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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Bragg

For a Thousand Tongues

Written by Arlene Angwin

Tour guide and author with Holy Ghost Tours Savannah


Long before Charles Wesley wrote thousands of anthems of glorious praise, his one tongue

created grievous havoc for James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia. Charles, along with his brother, John, was an Anglican priest, chosen by Oglethorpe to serve the spiritual needs of the fledgling colony. In their time, priests were highly educated individuals, respected,

feared and sometimes hated by their flock. They lectured them in their carefully crafted sermons which were read during Sunday services. Both manual labor and common folk were beneath Anglican priests.

Colonists, struggling to survive the disease, humidity and foreign environment of the New World had no time to fulfill the young priests’ dreamy expectations. After settling John in Savannah, Oglethorpe took Charles to Frederica, located on St. Simons Island off the coast.

Men worked feverishly to throw up a town and fortifications against the Spanish, headquartered at Ft. San Marcos in Florida. Seven days a week, from dawn to dark, the men worked. Every man except Charles Wesley, of course. Rather than wield shovel or hammer, Charles flitted about town, demanding the colonists rest on Sabbath, come to scheduled prayers and observe all the Anglican rites. The men swatted away the young man, buzzing about like an annoying wasp. The women, however, proved more cunning.

As Wesley’s insistence grew more obnoxious, two women hatched a plot. First, they invited him to tea. Knowing his penchant for gossip, they filled his willing ears with juicy falsehoods about none other than their fearless leader, Oglethorpe. Behind Wesley’s back, they talked to Oglethorpe, simply changing the story from the leader sleeping with another man’s wife to Charles. They smugly waited for the results of their plan.

The town erupted. Oglethorpe confronted Charles. The terrified young man begged for mercy. Harassed by Spanish aggression and a youth without discretion, Oglethorpe ordered him back to England, post haste. Wesley’s American experience lasted four months. Back in England, he spread more lies about his experiences to cover up his misdeeds. Truthful, uncompromising John’s return eight months later blew away the cover like a Cat 5 hurricane.

Weeks later, Charles lay close to death. While his body fought fever, his soul struggled over

man’s works verses the free grace of God. On May 21, 1738, he laid down all pride and placed his hope in Christ, Christ alone, embracing the true Gospel. That day, he opened his Bible to Psalm 43. He read verse three: And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God; many shall see it, ad fear, and shall trust in the LORD.

A new song. The very next day, Charles penned the first of his 6,500 hymns. Tradition states it was And Can It Be. God transformed a gossiping, meddling, proud and indolent young man into an aggressive broadcaster of Christ’s redeeming love and prolific writer of hymns.

Only God!

And Can It Be

1. And can it be that I should gain

An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain—

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

o Refrain:

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2. ’Tis myst’ry all: th’ Immortal dies:

Who can explore His strange design?

In vain the firstborn seraph tries

To sound the depths of love divine.

’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,

Let angel minds inquire no more.

3. He left His Father’s throne above—

So free, so infinite His grace—

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And bled for Adam’s helpless race:

’Tis mercy all, immense and free,

For, O my God, it found out me!

4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay,

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

5. No condemnation now I dread;

Jesus, and all in Him, is mine;

Alive in Him, my living Head,

And clothed in righteousness divine,

Bold I approach th’ eternal throne,

And claim the crown, through Christ my own.


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