Faithful Heroes: Charles Wesley

If you enjoy reading my hymn stories, you will recognize the name Charles Wesley. He wrote hymns such as Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, Love Divine All Loves Excelling, O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, Jesus Lover of My Soul, And Can It Be that I Should Gain?, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus and Christ the Lord is Risen Today.

Charles Wesley

Samuel Wesley

was born on December 18, 1707 in Epworth, England. He was the eighteenth {of nineteen} children born to Samuel and Susanna Wesley. “He was born prematurely…and appeared dead. He lay silent, wrapped in wool, for weeks.”

His earliest education was under the watchful eye of his mother, who taught her children Greek and Latin.

He later attended Westminster School and Christ Church {Oxford University}, where he was ordained.

Susannah Wesley

While at Christ Church, he formed a prayer group his brother John would later lead. They became known as the “Holy Club” and “Methodist”.

On October 14, 1735, he sailed with his brother, John, to Savannah, Georgia. While there he was appointed Secretary of Indian Affairs. He was largely rejected by the settlers and returned to England on August 16, 1736.

On May 21, 1738 he experienced his own conversion. “Wesley felt renewed strength to spread the Gospel to ordinary people and it was around then that he began to write the poetic hymns for which he would become known. ” Three days later, his brother, John Wesley, would experience his Aldersgate Street experience. The shift in doctrine of the brothers can be seen in their sermons and hymns.

John Wesley and Charles Wesley as young men

In 1739, he began field preaching with his brother, under the influence of George Whitefield.

In April 1749, he married Sarah Gwynne. The couple would have eight children, but only three survived infancy. His son Charles Jr. became the personal organist of the English Royal Family. His son, Samuel, was called “the English Mozart” and had a son who became “one of the foremost British composers of the 19th Century”.

In 1765, he stopped traveling and field preaching due to illness.

Charles Wesley

Over his lifetime, Charles Wesley published over six thousand hymns. Many of his hymns are interpretations of Scripture or a paraphrase of the Psalms. He is said to have written on average “10 poetic lines a day for 50 years…wrote 8989 hymns.”

“He produced 56 volumes of hymns in 53 years, producing in his lyrics what brother John called a “distinct and full account of scriptural Christianity.””

“On his deathbed he sent for the church’s rector, John Harley, and told him “Sir, whatever the world may say of me, I have lived, and I die, a member of the Church of England. I pray you to bury me in your churchyard.” Upon his death, his body was carried to the church by six clergymen of the Church of England. A memorial stone to him stands in the gardens in Marylebone High Street, close to his place of burial.”

Charles Wesley died on March 29, 1788 in London, England. He was eighty years old.

Charles Wesley

His wife, Sarah, died on December 28, 1822.

John Wesley and Charles Wesley are commemorated on the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church on March 3rd {the Lutheran Church has them the day before and the Anglican church on May 24th.}

“As a result of his enduring hymnody, the Gospel Music Association recognized his musical contributions to the art of gospel music in 1995 by listing his name in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.”

The hymns of Charles Wesley will keep his memory alive for many years to come.

 

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