Standard Article

Wesley, Charles (1707–1788)

  1. Kenneth M. Loyer

Published Online: 25 NOV 2011

DOI: 10.1002/9780470670606.wbecc1459

The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization

How to Cite

Loyer, K. M. 2011. Wesley, Charles (1707–1788). The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 25 NOV 2011


Charles Wesley was an Anglican priest, a cofounder with his elder brother John of the Methodist movement, and a prolific hymn writer. Born into the large family of Samuel and Susanna Wesley in the parish of Epworth, Lincolnshire, Charles studied at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he became a leading member of a group of devout young men who met regularly for prayer, study of the scriptures, communion, and ministry to prisoners and the sick. Derided by its detractors as “Bible Moths,” the “Holy Club,” and “Methodists,” this group eventually became known by the latter designation, a reference to the methodical way of life its members embraced. In 1735 Charles was ordained and then accompanied John on a missionary trip to Georgia, where he served as secretary to the colony's leader, J. E. Oglethorpe. Charles remained in Georgia only until 1736, when he returned to England. Like John he came under the influence of Peter Böhler and the Moravians, who impressed Charles with their emphasis on robust, evangelical faith made manifest through personal assurance of having received God's pardoning grace. Charles experienced such assurance himself on May 21, 1738, and three days later John underwent a similar “heartwarming” experience of his own. In 1739 Charles entered the itinerant ministry, in which he occupied himself with preaching, traveling, and hymn writing until he settled in Bristol in 1756. For the last seven of those years he managed to balance his work in itinerant ministry with family life, having married Sarah Gwynne in April 1749. Although his days as an itinerant ended in 1756, Charles remained active in the Methodist movement, chiefly from his home in Bristol, and then later in London, where he and his family moved in 1771.


  • Wesley, Charles (1707–1788);
  • Anglican priest, cofounder with John of methodist movement;
  • “bible moths,” the “holy club,” and “methodists,”;
  • Charles’s hymns, a poetic voice