Mary Bosanquet Fletcher
English Deaconess in the Early Methodist Movement
1739 – 1815 A.D.
Mary was born in 1739, at Laytonstone, Essex, England. Her parents were members of the Established church, required absolute obedience of their children, but apparently knew new saving grace.
At the early age of five years little Mary was anxious about her soul, and inquired of older people what was sin in God’s sight. Some seem to possess very strong religious propensities, even in childhood. Their greatest concern is to know the will of God. Their only deep satisfaction is in plunging out into the ocean of His grace. The mere forms of religion are not enough. They must experience its deep and mighty transformations of the soul. Such as one Mary Bosanquet. When just past seven years, through her own seeking faith, she tasted some of the inexpressible joy of sins forgiven. She had no spiritual help or counsel. The fierce temptations of Satan, and the anger and reproach of her parents, wore upon her nerves, so that for some months she was quite undone. But, regaining strength, she found increased comfort in the Lord.
She was confirmed and admitted to church. Her spiritual light was yet dim, however, and later, looking back, she regretted many wanderings from the Lord. Her grandfather’s plain and holy living was a light to her, as was also the friendship of Mrs. Lefever. She and her sister, who was older, were eagerly reaching after spiritual liberty. Convinced that attending theaters and some other diversions were wrong. Mary told her convictions to her father, and begged him not to force her to go. He calmly listened to her, but as his daughter persisted in humbly taking the way of the cross, he gave her to understand that she would needs leave home. The Methodists were then in their infancy as an organization, but were truly the salt of the earth. Through them she occasionally received help heavenward.
When about eighteen years old she felt convinced that not only by staying away from theaters, the dance, etc., she should bear her testimony, but also by laying aside worldly dress and ornaments. This meant separating, indeed, for one of her high rank, but the will of the Lord to her was supreme.
One day her father wanted her to promise that she would never make any effort to convert her brothers. This, of course, she could not grant. “Then,” he said, “you force me to put you out of my house. I do not know that you ever disobliged me wilfully [sic] in your life, but only in these fancies.”
She was therefore forced to leave home, which, to her, was dreadful, for English children far surpass Americans in obedience to their parents. Nothing but love for Jesus an a fixed decision to be obedient to all the will of the Lord could have constrained her to do it. She was of age, and already in possession of a small fortune. With her maid, she went to a lodging of two rooms, and her life of self-denial and humble fare began. Soon the cross was swallowed up in glory. She felt like a bird, freed from a cage, with none but God to live for. She often visited her parents, but always returned to her own lodgings for the night, for they never received her again as one of the home and family. Uncomplainingly she bore it all for Jesus.
Though she remained a member of the Established church, she became associated with the Methodists. The helpfulness was mutual. At this time she entered into a far deeper rest and calm in her soul, which was likely entire sanctification.
She says, “Neither did I find an attachment to any creature or thing but such as reflected from the will of god. Such a sense of purity dwelt on my soul as I can hardly describe.”
She was a woman of fortune, augmented several times by bequeaths from relatives. When about twenty-three, she, with her saintly friend, Mrs. Sarah Ryan, removed from her lodgings at Hoxton to one of her estates, a mansion at Laytonstone. This she fitted up for a hoe for orphans an destitute children, and needy women. Like her Savior, she chose the poor, the publicans and sinners. Herself in charge, Mrs. Ryan assisting, they managed their household of twenty or thirty with success and Divine blessing. The inmates were trained in books and useful labor. Many lived to adorn the Gospel of Christ. The itinerant Methodist preachers always found her home a Bethel, the very atmosphere heavenly. Soon converts multiplied, an a company of victorious Christians were organized into a church.
The orphans were all grown up and ready to fill useful places. After much prayer, the way was opened up before her. She sold the home and lands about it, found suitable homes for all her loved family, and settled upon each one a small yearly income from her own means.
Just a few days before the breaking up of the home and separation from those whose guardian and spiritual mother she had been for twenty beautiful years, Miss Bosanquet was married to the very excellent and holy Mr. John Fletcher, vicar of Madely. She was then forty-two years old, he fifty-two. Each had silently loved and longed for the other for nearly twenty-five years. His health had been quite frail, but now seemed improved. When i three years and nine months death brought separation by taking him to his heavenly home, neither had suffered spiritual loss by their brief period of married bliss. This saintly pair kept Heaven in their parsonage home, much in doxologies, constant prayers, faithful and unwearied in labors for souls. Pastoral oversight can much more successfully be given by two thus united than by one alone. Jesus sent out the disciples in twos. The mutual advice and encouragement of co-working is an important factor in keeping constantly on the firing line.
August 14, 1815, she wrote: “Thirty years this day I drank the bitter cup and closed the eyes of my beloved husband, and now I myself an in a dying state. Lord, prepare me! I feel death very near. My soul doth wait, and long to fly to the bosom of God!”
Reference: Men and Women of Deep Piety by Mrs. Clara McLeister. Edited and published by Rev. E.E. Shelhamer. ©1920.