I have previously recommended Gareth Lloyd’s Charles Wesley and the Struggle for Methodist Identity. When I reread the book during my research trip at the special collections of the John Rylands University Library in Manchester, England, I was struck by a couple of references that Lloyd made to the area of Charles Wesley life that he is best known for – his hymns and poems.
Lloyd writes, “The lasting value of Charles’ poetry is well recognized, but it is worth remembering that most people during the early years would have known Charles better as a preacher, pastor, and leader.” (39-40)
Later Lloyd also notes that the Church of England was much slower to accept the use of hymns in worship than was Methodism, not fully embracing hymns until the end of the nineteenth century (see p. 74).
The thought I had as I read these passages was that Charles Wesley may not have realized the extent of the impact that his hymn-writing would have on the Church. Perhaps Wesley wrote each of the thousands of hymns he wrote, not because he knew they would be popular, but because it was one of the ways he praised God. And yet, many of the hymns he wrote have become classics, not just in Methodism, but throughout Protestantism.