Arguably the greatest hymn-writer ever - at least by far the most productive - he must have written an average of 10 poetic lines a day for 50 years. He wrote nearly 9000 hymns and sacred poems. At some level his works show little sign of losing their appeal after almost 250 years. However, little else is commonly known about the life of one who was seemingly lost in his brother's shadow...
Prematurely born in 1707 and struggling for his live, it took weeks before even a sound came out of his mouth. By the time he reached what would have been 40 weeks gestation, he opened his eyes and cried. It's crazy how the tables turn, isn't it?
Charles was subject to greater extremes of emotions than his family members. This could be considerd a burden but it's fertile soil for poem writing. Spiritual despair and physical exhaustion took him across the Atlantic and back again after he graduated from Oxford. Deep dark poems came out of that period.
After years of vicious introspective battles of faith he found himself at peace with God, a total game-changer in his life. He still had the same character but in its core differently wired. In the month of May 1738 Charles wrote in his diary: "I went to bed still sensible of my own weakness...yet confident of Christ's protection." And it became noticeable. One of the rearly and earliest biographers D.M. Jones wrote:
"After this experience Charles Wesley was for a time at least lifted quite above all timid introspection and anxious care about his own spiritual state. It seemed as if this release was all that was needed to make him a channel for immense spiritual forces."
These 'immense spiritual forces' took him traveling through the whole of England and led him to share what he had to share: the poems, the hymns, and the love of God in gesture and word - always together. He valued education for the working poor, visiting and sharing food with 'conducted malefactors', standing up for decent working conditions for the mineworkers and standing up against slavetrade.
Due to the organziation skills of his far more famous brother John Wesley, this spiritual awakening became a nationwide movement known as Methodism. Back in the days these Methodists were known for their sober and disciplined way of life and admired because of their charity. On the other hand they were mistrusted by the ruling class. As the movement grew, so did the opposition. In some regions this even involved involved severe persecution. Nevertheless the Methodist movement was growing by numbers and in its impact.
Unlike his brother, Charles wasn't made for the limelight. It was said that: "If ever there was a human being who disliked power, avoided prominence, and shrank from praise, it was Charles Wesley."
His life as an itinerant preacher became too demanding. His highly emotional preaching was often followed by severe depression as well as nervous exhaustion. Charles sometimes lamented that God seemed to work through him but not in him.
It was decided that Charles would work more out of his home. This gave him the opportunity for a more regular family life. He was happily married with a woman named Sarah Gwynne who he called Sally and together with 3 children who survived childhood they formed a family.
For Charles, everything was spiritual. Until his last breath, anything could become a hymn or a poem.
As he lay dying in March, 1788, quite worn out, he dictated these lines to his beloved Sally:
"In age and feebleness extreme,
Who shall a helpless worm redeem?
Jesus, my only hope Thou art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart,
O, could I catch a smile from Thee
And drop into eternity!"