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Charles Wesley (18 December 1707 – 29 March 1788) was a leader of the Methodist movement, son of Anglican clergyman and poet Samuel Wesley, the younger brother of Anglican clergyman John Wesley and Anglican clergyman Samuel Wesley , and father of musician Samuel Wesley, and grandfather of musician Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Despite their closeness, Charles and his brother John did not always agree on questions relating to their beliefs. In particular, Charles was strongly opposed to the idea of a breach with the Church of England into which they had been ordained. Charles Wesley is chiefly remembered for the many hymns he wrote. He founded Wesley Chapel in the village of Braytonmarker, which is just south of Selbymarker. His house, located nearby, can still be visited today.

Biographical details

Charles Wesley was the son of Susanna Wesley and Samuel Wesley. Like his brother John, Charles Wesley was born in Epworthmarker, Lincolnshiremarker, Englandmarker, where their father was rector. He was educated at Westminster Schoolmarker and Christ Church, Oxfordmarker, where his brother had also studied, and formed the "Oxford Methodist" group among his fellow students in 1727 which his elder brother, John joined in 1729 soon becoming its leader and moulding it to his own notions. George Whitefield also joined this group. After graduating with a Masters' in classical languages and literature, Charles followed his father and brother into the church in 1735, and travelled with John to the colony of Georgiamarker in America in the entourage of the governor, James Oglethorpe, returning a year later.

Charles lived and worked in the area around St Marylebone Parish Churchmarker and so, just before his death, he sent for its rector John Harley and told 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." On his death, his body was carried to the church by eight clergymen of the Church of England and a memorial stone to him stands in the gardens in Marylebone High Street, close to his burial spot. One of his sons, Samuel, was later organist of the present church.

Marriage and children

In 1749, he married the much younger Sarah Gwynne, daughter of Marmaduke Gwynne, a wealthy Welsh magistrate who had been converted to Methodism by Howell Harris. She accompanied the brothers on their evangelistic journeys throughout Britain, until Charles ceased to travel in 1765 and they moved to Great Chesterfield Street (now Wheatley Street) in Marylebonemarker, where they remained until Charles' death.

Charles and Sarah had eight children, only three survived infancy, Charles Wesley junior (1757–1834), Samuel Wesley (1766 – 1837) and Sarah Wesley. Both Samuel and Charles junior were organist and composers; Samuel Wesley's son, Samuel Sebastian Wesley was one of the foremost British composers of the nineteenth century, and some of Charles junior's works are still available and played.

Best-known hymns

In the course of his career, Charles Wesley published the words of over five and a half thousand hymns, writing the words for a further two thousand, many of which are still popular. These include:

The lyrics to many more of Charles Wesley's hymns can be found on Wikisource and "Hymns and Sacred Poems".

Some 150 of his hymns are included in the Methodist hymn book Hymns and Psalms and e.g., among several other hymns, "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing is published as number 403 in "The Church Hymn Book" (In New York and Chicago, USA, 1872) where "Jesus, Lover of My Soul" also is published as number 799.

Many of his hymns are translated into other languages, and forms the foundation for Methodist hymnals, as the SwedishMetodist-Episkopal-Kyrkans Psalmbokprinted in Stockholm after a decission in New York, USA, 1892.


He is commemorated in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 2 March with his brother John. The Wesley brothers are also commemorated on 3 March in the Calendar of Saints of the Episcopal Church and on 24 May in the Anglican calendar.

As a result of his enduring hymnody, the Gospel Music Association recognized his musical contributions to the art of gospel music in 1995 by listing his name in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.


On 24 May 2007, there was a tercentenary celebration to celebrate 300 years since the birth of Charles Wesley, and many celebrations were held throughout England. It was held on the 24 May, known to all Methodists as 'Wesley Day,' although Charles Wesley was not born until December 1707. The May date actually commemorates the spiritual awakening of first Charles and then John Wesley in 1738. In particular, in the Village of Epworth, North Lincolnshire, at the Wesley Memorial Methodist Church, there was a fantastic flower festival, on the 26–28 May, with some of the most astounding flower arrangements, representing some of Charles Wesley’s hymns, from ‘O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,’ to ‘And Can It Be,’ and not forgetting ‘O For a Trumpet Voice,’ the name of the flower festival.

In November 2007, An Post, the Irish Post Office issued a 78c stamp to commemorate the 300th Anniversary of his birth.


  2. Hymns and sacred poems, by Wesley, John and Wesley, Charles, Bristol, 1743
  • Abbey, Charles J. (1892) Religious thought in old English verse, London: Sampson Low, Marston, 456p., ISBN (?) 0-7905-4361-3
  • Tyson, John R. (Ed.) (2000) Charles Wesley: a reader, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 519 p., ISBN 0-19-513485-0
  • Tyson, John R. Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans and Göttingen: Edition Ruprecht 2007, ISBN 978-3-7675-3052-2 DOI 10.2364/3320751449

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