November 10, 2020
Charles Simeon, whose feast day is today, was celebrated for his gifts as a preacher
and supporter of missionaries. English historian William E.H. Lecky wrote that he and
his friends and colleagues “gradually changed the whole spirit of the English church.
They infused into it a new force and passion of devotion, kindness, a spirit of fervent
philanthropy that raised the standard of clerical duty and completely altered the
whole tone… of the preaching of its ministers.”
His start in the church was inauspicious. Educated at Cambridge, he was placed as a
deacon in Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge.
He was highly unpopular at first. Perhaps that was because his influential father
intervened to get his position raised to curate in charge for the Bishop. At first, services
were disrupted, and he was insulted in the streets.
By the time he ended his ministry at Holy Trinity 54 years later, his church was
crowded. And Charles Simeon was noted for his sermons, which were Biblical, simple
and passionate. He also founded the London Society for Promoting Christianity
Among the Jews (now the Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People). He also helped
choose chaplains for the British East India Company, prompting historian Thomas
Macauley to write that he exerted “authority and influence from Cambridge to the
most remote corners of the England. His real sway in the Church was far greater than
that of any primate.” (India was part of the British Empire then.)
By the time he died in November 1836, he was a recognized leader in evangelism in
England. Charles Simeon is buried at King’s Chapel, Cambridge.
The Rev. Charles Hoffacker is a retired priest of the Diocese of Washington