How Can Little Become Much?

“…’If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, Move from here to there,’ and it will move, Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt. 17:20 HCSB    

I received extraordinary encouragement from the book “Fierce Convictions-The Extraordinary Life of  HANNAH MORE-Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist “.  Though she is little heard of, yet she had a great influence as a Christian woman in the 18th century.  It so greatly inspired me, I  am going to share with you a few bits and pieces of it.  After all, she also lived to the age of 88 and was not idle in her service.   She serves as a great example to us in our senior years.

Early Years of Life

Briefly about her beginnings, she was born in 1745 near Bristol, England.  In those days ladies were only supposed to be learning cooking, sewing, embroidery, dancing, etc.  But Hannah had such a thirst for knowledge that her parents encouraged her and provided opportunity  whenever they could for her to learn others subjects as well, like classical languages and mathematics.

Hannah was one of five girls.  The family plan was for the girls to open a school of their own since teaching was the only profession acceptable for woman of that  period.  This they did with the oldest of the sisters at aged 20 being the headmistress and second oldest supporting her.  Hannah was only 13 when they started and was a pupil at  first but became a teacher at the ripe old age of 16 in this school.  They taught subjects like French,  Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Needlework as well.  It was quite unheard of in those days and caused quite a stir, but it was profitable enough for the sisters to retire in 1789 after 30 years.   Then they handed it over to a former pupil who kept it open to at least 1808.  Their financial management, high principles, and benevolence led to the success of that school.

This school was only the beginning.  Through its students, the school became connected to the theater.  As a pupil, Hannah, had started writing poetry.  It was well known that she had writing talent.  Through the theater, she cultivated social connections that gave her opportunity to write more.  She even wrote plays that were performed at the theater.  She even made the 120 mile trip by coach to London Theater Royal annually, and did so for 35 yrs.   Hannah developed some close friendships and remained close friends with Eva Garrick (whose husband managed the theater) for 43 yrs after his death.

Hannah never married though she did receive a couple of proposals.  The engagement lasted 6 years and the prospective groom backed down three times, after which Hannah had had enough and refused any other offer after that.  For that matter, none of the five sisters ever married.  Either they were really close or maybe after seeing what happened to Hannah, they decided not to pursue that avenue.

Spiritual Growth

Though Hannah had come to faith while young,  John Wesley was a major influence, having built a chapel in 1739 a few miles from the Mores’ home.    It naturally took some years, but she did grow from just plain ‘piety’ to ‘an understanding’  to ‘the heart’, but it was a process that started in her family.  Her faith was a ‘religion of the heart’ in her day and age.

During the years of her society life in London, she read a book called Cardiphonia by John Newton (wrote Amazing Grace.)  Over several years following , she became increasingly unhappy with life in high society and turned more fully toward the Christian faith she had assumed all her life but not completely embraced fully.  She went to visit Newton’s church to talk which led to another step toward an increasingly evangelical and personal faith.  Hannah began perceiving how evil slavery.  William Wilberforce who was a member of parliament; spear headed the legal efforts to end slavery.  He and Hannah became close friends in this battle.  What William did in the public sphere, Hannah did in the private sphere.  It wasn’t till the end of both their lives that they accomplished their goal, but it was something that they worked on together through out the remainder of their lives.

One other thing worth mentioning was the struggle to relieve the suffering of the people in the neighboring village where the More sisters lived.  They talked and decided to start a “Sunday School.”  Sunday schools in those days were schools held on Sundays for poor children because they have no means for formal instruction.  Sundays were the only days the children did not have to ‘work.’  The sisters scoured the countryside.  Patty and Hannah rode on horseback and on foot to talk, explain, cajole, bribe, beg, for children to have the privilege to go to school.   When it finally started, they taught reading, arithmetic, Bible, catechism, knitting and spinning.  She worked with the Sunday schools for over 30 yrs.  They closed after her death but became the basis for primary schools  educating English children today.

Hannah did suffer illnesses during her life also.  Many of the symptoms she suffered sound a lot like migraines of our day and possible clinical depression.   The very thing that sustained her to the end was prayer.  Her convictions and passions did not change in the end of her life; touching many areas of life, literature, education, morality, religion, and abolition.  If a woman of this time period who didn’t have all the advantages we have; could live such a godly, moral influence and example; how can those of us who have so many advantages not strive to do the same?  Hers sounds like a life well lived.  Though she did not have what we do today, yet she had much influence.  I encourage others to read to see how this ‘little’ lady became much to inspire them to do the same.

 “Forgiveness is the economy of the heart. Forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits.”– Hannah More

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