Charles Wesley

“Jesus, Lover of My Soul”: Charles Wesley

by Amos R. Wells

                        The three greatest hymn-writers of our English tongue are Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, and Fanny Crosby. There are many who think that the hymn we are to study is the greatest hymn ever written; all men agree that it is the best of Wesley’s hymns, though he wrote no less than six thousand. Many of these six thousand, too, rise to the highest rank of religious poetry, such as those beginning: “Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,” “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,” “A charge to keep I have,” “Arise, my soul, arise,” “Love divine, all love excelling,” “Depth of mercy! Can there be,” “Soldiers of Christ, arise,” “Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing,” and the noble Christmas hymn, “Hark! the herald angels sing.” That is a wonderful list of great hymns to be written by one man. Charles Wesley, next to the youngest of nineteen children, was born at Epworth, England, on December 18, [1707]. His father was Rev. Samuel Wesley, and his mother, Susannah Wesley, was a very remarkable woman. When he was a lad of fifteen, an Irish member of Parliament, Garret Wesley, a wealthy man, wanted to adopt him. His father left him to decide the matter, and he decided in the negative. The boy that was finally adopted became the father of the Duke of Wellington (Lord “Wellesley,” as he spelled “Wesley”), who conquered Napoleon at Waterloo. How history might have been changed if young Charles Wesley had not decided as he did! In 1735 Wesley became a clergyman of the Church of England, and went with his brother John on a missionary journey to Georgia, becoming secretary to Governor Oglethorpe. Within a year, broken in health and discouraged, he was compelled to return to England. Years before this, when Charles Wesley was at Oxford, he and his comrades were so strict in their religious methods that they were nicknamed “Methodists.” But both Charles and John had to learn more truly what religion really is. Charles first learned it from Peter Böhler, a Moravian of devout spirit, and from Thomas Bray, an unlearned mechanic who knew Jesus Christ. John soon after had the same experience, and from their vivified preaching sprung the great Methodist churches of today. Under the preaching of the Wesleys — especially that of John Wesley, for Charles soon withdrew from the more active work — revivals flamed all over England. There was much persecution. Charles himself was driven from his church. Many of his hymns were written in time of trial, and it is said that “Jesus, Lover of my soul,” was written just after the poet and his brother had been driven by a violent mob from the place where they had been preaching. Another story (and neither tale can be verified) says that the hymn was written just after a frightened little bird, pursued by a hawk, had flown into Wesley’s window and crept into the folds of his coat. The probable date of the hymn is 1740. After a long life of nearly eighty years, Charles Wesley died, March 29, 1788.

More on Charles Wesley

 Charles Wesley PDF file

 Charles Wesley AA PDF file 

Charles Wesley BB PDF file

Comments are closed.