Generation Cedar


(Susanna Wesley, mother of 19 children, nine dying in infancy.)

During a year of absence, her husband having left temporarily over a minor dispute, Susanna wrote to him:

“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.”

Susanna Wesley’s “By-laws”

There were several by-laws observed among us, which slipped my memory, or else they had been inserted in their proper place; but I mention them here because I think them useful.

1. It had been observed that cowardice and fear of punishment often led children into lying till they get a custom of it which they cannot leave. To prevent this, a law was made that whoever was charged with a fault of which they were guilty, if they would ingenuously confess it and promise to amend, should not be beaten. This rule prevented a great deal of lying and would have done more if one in the family would have observed it. But he could not be prevailed on and therefore was often imposed on by false colors and equivocations; which none would have used (except one), had they been kindly dealt with. And some, in spite of all, would always speak truth plainly.

2. That no sinful action, as lying, pilfering, playing at church, or on the Lord’s day, disobedience, quarreling, and so forth, should ever pass unpunished.

3. That no child should ever be chid or beaten twice for the same fault; and that if they amended, they should never be upbraided with it afterwards.

4. That ever signal act of obedience, especially when it crossed upon their own inclinations, should be always commended and frequently rewarded according to the merits of the cause.

5. That if ever any child performed an act of obedience or did anything with an intention to please, though the performance was not well, yet the obedience and intention should be kindly accepted; and the child with sweetness directed how to do better for the future.

6. That propriety be inviolably preserved and none suffered to invade the property of another in the smallest matter, though it were but of the value of a farthing or a pin; which they might not take from the owner without, much less against, his consent. This rule can never be too much inculcated on the minds of children; and from the want of parents or governors doing it as they ought proceeds that shameful neglect of justice which we may observe in the world.

7. That promises be strictly observed; and a gift once bestowed, and so the right passed away from the donor, be not resumed but left to the disposal of him to whom it was given; unless it were conditional and the condition of the obligation not performed.

8. That no girl be taught to work till she can read very well; and then that she be kept to her work with the same application, and for the same time, that she was held to in reading. This rule also is much to be observed; for the putting children to learn sewing before they can read perfectly is the very reason why so few women can read fit to be heard and never to be well understood.

From the journal of Susanna’s son, John Wesley

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13 Responses

  1. My gracious… I never realized that Susannah Wesley was a ‘single mom!” (albeit for a short time) I cannot tell you how encouraging this is to me!

    Thanks for sharing, Kelly☺

  2. Diane,

    From what we gather, Susanna was more of a single mother than not, all the time. Even when her husband was living with her, he took extended trips away from home and was very consumed with his work.

  3. Really Kelly? Well, now that is a revelation… and as I said before, a tremendous encouragement to me as a single mother. Within the conservative Christian community it’s often implied (if not stated outright) that a woman cannot adequately raise Godly children on her own. I would never deny that a Godly father is of utmost blessing to a family,to be sure. But still, knowing that someone of the stature of Susannah Wesley has raised such Godly men is of unimaginable encouragement to me.

    I love her “by-laws” too… I’m thinking I may try to reword these into more modern language sometime☺

    Have a wonderful day Kelly, dear!

  4. Thanks for this. You can hear SW’s heart for the Lord and her children pouring out of her in these words. It sounds strange, but there is such a sweetness in the talk of beatings…LOL Again, an admonition to do all I can with the great gift God has given us.

  5. I love reading about Susanna Wesley; thank you for posting this!
    I heard somewhere that the way she would pray was to flip her apron over her head and tell the children that was the sign to them that she was spending time in prayer. LOVE IT!

  6. By the way….. your baby gift website is ultra cute!!!! What verse are y’all going to use for the butterfly picture?

  7. It is very ironic to me that you posted this today, as I *JUST* completed Susanna Wesley Servant of God THIS MORNING. There is truly much we can learn from her example.

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