This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99 Pay by PayPal for images for immediate download Member of British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA)

John and Charles Wesley were destined for greatness

Posted in Bible, Historical articles, History, Music, Religion on Monday, 29 April 2013

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

This edited article about John and Charles Wesley originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 235 published on 16 July 1966.

John Wesley, picture, image, illustration

John Wesley preaching in the market place by Peter Jackson

It was fortunate that the house of the parson at Epworth in Lincolnshire was large, for he had a very big family. His two most famous sons, John and Charles, were the fifteenth and eighteenth children born to the Reverend Samuel Wesley and his wife, Susannah.

John and Charles were both sent to a famous school, John to Charterhouse and Charles to Westminster, and from there both went on to Oxford.

It was during their student days at Oxford that the two brothers showed the earnestness of their religious beliefs. They met regularly with a few friends for prayer and study of the Bible, and behaved with a seriousness by no means common among their fellow students. Of several nicknames given to them at this time, one has survived to become the title of their followers even two centuries later. That was the name ‘Methodists’, which referred to their methodical and disciplined way of life.

In 1735, when John was 32 and Charles 28, the brothers sailed to the New World colony of Georgia as missionaries. It is strange to learn that these two men, who were later such amazingly effective missionaries among their fellow-countrymen in Britain, were a dismal failure in America! Within two years they were home again.

John then underwent an experience which changed his whole life. Christianity took on a new and deeper meaning for him, and became a religion of the heart, as well as of the mind. Soon afterwards Charles Wesley underwent a similar change of heart, or ‘conversion’.

In the course of the next half-century, John Wesley travelled on horseback an average of 8,000 miles every year. He prepared his sermons at a little desk attached to the saddle of his horse, and for the most part delivered them in the open air, often to large crowds.

Many of the clergymen in the places he visited did not like either his message or his methods, and refused to allow him to preach in their churches. As a result John Wesley gradually found himself a stranger in the Church of England, in which he had been brought up, and eventually he began appointing his own ministers to look after those who had heard him so gladly. In this way there began the groups of ‘the people called Methodists’ who today form the world-wide Methodist Church numbering 12 million members, of whom about three-quarters of a million live in Britain.

Charles Wesley was outstanding as a writer of hymns, of which he wrote more than 5,000. Today many of them are still sung by Christians of all denominations, and there can scarcely be anyone who does not know a few lines of his most famous composition, ‘Hark, the herald angels sing’.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.