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CONVERSION OF MR. FLETCHER,
RELATED BY HIMSELF,
LETTER TO HIS BROTHER.
Ar eighteen years of age I was a real enthusiast; for, though I lived in the indulgence of many known sins, i considered myself a religious character, because I regularly attended public worship, made long prayers in private, and devoted as much time as I could spare from my studies to reading the prophetic writings, and a few devotional books. My feelings were easily excited, but my heart was rarely affected; and, notwithstanding these deceitful externals, I was destitute of a sincere love to God, and consequently to my neighbour. All my hopes of salvation rested on my prayers, devotions, and a certain habit of saying, 'Lord, I am a great sinner, pardon me for the sake of Jesus Christ.' In the mean time I was ignorant of the fall and ruin in which every man is involved, the necessity of a Redeemer, and the way by which we may be rescued from the fall by receiving Christ with a living faith. I should have been quite confounded if any one had then asked me the following questions taken from the Holy Scriptures: Do you know that you are dead in Adam? Do you live to yourself? Do you live iu Christ and for Christ? Does God rule in your heart? Do you experience that peace of God which passeth all understanding? Is the love of God shed abroad in your
heart by the Holy Spirit? I repeat it, my dear brother, these questions would have astonished and confounded me, as they must every one who relies on the form of religion, and ueglects its power and influence. Blessed be God, who, through his abundant mercy in Jesus Christ, did not then call away my soul, when with all my pretended piety I must have had my portion with hypocrites, those clouds without water, those corrupt unfruitful rootless trees, those wandering stars for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.
My religion, alas! having a different foundation to that which is in Christ, was built merely on the sand; and no sooner did the winds and floods arise than it tottered and fell to ruins. I formed an acquaintance with some Deists, at first with the design of converting them, and afterwards with pretence of thoroughly examining their sentiments. But my heart, like that of Balaam, was not right with God. He abandoned me; and I enrolled myself in their party. A considerable change took place in my external deportment. Before, I had a form of religion; and now I lost it. But as to the state of my heart, it was precisely the same. I did not remain many weeks in this state; my change was too sudden to be permanent. I sought for a reconciliation with my Saviour; or rather the good Shepherd sought after me, a wandering sheep. Again, I became professedly a Christian, that is, I resumed a regular attendance at Church and the communion, and offered up frequent prayers in the name of Jesus Christ. There were also in my heart some sparks of true love to God, and some germs of genuine faith: But a connexion with worldly characters, and an undue anxiety to promote my secular interests, prevented the growth of these Christian graces. Had I now been asked on what I founded my hopes of salvation, I should have replied, that I was not without some religion; that so far from doing harm to any one, I wished well to all the world; that I resisted my passions; that I abstained from pleasures in which I had once heedlessly indulged, and that if I was not so religious as some others, it was
because such a degree of religion was unnecessary; that heaven might be obtained on easier terms; and that if I perished, the destruction of the generality of Christians was inevitable, which I could not believe was consistent with the mercy of God.
I was in this situation when a dream, in which I am constrained to acknowledge the hand of God, roused me from my security. On a sudden the heavens were darkened, the clouds rolled along in terrific majesty, and a thundering voice like a trumpet which penetrated to the bowels of the earth, exclaimed, "Arise, ye dead, and come out of your graves." Instantly the earth and the sea gave up the dead which they contained; and the universe was crowded with living people who appeared to come out of their graves by millions. But what a difference amongst them! Some convulsed with despair erdeavoured in vain to hide themselves in their tombs ; and cried to the hills to fall on them, and the mountains to cover them from the face of their holy Judge. Whilst others rose with seraphic wings above the earth, which had been the theatre of their conflicts and their victory. Serenity was painted on their countenances, joy sparkled in their eyes, and dignity was impressed on every feature!
My astonishment and terror were redoubled, when I perceived myself raised up with this innumerable multitude into the vast regions of the air, from whence my affrighted eyes beheld this globe consumed by flames, the heavens on fire, and the dissolving elements ready to pass away. But what did I feel when I beheld the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven, in all the splendour of his glory, crowned with the charms of his mercy, and surrounded with the terrors of his justice. Ten thousand thousands went before him, and millions pressed upon his footsteps. All nature was silent: The wicked were convicted and condemned; and the sentence was pronounced," Bind the tares and the chaff, and cast them into the lake of fire and brimstone!" In an instant the air gave way under the feet of those who surrounded me; a yawning gulph received them, and closed itself upon
them. At the same time, He that sat upon the throne exclaimed, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, ye have suffered with me; come to participate in my glory, in herit the kingdom which I have prepared for you from the foundation of the world!" Happy children of God," I cried, "you are exalted in triumph with your Redeemer; and my dazzled eyes will soon lose sight of you in the blaze of light which surrounds you. Wretch that I am! What words, what language, can express the horror of my situation."
A fixed and severe look from the Judge as he departed pierced me to the heart; and my anguish and confusion were extreme, when a brilliant personage despatched from the celestial host thus addressed me,-" Slothful servant," he exclaimed in a stern voice, "what dost thou here? Dost thou presume to follow the Son of God, whom thou hast served merely with thy lips, while thy heart was far from him. Shew me the seal of thy salvation, and the earnest of thy redemption; examine thy heart, and see, if thou canst discover there a real love to God, and a living faith in his Son? Ask thy conscience what were the motives of thy pretended good works? Dost thou not see that pride and self-love were the source of them? Dost thou not see that the fear of hell, rather than the fear of offending God, restrained thee from sin?" After these words he paused; and, regarding me with a compassionate air, seemed to await my reply. But conviction and terror closed my mouth, and he thus resumed his discourse : "Withhold no longer from God the glory that is due to him. Turn to him with all thy heart, and become a new creature. Watch and pray, was the command of the Son of God: But instead of having done this by working out thy salvation with fear and trembling, thou hast slept the sleep of security. At this very moment dost thou not sleep in that state of lethargy and spiritual death, from which the word of God, the exhortations of his servants, and the strivings of his grace, have not been sufficient to deliver thee? My words will also probably be ineffectual; for he who has not listened to Jesus Christ
speaking in the Gospel, will not be likely to listen to an angel of the living God. Besides, time is swallowed up in eternity. There is no more place for repentance. Thou hast obstinately refused to glorify God's mercy in Christ Jesus: Go then, slothful servant, and glorify his justice."
✰ Having uttered these words, he disappeared; and at the same instant the air gave way under my feet, the abyss began to open, dreadful wailings assailed my ears, and a whirlwind of smoke surrounded me. I considered myself on the brink of inevitable and eternal misery, when the agitation of my mind and body awoke me, of which nothing can equal the horror; and the mere recollection of which still makes me tremble. O how happy I felt on awaking, to find that I was still in the land of mercy, and the day of salvation! "O my God," I cried, " grant that this dream may continually influence my sentiments and my conduct! May it prove a powerful stimulus to excite me to prepare continually for the coming of my great Master!"
For some days, I was so dejected and harassed in mind as to be unable to apply myself to any thing. Whilst in this state I attempted to copy some music, when a servant (an Israelite indeed in whom there was no guile) entered my chamber. Having noticed my employment, "I am surprised, Sir," said he, with a Christian boldness, "that you who know so many things should forget what day this is, and that you should not be aware that the Lord's day should be sanctified in a very different manner."
The sterling character of the man, his deep humility, his zeal for the glory of God, his love to his neighbours, and especially his patience, which enabled him to receive with joy the insults he met with from the whole family for Christ's sake, and above all the secret energy which accompanied his words, deeply affected me, and convinced me more than ever of my real state. I was convinced, as it had been told me in my dream, that I was not renewed in the spirit of my mind, that I was not conformed to the image of God, and that without