Susanna Wesley came from a large family. Born in the year 1669, Susanna was the last of 25 children born to parents Samuel and Mary Annesley. Susanna’s father, Samuel Annesley, was the pastor of a Puritan church in the town of Little St. Helen’s. The family lived in a home attached to the church. Susanna enjoyed a happy childhood.
She was a brilliant and independent thinker. Susanna, unlike many women in her day, was taught how to read. Either through formal education or family tutoring, Susanna was educated and quite brilliant. She quickly formed her own opinions. Before her teenage years, Susanna had already decided to become a member of a different church denomination than the one in which her father pastored.
At age 19, she met and married Samuel Wesley, a curate in London, who was earning a meager income of £30 a year. Though Samuel had also come from a strong Non-Conformist family, the couple later decided to renounce dissent and abide by the Church of England.
She had a large family of her own. Susanna Wesley gave birth to 19 children. Sadly, 9 of her children died in infancy and she lived to see the death of three more children in their adulthood. Two of Susanna’s sons, John and Charles, would become some of the most influential men in Christian history. Susanna thought that it was important for her daughters (as well as her sons) to receive a good education, so they might make sense of their faith and their world. When she found no proper textbooks for teaching her children, Susanna wrote her own.
She had a difficult marriage. Samuel Wesley Sr. was an impulsive man who routinely made unwise decisions. His actions would often land the Wesley’s in debt, poverty, and, sometimes, danger. Once, Samuel abandoned his family for an entire year because of political disagreement with Susanna. He later returned to help the family recover from a house fire. Even into their children’s adulthood, Samuel Sr. made decisions that inspired the resentment of the entire family.
Despite her difficult marriage, Susanna Wesley remained a faithful wife and mother. She constantly spent herself for her husband and children.
She had firm political opinions. In 1689, William III took the throne as the King of England. The Wesley household was divided in their opinions about him. Once, Samuel Sr. offered a prayer for King William and Susanna refused to say amen. This was the political disagreement that caused Samuel Sr. to abandon his family. By the time Samuel returned, a new ruler sat on the throne. The family was able to put the political tension to rest.
She loved routine. Susanna was known for her meticulous and disciplined personality. She kept a regular educational routine for her children as they were growing up. Susanna took her relationship to God as seriously as she did her duties as a wife and mother. Early in her life, she vowed that she would never spend more time in leisure entertainment than she did in prayer and Bible study. Even amid the mo
st complex and busy years of her life as a mother, she still scheduled two hours each day for fellowship with God and time in His Word, and she adhered to that schedule faithfully.
Above everything else, Susanna Wesley was committed to Jesus. This enabled her to endure tragedy, poverty, and marital strife.
Just two years before she died Susanna attended a church service where she heard the words: “The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for me.” Even after decades of faithfully following Jesus and teaching her children to do the same, Susanna was moved by those words. She said, “These words struck through my heart, and I knew that God for Christ’s sake had forgiven me all my sins.”
The woman who kept a regular Bible study and time of prayer for over 50 years was struck anew by the truth of the gospel even in her old age!
Susanna’s life and legacy speak to the life-changing power of the God of the Bible!
She never preached a sermon, published a book, or founded a church, yet Susanna Wesley is known as the Mother of Methodism. The example of faith and religious reverence she set for her children John and Charles inspired them to become powerful spiritual leaders, and to launch the Methodist movement.