A hanging at Tyburn drawn by William Hogarth

Charles Wesley’s Night In The Condemned Cell

In Articles, Faith, Heroes Articles by Dave LittlewoodLeave a Comment

In 1735, the newly ordained Anglican clergyman, Charles Wesley, had accompanied his brother, John, on an ill-fated missionary trip to the new American colony of Georgia.


The settlers – many of whom had gone there to escape the rigours of conventional religion – found the Wesley’s high-handedness and strict application of the ‘letter of the law’ too much for them and reacted with open hostility towards the brothers.

What added to the strain the Wesleys were feeling was that neither of them had any assurance of their own personal salvation. In fact, their very missionary activity in Georgia was intended to ‘save their souls’ by good works.

Perhaps inevitably, Charles’ sensitive and poetic nature collapsed under the strain and after only a year in Georgia he was invalided back to England to be followed some time later by his dejected brother.

charles wesley

A hanging at Tyburn drawn by William Hogarth shows the death cart approaching the gallows amid the boisterous crowd that had gathered to watch the execution. Already completed earlier, following the 18th century evangelical awakening Hogarth revised his picture to include a Methodist preacher pointing the condemned to the way of life everlasting

However, on arrival back in England Charles found his friend George Whitefield had discovered the new birth and was preaching to huge congregations. Another influence was a Moravian pastor, Peter Bohler, who began to teach in religious societies attended by the Wesley brothers on the true nature of faith.

In 1738, Charles moved in with a ‘poor, ignorant mechanic’ named William Bray, because he saw that, in spite of Bray’s lack of education, the man had a real and living relationship with the Saviour. Much of this time, Charles was confined to bed because of ill health, yet he earnestly sought God for the peace he saw in his friends.

In May, Charles and his group began studying Luther’s ‘Commentary on the Galatians’ together. As Charles was reading this in a society meeting, one of the members, William Holland, was dramatically converted and a few days later Charles himself found peace through the words of Paul, “the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Charles called this his ‘Day of Deliverance’ – it was Whit Sunday, 21 May 1738.

This article was taken from issue #42 of Heroes of the Faith.

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