Saturday, October 03, 2015

Can anybody have written more?

Charles Wesley, one of the 19 children of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, joined the Holy Club at Oxford, covenanted with the other members "to live disciplined Christian lives, given to serious study of the Bible, prayer, fasting and charitable works." He was ordained to the Anglican ministry and went as a missionary to the American state of Georgia, but came back a failure. 

While still a young man, he was taken ill and was in such extreme pain that he expected to die. He was visited by a young German Moravian missionary, Peter Boehler. Boehler (who was also largely incidental in the conversion of Charles' brother, John Wesley) asked him: "Do you hope to be saved?"

"Yes," he said. "For what reason do you hope it?" "Because I have used my best endeavours to serve God." Boehler shook his head, and said no more. "I thought him very uncharitable," wrote Charles, "saying in my heart: 'What? Are not my endeavours a sufficient ground of hope? Would he rob me of my endeavours? I have nothing else to trust to.'"

Boehler continued to visit, and to pray that Charles would again consider the doctrine of salvation by faith in Christ, examine himself whether he was in the faith, and if not, "never cease seeking and longing after it" until he attained it. 

Charles' deliverance came on Pentecost Sunday that same year. He said he felt the Spirit of God striving with his spirit until by degrees the darkness of his unbelief was chased away. "I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ."

During the next 50 years, Charles wrote more than six thousand hymns. That's 120 a year; an average of one every three days. Some 250 years later, some of them are still among the nation's favourites: 

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
  Fast bound in sin and nature's night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
  I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
  I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

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