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Charles Simeon of Cambridge - November 12


Charles Simeon

Evangelical piety in England manifested itself in two main streams: the Methodists and the Evangelicals. The latter remained committed to the Church of England, the Book of Common Prayer and episcopal government of the church. Charles Simeon became the leading evangelical of his time. Although all his ministry was spent in Cambridge, his influence was worldwide. He was born in Reading in 1759 and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He became a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, in 1782, and was ordained priest in 1783. He was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity the same year and remained a fellow of King’s and vicar of Holy Trinity until his death in 1836.

There was already some evangelical influence in Simeon’s family background. At Eton he was athletic, but became the butt of some ragging for a display of religious seriousness uncommon at the school. When he went to Cambridge, he entered a town and college where religious life was at a low ebb, and the Methodist revivals were not present. In 1779, whilst engaged in a thorough preparation for the reception of Holy Communion, required as a condition of his entrance to his college, he became aware of the redeeming love of God. This changed the whole tenor of his life.

By 1783 Simeon had found some evangelical companions and established a reputation as a preacher. Through family influence he was appointed to Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. He was not the choice of the parishioners, the more belligerent of whom spent most of the next ten years putting obstacles in his way and heckling him in the street. By patient perseverance and personal commitment to Christ, together with his telling preaching, hostility and prejudice were overcome. He rapidly acquired great influence over the undergraduates, and they came in vast numbers to hear him preach.

What they heard was a vigorous but gracious proclamation of the gospel in its evangelical style with an emphasis on biblical exposition focused on the person of Jesus Christ. Simeon himself described his aim as “to humble the sinner, to exalt the Saviour, to promote holiness”. It was a new emphasis in preaching and aroused considerable opposition in some quarters. Simeon persisted, and by his clear sincerity and warm charity he won respect and acceptance. Lord Macaulay, writing of him in later years, said,

If you knew what his authority and influence were, and how they extended from Cambridge to the most remote corners of England, you would allow that his real sway in the Church was far greater than that of any primate.

Simeon’s influence spread further afield and he very quickly became the leader of the evangelical churchmen. He set up the Simeon Trust to exercise some control over appointments to some parishes. Many of his pupils were influenced by his example to give themselves for service overseas, Henry Martyn being one of them. He was one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society and a keen supporter of the British and Foreign Bible Society. He gave considerable advice to the East India Company concerning the suitability of clergy offering for chaplaincy work. He wrote a commentary on the Bible, Horae Homileticae, published in 1819-20. This was his largest work, though he wrote much else, and his sermons were published in twenty-one volumes.

It is however as a man of prayer and a pastor that he is best remembered, for his example inspired many to win others for Christ. Together with his friends, Simeon did much to change the ethos of the Church of England in the early nineteenth century, bringing a new zeal in devotion, a deep love of others, and an enhanced standard of clerical duties.

Merciful and gracious God,
you gave Charles Simeon such a love for souls
that he preached and laboured fervently,
so that all might come to their true home;
so fill our hearts and minds with your goodness,
that we may be one with you at all times,
in the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Redeemer.

Source: https://www.anglican.org.nz/Resources/Worship-Resources-Karakia/For-All-the-Saints-A-Resource-for-the-Commemorations-of-the-Calendar/For-All-the-Saints

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