Christians You Should Know: Charles Wesley July 19, 2023

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Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” – Ephesians 5:19-20

A Snapshot of the Life of Charles Wesley:

Born: Dec. 18,1707 – Epworth, England

Died: March 29, 1788 – London, England

Writer of over 7,270 hymns, second only to Fanny Crosby in number of songs created. Along with Isaac Watts, Wesley was instrumental in introducing hymn singing to the world. In 1729, he helped organize “The Holy Club” at Oxford. Charles was converted via Peter Boehler, in his home following his attending a Moravian service on May 21, 1738, a few days before his brother, John Wesley’s conversion. He was the 18th child of Sussanah and Samuel Wesley. He married Sarah Gwynne (1726-1822) on April 8, 1749, and they had eight children. He traveled constantly until 1756. They lived in Bristol (1756-71) and then in London (1771-88). Charles gave the world such memorable hymns as: “And Can it Be, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul” (1738), “O for One Thousand Tongues,’ “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (1739), “Love Divine” (1747) “I Do Believe,” and “A Charge to Keep” (1762). He wrote “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing” (1730) from the inspiration of walking to church and hearing bells ring on Christmas morning. John [Wesley] was unable to attend his funeral as he got the message too late. His last hymn was on Hosea 14:2. He is buried at Marylebone Parish Church, London.  – (Excerpt taken from the Reese Chronological Encyclopedia of Christian Biographies. Used by permission.)

A Spiritual Application for Our Lives:

The life of Charles Wesley is one that resounds with encouragement and exhortation. This gifted musician and preacher was used mightily to reignite the power of truth in song. Wesley’s Scripture-filled hymns have carried the Truth of God’s Word to millions of people. In a time that often lacks the declared Truth of God’s Word, we do well to remember those who lifted up the Lord in song.

Wesley’s mother and father sought to instill in all their children (19 of them!) the Word of God. As you read many of the hymns and sermons of Charles you can see how filled his mind was with Scripture. The Word of God is plainly evident in his over 9000 hymns and poems. The labor and diligence of his parents were not in vain! Take heart! (Also, look for an article on Charles’ mother and brother in the coming weeks.)

While many know him for his famous hymns and carols, many of Wesley’s greatest writings were not published. Charles was in the habit of addressing some hymns and poems to those he respected. In fact, the great George Whitefield often quoted Wesley’s hymns in his journal entries. The two men were strong friends and encouraged each other frequently throughout the years.

Wesley once wrote a thundering poem of encouragement to Whitefield in which he challenged him to carry on. I believe there are truths here from which all of God’s servants can glean encouragement:

To Mr. George Whitefield

I
Servant of God, the summons hear,
Thy Master calls, arise, obey,!
The tokens of His will appear,
His Providence points out thy way.

II
Lo! we commend thee to His grace!
In confidence go forth! be strong!
Thy meat His will, thy boast His praise,
His righteousness be all thy song.

III
Strong in the Lord’s Almighty power,
And armed in panoply Divine,
Firm may’st thou stand in danger’s hour,
And prove the strength of Jesus thine.

IV
Thy breast-plate be His Righteousness,
His sacred truth thy loins surround;
Shod be thy beauteous feet with peace,
Spring forth, and spread the Gospel sound.

V
Fight the good fight,
and stand secure In faith’s impenetrable shield;
Hell’s prince shall tremble at its power,
With all his fiery darts repelled.

VI
Prevent thy foes, nor wait their charge,
But call their ling’ring battle on.
But strongly grasp thy sevenfold targe,
And bear the world, and Satan down.

VII
The helmet of salvation take,
The Lord’s, the Spirit’s conquering sword,
Speak from the Word- in lightning speak,
Cry out, and thunder from the Word.

VIII
Champion of God, thy Lord proclaim,
Jesus alone, resolve to know;
Tread down thy foes in Jesus’s Name:
Go conquering, and to conquer go.

IX
Through racks and fires pursue thy way,
Be mindful of a dying God;
Finish thy course, and win the day;
Look up and seal the truth with blood.

 

May this hymn encourage you and me to press on as faithful servants of the Lord! We must remain true to His Word. Let us not forget those who have labored to bring us such encouragement and exhortation from God’s Word through song. And by the grace of God, let us be Christians who use the gifts God has given us to encourage and strengthen those around us.

 A Suggestion for Further Reading…

Charles Wesley: Poet and Theologian – Steven Kimbrough (1992)

The Sermons of Charles Wesley – Charles Wesley, Kenneth G. C. Newport (ed.) (2001)

George Whitefield’s Journals – George Whitefield, 1986, Banner of Truth | (There are many references to their friendship throughout Whitefield’s entries)

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