Charles Simeon, Priest, 1836

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About The Commemoration

The historian Thomas Macaulay said about Charles Simeon, “If you knew what his authority and influence were, and how they extend from Cambridge to the most remote corners of England, you would allow that his real sway in the Church was far greater than that of any primate.”

Simeon’s conversion, in 1779,  while still a student, occurred as he was preparing himself to receive Holy Communion, an act required of undergraduates at the University. His first Communion had been a deeply depressing and discouraging experience, because of his use of the popular devotional tract, The Whole Duty of Man, which emphasized law and obedience as the means of receiving the Sacrament worthily. When he was again preparing for Communion before Easter, he was given a copy of Bishop Thomas Wilson’s Instructions for the Lord’s Supper. Here was a quite different approach, which recognized that the law could not make one righteous, and that only the sacrifice of Christ, perceived by faith, could enable one to communicate worthily. This time, the experience of Holy Communion was one of peace and exhilaration, a new beginning of a Christian life whose influence is difficult to exaggerate.

Simeon’s influence and authority developed slowly, but he soon became the recognized leader of the evangelical movement in the Church of England. He helped to found the Church Missionary Society, and was active in recruiting and supporting  missionaries, including Henry Martyn (October 19). As a preacher, he ranks high in the history of Anglicanism. His sermons were unfailingly biblical, simple, and passionate.

The influence of Simeon and his friends was thus described by the historian William Edward Hartpole Lecky: “They gradually changed the whole spirit of the English Church. They infused into a new fire and passion of devotion, kindled a spirit of fervent philanthropy, raised the standard of clerical duty, and completely altered the whole tone and tendency of the preaching of its ministers.”


I. O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by thine unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see thy hand; that, following the example and teaching of thy servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve thee with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

II. O loving God, we know that all things are ordered by your unerring wisdom and unbounded love: Grant us in all things to see your hand; that, following the example and teaching of your servant Charles Simeon, we may walk with Christ in all simplicity, and serve you with a quiet and contented mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 145:8-13


Isaiah 12:1-6

Romans 10:8b-17

John 21:15-17

Preface of a Saint (I)

8 thoughts on “Charles Simeon, Priest, 1836

    • Another quibble. 😦

      November 8 was the ‘alternative date for James Theodore Holly – see March 13’ according to page 19 of the printed copy of HWHM.

      Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bishop Holly get alternative dates. Why are we doing that?

      Nobody, and nothing else get two dates even though vast number of Orthodox Christians observe alternate dates from our traditional Western dates.

      IMHO we, The Episcopal Church, should pick one date and stick with it.

  1. Re: Charles Simeon (if we must move on …)

    The new Hebrew reading: Again, this is the First Song of Isaiah, Canticle 9, Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 86. Is anyone counting how many times this is used?

    • It’s me, again. Having read Phillip’s comments below, I think that Blessed Charles needs a ‘who is he’ and ‘why is he important’ statement. And some information regarding his death other than the listed year, 1836, would be helpful.

  2. My favorite commemoration, of course, although there’s still a bit of room for improvement. The sub-title ‘Priest’ is useless, and should be replaced, perhaps by ‘Teacher and Pastor’.

    My main criticism is that there isn’t enough information in the bio to explain Macaulay’s quote, which was no exaggeration. His missionary interests overseas were nowhere near as important as his missionary interests at home, and it would be better to say more about them. The biggest factor in his leadership was his interest in ordinands. At the time there were no theological colleges, and a Classics degree was all that was thought necessary for ordination. Simeon offered Cambridge students who were headed for the ministry more than that, teaching them how to preach, and most of all what it took to be an effective pastor, and demonstrated a pastoral heart in his own ministry at Trinity Church that can seldom have been equalled. After 53 years in the same parish, half the clergy in the country had learned ministry from him, and after the defections of the Methodist movement he restored Evangelicalism to its historic place in the life of the Church of England.

    There’s something wrong with the idea of ‘slowly, but soon’, by the way.

    In the collect, the phrase ‘we know that’ should be replaced by ‘by whom’. The emphasis in that part of the collect is on God’s attributes, not ours. The phrase ‘Grant us in all things to see your hand’ doesn’t seem particularly relevant to Simeon, although always worth praying, of course, whereas the prayer that we would ‘walk with Christ in all simplicity’ is right on target. The usual comments about whose example we should be following apply.

  3. One wonders why this commemoration is not moved to the following day, the date of his reported death in 1836. He is commemorated on that day in the Church of England. However, the date is given as November 12 in several places online. Is there a good way to determine which version is correct?

    Add a new second paragraph:

    Simeon was born on September 24 at Reading, in England. He died on November 13 (see note about the uncertainty as to the 12th or 13th) in Cambridge, and was interred at King’s College.

    The subheading should not be limited to his clerical rank. I suggest: “Priest, Evangelical Leader and Preacher”..

    I suggest that, after the second paragraph, an additional paragraph be added, along the following lines:

    In 1782, the year of his graduation from King’s College, Cambridge, he was placed in charge of Trinity Church, in that city, while still a deacon. He remained Rector there for 54 years, despite intense early opposition from the churchwardens and congregation over his evangelical preaching.

  4. Idon’t have the source of the Lecky quote with which to verify, but it seems to me a word referring to the spirit of the church may be missing immediately following “”INTO.” (“They infused into [IT?] a new fire and passion of devotion….”) That part of the quote doesn’t make sense without a noun or pronoun in apposition to “into”. (Into WHAT?)

    All that “contentment” in the collects sounds suspicious after 54 years in the same parish “despite intense early opposition” to his preaching from the churchwardens and congregation. It also sits uneasily with the Lord’s statement that he didn’t come to bring “peace” (contentment?). It seems like a numbed out characterization of the Christian life, and reminds me of an old commercial lionizing “milk from contented cows.”

    Judging from the other “comments” there is need to incorporate their significant information into the sketchy write-up in HWHM.

    • It’s okay, Michael, I see the missing word (from the Lecky quote) in the print edition of HWHM. Thanks anyway! 🙂

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