Charles Wesley's troubles on St. Simons Island

3/1/2015

JOHN WESLEY MOMENTS
DAVE HANSON


On March 9, 1736, Charles Wesley first set foot on St. Simons Island, Georgia. He wrote in his diary, “No sooner did I enter upon my ministry than God gave me, like Saul, a new heart…” However, that enthusiasm did not last long in Frederica Town.

One of the first things Charles did in Georgia was to get Oglethorpe to pass a rule forbidding “the discharge of firearms on the Lord’s day.” Some of the people loved to go out shooting on Sunday.

Charles was just barely 28 years old and was ordained a few days before leaving London. He spent some of his time aboard ship reading John’s sermons so he would have something to preach when he arrived in Georgia.

Soon after the new rule was passed Charles was leading worship on the third floor of the North Storehouse near the fort at Frederica. During the 11 a.m. Communion Service on Sunday morning he suddenly heard a “Bam!”

Dr. Hawkins had discharged a firearm on the Lord’s Day just outside the place of worship! The bailiff went out and arrested Dr. Hawkins for disturbing the peace on Sunday. He was taken to the stockade next to the storehouse.

Dr. Hawkins began to shout, “Charles Wesley is to blame for this (since had convinced Oglethorpe to pass the new law). If anybody dies while I’m in this jail, Charles Wesley is to blame!”

Mrs. Hawkins ran out, screaming, “Stop! You can’t do this! You can’t put my husband in the jail. He is the doctor! We are not common people!” She went inside her hut, got a pistol, and fired it.

“There, I did it too! So put me in the jail, too!” Then she got a bottle and cracked it over the deputy’s head, almost killing him. A huge controversy erupted over this and Charles got blamed for it. He was shunned. Nobody spoke to him. His “new heart for ministry” didn’t last very long on St. Simons Island.