In 1738, John and Charles Wesley vowed that neither would wed without first receiving the other's approval. For one brother the agreement confirmed a lifelong love, but for the other it probably ruined any chance for happiness.

Back in 1736 John had found his first love, Sophia Hopkey, in Georgia. A good-natured girl of 18, "Miss Sophy," as John always called her, was one of his first friends in America. John, then 33, felt his heart drawn to her but resolved to watch himself carefully.

Although he enjoyed spending time with Sophy, he feared that a serious relationship would end his career as a missionary to the Indians. After much prayer, he painfully resolved not to marry until he had begun his work.

Following this announcement, Sophy, who usually took breakfast and lessons with Wesley, told him she would no longer meet with him alone. He was, however, permitted to visit her at her home.

After one such visit, John wrote in his journal: "This was indeed an hour of trial. Her words, her air, her eyes, her every motion and gesture, were full of such softness and sweetness. I know not what might have been the consequence had I then but touched her hand! And how I avoided it I know not. Surely God is over all."

Soon after this visit John received the shocking news that Sophy had agreed to wed Mr. William Williamson—"if Mr. Wesley had no objection." John wondered at first if she was testing him, but he concluded that if she had given her consent to be married, his chance must have passed. Though distraught, he offered no objection.

For a while, John's emphasis on itinerant ministry led him to renounce marriage altogether. In the pamphlet Thoughts on Marriage and Celibacy, he recommended ...

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