All Saints was one of John Wesley’s favorite holy days. I suspect one of the reasons Wesley held this day in such high esteem is that it is an annual reminder that Christian faith is a gift that is passed on from generation to generation. All Saints reminds us that we stand on the shoulders of all those faithful witnesses who have gone before us; the living and the dead.

The feast of All Saints teaches that grace is relational. We know and experience God’s love through the people God gives us in this life. God is revealed and made real through people who love God enough to allow his grace to flow through their lives for the world.

Here’s a story of a saint through whom God’s grace flowed freely. It is an excerpt from How Great A Flame: Contemporary Lessons From The Wesleyan Revival by James C. Logan:

“Martha Thompson was born of humble means in Preston (England) in 1731. Unlike many young women of her time, she had been schooled in the basic skills of reading and writing. She had also been trained as an apprentice to a tailor. At the age of nineteen, she left Preston and journeyed 209 miles to London where she had obtained a position in the mansion of a wealthy Preston lady.

“One day she was sent on an errand to the heart of London and passed Moorfields. There, to her amazement, she saw an enormous crowd, and heard the thousands burst into song. She had never heard such singing before. The preacher was a small man, thin, with fine, sharpely cut features and closely shaved chin. He wore a clergyman’s gown and bands. He stood on a table, and with an air of calm authority, arrested universal attention.

“It was indeed a motley crowd from streets and slums – merchants and tradesmen, outcast and thieves, high born and low born, warm friends and bitter opponents, well-dressed people, ragged and dirty people, and they were all listening. The message was, ‘Ye must be born again.’

“Martha was first curious, and then she was spellbound and riveted, and knew not how to tear herself away. Back home her mistress admonished her. ‘Never listen to that man again. If you do, he will drive you mad, he will ruin you, body and soul.’ But Martha could not forget.

“On several occasions she slipped back to Moorfields to hear the man whom Oxford cynics had called ‘a little crack-brained.’ After hearing John Wesley one day, during the singing of Isaac Watts’ “The Lord Jehovah Reigns,’ Martha found that inner peace and joy which Wesley called ‘the inner witness of the Spirit.’ Watts’ words were Martha’s deepest feelings:

And will this sovereign King
Of glory condescend,
And will he write his name,
My Father and my Friend?
I love his name, I love his word;
Join all my powers to praise the Lord.

“And praise the Lord she did when she returned to the suburban London mansion. ‘Martha’s demented,’ the servants complained to their mistress. An order was issued that Martha should be admitted to the dreaded institution of Bedlam.

“Wesley’s request to preach at Bedlam had been rejected. In the Journal he wrote, ‘I have been forbidden to go to Newgate for fear of making them wicked, and now I am forbidden to go to Bedlam for fear of driving them mad.’ He sent two doctors in his place. Through the doctors Martha was eventually released and found herself back in Preston, a place where there were no Methodists and, indeed, Methodists were despised. She discovered a Methodist class of fifteen members six miles out on the moorlands. So every Sunday she walked six miles out and six miles back. By 1759 Martha had gathered a little class of five Methodists in Preston.

“Martha Thompson wrote to Wesley, inviting him to come to Preston and visit with her little class meeting. Wesley’s first visit to Preston was in 1780. Over the following decade he came to Preston on three other occasions and was guest in Martha’s home.

“Martha visited the sick, she ministered to the poor, and was ever an ‘angel of light’ among her own people. She lived to be eighty-nine, and when infirm, with a lantern in her hand, a child would lead her in winter to the early morning service and the night service as well. When she came to die, her children and grandchildren gathered round her bed and said, ‘Let us sing dear old granny home.’ What did they sing? What else could they sing than the old conversion hymn sung on the occasion of Martha’s conversion after having heard Wesley preach? And the last sound she heard on earth was this:

And will this sovereign King
Of glory condescend,
And will he write his name,
My Father and my Friend?
I love his name, I love his word;
Join all my powers to praise the Lord.

“Twenty years after Wesley’s death, Martha died.

“Martha may not have had the facility with words that Wesley had. She did know profoundly, however, in her inner being, the key words of Wesley’s preaching – justification and sanctification. She knew herself to have been pardoned by a Father and a Friend. She knew herself to have been given a new birth in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit. She knew the empowering, sanctifying grace through the Holy Spirit. ‘My Father and My Friend.” For Martha this was the essence of the gospel. And this because a young woman once heard by chance – or was it not the prevenient grace of Christ – at Moorfields a slight little man proclaimed that very word of grace.”

Who are the saints in your life? Who are the people through whom the grace of Christ has flowed for you, to introduce you to Jesus and his love, to bring you to receive the gifts of faith, repentance, and assurance? Who are the persons, the saints, whose lives have shaped and formed yours?

Give thanks to God for them today and every day.