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Charles Wesley: An Overview of this Beloved Christian Song Writer

Updated on February 1, 2017
Charles Wesley: His music and sermons have withstood the test of time.\ and remains one of the most loved writers of all time.
Charles Wesley: His music and sermons have withstood the test of time.\ and remains one of the most loved writers of all time. | Source

Charles Wesley, Biography

"Charles Wesley: One of the founders of Methodism; born at Epworth (23 miles northwest of Lincoln), [England] December 18, 1708, O. S. (December 29, N. S.); died in London March 29, 1788. He was the son of Samuel Wesley, Sr., and brother of [John] Wesley. In childhood he declined an offer of adoption by a wealthy namesake in Ireland; and the person taken in his stead became an earl, and grandfather to the duke of Wellington. He was educated at Westminster School, London, under his brother Samuel, 1716; at St. Peter's College, Westminster, London, 1721; and at Christ Church, Oxford, 1726, where, with his brother John and one or two others, he received the nickname of "Methodist" in consequence of the method they employed in prayer and daily life."

The rest of the story → Christian Biography Resources

It's hard to9 believe, but Charles Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns in his lifetime.
It's hard to9 believe, but Charles Wesley wrote over 6000 hymns in his lifetime. | Source

Charles Wesley, His Music

"Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns. Like most hymn­ists, his works were fre­quent­ly al­tered. In the pre­face to the 1779 Col­lection of Hymns for the Use of the Peo­ple called Meth­od­ists, his bro­ther John wrote:

I beg leave to men­tion a thought which has been long up­on my mind, and which I should long ago have in­sert­ed in the pub­lic pa­pers, had I not been un­will­ing to stir up a nest of horn­ets. Ma­ny gen­tle­men have done my bro­ther and me (though with­out nam­ing us) the hon­our to re­print ma­ny of our hymns. Now they are per­fect­ly well­come to do so, pro­vid­ed they print them just as they are. But I de­sire they would not at­tempt to mend them, for they are real­ly not able. None of them is able to mend ei­ther the sense or the verse. There­fore, I must beg of them these two fa­vours: ei­ther to let them stand just as they are, to take things for bet­ter or worse, or to add the true read­ing in the mar­gin, or at the bot­tom of the page, that we may no long­er be ac­count­a­ble ei­ther for the non­sense or for the dog­ger­el of other men."

Listen to bits of many of Charles Wesley's hymns

Charles Wesley, His Diary

"Mon., September 22d. I was setting out for the Downs, when one asked me to ride out toward Mr. Willis's. At the end of the town I was informed the colliers were risen. Above one thousand of them I met at Lawrence-hill They came about me, and saluted me very affectionately, not having seen me since my sickness. The occasion of their rising, they told me, was the dearness of corn. I got to an eminence, and began speaking to them. Many seemed inclined to go back with me to the school; but the devil stirred up his oldest servants, who violently rushed upon the others, beating, and tearing, and driving them away from me. I rode up to a ruffian who was striking one of our colliers, and prayed him rather to strike me. He would not, he said, for all the world; and was quite overcome. I turned upon one who struck my horse, and he also sank into a lamb. Wherever I turned, Satan lost ground; so that he was obliged to make one general assault, and, by the few violent colliers, forced on the quiet ones into the town.

I seized on one of the tallest, and earnestly besought him to follow me: that he would, he said, all the world over. About six more I pressed into Christ's service. We met several parties; stopped and exhorted them to join us. We gleaned a few from every company, and grew as we marched along singing to the school. From one till three we spent in prayer that evil might be prevented, and the lion chained. Then news was brought us that the colliers were returned in peace. They had quietly walked into the city, without sticks, or the least violence. A few of the better sort went to the Mayor, and told their grievance: then they all returned as they came, without noise or disturbance. All who saw were amazed; for the leopards were laid down. Nothing could have more shown the change wrought ill them than this rising.

I found afterwards that all our colliers to a man had been forced in it. Having learned of Christ not to resist evil, they went a mile with those that compelled them rather than free themselves by violence. One the rioters dragged out of his sick-bed, and threw him into the Fishponds: near twenty of Mr. Willis's men they got by threatening to fill up their pits, and bury them alive, if they did not come up and bear them company."

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Susanna Wesley: There is little doubt that Susanna played a large part in making Charles what he became.
Susanna Wesley: There is little doubt that Susanna played a large part in making Charles what he became. | Source

Charles' Mother, Susanna Wesley

"As a wife and mother in a small 18th century English parish Susanna Wesley herself received little recognition for how she managed her household, raised and educated more than a dozen children and coped with a sometimes impecunious, idealistic and occasionally difficult clergyman husband. Yet from her personal influence and loving home came a son who would experience a spiritual awakening and use that inspiration to begin a ministry that would fill a void in the national spiritual life and also develop into a world wide church. Indeed, it might be said that the movement called Methodism had its foundations in the home of Susanna "

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John Wesley: Known more for his passionate sermons and founding the Methodist Church, John was an integral part of Charles' rise to prominence in the religious world of the late eighteen hundreds.
John Wesley: Known more for his passionate sermons and founding the Methodist Church, John was an integral part of Charles' rise to prominence in the religious world of the late eighteen hundreds. | Source

Charles' Brother John

"John Wesley, the celebrated preacher and founder of the Methodist Church, was a life-long opponent of slavery. His biography is well known, and is told in many places, both on the web and in many published works, so this article will focus mainly on his activities as a campaigner against slavery. His opposition to slavery and the slave trade began long before the issue had received widespread attention, and was sustained throughout his life. Indeed, his attitudes to slavery were formed early. In 1736-7 Wesley visited the then British colony of Georgia in North America where he came into contact with slaves. At the same time, he read Thomas Southerne's play Oroonoko, which was based on Aphra Behn's novel of the same name, and which related the tragedy of Oroonoko, an African prince kidnapped and sold into slavery. On his return to England, he passed the time on the long transatlantic voyage by teaching a young black man, presumably a slave, how to read and write.

These experiences fostered in Wesley an abhorrence of slavery, but it was not an abhorrence he felt able to act upon. In his journal, Wesley records meeting with people involved in the slave trade - including the slave-ship captain John Newton, now more famous as the author of the hymn "Amazing Grace". Newton's conversion to Christianity was later followed by a conversion to anti-slavery, but it is not recorded if he and Wesley discussed the issue. In 1772, the Somerset case, brought before the courts by Granville Sharp, put slavery in the news. Wesley, putting aside Laurence Sterne's Sentimental Journey (a book he described as marked by: "oddity, uncouthness, and unlikeness to all the world") took up instead Some historical account of Guinea, a work of anti-slavery by the Philadelphia Quaker, Anthony Benezet. Wesley recorded his thoughts in his journal:

Wed. 12.-In returning I read a very different book, published by an honest Quaker, on that execrable sum of all villanies, commonly called the Slave-trade. I read of nothing like it in the heathen world, whether ancient or modern; and it infinitely exceeds, in every instance of barbarity, whatever Christian slaves suffer in Mahometan countries."

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"O for a thousand tongues to sing / My dear Redeemer's praise / The glories of my God and King, / The triumphs of his grace!" (see source)

                                    Assist Me To Proclaim

                               O FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES TO SING

The story is told of an unbeliever who began to seek answers by taking a closer look at Christianity. He had begun to feel the weight of his personal guilt and knew he was in need of help. While he later came to trust in Christ, his first encounter with Christian worship was not entirely positive.

He visited a church not too far from his home, walked in a bit late so as not to have to talk to anyone, sat down in the back row, and began to observe the service taking place around him. The congregation soon started to sing Charles Wesley’s famous hymn O For a Thousand Tongues, and the visitor was struck by the dichotomy of what he was witnessing.

On the one hand, he could not help but notice that the hymn being sung spoke to the very heart of what had drawn him here in the first place: “Jesus! The name that calms our fears, That bids our sorrows cease…He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the pris’ner free; His blood can make the foulest clean; His blood availed for me.”

Read the entire sermon here


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    • profile image

      cherry blossom 

      11 years ago

      why are charles wesleys hymns so long and drawn out

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      you're good!


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