John Fletcher’s Influence on the Development of Wesleyan Theology in America

, posted by Kevin Jackson

JOHN FLETCHER’S INFLUENCE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF WESLEYAN THEOLOGY IN AMERICA

From the Wesleyan Theological Journal
By John A. Knight

Introduction

Not until recent years has the significance of John Fletcher’s theology been assessed by interpreters of the history of Christian doctrine. For almost two hundred years his work was eclipsed by the Wesleys and by some in the Calvinistic wing of the 18th century Evangelical Revival in England, except for occasional references by historians and biographers of his contemporaries.

David C. Shipley’s perceptive study, “Methodist Arminianism in the Theology of John Fletcher,” unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Yale, 1942, was a pioneer work in this country. Particularly in the last two decades others have begun to recognize the importance of Fletcher to the development of Wesleyan theology.1

The close relationship of John Fletcher and the Wesley brothers is well known. Although Fletcher was not a part of Wesley’s itinerancy and his name appears on the role of Wesley’s conference only in 1784, nonetheless Wesley linked himself, his brother Charles, and Fletcher together in what has been called an “exposed triumvirate.”2

It is clear that from time to time Fletcher invited John Wesley and his assistants into his parish. About 1764 he wrote to one of Wesley’s preachers, inviting him to come as he had opportunity, and stated: “I hope that my stepping as Providence directs, to any of your places (leaving to you the management of the societies) will be deemed no encroachment. In short we need not make two parties: I know but one heaven below, and that is Jesus’ love; let us both go and abide in it.”3 In 1766 Fletcher commented that the coming of Wesley’s preachers into his parish gave him no “uneasiness . . . I rejoice that the work of God goes on by any instrument, or in any place.”

Fletcher evidently preached in the societies of Wesley, Wesley preached in his pulpit, and Wesley’s preachers were welcome in his parish. This warm relationship was destined to reach a new dimension in the 1770 Calvinistic controversy, out of which the foundation of Fletcher’s theology developed, and during which he became the defender of Wesley and the theological spokesman for Wesleyan Methodism.

The founder of Methodism was concerned that at his death, his mantle should fall upon a man of ‘ faith, unselfishness, diligence, and a degree of learning.” These endowments he found in John William Fletcher (1729-85). Thus in January, 1773, Wesley invited the vicar of Madeley to become his successor. Encouraging him to consider the request seriously, Wesley wrote that to all the above qualities necessary for such a task, God “has lately added, by a way none could have foreseen, favor both with the preachers and the people.”5

The unforeseen way which Wesley thought God had used to equip Fletcher for such a role was the eruption of a hitherto more or less concealed theological controversy over the issue of the means or conditions of salvation. The occasion for the outburst was the statement in Wesley’s Conference Minutes of 1770 that the Methodists had “leaned too much toward Calvinism.”

In clarifying this assertion the Minutes declared that this had been the case “with regard to ‘working for life.'” They had “received it as a maxim, that a ‘man is to do nothing in order to justification. ‘” According to the Minutes, “Nothing can be more false.” Though man is not saved by the “merits of works,” he is saved by “works as a condition.” Man is rewarded “because of” his works, and is “every moment pleasing or displeasing to God according to” his works.6

Immediately these sentiments caused a furor of disagreement on the part of the Calvinistic Methodists, resulting in a number of heated written attacks on Wesley and the Minutes, and evoking counter attacks by his defenders. The leading protagonist for the Wesleyan position was John Fletcher, who during the eight years of the controversy, 1770-78, produced almost everything he ever wrote, and provided one of the strongest bulwarks that Wesleyan Methodism has found.

Fletcher’s writings gave the Methodist Revival an intellectual and theological foundation which today is almost universally accepted as a matter of course. After he finished what he had to say on predestination, election, free will, good works, and Christian perfection, there was little left to be said-save for the perennial task of adapting to continuously changing cultural conditions.

Few would deny Fletcher’s theological and literary abilities. His stature is reflected in part by knowledgeable commentators on his life and thought. Of him Luke Tyerman, his biographer, has said:

Among the Wesleyan Methodists, he settled forever all the questions of the Calvinian controversy. For many a long year, Methodist preachers drew their arguments and illustrations from his invaluable Checks . . . He did for Wesley’s theology what no other man than himself at that period could have done. John Wesley traveled formed societies, governed them. Charles Wesley composed unequalled hymns for the Methodists to sing; and John Fletcher, a native of Calvinian Switzerland, explained, elaborated, and defended the doctrines they heartily believed.

Fletcher has been described as the “earliest and fullest expositor and interpreter in English of the Remonstrant theology of Arminius; whose works remain the storehouse of its treasures and the armoury of its defense.” It has been said that the theology of the Methodist movement was the theology of John Fletcher of Madeley.9

Abel Stevens, one of the leading historians of Methodism, has written of Fletcher’s Checks: “They have been more influential in the denomination than Wesley’s own controversial writings on the subject. They have influenced, indirectly through Methodism, the subsequent tone of theological thought in much of the Protestant world.”10

While Fletcher was eminent as a theologian, he also was unequalled as a saint. His contemporaries, who spoke of him at all, were unanimous in their view that in the galaxy of names which make up the historic roll of the Evangelical Revival, no star is so bright as that of Jean Guillaume de la Flechere.

Wesley thought he was without a spiritual peer, and wrote that he had not found one to equal him – “one so inwardly and outwardly devoted to God; and I scarce expect to find another such on this side of eternity.”” In the Conference Minutes of 1786, the answer to the usual question, ‘Who died this year?’ is recorded thus “John Fletcher, a pattern of holiness, scarce to be paralleled in a century.”12

It is difficult to account for the fact that only scant attention has been given to this man, who more than any other, apart from Wesley himself, molded Methodist theology in its early history. He was more systematic than Wesley-overcoming the limitations imposed by the latter’s itinerancy; and to his Checks to Antinomanism Wesley gave his approval.13

Fletcher was constrained to defend what he regarded as Wesley’s meaning in the Minutes, although he could not equally approve the manner in which that meaning was expressed.14 He felt strong responsibility to write so as to discharge his “duty towards God,” and towards his “honored father in Christ, Mr. Wesley, and his misunderstood Minutes.”15

But more specifically, Fletcher wrote because he thought, like Wesley, that the Calvinists’ theology leads to antinomianism, or to a separation of doctrine and life, justification and new birth. He stated his chief reason for publishing his First Check thus:

It appears if I am not mistaken that we stand now as much in need of a reformation from antinomianism as our ancestors did of a reformation from popery. People, it seems, may now be ‘in Christ’ without being ‘new creatures, ‘ without casting ‘old things’ away. They may be God’s children without God’s image; and ‘born of the Spirit’ without the ‘fruits of the Spirit. “16

Fletcher’s aim, then, was to oppose the antinomian objection to Christian perfection. 17

Though Wesley feared that the “antidote” could not “spread so fast as the poison, ” he was hopeful that Fletcher’s Checks would slow the progress of antinomianism.18 Wesley thought highly of these writings. In 1774 he stated that Fletcher had clearly shown that Christ is the meritorious cause of our salvation-pardon, holiness, and glory-“as I think scarcely any one has done before since the Apostles.”19

To combat the Calvinistic threat to perfection, Wesley enjoined: “Let all our preachers carefully read over ours and Mr. Fletcher’s Tracts. “20 At the conference of 1776 the exhortation was given to preach “universal redemption frequently and explicitly,” and read Fletcher’s . . . tracts, as well as Wesley’s.20

These introductory historical comments should be sufficient to remind us of the fact of Fletcher’s importance in the beginning days of Wesleyan theology. However, the rather narrow design of this paper should be understood. No attempt is made here to relate Fletcher’s thought to any particular Methodist theologian or preacher in the Wesleyan tradition in America. For one thing direct lines of influence are not always easy to establish. And further, my first-hand knowledge of the thoughts of the earliest American Methodist leaders is far too limited.

In dealing with the topic assigned to me, my purpose simply is to call attention to the first Wesleyan theologian as a kind of background for our discussion of certain developments within Wesleyan-Holiness theology. More specifically, I wish to suggest several clues to Fletcher’s significance for early Wesleyan theology in America by looking at 1) his influence on Wesley’s later thought (i.e., after 1770); 2) the way his writings were viewed and accepted in America; and 3) selected key elements of his thought which were congenial to the American scene, particularly in the first part of the 19th century.

I. Fletcher’s Influence on Wesley’s “Later” Thought

From Free Grace to Free Will

The theme of our conference, “Some Aspects of the Development of Wesleyan-Holiness Theology,” assumes that this theology has not been static, but has manifested certain changes or shifts in emphasis through-out its history. Robert E. Chiles has suggested that “the transition from free grace to free will is one of the fundamental changes in American Methodism since the time of John Wesley.” He notes that because of a shift in priority from faith itself to “evidences” for faith, and because of the moralistic revision of the understanding of sin there has been a movement away from the classical Protestant orthodoxy of John Wesley. 22

Chiles has expanded this theme in his fascinating book, Theological Transition in American Methodism, 1790-1935,23 in which he illustrates the shift from revelation to reason, from sinful man to moral man, from free grace to free will. Convincingly, he traces the changes in Wesleyan theology through three generations of Methodist theologians.

He observes that Richard Watson in his Theological Institutes (1823-29) attributed more to man than did Wesley and “represents a first subtle step toward the modification of free grace in the direction of free will.”24

D. D. Whedon during the second half of the nineteenth century, it is claimed, shifted further the emphasis from soteriological to an thropological grounds, and insisted on man’s responsible freedom, without giving much attention to grace. Whedon argued that the will chooses motives which grace supplies.25

According to Chiles, this development culminated in John Miley’s Systematic Theology (2 volumes, 1894). Miley suggested that whether good motives are derived from nature or from grace is indifferent so far as moral freedom is concerned.

Finally, men like Borden Parker Bowne (d. 1910) and Albert C. Knudson (d. 1953), Methodist philosophical and theological thinkers, stressed the metaphysical significance of personality even apart from the gracious basis of motives. Thus concludes Chiles: “The apostasy from free grace to free will is complete.”26

In seeking to uncover clues to the influence of John Fletcher on the development of Wesleyan theology in America, particularly with regard to this issue, I suggest that the “first subtle step” in this shift from free grace to free will can be found, not in Richard Watson (in whom Chiles finds it), but in Wesley himself. Certain aspects of John Wesley’s theology indicate a more decided anthropological emphasis during the last twenty years of his life, primarily with regard to man’s freedom of the will.

Careful study indicates that this transition of emphasis was made possible by the defense of Wesley’s Minutes of 1770 by John Fletcher (d. 1785), whose Checks to Antinomianism entitle him to be called the “first systematic theologian of Methodism. ” This later development in Wesley frequently is unobserved both because the significance of the Calvinistic controversy (1770’s) for a historical understanding of Wesley is too little appreciated, and because Fletcher’s defense of and influence upon Wesley has received little more than passing attention.

That Chiles has overlooked this influence, both in his article and that portion of his book which discusses the problem of free will,27 may be seen in the fact that almost all the material which he quotes or cites from Wesley was written before 1770.

Further, a brief survey of those relevant references to Wesley’s writings which are dated following this time indicates that the referents used by Chiles have to do more with free will than with free grace. For example, eight references are made to Wesley’s Letters after 1770, but only two relate specifically to the problem of man’s freedom. In these though Wesley mentioned prevenient grace,29 the emphasis, unobserved by Chiles, is on man’s ability to believe if he will (though not when he will). God’s assistance of man in believing is stressed, rather than man’s assistance of God in the salvation process.29

Ten Sermons written after 1770 are cited by Chiles. Four are related only indirectly to the question of freedom, and deal with the nature and love of God, Christ’s death and perfection.30 Of the six sermons which are pertinent to the discussion of man’s moral and spiritual abilities, two stress works and man’s power of self-determination,31 and in two others which discuss freedom, Wesley did not refer at all to prevenient grace,32 or questioned the significance of asking whether man’s free will is “natural or superadded by the grace of God. “33 Only in the remaining two sermons adduced by Chiles did Wesley assert that conscience is a supernatural gift of God, 34 or make an attempt to balance God’s grace and man’s free will.35

Finally, Chiles alludes to several additional writings of Wesley other than his letters or sermons; but these are deliberate attempts to underscore man’s freedom,36 with the exception of Wesley’s Plain Account of Christian Perfection — most of which was written prior to 1770 though the latest edition is dated 1777.97

The purpose in examining these references is not to disagree with Chiles’ understanding of Wesley’s theological position. It is simply to observe that the preponderance of evidence which he uses to sustain his interpretation was written by Wesley before 1770, and that the relevant references to material prepared after the Calvinistic controversy began, i.e., after Fletcher’s defense of Wesley’s Minutes, indicate a decided anthropocentric emphasis.

Arguments for Free Will

This shift of emphasis, not of theological position, in the direction of man’s freedom, may be substantiated conclusively from the writings of the “later” Wesley. Following 1770 man’s power of choice came to pervade Wesley’s thought. He buttressed his new emphasis upon man’s free will by three main arguments, which seem to correspond to his well-known threefold criteria for truth-Scripture, Reason, and Experience.

1) Wesley began saying that man is free by virtue of the fact that he is a man, made in God’s image according to Scripture, and that man by nature is free to choose the good. He insisted, on the basis of the Scriptural teaching that man is a creature of God, that the power of choice is standard equipment for man.38

Earlier Wesley had stated that because of grace there is no man in history in a completely “natural” state. Now he states that every man made in the “natural” image of God has will and liberty, and that Christ came to recover the moral image. Nothing is said of restoring the natural image. The implication is that in the Fall man did not lose his liberty, a part of the natural image. Liberty, then, is man’s by virtue of the fact that he is a man.39

At times Wesley affirmed that man, though fallen, still possesses power of choice, and yet no explanation that it arises out of prevenient grace is given. More and more, he tended to underscore man’s abilities, leaving one with the impression that man can do almost what he wills simply because he is a man.40

2) Wesley began stressing the idea that man’s guilt must not exceed his accountability and that responsibility cannot be greater than his freedom, else the canons of Reason are violated. To the later Wesley the reality of man’s freedom is not only a scriptural teaching, but also a rational necessity. Thus more and more emphasis was placed on man and his responsibility, rather than on God and His grace. If man is not free, then reason dictates that he cannot be accountable and therefore he is capable of neither reward nor punishment.41

Wesley affirmed his position on the basis of the “nature of things “, 4 saying that man can choose the “better part” – assisted by God’s grace. 43 It is noteworthy that he did not say the “better part” is man’s by grace, assisted by man’s choice. This way of stating the matter makes grace appear to be secondary to man’s freedom and accountability.

3) Increasingly Wesley observed that the universal Experience of man testifies to his power of choice. In Wesley’s mind, experience corroborates the witness of Scripture and Reason to the power of choice in man. Man is conscious of possessing a “power of self-determination.” He senses a “liberty of contradition,” a power “to act one way, or the contrary.” To deny this, for Wesley, would be to deny the common experience of all mankind.44

With this solid support of Scripture, Reason, and Experience, Wesley made choice a dominant theme in his later writings.45 His position regarding man’s freedom is no different from that prior to 1770, but Wesley went further to state that Pelagius’ heresy was merely in believing that one by the grace of God can “go on to perfection. “46 Though Wesley asserted that this possibility is by the grace of God, his approval of Pelagius does indicate a shift of emphasis in favor of man’s power of decision. Man’s eternal state depends upon his choice.47

Man’s power of choice is both assumed and emphasized in the numerous admonitions which are included in many of Wesley’s late sermons, and which are noticeably absent from his Standard Sermons. For example, in “The Important Question” (1775) Wesley concluded: “I set before you life and death, believing and cursing. O choose life!. . . And having once fixed your choice, never draw back. . . Go on in the name of the Lord, whom ye have chosen..”

It cannot be said that Wesley anywhere avowed that man has freedom apart from God. In fact he stated the opposite. In 1772 he wrote: “Both Mr. Fletcher and Mr. Wesley absolutely deny natural free-will. We both steadily assert that the will of man is by nature free only to evil. Yet we both believe that every man has a measure of free-will restored to him by grace.”49

Nonetheless the priority of grace unintentionally was made to appear to be secondary to man’s responsible choice. The emphasis on man’s freedom increasingly was shifted away from the ocentric to anthropocentric categories. This transition is revealed clearly in one of Wesley’s last statements. Speaking of conscience in 1790, he wrote: “Whether this is natural or superadded by the grace of God, it is found, at least in some degree, in every child of man.”50

Miley, in whom the transition from free grace to free will is supposed by Chiles to have culminated, made a similar point as we have seen. 50a Chiles states that for Miley whether motives “are derived from nature or from grace is indifferent so far as moral freedom is concerned.”51

Thus by the end of Wesley’s life he seems not to have been too concerned as to whether man’s liberty and conscience are by nature or by grace. He simply wanted to affirm that man has them-else he is not a man. It appears, then, that the “transition” from free grace to free will. began in the later Wesley himself, and not in Richard Watson.52

Stronger Emphasis on Works

Clearly Wesley came to emphasize man’s freedom in a way which he had not done prior to 1770. The primary reason seems to be his continued conflict with Calvinism which caused him to stress works in an effort to avoid Antinomianism. This continued altercation led him increasingly to underscore the necessity and possibility of good works and quite frequently without mentioning their relation to grace.

In 1770 Wesley wrote a tract, “What is an Arminian”” in which he pointed out that the one point of division between Arminians and Calvinists relates to the question: ‘Is predestination absolute or conditional'” “The Arminians, ” he noted, “believe it is conditional; the Calvinists, that it is absolute.”53

Wesley attempted to show that the doctrine of unconditional election is absolutely incompatible with any demand for works. In 1771 he wrote “The Consequence Proved” and cited some of Toplady’s statements from which one must deduce that “the elect shall be saved do what they will; The reprobate shall be doomed do what they can.”54

Wesley denied the doctrine of absolute predestination, claiming that if a choice had to be made between Roman works and Calvinistic election, he would choose the former. “I do not believe,” he wrote in 1772, “salvation by works. Yet if any man can prove (what I judge none ever did, or ever will) that there is no medium between this and absolute predestination; I will rather subscribe to this than to that, as far less absurd of the two.”55

Wesley was sure that the position stated in the 1770 Minutes, which evoked such a storm of controversy and which Fletcher defended in his Checks, provides a third possibility so that no such clear-cut choice between works and election is necessary. He was equally convinced that the Minutes, which made what he thought is a legitimate place for works, and the doctrine of decrees cannot stand together.56

This high regard for works prompted Wesley to insist upon salvation by works “in a Scriptural sense.” In 1779 he published in The Arminian Magazine a short essay entitled “Thoughts on Salvation by Faith.”57 In it he again stated that the Calvinists see “no medium between salvation by works and salvation by absolute decrees.” Thus since he denied absolute election, in their view he was affirming salvation by works.

Wesley endeavored to clarify this by saying that if salvation is by unconditional election, then it is neither by works nor by faith. If human salvation is by a conditional election, i.e., “He that believeth shall be saved, ” then it is by a faith which worketh by love, “which produces both inward and outward good works.” In this sense no man will be saved finally without works.58

It has been thought that this represents a withdrawal from Wesley’s earlier position of salvation by grace alone.59 However, he was reasserting simply that justification always issues in the fruit of sanctification.60

Fearing Antinomianism Wesley asserted that Christ’s righteousness must become our own — “personal holiness” is required of man. The righteousness of Christ is “necessary to entitle us to heaven; personal holiness is necessary to qualify” us for it. Without the righteousness of Christ we could have no claim to glory; without holiness we could have no fitness for it. Wesley said this had been his position for fifty years, and from it he had “never varied, no, not an hair’s breadth.”61

Though Wesley seems to have been correct in claiming that none of these sentiments at all indicate a retraction from his earlier position of salvation by grace, the continued conflict with the Calvinists, as well as the practical concerns of the revival,62 in his later years pushed him to stress freedom and man’s works more than faith and God’s grace.

It is at this point that the strong influence of John Fletcher begins to be seen. Wesley viewed Fletcher’s works as being a significant contribution toward the clarification of his own position, especially with regard to particular predestination. In 1772 Wesley declared that with Fletcher’s Checks it became “indisputably clear, that neither my brother nor I had borne a sufficient testimony to the truth. For many years, from a well-meant, but ill-judged, tenderness, we had suffered the reprobation Preachers (vulgarly called Gospel Preachers) to spread their poison, almost without opposition.”63

Since Wesley had long opposed predestination, he evidently was acknowledging that he had not found time to construct systematically a theology which could successfully refute the predestinarians. This, Wesley felt, Fletcher had done. Speaking specifically of the 1770 Minutes, Wesley stated that Fletcher had “effectually vindicated” them, for “there is no resisting the force of his arguments.”64

Wesley’s opposition to Calvinism persisted until his death. In a letter of January 19, 1791, a few months before he died, he stated: ‘Certainly Calvinism is the direct antidote to Methodism — that is, heart religion…”65 Further, there is no evidence that Wesley’s evaluation of Fletcher’s Checks was ever altered. He continued to view them as an effective polemical tool against the Calvinists.

It is in this high regard for Fletcher’s works that a clue to his influence upon the “later” Wesley is suggested. Fletcher, in Wesley’s mind, had held together so well in his Checks to Antinomianism, both God’s grace and man’s freedom, that Wesley felt safe in stressing either the one or the other depending upon the situation or need at the moment. Consequently, in his later years he stressed the abilities of man rather than the grace of God.

Prior to 1770 Wesley objected to unconditional election primarily because of its implications for the doctrine of God; following 1770 he opposed it largely because of its implications for the doctrine of man.66 His soteriological understanding became more antropocentric and less theocentric.

This transition is exactly what Chiles says happened first in Richard Watson, who placed “larger stress on man’s free will and his ‘doing,'” thereby beginning a “subtle shift in emphasis” from “prevenient to cooperant grace, ” “from divine grace and initiative to the human agency and role in the economy of salvation.”67

The fact that there is a change of emphasis in Wesley’s writings following the Calvinistic controversy of the 1770’s seems to be clear. If this shift was indeed occasioned and encouraged by Fletcher’s Checks which opened the door for Wesley to emphasize man’s power of choice and the necessity for good works — sometimes without reference to the context of grace which makes them possible then Fletcher exercised an indirect influence on American Wesleyan theology through Wesley, whose writings obviously were known and admired by persons of

influence on this side of the Atlantic.

II. Importance of Fletcher’s Writings in America

During the formative years of the Evangelical Revival in England the Wesley’s most important theological support came from John Fletcher who defended Wesley in the Calvinistic controversies of the 1770’s and produced his series of writings, The Checks to Antinomianism. Likewise, in the early years of Methodism in America, from the founding of the societies in New York and Baltimore, Wesley’s writings along with those of Fletcher and the hymns of Charles, supplied the standards for theological judgment and belief.

Fletcher’s Checks were a rich store of doctrinal ordinance. By 1791 an American edition was published, and by 1820 at least two more editions had come off American presses. ‘These Checks, originally issued seriatim, were especially welcomed by the struggling Methodist societies in the American colonies. In this way Fletcher’s writing had a direct influence on American Methodism.

When other American editions of the works of Fletcher and Wesley appeared around 1830, they received appreciative notices in the Methodist Quarterly Review. The Christian Advocate (1826) also concerned for Methodism’s doctrinal integrity, referred regularly to Wesleyan sources for authoritative guidance.

Wesleyan theology in America, introduced by Wesley and Fletcher, was sustained by second-generation British theologians and Biblical interpreters such as Richard Watson, Adam Clarke, and Joseph Benson. These men tended to make a place for natural theology; and to emphasize the role of reason, especially in establishing Christian “evidences”.

A significant key to knowing who were the most influential Wesleyan theologians and writers in America in the 19th century is the list of prominent authors in the Conference Course of Study. In 1816 the General Conference of the Methodist Church authorized a Course of Study for Methodist preachers lacking formal theological training. Candidates studied selected texts and were examined on them. Because the large majority of Methodist preachers through most of the l9th century were trained in this Course of Study, its widespread influence is

obvious.

Since 1848 the books for this course have been listed quadrennially in the Methodist Discipline. Prior to the publication of such lists, Conference Journals and publishers’ notices indicate the books in use, as well as references in the writings of Methodist leaders.

By 1827 the Illinois Conference recommended among others, Fletcher’s Checks to Antinomianism, along with Wesley’s Sermons and Notes and Clarke’s Commentaries. The course which Bishops Hedding and Emory presented to the Philadelphia Conference in 1833 included Fletcher’s Works, but did not require them. Fletcher’s writings continued to occupy a place of honor in later Methodism in America, appearing on the Course of Study down to 1880.69

By 1775 Fletcher had completed his Checks and had included as the Last Check his “Treatise on Christian Perfection. ” This exposition of the doctrine of Christian perfection was most important in the future of the Methodist societies in America. It has been called second only to Wesley’s Plain Account among the “Textbooks of Methodism.”

Fletcher’s personal prestige, his saintly character, and his literary craftsmanship won him a wide reading on both sides of the Atlantic and throughout the century that followed his death.

John L. Peters has observed that Christian perfection was a characteristic feature of early American Methodist preaching, though not a dominant feature during this period. Further, he claims that the primary emphasis was on the instantaneous over the gradual aspect of perfection.

For example, Thomas Webb, in New York, in preaching on the giving of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost, said:

The words of the text were written by the apostles after the act of justification had passed on them. But you see, my friends, this was not enough for them. They must receive the Holy Ghost after this. So must you. You must be sanctified. But you are not. You are only Christians in part. You have not received the Holy Ghost. I know it. I can feel your spirits hanging about me like so much dead flesh.69

Francis Asbury, first American Methodist bishop, clearly made Christian perfection this theme. His Journal attests to this fact. Peters says, “With the doctrine of Christian perfection thus highly regarded by the leaders of early American Methodism, it is not surprising that at the Conference of 1781 the traveling preachers present agreed that they would ‘preach the old Methodist doctrine and inforce the discipline which was contained in the Notes, Sermons and Minutes published by Mr. Wesley.'”70

American colonial Methodism in its standards and in its preaching made the doctrine of Christian perfection one of its characteristic features. This was understood to be an experience attainable “now and by simple faith” and yet opens the door for continued Christian growth in grace. It was with this connotation that the doctrine was embodied in the first Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Although in some ways Fletcher’s understanding of Christian perfection was perhaps more balanced, as for example in holding together both the gradual and instantaneous aspects, unquestionably his treatise on perfection, as well as all his Checks, wielded great direct influence in shaping Wesleyan theology in America particularly during the first half of the 19th century.

III. Key Elements in Fletcher’s Theology

During the early part of the 19th century the American scene was characterized by a spirit of optimism, hope, adventure, freedom, activism, and a consciousness of man’s significance and abilities. Experience and the practical aspects of life were dominant. Wesleyan thought, including that of both Wesley and Fletcher, appealed to these features of the times. While no attempt is made here to develop major aspects of Fletcher’s theology, certain key features may be suggested which made his thought attractive at this period

Concern for the Practical

Fletcher was a theologian, but also a parish priest, preacher, and “director of spiritual life. ” His thought developed and matured amid the situation or actualities of life within his parish. The parish of Madeley and Coalbookdale had long included learned and zealous Non-Conformists ministers, whose chapels peopled with faithful attendants. Vitally alert Quakers added greatly to the intellectual and religious life and the burnishing beams of the Continental Enlightenment had fructified latitudinarianism in Shropshire.

Life within this parish, with its institutional churchly pluralism and diverse understandings of “Law and Gospel,” and with its obvious pangs of the industrial revolution tearing coal from beneath the ground and devouring the green earth-was the context in which John Fletcher shaped his theological views. Serving as a spiritual counselor, he maintained in himself a balance between development of mind and heart.

Further, Fletcher’s writings were occasioned by controversy. In many ways he shared the practical concerns of Wesley, who had an extreme animosity toward antinomianism which he felt results from the preaching of Calvinistic doctrine-i. e., insistence on the Divine sovereignty and neglect of the Divine requirements. 71 Fletcher could not endure those who talked of being justified and sanctified while they were guilty of drunkenness, uncleanness, and dishonesty. He clearly saw the practical results of the teachings that good works are unnecessary, that one’s standing is assured by Christ’s election, and that imputed righteousness makes personal piety indifferent.

Fletcher’s disagreement was with the Calvinist doctrine of election, which he thought brought these serious practical results. He maintained that his two targets were: 1) finished salvation, or the impossibility of backsliding; and 2) imputed righteousness, in the sense that the Christian remains a sinner. To these he opposed: 1) the doctrine of a second justification by works, which he held refutes both these errors; and 2) the doctrine of perfection.72

The almost perennial problem of antinomianism, which was a concern in America during the early 19th century, made Fletcher’s writings significant.

Search for a “Middle Way”

Fletcher’s conciliatory temperament, his ecumenical spirit, and in part his pastoral concerns, as well as his Anglican circumstances, caused him to seek a “middle” course between theological extremes. This aim of maintaining a “middle” position Fletcher carried out both in his preaching and pastoral ministry. He sought to reconcile apparent contradictions in Scripture; to adapt this reproofs to the capacities and situations of men, without altering the substance of them.73

Moreover, he made every effort to avoid unconditional election, irresistible grace, and finished salvation on the one hand; and, on the other hand, the idea that man can set the terms of his own salvation, come to God when he chooses, or by works merit God’s righteousness.

Particularly, regarding the doctrine of free will, Fletcher sought a “via media” which would equally assert that man cannot will the spiritual good unassisted by divine grace, and would simultaneously claim that when man does will it by grace he does so freely. He concurred with his opponents that the will, though always free, is free only to evil if unaided by grace, and that freedom to choose the good comes from redeeming grace alone.

However, Fletcher contended against the Calvinists that God gives to every man grace enabling him to choose life according to his dispensation or light, that man is in a state of probation, and that Christ died for all men, not only for the elect.74 To support this position Fletcher quoted Augustine’s statement: “If there be no free will, there is nothing to be saved from: if there be no free grace, there is nothing whereby we may be saved.”75 Fletcher had a similar way of stating the same thing: “If you take away free grace, how does God save the world? And if you take away free will, how does he judge the world?”76

The “via media” was a practical means of reconciling rigid Calvinists and rigid Arminians, both of whom Fletcher considered to be in error. He appealed to the “moderate” Calvinists (who renounce absolute necessity) and the “candid” Arminians (who contend for doctrines of justice) to lead the way toward unity. The “middle way” was designed to avoid both “speculation, which is careless of action,” and “activity, which is devoid of spirituality. ” Fletcher purposed to bring together the Pharisees who slighted Christ on the one hand, and the Antinomians who ignored obedience on the other.77

Fletcher’s use of the “via media” as a theological method was an attempt to understand particular religious truths as perspectives which share – along with apparently opposing positions – in a higher synthesis of Truth. This method has been called “dialectical. “78 Certainly, it was applied to every area of religious concern in an effort to relate reason and faith, philosophy and theology, science and religion, rationalism and mysticism, Arminianism and Calvinism, Christianity and culture, doctrine and morality, law and gospel, faith and works, speculation and spirituality, time and eternity, and Methodism and the Church of England.

It is not improper to speak of Fletcher as a “mediating” theologian. This method and approach would have been attractive to segments of American culture, particularly during the next several decades following his death.

Saving Faith and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit Fletcher’s own experience convinced him of the need for saving faith, a personal encounter with God. On hearing a clergyman preach in England Fletcher came to see that though he had studied divinity and won awards at the University for his theological treatises, he did not understand saving faith. By rigorous discipline he had sought to conquer his evil nature; but the more he strove the more he was beset by his sin. At last he discovered that nothing but a revelation to his own heart could bring salvation.

His diary for January 12, 1755, reads:

I received the sacrament though my heart was as hard as flint . . . Instead of going straight to Christ, I have wasted my time in fighting against sin with the dim light of reason, and the mere use of the means of grace; as if the means would do me good without the blessing and power of God. I fear my knowledge of Christ is only speculative, and does not reach my heart. I never had saving faith, and without faith it is impossible to please God. Therefore, all my thoughts, words, and works, however specious before man, are utterly sinful before God.79

The following day Fletcher read from Wesley’s Journal that one must not depend on feelings, “but go to Christ,” with all his sins, and all his “hardness of heart.” He then read Romans, chapters three and seven, which he thought portrayed his spiritual condition perfectly. On the night of January 23 he became a “new creature.”

However, Fletcher still prayed earnestly that he might have “dominion over sin, and peace with God; not doubting but that joy and a full assurance of faith would be imparted to me in God’s good time. “81) This account transcribed by Benson from Fletcher is consistent with Fletcher’s own statement to Charles Wesley:

I soon could trace all my experience in your preachings. Only one thing I could not account for. You preached forgiveness of sin, and power over sin as being given at the same time. This brought me to examine the point. I knew…that tho I had had repentance towards God and tho he had often forgiven my sins and made me taste the powers of the world to come, I was yet a stranger to the merits of him by whom I had received these benefits . . . After as I was in prayer about one o’clock in the morning I was enabled to cast myself down upon Christ so as to have peace, assurance, and power over sin.81

Mrs. Fletcher later said her husband continued to pray that God would take more “full possession of his heart,” and bestow a “brighter manifestation of God’s love to his soul.”

In October, 1771, Fletcher enjoined Joseph Benson to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit, insisting that he needed “that full assurance which nothing can give but the baptism, nothing can keep but the indwelling God.”82

This fu11 assurance comes with the baptism with the Holy Spirit, according to Fletcher. He came close to asserting that one is not a true Christian until he is filled with the Holy Spirit. He wrote:

St. Paul everywhere declares that it is the common privilege of Christians to ‘be filled with Spirit,’ Eph. 5:18; I Cor. 6:19. Nay, he even intimates, that the name of Christian should be refused to those who have not received the promise of the Father, Rom. 8:9.83

Wesley felt that Fletcher’s sharp distinction between justification and initial sanctification, on the one hand, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit, on the other, implies that one does not receive the Holy Spirit in justification and initial sanctification. Evidently Joseph Benson had come to hold the same view as Fletcher, for Wesley admonished him on March 9, 1771, to refrain “from speaking of Mr. Fletcher’s late discovery. The Methodists in general could not bear this. It would create huge debate and confusion. I wish you would read over that sermon in the first volume on the ‘Spirit of Bondage and of Adoption.’ “84

Telford suggests that the “late discovery” was Fletcher’s doctrine of being filled with the Holy Spirit, which to Wesley was misleading because it implied that one does not receive the Holy Spirit in justification and initial sanctification. Earlier Wesley had written to Benson: “If they [followers of Fletcher] like to call this [entire sanctification or full assurance] ‘receiving the Holy Ghost, ‘ they may: only the phrase in that sense is not scriptural and not quite proper; for they [disciples at Pentecost] all ‘received the Holy Ghost’; when they were justified.”85

Wesley did not distinguish between “receiving the Holy Spirit” and “being baptized with the Holy Spirit” as some in the holiness movement have done. Nor did he connect Christian perfection or entire sanctification with Pentecost.86 Fletcher apparently was the first to make this identification. 87

Further, Wesley thought that Fletcher was suggesting that one who has any sin within him cannot be a believer. Benson it seems was influenced by this view also, for on May 27, 1771, Wesley wrote of him: “Joseph Benson . . . is by no means clear in his judgment. The imagination he has borrowed from another good man [evidently Fletcher], ‘that he is not a believer who has any sin remaining in him,’ is not only an error, but a very dangerous one; of which I have seen fatal effects.”88 Just what these effects were Wesley did not state. It is likely that he thought this position would lead the Christian believer to despair.

Wesley may have been misinterpreting Fletcher at these points. Fletcher did maintain that in justification one is given a degree of witness of the Spirit. He did not assert that one who has the body of sin remaining within him is not a Christian in any sense-although from some of his statements this might be inferred.89 Wesley himself had stated that one is not “properly” a Christian, or a “true” Christian, until he receives the Holy Spirit.90

This is not to say that the views of Fletcher and Wesley at this point are identical. Wesley acknowledged that they are “a little different, though not opposite.”91 For Fletcher one becomes a Christian in the dispensation of the Son, as the disciples of Jesus; and a “true” Christian with full assurance (perfection) in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, as the disciples at Pentecost. Wesley agreed that one becomes a “true” Christian, as the disciples at Pentecost; but that there is yet a higher stage of Christian life, namely Christian perfection.92

The insistence of both Wesley and Fletcher on the immediacy of Christian reality fits well the desire for such in America.

God’s Activity in History

The immediate issues pertaining to Calvinistic Methodism were discussed within a broad framework which required the explication of Fletcher’s theology in terms of a central, but all encompassing, religious conception. This conception is his doctrine of dispensations. Fletcher did not attack the view of predestination as such, but other and broader elements of Calvinist theology. He opposed unconditional reprobation and related issues because they undercut his particular understanding of God’s purposes in the historical process.

Fletcher stated that the key to various aspects of his theology was his doctrine of dispensations. This doctrine was essential to the whole structure of his thought. He was convinced that to obscure this teaching is to be forced to accept unconditional election and reprobation, which by all means must be denied because of their implications for the doctrine of God and history.93

The foundation stone of the doctrine is prevenient grace, which Fletcher accepted as being Scriptural. He concluded that if Christ tasted death for every man, as the Scriptures teach, there is undoubtedly a Gospel for every man, even for those who perish by unbelief and rejection of it. A “generous Gospel,” then, is more or less patently revealed to all men, according to the clearer or more obscure dispensation which they are outwardly under.

According to Fletcher, there are three major dispensations:94 1) of the Father (that of Gentiles and the Jews); 2) of the Son (that of John the Baptist); and 3) of the Holy Spirit (that of the perfect Gospel in Christ).9;

The dispensation of the Father includes two groups: (Gentiles-who have been given the light of natural religion, revealed by creation, providence, reason, and conscience; and Jews-who have been given the light of the law, through the patriarchs, prophets, and priests. In this dispensation one lives in uncertainty and doubt.

The dispensation of the Son is that of John the Baptist, or “infant Christianity.” This speaks of Christ, but he is known primarily by the history of the Gospel. One who is obedient to this light is a Christian, but an imperfect” one. In this state of grace doubts are dissipated, and love begins to gain ascendancy over fear. The dispensation of the Holy Spirit is that of the “perfect Gospel of Christ. ” One who is introduced to this dispensation by the baptism of the Holy Spirit comes to know Christ in a way far superior to that of the flesh or the senses. Here one knows deliverance from the power of sin and is filled with the Holy Spirit.

These dispensations represent not only time periods, but also stages in one’s spiritual encounter with God. In any dispensation one may be saved if he is obedient to the light he has, and obedience brings more and fuller light. One who has been filled with the Spirit, looks forward to the coming of Christ at the last day.96

Fletcher’s doctrine of dispensations uniquely combines both in unchanging and a dynamic quality. Its absolute character can be seen in the presupposition of the unity of Truth and the claim that every dispensation, being an expression of the one Gospel, is ultimately saving when obeyed. The relative and progressive character is revealed in the fact that the clarity, distinctiveness, and benefits of the Gospel vary according to the dispensations, so that they are not of equal significance historically-either with regard to world history or to one’s own personal history.

Only by such a doctrine, thought Fletcher, can both the sovereignty and justice of God be preserved. And the basic doctrinal consideration in the Calvinistic controversy was the doctrine of God, from which the related problem of ethics logically follows. Both sides in the debate started with God. Fletcher thought the Calvinists’ understanding of God leads to antinomianism; and the Calvinists thought Fletcher’s doctrine of God opens the door to works-righteousness.

Consequently, the doctrine of dispensations was crucial and central to Fletcher for its encompassing character provided a practical way of bringing together rigid Calvinists (whose understanding of God tends toward antinomianism) and Bible Calvinists (whose doctrine of God rightly requires both faith and works.)

The important point for us is to observe that with this doctrine Fletcher was saying that revelation is historical and progressive; that man is placed in history by God and is thus responsible to Him; and that history is the arena wherein God’s purposes are fulfilled, thereby making the element of Hope central in the life of the believer.

It is this dynamic and teleological conception of the religious life, and of all history, a perspective easily adapted to the American scene in the 19th century, which constitutes the greatest aspect of John Fletcher’s influence. He insisted that progress must not cease in the life of the believer. There must be continuous movement toward a fuller relationship to God.

And it is this all-encompassing view of the significance of history, the graciousness of God’s creation, and the “sovereignty of Grace” which makes him significant for contemporary Wesleyan thought.

FOOTNOTES

1. Baker, Frank, “The early Experience of Fletcher of Madeley,” Proceedings Wesley Historical Society. Vol. XXXIII, June, 1961; Lawton, George, Shropshire Saint: A Study in the Ministry and Spirituality of Fletcher of Madeley (London: The Epworth Press, 1960. The Wesley Historical Society Lecture No. 26); Mattke, Robert A., “John Fletcher’s Involvement in the Antinomian Controversy of 1770-76” (I published M. A. Thesis, Graduate School of Religion, University of Iowa, 1965); Sommer, Carl E., “John William Fletcher (1729-85), Mann der Mitt,” Basileia, 2nd edition, edited by Jan Hermelink & Hans Jochen Margull (Stuttgard: Evang. Missionsver-lag, 1961); Thompson, Claude H., “John Fletcher, First Theologian of Methodism,” The Emory University Quarterly, XVI, No. 4, Winter, 1960; Wiggins, James Bryan, “The Pattern of John Fletcher’s Theology: as Developed in his Poetic, Pastoral, and Polemic Writings” (Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Drew University, 1963)

2. Sommer, p. 437. See also Telford, John (3d.), The Letters of the Rev. John Wesley (London: The Epworth Press, 1921), IV, 300. Cited hereafter as LJW.

3. The Works of the Rev. John Fletcher (4 vols.; New York: Phillips & Hunt, 1883), IV, 330. Cited hereafter as FW.

4. Joseph Benson, The Life of the Rev. J. W. F1etcher (New York: Waugh & Mason, 1835), pp. 104-5.

5. LJW, VI, 11.

6. Methodist Conference Minutes, 1744-98 (London: John Mason, 1862), I, 95-96. Cited hereafter as MCM.

7. Luke Tyerman, Wesley’s Designated Successor (New York: A. C. Armstrong & Son, 1886), p. 346.

8. Townsend-Workman-Eayrs (eds.), A New History of Methodism (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919), I, 320.

9. J. A. Dorner, History of Protestant Theology (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1871;, II, p. 92;C. A. Briggs, Theological Symbolics (New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1914), p. 327.

10. Abel Stevens, The History of Methodism (New York: Hunt & Eaton, 1859), II, 55.

11. The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, A. M., 3rd edition, ed. Thomas Jackson (14 vols.; Kansas City, Missouri: Nazarene Publishing House, reprint of the authorized set printed by the Wesleyan Conference Office in 1872), III, 449. Cited hereafter as WJW.

12. MCM, I, 183.13. WJW, III, 463.14. Nor could Fletcher, because of his burning desire for unity as well as truth, condone the conduct of Lady Huntingdon and Mr. Walter Shirley, who vociferously attacked Wesley and his 1770 Conference Minutes. See Tyerman, p. 185, who cites “An Account of John Fletcher’s case, with the reasons that have induced him to resign the Superintendency of the Countess of Huntingdon’s college (Trevecca) in Wales.” Also see Joseph Benson, The Life of the Rev. J. W.

Fletcher (New York: Waugh & Mason, 1835), p. 152.

15. Thirteen Original Letters Written by the Late Rev. John Fletcher. . . to which are added his Heads of self-examination (Bath: Printed for Campbell & Gainsborough, 1791), p.21.

16. FW, I, 108.

17. Benson, p. 153.

18. LJW, V, 276, 290, 307.

19. LJW, VI, 79-80.

20. WJW,VIII, 336 (“Large Minutes”).

21. MCM, I, 126.

22. Robert E. Chiles, “Methodist Apostasy: From Free Grace to Free Wi11,” Religion in Life (Summer, 1958), XXVII, 438.

23. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1965).

24. Chiles, Religion in Life, 442-43.

25. Chiles cites “Methodist Theology in America in the l9th Century,” Religion in Life (Winter, 1955-56), XXV, 92f; also D. D. Whedon, The Freedom of the Will as a Basis of Human Responsibility and a Divine Government (New York: 1864).

26. Chiles, Religion in Life, 444-47

27. Chiles, Theological Transition, pp. 144-157.

28. LJW,VI, 239.

29. LJW,VII, 202.

30. WJW,VI, 266, 235, 250, 323.

31. WJW,VI, 280; VII, 205.

32. WJW, VII, 228.

33. WJW, VI, 345 (Italics mine).

34. WJW,VII, 188.

35. WJW, VI, 507-513.36. WJW,X, 358-61, 388, 431, 444.

37. WJW, XI, 366-446.38. WJW,X, 475, 478; VI, 427, 362, 318.

39. E. H. Sugden, ed., The Standard Sermons of John Wesley (London: The Epworth Press, 1921), I, 188, 183. Cited hereafter as WSS. WJW, VI, 269-7(), 276.

40. WJW, VI, 242; X, 475, 478.

41. WJW, VI, 227, 318.

42. WJW, X 457 (Italics mine).

43. WJW, VI, 280.

44. WJW, VII, 228.45. WJW, VI, 240, 326.

46. WJW, VI, 328.47. WJW, VI, 194.

48. WJW, VI, 505; also 527, 252, 391.49. WJW, X, 392, 457, 463-64, 473; also VI, 512, 187f.50. WJW, VII, 345. 50a. Supra, p. 9.

51. Chiles, Religion in Life, p. 445, citing Miley, Systematic Theology, I1, 304f.

52. This slight change of emphasis in Wesley has been fully discussed and documented in my article, “Aspects of Wesley’s Theology After 1770,” Methodist History, April, 1968, on which I have relied here.

53. WJW, X, 358-60.

54. WJW, X 370 74.55. WJW, X 379.56. WJW, X, 379, 478; also VI, 199-200.

57. WJW, X, 492f.58. Arminian Magazine (London: Frys, Couchman, and Collier, March, 1779), II, 120-122.

59. See William R. Cannon, The Theology of John Wesley (New York: 1946), p. 115; also Umphrey Lee, John Wesley and Modern Religion (Nashville: 1936), p. 166ff.

60. Robert E. Cushman agrees with this assessment in his excellent article “Salvation for All-Wesley and Calvinism” in William K. Anderson, ed., Methodism (Nashville: The Methodist Publishing House, 1947), pp. lllf. However, Cushman, like Chiles overlooks the fact that Wesley’s assertions of freedom and works following 1770 are not equally balanced by affirmations of grace.

61. WJW, VII, 313-14, 317; also VI, 385.

62. The increases in the membership of the societies, reflected in the Conference Minutes’ statistics which were first listed in 1767, were too small to satisfy Wesley. See MCM, I, 72, 77, 85, 92. His sermons and letters after 1770 indicate a growing concern that the revival might be slowing somewhat. See WJW, VI, 334, 463, 286-89; VII, 211f. 221f. 20. 24: WW. V. 185.

63. WJW, X, 413.

64. WJW, X, 449, 452.65. LJW, VIII, 256. By “Calvinism” Wesley referred to unconditional election, and not to the Calvinistic interpretation of sin or grace.

66. See John Allan Knight, “John William Fletcher and the Early Methodist Tradition” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Vanderbilt University, 1966), p. 388f. This is not to claim that Wesley did not object to unconditional election on both these grounds before 1770. See, for example, WJW, VII, 376-83.

67. Chiles, Theological Transition, pp. 162-63, quoting with approval Dunlap, “Methodist Theology in Great Britain,” pp. 477f.

68. Chiles, Theological Transition, pp. 38-42.69. John Leland Peters, Christian Perfection and American Methodism (New York: Abingdon Press, 1956), p. 82; also p. 97.70. Peters, p. 87.

71. LJW, V, 83.

72. FW, I, 207.

73. Benson, pp. 55-58.

74. FW, I, 323.

75. Fletcher’s source here is uncertain. However, a very similar statement is found in Augustine’s “On Grace and Free Will, ” Ch. 37. Cf. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (ed. Philip Schaff; New York: The Christian Literature Co., 1887), V, 459.

76. FW, II, 206.

77. FW, II, 343n; IV, 365

78. David Shipley, op. cit., carefully adumbrates Fletcher’s theological method

79. Benson, pp. 24-25; also WJW, XI, 282-83.

80. Benson, pp. 26, 28-29; also WJW, XI, 284-85.

81. Baker, Frank, “The Early Experience of Fletcher of Madeley,” Proceedings Wesley Historical Society. Vo1. XXXIII. June, 1961), p. 29. Fletcher probably wrote this account in 1755 or 1756.

82. FW, III, 183.

83. LJW, V, 281.

84. LJW, V, 228. The sermon to which Wesley referred is found in WSS, I, 178f.

85. LJW, V, 215.

86. WJW, VIII, 104.

87. Benson, p. 207. 190.

88. LJW, V, 252.

89. FW, I, 311; IV, 134, 136 (Sermon on 1 Cor. 5:17).

90. WSS, I, 83.

91. LJW, VI, 146.92. For a criticism of this “two-fold” idea in Wesleyan theology, see Rob L. Staples, “John Wesley’s Doctrine of Christian Perfection: a Reinterpretation” (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Pacific School of Religion, 1963), 222-35.

93. See FW, II, 15-16.

94. The fact that Fletcher gave his fullest account of the various dispensations in his Portrait of St. Paul, which is his expression of the ideal minister, indicates the fervor of Fletcher’s practical concern. See FW, III, 166f.

95 FW, II, 261f.

96. See FW. III. 170-73. 178-181 176: II. 262-63: I, 580.