Tuesday, March 29, 2011

March 29 - Charles Wesley, Younger Brother of John, Musician, Composer

Charles Wesley was younger than his brother John and followed him in many of his pursuits. Their father had been a priest of the Church of England in the 18th century as England expanded and struggled in colonial America. In many ways, Charles lives in the shadow of his brother John. Both were on the ship that sailed from England to Georgia where they observed the Moravians lack of fear in face of the great storm that assailed the ship. They both were instrumental in forming the group known as the "Oxford Methodists" that included themselves and George Whitefield among others. Both felt called into a ministry that simultaneously emphasized both right teaching and right practice of the Christian faith. Yet, Charles is not remembered with the same academic prestige as his brother John. It's not that Charles was not as gifted a theologian as brother John but, rather, that his theology was set to music.

Charles Wesley's name is repeated time and time again in the average hymnal because he composed and arranged over 6,000 hymns. In these beautiful pieces of music, Charles tugs at the hearts of those who would draw close to God in a moment of worship. Because of his musical gifts and talents, he was able to influence the way people thought by changing the way people sang. In many ways, his hymns are a more subtle theology that teach us not only a faith we know and believe, but also a faith we sing. About his brother's many hymns, John wrote "Ma­ny gen­tle­men have done my bro­ther and me (thoughwith­out nam­ing us) the hon­our to re­print ma­ny of our hymns. Now they are per­fect­ly wel­come to do so, pro­vid­ed they print them just as they are. But I de­sire they would not at­tempt to mend them, for they are real­ly not able." Though this might sound insulting it points to the confidence that John and others had in Charles' gifts--his theology should not be tinkered with by inexpert hands because Charles' compositions were exquisitely crafted pieces inspired by the movement of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Charles' hymns were far more than music.

In spite of the fact that Charles is considered a co-founder of the methodist movement, he never considered himself anything other than Anglican. It was only years after Charles that people truly began to identify themselves primarily as Methodist Christians and not methodist Anglican Christians. In essence, "methodist" was a word that indicated a methodical approach to the faith for Charles. Before he died on the 29th day of March in the year 1788, he called for the rector from the local Anglican church to come and hear him. When the priest arrived, Charles said to him, "Sir, whatever the world may say of me, I have lived, and I die, a member of the Church of England. I pray you to bury me in your churchyard." He died and was carried to his grave by eight members of the Anglican clergy.

No comments: