A 250-yr-old Model: How Calvinist Simeon Related to Wesley

Today, 250 years ago a great pastor was born, Charles Simeon. He was called to Trinity Church, Cambridge in May of 1782. And he endured fruitfully there through much fire for 54 years until his death November 13, 1836.

Simeon never married. He "had deliberately and resolutely chosen the…celibacy of a Fellowship that he might…better work for God at Cambridge" (Moule, Charles Simeon, 111).

His greatest influence was probably through sustained biblical preaching for 54 years. This was the central labor of his life. In 1833, he placed into the hands of King William IV the completed 21 volumes of his collected sermons.

He tried to be conciliatory in doctrinal disputes. Here is an example of how he conversed with the elderly John Wesley:

Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers.  But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions.  Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

No.

What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother's arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things where in we agree. (Moule, 79ff.)

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.