Strengthen such as do stand
Today is the lesser feast day of evangelical Anglican Charles Simeon (1759–1836) on the Episcopal calendar. Simeon is best known for serving Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge, and Cambridge University for 54 years, practicing and popularizing biblical, expository preaching and pioneering on-campus discipleship among university students. He is also credited with starting the evangelical revival in the Church of England.
Two hundred years ago students at the English Universities were required to attend church regularly, and to receive the Holy Communion at least once a year. This latter requirement often had bad effects, in that it encouraged hypocrisy and an irreverent reception of the sacrament. Occasionally, however, it had a very good effect, as with the Cambridge student Charles Simeon. He wrote: “On 29 January 1779 I came to college. On 2 February I understood that at division of term I must attend the Lord’s Supper. The Provost absolutely required it. Conscience told me that, if I must go, I must repent and turn to God.”
By this experience his life was transformed. Upon finishing his college work he was ordained, and shortly appointed chaplain of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, where he remained for 55 years, until shortly before his death on 12 November 1836. His ministry helped to transform the lives of many undergraduates, of whom we may mention two in particular. Henry Martyn inspired by Simeon, abandoned his intention of going into law and instead devoted his life and his considerable talents to preaching the Gospel in India and Persia. William Wilberforce, also led in part by Simeon’s ministry of teaching and example, devoted his life to the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. Simeon’s enthusiasm and zeal brought him much ridicule and abuse, which he bore uncomplainingly. Though he himself remained in one place, his influence extended through the Anglican world. (Lectionary Home Page)
Simeon prayed the following prayer each Sunday before delivering his sermon:
“O God, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our hearing, be with us now to sanctify unto us the truths that shall be delivered from them.
“Be with us especially to enlighten our minds by the Holy Spirit; and by the mighty working of thy power, bring in to the way of truth all such as have erred and are deceived.
“Be pleased also O Lord, to strengthen such as do stand, and comfort and help the weak hearted, and raise up them that fall, and finally to beat down Satan under all our feet.
“All this we humbly ask in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
I like that prayer. And I want to go to there.
Photos are from the Charles Simeon website.