John and Charles Wesley are some of those rare saints who are recognized both in the Church and beyond.
John is recorded to have ridden 250,000 miles on horseback over the course of his ministry in order to preach, to teach, to spearhead works of justice and mercy, and to organize others in the same work. For his own impressive statistic, Charles wrote almost 9,000 hymns over the course of his lifetime, and if you have been in a hymn-singing church very long, you can be certain that you have sung a handful of them. Think Chris Tomlin with an Oxford education and a refusal to work anywhere but with those on the lowest rungs of society’s ladder.
In the Church, the Wesley brothers and their fellow Methodists were at the forefront of an evangelical revival in England and British colonial North America. What set that revival apart from many revivals, particularly in England, was that the two men refused to separate the preaching of the good news of Christ from the concrete work of Christ in the world. They visited prisoners, fought slavery, gave away a fortune (to the point that scholar and popular theologian Leonard Sweet has likened John Wesley’s popularity, influence, and financial success to that of Rick Warren, and it’s not an exaggeration), and called a nation to social reform focused on the neediest of society.
Craziest of all perhaps, that nation listened. From Christian History & Biography magazine:
Some historians have maintained that the revival so altered the course of English history that it probably saved England from the kind of revolution that took place in France.
How many folks can you think of who are claimed (albeit with varied levels of accuracy) as father figures by contemporary evangelicals, liberal Protestants, Pentecostals, and radical secular Left political thinkers? Well, aside from Jesus…two brothers named Wesley who devoted their lives to becoming like Christ and calling others to do the same through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord God, you inspired your servants John and Charles Wesley with burning zeal for the sanctification of souls, and endowed them with eloquence in speech and song: Kindle in your Church, we entreat you, such fervor, that those whose faith has cooled may be warmed, and those who have not known Christ may turn to him and be saved; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.