“…although she never preached a sermon or published a book or founded a church, is known as the Mother of Methodism. Why? Because two of her sons, John Wesley and Charles Wesley, as children consciously or unconsciously will, applied the example and teachings and circumstances of their home life.” (Pellowe)
Susanna Wesley was the 25th of twenty-five children. Her father, Dr. Samuel Annesley, was a dissenter of the established church of England. At the age of 13, Susanna stopped attending her father's church and joined the official Church of England.
Susanna and Samuel Wesley had nineteen children. Nine of her children died as infants. Four of the children that died were twins. A maid accidentally smothered one child. At her death only eight of her children were still alive.
Susanna experienced many hardships throughout her life. Her husband left her and the children for over a year because of a minor dispute.
To her absent husband, Susannah Wesley wrote:
Due to her husband's poor financial abilities he spent time in jail twice. The lack of money was a continual struggle for her. Their house was burned down twice; during one of the fires her son John nearly died and had to be rescued from the second story window. She was the primary source of her children's education: she set aside special time with each child every week.
After the second fire Susanna was forced to place her children into different homes for nearly two years while the rectory was rebuilt. During this time the Wesley children lived under the rules of the homes they lived in. Susanna was mortified that her children began to use improper speech and play more than study.
“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.” (Haddal, 1961, pg.14) “The children got a good education. Daughters included, they all learnt Latin and Greek and were well tutored in the classical studies that were traditional in England at that time.” (Haddal, 1961, pg.15)
During a time when her husband was in London, defending a friend against charges of heresy, he had appointed a locum to bring the message. The man’s sermons revolved solely around repaying debts. The lack of diverse spiritual teaching caused Susanna to assemble her children Sunday afternoon for family services. They would sing a psalm 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. (paraphrase from Haddal, 1961, pg.20-21)
She practised daily devotions throughout her life, but, shortly before her death, she wrote to her son Charles, admitting that she had struggled with doubt throughout her life and only now had finally found peace in her faith.
Her husband Samuel spent his whole life and all of the family’s finances on his exegetical work of Job. However, his work was not remembered and had little impact on his family other than as a hardship. In contrast Susanna wrote several pieces that would be fundamental in the education of their children. “In addition to letters, Susanna Wesley wrote meditations and scriptural commentaries for her own use. She wrote extended commentaries for instance on the Apostles Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments. Alas many of these were lost in the rectory fire, but many survive. The most accessible means to her writings is Charles Wallace's excellent and important "Susanna Wesley, Her Collected Writings.” (Pellowe)
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