Charles Simeon on Expositional Listening (in modern English!)
Christians spend hundreds and even thousands of hours of their lives listening to preaching. A believer who faithfully attends his local church and hears a forty-five minute message forty-five times a year will, over the course of forty years as a Christian, spend 1,350 hours hearing sermons. That’s more than fifty-six days of his life!
It’s remarkable, then, that as central as preaching is to the life of the Christian, there are relatively few resources on how to hear sermons. There are dozens of books on preaching released each year, it seems, but very few on listening to that preaching! Christopher Ash, in his outstanding little guide “Listen Up! A Practical Guide To Listening To Sermons,” laments that “[t]here are books and courses to help people preach sermons...but I’ve not read anything written in the last 200 years on how to listen to sermons.” He then points to Charles Simeon’s “Directions How To Hear Sermons” in a footnote as the most recent.
Simeon’s work is very brief, but it is outstanding. And its practical message is sorely needed in our day. If we are to see revival in our churches and the advance of the Gospel to all nations, we all must strive to “take care how we hear.”
Therefore, I've prepared an updated version of Simeon's article, which you can download as a PDF here.
Even though it is short, some may find the archaic English of Simeon’s writing to be an obstacle. Therefore, I’ve taken the liberty of updating the English and formatting into a more modern, and hopefully more accessible, style. In this document, I’ve taken Simeon’s prooftexts and moved them out of footnotes (where they were in the original document) and put them as parenthetical references in the main text. Where I’ve made meaningful changes, such as substituting words or adding things for clarity, I’ve made notes for the reader. However, since I want the focus to be on what Simeon wrote rather than on the minor changes I’ve made, I’ve included those as endnotes for those curious about the editorial decisions I’ve made. The average Christian seeking to benefit from Simeon’s wisdom can feel free to ignore the endnotes entirely.
My prayer is that God will use this brief work to reawaken a firm confidence in the power, perfection, and sufficiency of his Word in the church today.
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