Mary Redfern lived in the small English village of Haddon in Derbyshire. Her mother was bedfast, and all the care for her eight younger siblings fell onto Mary’s shoulders. One day in 1769, she heard a commotion in the street. A little man was preaching before a crowd in the open. His name was John Wesley.

Soon after, Richard Boardman, one of Wesley’s evangelists, came preaching. He had recently lost his wife, and his demeanor was tender and poignant. He spoke from 1 Chronicles 4:9 about Jabez, “the most respected son in his family.” Mary was deeply moved and never forgot the story of Jabez. She moved to Manchester, married, and named her firstborn Jabez. And when Wesley preached in Manchester’s Oldham Street Church Mary brought little Jabez. The great evangelist touched the child and blessed him.

Little did he know he was blessing his future successor.

Young Jabez often heard Wesley preach, and he developed a great love for the gospel. As a lad he would walk miles to hear preaching, returning to deliver his own little sermons to long-suffering sisters, using his father’s shirts as ministerial robes. When 19 he preached his first official sermon in Sodom, near Manchester, and shortly thereafter he was ordained to the ministry.

Jabez quickly advanced in Methodism, but he often proved hardheaded and strong-willed. When he rose to leadership following Wesley’s death, he ruled with a strong hand. His slogan was: “Methodism hates democracy as it hates sin.” One of several controversies occurred on September 9, 1825, when the Brunswick Chapel opened in Leeds, England. A dispute arose over whether an organ should be installed. Many members opposed it, but Bunting and the leaders installed it anyway. The organ, it was later said, cost 1,000 pounds and 1,000 Methodists. Jabez was called the Pope of Methodism. But he preached a clear gospel and brought Methodist theological training and world missions into their own. His influence lasts to this day.

You must watch over everyone God has placed in your care. Do it willingly in order to please God, and not simply because you think you must. Don’t be bossy to those people who are in your care, but set an example for them. (1 Peter 5:2b,3)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). Sept. 9.

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