WESLEY & The Poor: “Put off the gentlewoman” & Experience First-hand the Poor

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 9/23/15.

An integral part of John Wesley’s “method” was to encourage wealthy people to first-hand experience the needs of the poor.  Here is his response to a wealthy woman who avoided the poor. Note the lessons (p. 782):

“I have found some of the uneducated poor who have exquisite taste and sentiment; and many, very many, of the rich who have scarcely any at all … the poorest of the poor, who, if they have not taste, have souls, which you may forward in their way to heaven.  And they have (many of them) faith, and the love of God, in a larger measure than any persons I know.”

He then exhorts the rich gentlewoman:

“Creep in among these, in spite of the dirt, and a hundred disgusting circumstances, and thus put off the gentlewoman.”

Then he concludes:

“Do not confine your conversation to genteel and elegant people.  I should like this well as you do: but I cannot discover a precedent of it in the life of our Lord, or any of his Apostles.  My dear friend, let you and I walk as he walked.”

Wesley was a firm believer in authentically and indigenously experiencing the poor in their surroundings.  He knew this would create a life-long solidarity with those in need.

Thus,

1) If you are one of my students or leading a team, ask yourself (and them): when is the last time you experienced first-hand the living conditions and spiritual sensitivity of the abject poor?

2) If you have not done so in the last four weeks, then plan to do so today!

3) And make this fellowship with the poor in their environments, a part of your spiritual formation (it was for followers of Wesley’s methods, who became know as “Wesleyans”).

John Wesley, “The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, A.M., New York: Emory and Wauch Publishers, 1831, p. 782

The full text of Wesley’s letter to Miss March, John Telford, ed., The Letters of John Wesley, A.M., 8 vols. (London: Epworth Press, 1931), 6:30-31 (retrieved from http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1776/)

Speaking hashtags: #BetterTogether


To Miss March

LONDON, February 7, 1776.

I have found some of the uneducated poor who have exquisite taste and sentiment; and many, very many, of the rich who have scarcely any at all. But I do not speak of this: I want you to converse more, abundantly more, with the poorest of the people, who, if they have not taste, have souls, which you may forward in their way to heaven. And they have (many of them) faith and the love of God in a larger measure than any persons I know. Creep in among these in spite of dirt and an hundred disgusting circumstances, and thus put off the gentlewoman. Do not confine your conversation to genteel and elegant people. I should like this as well as you do; but I cannot discover a precedent for it in the life of our Lord or any of His Apostles. My dear friend, let you and I walk as He walked.

I now understand you with regard to the Perronets; but I fear in this you are too delicate. It is certain their preaching is attended with the power of God to the hearts of many; and why not to yours Is it not owing to a want of simplicity ‘Are you going to hear Mr. Wesley’ said a friend to Mr. Blackwell. ‘ No,’ he answered, ‘ I am going to hear God: I listen to Him, whoever preaches; otherwise I lose all my labor.’

‘You will only be content to convert worlds. You shall hew wood or carry brick and mortar; and when you do this in obedience to the order of Providence, it shall be more profitable to your own soul than the other.’ You may remember Mr. De Renty’s other remark: ‘ I then saw that a well-instructed Christian is never hindered by any person or thing. For whatever prevents his doing good works gives him a fresh opportunity of submitting his will to the will of God; which at that time is more pleasing to God and more profitable to his soul than anything else which he could possibly do.’

Never let your expenses exceed your income. To servants I would give full as much as others give for the same service, and not more. It is impossible to lay down any general rules, as to ‘ saving all we can’ and ‘ giving all we can.’ In this, it seems, we must needs be directed from time to time by the unction of the Holy One. Evil spirits have undoubtedly abundance of work to do in an evil world; frequently in concurrence with wicked men, and frequently without them.