Have you ever wondered, as you approached communion (Eucharist), whether you were really prepared to take it or not? Perhaps your pastor or priest warned you that anyone who eats or drinks unworthily eats and drinks damnation to himself. Charles Simeon was troubled by this very question.
He had gone up to Cambridge to study. Each student was required to attend chapel services and take communion. He wrote: "On 29 January 1779, I came to college. On 2 February I understood that at division of term I must attend the Lord's Supper. The Provost absolutely required it. Conscience told me that, if I must go, I must repent and turn to God."
Repent Simeon did, and became a zealous Christian. However, he was one of those who raise hackles because they seem harsh and self-assertive. The vicar of Trinity Church, Cambridge, died suddenly. The congregation wanted the assistant curate, Mr. Hammond, as their new vicar. When the bishop awarded the position to Simeon instead, Simeon faced serious opposition. The pews sat half empty because the people boycotted him. Simeon offered to resign but his bishop would not let him.
After that, he sometimes found the church locked against him. When it opened, the pew gates were locked. Simeon set up chairs at his own expense, but the trustees tossed them out. For twelve years the congregation chose other men to give the Sunday afternoon lectures. College students interrupted his services and passed evil rumors about him. He was so shunned that he wrote with amazement when a fellow of the school was not ashamed to walk with him for quarter of an hour.
In spite of this opposition, Simeon persevered. He preached directly from the Word of God, and gradually won some of the congregation to his side. Thirty years, later, however, he still faced elements of revolt.
Despite all this, Simeon became a leader of the Evangelicals in the Church of England. He helped bring into existence the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Religious Tract Society, the Church Missionary Society, and other influential Evangelical organizations. His spiritual influence on young Cambridge men over the decades is incalculable. By helping in the appointment of evangelical chaplains to India, Simeon encouraged the gospel's spread in that country when the East India Company would not allow missionaries. Among his proteges was Henry Martyn, famed as a missionary and Bible translator.
Asked how he had endured his many afflictions, 71 year old Simeon replied, "My dear brother, 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."
The faithful pastor preached until two months before his death. On his deathbed, he said, "Do you know the text that greatly comforts me just now?" Friends asked him which. He replied, "I find infinite consolation in the fact that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth!" That surprised them until he explained, "Why, if, out of nothing God can bring all the wonder of the world, He may yet make something out of me!" Simeon died on this day, November 12, 1836.
- Gordon, Ernest. A Book of Protestant Saints. Chicago: Moody Press, 1946.
- Moule, Handley Carr Glynn. Charles Simeon. With a foreword by the Rt. Rev J. R. S. Taylor. London, Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1948.
- "Simeon, Charles." Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: Oxford University Press, 1921 - 1996.
Last updated April, 2007.