From W. Ripley in Whitby to [Mary] Fletcher in Madeley. He sometimes wonders whether his old friend Mary Fletcher has forgotten him. How is she and her husband John? Are they both in good health? ‘Are you on full stretch for liberty? Is Madeley Vale as fruitful as Norley Common or Cross Hall Field?’
Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
‘I bless God I have found Him very good to me in taking the staff of my old age from me. My eldest son! He is good but he is a jealous God…my heart sweetly accepted the chastisement…I preached the funeral sermon to a [unreadable word] multitude in one field (as there was not room in the [preaching] house).
He died happy and I told him it was well with him, with me and with his mother, but it has been a trying circumstance to her, but God almost cured her by bringing her to the very brink of the grave…He kindly gave her back again (praise the Lord) and blessed her soul in a glorious manner…’
The people here would shout for joy if Fletcher could visit this way again. God is however good to them and the Methodist cause is prospering – about forty have joined the society since Conference, and some set at liberty. ‘Yea more witnesses of full salvation. Mr [Robert] Hopkins our youngest preacher hath experienced that Great Blessing this winter. He comes out of Wiltshire, was once amongst the poor Calvinists.
We yet keep praying for the first love of the Church. We hope to be a Jerusalem Church here…’ Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
How are the Methodists of Madeley? Is there many in the society? ‘How many have received and returned perfect love&’
Ripley’s regards should be passed to John Fletcher. If ever Ripley comes their way, he will call and see them.
In a postscript, he mentions that ‘we have got preaching on the other side of the water in a large dancing school’. God has also prospered Ripley’s secular business ‘He keeps the purse for me or else I might turn prodigal’.
- Robert Hopkins (1758-1827) was born in Devizes, Wiltshire. He was converted at the age of 17 and became a local preacher a short time later. His enthusiasm attracted John Wesley’s attention and he entered the itinerancy in 1781. His circuit ministry was exercised principally in the North of England and he was still preaching until a few days before his death on 24 February 1827 Source: Hills Arrangement 1819 and Minutes of Conference 1827