Samuel Wesley Bonus

In this episode, we reead Samuel Wesley's early essay, A Letter from a Country Divine.

Episode 26

Hello, I'm Wilson Pruitt, and you are listening to the History of Methodism Podcast. Today’s episode: A Letter from a Country Divine.

The preparation for our episode on Samuel Wesley’s theology has been more challenging than I had anticipated. Who would have thought a summary of a 500 page latin commentary of Job would have been tricky to produce?

Regardless, in the meantime, in this episode I am going to read Samuel Wesley’s anonymously published “A Letter from a Country Divine to his Friend in London Concerning the Education of the Dissenters in their Private Academies In Several Parts of this Nation.” Yes, that is a 27 word title. This pamphlet was published in 1703 after the Wesleys had settled in Epworth. It was originally written in the 1690s but published without his consent but Robert Clavel. The piece describes Wesley’s childhood and studies and how he was formed in the dissenting academies, but also how he moved back to the Church of England. Historically, it was one of the richest accounts of these academies, though by no means unbiased. Samuel Wesley wasn’t attempting to offer an accurate portrait of his youth. His words can be understood as a polemic against further dissent in light of the truth of the established church.

One final note of coincidence is that Robert Clavel’s Press (known as The Peacock) was located in the area known sometimes as Paternoster Row, other times as St. Paul’s Churchyard. It is an area of London next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where John Wesley attended Evening Prayers 35 years later before attending a society meeting on Aldersgate Street when he heard a reading from Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans and he had his Aldersgate experience (which will probably be discussed in episode 50). Again, this is pure coincidence. But I like to imagine Samuel Wesley, upon receiving word of the publication of this pamphlet, leaving Susanna at home in order to ride to London and berate the printer, Robert Clavel, incessantly near the very road where John Wesley would feel his heart strangely-warmed and trust in Christ alone for salvation.

With that, here is A Letter from a Country Divine…

There you have it, Samuel Wesley’s prose, for better or worse. What about his theology? Next time on the History of Methodism.