John and Charles Wesley’s Sister Married a Polygamist
For those of you who will criticize me because I am condemning Luke Tyerman because he slandered the Reverend Westley Hall, read the following:
If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him [that which is] wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy [is], shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, [if] the witness [be] a false witness, [and] hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
Luke Tyerman is a false witness as you will read in this article. His slander against the Reverend Westley Hall took place around one hundred years after the death of the Reverend Hall when, in 1873, he published The Oxford Methodists. It is now around one hundred years after the death of Luke Tyerman. I will now show that Luke Tyerman is the very “monster and brute” that he falsely accused the Reverend Westley Hall of being. You be the judge.
The Reverend Westley Hall was a dedicated evangelist of the 18th Century who was also a polygamist. Many churches and Christian evangelicals supported him throughout his ministry knowing full well that he was a polygamist both in theory and in practice. Here is a summary of the Reverend Westley Hall’s family. It will soon be added to with additional footnotes.
First wife: Martha Wesley (The sister of John Wesley, founder of the Methodists and Charles Wesley, the greatest Christian Hymn writer.)
Second wife: Mrs. Betty Rogers Hall, was for a time, the Halls’ seamstress.1
Third and subsequent wives: Mrs. A. Hall, Mrs. E.R. Hall and others. I don’t know yet what order. (It was the custom of the time to give initials only for the names of anyone involved in a relationship that “polite society” didn’t consider proper.)2
Children by Martha: ten, all died before reaching adulthood.
Children by his other wives: many, from Ireland to America. I am still researching the descendents of Westley Hall.
The Reverend Westley Hall was the brother-in-law of John and Charles Wesley through his marriage to their sister, Martha Wesley. What made the Reverend Hall unique for his time, was that he openly taught that the Bible allows polygamy, and his wife Martha knew this. In our discussion of the Reverend Hall’s life, therefore, we must put aside bigotry and understand that the Reverend Hall took the women with whom he had relations as wives. [Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Hebrews 13:4]
Martha knew who she had married and trusted that his beliefs about marriage were based on the Bible, and they were. Now, in order to avoid such bigotry as has attended discussions of polygamy in the past, we must first expose the bigotry. We’ll begin by exposing the slander that has been fomented against the Reverend Westley Hall by Luke Tyerman in the last chapter of his book, The Oxford Methodists. He begins his attack with the first sentence of that chapter as follows:
“It is far from pleasant to conclude a book, in darkness and in pollution; but, in the present case, it cannot be avoided.”3
This attack against the Reverend Hall is unjustified. He was open about his polygamy so it can’t be said that he did anything in darkness. As for pollution? “Let marriage be held in honor among all.” Hebrews 13:4a. Reverend Hall only had relations with his wives, so to accuse him of pollution is to dishonor marriage itself.
Mr. Tyerman, astoundingly, is unmoved by the very facts of the Reverend Hall’s godly life, which, in page after page of Mr. Tyerman’s own book, Mr. Tyerman himself reveals! The facts of the Reverend Hall’s godly life are apparent to the reader but Mr. Tyerman, the expositor of those facts, is unable to take them to heart. His bigotry against polygamy colors nearly every judgment he makes about the Reverend Hall.4
In one paragraph he attacks the Reverend Hall for disciplining his son by putting him into a “dark closet.” Is Mr. Tyerman claiming that no monogamist mother or father has ever disciplined their child this way? No, what disturbs Mr. Tyerman is that Martha is nursing one of the Reverend Hall’s children by another wife when this disciplinary action takes place. Would Mr. Tyerman prefer that whenever Martha is nursing one of her husband’s children by another of his wives that their own children be allowed to misbehave? Is leaving children without discipline, loving? It’s clear that what really disturbs Mr. Tyerman is that Martha is not only willing to share her husband with other wives but she is willing to love the children of those other wives as if they are her own. Even going so far as to nurse them. It upsets Tyerman and others who hate polygamists when they see a polygamist family without strife since they boldly claim that this is always the case in polygamist marriages. Maybe they boldly lie that strife between wives is the rule in polygamist marriages because the fact is there are only three such cases of strife recorded between wives in the Bible who shared their husband; Sarah & Hagar, Leah & Rachel, and Peninnah & Hannah. That’s it! The fact is that there are more verses concerning strife between a husband and his wife in a monogamous marriage than there are verses concerning strife between the wives in a polygamous marriage but we don’t use that discord in monogamous marriages as grounds for condemning them. It’s bigotry, impure and simple, that leads men to condemn polygamy for the scriptures certainly don’t do it.
It’s clear that the lack of discord in the Reverend Hall’s family so upset Mr. Tyerman’s stereotyped view of polygamous families that he felt compelled to condemn even the slightest infraction on the part of the husband. It is of note that in the twenty five pages written by Mr. Tyerman about the life of the Reverend Westley Hall that he was unable to document even one word of discord between the Reverend Hall and his wives or even between the wives! Furthermore, Mr. Tyerman continued the sin of his dark generation of religionists by leaving the names of the other wives and their children out of his account. Are we to believe that the Reverend Hall, who blessed Martha with ten, yes, ten conceptions, had no children to survive him through any of his other wives?
Finding himself without any first hand evidence with which to attack the Reverend Westley Hall, Luke Tyerman selects a jury of sorts by which he slanderously prosecutes his case, and who makes up that jury? The in-laws! Yes, that’s exactly whose word he takes. I wonder how many of you would like the history of your actions here on earth to be judged by your in-laws, and then, only those in-laws who have uttered words against you. I can hear you protesting now, “Please, choose from any of my enemies, but don’t let my in-laws judge me!”
However, Mr. Tyerman’s efforts to tarnish the Reverend Westley Hall’s godly life fail again as he tries to paint a picture of the evil polygamist through the eyes of his in-laws. He quotes Samuel Wesley, Martha’s brother as follows:
“It is certainly true of that marriage; it will not, and it cannot come to good.”5
Martha’s brother, Samuel, penned these lines, upset that his other sister Kezziah had gone to live with Martha and her husband, the Reverend Westley Hall. Tyerman writes that Samuel “was also wishful to have Kezziah beneath his roof, if his brother John would continue to allow her fifty pounds a year.”3 Fifty pounds a year! That’s a sum equal to well over $500 a month in today’s dollars.
Instead of succeeding in painting a portrait of an evil polygamist, Tyerman leads us to believe that the Wesleys are stingy in caring for the needs of their spinster sister. Samuel, who will not support his sister, begrudges Kezziah the support of her sister Martha and brother-in-law, the Reverend Westley Hall.
The reason for the family’s initial hostility toward the Reverend Hall can be traced back to his proposal to Martha, followed by his proposal to her sister Kezziah, and then finally in his marriage to Martha. Before explaining the details of this confusing courtship I must first make clear to you that the Reverend Westley Hall did not marry both of the sisters.
The following is Mr. Tyerman’s outline of Dr. Adam Clarke’s account:
“About the year 1734, Westley Hall met Martha at her uncle’s house in London, proposed to marry her, and, without the knowledge of her parents, or her brothers, was accepted. He then accompanied John and Charles to Epworth, and there saw Kezziah, grew enamoured of her, courted, and obtained her consent, and that of the family in general, to marry him; all of them being ignorant of his pre-engagement with Martha. Returning to London, Hall renewed his addresses to “poor Patty,” [Martha] who was completely unconscious of what had transpired at Epworth. She wrote to her mother, stating that for some time past, she had been betrothed to Hall. Kezziah, on learning this, renounced all claim to him. The mother wrote to Martha, assuring her, “that, if she obtained the consent of her uncle, there was no obstacle” to the marriage. The uncle raised no objection; gave Martha a dowry of 500 pounds; and the wedding was completed.”
Tyerman admits that if there were some horrible misstep on the part of the Reverend Hall, as opposed to any misstep on the part of Martha or Kezziah, that it is “unaccountable” that Susanna Wesley, Martha’s mother, would have then and for her whole life, held such a “high opinion” of the Reverend Hall. I can’t help but wonder if there was something that only their mother knew, but for the sake of honor did not disclose. No, I’m not saying that either Martha or Kezziah committed some fornication. What I’m saying is that there certainly could have been a break in the engagement between Martha and the Reverend Hall that permitted him to court her sister. This break could have been repaired once Martha realized she was going to lose Westley to her own sister, Kezziah. Likewise, Kezziah, upon finding out that her sister, Martha, had overplayed her hand but still loved Westley, Kezziah, now having second thoughts concerning marriage on any account, could simply have decided to give him up. Reverend Hall’s own beliefs concerning marriage and polygamy could have been enough for Kezziah to resign herself to his love but not to his affections. Living under his roof so soon after her sister’s marriage to him is evidence, if not proof, of this supposition.
It’s baffling how Tyerman ignores the character references for the Reverend Hall that are given by Susanna Wesley, the oft lauded matriarch of the Wesley evangelical legacy. Susanna’s actions speak loudly as well for she moves in with her daughter Martha and the Reverend Hall within one year of her son Samuel’s complaint that his sister Kezziah had done so. Any partial observer would have to agree that the Reverend Hall and his wife Martha kept a wonderful household. In fact, in addition to gracing the likes of Susanna Wesley, the Reverend and Mrs. Westley Hall were hosts to George Whitefield [the leading figure in the eighteenth century American revival known as the Great Awakening] while he was on his way to Wales.6 Another occasion that showed Westley Hall’s gracious manner was “when Whitefield and [John] Wesley quarreled respecting the doctrine of ‘Free Grace,’ and Whitefield declared his intention to attack Wesley and his brother [Charles] wherever he went, Westley Hall assumed the office of peacemaker, waited upon Whitefield, and reminded him of a promise, he had made, ‘that whatever his private opinion was, he would never publicly preach against’ them.”7 Here is what Susanna Wesley wrote concerning the Reverend Westley Hall and his wife Martha Wesley Hall in a letter dated August 5, 1737:
“Mr. Hall and his wife are very good to me. He behaves like a gentleman and a Christian; and my daughter with as much duty and tenderness as can be expressed.”8
A little over two years later, on September 3, 1739, John Wesley wrote in his journal:
“I talked largely with my mother, who told me, that, till a short time since, she had scarce heard such a thing mentioned as the having God’s spirit bearing witness with our spirit: much less did she imagine that this was the common privilege of all true believers. ‘Therefore,’ said she, ‘I never durst ask for it myself. But two or three weeks ago, while my son Hall was pronouncing those words, in delivering the cup to me, -The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee,-the words struck my heart, and I knew, God, for Christ’s sake, had forgiven me all my sins.'”
Three years later, Charles Wesley confirmed in a poem at his mother’s funeral that it was at the moment that his mother received the communion cup from Westley Hall that she first felt her sins forgiven:
In sure and steadfast hope to rise
And claim her mansion in the skies
A Christian here her flesh laid down
The cross exchanging for a crown
True daughter of affliction, she
Inured to pain and misery
Mourn’d a long night of griefs and fears
A legal night of seventy years
The Father then revealed his Son
Him in the broken bread made known
She knew and felt her sins forgiven
And found the earnest of her heaven
Meet for the fellowship above
She heard the call, “Arise, my love!”
“I come!” her dying looks replied
And, lamb-like as her Lord, she died.
It’s clear from Charles Wesley’s poem that despite his disagreements with the Reverend Westley Hall that Charles Wesley indeed credited Hall with being the instrument of God in uttering those precious words of assurance to his mother. He said no less than that in the words of his poem. “The Father then revealed his Son, Him in the broken bread made known, She knew and felt her sins forgiven.”
At the very least, the Reverend Hall’s “pronouncing those words” opened Susanna Wesley’s heart to the assurance of salvation. Some could argue that Susanna Wesley was not even saved before the moment about which she says, “the words struck my heart, and I knew, God, for Christ’s sake, had forgiven me all my sins.”
In light of this, we must use caution in judging the Reverend Hall. There is no reason to believe that he was anything other than a man of honor, and one who preached the gospel. There are details as to his doctrinal positions that I won’t address, simply because they are of a denominational nature. It is sufficient to say that most of today’s Christians would be closer to the Reverend Westley Hall in their understanding of salvation and the role of any church hierarchy in their lives than they would be to his brothers-in-law, the Wesleys, who pledged their allegiance to the Church of England insofar as she was considered an extension of Rome.
Regardless of anyone’s views on the Reverend Westley Hall it is of note that “The unrest of Mr. Wesley’s (John) mind was deepened by correspondence with the Rev. Westley Hall, who had urged him to renounce the Church of England. At that time, Mr. Wesley believed in apostolical succession and the offering of an outward sacrifice by the priest. These dogmas were soon afterwards given up by him.”9
So we see that the Reverend Westley Hall has had an influence on our very institutions for he was the man who convinced John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, that our churches are not to be branches of Rome but indeed we are to stand with Jesus only as our mediator between each one of us and God the Father. These ideas were not unique to the Reverend Westley Hall but he was the one that introduced them with effect to John Wesley. [1 Timothy 2:5 For [there is] one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;]
Despite these facts, Tyerman continues through his chapter about the Reverend Westley Hall to spout one hateful sentence after another with not so much as one piece of evidence that the Reverend Hall ever wronged his first wife, Martha, or anyone of his other wives, friends, or associates. Tyerman slanders the Reverend Hall with one comparison after another to sinners of the past. He begins by comparing Reverend Hall to Reuben, the son of Jacob, who took his own father’s wife! Did the Reverend Westley Hall ever do such a thing? Never, not even in the wildest slanders against him, was it ever alleged that he did such a thing. So why exactly does Luke Tyerman hate the Reverend Westley Hall, even going so far as to call him “Reuben redivivus?” [Reuben revived.] The answer is simple, like most religionists who disagree with polygamy, it’s not enough for them to simply disagree and state the differences. It’s not enough because they have no facts on their side. It’s literally not enough. They have no scriptures, no precedent, their entire argument is based on feelings and those feelings, are not from love, but hatred. The twisting of scriptures to paint an evil picture of polygamists begins with their quoting the Bible concerning Lamech. Lamech, who they claim is the first polygamist, acts in self defense by killing his attacker, but we’ll overlook this obvious fact for a moment and use the anti-polygamists illogic to expose their own error. They claim Adam as the model on which we should base our marriages and say that he was a monogamist. Ok, let’s accept that at face value. Look what horror befalls Adam, the monogamist. He has but one wife, so not wishing to lose her he commits the original sin in accepting the forbidden fruit, thereby causing untold suffering not to mention the sacrificial death of our Lord and Savior Jesus in order to wipe that original sin away. Then his tiny monogamist family which is limited to just one birth per year, turns inward upon itself with the first born of a monogamist murdering the second born of a monogamist and then going out to be a monogamist himself! Oh what horrors monogamy causes! Of course I’m jesting. You know and I know that such arguments are ridiculous but such are the arguments of anti-polygamists against the polygamists.
Without any valid arguments against polygamy, it’s not surprising that the anti-polygamists stoop to name calling, the last bastion of liberals which is what all religionists are. The religionists follow the teachings of man and an imperfect and evolving culture over the perfect teachings of our Lord as found in the pages of the Bible. Their name calling amounts to bearing false testimony which Jesus stated leads to murder.
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Matthew 5:21,22
Do you ever get the feeling that those who oppose polygamy would like to see the polygamists dead? If you have never been on the receiving end of such hatred, just try an experiment. Tell your friends in church that polygamy is acceptable to God and that no woman should oppose her husband in his desires to take another wife. Then duck for cover. They’ll spew venom as never you thought they could. The kind people that you thought you knew will hate you and will not use the Bible against you except when they take it entirely out of context. They’ll stoop to slandering every polygamist who ever walked the earth, including King David.
Now, back to Mr. Tyerman who hates the Reverend Hall because, in his words, “The man became a professed polygamist.” Mr. Tyerman sees no reason to justify his calling the Reverend Westley Hall a “monster and a brute” because he simply considers any polygamist a monster and a brute. If this is not his reason for condemning Mr. Hall with these words, then what is? What sin has the Reverend Hall committed? Has he beat his wife? No. Has he yelled at her and berated her? No. Has he beaten the children? No. Then what could it be? What could Mr. Tyerman be referring to when he accuses the Reverend Westley Hall of being a “monster and a brute?” He’s referring to one thing; the fact that the Reverend Hall agreed with Martin Luther, John Milton, and other eminent theologians and writers of the reformation and the centuries following it, that a man has a right to have more than one wife, and moreover, that the Reverend Hall followed in the custom of certain close relatives of the Wesleys by actually taking more than one wife. Luke Tyerman, in fact, has absolutely no justification for any of the bigoted adjectives that he ascribes to the Reverend Westley Hall. Luke Tyerman hates polygamists so he thinks that he can call them all manner of name without justification. If you’re against polygamy then you’ve likely participated in the same slanders even if those slanders have only been within the confines of your mind because there are no scriptures against polygamy. I am waiting till this day for anyone who has visited any of my websites to produce once such verse and I’ve had well over a million readers since my ministry began. Thousands who hate my ministry have sent me comments through the comment form on this website but most have not even had the guts to give their real email address. Not one of those critics has given any verse banning polygamy because there are none.
There is a stark contrast between the Reverend Westley Hall’s happy polygamous marriages, including saint like descriptions of his wife, Martha, and the unhappy monogamous marriage of his brother-in-law, John Wesley. John Wesley’s wife “traveled with him for some time, but soon very naturally grew dissatisfied with a life so restless and so incompatible with the tastes and convenience of her sex. Unwilling to travel herself, she became equally dissatisfied with her husband’s habitual absence. Her discontent took at last the form of a monomaniacal jealousy. During twenty years she persecuted him with unfounded suspicions and intolerable annoyances. She repeatedly deserted him, but returned at his own earnest instance. She opened, interpolated, and then exposed to his enemies his correspondence, and sometimes traveled a hundred miles to see, from a window, who accompanied him in his carriage. At last, taking with her portions of his Journals and papers, which she never restored, she left him with the assurance that she would never return.”10
“Mrs. Hall was never heard to speak of her husband but with kindness. She often expressed wonder that women should profess to love their husbands, and yet dwell upon their faults, or indeed upon those of their friends. She was never known to speak evil of any person.”11
It can only be guessed as to where the Reverend Westley Hall first got it in his mind to become a polygamist but it would have been impossible for the Reverend Hall not to have known that the cousin of his wife’s grandfather had been a polygamist since the case of the latter’s son was the legal case of the century. In fact, the case of James Annesley, the son of that cousin, Lord Altham, Earl of Anglesea, is often cited as the precedent setting case for Attorney Client Privilege.
Had Mr. Tyerman referred to Lord Altham, the cousin of Martha Wesley Hall’s grandfather, as a monster and a brute, I would have had no argument with him, because after Lord Altham took a second wife, he sent away the first, in effect, divorcing her without any legal proceedings or Bill of Divorcement, then upon the urging of his second wife, Lord Altham sent away even the son that his first wife had borne him. Worse yet, he spread the rumor that this, his own son, had died, effectively disinheriting him! This son, James Annesley, had barely reached the tender age of ten when he became a homeless vagabond in the London streets. Three years later, the other cousin of Martha Wesley Hall’s grandfather, Richard, sent James away on a boat to be sold in America as a slave. After many years, James was able to return to England.12 His case was heard at the bar of the Court of Exchequer in Dublin. Howell’s State Trials refers to it as “the longest trial ever known, lasting fifteen days, and the jury, most of them, gentlemen of the greatest property in Ireland, and almost all members of parliament.” Richard Annesley, Lord Altham’s cousin who had by default gained the estate, lost the case to the rightful heir, James Annesley, but continued to appeal, even to “his Majesty for his seat in the Houses of Peers of both kingdoms.” The rightful heir, James Annesley, ran out of money to fight the appeals and died penniless. His case could not have escaped the attention of the Wesleys by 1741, when he returned from America by way of Jamaica and news of it hit the tabloids.13
Now there was another Annesley of whom the brothers John and Charles Wesley as well as their brother-in-law, the Reverend Westley Hall must have been acutely aware, their mother’s great uncle, the first Earl of Anglesea. He was an intimate of John Milton, having received many of his publications prior to release and a few that were not released till after the death of John Milton.14 It’s clear that this ancestor of the Wesleys would have been privy to Milton’s teachings on divorce and polygamy for within the circle of John Milton, biblical divorce and its kinder alternative, Christian polygamy, were daily topics for discussion. Dryden, had worked in the same office with Milton and is fondly remembered as the author of the following poem:
In pious times, ere priestcraft did begin,
before polygamy was made a sin;
When man on many multiplied his kind,
Ere one to one was cursedly confined;
When nature prompted, and no law denied
Promiscuous use of concubine and bride;
Then Israel’s monarch after heaven’s own heart,
His vigorous warmth did variously impart
To wives and slaves; and, wide as his command,
Scattered his maker’s image through the land.
It was not just the Reverend Westley Hall’s polygamy that Luke Tyerman disagreed with. It was the Reverend Hall’s brand of evangelicalism that opposed popery as well as those churches, which included the Anglican church, that taught that their own authority came from Rome. In the Reverend Westley Hall’s own poem to his son by Martha he warns his son against following in the traditions of Rome, something that nearly every member of every Baptist church in America heard regularly till the last few decades. Tyerman condemns him for opposing Romish doctrines instead of praising him for trusting in God’s word alone. Here is a portion of what the Reverend Westley Hall wrote for his son with which you’ll likely agree:
“Inspired with frantic, false, fanatic zeal,
See, with what rage, they threat damnation, -hell,
To all who fair expose the wretched lies,
The frauds, the follies, falsehood, forgeries,
Of Romish fathers, councils, canons, schools,
Impostors’ orders, monks’ and madmen’s rules.”
I cannot imagine one Baptist minister prior to the 1960s who wouldn’t delight in reading the words of the Reverend Westley Hall’s poem. Yet Tyerman hides behind quotes of the late Dr. Clarke to condemn the Reverend Hall for a poem most Evangelical Christians would agree with. The quote of Dr. Clarke without Tyerman raising so much as one objection to its tenor is as follows:
“The whole is a miserable Deistical address, strongly advising his son to follow the dictates of his own nature, as the best way of fulfilling the purposes of his Creator.”
The word “Deistical” is of note for as early as the 16th century, Viret recognized the use of the it as a pejorative, an insult, not used to truly describe a person’s beliefs but to label them with a bigoted word which was widely used against anyone who dared speak against the Church of England.15
As I uncover the facts concerning the Reverend Westley Hall’s wives and children I will add them to this article. It is my hope that others will find additional information that can be added to this as well.
There is an unbroken timeline of polygamous discussion and practice all the way from Martin Luther into the nineteenth century and at the very least, the Wesleys were descendents of those who passed forward some of the most literary of these discussions.
A final note: The Reverend Westley Hall is accused by Mr. Tyerman of “deserting Martha.” If Billy Graham is guilty of deserting his wife during long evangelical tours then I will accept that other evangelists are guilty of it but if Billy Graham is excused of it, then so is the Reverend Hall. Some have accused the Reverend Hall of leaving his wife without support by citing records of John Wesley giving financial support to Martha during the period that the Reverend Hall was away on mission. Considering that the Reverend Hall supported John & Charles Wesley’s own mother for nearly seven years and John & Charles Wesley’s own sister, Kezziah, for about the same number of years, the small favor of helping him make sure support got to his wife during his missionary absence was nothing. The fact is that the Reverend Hall was receiving support from other Christians during his missionary absence and who more likely to have taken care of his finances during that time than John Wesley, the brother-in-law whose relatives the Reverend Hall had helped support for so many years. It was no secret that the wives of ministers and missionaries were being provided for out of a fund that John Wesley had indeed administered “as measures had been adopted“ “to relieve the preachers from dependence upon secular business for a maintenance, another step forward for their support, and toward the permanent organization of the lay ministry, was now taken by the enactment of a regular circuit collection for an ‘allowance’ to their wives.“16
The Reverend Hall, at great risk to life and limb, crossed the ocean to spread the gospel in Barbados. It appears that two of his wives, Mrs. E.R. Hall & Mrs. A Hall, accompanied him to Barbados.2 We have no account of why Martha did not wish to. From the following account of the adventures of the Reverend Westley Hall in Barbados it’s clear that his mission was very dangerous.
“Ten negroes broke into his house; one of whom was upon the point of cutting his throat when E. R. knocked him down with a pewter pot; which put the rest into such confusion that she had time to secure herself and her children, and Mr. H. to leap out of a balcony.”
Did the Reverend Hall sin? Of course, but not by taking more than one wife. I’m not claiming that he was perfect, only that he led just as godly of a life as his brothers-in-law, the Wesleys. He practiced what he preached; that polygamy is not forbidden by the Bible. The Reverend Westley Hall was correct in this as has been proven in many of the articles on this website.
The Reverend Westley Hall led many to a saving knowledge of Jesus, not the least of which was Susanna Wesley, mother of the Wesleys. It is my hope that this article will be the beginning of many articles and possibly even books that will rehabilitate the reputation of the Reverend Westley Hall that has been so wrongly tarnished by the slander of men such as Luke Tyerman.
It is of note that after the Reverend Westley Hall went to be with the Lord that his wife, Martha, enjoyed the company of Dr. Samuel Johnson, famous in the 18th century for having authored the most popular dictionary of his era, A Dictionary of the English Language, and his publication, The Rambler, a twice weekly periodical published from 1750-1752:
“She [Martha Westley Hall] dined often with Dr. Johnson at Bolt-Court; he ardently admired her, and even wished her to reside in his own house with Mesdames Williams and DuMoulin.“17 This is of particular interest since Samuel Johnson had admitted to fantasies of having a seraglio.(harem)18
1. In a letter dated December 26, 1761, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodists wrote to his Brother Charles Wesley concerning a number of things. One of them was the subject of his polygamous brother, the Reverend Westley Hall.
John Wesley wrote:
“Is it right that my sister Patty should suffer Mr. Hall to live with her? I almost scruple giving her the sacrament, seeing he does not even pretend to renounce Betty Rogers.”
Notice what John Wesley says, “giving her the sacrament,” in reference to whether he should give his sister Martha (Patty) communion since she stays with her polygamist husband whose other wife is Betty Rogers. John thinks that Martha should at least be condemning her husband, which she never did. To have a brother-in-law who is a polygamist is one thing to John Wesley but that his sister should never say a word against it is quite another.
2. John Wesley – Wesley Journal, Volume 4
“I was well pleased to have some conversation with Mrs. A——1, lately come from Barbados. [One of the Reverend Westley Hall’s wives and so recognized here by John Wesley. His lack of condemnation of polygamy here may be in deference to the fact that this is his journal and not a letter containing personal opinions.] She [One of Westley Hall’s wives] gave me an account of her poor husband (first a red-hot Predestinarian, talking of God’s ‘ blowing whole worlds to hell,’ then a Quaker, now a Deist); as also of the narrow escape which Mr. H. lately had : ‘Ten negroes broke into his house; one of whom was upon the point of cutting his throat when E. R. [supposedly Westley Hall’s favorite wife] knocked him down with a pewter pot; which put the rest into such confusion that she had time to secure herself and her children, and Mr. H. to leap out of a balcony.'”
Notice that E.R. had children and of course it’s likely that all of the Reverend Hall’s wives had children. I will be researching what happened to these children.
The Reverend Hall was certainly acting in the capacity of a missionary in Barbados but we are not made aware of who was supporting him. Unlike the Reverend Martin Madan, the Reverend Westley Hall was not a rich man. He would have needed support in his mission work. Imagine, an 18th century Christian missionary who was also a known polygamist and who still received all the support he needed from the folks back home! Any condemnations by the many biographers of the Reverend Westley Hall must therefore be expected to answer the question: If the Reverend Westley Hall was such a horrible person, why did the ministers and churches with whom he was associated continue to support him, full well knowing that he lived with more than one wife during his mission to Barbados as well as during his evangelistic outreaches back home? In regards to the Reverend Hall’s change of denominations, that is not uncommon, even today. We would hope that Christians who read their Bible will discover a deeper meaning each day and if led by God to another denomination will follow the Lord’s leading. As for the word deist. It is a pejorative, a word used to insult, which does not carry the dictionary meaning but simply means one who does not follow the established church which we must admit, at the time, was the Church of England.
3. Page 386 The Oxford Methodists by Luke Tyerman Copyright 1873
4. Comparisons to “Judas Iscariot” and “Reuben” are given on the opening page of Luke Tyerman’s slanderous account of the Reverend Westley Hall. He refers to the account of Reverend Westley Hall to be “nauseous.” You would think that if the Reverend Westley Hall were so “nauseous” that at least once in the 42 years that he was an ordained minister that he would have been publicly condemned by those that surrounded him. Yet, not once did any of his peers bring charges against him where two or three could hear.
5. Page 391 The Oxford Methodists by Luke Tyerman Copyright 1873
6. George Whitefield: God’s Anointed Servant in the Great Revival of the Eighteenth Century By Arnold A. Dallimore Copyright 1990 Page 45
7. Page 395 The Oxford Methodists by Luke Tyerman Copyright 1873, Wesley’s Works Volume 1 Page 286
8. Clarke’s Wesley Family, Volume 2 Page 106
9. Memoirs of the life of sir Walter Scott by John Gibson Lockhart Copyright 1850 Page 768 Narrative of the Life of James Annesley
10. Page 370 The History of the Religious Movement of the Eighteenth Century, Called Methodism. Volume 1
By Abel Stevens, LL.D.
11. Page 577 Memoirs of the Wesley Family
By Adam Clarke
12. The details of this case are given in A Complete Collection of State Trials and Proceedings for High Treason and Other Crimes and Misdemeanors from the earliest period till the year 1783 by T.B. Howell, Esq. F.R.S. F.S.A.Copyright 1816
13. Cyclop�dia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature By John McClintock, James Strong Copyright 1895 Page 938
14. Page 209 Some account of the life and writings of John Milton
By Henry John Todd 1826
15. “‘Deist’ was a pejorative label first coined by Pierre Viret in the context of mid sixteenth century confessional debate to indict those, on authority of their own consciences took it upon themselves to challenge the articles of Calvinist Orthodoxy.” “‘Deists’, depending upon who used the word about whom, did not necessarily have any precise content.”
The Columbia History of Western Philosophy, ed R.R. Popkin Page 2
Now the fact is that the Reverend Westley Hall was a Calvinist and his only so-called unorthodoxy was that he accepted what the Bible said, that there was no sin in taking more than one wife.
16. Page 441 The History of the Religious Movement of the Eighteenth Century, Called Methodism. Volume 1
By Abel Stevens, LL.D.
17: Page 53 The History of the Religious Movement of the Eighteenth Century, Called Methodism. Volume 1
By Abel Stevens, LL.D.
18. Samuel Johnson said, “I have often thought that, if I kept a seraglio, the ladies should all wear linen gowns, or cotton–I Mean stuffs made of vegetable substances. I would have no silk; you cannot tell when it is clean; it will be very nasty before it is perceived to be so. Linen detects its own dirtiness.”
Page 182 The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL. D.: Together with The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
By James Boswell, ESQ.
Note: Copyright 2006 Don Milton All Rights Reserved