From Miss C. Rhodes in Leeds to Mary Fletcher in Madeley. [Sarah] Crosby has already informed Fletcher how welcome her letter was to Rhodes – ‘it proved a word in season…’. At the time that Fletcher’s letter arrived, Rhodes was very spiritually depressed but thanks be to God, this appears now to have been an advantage as she seems more dead to the world and self and also has a greater confidence in God.
‘One occasion of my discouragement arose chiefly from being obliged to from conviction to exceed the advice of some friends whose judgement I had in general implicitly followed. This gave them pain and caused me much concern, it pressed my spirit for months. I found I had too much leaned upon an arm of flesh…’ Spiritual matters are discussed in detail.
Soon after this period of spiritual disturbance, Fletcher’s letter while Rhodes was on a visit to the Birstal. ‘The Lord broke into my soul and with increasing light discovered to me the way of faith and has kept my spirit in that light ever since…’
From various openings of providence, Rhodes has been led with some friends to a variety of different places where they have held prayer meetings and the Lord has blessed their efforts. Many of the simple country people have benefited from the gatherings.
‘Mrs [Eliza] Beecroft and I with Mrs [Ellen] Bramwell, a preacher’s wife, lately spent a fortnight near Ripley beyond Harrogate. We had prayer meetings in some of the villages around that place, every night the Lord was with us and gave us many proofs as well as an inward testimony that we were in his will. Several found peace and some were brought into fuller liberty…’
Rhodes never used to consider doing this occasional ‘going out’ but now believes that the Lord leads her to it and she dare not resist the workings of his providence. One of her dear friends warned her of the possible consequences but Rhodes leaves such considerations in God’s hands. ‘I have nothing to do with tomorrow and I often find while employed in meetings as clear an evidence of the divine approval as I do of my acceptance in the beloved…I write this fully and in confidence to you in hopes you will give me your advice…’ Spiritual matters are further discussed.
Rhodes often thinks of an observation made by [William] Bramwell, one of the preachers in the Birstal circuit - ‘He said it is possible to take the pleasure in seeing the work of the Lord prosper, and even rejoice in it, but the soul may here suffer loss, if there is not an entire renouncing of self and a giving all the glory to God…’
There are many unpleasant things going on in the Church at present as a party secretly strives to gain ascendancy, but the Lord’s work is prospering in many places neighbouring Leeds. It is chiefly in prayer meetings that the divine spirit pours forth as sinners are awakened and converted to God.
On Sunday 21st June at Kirkstall Forge where [Eliza] Beecroft lives, many of the work people were brought to God and several ‘got into fuller liberty, the spirit of simplicity prevailed and power was given to plead for present blessings. It seemed as if the windows of Heaven were opened, many of them fell into deep convictions on every side, some of the women were quite overcome and for a time, appeared insensible but the Lord soon delivered them, and filled them with his praises, it is supposed more than a dozen got into liberty on the Saturday evening, and on the Sunday.’
That dear women [Anne] Cutler ‘whom the Lord made instrumental of many hundreds being brought to God was taken away by a putrid fever last Christmas in the midst of her usefulness, as she lives, she died, crying “Glory, Glory be to God”…’
‘Many can join with me in praising the Lord that they knew such a burning and shining light. She lived for many years in the spirit of a coming world, like one dead to all below, she sought to please but one, and for the last 9 years lived uninterruptedly in the will of God, enjoying constant communion with her Lord…She much loved you from character and got me sometimes to read your letters to her. I believe her design was upon setting out on her last journey to Manchester, Derby etc to reach Madeley before she returned into Yorkshire, but the Lord took her home from Macclesfield. She often wished to see you…with her child-like spirit, she was dear to the Lord, one of whom the world was not worthy. The Lord made her of particular use to me, this produced a degree of jealousy over me in the minds of some very dear friends who feared that I was not aware of what I was entering into. This oft gave me pain, however I could not but acknowledge I felt a oneness of spirit with her which led me to God, and was a means of drawing me out to exercise in meetings as I had never done before. This I believe was of God…who uses what instrument he pleases for good and often chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise…’
Rhodes told [Sarah] Crosby and [Anne] Tripp that she was going to write and they accordingly send their regards. Dear Sister Westerman is still alive – Rhodes visited her this afternoon and found her praising the Lord, though still weak and not able to sit up long in bed. She may survive another week or two. Westerman sends her love and would very grateful to receive a line or two from Fletcher.
Her love should be given to Sally, Matty and other friends.
A meeting of the [chapel] trustees is to take place in Manchester a few days before the Conference. A majority of the Leeds trustees remain firm in their support for the ‘old plan.’ Some of them mean to attend the meeting ‘where we hope many will join them of the same mind, much depends upon the trustees in general standing firm to their purpose. ‘Some, yea, many here wish for a division from a belief this is the divine moment’
- Eliza Beecroft (1748-1812) was born in Otley, Yorkshire, the daughter of a tanner, John Skirrow. She lost her father in early life and entered into business with one of her brothers. She came under Methodist influence at the age of nineteen and was formally admitted into the Society in November 1767. Skirrow was deeply affected by the preaching of Rowland Hill during his visit to Leeds in 1770 and dated her conversion to about that time. She also started attending band meetings for young women organised by Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher. She married George Beecroft in 1775 and three years later moved to Kirkstall-Forge where her husband leased an iron works in partenorship with John Butler. Her husband was also a devout Methodist and served as a trustee for two local chapels. Mrs Beecroft enjoyed a considerable reputation for holiness and corresponded with several other female Methodists of note - one of her letters to Mary Bosanquet-Fletcher survives in the Fletcher Collection in the Methodist Archives. Her funeral sermon in August 1812 was preached by the prominent Wesleyan minister Joseph Benson. Correspondence in the Fletcher-Tooth collection reveals that during the 1790s Ellen traveled in the area around Leeds with other female Methodists, holding prayer meetings in the surrounding villages. Source: Methodist Magazine 1813, pp.453-460 and MAM FL/6/5/2 (MARC)
- Ellen Bramwell (1758-1828) was the wife of the well-known Methodist minister William Bramwell (1759-1818). Her maiden name was Byrom and she married Bramwell on 29 August 1787 at the Anglican Church of Saint John in Preston, Lancashire. Her obituary states that at the time of her death ‘she had been upwards of forty years a member of the Methodist society: about thirty years of which she traveled with her highly esteemed husband, endeavouring with him to extend and build up the Church of God.’ After William’s death in 1818, Ellen moved to West Gate Hill in the Birstal circuit of Yorkshire. She died on 15th March 1828 after a very short illness. Correspondence in the Fletcher-Tooth collection reveals that during the 1790s Ellen traveled in the area around Leeds with other female Methodists, holding prayer meetings in the surrounding villages. Source: Methodist Magazine 1828, 286-287 and MAM/FL/6/5/2 (MARC)
- William Bramwell (1759-1818) was born of Anglican parentage, at Elswick in Lancashire. Apprenticed to a currier in Preston, he joined the Methodist society and became a class leader and local preacher. Bramwell entered the itinerancy in 1786 and exercised an active circuit ministry until his sudden death which occurred in Manchester. Bramwell was an evanglist of remarkable powers, particularly noted for his success in inspiring revivals. During his first appointment to Sheffield between 1795 and 1797, the circuit reported a net increase of 1,500 despite the loss of nearly 1,000 members to the New Connexion. Despite his ability and considerable reputation on both sides of the Atlantic, Bramwell never achieved high office in the Wesleyan Church. This was probably due to his sympathy with dissident elements within Wesleyan Methodism and some elements of his personal spirituality such as his claim to possess the power of discernment of spirits. Source: Encyclopedia of World Methodism (1974), Revd. T. Alexander Seed, Norfolk Street Wesleyan Chapel, Sheffield (1907), pp.62-68 and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)
- Anne Cutler (1759-94) was born in Preston, Lancashire. She was converted by the preaching of William Bramwell and herself achieved fame through the holiness of her life and the power of her public praying. She visited many circuits with great effect, and was often instrumental in the promotion of revivals. She died in Macclesfield, Cheshire. Source: William Bramwell, A Short Account of the Life and Death of Anne Cutler (1796) and Revd. B. Smith, The History of Methodism in Macclesfield (1875) and Dictionary of Evangelical Biography 1739-1860, edited by Donald M. Lewis (1995)