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SECOND SERIES : Containing several original Letters which have not been
published in any preceding Collection.
Letter from Mr. Fletcher to Mr. John Wesley.
TERN, Nov. 24, 1756.
As I look upon you as my spiritual guide, and cannot doubt of your patience to hear, and your experience to answer a question, proposed by one of your people, I freely lay my case before you.
Since the first time I began to feel the love of God shed abroad in my soul, which was, I think, at seven years of age, I resolved to give myself up to him, and to the service of his Church, if ever I was fit for it; but the corruption which was in the world, and that which was in my heart, soon weakened, if not erased those first characters, which grace had written upon it. Howerer, I went through my studies, with a design of going into orders; but afterwards, upon serious reflection, feeling I was unequal to so great a burden, and disgusted by the necessity I should be under tu subscribe to the doctrine of predestination, 1 yielded to the desire of my friends, who would have me to go into the army : But just before I was quite engaged in a military employment, I met with such disappointments as occasioned my coming to England. Here I was called outwardly three times to go into orders; but upon praying to God, that if those calls were not from him they might come to nothing, something always blasted the designs of my friends, and in this I have often admired the goodness of God, who prevented my rushing into that important employment, as the borse into the battle. I never was more thankful for this favour, than since I heard the gospel in its purity. Before, I had been afraid, but then I trembled to meddle with holy things ; aud resolved to work out my salvation privately, without engaging in a way of life, which required so much more grace and gifts, than I was conscious I possessed; yet, from time to time, I felt warm and strong desires, to cast myself and my inability on the Lord, if I should be called any more, kpowing that he could help me, aud shew his strength in my weak. ness: And these desires were increased, by some little success, which attended my exhortations and letters to niy friends.
I think it necessary to let you know, Sir, that my patron often desired me to take orders, and said he would soon help me to a living; to which I coldly answered, I was not fit, and that besides, I did not know how to get a title. The thing was in that state, when, about six weeks ago, a gentleman I hardly knew, offered me a living, which, in all probability, will be vacant soon ; and a clergyman I never spoke to, gare me of his own accord, the title of curate to one of his livings. Now, Sir, the question which I beg you to decide is, Whether I must and can make use of that title to get into orders ? For, with respect to the living, were it vacant, I have no mind to it; because, I think, I could preach with more fruit in my native country, and in iny own tongue.
I am in suspense : One one side, my heart tells me,
I must try, and it tells me so, whenever I feel any degree of the love of God and man; on the other, when I examine, whether I am 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, filam ing love, that my confidence disappears; I accuse myself of pride to dare to entertain the desire of supporting one day the ark of God, and conclude, that au extraordinary punishment will, sooner or later, over.. take my rashness. As I am in both of these frames successively, I must own, Sir, I do not see which of these two ways before me, I can take with safety; and I shall gladly be ruled by you; because, I trust, God will direct you in giving me the advice, you think will best conduce to his glory, which is the only thing I would have in view in this affair. I know how precious your time is, and desire no long answer,-persist, or forbear, will satisfy and influence, Rev. Sir,
Your unworthy Servant,
To Miss Hatton.
MADELEY, Nov. 1, 1762.
I THANK you for the confidence you repose in the advice of a poor fellow-sinner: May the Father of lights direct you through so vile an instrument: If you build all your hopes of heaven upon Jesus Christ in all his offices, you do not build without a foundation, but upon the true one.
That there is a seal of pardon, and an earnest of our inheritance above, which you are as yet a stranger to, seems clear from the tenor of your letter; but had I been in the place of the gentleman you mention, I
would have endeavoured to lay it before you, as the fruit of faith, and a most glorious privilege, rather than as the root of faith, and a thing absolutely necessary to the being of it.
I believe many people know when they receive faith, and all people when they receive the seal of their par. don: When they believe in Christ, they are justified in the sight of God; and when they are sealed by the Spirit, they are fully assured of that justification in their own conscience. Some receive faith, and the seal of their pardon, in the same instant, as the jailor, &c.; but most receive faith tirst, as the dying thief, the woman of Canaan, David, the people of Samaria, (Acts viii. 12, 16,) and the faithful at Ephesus. (Eph. i. 13.) Suppose, then, God gave you faith, i. e., a hearty trust in the blood of Christ, and a sincere closing with him, as your righteousness aud your all, while you received the sacrament, (which seems to me very probable, by the account you give me,) your way is exceedingly plain before you. Hold fast your confidence, but do not trust nor rest in it; trust in Christ, and remember he says, I am the way; not for you to stop, but to run on ju him. Rejoice to hear, that there is a full assurance of faith to be obtained by the seal of God's Spirit, and go on from faith tu faith, until you are possessed of it. But remember this, and let this double advice prevent your straying to the right or left :-First, that you will have reason to suspect the sincerity of your zeal, if you lie down easy without the seal of your pardon, and the full assurance of your faith. Secondly, while you wait for that seal in all the means of grace, beware of being unthankful for the least degree of faith and confidence in Jesus; beware of burying one talent, because you have not five; beware of despising the grain of mustard seed, because it is not yet a tree.
May the Lord teach you the middle path, between resting short of the happiness of making your calling and election sure, and supposing you are neither called nor chosen, and that God hath not yet truly begun the