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Charles Wesley

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Title: Charles Wesley  
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Subject: United Methodist Church, Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, Susanna Wesley, Samuel Wesley (poet), George Whitefield
Collection: 1707 Births, 1788 Deaths, 18Th-Century Anglican Clergy, 18Th-Century Church of England Clergy, 18Th-Century English People, 18Th-Century Theologians, Alumni of Christ Church, Oxford, Anglican Missionaries, Anglican Saints, British Chaplains, Burials in London by Place, Christian Hymnwriters, Christian Missionaries in England, Christian Missionaries in the United States, Church of England Clergy, Deaths in London, English Christian Ministers, English Christian Missionaries, English Hymnwriters, English Methodist Missionaries, English Methodists, Evangelical Anglicans, Evangelists, Gospel Music Hall of Fame Inductees, Methodist Hymnwriters, Methodist Theologians, People Celebrated in the Lutheran Liturgical Calendar, People Educated at Westminster School, London, People from Epworth, Lincolnshire, People of Georgia (British Colony), Renewers of the Church, Sacred Music Composers, Wesley Family
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Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley
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
Parent(s) Samuel and Susanna Wesley
Relatives John Wesley (brother), Mehetabel Wesley Wright (sister)

Charles Wesley (; 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 1
    • Early life 1.1
    • Voyage to America 1.2
    • Ministry 1.3
  • Marriage and children 2
  • Hymns 3
    • Best-known hymns 3.1
  • Psalms 4
  • Legacy 5
    • Tercentenary 5.1
  • In film 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


Early portrait of Charles Wesley.

Early life

Charles Wesley was the son of [4]


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

  • Biography and works at the Cyber Hymnal
  • Biography and articles about Charles Wesley
  • The Journal of Charles Wesley
  • Papers of Charles Wesley
  • Works by or about Charles Wesley at Internet Archive
  • Works by Charles Wesley at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
  • Charles Wesley Conference 2007 held at Liverpool Hope University
  • 'Charles Wesley in Historical Perspective: Poet, Priest and Theologian', lecture delivered by Revd Professor Kenneth Newport, at Gresham College, 13 December 2007. (Available for download as MP3 and MP4).
  • 1736–56JournalCharles Wesley's on A Vision of Britain through Time, with links to the places visited.
  • A Heart Set Free, 2007 Documentary
  • Charles Wesley: Hymns of Praise, 2005 Drama
  • Epworth By The Sea, St. Simon's Island, Georgia
  • The Asbury Triptych Series: book series on the early Methodist in England and America. Charles Wesley is a major character in this series centered on Francis Asbury.

External links

  1. ^ a b c d
  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. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ St. Marylebone Parish Church
  8. ^ a b c
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b
  12. ^ a b
  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. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ 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
  21. ^ 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
  22. ^


  • Charles Wesley: Hymns of PraiseComenius Foundation, 2005, in which Charles Wesley (portrayed by John Jackman) tells the stories behind the writing of many of his hymns
  • A Heart Set Free – T. N. Mohan, 2007, a feature-length documentary on Charles Wesley's life and hymns
  • Wesley – Foundery Pictures, 2009, starring Burgess Jenkins as John Wesley, R. Keith Harris as Charles Wesley, and featuring June Lockhart as Susanna Wesley and Kevin McCarthy as Bishop Ryder[22]

In film

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

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.


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

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 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[20] 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.[21]

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


Wesley's hymns are notable as interpretations of Scripture. He also produced paraphrases of the Psalms, contributing to the long tradition of English metrical Psalmody. A notable feature of his Psalms is the introduction of Jesus into the Psalms, continuing a tradition of Christological readings of the Psalms evident in the translations of John Patrick and Isaac Watts.[17] The introduction of Jesus into the Psalms was often the source of controversy, even within Wesley's own family. Charles' brother Samuel Wesley wrote a poem against such practice.[18] Of particular importance is Wesley's manuscript Psalms, held in the archives of the Pitts Theology Library at Emory University.[19]


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 well as the Swedish Metodist-Episkopal-Kyrkans Psalmbok printed in Stockholm in 1892.

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

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

Charles Wesley preaching, by William Gush.[15]

Best-known hymns

Charles communicates several doctrines; the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, the depravity of mankind, and humanity's personal accountability to God. This had a significant influence not only to Methodism, but to modern theology as a whole.[14]

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]

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.


Only three of the couple's children survived infancy: Samuel Sebastian Wesley, was one of the foremost British composers of the 19th century.[12]

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]

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

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]

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

Marriage and children

[7] After ceasing field preaching and frequent travel due to illness, Wesley settled and worked in the area around


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