Who Is Charles Wesley?

I remember having a hard time explaining to Joe Blanchard who Charles Wesley was. I met Joe at the Christian Union but he went to a different church on Sundays.

“He wrote hymns,” I started.

“Hymns?”

“Yeah. Old worship songs!”

“Oh right! Like ‘How Great Is Our God’?”

“Um, no, not that one.”

“Oh right. ‘Our God Is An Awesome God’?”

“Nope.”

“Huh. ‘Indescribable’?”

“I don’t think he’d have agreed with that one…”

“Oh. Are you talking about kids’ songs – ‘My God Is So Big’?”

“He wrote ‘O For A Thousand Tongues’.”

Blank look. “What’s that got to do with God?”

“It said ‘O for a thousand tongues to sing my great redeemer’s praise’!”

“Oh. That’s quite nice.”

“‘Jesus, the name that charms our fears, that bids our sorrows cease, ’tis music in the sinners’ ears, ’tis life and health and peace!’ Another great one is ‘Crown Him With Many Crowns’ – I mean who else could write ‘who died, eternal life to bring, and lives that death may die’? Which reminds me of another of his lines which you should recognise: ‘Born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth’ – he also wrote some Christmas carols.”

“Oh – I think you mean Charles Dickens.”

“No, I don’t.”

Joe looks smug. “I have A Christmas Carol on my bookshelf.”

I start assessing the potential damage to my forehead of the surface of the old bar table we’ve pulled up to.

“Do you know any hymns?”

“I really like ‘You Are Amazing, God’.”

“Isn’t that ‘Indescribable’ again?”

“No it’s the new Passion one.”

“Oh. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway…”

“Hmm?”

“Never mind. Listen, Google Charles Wesley sometime.”

“Sure, I will! You should check out the new Soul Survivor album.”

“Oh yeah? What’s it called?” I ask hopefully.

God, You’re So Big.”

“No kidding.”

[Once I’m done dislodging my tongue from my cheek I’ll follow this up with a more sensible post about how we can rescue modern worship from the brink of oblivion get more great theology and depth in our worship, and actually worship as whole congregations, together, and not just put a loud band at the front and watch them enjoy playing music for half an hour.]

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One response to “Who Is Charles Wesley?”

  1. Al DeFilippo says :

    Ben, I love it! As a Christian musician, writer and historian you have spoke volumes to me with this post. Yes, hymns need a revival just for the Biblical depth shared in the lyrics. Combine them with contemporary instrumentation and vocals and you have an inspiring combination. If you are interested, check out the website for an upcoming book series about Francis Asbury. The Asbury Triptych Series opens with, Black Country, a book which brings to life the activities and times of Charles Wesley. It talks about his brother John as well. Black Country will be available in November. http://www.francisasburytriptych.com. Again, thank you for the post. I would be interested in your take on The Asbury Triptych Series.

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