Intellectuals & Academics » Theologian » CHARLES WESLEY
With more than 6500 hymns under his belt, each of which gave and still gives a soulful rendition of his beliefs and thoughts and an easy way to preach the words of Gospel, Charles Wesley was truly a messenger of God. Coming from a family wherein his father served as a rector, priesthood was natural choice for Charles to take up. However, the path wasn’t an easy one as he was left disheartened and depressed with people rejecting his belief. However, Charles soon experienced a conversion which not only changed him but made preaching a lot comfortable. He soon walked the path of George Whitefield open-air preaching method, which led to the initiation of the Methodist denomination of Christianity, of which he was one of the founding members. No sooner, Charles Wesley through his hymns informed the ignorant about the Gospel. His hymns, till date are popular sung in the Methodist circles. They are a part of the Methodist hymn book ‘Hymns and Psalms’. Many of his hymns have been translated into other languages, and form the foundation for Methodist hymnals, as the Swedish Metodist-Episkopal-Kyrkans Psalmbok printed in Stockholm in 1892.
Charles Wesley was the youngest son and eighteenth child of the nineteen children born to Susanna and Samuel Wesley in Epworth Lincolnshire, England. Only ten of their children survived infancy.
His father was a priest in the Church of England. Young Wesley was much influenced by his mother who taught all her children the importance of self-control and discipline in life. She also imparted them the early education.
In 1716, he enrolled at the Westminster School in London. Ten years later, he gained admission at the Christ Church, where his elder brother John had been studying.
It was at Oxford that he formed a prayer group in 1727 comprising of fellow students. The group came to be known as Holy Club. His brother, John joined the group in 1729 becoming its leader and moulding it according to his own motives.
The group regularly met to carry out their social duties. Additionally, they stuck to a methodical study of Bible and living a holy disciplined life. Their systematic approach and exceptionally disciplined lifestyle led them to earn the label of ‘Methodists’ by fellow students.
It was during this that he befriended George Whitfield who joined the group. The latter played a quintessential role in launching what came to known as the Methodist movement.
In 1735, he attained a Master’s degree in classical languages and literature and emulated his father and brother by joining the Church. He undertook a journey along with his brother John for the Georgia Colony in British America.
In Savannah, he took up the post of the Secretary of Indian Affairs to the Governor, General James Oglethorpe. However, his preaching and line of thought was not taken favourably by the people who resisted his message. Dejected and despaired, he undertook a journey backwards to England in 1736.
In 1749, he tied the knot with Sarah Gwynne, daughter of a wealthy Welsh magistrate Marmaduke Gwynne. Fondly known as Sally, she accompanied him and John in their evangelistic journeys until 1753.
Only three of their eight children survived past infancy. Both his sons, Charles Jr and Samuel were musically talented as their father and became most accomplished musicians in the world.
The family first stayed in Bristol and later shifted to London in 1778, where they remained up until 19th century. The house in Bristol still stands as of now.
The highly taxing journeys and strenuous life led him to suffer from nervous exhaustion and severe depression during the later days of his life. He breathed his last on March 29, 1788 and is interred in the churchyard of Marylebone Parish Church, as per his wish.
His legacy continues to thrive as he is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America every year on March 2. Furthermore, he is commemorated on March 3rd in the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church, on March 24th in the Anglican calendar and on March 29th in the Calendar of Commemorations by The Order of Saint Luke.
In 1995, given his long list of enticing and enduring hymnody, he was inducted in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame by the Gospel Music Association, as a means to recognize his musical contributions.
His hymns have been a regular feature on the television and have been played in varied shows such as ‘South Park’ and ‘The Simpsons’. Additionally, they have been recorded by artists as diverse as Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton and Mariah Carey.
Till date, people who wish to train themselves as Methodist preachers need to be well conversant with his hymns.
His most famous hymn, ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’ is played everywhere from cathedrals to supermarkets.
In 2007, the Irish postal service honoured him on his 300th anniversary by issuing a 78c stamp in memory of him.