Charles Simeon was an Anglican priest who lived in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s; he held the same post as Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge for over fifty years. Credited as an evangelical light in the Anglican tradition, Simeon is particularly famous for his sermons and his very approach to preaching.English sermons in the 18th century had grown to be quite verbose, heady pieces of literature that demonstrated the intellectual prowess of the author (frequently not the same person as the preacher) and taught the finer points of Christian doctrine with little reference to the hearer’s life and edification. They were much more like lectures rather than the sermons we’re used to today. In part this was a sign of the times – enlightenment thinking with its confidence and celebration of human reason was taking hold – in part it was a reaction against the “enthusiasm” of certain movements where preaching was all heat and emotion, with very little actual substance to offer.
Instead, Charles Simeon passionately pursued a different technique, which has been the evangelical trademark ever since: study the sermon text, examine its context, give first place to its basic and literal meaning, show how it points to Christ and the Cross, and apply it to the Christian life. His preaching was not well-received at first by his congregation’s lay leaders, but after a few years his popular reputation outweighed the grumblings of his resistors, and by the end of his life he was regularly preaching to a church packed full of people.
For the next five Saturdays I’m going to share a quote from his writings that particularly stands out to me, and share some of my thoughts. Watch this space!