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 Issues | Church History | Charles Simeon

 

Charles Simeon by Max Warren

Perseverance to the End

We have seen how Simeon's pilgrimage began. We have watched the evangelist and the pastor and the teacher at work. We have considered the character of his statesmanship and the principles upon which it was formed. We know that he died full of years, a man respected, reverenced and loved, mighty in influence, who being long dead yet speaketh. What was the secret of his influence, of his strong perseverance ?

The inner springs of a man's actions are sometimes best understood by the revelation of his unconscious hours, those periods when he is not “on parade”, when he is most himself. Amongst Simeon's letters for the year 1822 is one written after his return from a visit to Ireland.

“On the morning of my return,” he writes, “there was as violent a storm as had been known in that sea for twenty years : and already I have seen an account of ten ships lost in it . . . . Through the tender mercy of God I was kept from any apprehensions, having rny mind sweetly employed in travelling between heaven and earth, with all my friends successively in my head; you and yours were not forgotten. I trust that in your best seasons I am not forgotten by you; and I hope that my life is yet preserved for further usefulness in the church of God.”

Here is Simeon, fortunate no doubt in being a good sailor, experiencing a storm at sea, one of no ordinary violence. He knows the helplessness and enforced inactivity of a mere passenger. Tossed in body he forthwith sets out on a parallel journey which will wholly occupy the attention of his mind, “travelling between heaven and earth”, the occasion improved by the good company of all his friends. A deep and abiding concern for people, for their temporal and eternal welfare, a concern that is revealed in his whole voluminous correspondence no less than in this incident, gives one clue to the binding secret of his influence. He was a great intercessor.

Yet that alone was not the whole secret. That “travelling between heaven and earth” was for Simeon the wonderful sequel to the even more wonderful fact that a holy God, at infinite cost to Himself, had made it possible for Simeon and his friends, and all the world, to make that journey. For Simeon this meant that life was adoration. He was always deeply impatient of any religious teaching (he sometimes called it “trifling”) which took attention away from the saving love of God.

“I am a dying man," he once wrote,” and view these things as I shall view them from the bar of judgment. All these things are about religion : but they have very little to do with religion itself. One drachm of contrition, and of simple affiance in the Saviour, and of an admiring and adoring sense of redeeming love, is worth all the knowledge that has been of late conveyed to us on these subjects, and all the feelings that have been generated by the prosecution of them.”

Writing to his friend Bishop Wilson of Calcutta he gives simple expression to what such adoration involved for himself:

“I love the picture of the heavenly hosts, both saints and angels : all of them upon their faces before the throne. 1 love the Cherubim with their wings before their faces and their feet. I think we hardly set forth this in our sermons as we ought to do. At all events, for me, I feel that this is the proper posture now, and will he to all eternity.”

One of his letters to a Christian in distress sums up his whole philosophy of life, and reveals him as a true practitioner of the soul:

“.... There is another thing that I would suggest . . . namely, that you arc too much occupied in looking at yourself, and too little in beholding the Lord Jesus Christ. It is by the former you arc to be humbled; but it is by the latter that you are to be “changed into the divine image” ( 2 Cor. 3 . I 8). You want a greater measure of holiness to warrant your confidence in the divine promises; when it is only by apprehending those promises that you can attain the holiness you are seeking after (2 Cor. 7.1). You must learn to “glory in your infirmities (so to speak), that the power of Christ may rest upon you”. You are nothing, and it discourages you ; but you must be content to be nothing, that Christ may be ‘all in all’.”

There speaks a man who practised what he preached. His life was a demonstration of the truth of his Gospel. Simeon had no other secret.

 

>> An Estimate of His Significance

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Charles Simeon
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