"I Am A Woman" Letter
Some Background Information: Susanna’s husband was a mediocre pastor and an even worse husband and father to his children. Twice he deserted her, once due to her supporting a king in exile instead of the one in power, which he personally favored. As a result her husband left and only returned home after the king in exile, who happened to be in Holland, died. She was often on her own when it came to raising her children and making a spiritual difference, obligations which stood regardless of his support or lack thereof.
"As I am a woman, so I am also mistress of a large family. And though the superior charge of the souls contained in it lies upon you; yet, in your absence, I cannot but look upon every soul you leave under my care, as a talent committed to me under a trust, by the great Lord of all the families both of heaven and earth. And if I am unfaithful to him or you in neglecting to improve these talents, how shall I answer unto him, when he shall command me to render an account of my stewardship?
"As these, and other such like thoughts, made me at first take a more than ordinary care of the souls of my children and servants, so—knowing our religion requires a strict observation of the Lord's day, and not thinking that we fully answered the end of the institution by going to church, unless we filled up the intermediate spaces of time by other acts of piety and devotion—I thought it my duty to spend some part of the day, in reading to and instructing my family: and such time I esteemed spent in a way more acceptable to God, than if I had retired to my own private devotions.
"This was the beginning of my present practice. Other people's coming and joining with us was merely accidental. Our lad told his parents: they first desired to be admitted; then others that heard of it begged leave also: so our company increased to about thirty; and it seldom exceeded forty last winter.
"But soon after you went to London last, I light on the account of the Danish Missionaries. I was, I think, never more affected with anything; I could not forbear spending good part of that evening in praising and adoring the divine goodness for inspiring them with such ardent zeal for His glory. For several days I could think or speak of little else. At last it came into my mind, Though I am not a man nor a minister, yet if my heart were sincerely devoted to God, and I was inspired with a true zeal for his glory, I might do somewhat more than I do. I thought I might pray more for them, and might speak to those with whom I converse with more warmth of affection. 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; and with Emily and Suky together on Sunday.
She Speaks to Two Hundred
"With those few neighbours that then came to me, I discoursed more freely and affectionately. I chose the best and most awakening sermons we have. And I spent somewhat more time with them in such exercises, without being careful about the success of my undertaking. Since this, our company increased every night; for I dare deny none that ask admittance."
"Last Sunday I believe we had above two hundred. And yet many went away, for want of room to stand.
"We banish all temporal concerns from our society. None is suffered to mingle any discourse about them with our reading or singing. We keep close to the business of the day; and when it is over, all go home.
"I cannot conceive, why any should reflect upon you, because your wife endeavours to draw people to church, and to restrain them from profaning the Lord's day, by reading to them, and other persuasions. For my part, I value no censure upon this account. I have long since shook hands with the world. And I heartily wish, I had never given them more reason to speak against me.
"As to its looking particular, I grant it does. And so does almost anything that is serious, or that may any way advance the glory of God, or the salvation of souls.
"As for your proposal, of letting some other person read: alas, you do not consider what a people these are. I do not think one man among them could read a sermon, without spelling a good part of it. Nor has any of our family a voice strong enough to be heard by such a number of people.
"But there is one thing about which I am much dissatisfied; that is, their being present at family prayers. I do not speak of any concern I am under, barely because so many are present; for those who have the honour of speaking to the Great and Holy God, need not be ashamed to speak before the whole world; but because of my sex, I doubt if it is proper for me to present the prayers of the people to God. Last Sunday I would fain have dismissed them before prayers; but they begged so earnestly to stay, I durst not deny them.
"To The Rev. Mr. Wesley,
In St. Margaret’s Churchyard, Westminster
The Heart of John Wesley's Journal, pp. 90-93