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Vicar of Shoreham addressed the following beautiful letter to
“Sept. 27th, 1775. My Rev. and very dear Brother,—It is
“All glory to God, there has been a very extraordinary outpouring of the Spirit amongst us, though altogether in a silent manner. We have not only a very large number of hearers, especially on Sunday evenings, so that in the summer a great many stand in the garden, but, blessed be God, we have many growing and increasing in divine grace. May the Lord still increase their numbers and increase their grace! This must give you a particular pleasure, if you recollect that this very day, just twenty-nine years ago, we were saluted with noise, and dirt, and stones, and rotten eggs, after you had preached in the church for the first time, and which salutations continued long after we were returned home. How are times happily altered! Glory be to God!
“As to myself, I am a standing monument of the divine goodness. Be you the judge.
Be you the judge. An ancient unworthy Divine, near the eighty-third year of his age, who never kept any assistant, (for so the Lord decreed,) is carried through his Sunday's labour, forenoon and afternoon, sometimes a large communion, with other incidental duties, such as christenings and burials, and afterwards speaking and praying in the room ; but so assisted by divine goodness as seldom or never to experience any fatigue or weariness! What miracles of mercy are these! May I ever retain a due and grateful sense of them! and may I ever labour to walk worthy of them ! I know you will join heartily in the same petitions. May the Lord hear both of us !
“I hope shortly to congratulate our dear brother viva voce. I wrote not to him, as being assured he was overwhelmed with letters. We shall be glad when Providence brings you and yours this way. However, I know a time is coming when we shall all meet, and never part again. Our love and respects are with you all. The Lord be with us !
“Thine affectionately.” Before Mr. John Wesley was seized with this dangerous illness, he had prepared a concise History of England for popular use, partly original, and partly abridged from various authors. He was a decided friend of monarchy, but no less a friend of civil and religious freedom; and the wrongs which were inflicted upon the Puritans and Nonconformists, under the Stuart dynasty, filled him with honest indignation. The correction of this work, as it passed through the press, was entrusted to his brother, who demurred to a censure passed upon Charles the First, whom some writers describe as a faithless tyrant, and others as a martyr. Charles wrote to his brother, proposing the omission of a clause; and as he did not receive an immediate answer, he again pressed the subject upon his brother, in the following letter, which is highly characteristic of the writer's principles and spirit :
“Chesterfield-street, Dec. 29th, 1775. Dear Brother,-1 must continue to plead for my namesake, till you grant my request, by omitting your 'but. 'He was rigorously just, but wanting in sincerity.' 'Just,' but false. You mention it indeed as a supposition only; therefore you may more easily give it up. Such a drawback from his good character will exceedingly grieve more than me, as much as it will please the patriots and republicans. At such a time as this, especially, when it is the fashion to 'blacken the tyrant,' you and I should not join in the popular cry, but rather go against the stream. Let Macauley and company call the King's murder, “This great act of national.justice. Let Cromwell declare, He could not be trusted,' to palliate his own villany. Let not your hand be upon him, or mine.”
Having, as he supposed, received his brother's silent consent to the proposed alteration, Mr. Charles Wesley returned the following answer:-“I am not such a corrector as N. N., or C. P., to put in or out, and give you no notice of it. Believing you have obliged me by granting my request, I have drawn a line over the Oliverian reflection, and accept your omitting it as the greatest favour and kindness you can do me."
In á memorandum affixed to copies of these letters, Mr. Charles Wesley says,
“His final answer was, 'He could not in conscience say less evil of him.' · With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.' Observe, ye who survive us !"*
His own views concerning the case of King Charles the First he has embodied in the following lines, which were “written after passing by Whitehall," the place where that unfortunate Monarch was beheaded :
Unhappy Charles, mistaken and misled,
Convinced of every error in thy reign,
But fruitless all a righteous Monarch's pains,
* The sentence stands thus in Mr. Wesley's History of England :-“He was rigorously just; but is supposed to have been wanting in sincerity."-Vol. iii., p. 221.
When Mr. Fletcher manifested so tender a sympathy towards Mr. John Wesley, during his illness in Ireland, and offered his generous assistance in preserving the union of the Methodist Preachers and societies, it was not imagined that in the course of a few months the continuance of his own life would be less hopeful than that of his afflicted friend. Yet so it was. In the summer of 1776 his health failed, and he had all the symptoms of a confirmed consumption. The disease was doubtless accelerated, if it was not directly caused, by his intense and incessant application to study, during the preceding five years. It is indeed surprising that
he should have been able, in so comparatively short a period, Wheeran 79
Ahto produce so many works, displaying so much research and 1
profound thought; for nearly the whole of his publications were written within this period, including those on the Calvinistic controversy, his “Appeal,” on the doctrine of original sin, his political tracts, and some minor pieces. He did indeed enjoy the retirement of a country village; but his parish was extensive, and his official duties were numerous. Most of his books were written under circumstances of strong excitement; for the eyes of two eager parties were fixed upon him ; he knew that every argument he employed would be strictly scrutinized; and his chief opponents were not at all scrupulous as to the use which they would make of any inadvertency that might be discovered in his reasonings. His was not a leisurely authorship, on such questions of theology as were most congenial with his own feelings. The subjects upon which he wrote were forced upon him by his opponents; and not a day was to be lost in supplying an antidote to what was conceived to be dangerous error. The wonder is, that his health did not sooner fail under the weight of responsibility which rested upon him.
While he suffered from what appeared to be incurable disease, prayer was made for him without ceasing, and by no man with greater ardour and importunity than Mr. Charles Wesley. Among his papers is a hymn, which he composed on the occasion, and which there is reason to believe was used by the societies in London and Bristol, especially at the weekly sacrament. It is entitled, “Prayer for the Rev. Mr. John Fletcher, June 30th, 1776 ;” and is as follows:
Jesus, thy feeble servant see,
Thy name to magnify,
Nor suffer him to die.
The fervent prayer thou oft hast heard,
Thy wonder-working power
Or bade the grave restore.
In faith we ask a fresh reprieve ;
If thou pronounce the word,
Forerunner of his Lord.
The Spirit which raised thee from the dead,
His mortal flesh to raise,
The Minister of grace.
Body and soul at once revive,
So shall we all proclaim,
In every age the same.
Soon after Mr. Charles Wesley had written this hymn, and while he was still uniting his supplications with those of the Methodists generally in behalf of the afflicted Vicar of Madeley, he was called to sympathize with Mr. Perronet, who had suffered a painful bereavement in the death of his son Charles. This very excellent man, who was brought to the knowledge of God in early life, through the instrumentality of Mr. Charles Wesley, and for some years was a zealous and useful Methodist Preacher, has been frequently mentioned in this narrative. His piety was deep and enlightened, and his abilities very considerable, as his compositions both in prose and verse testify; but his health was delicate,