Wesley's childhood


The fire at Epworth RectoryJohn and Charles Wesley were born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, into the large family of Samuel and Susanna Wesley (of about nineteen children, three sons and seven daughters survived). Both parents were devout and strongminded people.

Samuel had been raised in a Dissenting academy, but became a high church Anglican and was Rector of the parish at Epworth. He was a man of faith and spoke of 'the inward witness' as 'the strongest proof of Christianity.'

Susanna Wesley, who seems to have had a considerable influence over John, raised and educated her enormous family with great competence and discipline - the children had 6 hours of home schooling a day. She also found time, during one of Samuel's absences, to set up a Sunday afternoon house group in the rectory kitchen, which eventually attracted 200 people.

Samuel had a turbulent relationship with his flock and when in 1709 the rectory was destroyed by fire, some speculated that disgruntled parishioners might have been responsible.

John Wesley, who was six at the time of the fire, was caught in the house but was rescued from an upstairs window. This gave rise to a belief in his family that he had been spared for some special purpose, and later John used to refer to himself as 'a brand plucked from the burning'. This literal event was a powerful image of having been saved 'from the wrath to come'.

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