Like his brother, he was born in Epworth, Lincolnshire in England, where their father was rector. He was educated at Christ Church College, Oxford, where his brother had also studied, and formed the "Oxford Methodist" group among his fellow students in 1729. John Wesley later joined this group, as did George Whitefield. Charles followed his father and brother into the church in 1735, and travelled with John to Georgia in North America in the entourage of the governor, James Oglethorpe, returning a year later. In 1749, he married the much younger Sarah Gwynne, daughter of a Welsh gentleman who had been converted to Methodism. She accompanied the brothers on their evangelical journeys throughout Britain, until Charles ceased to travel in 1765.
Despite their closeness, Charles and his brother did not always agree on questions relating to their beliefs. In particular, Charles was strongly opposed to the idea of a breach with the Church of England into which they had been ordained. He opposed John when John chose to begin ordaining pastors for American Methodism.
Wesley as hymn-writer
In the course of his career, Charles Wesley wrote over five-thousand hymns, many of which are still popular. These include:
- "Amazing Love"
- "Christ Whose Glory Fills the Skies"
- "Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus"
- "Hail the Day that sees Him Rise"
- "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing"
- "Jesu, Lover of My Soul"
- "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today"
- "Jesus, The Name High Over All"
- "Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending"
- "Love Divine, All Loves Excelling"
- "O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing"
- "Rejoice, the Lord is King"
- "Soldiers of Christ, Arise"
- "Ye Servants of God"
As a result of his enduring hymnody, the Gospel Music Association recognized his musical contributions to the art of gospel music in 1995 by listing his name in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.