Susanna Wesley – A Mother For the Ages

Susanna Wesley, mother of *John & Charles, was an amazing woman. Born in England in 1669 her seventy three years were lived during a challenging time. Susanna bore some nineteen children in a period of nineteen years. Nine of those children died as infants—including two sets of twins. One baby was smothered by a maid. Another was crippled for life in a tragic accident. Yet, in spite of those losses, Susanna carried on. She was a tireless worker and teacher of her children. She encouraged other’s to teach their children to pray as soon as the child could speak and to reward their children for good behavior.    The story is told that  Susanna expected her children to learn the alphabet within a day’s time. All but one of her children learned to read by the age of five. That must have been the child it took two days to teach the alphabet to.

I’ve often wondered how she managed to do these things.  William Henry Fitchett describes the Wesley children as “a cluster of bright, vehement, argumentative boys and girls, living by a clean and high code, and on the plainest fare; but drilled to soft tones, to pretty formal courtesies; with learning as an ideal, duty as an atmosphere and fear of God as law.”  Every week, each child had an hour of Suzanna’s time, to learn and to talk about the spiritual side of life.

I get tired just thinking of all that this woman did. Yet as I look around me (including my daughters and daughter-in-law) I see examples of modern women, just as dedicated to their children as Susanna was to hers. With rare exceptions, mothers are a breed  who don’t  give up on their children. As a mom, you never stop being a mom. It doesn’t matter if your children are infants, young adults, or parents themselves.   A mother’s concern and prayers for her children never end.

Susanna Wesley had a deep spiritual side. Her husband Samuel was a pastor but it didn’t keep him from Debtor’s prison.  There were no safe guards for the poor and poverty was rampant in England.   Twice Samuel  was sent to prison for nonpayment of debts.   During those periods, Susanna opened her home for Bible Study. Word got back to Samuel that Susanna was bringing disgrace to the parsonage with her Bible Studies which were inappropriate for her, as a woman, to be leading. Samuel got upset and sent a message to stop immediately. Susanna Wesley answered him by reporting what good the meetings had done.   She pointed out that there were only two people who opposed them. Then she wrote, “If after all this you think fit to dissolve this assembly do not tell me you desire me to do it, for that will not satisfy my conscience; but send your positive command in such full and express terms as may absolve me from all guilt . . .  for neglecting this opportunity for doing good when you and I shall appear before  . . .  our Lord Jesus Christ.” Samuel had nothing more to say on the subject after that.

Susanna was one of those women I wish I had known personally. A woman of faith, a mother to the end and one courageous human being. May her numbers increase.

* John and Charles Wesley are the founders of the Methodist movement.  John was the greater evangelistic, while Charles was a prolific writer of hymns.  His more well known hymns include, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today,” “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Come thou Long Expected Jesus,” and “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.”

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