Charles Simeon – inspires us to persevere in teaching the gospel of the Bible
1759 – 1836
Arriving in Cambridge in 1779, while still not a Christian, Charles Simeon began reading Christian books to prepare for the communion services he was required to attend. As he approached Easter he discovered the wonderful news that Jesus lovingly offered himself as a sacrifice for us, accepting the penalty for our sins when he died on the cross – the wonderful “swap” at the heart of the Christian message – that Jesus accepted our guilt so we can be accepted in his perfection by God. Cambridge was such a spiritually dark place in those days that it took Simeon another three years before he found another evangelical (Bible-believing) Christian in the city.
In 1783 he was appointed to serve at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, against the wishes of the congregation and church wardens who disagreed with his evangelical understanding of grace and forgiveness. During Simeon’s ministry the church’s leaders locked the doors to the building to keep interested people out. Nevertheless, God honoured Simeon’s faithful preaching of his Word, and in time, hundreds of people were gathering each Sunday to be taught from the Scriptures.
Simeon was instrumental in the spread of the gospel beyond Cambridge e.g. in training many young preachers and through the establishment of the Church Missionary Society in 1799 with other evangelical Christians including William Wilberforce. Such was the impact of Simeon’s ministry among the people of Cambridge, that when he died after 54 years of ministry at Holy Trinity, shops in the city were closed, and all university lectures were suspended.
Towards the end of his life, Simeon was asked how he had endured through hardship and persecution. He replied, “We must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory.”