MADELEY: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1824.
"MADELEY, a parish in the franchise of Wenlock, a vicarage discharged, in the diocese of Hereford, the deanery of Wenlock, and archdeaconry of Salop. 1,081 houses, 5,379 inhabitants. LAT. 52. 40 N. LONG. 2. 33 W. 148 miles north-west of London. Fairs,- January 26, May 29, and October 12.
Madeley stands in an elevated situation, fifteen miles southeast of Shrewsbury. It has a Market on Fridays, called Madeley Wood Market, which is well supplied with provisions, and is of late become a considerable mart for corn. Near the church are the house and barn which afforded shelter to the unfortunate Charles the second, after his defeat at the battle of Worcester. (See Boscobel.) The house is now the residence of the Rev. John Bartlett. On the opposite side of the road is Madeley Hall, belonging to Sir Henry Hawley, Bart.
The court house, now converted into farm-houses, the property of Mrs. Dyott, was formerly the residence of the ancient family of Brooke, as the inscriptions under their monuments in the church record. These monuments were removed when the church was pulled down, and when that edifice was rebuilt in 1796, they were again placed at the east end, in niches made for that purpose.
Here is a Roman Catholick chapel, with a residence for the Priest, who holds also another chapel at Middleton Priors, near Bridgnorth, under the jurisdiction of the Rev. Dr. Milner, Vicar Apostolick of the Midland district.
Two miles from the church, in a south-easterly direction, is Coalport, which takes its name from the termination of the Shropshire canal, which is seven miles in length. The coals brought by this conveyance, from the extensive mines of Ketley, Dawley, and other places, are landed on the banks of the river Severn, and are thence transported in barges to different parts of the counties of Worcester and Gloucester, to the average amount of fifty thousand tons annually.
The large and flourishing Porcelain Manufacture of John Rose, and Co., the only one of the kind in this county, where the arts of modelling and painting have reached a high degree of perfection, is carried on at Coalport. This article in the beauty of its composition,- the superior taste displayed on its surface, and the elegance of the workmanship, is no where excelled. From four to five hundred persons are constantly employed in this manufacture, which is the sole support of at least fifteen hundred inhabitants of the Salopian soil, and the source from which many individuals have amassed great wealth. There is also a rope, and a timber yard, on an extensive scale, and a neat iron bridge over the Severn, erected in 1817, in the place of a wood one.
Near this bridge is a remarkably large wheel, 240 feet in circumference. It turns a mill for expressing oil from linseed. This mill is the property of William Horton, Esq., and not far from it, is the residence of that gentleman, delightfully situated on the banks of the river.
About a mile distant, between the above-mentioned bridge, and the old one erected in 1779, (See Coalbrook Dale which is in this parish) are the large furnaces of the Madeley Wood Company, used for the making of pig iron of superior quality. At a little distance is a neat villa, the residence of William Anstice Esq., one of the proprietors of these works, and farther to the left, is the Hay, a place of great antiquity, the seat of Robert Feriday, Esq.
There is in this neighbourhood a tunnel made by order of the late William Reynolds, Esq., for the more easy conveyance of coals, which are here the chief article of commerce,
This tunnel was discontinued from some unknown cause. Its length is about one mile in a direct line, and it is arched with brick nearly the whole way. It is remarkable that a quantity of tar flows from the interstices in the sides. The tar (falling upon the surface of a small stream which runs in a narrow channel to the entrance) is there deposited in the form of a sediment, and at convenient times is put into barrels for use. The quantity thus obtained, when the excavation was first made, exceeded one barrel per day; and each barrel was worth about three guineas. But ever since that period, the quantity has gradually diminished, and is now not more than twenty barrels in the year. It is therefore probable that in a few years, this bounty of nature will be exhausted.
In the month of May great numbers of that species of fish, called the shad, are caught in this part of the river Severn, in the following singular manner. A man having taken his stand with a casting net over his shoulder, in a place where the stream is very shallow, and inclines towards the shore,- remains in this position till he observes the playing of the fishes, which always come in shoals; when he throws his net over them, and generally succeeds in taking one, and sometimes four or six, at a single throw. They have been caught of the weight of six pounds, though rarely;- in general they do not weigh more than two or three pounds each. When first in season, they are considered a well flavoured fish, but they soon become unpalatable. It is supposed that these fish come up the river to spawn, for when they return, which they do in a very short time, they are so lean as not to be thought worth taking. No obstacles impede them in their progress up-the river; in which respect they resemble the salmon.
Boats which are fastened by a weight suspended at the bottom of the stream, are sometimes used in taking this fish.
There are some publick walks near the Iron Bridge, from which the Welsh mountains and the surrounding country appear very beautiful. These walks are not much frequented by persons of respectability, though kept in good order.
The life of Fletcher of Madely has been very elegantly written by that respectable clergyman, the Rev. Robert Cox, perpetual curate of St. Leonard's, Bridgnorth, from whose narrative the following biographical sketch is extracted.
' Jean Guillaume De La Flechere, or, as he was generally designated in this his adopted country, John William Fletcher, was born in Switzerland, at Nyon, in the Pays de Vaud. His father, in the former part of his life had been an officer in the French service, but on his marriage retired from the army, and afterwards became a colonel in the militia of his own country. Of this gentleman Mr. Fletcher was the youngest son.
An early reverence for the scriptures happily preserved him from many of the vices peculiar to youth. His conversation was modest, and his whole conduct marked by a degree of rectitude rarely found in persons of his age. As he grew up, his filial obedience and fraternal affection were exemplary; nor is it remembered that be ever uttered an unbecoming expression either as a son or as a brother.
Having passed the early part of his boyhood at Nyon, young Fletcher was sent, with his two brothers, to the university at Geneva, where he was soon distinguished by the superiority of his talents, and the intensity of his application, and gained the first prize for which he was a candidate, with considerable applause; though be had many competitors, some of whom were nearly related to the professors.
About this period Fletcher met with many providential escapes, which he never afterwards mentioned without the strongest expressions of gratitude. Of these deliverances the following is the most memorable. He lived for some time at a place very near the Rhine. In that part the river is broader than the Thames at London bridge, and extremely rapid: but having been long practised in swiming, he made no scruple of going in at any time, being careful to keep near the shore, that the stream might not carry him away. Once, however, being less careful than usual, he was unawares drawn into the mid-channel, where the course of the water was very swift. He endeavoured to swim against it, but in vain, till he was hurried far from home. When almost spent, he rested upon his back, and then looked about for a landing place, finding he must either land or sink. With much difficulty he got near the shore; but the rocks were so rugged and sharp, that he saw if be attempted to land there, he should be torn in pieces, and was therefore constrained to turn again to the mid- stream. At last, despairing of life, be was cheered by the sight of a fine smooth creek, into which he was swiftly carried by a violent stream. A building stood directly across it, which he did not then know to be a powder mill. The last thing he could remember, was the striking of his breast against one of the piles, on which it stood. He then lost his senses, and knew nothing more till he rose on the other side of the mill. When he came to himself, he was in a calm, safe place, perfectly well; nothing was amiss, but the distance of his clothes, the stream having driven him five miles from the place where he had left them. Many persons gladly welcomed him on shore; and one gentleman in particular said "I looked when you went under the mill, and again when you rose on the other side. The time of your being immerged among the piles was exactly twenty minutes."
After Fletcher had gone through the usual course of study, at the University, he was sent by his father to Lentzbourg, a small town in the Swiss cantons, where, in addition to his other literary pursuits, he studied German; and on his leaving this place, he remained sometime at home, diligently engaged in learning Hebrew, and reading the higher branches of the mathematicks.
Hitherto, it had been the intention of Fletcher, to enter into the church, but contrary to all expectation, before he had arrived at the age of twenty, he manifested views of a very different nature. Disgusted by the necessity of subscribing to the high calvinism of the Geneva articles, and disinclined to enter upon so sacred an office, from any secular motives, he yielded to the desire of some of his friends, who advised him to enter into the army.
The objects of his pursuit were now changed. Fortification became his favourite study; the systems of theologians were superseded by those of Vauban and Cohorn, and he determined to seek preferment as a soldier of fortune. With this design he went to Lisbon, where he obtained a commission in the Portuguese service, and was ordered to hold himself in readiness to sail for Brazil;- but, an accident, occasioned by a servant's overturning a kettle of boiling water on his leg, confined him to his bed until the ship had sailed. Being disappointed in a subsequent attempt to enter into the Dutch service, by the ratification of peace, be resolved to visit England, partly from a desire of further improvement, and partly from a hope of obtaining some situation for his support in life.
After his arrival in this country, Fletcher resided about eighteen months in the house of a Mr. Burchell, in Hertfordshire, under whose direction he studied the English language and various branches of polite literature, and at length engaged himself as tutor in the family of Mr. Hill, member of parliament for Shrewsbury, who resided at Tern Hall, in the parish of Atcham. When Mr. Hill went to London to attend his parliamentary duties, he generally took his family, and the tutor with him. On one of these journeys, while they stopped at St. Alban's, Mr. Fletcher accidentally met with a poor woman, who, he said, talked to him so delightfully of Jesus Christ, that he knew not how the time passed away.
This little circumstance, ohserves his biographer, was attended with the most important result. Feeling his deficiency he determined to make serious enquiries; he sought the society and advice of Christian friends, compared his own state of mind and hopes of salvation with the scriptures, and prayed with much importunity that he might not be deceived in so momentous an investigation. At first he felt somewhat indignant at the idea of his being still imperfectly acquainted with the nature of religion. 'Is it possible' he said, 'that I, who have always been accounted so religious, who have made divinity my study, and received from the learned professors of Geneva a golden medal, for the best prize essay on Christian godliness; is it possible that I should yet be ignorant of the real nature of faith? But the more he examined himself, and considered the subject, the more he feared that this was really the case. At the same time, an increasing sense of the evil of sin, and the depravity of his nature, convinced him that it was impossible to obtain reconciliation with God, upon any plea of human merit. At length, continues Mr. Cox, to adopt the appropriate language of a modern prelate, he obtained 'that lively faith, which, through the grace of God, will incite men to do all which they can do; whilst it teaches them to rely upon nothing which they have done.'
Shortly after this period, Mr. Fletcher's attention was again directed to the work of the ministry; but being diffident of his qualifications for so weighty an office, two years elapsed before his ordination. ' Before' said he ' I was afraid, but now, I trembled to meddle with holy things. Yet from time to time I felt strong desires to cast myself and my inability on the Lord, knowing that be could help me, and shew his strength in my weakness.'
Things were in this state, when a living, with a prospect of early presentation was offered him by his patron. But he declined accepting it, as he then conceived that if he ever went into orders, he should be better qualified to preach in his native country and in his own language. ' I am in suspense' said he, on one side, whenever I feel any degree of the love of God and man, my heart tells me, I must try; on the other, when I examine whether I be fit for it, I so plainly see my want of gifts, and especially of that soul of all the labours of a minister, Love, continual, universal, ardent Love, that my confidence disappears, and I accuse myself of pride in daring to entertain the desire of one day supporting the ark of God.
At length, his reluctance heing overcome, he solemnly determined to offer himself as a candidate for holy orders, in the English church; and was accordingly ordained deacon at the chapel royal St. James's, on the 6th of March, 1757, and priest on the following Sunday. As he had at present, no stated cure, after having preached a few times to some French refugees in his own language, and also in two of the chapels belonging to Mr. Wesley with whom he was now acquainted, he determined to return to the charge of his pupils, at Tern Hall.
He now occasionally preached in some of the neighbouring churches. Atcham, Wroxeter, the Abbey church in Shrewsbury, and St. Alkmonds, in the same town, were the scenes of his gratuitous services. But the decided tone of his preaching, in connexion with the national fervour of the Swiss, which does not exactly comport with our more phlegmatick notions of pulpit eloquence, rendered him far from popular. Indeed, at present, neither his talents, nor his virtues appear to have been properly understood, beyond the immediate circle of his friends.
About the close of the summer of 1759, Mr. Fletcher was frequently engaged in performing the duty of Madeley; and during the following year, through the influence of Mr. Hill, was presented to the vicarage of that place, about three years after this ordination. This living he accepted in preference to another of above douhle the value, which was offered to him about the same time; his previous intercourse with the people having excited within him an affection, which would not suffer him then to be separated from them, and which remained unabated till his death.
But the circumstances connected with his appointment to Madeley are so remarkable, and at the same time so characteristic of Mr. Fletcher, as to deserve farther notice. One day Mr. Hill informed him that the living of Dunham, in Cheshire, then vacant, was at his service. 'The parish' he continued ' is small, the duty light, the income good, (£400 per annum) and it is situated in a fine, healthy, sporting country.' After thanking Mr. Hill most cordially for his kindness, Mr. Fletcher added 'Alas! Sir, Dunham will not suit me; there is too much money, and too little labour.' 'Few clergymen make such objections,' said Mr. Hill; 'it is a pity to decline such a living, as I do not know that I can find you another. What shall we do? Would you like Madeley?' 'That Sir would be the very place for me.' 'My object, Mr. Fletcher, is to make you comfortable in your own way. If you prefer Madeley, I shall find no difficulty in persuading Chambray, the present Vicar, to exchange it for Dunham, which is worth more than twice as much.' In this way he became Vicar of Madeley, with which he was so perfectly satisfied, that he never afterwards sought any other honour or preferment.
Previously to Mr. Fletcher's presentation to the living of Madeley, its inhabitants, with some exceptions, were notorious for their ignorance and impiety, They openly profaned the sabbath, treated the most holy things with contempt, disregarded the restraints of decency, and ridiculed the very name of religion. In this benighted village, Fletcher stood forth as a preacher of righteousness; and during the space of twenty five years, appeared as a burning and a shining light.
For several months after his ordination, Mr. Fletcher had been in the habit of writing down the whole of his sermon: but being by this time fully acquainted with the English language, he generally trusted to his extemporary powers, having merely sketched out some of the particulars of his intended discourse. The deep attention he had paid to the recesses of his heart enabled him to form no inadequate idea of the internal feelings of others. Hence he knew when to probe, and when to heal; when to depress, and when to encourage: and no person's case was so perplexed or desperate, but he was in some measure prepared to explain and relieve it. A happy talent which he possessed, of selecting at a moment, the most appropriate passages of scripture, clothed his words with a divine authority, and enabled him to speak as one who was conscious of his high credentials.
' There was an energy in his preaching, says Mr. Gilpin, that was irresistible.' His subjects, his language, his gestures, the tone of his voice, and the turn of his countenance, all conspired to fix the attention, and affect the heart. Without aiming at sublimity, he was truly sublime; and uncommanly eloquent without affecting the orator. He was wondrously skilled in adapting himself to the different capacities and conditions of his hearers. He could stoop to the illiterate, and rise with the learned; he had incontrovertible arguments for the sceptick, and powerful persuasions for the listless believer; he had sharp remonstrance for the obstinate, and strong consolation for the mourner. To hear him without admiration was impossible: without profit improbable. The unthinking went from his presence under the influence of serious impressions, and the obdurate with kindled relentings.' Mr. Wesley describes him as superior to Whitfield in his qualifications for a publick preacher. ' Instead of being confined' says he 'to a country village, he ought to have shone in every corner of our land. He was full as much called to sound an alarm through all the nation as Mr. Whitfield himself; nay, abundantly more so, seeing he was much better qualified for that important work. He had a more striking person, an equally winning address, together with a richer flow of fancy, a stronger understanding, a far greater treasure of learning, both in languages, philosophy, philology, and divinity; and, above all, which I can speak with fall assurance, (because I had a thorough knowledge both of one and the other) a more deep and constant communion with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.' Another friend of his adds, ' I would rather have heard one sermon from Mr. Fletcher viva voce, than have read a volume of his works. His words were clothed with power and uttered with effect. His writings were arrayed in all the garb of human literature; but his living word soared an eagle's flight above humanity. In short his preaching was apostolick; while his writings, though enlightened, are but human.'
After due allowance for the partiality of friendship, and the figurative and highly wrought strain of some of these expressions, that man's preaching must be allowed to have been of no ordinary stamp, which elicited such descriptions; and to these, many other testimonies; might be added of its transcendent excellency.
It is not to be supposed that so zealous a minister of the gospel would meet with no opposition. The publicans and the colliers were his special enemies. To preach against drunkenness, and to cut their purse, were considered by the former as the same thing; and the latter were indignant at his opposition to their brutal amusement of bull-baiting. The rage of the publicans generally spent itself in impotent revilings: but the fury of the colliers was near being attended with more serious consequences. One day while a mob of them in a state of intoxication were baiting a bull near a place where he was expected to preach, they determined to pull him off his horse; set the dogs upon him, and, in their own phrase, ' bait the parson.' But just as he was going to set out, notice was brought him that a funeral was on the road; and that previous information respecting it had been omitted. He waited, in consequence, some time for its arrival, and after interring the corpse, proceeded to the spot, where he met his friends, and went through the duty without the least molestation; for before he came, the bull had broken loose and overturned the booth in which many of them were drinking; and the rest of the rabble being intimidated by the disaster, had quietly dispersed.
But drunken colliers and self-interested publicans were not his only opposers. The voluptuary detested his temperance and self-denial; the proud poured contempt on his humility, and condescension; the licentious were offended at his gravity and strictness; and the formal were roused to indignation by that spirit of zeal and devotion which influenced his whole conduct and conversation. And to these opponents must be added some of the neighbouring clergy and magistrates, who, with more reason, objected to his well-intended, but unauthorized interference in their parishes.
In spite, however, of the opposition which his piety and his peculiarities jointly exerted, he gradually won upon the people by the invincible benevolence, which was manifested in the whole tenor of his life. In the meantime, his church which at first had been so thinly attended, that he was discouraged by the smallness of the congregation, began to overflow, and, what must have been to him a source of far greater comfort, he saw an effectual change take place in many of his flock, and a restraint from the commission of open sin, brought upon the parish in general.
Madeley abounded with persons who, either from improvidence or misfortune, were reduced to a state of extreme indigence. Over this destitute part of his flock, Mr. Fletcher watched with peculiar concern. The profusion of his benevolence is indeed scarcely credible. The whole rents of his small patrimonial estate were set apart for charitable uses; and he drew so liberally from his other funds as, at times almost to deprive himself of the necessaries of life. ' That he might feed the hungry,' says Mr. Gilpin, he led a life of self-denial and abstinence; that he might cover the naked, be clothed himself in the most homely attire; and that he might cherish such as were perishing in a state of extreme distress, he submitted to hardships of a very trying nature.
After ten years of indefatigable exertion at Madeley, Mr. Fletcher paid a visit of about five months duration to the continent, accompanied by his friend Mr. Ireland, having previously preached a sermon against the Roman Catholicks, who had lately opened a chapel in Madeley, and had drawn over to their communion some individuals of his flock.
About a year previously to this journey, the Countess of Huntingdon had established a seminary at Trevecca, in South Wales. The terms of admission were, ' that the students should be truly devoted to God, and resolved to dedicate themselves to his service.' During three years they were to be boarded, clothed, and instructed at her ladyship's expense, and at the end of that period they were to take orders in the established church; or, if they preferred it, to enter the ministry among the Dissenters. At the earnest request of the Countess, Mr. Fletcher had undertaken the care of superintending this society in occasional visits, when he was to give advice in regard to the appointment of masters, and the admission or exclusion of students; to overlook their studies and conduct; to assist their piety; and to judge of their qualifications for the work of the sanctuary.
But, though for some time, nothing could appear more prosperous than the state of this society, the college of Trevecca was impregnated with the seeds of division, which needed only the hot-bed of controversy to luxuriate in all the fatal and disgusting fruits of animosity and schism. Lady Huntingdon, the founder, leaned to supralapsarianism; Mr. Walter Shirley, the president, to sublapsarianism; Mr. Fletcher, the superintendent, maintained the doctrine of general redemption; and Mr. Henderson, who had just resigned to Mr. Benson his office of classical master, was an Universalist. The superior talents, eminent piety, and conciliatory manners of the superintendent might for some time longer have neutralized these jarring elements, had not Mr. Wesley, in his zeal to check the progress of antinomianism, publickly borne his testimony, in his minutes at conference, against that error, in language which was supposed to border on Palagianism.
Lady Huntingdon, accordingly, declared that whoever did not fully disavow the doctrines contained in the minutes, must quit the college. Mr. Fletcher, therefore, resigned his appointment, wishing that her ladyship might find a minister less insufficient than himself, and more willing to go certain lengths in what appeared to him, party spirit.
Mr. Wesley's minutes proved a fruitful source of angry controversy. Augustus Toplady, vicar of Broad Hembury, in Devonshire, and the two brothers, Richard, afterwards Sir Richard, and Rowland Hill were the most conspicuous writers on the part of the Calvinists. Mr. Wesley, after having briefly vindicated some of his expressions, and explained others, left two of his preachers, men of low extraction, and little education, though of strong minds, to carry on the contest.
This circumstance provoked Toplady, some of whose writings had previously been attacked by Wesley. ' Let Mr. Wesley' said he ' fight his own battles. I am as ready as ever to meet him, with the sling of reason, and the stone of God's word in my hand. But let him not fight by proxy: let his coblers keep to their stalls; let his tinkers mend their brazen kettles; let his barbers confine themselves to their blocks and basins; let his blacksmiths blow more suitable coals than those of nice controversy. Every man in his own order.'
The controversy on the part of the Arminians, devolved, at length, almost entirely on Mr. Fletcher; and never, says Mr. Cox, did a controvertist unite greater sweetness of spirit, strength of argument, and felicity of illustration, than are to he found in his writings. On sending the manuscript of his first check to antinomianism to a friend much younger than himself, he says ' I beg, as upon my bended knees, you would revise and correct it, and takeoff " quod durius sonat " in point of works, reproof, and style. I have followed my light, which is but that of smoking flax: put yours to mine. I am charged hereabouts with scattering firebrands, arrows, and death. Quench some of my brands; blunt some of my arrows, and take off all my deaths except that which I design for antinomianism.'
At the commencement of our unhappy contest with the Americans, Mr. Wesley published a political tract, in which be examined the question, whether the English parliament had power to tax the colonies. This pamphlet excited no little indignation among the English partisans of the Americans, and produced a spirited reply from Mr. Caleb Evans, a Baptist minister at Bristol. Urged by the pressure of more immediate concerns, Mr. Wesley delegated his cause to his friend Mr. Fletcher, who, in the course of his controversy, displayed no less ability than zeal. He maintained that if once legislation was affirmed to belong to the people as such, all government would be overturned, and that a scheme which had a direct tendency, so to level authority as to subvert all government, and abolish all subordination in the universe, could not be too strongly opposed,- that it ought to be totally extirpated. ' Archimedes, ' he continued, said once, 'Give me a point on which I may fix my engine, and I will move the earth out of its place;' and I may say, 'Give me Dr. Price's political principles, and I will move all kings out of their thrones, and all subjection out of the world.'
That Mr. Fletcher was perfectly disinterested in engaging in this controversy, no one could doubt who had any acquaintance with him. Had a desire of emolument been his object, it might have been abundantly gratified; for on his tracts being shewn to the King, by the chancellor, an offer of preferment was immediately made; but he answered with his characteristick simplicity, that he wanted nothing but an increase of grace.
Mr. Fletcher's incessant labours in publick and in private, in connexion with intense application to his studies, in which he frequently spent fourteen or sixteen hours in the day, had by this time greatly impaired his health. Having tried in vain, various means of restoration, he was induced once more to visit Switzerland, on what appeared a forlorn hope of deriving benefit from his native air. It was in the beginning of December, 1777, that Mr. Fletcher, accompanied by his old fellow traveller Mr. Ireland, and some other friends, sailed from Dover to Calais. Arriving at Aix, they remained there a few weeks, and Mr. Fletcher's health appeared to be considerably improved.
Early in the spring, his brother met him at Montpelier, and conducted him from thence to Nyon, the place of his nativity. Here he resided in his paternal house, in the midst of affectionate relations, who took care that he should want neither the best advice, nor any attention that could possibly contribute to the re-establishment of his health. ' This country,' says he is delightful. We have a fine shady wood near the lake, where I can ride in the cool all the day, and enjoy the singing of a multitude of birds. But this, though sweet, does not come up to my dear friends in England. There I meet them in spirit, several hours in the day.'
Mr. Fletcher continued at Nyon, and its vicinity, for nearly three years; during which period, though his health was gradually improving, he was still too weak to undertake much publick duty. His time, however, was both fully and profitably occupied. He now completed his "Portrait of St. Paul," finished a religious poem, which he had began some years before, and wrote several minor pieces in his native language. The greater part of these were afterwards translated into English. He was also much engaged in instructing children in the first principles of religion, and in giving private exhortations to various persons who came to him for that purpose.
The fearless intrepidity of Mr. Fletcher's Christian character was strikingly exemplified in his conduct towards one of his nephews during his residence in Switzerland. This young man had been in the Sardinian service, where his profligate, ungentlemanly conduct had given such general offence to his brother officers that they were determined to compel him to leave their corps, or to fight them all in succession. After engaging in two or three duels with various success, he was obliged to quit the service, and returned to his own country. There he soon dissipated his resources in profligacy and extravagance. As a desperate man, he reverted to desperate measures. He waited on his eldest uncle, General De Gone; and having obtained a private audience, he presented a pistol, and said,- ' Uncle De Gons, if you do not give me a draft on your banker for five hundred crowns, I will shoot you.' The General, though a brave man, yet seeing himself in the power of a desperado capable of any mischief, promised to give him the draft, if he withdrew the pistol, which, he observed, might go off and kill him before be intended it. ' But there is another thing Uncle, you must do: you must promise me on your honour, as a gentleman and a soldier, to use no means to recover the draft, or to bring me to justice. The General pledged his honour, gave him a draft for the money, and at the same time expostulated freely with him on his infamous conduct. The good advice was disregarded, and the young madman rode off triumphant with his ill-gotten acquisition.
In the evening, passing the door of his Uncle, Mr. Fletcher, the fancy took him to call and pay him a visit. As soon as be was introduced, be began to tell him with exultation, that he had just called upon his Uncle, General De Gons, who had treated him with unexpected kindness, and generously given him five hundred crowns. ' I shall have some difficulty,' said Mr. Fletcher, 'to believe the last part of your intelligence.' ' If you will not believe me, see the proof under his own hand,' holding out the draft. ' Let me see,' said Mr. Fletcher, taking the draft, and looking at it with astonishment. ' It is, indeed, my brother's writing; and it astonishes me to see it, because he is not in affluent circumstances: and I am the more astonished, because I know how much and how justly he disapproves your conduct, and that you are the last of his family to whom he would make such a present.' Then folding the draft and putting it into his pocket, ' 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 pistol was immediately at his breast; and he was told, as he valued life, instantly to return the draft. ' My life,' replied Mr. Fletcher, 'is secure in the protection of the Almighty Power who guards it; nor will He suffer it to be the forfeit of my integrity, and of your rashness.' This firmness drew from the other the observation that his Uncle De Gone, though an old soldier, was more afraid of death than he was. ' Afraid of death,' rejoined Mr. Fletcher;- ' do you think I have been twenty five years the minister of the Lord of life, to be afraid of death now? No, Sir; thanks be to God, who giveth me the victory ! It is for you to fear death, who have reason to fear it. You are a gamester and a cheat, yet call yourself a gentleman! You are the seducer of female innocence, and still you say you are a gentleman ! You are a duellist, and your hand is red with your brother's blood; and for this you style yourself a man of honour ! Look there, Sir; look there ! See, 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.' By this time the unhappy man was pale: he trembled alternately with fear and passion; he threatened, he argued, he entreated. Some times he withdrew the pistol; and, fixing his back against the door, stood as a sentinel to prevent all egress; and at other times he closed on his uncle, threatening instant death: Under these perilous circumstances Mr. Fletcher gave no alarm to the family, sought for no weapon, and attempted neither escape nor manual opposition. He conversed with him calmly; and at length, perceiving that the young man was affected, addressed him in language truly paternal, until he had fairly disarmed and subdued him. ' I cannot,' said he, 'return my brother's draft; yet I feel for the distress in which you have so thoughtlessly involved yourself, and will endeavour to relieve it. My brother De Gons, at my request, will, I am sure, voluntarily give you a hundred crowns. I will do the same. Perhaps my brother Henry will du as much; and I hope your other family will make out the sum among them. He then prayed with him and for him. By Mr. Fletcher's kind mediation the family made up the sum he had promised; and with much good advice on one side, and many fair promises on the other, they parted.
One of the years which Mr. Fletcher spent in Switzerland, was memorable for the death of three celebrated men in those parts,- Voltaire, Rousseau, and Haller, a senator of Berne. The closing scene of their lives was characteristick of the individuals, and was thus described by him. 'Tronchin, the physician of the duke of Orleans, being sent for to attend Voltaire, in his illness at Paris, Voltaire said to him, 'Sir, I desire you would save my life,- I will give you the half of my fortune, if you lengthen out my days only for six months. If not, I shall go into hell fire, and you will follow me.'
Rousseau died more decently, as full of himself as Voltaire was of the wicked one. He paid that attention to nature and the natural sun, which the christian pays to grace and the Sun of righteousness. These were some of his last words to his wife:- ' Open the window that I may see the green fields once more. How beautiful is nature! How wonderful is the sun! See what glorious light it sends forth ! It is God who calls me. How pleasing is death to a man who is not conscious of any sin ! O God, my soul is now as pure, as when it first came out of thy hands, crown it with thy heavenly bliss.' ' God deliver us from self and Satan,- the internal and the external fiend. The Lord forbid we should fall into the snare of the Sadducees, with the former of these two famous men, or into that of the Pharisees with the latter.'
Baron Haller was a great philosopher, a profound politician, and an agreeable poet; particularly famous for his skill in botany, anatomy, and physick. He has enriched the republick of letters by such a number of publications in Latin and German, that the catalogue of them is alone a pamphlet. This truly great man has given another proof of the truth of Lord Bacon's assertion, that, 'although smatterers in philosophy are often impious, true philosophers are always religious.' I have met with an old apostolick clergyman, who was intimate with the Baron, and used to accompany him over the Alps in his rambles after the wonders of nature. ' With what pleasue,' said the minister , 'did we admire and adore the wisdom of the God of nature, and sanctify our researches by the praises of the God of grace.' When the emperor passed this way, be cut Voltaire to the heart by not paying him a visit: but he waited on Haller, was two hours with him, and heard from him the most pious and edifying conversation. The Baron was then ill of the disorder which afterwards carried him off. Upon his death-bed he suffered severe conflicts about his interest in Christ; and sent to the old minister, requesting his most fervent prayers, and wishing him to find the way through the dark valley smoother than he found it himself. However, in his last moments, he expressed a renewed confidence in God's mercy through Christ, and died in peace. The old clergyman added, that be thought the baron went through this conflict to humble him thoroughly; and, perhaps, to chastise him for having sometimes given way to a degree of self-complacency at the thoughts of his amazing parts, and of the respect they procured him from the learned world. He was obliged to become least in his own eyes, that be might become first and truly great in the sight of the Lord.'
In the beginning of March, 1781, Mr. Fletcher took a final leave of Switzerland; and proceeded to the south of France, where he was engaged to meet his friend Mr. Ireland, and to return with him from thence to England. Nothing particular is known of his journey, except that during the short time he stopped at Montpelier he somewhat impaired his health by too great exertion in the pulpit; and on their arrival at Paris his attendance on a sick person would have brought on him the censure of an intolerant church, had not Mr. Ireland, who was mistaken for him by the police officers, quietly suffered them to remain in their error, until Mr. Fletcher, who was apprised of his danger, had proceeded too far on his journey to be overtaken. The friends afterwards joined each other; and arrived safely in England in the middle of April, after an absence of three years and four months.
About the time of Mr. Fletcher's taking orders, he had become acquainted with Miss Bosanquet, a young lady of respectable family and eminent piety, and one who in age, temper, and acquirements, appeared calculated to make him a suitable partner for life. From their first acquaintance they were deeply sensible of each other's worth, and felt the secret influence of a mutual attachment. But Mr. Fletcher's deep humility led him to despair of the accomplishment of his wishes; and his dread of finding in any other woman a hindrance, rather than an aid to his piety and usefulness, gave him, for a long time, a distaste to matrimony.
For many years after this period, little or no intercourse subsisted between them, though both were zealously engaged in the cause of religion. While be was exhausting his strength in the service of his flock, she was no less sedulously employed in devoting her time and fortune to the relief and instruction of the indigent and helpless. In these occupations they spent the prime of their days, rejoicing in the occasional accounts they had of each other's labours, without, however, entering into any immediate correspondence.
Towards the close of his last visit to his native country, his attention was again directed to the subject of marriage. 'I have been so well' said he 'that my friends have thought of giving me a wife; but what should I do with a Swiss wife at Madeley.' While however, he objected to a Swiss lady, he seems to have admitted the propriety of their general reasonings, and, accordingly, a few weeks after his return to England he renewed his acquaintance with Miss Bosanquet, and made her an offer of marriage; on Monday, Nov. 12, 1781, they were united, and the day was kept in a manner perfectly suitable to their eminent piety.
It has already been mentioned that Mr. Fletcher's family was both ancient and noble: but he was so silent on every subject which did him honour, that very few of his most intimate friends were acquainted with the circumstance. Even Mrs. Fletcher, for some time after her marriage, supposed that he was sprung from very low parentage. One day when, in the course of conversation, something led to a discussion of the value of birth and fortune, Mrs Fletcher, probably from a delicacy of feeling for her husband, spoke with some contempt of such adventitious distinctions. 'Surely,' my love, ' said Mr. Fletcher, you carry the matter too far; for though a christian will not be proud of birth and fortune, nor despise another for wanting them, yet they are real and great advantages, if we improve them aright. When we speak of a respectable family, we mean to include not only some portion of wealth and rank, but also moral worth, education, and polished manners. And how many and great are the advantages of spending our childhood and youth in the bosom of such a family, to say nothing of our happily escaping the many evils which attend humbler birth. ' Well, my dear,' said she, you have got over the disadvantages of your humble birth.' ' You mistake,' he replied; my family is respectable; I enjoyed every advantage I could wish. 'I thought,' said she, you had been the son of a common soldier.' How came you to think so I' 'When I first saw you; many years ago, one of the company asked you what your father was; and you answered, my father was a soldier.' ' I now recollect it,' said Mr. Fletcher; 'and I said true, for my father was a General: not that I meant to conceal it; but I was then young in my English. I hesitated for a term; and seeing a private pass the window, I pointed to him, and said, my father was a soldier; meaning to designate his profession, and not his rank.' ' But, my dear,' observed Mrs. Fletcher, 'when you must have perceived our mistake by our astonishment, why did, you not set us right?' ' I certainly did perceive your innocent mistake,' Mr. Fletcher replied, 'but it was not worth while for me or you to correct it.'
A short time after this conversation took place, Mrs. Fletcher, while searching his desk for some paper, found a handsome seal. 'Is this yours?', she enquired. ' It is mine: but I have not used it for many years.' ' But why do you not use it?' 'Had you examined it,' said Mr. Fletcher, ' yon would not have asked the question. You see it bears a coronet, nearly such as is the insignia of your English dukes. Were I to use that seal, it might lead to frivolous enquiries about my family; and, what is worse, subject me to the censure of valuing myself on such distinctions.' [The last intimation Mrs. Fletcher had of the respectability of her husband's family was received from one of his nephews, who visited England after the death of his uncle. ' You know, aunt,' said he, ' that our family is allied to the House of Sardinia.' ' No, my dear, I never heard any thing about it.' ' That is strange,' said the young man; ' did my uncle never tell you that we were allied to the House of Sardinia?' 'No, my dear,' was the reply, ' he did not; and he had so many good things to tell me, in which we both took so much interest, that it is not at all strange that he forgot to mention the House of Sardinia.']
From the time. of his marriage, Mr. Fletcher experienced no return of his consumptive symptoms. His general health also appeared materially unproved, and his strength so far reestablished as to enable him to perform the whole duty of his parish, without the assistance of a curate.
Mr. Fletcher had long lamented the melancholy situation of poor uninstructed. children, and had some years before, established a day school in his parish, which he regularly superintended during his residence at Madeley. He now determined to form a Sunday school. Institutions of this description, though at the present day almost universal, were at that time, nearly confined to a few of the principal towns in the kingdom. Finding that the attempts which he made were attended with considerable success, he urged upon his parishioners the importance of raising a sufficient sum for the erection of a suitable building for a school, in addition to an annual subscription for defraying its current expenses. His proposals met with the general approbation and support of his parishioners; and in a short time he was gratified with the sight of a convenient school room, which was erected in one of the most populous parts of his parish.
In the summer of 1783, Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher in compliance with the very earnest solicitations of some Irish friends, spent a few weeks in Dublin. During his continuance there, we are assured by his biographer that Mr. Fletcher's private and publick exhortations, were attended with a remarkable blessing, that numbers of careless sinners were awakened to a sense of the importance of Divine things, and that the general tone of religion was evidently raised among the more serious characters, with whom he conversed.
In compliance with the earnest solicitation of Mr. Wesley, Mr. Fletcher was sometimes present at the annual conference, when his sermons, and pious conversation became the theme of every tongue. At the last conference he attended, when Mr. Wesley was about to read over his own name 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 expense 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 objections; 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 characteristick meekness, ' will set that matter right. When I was so kindly invited to visit my friends in 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 it might be applied to their relief? You see, brethren, I could not in conscience do otherwise than I did.'
But it was a sense of duty, rather than choice, which occasionally drew Mr. Fletcher from his own neighbourhood. He would willingly have lived and died among his people; and after every little excursion, he returned with increasing pleasure to his parish, and to the superintendence of his flock.
The account he gave of himself, about this time, is so beautiful and characteristick, that it would be an injury to the reader to give it in any words but his own. 'I keep,' said be 'in my sentry-box till Providence remove me; my situation is quite suited to my little strength. I may do as much or as little as I please, according to my weakness. And I have an advantage which I can have no where else, in such a degree: my little field of action is just at my door; so that if I happen to overdo myself, I have but a step from my pulpit to my bed, and from my bed to my grave. If I had a body full of vigour, and a purse full of money, I should like well enough to travel: but, as Providence does not call me to it, I readily submit. The snail does best in its shell. My wife is quite of my mind with respect to the call we have to a sedentary life. We are two poor invalids, who between us make half a labourer. She helps me to drink the dregs of my life, and to carry with ease the daily cross. Neither of us are long for this world: we see it, we feel it; and, by looking at death and his conqueror, we fight beforehand our last battle with that last enemy, whom our dear Lord bath overcome for us.'
In the mean time nothing seemed hard, nothing wearisome to him, which tended to produce the good of his neighbours. Mrs. Fletcher was frequently grieved to call him out of his study two or three times in an hour; especially when she knew he was engaged in some important work. But on such occasions he would answer, with his usual piety, 'O, my dear, never mind. It matters not, if we are but ready to meet the will of God. It is conformity. to his will alone that makes any employment excellent.' No occupation ever appeared to him mean, or beneath his character, which was not sinful. If he overtook a poor person on the road, with a burden too heavy for him, he did not fail to offer his assistance to bear part of it; and, under such circumstances be would not easily take a denial.
No employment of Mrs. Fletcher's seemed more pleasing to him, than that of being engaged in preparing food or medicines for the poor. On Sundays he provided for numbers of poor people who came to his church from a distance; for his house, as well as his heart, was devoted to their convenience. Indeed he scarcely seemed ever to enjoy his meals, unless he knew that some sick or indigent neighbour should partake of them. But, with all his generosity, he was still careful to live within his income. And as a means of effecting this, it was his custom to pay for every thing when he purchased it, considering at the same time that this method was best calculated to keep the mind disencumbered, and free from perplexing cares. In short his property, his time, his all, might be considered as consecrated to the service of his flock.
Thus quietly glided away the last years of this excellent man; blessed in himself, and an eminent blessing to all around him. 'As he approached the end of his course,' said Mr. Gilpin, 'the graces he had kept in continual exercise for so long a season, became more illustrious and powerful: his faith was more assured, his hope more lively, his charity more abundant, his humility more profound, and his resignation more complete. To those who were intimately conversant with him at this season, he appeared as a scholar of the highest attainments in the school of Christ; or, rather, as a regenerate spirit in his latest state of preparation for the kingdom of God: and this extraordinary eminence in grace was discoverable in him, not from any high external professions of sanctity, but from that meekness of wisdom, that purity of conversation, and lowliness of mind, by which his whole carriage was uniformly distinguished.
A few weeks before his last illness, Mr. Fletcher was peculiarly penetrated with a sense of the nearness of adversity. There was scarcely an hour in which he was not calling upon these around him, to drop every worldly thought and care, and to prepare for the coming of the Lord. The termination of his life and labours was just at hand; and no less happy was he in the triumphal close of his mortal existence, than is the accomplishment of his wish as to the occasion of his death. When an infectious fever had once been in his parish, and its ravages had intimidated, even some of his pious flock from performing the offices of humanity and christian charity, he had reproved them to this effect,- ' If the children of this world forsake their sick and dying friends, from the fear of infection, I am not surprized. Their portion is in the world, and whatever menaces their life, strikes at their all. But when christians who profess to have their lives hid with Christ in God, are guilty of the same pusillanimous conduct, I am exceedingly astonished, for such conduct is a dereliction of the faith, hope, love, and every other principle of our holy religion.'
After lingering some time under the pressure of disease, or to speak more properly, of an exhausted constitution, but supported by the hopes and consolations of christianity, Mr. Fletcher calmly expired, on the 14th of August, 1785, in the fifty sixth year of his age. His biographer gives the following summary description of his person and character.
As to the person of this great and good man,- He was above the middle stature, strongly built, and well proportioned. The contour of his face was interesting and noble; his eye was active and penetrating; his nose was moderately aquiline; and his whole countenance such as peculiarly accorded with the extraordinary grace and elevation of his character. His deportment and manners were of the most engaging and courteous kind, presenting such a combination of gravity, condescension, and gentleness, as few have ever witnessed. Humility and dignity are seldom seen familiarly associated in the same person: but in this master of Israel they grew together in so exact a proportion, that while he every where discovered a sort of angelick superiority in his air, his carriage, and his conversation, that superiority was inseparably blended with all the meekness and simplicity of a little child.
His figure was wonderfully adapted to all the sacred offices he had to perform: but of his appearance in the pulpit it may especially be said, that the liveliest fancy could not frame for any of the ancient saints an aspect more venerable or more apostolick.
Having followed this holy and exemplary man through the interesting and instructive scenes of his pious and laborious life, and having likewise attended him to its solemn and affecting close, it may be well to conclude the narrative with a few general observations respecting him, as a Writer, a Clergyman, and a Christian.
As a Writer, Mr. Fletcher was considerably above mediocrity. The principal defects in his style were an exuberant diffuseness, and national floridness of expression. In some of his letters also there is an occasional quaintness of phraseology, which too generally distinguishes a certain class of religions publications which are known by the term spiritual; and which, owing to this circumstance, are exceedingly limited in point of circulation, and consequently of usefulness. This fault, however, is almost exclusively confined to the small volume of his letters; which, it should be remembered, was a posthumous publication, and was never intended by him to meet the publick eye. Rich, however, in their intrinsick excellence, they will ever be read by truly religious characters with peculiar pleasure, and will perhaps be regarded by them as the most valuable part of his writings.
His " Checks to Antinomianism;" his "Appeal to matter of Fact;" his political, and in short the whole of his other publications, manifest a degree of elegance, which would hardly have been expected from a foreigner. His imagination is always lively; his descriptions animated; his illustrations uncommonly happy; and his reasoning acute, clear, and convincing. Had he been a candidate for literary distinction, he had talents to have occupied no inconsiderable rank, either as a humourist, a poet, or an impassioned writer. But the piety which predominated in his mind not only diffused itself through his writings, but directed his attention almost exclusively to subjects of a religious nature. [Considering Mr. Fletcher as a man of general literature, who in early life had been well acquainted with the poets and dramatick authors of Greece, Rome, and France, his neglect of works of mere genius and imagination was perhaps more extraordinary than his indifference to family distinctions. One trait on this subject may suffice. Not long before his death a friend, in the course of conversation, cited a passage from Shakspeare, when Mr. Fletcher said,- ' You will think it as strange as it is true, that though I have heard so much in the praise of your immortal Shakspeare, and have often wished to read him, yet to this day I have been so much occupied, that I never could find time to do so.']
As a Clergyman, he was never exceeded in zeal, disinterestedness, affection for his flock, or anxiety for their spiritual welfare. His heart was in his profession; and he was carried on with an impetus which no opposition or discouragement was able to counteract. He did not consider the work of the ministry as a mere duty; it was his pleasure and delight: and if, in the discharge of this important work, his health and strength declined, and became eventually a sacrifice to the ardour of his feelings, it cannot be regarded as a matter of surprise. The votary of pleasure may be told that his course of life will injure his health, exhaust his finances, and finally ruin him. He will admit the justness of your remarks: but he will still persevere; for life would cease to be tolerable without his accustomed pursuits. And such was the persevering ardour of this truly apostolick man: 'Instant in season, and out of season;' ' always abounding in the work of the Lord.'
The principal, the only defect that appeared in his ministerial character, was a want of due attention to the prescribed regulations of the established church. As a foreigner, indeed, it would have been unreasonable to have required from him that reverence for our ecclesiastical polity which is naturally expected from a native clergyman. Had he, during his residence in England, continued a layman, he might consistently enough have been a christian at large, freely associating with the best informed and most pious of every denomination, without actually connecting himself with any party. But, after he had deliberately taken orders, consistency of character required, that whilst his liberal heart rejoiced in the spiritual welfare of other denominations, his ministerial labours should have been confined within the prescribed sphere of his own parish, and the pale of his own communion.
The fact appears to have been, that the abundant current of his charity, too large for any single channel, flowed in affection towards all; while the ardour of his zeal, ever prompting him to the most extensive usefulness, did not stop to calculate upon those remote consequences which a more accurate attention to the well-grounded regulations of our established church would no doubt have presented to his mind.
As a Christian, he shone pre-eminent,
' Velut inter ignes Luna minores.'
Faith, patience, spirituality, deadness to the world, humility, meekness, purity, and every grace which can adorn the human mind, seemed to have in him their perfect work. ' They who saw him only at a distance,' observes Mr. Gilpin, ' revered him as a man of God; while they who enjoyed a nearer acquaintance with him were held in a state of constant admiration at his attainments in the Divine life. Naturally formed for pre-eminence, no common degrees of grace were sufficient to satisfy his unbounded desires. He towered above the generality of Christians, earnestly desiring the best gifts, and anxious to walk in the most excellent way. While others are content to taste the living stream, be traced that stream to its source, and lived at the fountain-head of blessedness. Wherever he was called by the providence of God, he was acknowledged as a burning and a shining light. The candle of the Lord eminently shone upon his head and the secret of God was upon his tabernacle. When he went out through the city, or took his seat in the company of the righteous, he was saluted with unusual reverence, and received as an angel of God. The young men saw him and hid themselves and the aged arose, and stood up. Even those who were honoured as princes among the people of God, refrained talking, and laid their hands upon their mouth. When the ear heard him, them it blessed him; and when the eye saw him, it gave witness unto him. His character was free from those inconsistencies which are too generally observable among the professors of Christianity. Whether he sat in the house, or whether he walked by the way; in his hours of retirement, and in his publick labours, he was constantly actuated by the same spirit, When he spoke, his conversation was in heaven; and, when he was silent, his very air and countenance bespoke an angelick mind, absorbed in the contemplation of God. In all the changing circumstances of life, he looked and acted like a man whose treasure was laid up in heaven. There his affections were immovably fixed, and thitherward he was continually tending, with all the powers of his soul. He spoke of heaven as the subject of his meditation; and looked to it, as travellers to their appointed home. He was an instrument always in tune: and none can tell, but those who have heard, how sweetly it would answer to the touch of Him who strung it. He was an instrument of uncommon compass, and wondrously adapted to every occasion. Every breath that swept over the chords of this living lyre drew from it some according sound:- if from man, it produced strains of affection and gratitude;- if from God, it called forth higher sounds of gratitude and devotion.
This sketch of the life of Fletcher, has been given almost entirely in the words of his reverend biographer the Rev. Robert Cox. Of the man himself, and of his life, the opinions of mankind will differ. They who believe that a complete change in the understanding and the disposition of men is ahsolutely necessary to their eternal well being, cannot but regard such a character as that of Fletcher, whose life was devoted to the promotion of such a change in the minds and hearts of his fellow men, with mingled feelings of admiration and of love;- to others he must necessarily be,- according to their various dispositions, the object of their ridicule, or their pity, their hatred or their contempt.
' Fletcher,' say the Quarterly Reviewers, ' was a man of heavenly temper, a saint in the ancient and high sense of the term, whose enthusiasm was entirely unmixed with bitterness, and whose life and death were alike edifying.' No age or country; observes Southey has ever produced a man of more fervent piety, or more perfect charity, no church has ever possessed a more apostolick minister.'"
[Transcribed information from A Gazetteer of Shropshire - T Gregory - 1824](unless otherwise stated)
[Description(s) transcribed by Mel Lockie ©2015]