Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley

Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley

Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley

Assist Me to Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley


Charles Wesley (1707-1788) was the cofounder of Methodism and the author of more than 9,000 hymns and sacred poems, including such favorites as "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing," "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing," and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today." John Tyson here traces the remarkable life of this influential man from cradle to grave, using rare -- including previously unpublished -- hymns, letters, and journal materials.

As the younger brother of John Wesley, Charles was a vital partner in the Methodist revival. While often standing in the shadow of his more famous brother, Charles Wesley was arguably the founder of the Oxford Holy Club, and he actually experienced evangelical conversion three days prior to John. In Assist Me to Proclaim Tyson explores, among other things, behind-the-scenes questions about the brothers' sometimes-stormy relationship.

Notwithstanding all his accomplishments as an evangelist and itinerant preacher, Charles is chiefly remembered for his startling facility at writing hymns that show God at work in almost every instance of life. His remarkable legacy endures around the world, as hundreds of Charles Wesley hymns are still sung in churches everywhere today.

Assist Me to Proclaim draws a picture of a man whose fidelity to both the Church of England and the original vision of Methodism energized his remarkable abilities as a revivalist and hymn writer. Readers also get a glimpse into Wesley's heart and mind through the window of his hymn texts. This is a biography that any student of church history or hymnody will welcome.


Charles Wesley (1707–88) was born three hundred years ago this year. I first met him in the yellow brick church on the corner of Center Avenue and Eleanor Street where, as a youngster, I learned to sing his hymns. Indeed, at that time I didn’t even know they were his hymns. I simply learned to love “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” (from which the title of this book is taken), “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing,” “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today,” and many others like them.

My second and much more sustained encounter with Charles Wesley occurred in graduate school, at Drew University. I was looking for a topic for my Ph.D. dissertation, and had more or less decided upon “The Kingdom of God in the Theology of John Wesley.” My advisor, James H. Pain, told me that he was tired of reading about John Wesley, and that I should consider doing something on the “other Wesley.” and so it was that I began, in 1978, to make a concerted study of Charles Wesley. I did wind up writing my Ph.D. dissertation on “Charles Wesley’s Theology of the Cross,” and it seems I have been thinking and writing about him ever since.

Most people who are acquainted with the work of Charles Wesley rightly think of his hymns as his most enduring legacy and contribution to contemporary Christian life. He wrote between six thousand . . .

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