From City Road, London to Mary Fletcher. Ritchie has been prevented by a violent cold from replying to Fletcher’s letters before now. She will however take the opportunity afforded by there being a fire in her room to write this letter.
Their dear and valuable friend Mrs Cayley has died. About six months ago she attended a sermon preached by [John] Wesley at Spitalfields [Chapel] and caught a cold that worsened her asthmatic condition. Ritchie was told on Sunday December 12th by [George Clark] that Cayley was very sick and she therefore went to visit her in Hackney on the following Tuesday. Cayley was weak in the body but ‘strong in the Lord and in the power of his might…she was all love and felt unutterable tranquility and peace. She spoke particularly of the preceding work of grace her soul had felt and added, I still come as at first I came, a poor helpful soul to be freely saved and the blood of Jesus cleanseth me from all sin.’ Cayley did not seem at that time to have any presentiment of her imminent death. Ritchie mentioned that Fletcher had asked after her and Cayley asked that her regards be passed back to Fletcher and also to [Sarah] Crosby. Cayley also referred to a promise to leave Crosby some money in her will, but she did not think that were possible now as all of Cayley’s relations were in such reduced circumstances.
On Friday December 15th the person who attends on Cayley went down to make her breakfast but on her return discovered that Cayley had died. On Sunday the 21st [John] Wesley preached a funeral sermon from words that the dead woman had herself chosen some time before [see John Wesley’s diary for 21 December 1788 – ‘…8 Spitalfields; 9.30 prayers, Phil.iv.7, communion; 1 dinner, conversed…’] – Philippians 4:8. [“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)] ‘After a little introduction in which he opened the meaning of the words, he said that he would not very particularly dwell upon them but rather consider what was the foundation of whatsoever things were honest etc. Which he observed was that faith which unites the soul to Jesus, justifies the ungodly and sanctifies them holy. This faith he observed produced love to God, love to man, love to our enemies, patience, lowliness and meekness. These he observed were inward fruits of faith, but he particularized every outward fruit according to the power given as necessary consequences and showed as he went along how all these various graces were exemplified in our dear departed sister. He said much respecting the devoted life she had lived and then added she had crowned it all with a martyr’s death for the day she was last in [unreadable word – possibly ‘town’] she declined taking a stage home that she might save that money for the poor. He concluded by exhorting us all to be followers of all them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Our dear father seemed much affected himself during the sermon and so were most of the hearers, indeed a sweet solemnity seemed to rest on the congregation in general and our Lord was very present. Mr Wesley also introduced Nurse Peters into the sermon and spoke of them as sisters in faith, love and zeal for the glory of God and the good of souls, but observed a larger number of talents had been committed to the former than the latter, but both had used them to the best of purposes. Poor Nurse suffered much in body for a considerable time before her dismissal, near a week she laid in a kind of senseless stupor as to outward things. Before it was thus with her I gave her your guinea [and] she received it as from the Lord…’
[Robert] Windsor is still alive and appears to be in reasonable health. He sends his regards.
‘Mr Wesley has no present intention of publishing a fresh edition of your dear departed friend’s life [John Fletcher]. I have spoken both to him and Mr Oliver [Thomas Olivers], the latter promises me the alteration shall be attended to when it is done and he has so much to do with these things that I thought it better to speak to him as they sometimes slip Mr Wesley’s memory.’
‘Our dear father’s eyes are but indifferent. He cannot read with ease to himself except the print or writing is pretty large, but his spirits are good and strength in other respects wonderful. Much divine power rests on him and I never either in public or private saw so much of God in him. I know not how it is: on many accounts his life seems so necessary I know not how the Church militant can spare him, but I am not without my fears he is on the wing to enter into his Master’s joy.’
Ritchie feels that it is a singular privilege to be able to spend some time in London. Spiritual matters are discussed.
She has occasionally seen Lady Mary [Fitzgerald] and would see her more often were not the distance between them so great. ‘She is indeed a precious soul…she has not as yet mentioned anything of the kind hinted at in your letter, but I bless the Lord he does not suffer me to lose anything at Manchester. In about a month I hope to be able to pay the eight guineas you have kindly lent me…tell me how I can send them to you.’
Has Fletcher any of [John] Fletcher’s French poems? Does she know where she can get hold of one? Ritchie wants it for [Peard] Dickinson.
Mrs [Betty] Swain is a lot better than when she last wrote. She has told Ritchie that the money given to her by Fletcher added to the sums allowed by her other friends makes for an income of about 5 shillings per week, but she has some reason to think that her Quaker friends do not intend to continue their allowance as a poor relations has lately taken their notice.
Richard Taylor has got a chapel – he partly begged and partly borrowed £40 to pay for it. There is a school attached for which he has already employed an usher. Ritchie hears that the people there were antinomian in sentiment, but Taylor swears that he will preach what he considers to be the truth.
Ritchie sometimes sees Mrs Yates’ sister Mrs Gilbert – she seems a good young woman.
- Mrs Cayley (d.1788) is mentioned in an undated letter of Charles Wesley to his wife Sarah (reference DDCW 5/100) and also in the Fletcher-Tooth collection as an acquaintance of Mary Bosanquet. She was apparently the former Miss Dyer who made an unfortunate marriage to a man called Cayley. Her husband fell under the influence of the dissident Wesleyan preacher James Wheatley and, according to Charles Wesley, this resulted in Cayley leaving his wife. Cayley continued a Methodist until her death, which occurred at her home in Hackney, London, on December 15th 1788. The depth of her religious experience was favourably commented on by John Wesley in a letter of 1780. Cayley had been in poor health for about six months after contracting a cold while listening to a sermon preached by John Wesley at Spitalfields Chapel. Wesley delivered the funeral sermon for Cayley at Spitalfields on December 21st 1788. Source: DDCW 5/100, letter of John Wesley to Mary Bosanquet 18 December 1780, MAM/FL/5/2/1 and MAM/FL/6/6/17 (MARC)
- Thomas Olivers (1725-99) was converted in Bristol by the preaching of George Whitefield after a dissolute early life and subsequently joined the Methodists. He entered the itinerancy in 1753 and after working in many parts of the country, settled in London as the corrector of John Wesley's printing press. Source: Arminian Magazine 1779, 77ff, and Methodist Magazine 1799, 511.