Charles Wesley

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Charles Wesley
Charles Wesley.jpg
Portrait by John Russell
Born (1707-12-18)18 December 1707
Epworth, Lincolnshire, England
Died 29 March 1788(1788-03-29) (aged 80)
London, England
Nationality British
Education Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford
Religion Christian (Anglican / Methodist)
Spouse(s) Sarah Wesley (née Gwynne)
Children 7
Parents Samuel and Susanna Wesley
Relatives John Wesley (brother) Mehetabel Wright (sister)

Charles Wesley (/ˈwɛsli, ˈwɛzli/; 18 December 1707 – 29 March 1788) was an English leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley the Younger. He was father of musician Samuel Wesley and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Despite their closeness, Charles and his brother John did not always agree on questions relating to their beliefs. In particular, Charles was strongly opposed to the idea of a breach with the Church of England into which they had both been ordained. Charles Wesley is mostly remembered for the over 6,000 hymns he wrote.[1] He ministered for part of his life in The New Room Chapel in Bristol. His house, located nearby, can still be visited.[2]

Biography[edit]

Early portrait of Charles Wesley.

Early life[edit]

Charles Wesley was the son of Susanna Wesley and Samuel Wesley.[1] He was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, England, where his father was rector.[1] He was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford.[1] At Oxford Charles formed a prayer group among his fellow students in 1727 which his elder brother, John joined in 1729 soon becoming its leader and moulding it to his own notions. They focused on Bible study, methodical study of scripture and living a holy life. Other students mocked them, saying they were the "Holy Club", "Sacramentarians", and "the Methodists", being methodical and exceptionally detailed in their Bible study, opinions and disciplined lifestyle. George Whitefield also joined this group. After graduating with a Masters' in classical languages and literature, Charles followed his father and brother into the church in 1735.

Voyage to America[edit]

On 14 October 1735, Charles and his brother John sailed on The Simmonds from Gravesend, Kent for Savannah in the Georgia Colony in British America at the request of the governor, James Oglethorpe. Charles was appointed Secretary of Indian Affairs and while John remained in Savannah, Charles went as chaplain to the garrison and colony at near-by Fort Frederica, St. Simon's Island, arriving there Tuesday, 9 March 1736 according to his journal entry.[3] However, matters did not turn out well, and he was largely rejected by the settlers. In July 1736, Charles was commissioned to England as the bearer of dispatches to the trustees of the colony. On 16 August 1736, he sailed from Charleston, South Carolina, never to return to the Georgia colony again.[4]

Ministry[edit]

Plaque at Postman's Park, London, commemorating John and Charles Wesley
Plaque in the Westminster commemorating the site of Wesley's house

Charles Wesley experienced a conversion on 21 May 1738 – John Wesley had a similar experience in Aldersgate Street just three days later. A City of London blue plaque at 13, Little Britain, near the church of St Botolph's-without-Alders, off St. Martin's Le Grand, marks the site of the former house of John Bray, reputed to be the scene of Wesley's evangelical conversion on 21 May 1738. It reads, "Adjoining this site stood the house of John Bray. Scene of Charles Wesley's evangelical conversion May 21st 1738".[5]

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. It wasn't until 1739 that the brothers took to field preaching, under the influence of George Whitefield, whose open-air preaching was already reaching great numbers of Bristol colliers.[6]

After ceasing field preaching and frequent travel due to illness, Wesley settled and worked in the area around St Marylebone Parish Church. 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." On his death, his body was carried to the church by six clergymen of the Church of England, and a memorial stone to him stands in the gardens in Marylebone High Street, close to his burial spot. One of his sons, Samuel, became organist of the church.[7]

Marriage and children[edit]

Wesley in a stained glass window by Arnold Robinson, at St. Matthew's Church, Bristol

In April 1749, he married the much younger Sarah Gwynne (1726–1822), also known as Sally.[8] She was the daughter of Marmaduke Gwynne, a wealthy Welsh magistrate who had been converted to Methodism by Howell Harris.[9] They moved into a house in Bristol in September 1749.[8] Sarah accompanied the brothers on their evangelistic journeys throughout Britain, until at least 1753. After 1756 Charles made no more journeys to distant parts of the country, mainly just moving between Bristol and London.[10]

Monument erected in St Mary le Bone Old Churchyard to mark the position of the original grave of Charles Wesley.

In 1771 Charles obtained another house, in London, and moved into it that year with his elder son. By 1778 the whole family had transferred from Bristol to the London house, at 1 Chesterfield Street, Marylebone,[9] where they remained until Charles' death and on into the 19th century.[11] The house in Bristol still stands and has been restored,[8] however the London house was demolished in the mid 19th century.[11]

Only three of the couple's children survived infancy: Charles Wesley junior (1757–1834), Sarah Wesley (1759–1828), who like her mother was also known as Sally and Samuel Wesley (1766–1837)[12] Their other children, John, Martha Maria, Susannah, Selina and John James are all buried in Bristol having died between 1753 and 1768.{See monument in garden on north side of junction of Lewis Mead and The Haymarket, Bristol} Both Samuel and Charles junior were musical child prodigies and, like their father, became organists and composers. Charles junior spent most of his career as the personal organist of the English Royal family, and Samuel became one of the most accomplished musicians in the world and often called "the English Mozart." Furthermore, Samuel Wesley's son, Samuel Sebastian Wesley, was one of the foremost British composers of the 19th century.[12]

Hymns[edit]

Wesley's conversion had a clear impact on his doctrine, especially the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The change in doctrine can be seen in his sermons after 1738, but is most notable in his hymns written after 1738.

From Charles' published work "Hymns and Prayers to the Trinity" and in Hymn number 62 he writes "The Holy Ghost in part we know, For with us He resides, Our whole of good to Him we owe, Whom by His grace he guides, He doth our virtuous thoughts inspire, The evil he averts, And every seed of good desire, He planted in our hearts."[13]

Charles communicates several doctrines; we have the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the depravity of mankind, and our personal accountability to God. This was a vital contribution not only to Methodism, but to modern theology as a whole.[14]

Best-known hymns[edit]

Charles Wesley preaching, by William Gush.[15]

In the course of his career, Charles Wesley published the words of over six thousand hymns, many of which are still popular. These include:

The lyrics to many more of Charles Wesley's hymns can be found on Wikisource and "Hymns and Sacred Poems."[16]

Some 150 of his hymns are in the Methodist hymn book Hymns and Psalms, including "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, and "The Church Hymn Book" (In New York and Chicago, USA, 1872) where "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" is published. Many of his hymns are translated into other languages, and form the foundation for Methodist hymnals, as the Swedish Metodist-Episkopal-Kyrkans Psalmbok printed in Stockholm in 1892.

Legacy[edit]

Stained glass depictions of Bach, Wesley and Handel, at Cambridge Rd Methodist Church, Birmingham.

Wesley is still remembered for his ministry while in St. Simon's Island, Georgia, by the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church; in 1950, the conference opened a Christian retreat center on the island by the banks of the Frederica River, designating it Epworth by the Sea in honour of his and John's birthplace. He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 2 March with his brother John. The Wesley brothers are also commemorated on 3 March in the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church[17] and on 24 May in the Anglican calendar. Charles is commemorated on 29 March in the Calendar of Commemorations by The Order of Saint Luke; John is commemorated on 2 March; their parents are also commemorated.[18]

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

Wesley wrote two of the so-called Great Four Anglican Hymns: "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Lo! He Comes With Clouds Descending".

Tercentenary[edit]

24 May 2007 was celebrated as the tercentenary of Wesley's birth, with many celebratory events held throughout England, even though Wesley was in fact born in December 1707. The date of 24 May is known to Methodists as "Aldersgate Day" and commemorates the spiritual awakening of first Charles and then John Wesley in 1738. In particular, in the Village of Epworth, North Lincolnshire, at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, there was a flower festival, on 26 and 28 May, with flower arrangements representing some of Wesley's hymns, such as O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing, And Can It Be, and O For a Trumpet Voice.

In November 2007, An Post, the Irish Post Office, issued a 78c stamp to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Wesley's birth.

In film[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Charles Wesley". BBC. Retrieved 19 November 2013. 
  2. ^ The New Room Bristol – John Wesley’s Chapel in the Horsefair
  3. ^ The Wesley Center Online: The Journal Of Charles Wesley: 9 March – 30 August 1736
  4. ^ Ross, Kathy W. and Stacy, Rosemary, "John Wesley and Savannah"
  5. ^ "Plaque № 5300". openplaques.org. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  6. ^ "Charles Wesley". BBC: Religions. Retrieved 10 June 2013. 
  7. ^ St. Marylebone Parish Church
  8. ^ a b c Cheetham, J. Keith (2003). On the Trail of John Wesley. Edinburgh: Luath Press. pp. 95–97. ISBN 1-84282-023-0. 
  9. ^ a b Barry, Joseph (2010). Temperley, Nicholas; Banfield, Stephen, eds. Music and the Wesleys. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 141–146. ISBN 978-0-252-07767-8. 
  10. ^ Rack, Henry D. (2007). Newport, Kenneth G.C.; Campbell, Ted A., eds. Charles Wesley: Life, Literature and Legacy. Peterborough: Epworth. pp. 45–46. ISBN 978-0-7162-0607-1. 
  11. ^ a b Forsaith, Peter S. (2010). Temperley, Nicholas; Banfield, Stephen, eds. Music and the Wesleys. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. 161–162. ISBN 978-0-252-07767-8. 
  12. ^ a b Temperley, Nicholas (2010). Temperley, Nicholas; Banfield, Stephen, eds. Music and the Wesleys. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. pp. ix–xv. ISBN 978-0-252-07767-8. 
  13. ^ Vickers, Jason E. "And We The Life of God Shall Know": Incarnation and the Trinity in Charles Wesley's Hymns." Anglican Theological Review90.2 (2008): 329. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 14 September 2012.
  14. ^ Vickers, Jason E. "Charles Wesley and the Revival of the Doctrine of the Trinity: A Methodist Contribution To Modern Theology." Charles Wesley. 278–298. Peterborough: Epworth Pr, 2007. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. 1 October 2012.
  15. ^ See engraving of the portrait at Proceedings of the Wesley Historical Society. December 1957
  16. ^ Hymns and sacred poems, by Wesley, John and Wesley, Charles, Bristol, 1743
  17. ^ The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church: Together with the Psalter of David (The Seabury Press, 1979) p. 23
  18. ^ For All The Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations for United Methodists ed. by Clifton F Guthrie (Akron, Ohio: Order of St Luke Publications, 1995, ISBN 1-878009-25-7) pgs. 77–78, 95–96
  19. ^ "Wesley (2009)". The Internet Movie Database. Amazon.com. Retrieved 24 May 2010. 

External links[edit]