Wednesday, March 7, 2012

People You’ve Maybe Never Heard Of But Should: Charles Simeon

Charles Simeon was born in 1759 in Reading, Berkshire.  He attended Eton College and Cambridge.  While at Cambridge he came to know the Lord.  John Piper helps us to see the miracle of this when he says, “He had no mother to nurture him.  His father was an unbeliever.  His boarding school was a godless and corrupt place.  And his university was destitute, as far as he knew, of other evangelical believers.”

After his conversion he soon became the pastor at Trinity Church in Cambridge.  Here he remained for the next 54 years until his death.  We have much to learn from a pastor that has such staying power as Charles Simeon. 

Why You Should Know Him:

Simeon was vital in the modern missions movement.  He used his influence through his position at the university to not only fill many pulpits throughout England with evangelicals but also to send missionaries to the East.  Many of those that would pioneer missions movement go back to Simeon as a mentor.  His branches extend far throughout the world. 

Simeon was also a wonderful preacher.  Simeon said that the three great aims of all his preaching where, “To humble the sinner, to exalt the Savior, and to promote holiness”.  For 54 years that is precisely what Charles Simeon did.  And he did it, especially in his early years against the backdrop of much persecution. 

The newly minted preacher was not wanted by his parishioners.  They wanted another guy.  So they revolted.  It wasn’t until 1794 that the congregation allowed their own pastor, Simeon, to give the Sunday afternoon lecture.  When Simeon tried to start a Sunday evening service the churchwardens locked the door.  They also had a habit of locking the pew doors on Sunday morning and then going home.  Those that wanted to hear Simeon would have to do so while standing.  When Simeon decided to provide seats in the empty spaces (at this own expense) the churchwardens threw them into the churchyard. 

All of this is not to mention the cold reception that he would receive when visiting peoples houses.  On top of this he was despised as he taught at Cambridge University.  All of this lasted for at least ten years.  Finally, through patient plodding and preaching the Word the community gradually began to accept Simeon. 

Charles Simeon’s faithful endurance under very difficult circumstances is a model to all of us.  Many pastors—(perhaps even including myself)—would not have been strong enough to have endured such attacks.  But Simeon kept pressing on and left a lasting gospel legacy. 


One particular thing that is endearing about Simeon is his response to controversy and his refusal to needlessly engage in it.  I love his word to a pastor encouraging Simeon to engage in controversy:

I know you will forgive me if I say that the very account you give of yourself in relation to controversy is a dissuasive from embarking in it.  Let a man once engage in it, and it is surprising how the love of it will grow upon him; and he will find both a hare in every bush, and will follow it with something of a huntsman’s feelings.

Simeon was also very passionate about experiencing and enjoying grace and not merely defending it:

By this then, my brethren, you may judge whether you are Christians in deed and in truth, or whether you are only such in name…For a nominal Christian is content with proving the way of salvation by a crucified Redeemer.  But the true Christian loves it, delights in it, glories in it, and shudders at the very thought of glorying in anything else. 

There is much more gospel centered and humble preaching that flows from the works of Charles Simeon. 

Further Reading:

John Piper’s Biography on Simeon is one thing that I used in putting together this article.  It’s very helpful. 

There is much on Google Books by Simeon and about Simeon.

Also check out the Simeon Trust.

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