From Kirkstall Forge near Leeds to Mary Fletcher in Madeley. Spiritual matters are discussed with specific regard to an unspecified trouble experienced by Fletcher.
She was pleased by the account that Fletcher gave of [Melville] Horne’s ‘spirit.’ [Horne was about to embark on a mission to Sierra Leone.] May the Lord strengthen and guide Horne’s wife. It would not be a surprise if she had to stay for a while and join her husband later as her weakness would be an obstacle in his way especially in the early stages. Ritchie has often felt much encouragement on Horne’s account and trust that he and Mr [Nicholas] Gilbert will be instruments of the Lord’s will in setting the poor Africans ‘on fire for God.’
When [Sarah] Crosby read to Ritchie the part of the letter respecting Fletcher’s health, she was very concerned – not on Fletcher’s account as death for her ‘would be an everlasting gain’ but for poor Madeley and the Church. Fletcher is needed and she is sure that the Lord will allow her to remain a little longer. ‘When with you I feared you did not live as your state of health required, and that the fever you so often felt proceeded from weakness and was not to be abated (humanly speaking) by the methods that you used. My heart praised him who generally uses means to accomplish his designs. When I heard you saw it your duty to comply with Mr Young’s regimen, Glory be unto our gracious Lord you are better. May he strengthen you for the great work he has called you unto and send you all the help in a minister [curate for the parish of Madeley] who shall most effectually promote his glory…’ Mr Dufton, one of the Wesleyan preachers has mentioned a young clergyman who is at present in or near Bedale who he thought might suit Madeley. After receiving Fletcher’s last letter, Ritchie wrote to Dufton and asked him to enquire of the young man if he was interested and if so, to ask him to contact Fletcher. Ritchie has not received a response from Dufton as yet.
When Ritchie wrote last she had only heard one side of the dispute involving Dr [John] Whitehead, but a day or two later a letter arrived from [Elizabeth] Dickinson. She writes that though her husband [Peard] Dickinson had signed the letter which was printed at the start of this dispute, when he returned home and prayed over the matter, he returned to the committee and told the members that he thought some matters were misrepresented and others were too strongly expressed. He begged that another letter be sent to the press wherein these things might be corrected. The committee refused and criticized Dickinson for changing his mind. All Dickinson could do then was access as many of the original letters as he could and scratch out his own name, which he did to about 200 of them. This annoyed many of the brethren and has caused that particular party to be ‘shy’ with Dickinson ever since. Little news about this affair has reached the Methodists outside the capital but London is in uproar. ‘The preachers want things their own way and some of the people are determined [that] if they carry their point, it must be by love and gentle means and not by authority and power. Dr [Whitehead], it seems by the vote of 29 out of 30 persons assembled to determine on the point has been read out of society. I have seen all the printed letters that have passed on both sides and though it appears, at least to me, both parties have something to blame, those that they oppose I sincerely wish they had considered the public good more than it appears they have done in letting matters come to where they now stand. I suppose you know the doctor publishes a life [of John Wesley] [in] two volumes [costing] 10 shillings and that the 3 [literary] executors with several of our valuable friends sign his proposals and form a committee by whose direction the profits are to be disposed of. The words are “The Doctor abides by his original intention of writing Mr W’s life for the benefit of the Methodist Connexion and the whole profits are to be disposed of by the persons whose names are underneath.”…’
Ritchie has been most troubled by the above matter, yet it is mixed with confidence in God that he will protect his little flock. Spiritual matters are further discussed in detail.
Ritchie has been spending a few weeks in Leeds and has had a very spiritual refreshing time with her good friends here. Sisters [Dorothy] Downes[?], Rhodes and Crosby were often prevented by indisposition from joining in the social intercourse but it was good to see others coming forward to take the places of these ‘Mothers in Israel’. Hopefully they will however be around a good while yet and indeed they all seem much better.
Ritchie hopes that Sisters Crosby and [Ann] Tripp will be comfortably settled in a few weeks. They will be assisted by Sister Rhodes.
How are the books going on and when can they expect them? In addition to the ones already requested for Leeds, two more are needed for Mr Iveson and his daughter. Ritchie’s own copies should also be sent to Leeds if ready before the middle of May.
Poor Mrs [Elizabeth?] Dickinson is still in her bed after giving birth – the ‘time of trial’ was not as bad as the last although the baby did not survive.
Ritchie has not been able to get any candlesticks for Fletcher. She only saw very clumsy things when she was in Birmingham and decided to wait until she was next in London. Ritchie thinks that she will remain in Yorkshire until the middle of May.
- Nathaniel Gilbert junior (1761-1807) was the son of Nathaniel Gilbert (c.1721-1774) the pioneer of West Indian Methodism. He was born on the island of Antigua and was ordained into the Church of England as a young man. Like his cousin Melville Horne, he served as a curate to John Fletcher at Madeley and in 1792 was appointed as the first chaplain to the settlement of freed slaves in Sierra Leone, West Africa. He returned to England after a stay in Africa of less than two years and spent his remaining years as the Vicar of Bledlow in Buckinghamshire. The architect Sir George Gilbert Scott was Gilbert's great grandson. Source: Dictionary of Evangelical Biography, edited by Donald Lewis (1995)
- Dorothy Downes (1730-1807) was born in the village of West Ham, now part of London, the daughter of John Furley, a merchant trading with Holland and Turkey. Religious from a very early age, she moved to London after the death of her parents and attended on the ministry of the evangelical William Romaine. She was befriended by the Countess of Huntingdon and introduced to the Wesleys, with whom she corresponded, and to Mary Bosanquet. From then on, her loyalties were with the Methodists. She moved to Bristol and in 1764 married the preacher John Downes. After Downes's death in 1774, while preaching from the pulpit of London's West Street Chapel, she moved to Leeds. During the final twenty years of her life she suffered from severe ill health, which she bore with a remarkable saintliness of character. Source: Methodist Magazine 1813, pp.217-222