Two men from the eighteenth century have had a more comprehensive influence on church music in the ensuing ages than any others, with the possible exception of Johann Sebastian Bach. They are Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley.
Along with his brother Charles, the great hymnist whose music was a key attraction for many to the movement, Wesley did much to save England from the social convulsions that came later in France. Tens of thousands of persons became connected with the Methodist societies before John Wesley died. In America, they began to grow rapidly from the time Methodism started. Methodism was revolutionary in its conception of religious principles. In the Church of England, salvation was theoretically a spiritual process to be secured through worship and the sacraments of the Church. The evangelical preaching of Wesley called for definite repentance of sin, wrestling with God for forgiveness, and an experience of peace and assurance. Feeling and volition were stressed more than intellectual assent and conformity to ecclesiastical custom. Directly and indirectly, the Methodists contributed to the missionary and humanitarian enterprises of the nineteenth century.
Neither the Catholics nor the Separatists could gain a strong foothold and many came to the New World where they could more successfully and easily practice their religion.
The cumulative effect of these various influences prepared the public mind for Henry’s act of rebellion. Parliament was submissive enough to the king’s will to ratify his action and vote him the title of Supreme Head of the Church of England. It transferred to him the power of appointment of the higher clergy. Appeals to Rome were abolished and the dispensing power was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury. By these specific acts, the separation from Rome was made complete by 1535.
harles Wesley has been called “the poet of Methodism.” Born in Epworth, England in 1707 he was educated at Westminster School and Oxford University, where he took his degree in 1728. It was while a student at Christ Church College that Wesley and a few associates, by strict attention to duty and exemplary conduct, won for themselves the derisive epithet of “Methodists.”
Augustus Montague Toplady was born in Surrey, England in 1740. His father was an officer in the British army. His mother was a woman of great piety. He prepared for the university at Westminster School and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin. While on a visit to Ireland at the age of 16 he converted to Christianity at a service held in a barn.
Hugh Stowell, a minister in the Church of England, was born in 1799. He graduated from Oxford in 1822, and took holy orders the following year. He held various offices in his Church and published several ecclesial volumes. He also edited a book of hymns: A Selection of Psalms and Hymns Suited to the Services of the Church of England, 1831. He died in 1865.
Samuel John Stone, a clergyman in the Church of England, was born in Staffordshire, England in 1839. He was educated at Pembroke College, Oxford, where he graduated in 1862. He served various Churches until he succeeded his father at St. Paul’s, Haggerstown in 1874. He was the author of many original hymns and translations, which were collected and published in 1886. He died in 1900.
Robert Seagrave was an English clergyman who was born in 1693 and graduated from Cambridge in 1718. He defended the Calvinistic Methodists and wrote and published pamphlets and sermons designed to reform the clergy and Church of England.
Folliott Sanford Pierpoint was born in Bath, England in 1835. He was educated at Queen’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 1871. He published a volume of poems in 1878 and contributed a few hymns to the Churchman’s Companion, Lyra Eucharistica, and other publications. He was a life-long member of the Church of England.