Bannside Library, 135-139 Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast
Born in 1707 (30 years after John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s progress.)
Died 1788. (1 year before the French Revolution began.)
He was the 18th child of Samuel and Susannah Wesley’s 19 children, of whom only 10 lived to maturity.
He was home schooled by his mother who taught him and his siblings methodically for 6 hours each day. She taught them Greek, Latin and French, among other subjects.
His education gained him entrance to Westminster School where the only language permitted in public was latin. After 13 years of study there he proceeded to Oxford for 9 years gaining a Masters degree. While at Oxford University he formed the Holy Club,and along with a few others celebrated Communion weekly, undertook daily bible study, and instigated a prison ministry. The groups dedicated routine earned them the name “methodidts.”
He and his brother, John, served together as ordained missionaries in the Colony of Georgia. John served a chaplain and Charles as Secretary to the Governor. It was a rough outpost and both brothers returned to England having learned much of hardship and despair.
Charles undertook to teach the Moravian Peter Bohler english, and through his influence he read the works of Martin Luther. It was the writings of Luther on Galatians that spoke deeply to him and led him to record in his journal in May 1738, “I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoice in hope of loving Christ.”
Charles and John along with the evangelist George Whitefield preached outside of church buildings and to whosoever would listen. This was a radical departure and considered “vile” and “unthinkable” by the establishment.
Charles records in his journal entries between 1739 and 1743 some numbers of those who attended his gatherings – they total almost 150,000!
He met and married Sally Gwynne she he was aged 40. She was 20 years younger. His itinerant ministry continued until 1756 after which he spent the remainder of his life mainly in Bristol and London preaching in Methodist Chapels.
He produced 56 volumes of hymns in 53 years. His ability to capture universal Gospel truths in memorable verse earned him, and still does, great admiration. A century later the renown Henry Ward Beecher declared, “ I would rather have written Wesley’s ‘Jesus Lover of My Soul,’ than to have all the fame of all the kings that ever sat on earth.”
He remains arguably the greatest hymn writer of all ages.
Suggested reading from our archives
The Mother Of The Wesleys…. Jn Kirk
Wesley’s One-and-Twenty Visits To Ireland. …R Haire
Charles Wesley: A Study….D M Jones
The Lord’s Horseman: John Wesley The Man…..U Lee.
Susanna Wesley And The Puritan Tradition In Methodism…J A Newton
The Hymns Of Charles Wesley: A Study Of Their Structure….R N Flew
A New History of Methodism (Vols 1&2) ….W J Townsend