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The Life and Work of Charles Wesley (0633)
Department of Theology
Tyndale Seminary
Fall 2003
Instructor: V. Shepherd
Office Hours: (to be announced)
Tel.: 416 226 6380 ext. 6726 (office)
905 821 0587 (home)
vshepherd@tyndale.ca or victor.shepherd@sympatico.ca 

This course examines the life, spiritual formation, poetic genius, and theological contribution of Charles Wesley through an investigation of his sermons, verse, journals and correspondence.

While completion of Introductory Systematic Theology is desirable, it is not essential as this course, unlike the instructor’s Theology of John Wesley, is more than a detailed examination of doctrine. Students with a background in or a concern for the following can profit from the course: history, church history, liturgics, English literature (especially poetry), psychology of religion, the Enlightenment.

The objectives of the course are
[1] to acquaint students with CW’s primary material;
[2] to have students appreciate the variegated context (social, political, economic, intellectual, literary and religious) in which CW wrote and ministered;
[3] to expose students to different kinds of sources (e.g., poetry, correspondence and journals), sources that are frequently overlooked and are no less fruitful than explicitly written theology;
[4] to have students locate CW in the church catholic;
[5] to acquaint students with the literary formation of CW; e.g., his nine years of training in classical poetry at Oxford University, as well as his appreciation of other poets, particularly Shakespeare, Milton, Herbert, Dryden, Pope and Prior;
[6] to acquaint students with the role of the hymn as a vehicle of public liturgy and private aspiration;
[7] to illustrate the manner in which CW advanced the English hymn in the wake of its “father”, Isaac Watts;
[8] to expose students to the compatibility and simultaneity of Anglican churchmanship and evangelical zeal;
[9] to introduce students to the theological breadth of CW’s hymns wherein, e.g., he does not hesitate to use “sacrifice” in speaking of the objectivity of the eucharist at the same time as he fosters the subjective heart-searching of, for instance, “I have long withstood his grace,
 long provoked him to his face”;
[10] to familiarize students with the exegetical Tendenz of CW’s handling of scripture;
[11] to acquaint students with the theological and ecclesiastical tensions that Methodism highlighted, even fostered, within 18th century Protestantism and between the Wesley brothers themselves (e.g., the use of lay preachers and the scope of sanctification in this life);
[12] to have students appreciate the contributions, in the 18th century Evangelical Revival, of expatriate pietists (Moravians), English Dissenters, Anglican Calvinists (both non-Methodist like John Newton and Methodist like George Whitefield), and those popularly recognized as “Methodists” (the Wesleys, John Fletcher).



To be purchased: John R. Tyson (ed.), Charles Wesley: A Reader (Oxford U.P.; pp. vi+519) This book consists of excerpts from C. Wesley’s Sermons, Poetry, Journals and Correspondence.

To be consulted: Franz Hildebrandt and Oliver Beckerlegge (eds.), The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 7: A Collection of Hymns for the Use of The People Called Methodists (Abingdon Press; pp. xv+848) Tyndale Library has two copies of this book.

Suggested secondary source: ST Kimbrough, Jr., (ed.), Charles Wesley: Poet and Theologian (Abingdon Press; pp.250)



One topic will be covered each week (3 classroom hours.)

Sept. 9   Introduction  
Sept. 16   The frustration/formation of Georgia chapt. 1
Sept. 23   The man awakened and inflamed chapt. 2
Sept. 30   First fruits of Methodism chapt. 3
Oct. 7    An Anglican assailed by Anglicans chapt. 4
Oct. 14   The universality of the gospel offer chapt. 5 (omitting 190b-211 & 226b-233)
Oct. 21   Opposition and persecution chapt. 6
Oct. 28   Domestic life chapt. 9
Nov. 4   Poet (paper by Shepherd)
Nov. 11   Expositor of scripture
Charles Wesley’s Role in the four major controversies besetting 18thcentury Methodism
chapt. 12
Nov. 18  Moravian stillness chapt. 7
Nov. 25  Calvinistic predestination chapt. 8
Dec. 2  Intra-Methodist perfection (the nature and scope of sanctification in this life)  

Classes: 39 hours
Readings: 39 hours (this figure includes the 400-word weekly paper)
Essays: 49 hours
Total: 120 hours



[1] Students will write a 300-word paper that reflects their reading of, engagement with, and critical assessment of the material assigned for each class.

[2] Students will write an essay approximately 3500 words long on any subject listed in the essay topics (the handout listing essay topics will be available in class) or any matter for which the instructor’s permission has been secured.


Weekly assignments: 50%
Major Essay: 50%