of writing, if it be not that they should employ them for this purpose ? And surely it is the bounden duty of men to avail themselves of such helps to knowledge and piety.
But, I fear, it is a lamentable fact, that some professors of religion almost totally neglect this duty; and are seldom, indeed, observed with a book before them. The Sacred Volume is occasionally consulted; but other books are generally disregarded. Some attempt to excuse themselves in this neglect, by pleading their want of taste for reading. Such persons ought to acquire a taste for it. This assuredly may be done. Earnest prayer, and a resolute attention to this exercise, will conquer the criminal aversion which they may have formerly felt to this duty; and richly shall their labour be repaid in the mental improvement and enjoyment which will result from it.-Others plead their want of time; and complain that they have little or no leisure from their business for such employments. It may be the case, (though it is a melancholy consideration, that some men have so deeply involved themselves in worldly concerns, as to have no time for attention to spiritual duties; so that holy meditation, daily prayer, and reading of the Holy Scriptures, and other religious books, are constantly neglected. Their thoughts are, in consequence, wholly taken up about the affairs of the present transitory world. In what an awful state are such persons! How shocking must be the thoughts of death to men immersed in habitual worldliness. Now when men needlessly thus involve themselves in the cares of life, their conduct is assuredly sinful in the sight of God; as they, by that means, voluntarily deprive themselves of the time and opportunities requisite for obtaining a meetness for the heavenly inheritance. But, in respect to men in business generally, it may be observed, that a proper attention to their outward calling does not require absolutely the whole of their time, but will leave, ordinarily, some portion which may be devoted to the concerns of their salvation. If they will but husband their time well, they will find some leisure every day for the exercises of private religion, of which proper Reading is unquestionably one. And if this be the case with those who have to labour daily for the support of themselves and families, surely they who are, in some sense, masters of their time, need not be at a loss for seasons of spiritual improvement, by reading and devotion. Many who complain of their want of time, are permitting no inconsiderabe portions of it daily to pass away, without being used for any valuable purpose. Much is wasted in needless self-indulgence, in trifling conversation, or in frivolous pursuits, which might be profitably employed in reading. And it should not be forgotten, that those who store their minds with