The father of the well-known founder of Methodism, at one point lived in Epworth in Lincolnshire. It was a large parish, containing about two thousand souls; but on going to take the charge of it, he found the people in a depraved and immoral state; and the zeal with which he performed his duty in admonishing them of their sins, excited a spirit of diabolical hatred in those whom it failed to reclaim. There on the 17th of June, 1703, his second son John was born.
“The wretches who hated their pastor, had twice attempted without success to set his house on fire; they succeeded in a third attempt. At midnight some burning pieces of wood fell upon his daughter and awoke her. At the same time Mr. Wesley, hearing a cry of fire from the street, started. His wife was very ill at the time, and therefore slept in another room. Bidding her and the two eldest girls shift for themselves, he burst open the nursery door, where the maid lay with five children: she snatched up the youngest, and bade the rest follow her; the three elder did; but John, who was at this time six years old, was not awakened by all this; and in the alarm he was forgotten. By the time they had reached the hall, the flames were all round them, and Mr. Wesley then found that the keys of the door were above stairs. He ran and recovered them a minute before the staircase took fire.
When the door was opened, a strong northeast wind drove the flames in with such violence that none could stand against them. Some of the children however got through the windows, others through a little door into the garden. Unable to do either, owing to the state in which she then was, Mrs. Wesley, after three times attempting it in vain, rushed through the flames into the street, naked as she was, and escaped with some slight scorching of the head and face.
At this time, the child was heard to cry in the nursery: until that moment he had not been remembered. The father ran to the stairs, but they were now so nearly consumed that they could not bear his weight; and, being utterly in despair, he fell on his knees in the hall, and in agony recommended the soul of the child to God.
John, meantime, who had been awakened by the light, ran to the door, and finding it impossible to escape there, climbed up upon a chest that stood near the window. He was seen from the yard: there was no time to fetch a ladder; but it was happily a low house; one man was hoisted up upon the shoulders of another, and was then able to take him out at the window; a moment later, and it would have been too late: the whole roof fell in; hut it fell inward, or they must have been all crushed together.
When the child was carried into the house, where the parents were, the father cried out, ‘Come neighbors, let us kneel and give thanks to God! He has given me all my eight children; let the house go; I am rich enough!’ This providential escape, was ever remembered by John Wesley through life, with the deepest gratitude. Under one of his portraits, there is the representation of a house in flames, with this motto, ‘Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”‘
Taken and adapted form, “Anecdotes; accompanied with observations”
Written by, John Thornton
Published in 1821