Faithful Heroes: Susannah Wesley

Susanna Wesley is considered the Mother of Methodism. John Wesley and Charles Wesley are two of her 19 children {9 of whom died in infancy}.

Susannah Wesley

Susanna Annesley was born on January 20, 1669 in England. She was the 25th child of 25 children born to Dr. Samuel and Mary White Annesley.

Dr. Samuel Annesley was a dissenter of the established Church of England. She would have been a first hand witness to much turmoil and possibly even violence during the Reformation.

At the age of thirteen, Susanna left her father’s church and officially joined the Church of England. She even went so far as to write the whole story from both sides and the reasons for her decision.

When she was 19 years old, she married Samuel Wesley, who was seven years her senior, on November 12, 1688.

Susannah Wesley

Susanna and Samuel would have nineteen children together, but nine of these children would die in infancy. One of these children was accidentally smothered by a maid. Another child was crippled and another could not talk until he was nearly six years old.

Life nor marriage was easy for Susanna. He spent two stints in debtors prison, much time away on church business, their house burned down twice, neighbors were mean to them, she was responsible for educating her children and she and Samuel split up for over a year over a minor dispute over the legitimacy of the true king of England.

During one house fire, her son, John Wesley almost died. He was rescued from a second story window. After the second fire, she had to place her children in neighboring homes during the two years it took to rebuild the rectory. On top of all of this, she also dealt with poor health.

“But through it all Susanna accepted the will of God and placed herself and her family in

Charles and John Wesley and Samuel and Susannah Wesley

His hands.” She strived to give the Lord two hours a day, along with raising a family and caring and providing for a home. With little space, she would place her apron over her head to pray, instructing them to never disturb her during this time.

She wrote her husband of how she makes time for each child, ” I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.”

Ingvar Haddal writes in his biography of John Wesley, ““Under no circumstances were the children permitted to have any lessons until they had reached their fifth year, but the day after their fifth birthday their formal education began. They attended classes for six hours and on the very first day they were supposed to learn the whole of the alphabet. All her children except two managed this feat, and these seemed to Susanna to be very backward…The children got a good education. Daughters included, they all learned Latin and Greek and were well tutored in the classical studies that were traditional in England at that time.”

Susannah Wesley

Samuel noted Susanna’s patience in one letter. “I wonder at your patience: you have told that child 20 times the same thing.” To which Susanna replied, “Had I satisfied myself by mentioning the matter only 19 times, I should have lost all my labour; you see, it was the twentieth time that crowned the whole.”

Another report of her character is when her husband was away and a visiting minister only preached on repaying debts. “The lack of diverse spiritual teaching caused Susanna to assemble her children Sunday afternoon for family services. They would sing a psalm and then Susanna would read a sermon from either her husband’s or father’s sermon file followed by another psalm. The local people began to ask if they could attend. At one point there were over two hundred people who would attend Susanna’s Sunday afternoon service while the Sunday morning service dwindled to nearly nothing.”

While Samuel Wesley focused his life on the little remembered work on the Book of Job, Susannah wrote meditations and scriptural commentaries of her own, some of which survive.

“Emilia once lamented her father’s “unaccountable love of discord”, and Susanna admitted that she and her husband “never thought alike”.”

Samuel Wesley died in 1735 and she depended on the help of her children from there on. One of Charles’s sons wrote later of his Grandmother, “ She had the happy talent of imbuing a child’s mind with every kind of useful knowledge in such a way as to stamp it indelibly on the memory.”

Susanna passed away on July 23, 1742. They are buried at Bunhill Fields Burial Ground in London, England.

Her life is an example of how we should live even today.

 

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