Susanna Wesley may not be a name you are familiar with, but her sons you may well have heard of. John Wesley and Charles Wesley were significant leaders during a time in England known as ‘The Great Awakening’. John Wesley was the founder of the Methodist Church and Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns, many of which we still sing today. Two of Charles’ sons and his grandson were also well known as musicians.
Susanna was born to Dr Samuel Annesley, a scholar and clergyman, and Mary White in 1769 in Spital Yard, London, and was the youngest of 25 children. She married Samuel Wesley, a minister, and they had 19 children, 9 of whom died as infants. She schooled her children for 20 years, where for an hour each week each child received one-on-one instruction on spiritual matters.
Susanna is said to have spent 2 hours a day in prayer, and would pull her apron over her head, signalling to her children that she was praying and wished to be left alone.
In a time where woman could not preach or even minister to women, she was a theologian in her own right (some of her writings were written primarily to educate her children), and when her husband was away she held meetings in their home where they sung hymns, prayed, and she read her husband’s sermons. These afternoon meetings were at first borne out of concern for her own children, who she believed were not being shepherded well by the replacement minister, and the meetings grew as word spread. The morning meetings at the parish dwindled to just a few, where the afternoon meetings in the Wesley home flourished with hundreds attending at times.
Susanna had a difficult life, a difficult marriage (one time her husband left for a year over a political dispute), and her children also had difficult marriages. She endured poverty and hardship her entire life, house fires, children dying, and more. But her faithful endurance is part of her lasting legacy.
I love this story of one particular day of schooling her children, where her husband Samuel visited the schoolroom. “I wonder at your patience; you have told that child twenty times the same thing.”
“If I had satisﬁed myself by mentioning it only nineteen times, I should have lost all my labour,” she replied. “It was the twentieth time that crowned it.”
Her sons led tens of thousands to the Lord, and as long as they were alive, continued to be part of the Anglican Church and attend Sunday morning services. There are countless numbers that they influenced either directly or indirectly through the Methodist movement. I’d like to mention just one family story.
A Family who Changed History
James and Betty Taylor, settled in Barnsley in the mid-1700s, and were the founders of the first Methodist society in Barnsley. John Wesley preached in this place at least 20 times, and was known to have stayed in their home when he came to preach. Their eldest son John Taylor was also eventually active in the Methodist church in Barnsley, and his son James Taylor became a Chemist and a Methodist Pastor. James Taylor married the daughter of a Methodist pastor, and although desiring to do missionary work in China, James and Amelia never did. Instead, their son James Hudson Taylor, known as Hudson Taylor, become the answer to their prayers. Before his birth they had prayed: ‘Lord, if you give us a son, grant that he may work for You in China!’
J Hudson Taylor is known as one of the most influential missionaries who has ever lived, and was the founder of the China Inland Mission. He lived a life of faith that was rooted in intimacy with God, with his life’s message being about laying down one’s life and being committed to fulfilling the Great Commission.
To think that one faithful mother’s influence and faith was imparted with care and conviction to her children, which in turn led to generations having been touched by her legacy. Did it ever cross her mind, in the midst of the many difficult trials, or in the daily mundane tasks, and the many years of sowing into her children’s hearts, that beyond her time on earth, her sacrifice would bear so much fruit?
I’m deeply inspired by her life, but I also appreciate this perspective of seeing beyond just my children’s education, to look into a time ahead I can’t see yet. We may never know just how much fruit will come from all we have sown in faith, love and sacrifice into these lives we are stewarding, but let me encourage you that it is worth it! These precious years with our children are a privilege and blessing, in more ways than we can possibly comprehend. Whatever way you put that ‘apron’ over your head, make sure you carve out those moments to spend time with the Lord, hearing His heart towards you and yours, and taking time to just breathe and be.
Be blessed and encouraged today,
PS. I finally joined Facebook a week or so ago. I have a few writing projects in the pipeline, and will use this Page as a hub for these, and for the other places I write on the web. I’d love to chat with you over there!
Much of this information in this post was sourced out of my head. However, for further reading, you might like to look at the titles that Amazon have on Susanna Wesley by various authors.