At a funeral service in 1742, two giants of the Christian faith stood beside their mother’s grave. John Wesley conducted the services; his brother Charles wrote the epitaph for the tombstone. In part, it read:
A Christian here her flesh laid down;
The cross exchanging for a crown.
True daughter of affliction, she,
Inured to pain and misery…
The Father then revealed his Son;
Him in the broken bread made known.
She knew and felt her sins forgiven,
And found the earnest of her heaven.
Susanna Wesley was a woman her husband called “the best of mothers.” She reserved a specific day and time each week to sit with each child to discuss matters of God and things on their hearts. The time spent together was cherished by all; so much so that many continued the discussions with their mother well into adulthood through letter writing.
Though her life was marked by a determined pursuit of God, it was also marked with hardship. Nine of the 19 children born to Samuel and Susanna Wesley died in infancy. Two different times their home was destroyed by fire, one time nearly taking John’s life. They also lived in severe poverty. Despite all, her determined faith was one she insisted on sharing, and perhaps for this reason there was not a greater force upon eighteenth-century England than her children.
Shortly before she died, Susanna had a long talk with John in which she described her greatest struggle in faith. For years, she admitted, she labored with doubt and confusion in regard to her salvation. She had scarcely heard, and dared not believe, that forgiveness of sins was something actually offered to her in the present. Then she described a moment when she had been suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of peace. It happened as she took communion that her son John administered, the broken bread and the wine spoke to her of God’s love and her salvation.
Charles alludes to his mother’s experience with Christ in the last lines of the epitaph marking her grave. Susanna “knew and felt her sins forgiven, and found the earnest of her heaven.” In the cup of faith, the love of God was unobscured. The same body and blood has been given for you.