Every day, for many years together, he used to be up by three in the mornings, or sooner, and to be with God (which was his dear delight) when others slept…
So said John Howe in his funeral sermon about Richard Fairclough, Rector of Mells (1647-1662). I can’t help but wonder what those early mornings looked like for Fairclough, a somewhat unknown Puritan voice. How did he approach the Bible? How did he pray for his own heart, family, congregation, and community?
I also wonder how those early morning investments shaped Fairclough as a man and pastor. Thankfully Howe’s funeral sermon gives some indication of the fruit that likely showed up because of Fairclough’s sustained abiding in Christ.
1. Fruit on Sunday mornings. O how hath that congregation wont to melt under his holy fervours! His prayers, sermons, and other ministerial performances had a strange pungency, quickness and authority with them; that softness, gentleness, sweetness…; that one would think it scarce possible to resist the spirit and power wherewith he spake.
2. Fruit during the week. He also found time, not only to visit the sick (which opportunities he caught at with great eagerness) but also, in a continual course, all the families within his charge; and personally to converse with every one that was capable, laboring to understand the present state of their souls, and applying himself to them in instructions, reproofs, admonitions, exhortations and encouragements, suitable thereto…
3. Fruit of joy and devotion. He went through all with the greatest facility and pleasure imaginable; his whole heart was in his work.
4. Fruit of discernment. [He] was a man of a clear, distinct understanding, of a very quick, discerning, and penetrating judgment, that would on a sudden … strike through knotty difficulties into the inward center of truth with such a felicity that things seem’d to offer themselves to him which are wont to cost others a troublesome search.
5. Fruit in his church. [His congregation] became much enlightened, knowing, judicious, reformed…religious people.
May we too take great delight in daily communion with God – for our good, the edification of the church, and the spread of the gospel!
Quotes taken from A Quest for Godliness by J.I. Packer (pp 44-45).