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Charles Wesley

Charles WesleyCharles Wesley has been called "the poet of Methodism," but this designation is too narrow for him. He might more properly be called the poet of Christendom, for the entire Christian world is indebted to him for many of its most valuable hymns. For the first place among English hymn writers he has never had but one competitor. Hymnologists have sometimes instituted a comparison between the hymns of Wesley and those of Watts. Some have given the preference to one, and some to the other. We must remember that these men were not rivals. They were too good, too great, and too unlike to be antagonists. They were both princes—aye, kings—of song, but each in his own realm. Watts's great theme was divine majesty, and no one approaches him in excellence upon this subject. Wesley's grandest theme was love—the love of God—and here he had no rival.

Charles Wesley was born in Epworth, England, December 18, 1707. He was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University, where he took his degree in 1728. It was while a student at Christ Church College that Wesley and a few associates, by strict attention to duty and exemplary conduct, won for themselves the derisive epithet of "Methodists." He was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1735, and that same year he sailed with his brother John as a missionary to Georgia, but soon returned to England. He was not converted, according to his own statement, until Whitsunday, May 21, 1738. On that day he received a conscious knowledge of sins forgiven, and this event was the real beginning of his mission as the singer of Methodism. He tells his own experience beautifully in the hymn beginning:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?

Charles Wesley's hymns may be generally classified as follows: Hymns of Christian experience ("O for a thousand tongues to sing" is an example); invitation hymns (of which "Come, sinners, to the gospel feast" is a good specimen); sanctification hymns ("O for a heart to praise my God" is one of them); funeral hymns ("Rejoice for a brother deceased"); and hymns on the love of God, a subject on which he never became weary. "Wrestling Jacob" represents the last class. But it is preeminently in portraying the various phases of experimental religion—conviction of sin, penitence, saving faith, pardon, assurance, entire sanctification—that Charles Wesley is quite without a peer among hymn writers. His songs have been one of the most potent forces in Methodism since its organization.

Nor was he a singer alone, but as an itinerant preacher he was a busy and earnest colaborer with his brother John. After his marriage, in 1749, his itinerant labors were largely restricted to London and Bristol. He died March 29, 1788. "After all," says Dr. John Julian, the greatest authority in English Hymnology, "it was Charles Wesley who was the great hymn writer of the Wesley family, and perhaps, taking quantity and quality into consideration, the great hymn writer of all ages." Of the six thousand and five hundred hymns by Charles Wesley (all of which were written after his conversion), this collection contains one hundred and twenty-one.

Hymns:
—A charge to keep I have
—A thousand oracles divine
—Ah! whither should I go
—All praise to our redeeming Lord
—And am I born to die
—And are we yet alive
—And can I yet delay
—And can it be that I should gain
—And let our bodies part
—And let this feeble body fail
—And must I be to judgment brought
—Arise, my soul, arise
—Arm of the Lord, awake, awake
—Author of faith, eternal Word
—Awake, Jerusalem, awake
—Blest be the dear uniting love
—Blow ye the trumpet, blow
—Christ, the Lord, is risen to-day
—Come, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
—Come, Holy Ghost, our hearts inspire
—Come, let us anew our journey
—Come, let us join our friends above
—Come, let us join with one accord
—Come, let us use the grace divine
—Come, let us who in Christ believe
—Come, O thou all-victorious Lord
—Come, O thou Traveler unknown
—Come on, my partners in distress
—Come, sinners, to the gospel feast
—Come, thou almighty King
—Come, thou long-expected Jesus
—Depth of mercy, can there be
—Father, I stretch my hands to thee
—Father of Jesus Christ, my Lord
—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
—Forever here my rest shall be
—Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go
—Give me a new, a perfect heart
—Giver of concord, Prince of peace
—God of all power and truth and
—God of love, that hearest prayer
—Hail the day that sees him rise
—Happy the man that finds the
—Hark! the herald angels sing
—Ho! every one that thirsts, draw
—Holy and true and righteous Lord
—How can a sinner know
—How happy every child of grace
—I know that my Redeemer lives
—I the good fight have fought
—I want a principle within
—In age and feebleness extreme
—Infinite God, to thee we raise
—Jesus, from whom all blessings flow
—Jesus, let all thy lovers shine
—Jesus, let thy pitying eye
—Jesus, Lover of my soul
—Jesus, my strength, my hope
—Jesus, my Truth, my Way
—Jesus, the all-restoring word
—Jesus, the Conqueror, reigns
—Jesus, the name high over all
—Jesus, the sinner's Friend, to thee
—Jesus, the Truth and Power divine
—Jesus, thine all-victorious love
—Jesus, thou all-redeeming Lord
—Jesus, united by thy grace
—Join, all ye ransomed sons of grace
—Leader of faithful souls, and Guide
—Let earth and heaven agree
—Let Him to whom we now belong
—Let not the wise their wisdom boast
—Lift up your hearts to things above
—Light of those whose dreary
—Lo! He comes, with clouds
—Lo! on a narrow neck of land
—Lord, I believe a rest remains
—Lord, if at thy command
—Lord, in the strength of grace
—Lord, whom winds and seas obey
—Love Divine, all loves excelling
—Loving Jesus, gentle Lamb
—O come and dwell in me
—O for a heart to praise my God
—O for a thousand tongues to sing
—O for that tenderness of heart
—O glorious hope of perfect love
—O God, most merciful and true
—O how happy are they
—O joyful sound of gospel grace
—O love divine, how sweet thou art
—O love divine, what hast thou done
—O that I could repent! O that
—O that I could repent! With all
—O that my load of sin were gone
—O thou who earnest from above
—O thou whom all thy saints adore
—Our Lord is risen from the dead
—Rejoice, the Lord is King
—See how great a flame aspires
—Servant of God, well done! Thy
—Sing to the great Jehovah's praise
—Sing we to our God above
—Sinners, turn, why will ye die
—Soldiers of Christ, arise
—Spirit of faith, come down
—Stand the omnipotent decree
—Stay, thou insulted Spirit, stay
—Talk with us, Lord, thyself reveal
—Thou great mysterious God unknown
—Thou hidden source of calm repose
—Thou Son of God, whose flaming eyes
—To God your every want
—Try us, O God, and search the
—Weary souls that wander wide
—Weep not for a brother deceased
—What is our calling's glorious hope
—Wherewith, O Lord, shall I draw
—Who are these arrayed in white
—With glorious clouds encompassed
—Ye servants of God, your Master


Copied for WholesomeWords.org from The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church: An Annotated Edition of the Methodist Hymnal by Charles S. Nutter and Wilbur F. Tillet. New York: Eaton & Main, 1911.

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