Why most good churches have Marriage Preparation Courses!
And so, John Wesley was married. His strategy for being a good husband was pretty simple: ‘I cannot understand how a Methodist preacher can answer it to God to preach one sermon or travel one day less, in a married than in a single state.’
At first Molly accompanied him but his travel schedule (by any standard through all church history) was relentless, and she, as a newly married 40 year old woman, was clearly hoping for some normal domestic joys.
Often absent for weeks at a time, Wesley gave his wife permission to open all the mail that came for him. This included many letters from women seeking guidance and counsel, and Molly soon began to feel that some of them had more than a little affection towards her man.
Jealousy, slander and insensitivity
Her jealousy increased, as did her sense of being overlooked by him, and even unloved by him. She began to be, not only troubled by but gripped by jealousy.
She wrote disgruntled, critical, letters to him. She travelled to spy on him. She sent his private papers directly to his enemies that they might slander him. Eventually she publicly and repeatedly accused him of adultery over a period of twenty years.
At one point, after a fierce exchange of letters, he sent a scathing, hostile, reply.
‘Know me and know yourself. Suspect me no more, asperse me no more, provoke me no more: do not any longer contend for mastery…be content to be a private insignificant person, known and loved by God and me.’
Robert Southey, who quotes this letter, gives more of its contents, ‘He reminded her that she had laid to his charge things that he knew not, robbed him, betrayed his confidence, revealed his secrets, given him a thousand treacherous wounds, and made it her business so to do, under the pretence of vindicating her own character; ‘whereas’, said he, ‘of what importance is your character to mankind? If you were buried just now, or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God?’
Southey adds, ‘There are few stomachs which could bear to have humility administered in such doses.’ (Robert Southey, The Life of John Wesley, Hutchinson, p.266)
Dragged along by the hair
On several occasions she left home, only returning after he begged her repeatedly. Although he had been unspeakably angry with her, he kept aiming at reconciliation.
But the home life was unhappy. John Hampson of Manchester ‘once entered a room unannounced to find Molly dragging her husband across the floor by his hair.’ (John Pollock, Wesley, Hodder, p.238)
Finally, she left for good. Wesley wryly reported in his journal, ‘I did not forsake her, I did not dismiss her, I will not recall her.’
He should have consulted with Charles. He should have asked for the wisdom of other leaders. He should have been prepared for marriage. He should have considered his wife’s needs more than his own.
In all this, the story of Wesley’s marriage is an unhappy one. But if it is uncomfortable for us to read, let’s not forget that it was far more uncomfortable for him to live. And equally uncomfortable for Molly, who, perhaps was merely hoping to have some of him for herself.
Make sure you read Part One to get the context!
The Marriage Course
If you feel you need help in your marriage, The Marriage Course, pioneered at Holy Trinity Church, London may be of help to you. Click here for links to the Course and to find one in your part of the world.
To read the very first of the sequence of posts about Wesley’s attempts to get a bride click here and follow the links
© 2010 Lex Loizides