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Was Charles Simeon a Calvinist?  Your answer probably depends on what you know about Simeon and your own theological perspective.  I’m not sure how Simeon himself would have answered that question, but we may be able to find some clues in his writings.

Without a doubt, Simeon was and still is considered a Calvinist by most, although he himself eschewed the label.  His goal was to be faithful to Scripture, without any concern for whether that made him sound like a Calvinist or an Arminian.  In truth, Simeon did not appear to believe that Scripture could, in the end, be reduced to or fully comprehended by either system:

It were well, if, instead of contending for human systems, and especially those of Calvin and Arminius, we were content to receive the Scriptures with the simplicity of little children: for, after all that has been said or written in support of those two most prominent systems, it is impossible to reduce the Holy Scriptures either to the one or to the other of them: for, on both hypotheses, there are difficulties which can never be surmounted, and contrarieties which man can never reconcile. It is by attempting to be wise above what is written, that we involve ourselves in all these difficulties. If we would be content to take the Scriptures as they are, and to leave the reconciling of them unto God, by whose inspiration they were written, we should find them all admirably calculated to produce the ends for which they were designed. (via Calvin and Calvinism)

I probably don’t have to tell you that Simeon’s position isn’t very popular today.  Many people want to put themselves (and everyone else) squarely in one camp or the other; a few seem utterly compelled to constantly take pot shots at the opposite camp.  Thankfully, not everyone wants to be so combative.  Simeon himself provides a famous example of setting labels aside and seeking common ground in his famous exchange with John Wesley:

Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

Yes, I do indeed.

And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

Yes, solely through Christ.

But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?


What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

Yes, altogether.

And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.

John Piper tells that story (and many others) in his biographical sketch of Simeon.  I highly recommend it, and will provide the link to it in a moment.  First, though, I think I should say something else.

I’m not merely recommending a biography.  I’m recommending an attitude of heart, exemplified in Simeon’s life.  He wasn’t perfect; no one is (yours truly least of all).  But in this regard, Simeon’s faith is worthy of imitation.  (Here’s the link.)