Lent Madness: Charles Wesley vs. Perpetua

Lent Madness continues with a romp across 1,500+ years as Charles Wesley takes on Perpetua in a battle between a beloved hymn writer and early Christian martyr.

In recent action, the initials defeated the extra “n” as C.S. Lewis routed Monnica 69% to 31%. He’ll face the winner of William Laud vs. Fabian in the next round. Click to Lent Madness 2011 view the updated tournament bracket.

Charles Wesley (1717-1788), along with his brother John, was a leader in the 18th century evangelical revival in the 18th century. Both Wesleys studied at Oxford and there drew a group together whose dedication to the strict adherence to the worship of the Book of Common Prayer earned them the nickname “Methodists.”

After graduation they both went as missionaries  to the colony of Georgia in 1735. Upon finding it an unfruitful experience they returned a few years later to England. It was back in England that they both had emotional conversion experiences that gave them tangible feeling of Christ’s love and forgiveness. From here they went out on preaching missions to bring others to the same experience.

Charles Wesley’s enduring legacy is his hymnody. During his lifetime he authored over 6,000 hymns including: “Jesus Christ is risen today,” “Christ whose glory fills the skies,” “Come thou long expected Jesus,” “Hark the herald angels sing,” “Lo! he comes on clouds descending,” “Love divine all loves excelling,” “O for a thousand tongues to sing,” and “Ye servants of God.”

Despite being associated with Methodism, Charles considered himself an Anglican to the end. Near the end of his life he told the rector of the local parish “Sir, whatever the world may say of me, I have lived, and I die, a member of the Church of England. I pray you to bury me in your churchyard.”

Collect for Charles Wesley (and John Wesley) Lord God, who 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.

Perpetua was martyred in 202 with several other Christians in an arena in Carthage during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. The account of their last days was written down and survived (portions of which are attributed to Tertullian). What we know is that Perpetua came from a wealthy family, was a catechumen (ie. converted to Christianity but not yet baptized), and was recently widowed with an infant.

After their arrest, they were placed in a dungeon and Perpetua had several visions. In one, she saw a golden ladder guarded by a dragon. She climbed it anyway and at the pinnacle she found herself in a green meadow with many white-robed figures. In their midst was a shepherd who bid her welcome. When she awoke Perpetua understood that martyrdom was inevitable.

The narrator writes this about the end of her life: “Now all the prisoners were to be slain with the sword, and they went to the center of the arena, first exchanging a farewell kiss of peace. The others died unmoving and silent, but when the awkward hand of the young executioner bungled her death-stroke, Perpetua cried out in pain, and herself guided his hand to her throat. Possibly such a woman could not have been slain unless she herself willed it, because she was feared by the impure spirit.”

Collect for Perpetua (and her companions) O God the King of saints, who strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.



3 Comments on “Lent Madness: Charles Wesley vs. Perpetua”

  1. Vicki says:

    Tough choice!

  2. Daniel says:

    Methinks that the readers of your site fail to appreciate the beauty of sacred music! This bracket is full of martyrs, but how many of them raise the joy in our hearts the Easter Hymns deliver?!?!

  3. Bob Chapman says:

    Meh, this is the politically correct match-up. We’re going with the woman because the opponent was Charles Wesley. (If it had been John Wesley, there could have been problems for those of us who pretend to be PC.)

    In more pressing issues, I’m trying to figure out how Fabian made it to the calendar.

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