If in anything he grounded his sen-timents upon
authority, itwould not be on the dogmas of Calvin or Arminius, but on the Arti-cles and Homilies of
the Church of England
. He has the happiness tosay, that he does
, fromhis inmost soul, believe the doctrines to which he hassubscribed: but the reason of his believing them is not,that they are made the Creed of the Established church,but, that he find them manifestly contained in theSacred Oracles.
The Thirty-Nine Articles and the Homilies are there-fore Simeon’s “system,” but they are so because theyreflect the truths of Scripture. It follows from thesedocuments and their relation to Scripture that the Estab-lished Church is a true church, guided by the clear lightof Scripture and therefore very much worth remainingwithin. As Arthur Bennett explains: “In [Simeon’s] opin-ion the Protestant Reformed Church of England was thetruest and finest manifestation of the Christian Faithemanating from scripture and had everything in it tomeet his spiritual needs” (p. 131). Liturgy clearly func-tions for Simeon in the same way as the Articles andHomilies do but in the context of worship. “A congre-gation uniting fervently in the prayers of our Liturgy,”Simeon once wrote, “would afford as complete a pictureof heaven as ever yet was beheld on earth.”
We can now see that there is a properly
logicto Simeon’s defense of liturgy, rooted in reformedcatholicity. First, methodologically, Simeon defends thelawfulness of liturgy by looking to the authority of Scripture thence to the traditions of the early Churchin their proper use of Scripture.
Second, Simeon’sunderstanding of the excellency of the liturgy rests inits being scriptural and “a standard of piety,” con-to preach the gospel wherever it was not being preached.
Simeon, perhaps as “a natural Tory,”
couldnot countenance an evangelicalism which broke withthe Established Church. In the previous generationthere may have been just cause for itinerancy and a lackof respect for church order, but, he once remarked,“To do
as [Berridge] did
would do muchharm.”
What follows for Simeon is a properly
theological understanding of evangelicalism whichreinscribes the movement within the EstablishedChurch, reconnecting evangelicalism with it— itsliturgy, its order, etc.— through Scripture and in light of the legacy of the English Reformation. Indeed, CharlesSmyth suggests that were it not for Simeon “the Evan-gelicals would sooner or later have left the Church of England even as the Methodists had done…. It wasSimeon who, more than any other single individual,taught the younger Evangelicals to love the Church of England and enabled them to feel that they belongwithin her body.”
We began by noting that Simeon was “no friend to sys-tematizers in Theology.” He denied being a Calvinist or an Arminian, instead declaring himself “A Bible Chris-tian,” going so far as to say, “I bring to [my interpretationof Scripture] no predilection whatever.”
If Simeon’sclaim seems naïve— how does one approach the Bible
? — he at least seems aware of it, referringto the need to approach Scripture “with the simplicityof a little child.”
More importantly, however, his dis-dain for “systems” should be understood
,that is, not only
in the context of the threatto church unity posed by Calvinist and Arminiandebates,
with regard to the centralstatements of faith of the English Reformation. In a footnote to his Preface to
, Simeonwrites, referring to himself:
The Later Evangelical Fathers
(London: Seeley, Jack-son & Halliday, 1879), p. 244.
Ibid., p. 285.
As Stephen Neill put it, theologically, Latimer “was never a clear thinker, and there are times at which it seemed that he hardly knewhimself what he believed”:
, 4th edn. (NY: OxfordUniversity Press, 1977), p. 66.
(London: Holdsworth and Ball,1832), I:xxiii; italics in original.
Matthew Morris Preston,
Memoranda of the Rev. Charles Simeon, M.A.
(London: Richard Watts, 1840), p. 30.
The Excellency of the Liturgy, in Four Discourses, Preached Before the University of Cambridge in November 1811
(NY:Easburn, Kirk & Co., 1813). Citations of this source follow parenthetically in my text.
Arthur Bennett, “Charles Simeon: Prince of Evangelicals,”
, 102/2 (1988), p. 122.
, p. 236.
Simeon & Church Order: A Study in the Originsof the Evangelical Revival in Cambridge in the Eighteenth Century
(Cambridge: Cambridge at the University Press, 1940), pp. 256–57.
Ibid., p. 298.
Quoted in ibid., p. 256.
Ibid., p. 311.
Quoted in Robert S. Dell, “Simeon and the Bible,” in
Charles Simeon (1759-1836): Essays Written in Commemoration of his Bi-Centenary by Members of the Evangelical Fellowship for Theological Literature
, ed. Arthur Pollard and Michael Hennell(London: SPCK,1959), p. 32; cf. Hugh Evans Hopkins,
Charles Simeon: Preacher Extraordinary
(Grove Liturgical Study 18; Bramcote, Nottingham:Grove Books, 1979), p. 19.
Charles Simeon: Preacher Extraordinary
, p. 18; cf. p. 20.
Cf. Ibid., pp. 19ff.
, I:xiv; italics in original.
See, for example, his discussion of the use of the Lord’s Prayer (pp.46-47).
Rudolph W. Heinze, “Charles Simeon Through the Eyes of an American Lutheran,”
, 93/3 (1979), p. 250.
At the endof the day,Simeon’s“unsystematic”mode of theology is ahistorically Anglican one.
Student Essays in Christian Wisdom
(Continued from previous page)
THE LIVING CHURCH • August 12, 2012