Cracking the Charles Wesley code

It's not exactly Dan Brown material, but there's now one less unsolved church mystery in the world:

An Anglican priest has unlocked the 270-year-old secrets of Charles Wesley's coded diary, throwing light on the turbulent relationship that he had with his brother John in the early years of the Methodist movement they founded.

[lab]oratory has a great post talking about Wesley's diary, ciphers, and cryptography. (I also just realized that [lab]oratory's header graphic is a screenshot from Ultima 6. You, sir, are awesome.)

The Times Online article makes a big deal about the juicy and mildly scandalous personal tidbits that the diary reveals about Wesley's life: he was apparently involved in a rather petty-sounding dispute with his brother about the latter's proposed marriage. Details like these might be used to discredit historical figures (the article describes Wesley as a "depressive" person), but I find these little revelations both interesting and helpful in understanding Wesley as a Christian.

Growing up, I read through a reasonably large chunk of Christian writing from throughout church history, and reading the "greatest hits" of noteworthy writers like Augustine, Calvin, Luther, and Whitefield in isolation can create the false impression that these writers are... well, more perfect than they really were. When I got into college and learned that some of these famous Christians held unusual beliefs or were decidedly quirky individuals, I was taken aback—but that realization humanized them and helped me distinguish better between their ideas and the Scriptural teachings they were trying to elucidate.

How about you? Have you ever been disillusioned to find that a church history "hero" was a fallible human being after all?

Comments (10)

Leave a Comment

I was bummed when I found out that C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien had such a bumpy friendship. I admire both of them so much. Tolkien apparently didn’t much like Lewis’ Narnia. They also had a falling out because Tolkein wanted Lewis to convert to Catholicism, not just Christianity. Tolkein also was hurt when Lewis became good friends with Charles Williams. Tolkien didn’t like Lewis’ apologetic efforts which he perceived to be on behalf of the Church of English, a church he deeply resented. He also disapproved of Lewis marriage to Joy Davidman, a divorcee. All this caused a rift that only started to mend a little before Lewis death. I liked thinking of the Inklings as a tight group of friends but, apparently they were, like any group of talented people, also a group of egos with strong opinions.

Great example! I had the exact same reaction when I learned that Lewis and Tolkien had their differences. Even just learning (apart from their personal differences) that they (or at least Tolkien) didn’t like the other’s fantasy worlds all that much was a huge blow—how could these two authors, whose imaginations were so influential on my life, not adore each other’s work?

But as you say—as in any group of friends and peers, egos and quirky personalities were bound to create a few bits of drama.

“How about you? Have you ever been disillusioned to find that a church history “hero” was a fallible human being after all?”

Luther definitely. When I first heard about some of the despicable anti-Semitic things he said I was mildly crushed.

This does remind me of Mother Teresa’s recent released private writings, which outed her as a doubter. Although, for me, it definitely humanized her in a good way.

[Also…Ultima 6! I’ve been racking my brain for a while on that one. He used to have a Castlevania one, which was great.]

Apart from the codebreaking, I was interested to read that Charles Wesley struggled with depression. That puts him in league with notable Christians like Charles Spurgeon and Soren Kierkegaard. Whenever I start feeling depressed, I can often take some solace in the reality that many greats did the same.

Jason, you ought to checkout a book called “Spiritual Depression” by D. Martyn-Lloyd Jones, if you haven’t already.  Great stuff.  One of the worst things about being depressed is we all think we are the only ones suffering, when actually most people are deeply depressed at one time or another.

I’m glad this is about Charles Wesley’s personal cipher, not about some imagined “secret code of the Bible.” Personally, while I enjoyed reading Tolkien as a child, which is something my sister and I still share and talk about, I found his worldview disturbing, and I much prefer both Lewis’s Narnia and his apologetics. Perhaps that is because, while I have many friends who are Roman Catholic, and have attended mass with a few of them, I deeply resent any attempt by the Bishops of Rome to claim authority either over worldly events, or to speak in the name of God, or of Jesus. There is an ominous hierarchy to Tolkien, while Lewis’s is more human, without denying the rather subtle role of the Emperor over the Sea and his beloved Son. Tolkien makes little provision for redemption, or for that matter free will, while Lewis always leaves the door open.

When we look up to a church “hero” we will always be disappointed.  The only “hero” according to the scriptures is Christ, and Christ alone.  Look way to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  Jesus our man-saviour was the only unique and perfect God-man and still is sitting in the heavens and also operating in our spirit.  He is both man yet God.  A perfect sinless man always doing only the will of the Father, because He also was divine. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.  Just love Him and fall in love with Him everyday and we will never be disappointed.  Read the bible everyday
www.recoverystudygroup.blogspo…  May the Lord bless us all to be like John in Revelation, who was carried away in Spirit, yet he had to turn to see the voice and when he turned he saw 7 golden lampstands

Right on, Elizabeth.  God bless you for your sharp focus & gracious words.

When I was 12 years old (and that was decades ago…hehehe), I used to have a subscription of what was happening in the underground church of China.  That time, I felt so “ashamed” on how I would fail “small tests” and that I struggle when it has not even required me to lay down my life for my faith.  I then made a commitment to be totally dedicated…and still remember the time, many years after that, when I’d tell other Christians that if they cannot offer 100% of their lives…that they just decide no longer to follow Jesus.  I became a legalistic Christian.  I became a “perfectionist” Pastor (I founded two churches) and while my members tell me that they get blessed by my sermons and made me into some kind of a spiritual hero, I had this “front” (meaning, I never told me about my failures) because I thought then I need to appear strong so they can continualy be encouraged.  I gave up pastoring when I felt I was such a hypocrite to put up fronts…had some kind of “depression” which I did not understand why. Then, God allowed me to go thru a very longgg trial…until all my strengths and strong will totally failed me and I decided that I no longer want to be a Christian because I can’t just make it perfect.  It is only then that I truly appreciated God’s grace and did not find religion but found God when He changed my heart from the core.  God showed me that I have been trying to “earn” his love and approval the way I tried to please my earthly father but could not do enough. I guess there is no one among us, even those seemingly spiritual heroes than can boast about anything except God’s grace.  May I invite you to watch to…  ...and may we learn to be forgiving of our own failures and those of others. God bless us all!

Wow, what a joy to read your story - thank you for sharing it.  My pastor says that if you asked people “Do you love God?” just about 100% of them would respond, “Yes.”  But if you asked those same people, “Do you believe God loves you unconditionally, just as you are?” about 100% of them would respond,“No.”  He says the difference in a believer’s hearts and walk comes when they realize how much God loves them, not when they acknowledge that they love Him.

Loading More Comments


Leave a comment, Guest

You are welcome to leave a comment, guest. Please note, all comments are moderated by our staff. Your name and email address are required fields.
You are encouraged to create an account for additional benefits.

Why create an account?
* denotes required field.
Image Type: jpg, gif, or png.
Max file size: 50kb. Max dimensions: 100px by 100px.

See the latest in: