Charles Simeon was the leading evangelical of the Church of England in his time.. Although all his ministry was spent in Cambridge, his influence was world-wide. He came from an influential family, his brother, John, entered the legal profession, became an MP and received a baronetcy, while his brother Edward became was a director of the Bank of England.
Educated at Eton, he was athletic, but was teased for his religious seriousness, uncommon at the school. At Cambridge in 1779, while studying in preparation for holy communion, required as a condition of college entrance, he became aware of the redeeming love of God, and Jesus started transforming his life. He became a fellow of King’s College, Cambridge, in 1782, graduating B.A. in 1783 and was ordained. Through family influence he was appointed as vicar to Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge. that year.
By 1783 Simeon had found like-minded friends and established a reputation as a preacher, but he was not the choice of the parishioners, services were disrupted, and he was insulted in the streets. Patient perseverance and personal commitment to Christ, along with his preaching of the gospel, overcame the hostility and prejudice. Simeon described his aim as “to humble the sinner, to exalt the Saviour, to promote holiness”. It was a new emphasis in preaching and aroused opposition in some quarters. He persisted, and by his clear sincerity and warm charity he won respect and acceptance. Simeon was to remain there for the rest of his life, eventually with a crowded church as his preaching style became popular with the undergraduates.
Simeon’s influence spread far afield and he quickly became the leader of the evangelical churchmen. He set up the Simeon Trust to exercise some control over appointments to some parishes. One of the founders of the Church Missionary Society and a keen supporter of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Many of his pupils were influenced to give themselves for service overseas, as missionaries. He gave 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 the largest of his authored works, although his sermons were published in 21 volumes.
It is 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 19th century, bringing a new zeal in devotion, a deep love of others, and an enhanced standard of clerical duties.
DIED: 13 November 1836, Cambridge, England