A Nurturer of Writers by Ros Bayes

I don’t want to let this year slip away without noting a significant anniversary. It’s 350 years this year since the birth of Susanna Wesley, the mother of John, Charles and their seventeen siblings. 

There are many notable things about this remarkable lady, and space doesn’t permit me to write about all of them, but there is one aspect in particular that I want to look at. I am interested in her influence on her two most famous sons, and especially their writing of hymns and sermons. 

Susanna was herself a well-read and accomplished writer. Many of her writings (meditations and commentaries) were lost when the Rectory was badly damaged in a fire, but many remain and have been published in a collection which is still readily available. In them she quotes from scholars as varied as the philosophers John Locke and Blaise Pascal, and the poet George Herbert. 

Susanna ensured that all her children, boys and girls, received a thorough classical education. Ten died during childhood, and at times, especially following the fire and while her husband was in a debtor’s prison, some had to be fostered out for short periods. But as long as they were in her care, she ensured that their education was the best available. She also kept detailed written plans for what they would wear each day and which day was set aside to spend time with which child, a model of organisation which was surely the influence behind the disciplined life of John Wesley. 
 
She set them an example of devotion, spending time each day in prayer. Famously, she used to throw her apron over her head and this was the sign to her children that she was at prayer and they must not disturb her. John Wesley followed her example of daily devotion as a young minister, but even so it was not until he was thirty-seven years old that he had the experience of God which he described as feeling his heart “strangely warmed”, after which his ministry became both prolific and powerful.

It seems though, that his mother had been for a long time already no stranger to such an experience, as was evidenced by some words she wrote: “We must know God experientially for unless the heart perceive and know Him to be to be the supreme good, her only happiness, unless the soul feel and acknowledge that she can have no repose, no peace, no joy, but in loving and being loved by Him.”

Susannah had often to compensate to her children for their father’s deficiencies. He left home for months following a political difference from which neither of them would back down, and he spent time in a debtor’s prison as he was not a good manager of money. He passed most of his life in writing a book on the Old Testament book of Job, and this enterprise took up most of the family’s finances, leaving Susanna to bring up their large family in real poverty.

John Wesley is remembered for his powerful sermons and Charles Wesley for his deeply theological and lyrical hymns; but today I would like to honour the woman who read to them, prayed for them, nurtured them, educated them and made them the men they became.


 Ros Bayes has 12 published and 4 self-published books, as well as some 3 dozen magazine articles. She is the mother of 3 daughters, one of whom has multiple complex disabilities, and she currently works for Through the Roof (www.throughtheroof.org) as their Training Resources Developer, and loves getting paid to write about disability all day. You can find her blog at http://rosbunneywriting.wordpress.com and her author page at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ros-Bayes/e/B00JLRTNVA/. Follow her on Twitter: @rosbwriting.

Comments

  1. You have done her justice. What an amazing woman!

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  2. Wow! What a return for her labours. Thank you for this , Ros.

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