Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Other Wesley

The 29th was the 224th anniversary of the death of Charles Wesley. Together with John Wesley, he was founder of the Methodist movement within the Church of England; Charles tended to counsel John to take as irenic a course as possible with regard to the Church of England, and as he lay dying he insisted that he was still a member of the Church of England, and requested an Anglican burial, which he was given.

Charles Wesley is best known for his hymns, of which he wrote literally thousands. Probably the most widely sung is "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," but there are many others, like the following.

Christ, from Whom All Blessings Flow
by Charles Wesley


Christ, from whom all blessings flow,
perfecting the saints below,
hear us, who thy nature share,
who thy mystic body are.

Join us, in one spirit join,
let us still receive of thine;
still for more on thee we call,
thou who fillest all in all.

Move and actuate and guide,
diverse gifts to each divide;
placed according to thy will,
let us all our work fulfill;

Never from thy service move,
needful to each other prove;
use the grace on each bestowed,
tempered by the art of God.

Many are we now, and one,
we who Jesus have put on;
there is neither bond nor free,
male nor female, Lord, in thee.

Love, like death, hath all destroyed,
rendered all distinctions void;
names and sects and parties fall;
thou, O Christ, art all in all!

You can find more of Wesley's hymns at the Center for Studies in the Wesleyan Tradition.

1 comment:

  1. Timotheos9:59 PM

    It should be noted that John Wesley too died as an Anglican; he never saw himself separating from the Church of England, even though he did appoint priests without being ordained as a bishop, they were specifically to serve in America, which had already disbanded the Church there. He did this mostly because he had such a high view of the Eucharist, taking it daily himself, and he was afraid that without a Church structure, there would not be enough priests to serve it during the war.

    It is a point of contention about why Wesley thought he could do this; some say it was because he became convinced that all priest are of the same order, so a bishop is not needed to ordain priests, and others say that he just thought that a priest could ordain other priests in times of great need or emergency (regardless, everyone admits that he thought bishops were of a different order in his early years). There is even a rumor that he got himself ordained as a bishop by an Orthodox bishop for this purpose, but this seems a little fanciful to be true.

    Despite the fact that most of his followers are not like this, Wesley himself was definitely a high churchman, since he believed in apostolic succession, the perpetual virginity of Mary, a version of the Real Presence, infant baptism, praying for the dead, frequent fasting, and even believed that the universal tradition of the “primitive church” (which he defined to have lasted until about the mid-fourth century) was of equal authority to that of scripture, although he seems to might have become more of a subordinatist in his later years.

    Regardless, at the very least, he held a very high vi­­ew of
    tradition, putting it as an equal authority as reason and experience (in Locke’s
    sense; he was a big fan of Locke), when interpreting scripture. Thus, even
    though he put scripture as the primary authority in religion, and therefore held
    to a version of “Sola Scriptoria” of sorts, his version should not be naïvely
    lumped together with other versions of the doctrine.

    I also think his understanding of salvation by faith and his doctrine of Christian Perfection are, if I understand it correctly, very close to the Catholic position, although you might have to confirm that for me. Wesley’s version of Christian Perfection is also often compared to the Orthodox theosis.

    Thus, John Wesley is not well represented by many of his followers today, although there are still some Methodists, primarily in the South and in Africa, that are more or less faithful to him.

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