Susanna Wesley’s Faith

Susanna Wesley was a remarkable woman, the twenty-fifth and youngest child of Dr.Samuel Annesley and his second wife,   Mary White.  In an era when education was not considered important for girls, Susanna was schooled in Greek, Latin, French, Logic and Metaphysics.  She was educated, wise, and a deeply spiritual person.

After her marriage to Samuel Wesley, she bore nineteen children.  Only ten survived to adulthood: Samuel Jr, Emilia, Susanna, Mary, Mehetabel, Anne, Martha, John, Charles and Kezziah. Those who did not survive included twins Annesley and Jediah and another set of twins whose names were not recorded, Benjamin and the first Susanna. Two others also died in infancy. Another was accidentally  smothered by a nurse.  After so many losses, one can only think how she must have watched in horror when a house fire almost took her five-year-old son John.  Some quick action saved him from certain death.   Those who  later described the moment said the house exploded in flames just as John was rescued.   Susanna believed John had been spared for a divine purpose.

There were no public schools nor money for private schooling, so the task of educating the children fell on her. She spent six hours a day teaching them.  In addition, she set aside a private hour weekly for each child to talk about their spiritual life.  From their earliest days, the children learned to ask a blessing on their food, behave quietly at family prayers and to reverence the Sabbath.   Throughout her life Susanna challenged the role society assigned her, breaking with tradition as she taught Bible studies and led worship in her home.  When her husband was away, either  in debtors prison or advocating for a person charged with heresy,  he wrote asking her to stop.  She refused, pointed out to do so would be to disobey God.  Later she would  encourage  her son John to celebrate the witness and preaching of a young man, telling him, “Take care . . . for he is as surely called of God to preach, as you are.” I suspect Susanna was thinking of herself when she wrote those words.

Even in the midst of many heartaches, Susanna found comfort in her faith.  She wrote to her son John,  “Nor do I understand how any (one) can thank God for present misery; yet do I very well know what it is to rejoice in the midst of deep afflictions; not in the affliction itself . . . but in this we may rejoice, that we are in the hand of a God who never did, and never can, exert his power in any act of injustice, oppression, or cruelty; in the power of that Superior Wisdom which disposes all events, and has promised that all things shall work together for good . . . In a word, we may and ought to rejoice that God, has assured us he will never leave or forsake us; but . . . will take care to conduct us safely through all the changes and chances of this mortal life, to those blessed regions of joy and immortality where sin and sorrow can never enter.” 

Howard Thurman writes in his book, Meditations of the Heart, “There is a quiet courage that comes from an inward spring of confidence in the meaning and significance of life. Such courage is an underground river, flowing far beneath the shifting events of one’s experience, keeping alive a thousand little springs of action.” Susanna was such a person, sustained by that underground river which kept alive her hope and gave her strength to act. 

A deep and lively faith sustained Susanna. Her sense of God always present is reflected in her prayer, “Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church . . . nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in Thy Presence.”   There is no mystery why her children looked to her for wisdom and encouragement.

“Do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9

*”The Miscellaneous Works of  – – – Memoirs of the Wesley  Family”  by Adam Clarke