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Transcript: Charles Wesley’s Gift of Music


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(Music: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”)

He is Methodism’s most famous musician, and his words have inspired people of faith for nearly 300 years.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day, III, United Methodist Commission on Archives and History: “6,000 hymns! Charles Wesley is the poet laureate and great writer of Methodism.”

(Music: “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing”)

The Rev. Alfred T. Day III: “So many of Charles’ hymns talks about the liberation of the human soul. In the hymn we love to sing, ‘Oh, for a thousand tongues,’ he breaks the power of cancelled sin; he sets the prisoner free. He not only helps us sing our theology, but he helps us to understand what it is we really have to sing about and belt out with joy and inspiration.”

Charles Wesley left his mark on Methodism, a movement very much influenced by its music.

(Music: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”)

The Rev. Alfred T. Day III: “Our theology is something that we’ve sung. And we’ve sung it in a way to help us understand it and to help us feel and experience it at the same time. So it’s one thing for me to say, for example, incarnational theology. It’s another thing for me to say ‘Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn king.’”

Early Methodists took their hymnals home during the week and hymns became daily devotions.

Dale Patterson, United Methodist Commission on Archives and History: “And they’d use it as a little mini dictionary, and if someone wanted to know about how to pray to God, there was a hymn for that. Someone wanted to know what does it mean that Jesus is divine? There was a hymn for that.”

Born in 1707, four years after his brother John, Charles was more the creative force, and John was the organizer.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day: “Charles’ influence on John was every bit as great as John’s influence on Charles. In these two brothers, here’s a dynamic duo that gives us the heart and soul of Methodism.”

It was Charles’ desire for a deepened religious experience that led them to form a Holy Club while Charles was a student at Oxford.  And Charles is credited with having a conversion experience before his brother.

The Rev. Alfred T. Day: “We all know John’s story of the heart strangely warmed, Aldersgate Day, May 24th. But guess what? Charles’ heartwarming experience was May 21st.”

Charles Wesley’s faith was most clearly communicated through the thousands of songs he composed. His words are known worldwide and United Methodists can take pride in their connection to this poet and preacher.

Dale Patterson: “Being a Methodist I like to think of the feast, the potluck, where all the churches gather in community. What do we bring to that feast? For Methodists that’s the song at Easter time, not just Methodists, but Christians around the world sing, ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today.’ And Christmastime, churches around the world sing ‘Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.’ Even Charlie Brown sings it. Right? That’s our gift.”