By John J. Baughman
Charles Wesley, famous hymn writer and partner with his brother John Wesley in creating the Methodist movement, was born at Epworth, England, on Dec. 18, 1707 - making this year the 300th anniversary of his birth.
After early education under the tutelage of his mother, Susanna Wesley, Charles entered Westminster School in 1716 and finally in 1726 Christ Church College, Oxford. Here he became a founder of the famous Holy Club.
In 1735 Charles Wesley was ordained an Anglican priest and that same year joined his older brother John in sailing for Georgia. Here he was secretary to the management committee and personal secretary to General and Governor James Oglethorp. Generally failing as secretary and in poor health, he returned to England in 1736. He taught in his convalescence the Moravian missionary, Peter Bohler, whose instructing in faith led to Charles' conversion experience on Whitsunday, May 21, 1738.
Expressing an evangelical style of preaching caused Charles Wesley to barred by the Anglican church from pulpit preaching, but he continued to preach outside with his brother for the next decade. A happy marriage in 1749 to Sarah Gwynn led the couple to settle in Bristol and he gave up the itinerary to raise his family and to support the local Methodist societies. In the last seventeen years of his life Charles and his family moved to London where he superintended the Methodist societies there during the many absences of his brother John. Oddly he opposed strongly John's ordaining of preachers, particularly Coke and Asbury as "superintendents" for the new Methodist societies in the United States. He died on March 29, 1788.
Perhps Charles Wesley's greatest contribution to Methodism was his writing of hundreds of hymns. The current United Methodist hymnal contains 51 hymns, eight poems and six responses. Well known are " Christ the Lord is Risen Today," "Come, thou Long-Expected Jesus," "Hark ! The Herald Angels Sing," "Jesus Lover of my Soul," "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling," "0 For a Thousand Tongues to Sing."