Wesley, Charles

Wesley, Charles, 1707–88, English Methodist preacher and hymn writer. As a student at Oxford he devoted himself to systematic study and to the regular practice of religious duties; he and companions whom he persuaded to adopt the same orderly course were taunted as “methodists.” They formed a society, sometimes referred to as the Holy Club, of which his older brother John Wesley became the leader in 1729. Charles Wesley was ordained in the Church of England in 1735, and the same year both brothers sailed for Georgia, Charles to act as secretary to James Oglethorpe. The following year, however, he returned to England in ill health. After experiencing evangelical conversion in May, 1738, he began writing hymns and preaching at the great revival meetings led by the two Wesleys and George Whitefield. For 17 years Charles made continual evangelistic journeys, but after 1756 he worked mainly in Bristol and London. He was firmly opposed to all suggestion of separation from the Church of England. He is said to have produced about 6,500 hymns, many of which are still used in Protestant churches; among the best known are “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing” and “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.”

See his journal, ed. by T. Jackson (1849); J. R. Tyson, Charles Wesley on Sanctification: A Biographical and Theological Study (1986) and Charles Wesley: A Reader (1989).

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