Congregational Libraries Today, July/August 2008
Charles Wesley, brother of Methodism’s founder John Wesley, wrote more than nine thousand hymns and sacred poems. His hymns are sung throughout the church year and include such classics as "0 for a Thousand Tongues to Sing’ "Hark the Herald Angels sing," and "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.’ Over four hundred remain in contemporary hymnals.
Charles Wesley was humble to a fault and left a poor record of his writings. For this reason, author John Tyson, professor of theology at Houghton College in New York, faced challenges as a biographer.
Tyson endeavors to present a faithful picture of his subject. He begins with John and Charles Wesley’s young lives in England prior to the Industrial Revolution, Charles Wesley reluctantly left the comfort of academia and followed his brother to the American colony of Georgia in 1735. Tyson uses several of their letters to tell of Charles’s life; in "My Dearest Sally," Tyson relates the relationship with Sarah (Sally) Gwynne, whose marriage to Charles lasted from 1749 until his death in 1788. Later chapters address Charles Wesley’s opposition to Calvinism and his striving towards sanctification.
Though voluminous in its detail, Tyson’s book provides factual and accessible reading. The index very adequately leads readers to people and organizations associated with Wesley. Hymns are listed as "Hymns and poems," followed by the author’s name, since some are by Charles, some by John, and some by both.