Thursday, August 4, 2011

John Wesley and Sophy Hopkey (1)

March 7, 1735/36-December 16, 1737

‘The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are but vain’ .

‘O give me not up unto mine own heart’s lust, neither let me follow my own imagination’.

It was not my desire, but the desire of the Trustees, disappointed of another minister, which induced me to take charge of Savannah till I could pursue my first design. And the very day I entered on this charge I told you that offences would come; indeed I expected greater, long before this day.

At my first coming to Savannah, in the beginning of March 1736, I was determined to have no intimacy with any woman in America. Notwithstanding which, by the advice of my friends, and in pursuance of my resolution to speak once a week at least to every communicant apart from the congregation, on March the 13th, I spoke to Miss Sophy Hopkey, who had communicated the Sunday before, and endeavoured to explain to her the nature and necessity of inward holiness. On the same subject I continued to speak to her once a week, but generally in the open air, and never alone, always in the presence of Miss Fawset.

I had a good hope that herein I acted with a single eye to the glory of God and the good of her soul, both because I did not act by my own judgment and because, though I approved of Miss Sophy’s constant attendance both at the morning and evening service, and at the Holy Communion, yet I had a particular dislike to her person, and a still greater to her common behaviour, which was reserved, I thought, even to affectation.

Soon after, being at Mr. Causton’s house, Mrs. Causton, when I sent out of the room, said, ‘There goes a husband for my Phiky’ (her common title for Miss Hopkey). And in June following she told me, ‘Sir, you want a woman to take care of your house.’ I said, ‘But women, madam, are scarce in Georgia. Where shall I get one?’ She answered, ‘I have two here. Take either of them. Here, take Miss Fawset.’ I said, ‘Nay, madam, we shan’t agree. She is too merry for me.’ She replied, ‘Then take Phiky; she is serious enough.’ I said, ‘You are not in earnest, madam!’ She said, ‘Indeed sir, I am; take her to you, and do what you will with her.’

In April, by the advice of Mr. Delamotte, who thought common civility required it, after we had been walking some time, I asked her and her companion Miss Fawset to step in and breakfast with me. Immediately after breakfast they went. Though I hope my eye was single in this too, yet I doubt whether it was not a step too far, as tending to a familiarity which was not needful.

From the middle of May till the end of June, I was at Frederica. After I was returned to Savannah, in the beginning of July, Mrs. Causton earnestly expressed with many tears] desired me to talk to Sophy by herself, who (she said) was utterly ruined, being in love with and resolved to marry a notorious villain, one Mellichamp, then in prison at Charleston for forgery. She added, ‘Sophy minds nobody but you; if you will be so good as to step into the garden, I will send her to you.’ I went, and soon after, Miss Sophy came, all in tears, and with all the signs of such a distress as I had never seen. She seemed to have lost both comfort and hope. I stayed with her about an hour. At the end of which she said she was resolved to seek comfort in God only, and through his help to tear from her heart an inclination which she knew did not tend to his glory.

I was deeply affected with her distress, which I saw was beyond all utterance; and yet more with the manner in which she bore it, betraying no kind of impatience, making no complaint, saying nothing weak or womanish, taking the whole blame upon herself, owning the providence of God in all, and acknowledging the goodness as well as justice of that providence.

My friends believed it was now my duty to see her more frequently than before; in compliance with whose advice I accordingly talked with her once in two or three days often alone. In all those conversations I was careful to speak only on things pertaining to God. But on July [23?], after I had talked with her for some time, I took her by the hand and, before we parted, kissed her. And from this time I fear there was a mixture in my intention, though I was not soon sensible of it.


[TO BE CONTINUED]

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