From Elizabeth Ritchie at Wetherby [postmark] to [Mary] Fletcher in Madeley. Fletcher’s letter did not reach York until after she had left the city, but it was forwarded to Otley where she received it.
‘I greatly rejoice in the Lord’s goodness to our dear aged Father [John Wesley] and through him to the Church. He visited our part of the vineyard the last month [John Wesley preached at Otley on the evening of 6 May 1788 and again at 5 the morning after] and with you, many of us conclude we never saw so much of God about him. In public he spoke with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven and in private seemed to be stirring us all up to seek for and expect a growing meetness for glory. I had some conversations with him about the manuscripts now in Mr [Joseph] Benson’s hands: he told me that Mr Benson had just written him a long letter; some of the observations in it he approved of, but I rather think there is a material difference between Mr Wesley’s sentiments and Mr Benson on the subject in hand. Perhaps by this time you are fully informed what Mr Benson’s are. Lest I should express myself improperly, I must not attempt to inform you, but they are fully contained in Dr [Isaac] Watts’ Glory of Christ. [Isaac Watts, Glory of Christ as God-Man Unveiled (London:printed for J. Oswald; and J. Buckland, 1746)] That book helped him to the sentiments he holds respecting the glory of our adorable saviour. Mr [Benson] strongly maintains the equality of the Son with the Father and that in him dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily, but applies those scriptures which speak of Jesus previous to his incarnation, to be spoken of his human soul in its pre-existent state. Those are Dr [Philip] Doddridge’s sentiments who was also a great admirer of Dr Watts. It is in this sense they understand the Apostle when he speaks of the adorable saviour “as the beginning of the creation of God and the first born of every creature.” [“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14) and “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15) ] Though I never read Dr Watts’ book and from what Mr Wesley says of it, should be afraid of being hurt by so doing, yet from what I have heard both sides say, I think Mr Wesley’s thoughts and your dear glorified friend’s [John Fletcher] were nearer akin than Mr Benson’s and his.’
A day or two after Ritchie’s last letter was written, she had some talk with Benson and although he expressed great admiration about some of the things in the manuscripts that Fletcher had sent to him, he states that if they were published he would have to alter the sense as well some of the words. Ritchie is pleased that Fletcher had left it to Wesley’s decision. He will be in Hull the middle of next month [John Wesley visited Hull between June 20 and June 22 1788] and then Benson and Wesley may converse freely together. [Benson was stationed in Hull between 1787 and 1789 ]
Their friends in London do not seem at all alarmed at what [Charles] Wesley said concerning his brother namely that when Charles was dead, John would have bad counsellors and would also die within a year. Mrs Dickinson has written to say that rather they expect John Wesley to be lent to the Church for many years to come.
‘Perhaps you have heard the few lines Mr [Charles] Wesley sang extempore a little before his death…I will transcribe them as they are expressive of a frame of mind you will be thankful for:
In age and feebleness extreme/ Who shall a helpless worm redeem/ Jesus my only hope thou art/ Strength of my failing heart/ O may I catch a smile from thee/ And drop into eternity’.
Mr Wesley informs her that Fletcher’s Swiss nephew seems ‘zealous and lively.’ Ritchie hopes that the Lord will make plain his [the nephew] path respecting Miss B-. She met in class when I was in Dublin and seemed very well disposed…’
Since Ritchie last wrote, it has pleased the Lord to try her faith and resignation to the divine will with some distressing circumstances. A person in Manchester to whom she had entrusted the greatest part of her earthly property has failed in his charge. Reference is made to a mortgage and the new instability of her financial resources. Spiritual matters are discussed.
She would be grateful for the loan of £10 or £20 for a period of six or twelve months as most of her friends here have no spare money. Fletcher’s kindness on the occasion of Ritchie’s visit to Ireland makes her hopeful that her dear friend will oblige her on this occasion also.
Ritchie hopes to see her friends in London this summer. The former Miss [Elizabeth] Briggs has at last with her mother’s consent married [Peard] Dickinson (curate of her late grandfather [Vincent Perronet]), who assists [John] Wesley in London. Ritchie’s main visit to London will be to them.
In a postscript dated June 5th at Otley, Ritchie mentions that Miss Marshall is not at home but has taken the letters to copy for Mr Gilpin and will send them on to Fletcher.
- Isaac Watts (1674-1748) was born in Southampton, the son of a clothier and was educated at Stoke Newington Academy for dissenters, which school was also attended by Samuel Wesley senior. After working as a private tutor for several years, he was appointed pastor of the Mark Lane Chapel in London in 1702. Watts was one of the most popular writers of his generation, producing a number of influential works on education, philosophy and religion. His fame rests however chiefly on his hymns that had a major impact on the dissenting churches. The Wesleys were great admirers of Watts since at least their Oxford days and over half of the hymns contained in John Wesley's pioneering Charleston collection of 1737, were written by Watts. Despite theological differences the respect and admiration was mutual and shortly before his death, the older poet paid tribute to Charles Wesley, testifying that Wesley's poem 'Wrestling Jacob' was worth all the verse that he himself had written. Several of the hymns written by Isaac Watts are still sung today, including 'O God, our help in ages past' and 'When I survey the wondrous cross'. Source: Dictionary of National Biography and Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974)
- Dr Phillip Doddridge (1702-1751) was a famous nonconformist divine. He was born in London and was educated privately. In 1723 he entered the presbyterian ministry and after holding the pastorate at Kibworth in Leicestershire, became a tutor of a newly founded dissenting academy at Market Harborough. Doddridge was a man of many talents. A skilled theologian who published extensively, he was also an influential educator who introduced the practice of lecturing through the medium of English. He was also a gifted hymnwriter. Source: Dictionary of National Biography
- Vincent Perronet (1693-1785) was born in London, the son of a Swiss surgeon. He was educated at Queen's College Oxford and after ordination served a curacy at Sundridge in Kent before being appointed Vicar of Shoreham in 1728. Perronet was introduced to John Wesley in 1744 and soon became one of the closest associates and advisors of the Wesley brothers. He attended the Conference of 1747 and his influence as an elder statesman of the evangelical movement, is reflected in the fact that he was sometimes referred to as the Archbishop of Methodism. His sons Edward (1721-92) and Charles (1723-76) both served as Methodist itinerant preachers but broke away in later life. Edward Perronet wrote the hymn 'All Hail the Power of Jesu's Name'. Source: Dictionary of National Biography, Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography edited by Donald Lewis (1995)