Thursday, September 3, 2015

September 3, 1739 A.D. Susanna Wesley confesses that she has come to believe she is a believer and has the “assurance of salvation” at the communion rail in the service of Holy Communion.



September 3, 1739 A.D. Susanna Wesley confesses that she has come to believe she is a believer and has the “assurance of salvation” at the communion rail in the service of Holy Communion.

Dr. Rusten tells the story.

For non-Anglican readers who have been deprived—yes, deprived—of these great words during Holy Communion, here is what Mrs. Wesley heard in a Church of England service as the elements were distributed:

“Then shall the Minister first receive the Communion in both kinds himself, and then proceed to deliver the same to the Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, in like manner, (if any be present,) and after that to the people also in order, into their hands, all meekly kneeling. And, when he delivereth the Bread to any one, he shall say,

“The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving.
“And the Minister that delivereth the Cup to any one shall say,

“The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee, and be thankful.”

We could say much by way of biblical exegesis on the assurance of salvation. Mrs. Susanna Welsey knelt as she heard the words of institution ("Christ died for thee"...and "Christ's blood was shed for thee...").

Re: kneeling, as an aside. The Dissenters (or, Anti-Anglicans) “crabbed” over the kneeling, notwithstanding the Black Rubric. Dr. R. Scott Clark at Westminster Seminary, Escondido, CA is still crabbing about it. He was jabbering about it last week. Scott has many good things to say, but is out to lunch here. But, we digress.

But, back to the back-story.

Susanna was born in 1669-1670 to a Dissenter’s family. Her father was Mr. (Dr.) Samuel Annesley. She heard the theological and political debates in their home and read from some of her father’s library. At the age of 13, she returned to the Church of England, allegedly (494), the same age at which she met her future husband.

Her future husband, Samuel Wesley, was also from a Dissenter’s family. But like Susanna, he returned to the Church of England.

After Samuel Wesley graduated from Oxford at age 26, he married Susanna, aged 19. He was ordained to the Church of England. 19 children would be born of the union with 8 not surviving childhood. Charles and John would be two famous names from the marriage.

According to Mr. Rusten, both were “dogmatic, stubborn, and strong-willed” (495). Both were Tories.

But, they held different views on two kings: William III and James II.
Samuel supported the Protestant William III and Susanna supported the Papist James II. As a result, Susanna refused to say Amen to the “Collect for the Royals” at Evening Prayer. There was a dispute about it. Loyalties were re-united at the accession of Queen Anne.

Fast forward. John Wesley was born on June 17, 1703 and he is another story for another time.

Fast forward to September 3, 1739. Susanna is 69 or 70 years old. She is talking to her Lad, John the Arminian, that is, John-the-despiser-of-Augustus-Toplady.

She tells her “revivalist” son, John Wesley, that she experienced “assurance of salvation” at the communion rail during Holy Communion. It’s pietism. Clearly, she lacked training in dogmatics.

As much as we love our beloved 1662 Book of Common Prayer, transcendent to much if not most of what passes for today’s worship, she needed guidance, instruction and catechetization in The Heidelberg Catechism.

But ya’ can’t tell English Churchmen or Church of England men much on the point, especially after the Anti-Calvinist period of Mr. (Canterbury) Laud: they still have no Confessional posture insofar as current evidence indicates.

Put the Heidelberg Catechism into the daily and weekly services.
But, don't hold your breath. The American outfit, sometimes called the ACNA, is unteachable.

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