Sunday, September 10, 2006

John Fletcher: Spiritual Feeling

If you're walking on this beach with bare feet, I suggest you walk quite gingerly! Rocks just aren't fun for walking!

However, given the preference, I'll take feeling over numbness; the tactile sense of touch, of physically experiencing the world around us is an adventure in textures and temperatures. Have you ever stroked the soft fur of a small kitten? Have you ever walked through the green grass wet with last night's dew?

Let's consider John Fletcher's thoughts on spiritual feeling from Christ Manifested:
Last of all, we must not forget FEELING; for if we are more than stoics in religion, if we have but one degree more of devotion than the marble statues which adorn our churches, we should have, I think, some feeling of our unworthiness, some sense of God's majesty. Christ's tender heart was pierced to atone for, and to remove the hardness of, ours. God has promised to take from us the heart of stone, and to give us a heart of flesh, a broken and a contrite heart, the sacrifice of which He will not despise. King Josiah was praised because his heart was tender. The conversion of the three thousand, on the day of Pentecost, began by their being pricked in their hearts. We are directed to feel after God, if happily we may find Him. Our Lord Himself is not ashamed to be touched, in heaven, with a feeling of our infirmities. And Paul intimates that the highest degree of stubbornness and apostacy [sic] is to be past feeling, and to have our conscience seared as with a hot iron.
According to Fletcher (and Paul) spiritual numbness is a result of spiritual destruction. Let us never not know what it means to be without the feeling of the Spirit to our spirits.

To conclude our John Fletcher Week, Fetter Lane needs to answer one question: did the pastor of Madeley "really" believe that a Christian could experience spiritual senses like tasting, feeling, smelling, seeing and hearing or was he being poetical? (Perhaps you've wondered this, yourself, over the past few posts.) Let's turn one last time to Christ Manifested:
I hope that you will not attempt to set aside these plain passages by saying that they are unfit to support a doctrine, since they contain only empty metaphors and amount to nothing. This would be pouring the greatest contempt on the intrinsic clarity of the Word of God, the integrity of the sacred writers, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit who inspired them. Just as certainly as there is a spiritual life, there are senses which are calculated for the display and enjoyment of it; and these senses exist no more in metaphor than the life which exerts itself by them. Our Lord settled the point when he declared to Nicodemus that no man can see the kingdom of God, the kingdom of grace here, and of the glory hereafter, except he first be born of God-born of the Spirit; just as no child can see this world, except he be first born of a woman-born of the flesh. To put it another way, a regenerate soul has its spiritual senses opened, and made capable of discerning what belongs to the spiritual world, in the same way that a newly born infant has his natural sense unlocked, and begins to see, hear, and taste what belongs to that material world into which he is entering.
Yes, he meant it literally. Let us not forget that John Wesley wanted John Fletcher to be the next leader of the Methodist societies; Fletcher, however, died before Wesley. For Methodists, so called, the Swiss born and French speaking Fletcher is to be respected and heard.