Gary Best, Epworth, 2006, 250pp. £19.99 ISBN 978 7162 0615 6
Many have written about John Wesley and George Whitefield, but very few books have been written about Charles Wesley. To have this one for his 300th Anniversary is new-found treasure for me and, I hope it may be for you. Gary Best is well placed to write it, being headmaster of Kingswood school in Bath, the school founded by the two brothers in their lifetime.
We all know about Charles’ gift for hymn writing, but he had a crucial influence on the growth of the emerging church in the 18th century. It was Charles who founded the Holy Club in Oxford. His influence brought George Whitefield to prominence. As a team manager of outstanding preachers himself, Charles was a genius. He worked tirelessly to build bridges between George Whitefield, Benjamin Ingham, Howell Harris, William Grimshaw, John Fletcher and many others. He also worked hard to keep the young Christians within the Church of England. He often disagreed with John and sought to moderate some of John’s more extreme views.
An extract from a letter written in 1752 from George Whitefield to Charles reads: ‘My dear friend ... My connection between you and your brother, hath been so close and continued, and your attachment to him so necessary to keep up his interest, that I would not willingly for the world do or say anything that may separate such friends. God knows how I love and honour you, and your brother, and how often I have preferred your interest to my own. This by the Grace of God I shall continue to do’.
Whilst John was touring the country with the gospel on horseback, Charles spent much time supporting and building up the preaching houses in London and Bristol, the two largest centres of population in those times.
John’s description of his warmed heart experience is written in stone in Methodism. Here is Charles’ dated 21st May 1738, three days earlier than his brother’s: ‘The Spirit of God strove with my own, and the evil spirit, till by degrees he chased away the darkness of my unbelief. I found myself convinced, I know not how or when; and immediately fell to intercession … I now found myself at peace with God, and rejoiced in hope of loving Christ’.
Read it for yourselves. I found it a very readable and enlightening biography.
Reviewed by Ron Abbot, a former secretary of MRF and Headway, editor of Headline and tutor at Cliff College.