Simeon’s firm allegiance to the Anglican Church was as much a matter of spiritual duty as of love. In view of the cynical treatment he received from churchmen and university alike he may well have left it for Independency or Presbyterianism. But a godly imperative kept him in its fold. He was wedded to its doctrines set forth in the Thirty-nine Articles and Homilies, and expressed in its Prayer Book. In his opinion the Protestant Reformed Church of England was the truest and finest manifestation of the Christian Faith emanating from scripture and had everything in it to meet his spiritual needs. He was sad to see others departing from it into Dissent and sought, by forming parish Societies, to prevent his own people following them. As to the clergy, Stephen Neill makes the point that the actions of evangelical clergy in the eighteenth century could have led to separation from the Church, but:
The influence of Charles Simeon swung the movement the other way, and all the evangelicals of the first half of the nineteenth century were convinced and devoted churchmen. G.M. Trevelyan’s powerful statement that owing to Simeon the drift of evangelical clergy into
Dissent was arrested is incontrovertible.
Without him, he went on, ‘the Church of England might perhaps have fallen when the tempest of Reform blew high in the thirties’. The respect that evangelicals obtained within the Established Church was, in James Downey’s view, ‘largely accomplished through the teaching and influence of Charles Simeon who finally won a general respect for evangelical preaching’ by his structured presentation of Christian truth and note of authority, and that in a church that rejected Whitefield’s and Wesley’s effusive style. Credit must also be given to the ordinands who attended his sermon classes and used his homiletic methods in their churches.
But Simeon did not discount nonconformity. His sentiments were warm to those ministers who shared his spiritual views, even to supporting financially Joseph Stittle, a layman, who shepherded some extreme Calvinists who forsook Simeon’s ministry. By joining with Free Churchmen in creating Missionary and Home Societies he formed a bridge between Anglicanism and nonconformity, avers Trevelyan. Of Methodism, which hardly touched Cambridge, he had little contact, and met John Wesley but twice, though he visited Fletcher of Madeley and received a warm reception. Wesley’s Arminianism and doctrine of perfection were hardly likely to attract the sin-conscious Simeon. Presbyterianism was more to his liking. He made close friends of Scottish ministers, and preached and communicated in their churches. Towards Roman Catholicism he was extremely severe and held the traditional view that its system was not of God. He showed acid disfavour to the Catholic emancipation movement, even refusing to vote for Charles Grant’s son, a candidate for Parliament, who favoured it. ‘Gladly would I give to the Catholics every privilege that would conduce to their happiness. But to endanger the Protestant ascendency and stability is a sacrifice which I am not prepared to make,’ he said.
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