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 (see 19 Oct), 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 (20 July), 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.
Propers for Charles Simeon - 12 November - Priest and Churchman
O GOD, who hast endowed thy servant Charles Simeon with clarity of faith and holiness of life: Grant us to keep with steadfast minds the faith which he taught, and in his fellowship to be made partakers of eternal glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle - Romans 10:8b-17.
The Holy Gospel - St. John 21:15-17.
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