“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” —Deuteronomy 6:5-7
Susanna Wesley: Revival Starts at Home | 1669-1742
Known as the “Mother of Methodism” and the mother of John and Charles Wesley, Susanna Wesley was a woman of deep faith.
Susanna was the mother of 5 children and an English minister’s wife who devoted her life to making disciples of her children and those within her sphere of influence. Her children, in turn, carried the Gospel and her intentional methods of devotion and discipleship, around the world. The Methodist denomination, the ministers of the First and Second Great Awakening, and modern ministry training centers like Asbury Theological Seminary are her spiritual progeny. These movements have lead to the salvation of tens of millions as well as directly impacting social reform in the western world, including the abolition of the slave trade and the practice of slave-holding, penal reform, child labor reform, laws against cruelty to animals, and the establishment of organizations dedicated to caring for the most vulnerable.
Much of her spiritual legacy can be traced back to her efforts to homeschool her children. In a maverick move for the day, she educated all of her children, including her daughters, to be masters of classical studies, including the study of Greek and Latin. She would not teach her children to do household work until they could read with excellence. Most of all, however, she taught her children the Word of God, going so far as to write her own studies and curriculum to use in their education (and the education of many neighboring children she taught). These resources included extended commentaries on the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, which are still studied today. She was strategic in how she discipled her children, and kept her husband aware of her parenting techniques while he spent much time away from their family. One letter records:
“When the will of a child is totally subdued, and it is brought to revere and stand-in awe of the parents, then great many childish follies, and inadvertence may be passed by. Some should be overlooked and take no notice of, and others mildly reproved; no willful transgression ought ever to be forgiven children, without chastisement, less or more, as the nature and circumstances of the offense require…I insist upon conquering the will of children betimes [early] because this is the only strong and rational foundations a religious education, without which both precept and example will be ineffectual. But when this is thoroughly done, then a child is capable of being governed by the reason and piety of its parents till its own understating comes to maturity, and the principles of religion have taken root in the mind.”
This strict, methodical, biblically based discipline resulted in children of exceptional character who were devoted to the Lord.
She modeled what she taught her children. She modeled industry and Christian work ethic, sewing, attending to household accounts, writing letters, and tending infants as she taught. In the evenings, she taught the children to play games, sing psalms, and read books from their father’s library, cultivating active minds with healthy pastimes. Most importantly, she taught them to prize time with the Lord, and to seek His presence in the midst of everyday life. Amid a busy day with a family of 7 in a small home, Susanna was known to simply sit down in a chair, pull her apron over her head, and take time to pray. When so postured, her children knew not to interrupt her, because prayer came first.
As biographer Eric Metaxas wrote of Susanna, “Anyone believing that the life of a woman dedicated to her family must be less than optimal cannot know the story of Susanna Wesley. Despite poverty, Illness, a difficult marriage, and heartbreak in endless forms, she used her intellect, creativity, time, energies, and will in such a way that can hardly be reckoned. The world in which we life owes much of the goodness in it to her life.”
Lessons from Susanna’s Life:
So many modern, secular notions of womanhood, feminism, and motherhood run contrary to scripture and contrary to the legacy of women like Susanna Wesley. There are many ways that God works through women—the Bible is full of their stories—but to devalue the role of a woman as a wife and mother is a huge mistake. Susanna’s life is a powerful example of how a a stay-at-home mom can change the world from her kitchen table. Wherever God calls you to serve is a position of influence in His kingdom. If you will believe the Gospel and faithfully live it out right where He has placed you, it will bear fruit beyond what you can imagine. Ephesians 3:20 says, “God is able to do exceedingly, abundantly, and above all, you could ever ask, imagine, or think, according to His power at work in you. To Him be the glory.” Susanna saw only a fraction of the fruit that God produced through her life—she never new how her ministry to her sons in their small home would be used by God to reach tens of millions over hundreds of years—it changed the world far beyond what she could imagine. To God be the glory!
Susanna Wesley in Her Own Words:
“There are two things to do about the gospel. Believe it and behave it.”
“The child that never learns to obey his parents in the home will not obey God or man out of the home.”
“Whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish for spiritual things then it is sin for you, however, innocent it may be in itself.
I will tell you what rule I observed when I was young, and too much addicted to childish diversions-never to spend more time in mere recreation in one day than I spent in private religious devotions.”
“If you want a quality, act as if you already have it. If you want to be courageous, act as if you were – and as you act and persevere in acting, so you tend to become.”
“Help me, Lord, to remember that religion is not to be confined to the church… nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that every where I am in Thy Presence”
“I am a woman, but I am also the mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you, yet in your long absence I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my charge as a talent committed to me under a trust. I am not a man nor a minister, yet as a mother and a mistress I felt I ought to do more than I had yet done. I resolved to begin with my own children; in which I observe the following method: I take such a proportion of time as I can spare every night to discourse with each child apart. On Monday I talk with Molly, on Tuesday with Hetty, Wednesday with Nancy, Thursday with Jacky, Friday with Patty, Saturday with Charles.”
Source: 7 Women & the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxas, pgs 31-57