Charles Simeon was in the Church of England from 1782 to 1836 at Trinity College in Cambridge. He was appointed by a bishop against the will of the people who populated that bastion of academia. They opposed him, not because he was a bad preacher, but because he believed the Bible and he called for conversion and holiness.
For twelve years the people of Cambridge refused to let him give the Sunday afternoon sermon. And during that time, they boycotted the Sunday morning service and locked their pews so no one else could sit in them. So Simeon preached to people seated on the floor in the aisles for twelve years!
The average stay of a pastor in America these days is about four years. Simeon began with twelve years of intense opposition—and lasted fifty-four years. How did he overcome such incredible opposition? How did he endure with such patience?
In this state of things I saw no remedy but faith and patience. The passage of Scripture which subdued and controlled my mind was this, ‘The servant of the Lord must not strive.’
It was painful indeed to see the church, with the exception of the aisles, almost forsaken; but I thought that if God would only give a double blessing to the congregation that did attend, there would, on the whole, be as much good done as if the congregation were doubled and the blessing limited to only half the amount. This comforted me many, many times when, without such a reflection, I should have sunk under my burden.
Where did he get the assurance that if he followed the way of patience there would be a blessing on his work that would make up for the frustrations and hardships of having all the pews locked? He got it from Scriptures that promised hope and a future grace. The Word of God conquered unbelief and gave Simeon a stubborn hope which eventually conquered his impatience.
Fifty-four years later Simeon was dying. It was October 1836. The weeks drug on, then on October 21 those beside his bed heard him say these words, slowly and with long pauses:
Infinite Wisdom – has arranged the whole – with infinite love; and infinite power – enables me – to rest upon that love. I am in a dear Father’s hands – all is secure. When I look to Him – I see nothing but faithfulness – and immutability – and truth; and I have the sweetest peace.
Simeon had trained himself to go to Scripture, to take hold of God’s promises, to wait with God in the unplanned place of obedience, and to walk with God at the unplanned pace of obedience.
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Many thanks to Gregg Heinsch for this story. Miss you, Gregg!