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John Wesley
by [?]

But the times did not subdue John Wesley: he was the original circuit- rider, and his steed was a Pegasus that took the fences of orthodoxy at a bound, often to the great consternation and grief of theological squatters. He was regarded as peculiar, eccentric, strange, extravagant, just as any man ever has been and would be today who attempted to pattern his life after that of the Christ. Perhaps it is needless to say that the followers of John Wesley do not much resemble him, indeed not more so than they resemble Jesus of Nazareth.

John Wesley and Jesus had very much in common. But should a man of the John Wesley pattern appear, say, in one of the fashionable Methodist churches of Chicago, the organist would drown him out on request of the pastor; and the janitor, with three fingers under his elbow, would lead him to the door while the congregation sang “Pull for the Shore.”

* * * * *

Julia Wedgwood, daughter of Josiah and Sarah Wedgwood, and sister to the mother of Darwin, wrote a life of John Wesley. In this book Miss Wedgwood says, “The followers of a leader are always totally different from the leader.” The difference between a leader and a follower is this: a leader leads and a follower follows. The shepherd is a man, but sheep are sheep. As a rule followers follow as far as the path is good, but at the first bog they balk. Betrayers, doubters and those who deny with an oath are always recruited from the ranks of the followers. In a sermon John Wesley once said: “To adopt and live a life of simplicity and service for mankind is difficult; but to follow the love of luxury, making a clutch for place, pelf and power, labeling Paganism Christianity, and imagining you are a follower of Christ, this is easy. Yet all through life we see that the reward is paid for the difficult task. And now I summon you to a life of difficulty, not merely for the sake of the reward, but because the life of service is the righteous life–the right life–the life that leads to increased life and increased light.”

A most remarkable woman was Susanna Wesley. The way she wound her mind into the minds of her sons, John and Charles, was as beautiful as it was extraordinary. Very few parents ever really get acquainted with their offspring. Parents who fail to keep their promises with their children, and who prevaricate to them, have children that are secretive and sly. But often no one person is to blame, for children do not necessarily have any spiritual or mental relationship to their parents: their minds are not attuned to the same key–they are not on the same wire.

Indeed, even with the great Susanna Wesley, there was a close and confiding intimacy with only two of her brood. John Wesley has written, “I can not remember ever having kept back a doubt from my mother–she was the one heart to whom I went in absolute confidence, from my babyhood until the day of her death.”

The Epworth Parsonage, where John Wesley was born, was both a house and a school. Probably the mother centered her life on John and Charles because they responded to her love in a way the others did not. In the year Seventeen Hundred Nine, the parsonage burned, with a very close call for little John, who was asleep in one of the upper chambers. The home being destroyed, the family was farmed out among the neighbors until the house could be rebuilt. John was sent to the home of a neighboring clergyman, ten miles away. After a week we find him writing to his mother asking her if she has lost a little boy, because if so he is the boy–a most gentle way of reminding her that she had not written to him. At this time he was but six years old, yet we see his ability to write a letter. This peculiar letter is the earliest in a long correspondence between mother and son. Mrs. Wesley preserved these letters, just as the mother of Whitman treasured the letters of Walt with a solicitude that seems tinged with the romantic. Much of the correspondence between John Wesley and his mother has been published, and in it we see the intimate touch of absolute mental undress where heart speaks to heart in abandon and self-forgetfulness. The person who reaches this stage in correspondence has passed beyond the commonplace. This formulation of thought for another is the one exercise that gives mental evolution or education.