Friday, July 14, 2006

The Other Wesley

In this blog I've spoken about John Wesley and quoted from him considerably. However, this semi-historical blog concerning the Wesleyan part of the Great Awakening would be incomplete without mention of John's younger brother, Charles.

Charles Wesley surely is the most prolific hymn writer in Church history. He is a significant player in the 1700's because he took his brother's theology and placed it into words to be sung by the Methodist societies.

I feel a bit sad for Charles. I don't know if this occurred, but I wonder if anyone asked him, upon meeting the Anglican, "Is your brother coming?" I must confess that, yes, when I call myself a "Wesleyan" I am referring to John, not Charles.

Still, it would be a grave error if we forget the hymnist of the Great Awakening. Charles, himself, was ordained a minister in the Church of England. Charles, not John, started the "Holy Club" with Oxford friends, the group that others mocked by calling them "Methodists".

Consider this one song of Charles Wesley. Feel the power of theology in poetry:

1 AND can it be, that I should gain
An interest in the Saviour's blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain?
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! how can it be
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2 'Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the first-born seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
'Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel-minds inquire no more.

3 He left his Father's throne above,
(So free, so infinite his grace!)
Emptied himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam's helpless race:
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For, O my God, it found out me!

4 Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

5 No condemnation now I dread,
Jesus, and all in him, is mine!
Alive in him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

He wasn't his brother, John, and God didn't call him to be. He was Charles Wesley.