On March 3 we honour John and Charles Wesley, who launched the Methodist revival in the eighteenth century Church of England. Brought up in a strict Anglican parsonage, the two brothers both became priests with a demanding sense of purpose. In the year 1738, they each experienced “conversion of the heart” and went forth to help others know the same assurance of God’s love. In one of their later writings they described themselves “as messengers of God to those who are Christians in name but heathens in heart, to call them back. . . to real, genuine Christianity.”
Wherever they went their mission drew immense crowds, who often responded with uncontrollable fervour. But the Wesleys did more than preach to the crowds; they also developed a network of support-groups in order to sustain the revival. Hymn-singing became a prominent feature of these Methodist meetings, because the Wesleys understood the power of good hymns to teach sound doctrine and heartfelt religion. Charles alone wrote nearly 6,000, and a good many are still cherished by all English-speaking Christians — for instance, “Hark, the herald angels sing,” “Christ, whose glory fills the skies,” and “Love divine, all loves excelling.”
In time, much to the grief of the Wesley brothers, a large section of the Methodist movement separated from the Church of England and organized its own family of churches. But the brothers’ work also endured in Anglicanism itself and gave it new vitality, so that our whole tradition is in debt to their evangelical witness.
We are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his
appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:20
you inspired John and Charles Wesley
to thirst after true righteousness,
and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song
that the hearts and voices of many
might testify to the work of Christ.
Grant us, we pray,
the power of your Spirit,
to kindle anew in hearts grown cold
the ardent love of Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.