John and Charles Wesley were two among 19 children of a Lincolnshire rector. Their lives were profoundly shaped by their mother, Susanna Wesley. Her thorough education of her children was based on strict discipline and obedience. John in particular never ceased to revere her. Both brothers attended Oxford University, where Charles founded the “Holy Club”, a group committed to a “methodical” discipline of prayer, Bible reading, weekly communion, and helping the poor.
Both brothers were ordained in the Church of England. They came in contact with the Moravians and were impressed greatly by them. On 17 May 1738, John attended a Christian meeting and experienced what most Christians would call being "saved".
Often when he spoke about his new assurance in Anglican pulpits, John met with a hostile reception and was told not to return. Encouraged by George Whitefield, another leader of evangelical piety in England, John began to speak in the open air, taking the gospel to the poor of the new industrial towns, with which the Church of England had little contact. For 52 years he travelled on horseback, first between London and Bristol, and later to the Midlands, Scotland and Ireland.
John unwittingly became the founder of the Methodist Church, incorporating Moravian methods, in the training and discipling of new believers, the by-product of this was skills that also improved social and economic positions. To the end of his life John continued inspiring the social concern that has ever since been a typical feature of Methodism.
Charles has experianced his "conversion" 3 days before John on Whitsunday. Charles, like his brother, was an open-air preacher for a number of years before settling in London in 1771. His greatest contribution was the poetry of his hymns. He wrote over 6,000. These express personal experiences such as the call of God, repentance, conflict with evil, and a joyful devotion to Jesus. Many of his hymns are still sung, including such favourites as “Hark the herald angels sing”, “Love divine, all loves excelling”, “Author of life divine”, and “Lo, he comes, with clouds descending”.
Both John and Charles Wesley regarded themselves as loyal ministers of the Church of England. John saw the Methodists as forming an energising group within it. However by the time of his death they had split from the Church of England, becoming a separate organisation.
BORN: John Wesley, 1703; Charles Wesley,
18 December 1707, both in
Epworth, Lincolnshire, England
DIED: John Wesley, 2 March 1791 (aged 87); Charles Wesley, 29 March 1788 (aged 80) both in London, England