Cracked: the Wesley code

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A 270-year-old diary of Charles Wesley, one of the country's foremost hymn-writers, has revealed the extent of the author's depression, anxiety over his wife's miscarriage and disputes over the future of the Methodist Church founded by his brother John.

The coded diary, written between 1736 and 1756, has been decrypted by a Liverpool professor who worked on 1,000 hand-written pages for 10 years. It sheds a highly personal and human as well as religious light on the author of a number of famous hymns including "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," and "Soldiers of Christ, Arise".

The passages, previously hidden by a heavily abbreviated code, reveal that Charles strongly disapproved of John's marriage and disagreed with his brother over the question of a breach with the Church of England, into which both brothers had been ordained.

The diaries' code was cracked by the Rev Professor Kenneth Newport, Liverpool Hope University's pro vice-chancellor for research and academic development. By using transcribed gospels written in the same code by Wesley for his own use, and comparing the passages with those in the King James Bible using the code's symbols and abbreviations, Professor Newport was able to translate the diaries and shed light on the disputes, which have previously been skirted over in separate Wesley manuscripts.

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