Sometimes it is helpful to look to past generations for an example of godly devotion. One such example is John William Fletcher (1729-1785), whom John Wesley admired and desired to imitate. Seven months after his conversion, Fletcher penned a covenant with God which is a classic statement of Christian devotion. The covenant in its entirety is quoted by Fred Sanders in Scriptorium Daily.
Upon reading this statement (see link above) I have come away with several impressions:
- His writing style is very unlike the short, terse prose typical of this age of sound bytes. He is not afraid to write lengthy, complex sentences. But don’t let that detract you, because it is well worth the effort of working through his text.
- He describes himself in the most derogatory terms: “the worst of the wicked, the vilest of the sons of Adam, a renegade spirit, a man perishing altogether.” At first this might seem like hyperbole (was he really the worst sinner in the world?), but it is probably better to understand this as the heart-felt expression of his feeling of complete unworthiness of God’s grace. Introducing a series of requests, he states:
“If a thing created may stipulate with the Creator, if ashes and dust, if a noisome dunghill may covenant with a Being most holy, the omnipotent Governor of all nature, I seek, ask, demand, importune from Thee, pitying Father, with most humble and agitated heart, and with all zeal and ardour of spirit. . .”
Advocates of the modern self esteem movement might be concerned that he had an unhealthy self image, but those who have studied godly people of the past will recognize this as the proper attitude of a sinner approaching a holy God. In Scripture, even the most godly people who had a close encounter with God reacted in a similar way (e.g. Isa. 6:1-5).
- Throughout this piece he expresses his complete reliance on God’s grace. It is only when we recognize the utter hopelessness of becoming righteous by our own efforts that we truly appreciate our desperate need for the grace of God.
- His spiritual aspirations and commitments to God put to shame our half-hearted devotion and lukewarm zeal. At least in the West, it is difficult to find contemporaries who express this sort of unreserved and uncompromising commitment to God.
What do you think of this covenant? Can you relate to his spiritual hopes and aspirations?