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In the eighteenth century God used men such as John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards to bring spiritual revival to both Britain and America – but what about the women in their lives? What was it like to live and work with such dynamic and demanding men?
While looking through the lens of history, Clare Heath–Whyte draws out lessons for today, via the honest portraits of these seven unique women.
From godliness to bitterness, hostility to courage, the lives of these extraordinary women point us to a faithful God, even in the midst of the most difficult of life’s scenarios.
Old Wives’ Tales is more than just an historical account of the lives of seven eighteenth century wives. With vivid and colourful detail, Clare Heath–Whyte records the stories of these women who would mostly be unheard of if it wasn’t for their famous husbands, but whose lives have much to teach women today about living for and serving Jesus wholeheartedly. They are not all great examples to follow; Clare is honest about the weaknesses and failings of these women. But there are lessons to learn from each and the readers are challenged to consider whether similar attitudes or habits are hindering godliness and spiritual growth in their own lives. The book includes a couple of stories of “extraordinary” women, whose opportunities and gifts were wonderfully used by God in unique ways. But most are ordinary, facing the same temptations and frustrations of women today, but seeking to honour God in their lives. As a minister’s wife, I couldn’t help but be inspired by Elizabeth Whitefield’s sacrificial spirit and godly perspective on family life. I was equally repelled by the bitterness of Molly Wesley and challenged by Clare’s prompts to assess my attitudes in comparison. The faith of Sarah Edwards, the generosity and servant–heartedness of Selina, Countess of Huntington and the humility of Mary Newton will encourage any woman (or man!) wanting to honour the Lord in the situations he has placed them in. Despite the many obvious cultural differences, the challenge of living a godly life in an ungodly society was as real in the eighteenth century as it is today, so this book is hugely relevant and helpful. The questions at the end of each chapter are thought–provoking and Biblically challenging. I thoroughly recommend it!
This book is so refreshing! Clare introduced me to real women. The wife who used all her wealth to promote the Gospel inspired me. The wife who undermined her husband’s joy and work warned me. Before I read this book I worried that I would be condemned by the perfect lives of these wives. Instead, I found that they needed God’s grace and forgiveness every day … like me!
Reading Christian biographies can sometimes leave us feeling inadequate in comparison, but this book in contrast presents seven very real women complete with weaknesses, failures, and imperfections. Although they lived at a very different time and in a very different culture each encounter challenges us to consider our attitudes to our own circumstances today. This is a great introduction not only to these women who served God in the past but also to an important period in church history. It will be a wonderful resource for women’s groups as it comes complete with bible studies at the end of each chapter.
I loved Claire Heath–Whyte’s book about real women, striving to live faithfully for Christ in a culture that was hostile to the Christian message. These 18th Century women seem strangely familiar – they struggled in their relationships with others and with God. Their lives were by no means perfect and some of them were not even that interesting. The unbelieving world criticised them and held them up to ridicule. Claire’s book shows us how God works in and through his people despite their failings and difficulties. A great book for personal encouragement or for reading with a group.
Both men and women, young and old alike, will benefit from this terrific book on some of the great evangelical women of church history. It made me pray for more like them, in zeal and in godliness, and could be one of the instruments God uses to answer that very prayer.
These women have mostly gone unrecognised; and may not have themselves believed that their lives held any significance. Nevertheless, these wives and mothers show us how much influence each of us can have by simply living the life God has given us for Him. A truly worthwhile read.
Relating our experience to history is something many of us love to do. This excellent book, featuring wives from the 18th Century, gives an extraordinary insight into women’s lives and how each approached serving Christ. Each is so different and yet there are some aspects of life described that make the reader feel very at home. There are others that are challenging and some that could be described as disturbing. I challenge anyone not to finish this book – it will inspire, challenge and entertain as we continue to be Christian wives in the 21st Century.
Pastors, ministers and male church workers should buy this book and give it to their wives, to encourage them as they encourage us. been a good help to do so personally
During my annual summer book reading fest, this is the one I devoured the quickest. Old Wives’ Tales is an engaging and honest look at women mainly married to great Christian leaders of the 18th century. These well researched stories are fascinating and Clare’s contemporary and compelling style of writing had me hooked from the beginning. Although the book marches along at quite a brisk pace, I still found myself emotionally involved. Several times I caught myself gasping with disbelief, wiping away a tear and even laughing out loud. This book, however, is much more than just a riveting read. Firstly, it’s humbling. I found so much in these stories to admire and spur me on. These women helped me to realise how petty my problems often are and how pathetic my response can be. Secondly, it’s encouraging. Clare’s warts ‘n all approach dispels some of the unhelpful romantic myths surrounding many of these women (and their husbands). They were not super–humans created to make us feel inadequate, but weak vessels who, like us, God chose to use. Thirdly, it’s liberating. It reminded me there are no magic formulas for happy marriages, saved children or successful ministries. At the end of the day everything is dependent on God’s grace. Our role is simply to follow him faithfully. Fourthly, it’s challenging. I loved the concept of autobiographies with direct personal challenges throughout. A Bible study at the end of each story looks at some of the aspects covered, making it suitable not only for personal reflection but also for small groups and book clubs. Finally, this book is relevant. Clare skilfully convinced me that the lives and struggles of modern women today are not really so different to those in the 18th century, but, more importantly, that Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
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