Within the vast repertoire of church music the hymns of
Charles Wesley (1707-1788) are widely considered as some of
the greatest ever written. Many of the hymns which
congregations most love to sing came from his pen. The
scriptural detail of his writing and his inspired turns of
phrase put him up there with the very best.
The youngest brother of John Wesley, the inspiration behind
the founding of Methodism, Charles supported his brother in
his evangelical work, writing many great hymns in the
process. In his university days at Christ College in Oxford
he and John founded the Holy Club which was the embryo of
A look at some of the finest hymns of Charles Wesley will
demonstrate his genius and reveal why Christians so love to
sing his work. All church goers will have their own
favourites, but here are five of mine.
- On Easter morning churches ring to the words, "Christ the
Lord is risen today". This is a great opener for worship on
the greatest day in the Christian year. The words, "Love's
redeeming work is done, Fought the fight, the battle won;"
sum up beautifully the full meaning of Easter to all
believers in the Christian faith.
- On the other great day in the Christian calendar,
Christmas Day, Charles Wesley penned one of the greatest of
all Christmas carols, "Hark! The herald-angels sing glory
to the new-born King." In the first verse of this carol we
sing that we, "With the angelic host proclaim: 'Christ is
born in Bethlehem.' Usually sung to the great setting by
Mendelssohn, this hymn has rattled many a church window on
- One of the hymns my wife and I chose for our wedding
ceremony was another of the great hymns of Charles Wesley,
"Love divine, all loves excelling". Because of its theme of
love it has become a very popular choice for weddings.
Although the theme is not actually about earthly love but
of heavenly love, it refers to Jesus as "Pure, unbounded
love thou art."
- In a recent survey of the most popular hymns "And can it
be that I should gain" came out top of the poll. This, of
course, is another great congregational hymn of Wesley's
and not surprisingly it is at the top of many people's
list. The repeat of the final two lines of each verse, when
sung to the tune Sagina, never fails to make the hairs on
my neck and forearms stand to attention.
- As a local preacher, I always try to send the
congregation out at the end of worship with a clear message
in their minds. "Forth in thy name, O Lord, I go" is a
great hymn with which to end a service. The words encourage
the members of the congregation to take their faith out
into the community with confidence.
The hymns of Charles Wesley are loved by pretty-well
everyone within the church, whatever their particular
musical preference may be. The five hymns above are some of
my particular favourites, although it was a difficult task
to select just five. There are so many others I could have
chosen. There are, after all, plenty to choose from as,
during his lifetime, he wrote well over 6000 of them.
Robert Hinchliffe is a professional musician and Methodist
local preacher. He is an oboist and composer but also a
writer of worship songs. His recent research into the hymns
of Charles Wesley came as a result of a more general study
of music in Christian worship. If you would like to know
more please visit http://www.robsworshipmusic.com/mcweb.htm
and find out how you can access a FREE copy of Robert's new
Christmas song, "The Greatest Gift".
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