For centuries now, the Wesley brothers, John and Charles have garnered the attention of evangelical Christians across global denominational lines. As a means of preparation for my Baptist/evangelical Christian tour in Great Britain, I did some selective reading concerning major characters of interest. Naturally, as Baptist, I was enchanted with the stories of John Bunyan, William Carey, Charles Haddon Spurgeon and John Newton.
Yet, I must admit I felt a surprising effect of rekindled interest in John and Charles Wesley as forward thinking Christian leaders of their day in the 18th century. This led me to read two brief biographies of these two gigantic figures of evangelical Christianity.
Gordon S. Wakefield captured the essence of John Wesley in his book which bears the simple title John Wesley. With the economy of words only a skilled writer could employ, Wakefield told the moving story of how John Wesley set the stage for his followers to become forged into denominational-like movements that continue to this day. His famous horseback riding preaching style and his boundless energy served to etch the name John Wesley into the history of Christianity.
His brother, Charles may have been overshadowed by John, but when one examines his life and contribution a different story unfolds. Charles Wesley was a prolific song and hymn writer. His father Samuel desired to be one and didn’t, but Charles became a writer of hymnody with excellence. John A. Vickers masterfully shares the highlights of Charles Wesley’s life and ministry in a book titled simply Charles Wesley. The background details of some of his famous hymns are offered with simple and straightforward detail.
The Wesleys now belong to Christian history, not to one single movement. Their ministries have been cherished through the years and rightly so. Today, people still read the sermons of John Wesley and sing the hymns of Charles Wesley. In this unique way, we can affirm, “Although they are dead, they speak.”