[From Between Two Worlds]

Today is the 250th birthday of the great preacher Charles Simeon, and I’m happy to have David Helm pen a guest post briefly recounting Simeon’s life, ministry, preaching, and legacy. Rev. Helm is a TGC Council member, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Chicago’s Hyde Park, author of The Big Picture Story Bible, and Executive Director of the Charles Simeon Trust. Note at the end of Helm’s post an excellent new course being launched online to train Bible expositors. For more on Simeon, you can read or listen to John Piper’s biographical address from 1989 entitled, Brothers, We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering.

Simeon’s Life and Ministry

Born on September 24, 1759, Charles Simeon’s only distinction in childhood was that he was considered to be the ugliest boy in his school. After completing his education at Cambridge and being ordained, he accepted an appointment to Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge in 1782. The response to Simeon’s selection was one of strong opposition from the members of the church. For nearly ten years the congregation refused to listen to Simeon’s sermons by locking their pews so that even visitors would not have a place to sit. When Simeon rented chairs at his own expense and placed them in the aisles, the churchwardens threw them out into the street, forcing visitors to stand while he preached. Opposition to Simeon continued for another 20 years and even included incidents of student’s hurling bricks through his windows while he was preaching. He remained at Holy Trinity Church until his death, having preached there for 54 years.

Simeon’s Preaching

Simeon was an enthusiast, an evangelical. And for him, this meant a radical commitment to the rigorous study and proclamation of God’s Word—and God’s Word alone. This commitment is probably most evident in a statement he made in a letter to the publishers of his Horae Homileticae (his sermon outlines): “My endeavor is to bring out of Scripture what is there and not thrust in what I think might be there. I have a great jealousy on this head, never to speak more or less than I believe the mind of the Spirit in the passage I am expounding.”

Simeon’s Legacy

Bubbling below Simeon’s commitment to preaching the Word to the people of Cambridge was a devotion to training young men for Gospel ministry. He gathered a small group of men into his quarters twice per month to share some of his thoughts on preaching. Then one of them would preach a sermon that he had prepared and Simeon would give feedback. Simeon described this commitment to training this way: “I have, as my work, undertaken to provide ministers for eternal souls.” Recognizing that the anti-evangelical climate of the church in England at that point would make it difficult, if not impossible, for these young trainees to get parish appointments, Simeon established a Trust to purchase patronages (or the right to appoint the priest-in-charge) across England.

To this day, the legacy of Charles Simeon is carried on by at least two trusts bearing his name. Some of the patronages that Simeon left are still managed by the Simeon’s Trustees in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the Charles Simeon Trust is committed to the ongoing training of preachers through several Workshops on Biblical Exposition in North America an online training program called the Simeon Course on Biblical Exposition. The course offers a an elevated quality and breadth of instruction (video lectures from D.A. Carson, John Woodhouse, David Jackman, Kent Hughes, and others), adaptability to any context (it can be done by anyone anywhere), and a practicality of content (the tools for studying and teaching the Bible). The Simeon Course is publicly launching today in honor of Simeon’s Birthday.