Samuel Wesley and The Bottom of the Barrel

3 Min Read


I love a good photograph. You know the ones I’m talking about. The kind that really captures a moment so perfectly that you can’t help but stand and stare at them for a long time and even after you have taken it all in you want a second glance. Being a writer, I’d like to think that words can have the same effect on people. A story well told can capture the imagination just as effectively as a good photograph. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent a considerable amount of time reading about the Wesleys; their family background, spiritual journeys and how they founded the Methodist church. One thing that strikes me is how many amazing short stories there are about the lives of the Wesley family. Simple and powerful word pictures that capture the essence of who they were and the kind of work they did in a way that reams of essay writing could never portray.

So in the spirit of great storytelling, the next two blog posts will be dedicated to two compelling word pictures of two inimitable Wesleys.


Samuel Wesley entered Exeter College at Oxford University on a scholarship as a pauper scholar. Pauper scholars or servitors were the lowest rank of undergraduate at the University and they were expected to serve the wealthier undergraduate students. One cold winter’s day Samuel set out for a walk with a heavy heart. He had only eight farthings rattling in his pocket and was facing the possibility of being expelled from Oxford because of a pitiful lack of funds. While on his walk he heard a small child crying and upon further investigation discovered a small boy under a hedge. The child’s clothes had frozen to the ground and he was hungry and terrified. Samuel immediately squatted down next to him and began to rub his hands and feet in order to get the circulation going.

While doing this he discovered that the boy’s parents had died, leaving him and his sister orphaned, forcing them to beg in order to survive. Even though Samuel himself was staring at the bottom of his own personal barrel of resources the story of this cold, hungry, destitute child gave him reason to see his own situation through new eyes. Perspective can make a world of difference in any situation.

Having warmed the boy and extricated him from the cold ground Samuel then proceeded to give the child his last eight farthings and take him down to Oxford to buy food.


Samuel was now completely broke, with no food and facing almost certain expulsion from school but his heart was lighter than it had been when he first started out on his walk. When he returned to his dorm room he found that his mother had sent him a basket of food and some money and a little while later his tutor offered to sponsor his college expenses allowing him to complete his undergraduate course at Oxford.

Samuel Wesley went on to become a rector of the Church of England. He married Susanna Annesley and they produced a family of 19 children, only 8 of whom survived. Among those eight were John and Charles Wesley, two of the greatest spiritual giants that ever lived and founders of the Methodist Church. Sometimes when we’re scraping the very bottom of the proverbial barrel, be it physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally or (as was the case here) financially, the best thing to do might be to take a step back and look around us. To ask ourselves the question “does the very bottom of my barrel, really look half full to someone else?”. Like I said before perspective can make a world of difference and sometimes letting go of the little that we do have to help someone who has even less might just be what we need to lift our own spirits. Besides, it might also make room for so much more.

New Lineage Episode on the Wesleys out this Wednesday 17:30 GMT

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