"On the Wednesday of Holy Week began a hope of mercy. On the Thursday, that hope increased. On … Easter Day … I awoke with these words upon my heart and lips: Jesus Christ is risen today, halleluja, halleluja!"

Though he became a model for modern figures like John Stott, Charles Simeon started his life in Cambridge as anything but a model.

In 1779, the young Simeon, from an aristocratic family, came to Kings College, Cambridge, to study, and he was told that he must attend chapel on Easter Day to receive Communion. Simeon's main interests to this point had been horses, games, and fashion. He considered that "Satan himself was as fit to attend [the sacrament] as I." Still, he sought hard to see how he might sort out his conscience. He began to read the Scriptures and various devotional books.

As he read about propitiatory sacrifice in the Old Testament, he thought, "What, may I transfer all my guilt to another? Has God provided an offering for me, that I may lie my sins on his head?" He immediately laid his sins "upon the sacred head of Jesus."

On the Wednesday of Holy Week, he wrote, he "began a hope of mercy. On the Thursday, that hope increased. On the Friday and Saturday, it became more strong. And on the Sunday morning, Easter Day, April 4, I woke early with these words upon my heart and lips: Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Halleluja, Halleluja!"



John & Charles Wesley's evangelical conversions


Great Awakening peaks


First production of Handel's Messiah


Charles Simeon born


Charles Simeon dies


The Southern Baptist Convention Founded

Simeon went on to be ordained, and after a short stint at St. Edwards, Cambridge, at age 23, he was appointed vicar of Holy Trinity Church. The parish had wanted another minister, and this fact—combined with Simeon's evangelical preaching—quickly alienated them. They locked their rented pews against him, and those who came to hear Simeon were forced to stand in the aisles.

When Simeon moved to put benches in the aisles, the church wardens threw them out. He battled with discouragement and at one point wrote out his resignation.

"When I was an object of much contempt and derision in the university," he later wrote, "I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted, with my little Testament in my hand … The first text which caught my eye was this: 'They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear his cross.'"

"Conversation parties"

Slowly the pews began to open up and fill, not primarily with townspeople but with students. Then Simeon did what was unthinkable at the time: he introduced an evening service. He invited students to his home on Sundays and Friday evening for "conversation parties" to teach them how to preach. By the time he died, it is estimated that one-third of all the Anglican ministers in the country had sat under his teaching at one time or another.

Simeon, an untiring activist, also helped found evangelistic organizations like the London Jews Society, the Religious Tract Society, and the British & Foreign Bible Society. He was also one of the founders of the Church Missionary Society, and he inspired dozens of young men from his church to take the gospel to the far corners of the world.

In 1817, with money inherited through a brother's death, he created what became known as the Simeon Trust to purchase rights to appoint evangelical clergy to the parishes. He remained a bachelor his whole life, and his entire ministry was at Holy Trinity Church, Cambridge—even today a focal point of evangelicalism in England.