Charles Wesley 1707-1788
“From Out Of The Past”
“Charles Wesley was the brilliant and prolific hymn-writer who led one of the most dramatic and fruitful episodes in church history. He and his brother John were fearless pioneers in the battle for revival and reform in England.
“Born the eighteenth child in the family of Susanna and Samuel Wesley, Charles was a friendly boy and cared deeply for others. At home, interaction and sharing were mixed with prayers, Scripture, and the study of Latin. While attending school in London he defended a small Scottish lad against the school bully. Proving his true grit was good preparation for the mobs he would face in his later life.
“In college, Charles and John led a group of students called the ‘Holy Club.’ This group of friends met to strengthen each other’s faith through Bible reading, sharing, singing, and evangelism. Little did they dream that their ‘methods’ of organization would spread revival fire across Europe.
“Greatly influenced by devout Moravian Christians, the Wesley brothers ministered to the poor and the outcast. But their energetic evangelistic campaigns and small group meetings were met with fierce opposition. The clergy and society ‘gentlemen’ who wanted to keep the lower classes ‘in their places’ led vicious attacks on the converts and their property.
“Meetings led by the Wesleys were held at night in the schoolhouses or homes of commoners. Warmed by friendship and a fireplace and candles, the miners, homemakers, unschooled workers, and poor from all over the region would gather for encouragement and teaching. The leader would warmly greet each ‘parishioner’ before teaching a new hymn Charles had written. Line by line, hymns like ‘O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing’ or ‘Rejoice, the Lord is King’ were repeated, memorized, and heartily sung by the motley crowd.
“The subject of the evening would then be introduced by reading another of Wesley’s compositions, like ‘Jesus, Lover Of My Soul’ or ‘Love Divine, All Loves Excelling.’ After instruction, a time of testimony allowed each person to tell ‘what the Lord had done’ since the last meeting. Stories of old habits losing their grip, prayer that was answered in times of distress, strength in weakness, forgiveness of enemies, and deep sorrow over failures were openly shared. The humble folks, with coal grime still on their faces or holding babies in tattered smocks, were lifted out of despondency and spiritual ignorance to knowledge and a great sense of calling.
“As the Wesleyan society raised the fallen, set them on their feet, and inspired the socially poor with honesty, industry, and ambition, the opposition grew violent. Rocks were thrown at converts, horses were driven into ponds and drowned, shops were flooded with fire hoses, and homes were vandalized with broken windows and ripped shutters. It was said you could point out where Methodists lived by the condition of their homes. The ruffians were ruthless.
“The clergy and the gentlemen opposition resented the astonishing success of the movement and the intrusion on their private domain. The converts and leaders were hounded with bulldogs, ducked in deep water, stoned, and threatened with brutality of body, home, and business. Led by the Wesley brothers, the disciples boldly walked amid scowling faces, singing hymns as they went. They sang their way to eventual victory and the establishment of Methodism.
“Summoning spiritual energies equal to the violence, Charles wrote constantly. Using warlike imagery, he issued new hymns daily for use in class meetings. Evangelistic campaigns were fueled with the fire of words set to music. ‘Soldiers of Christ, Arise’ and ‘Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim’ were put in a tract collection entitled ‘Hymns For Times of Trouble And Persecution.’
“A fearless soldier of Christ, Charles put to verse the ultimate battle fought with death–apparently lost but finally won. ‘Christ The Lord Is Risen Today’ is the supreme vision for the redeemed society on earth. With exultant voices we sing, ‘soar we now where Christ has led.’ The final conquest is victory. ‘Alleluia!’ ”
From “Hymns of Wonder And Worship To Remember His Love: What Wondrous Love Is This”
By: Joni Eareckson Tada, John MacArthur, Robert and Bobbie Wolgemuth
Copyright (c) 2002
Published by Crossway Books
A division of Good News Publishers
1300 Crescent Street
Wheaton, Illinois 60187