Holiness of heart, life, and pen
Charles Wesley (1707-88). Charles M. Sheldon (1857-1946). Separated by 150 years and a continent, these two men shared traits deeper than a common first name. Both believed Christians must respond to their Savior's amazing love by loving others in practical ways. And both, desiring that others be captivated by a higher vision of life in Christ, expressed that vision in words that galvanized millions.
The prematurely born eighteenth child of Samuel and Susanna Wesley, Charles Wesley would remain a short man, like his famous older brother. But while John Wesley's compact frame contained a commanding personality, Charles Wesley has been described as a round-faced, near-sighted man whose speech was abrupt and social manner awkward.
In contrast to his driven, disciplined, and perhaps over-earnest older brother, Charles was also, in the words of his beloved wife Sarah, "tender, indulgent, kind, as a brother, a husband, a father" and "warmly and unalienably devoted" to his friends.
What people noticed most about Charles Wesley, however, was his great humility. Literary scholar David Lyle Jeffrey writes of Charles's "luminous" spiritual character, recounting the first time the great antislavery reformer William Wilberforce encountered Wesley. It was two years before Charles's death, at the house of Hannah More. Wilberforce later remembered, "when I came into the room Charles Wesley rose from the table, and coming forward to me, gave me solemnly his blessing. I was scarcely ever more affected. Such was the effect of his manner and appearance that it altogether overset me, and I burst into tears, unable to restrain myself."
This "luminousness" of spiritual character should not surprise us. The Wesley brothers were brought ...