Edited by Robert V. Rakestraw (November 2, 2016)
Will you die peacefully or in anguish?
[John Wesley’s Journal, June 29, 1742.] “I desired to visit one in Newgate [the notorious prison in England]. As I was coming out, poor Benjamin Rutter stood in my way, and poured out such a flood of cursing and bitterness, as I scarce thought was to be found out of hell. . . .
“I left Bristol in the evening of Sunday,[July] 18, and on Tuesday came to London. I found my mother on the borders of eternity. But she had no doubt or fear; nor any desire but (as soon as God should call) ‘to depart, and to be with Christ.’ [Ed. note: John Wesley’s mother was Susannah (1669-1742), who bore nineteen children, ten of whom (seven daughters and three sons) lived to adulthood. She managed the large household on extremely limited means, and took personal responsibility for educating each of her children. She was a very competent Bible teacher and lay theologian, and John looked to her for her theological wisdom.)
“Fri. 23—About three in the afternoon I went to my mother, and found her change was near. I sat down on the bed-side. She was in her last conflict; unable to speak, but I believe quite sensible. Her look was calm and serene, and her eyes fixed upward, while we commended her soul to God. From three to four, the silver cord was loosing, and the wheel breaking at the cistern; and then, without any struggle, or sigh, or groan, the soul was set at liberty. We stood round the bed, and fulfilled her last request, uttered a little before she lost her speech: ‘Children, as soon as I am released, sing a psalm of praise to God.’
“Sun. August 1.—Almost an innumerable company of people being gathered together, about five in the afternoon, I committed to the earth the body of my mother, to sleep with her fathers. The portion of Scripture from which I afterward spoke was, ‘I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it , from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: And the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ It was one of the most solemn assemblies I ever saw, or expect to see on this side of eternity.
“We set a plain stone at the head of her grave, inscribed with the following words:
Here lies the Body
Mrs. Susannah Wesley,
The Youngest and Last Surviving Daughter of
Dr. Samuel Annesley.
In sure and steadfast hope to rise,
And claim her mansion in the skies,
A Christian here her flesh laid down,
The cross exchanging for a crown.
True daughter of affliction, she,
Inured to pain and misery,
Mourn’d a long night of griefs and fears
A legal night of seventy years.
The Father then reveal’d his Son,
Him in the broken bread made known;
She knew and felt her sins forgiven,
And found the earnest of her heaven.
Meet [prepared] for the fellowship above,
She heard the call, ‘Arise, my love!’
‘I come,’ her dying looks replied,
And lamb-like, as her Lord, she died.”
From An Extract of the Rev. Mr. John Wesley’s Journal, Vol.l in The Works of John Wesley, Third Ed., Vol.I (Baker, 1979 reprint of 1872 ed. issued by Wesleyan Methodist Book Room, London), pp. 383-385. The above quotation may be found, along with other articles and essays, on Dr. Rakestraw’s website/blog, gracequestministries.org., where you may sign up to receive automatically postings such as this, and where you may order his books GraceQuest and Heart Cries. You may write Dr.Rakestraw at firstname.lastname@example.org .