• “Settle down on this one thing –that Jesus came to save you now, in this life, from the power and dominion of sin, and to make you more than conquerors through His power.” – Hannah Whitall Smith

Methodists 18th ct.

Susanna Wesley (1669-1742)
Phoebe Palmer (1807-1874)

Women and Wesley’s Times

John Wesley received much of his early spiritual and academic training from his mother Susanna Wesley (below), who told him that he was “a brand plucked from the burning” and was to have a special vocation given by God when he grew up. Susannah was referring to his near death from burning when the parsonage home his family was living in went up in flames when he was a little boy.

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In that Susanna was a strong, intelligent, spiritually mature woman may also be a reason why Wesley supported such women leaders in the Methodist movement. While John Wesley, for the most part, did not technically allow women to preach (“exhort”), he did recognize and encourage women to be leaders in a variety of ways.

Though we may think of John Wesley as too conservative in his view of women’s leadership, he was attacked from inside and outside of Methodism for his actions. In London, for example, some of Wesley’s followers tried to exclude women from a number of the society’s activities. Their actions infuriated Wesley, who told them that he did “exceedingly disapprove” of excluding women when the society met to pray, sing, and read the Scriptures.1 A clergyman accused Wesley of keeping women in Bristol so busy that they were not giving their families proper attention. “William Fleetwood dismissed the Methodists, or ‘Perfectionists,’ as he called them, as a group of ‘silly Women.’… Such attacks were unfounded but the response of women to Wesley’s liberating message was overwhelming indeed.2

In his book John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life, Charles Yrigoyen, Jr., observes:

Mary Bosanquet - 9828 Bytes

Methodists flourished under the direction of class and band leaders, persons of spiritual strength and insight. Most of them were women! Among them were Sarah Crosby, Dorothy Downes, and Grace Murray, exemplary Christians whose witness persuaded many to accept God’s grace and begin a new life….

In effect, [Sarah Crosby, Mary Bosanquet (right), Hannah Harrison, Eliza BennisJane Cooper, and others]… were engaged in preaching, and many people experienced conversion as a result of their testimony and proclamation of the gospel…. In 1787, despite the objections of some of the male preachers, he officially authorized Sarah Mallet to preach, as long as she proclaimed the doctrines and adhered to the disciplines that all Methodist preachers were expected to accept.[3]

Methodist women of Wesley’s day truly “offered them Christ” in a variety of ways.

Used with Permission John Wesley: Holiness of Heart and Life

 

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  • “I entreat you, give no place to despondency. This is a dangerous temptation–a refined, not a gross temptation of the adversary. Melancholy contracts and withers the heart, and renders it unfit to receive the impressions of grace. It magnifies and gives a false colouring to objects, and thus renders your burdens too heavy to bear. God’s designs regarding you, and His methods of bringing about these designs, are infinitely wise.” – Madame Guyon

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Be glad then, you children of Zion, And rejoice in the Lord your God; For He has given you the former rain faithfully, And He will cause the rain to come down for you— The former rain, And the latter rain in the first month. — Joel 2:23 (NKJV)

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