Wisdom from Dead Guys

I don’t much like testing. I suppose none of us do. But since I am the worst sinner that I know I am especially frail when it comes to the testing of my faith. Things that would have been considered mere flesh wounds to my faithful forebears threaten to derail me. I, like so many in my generation, am a stranger to hardship. Too often I believe that I deserve better. What I fail to see, of course, is that each day I am getting far better than I deserve. My life is the “better” that I sometimes think I am being deprived.

This is one of the reasons I read biographies. When I read about Bunyan, Whitfield, Judson, Spurgeon, and Simeon I am taken for a much needed trip to the woodshed, as it were. They dealt with situations regularly that would turn all my hair gray instantly. I am astounded by the grace that sustained these men as they faced heartbreaking and sometimes terrifying opposition. I read J.C. Ryle’s book, “Five English Reformers,” and I tell you friends, I have not suffered.

When I read about what was done to John Rogers and Hugh Latimer, and John Wycliffe I shudder both at their sufferings and my frailties. Being gossiped about and accused falsely hurts quite a bit but not nearly so much as being burned to death. I don’t think I require any experience in this to speak definitively.

Charles Simeon who preached to filled aisles but empty, locked pews for twelve years knew a thing or two about the pain of ministry. Simeon became vicar of Trinity Church in Cambridge in 1782. The parishioners, for the most part, did not want him as their minister. And they had very clever ways of letting him know. For years Simeon was slandered. As mentioned already the pew holders refused to attend on Sunday mornings and locked their pews so no one else could be seated. This persisted for over a decade. A lesser man would have left. But Simeon endured and remained on at Trinity church for an astounding 54 years. He became known as one of England’s greatest preachers and men of God. He was a mentor of many other ministers and to this day is revered for his commitment to Scripture and the cause of evangelism.

Reflecting on his endurance in the face of great opposition Simeon wrote, “With the sweet hope of ultimate acceptance with God, I have always enjoyed much cheerfulness before men; but I have at the same time labored incessantly to cultivate the deepest humiliation before God.”

The great William Wilberforce wrote of Simeon: “Simeon with us – his heart glowing with love of Christ. How full he is of love, and of desire to promote the spiritual benefit of others. Oh! that I might copy him as he Christ.”

One final thought from Simeon himself that always rebukes my whining spirit:
“I was an object of much contempt and derision in the University. I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted with my little Testament in my hand, I prayed earnestly to my God that He would comfort me with some cordial from His Word, and that, on opening the book, I might find some text which should sustain me. It was not for direction I was looking, for I am no friend to such superstitions…but only for support. The first text which caught my eye was this: ‘They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to hear His cross.’ You know Simon is the same name as Simeon. What a word of instruction was there – what a blessed hint of my encouragement! To have the cross laid upon me, that I might bear it after Jesus – what a privilege! It was enough. Now I could leap and sing for joy as one whom Jesus was honoring with a participation of His sufferings.”