safe conduct

In late Spring of 1725, Susanna Wesley wrote a letter to her second oldest son, whom she called Jacky.  After noting some particular frustrations experienced by his brother Charles on a recent journey, frustrations that involved his sister Hester, Susanna turns to more theological musings.  John, it seems, included some quotes from Thomas à Kempis in a previous letter, and Susanna shared her opinion that à Kempis was “extremely wrong” to suggest that God “by an irreversible decree hath determined any man to be miserable in this world.”[1]

She goes on to write, “Our blessed Lord, who came from heaven to save us from our sins… did not intend by commanding us to ‘take up the cross’ that we should bid adieu to all joy and satisfaction [indefinitely], but he opens and extends our views beyond time to eternity.  He directs us to place our joy that it may be durable as our being; not in gratifying but in retrenching our sensual appetites; not in obeying but correcting our irregular passions, bringing every appetite of the body and power of the soul under subjection to his laws, [if we would follow him to heaven].”[2]

We are to take up our cross, she writes to John, as a contrast to “our corrupt animality” in order to fight under “his banner against the flesh.” This fight is not an empty one, because “when by the divine grace we are so far conquerors as that we never willingly offend, but still press after greater degrees of Christian perfection… we shall then experience the truth of Solomon’s assertion, ‘The ways of virtue are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.’”[3]

After her brief theological insights, Susanna returns to the topic of  à Kempis noting that she takes “Kempis to have been an honest, weak man, that had more zeal than knowledge, by his condemning all mirth or pleasure as sinful.”  Misery is seen as misery to Susanna, who acknowledges how it can be used by God, but is not itself the place God leads us.  “We may and ought to rejoice that God has assured us he will never leave or forsake us; but if we continue faithful to him, he will take care to conduct us safely through all the changes and chances of this mortal life to those blessed regions of joy and immortality where sorrow and sin can never enter!”

[1]Charles Wallace, Jr., ed. Susanna Wesley: The Complete Writings (New York: Oxford University Press,1997), 107.

[2] Wallace, Susanna Wesley, 108.

[3] Wallace, Susanna Wesley, 108.

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