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Choice Gleanings

John Fletcher

January 2014

  from John Fletcher

John Fletcher of Madeley (1729-85), as he is familiarly known, was vicar of Madeley in Shropshire. His short book, Christ Manifested, became a much loved classic. In these extracts he explores the interesting and often neglected subject of what he calls the believer’s ‘spiritual senses’ with respect to the Lord Jesus Christ. For these gleanings, Scripture quotations are rendered in the ESV.

The Scriptures constantly mention, or allude to, one or other of these spiritual senses; allow me to present some examples:

1 Let us begin with SIGHT: Paul prayed that the eyes of his converts might be enlightened; ‘that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you’ … Abraham saw Christ’s day, and was glad. Moses persevered, as seeing him who is invisible. David prayed, ‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law’… The eyes referred to are those with which believers see the salvation of God …

2 Let us now consider the sense of  HEARING: If you do not allow for the possibility of spiritual hearing, what do you make of our Lord’s repeated caution, ‘He that has ears to hear, let him hear’? … Is a man truly converted, if he cannot witness with Isaiah, ‘he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught’; or say with the psalmist, ‘you have given me an open ear’?

3 The sense of SMELL. How void of meaning are the following passages, if they do not allude to that sense which is intended for the reception of (what the barrenness of human language compels me to call) spiritual perfumes. ‘How much better is … the fragrance of your oils than any spice … the fragrance of your garments is like the fragrance of Lebanon’; ‘your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia’; ‘your anointing oils are fragrant; you name is oil poured out’.

4 As to the sense of TASTE, if believers have not a spiritual faculty of tasting divine things, what delusion must they be under when they read, ‘his fruit was sweet to my taste’ or ‘How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!’ On the other hand, how faithfully can they speak in this way, if they have themselves tasted the heavenly gift, and the good word of God, and, as new born babes, have begun to desire the sincere milk of that word! Surely … they have a right to testify that ‘your love is better than wine’, and to invite those who ‘hunger and thirst for righteousness’ to ‘taste … that the LORD is good!’, so that they also may be satisfied with his goodness and mercy.

5 Last of all, we must not forget FEELING; for … if we have but one degree more of devotion than marble statues … we should have, I think, some feeling of our unworthiness, some sense of God’s majesty … 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.