The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Preachers [MultiFormat]
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eBook by Thabiti M. Anyabwile
eBook Category: Spiritual/Religion
eBook Description: From the faithful ministry of three pioneering African-American pastors--Lemuel Haynes, Daniel A. Payne, and Francis J. Grimké--readers will gain a fresh vision for their own ministry.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, Published: 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2009
Lemuel Haynes Pastoral Ministry in Light of Eternity
If the church is to prosper and mature, she will need faithful men to lead and care for her. The church will need men who are sound in doctrine, whose lives are guided by the Word of God, and who are willing to defend the truth. The church will need to hold up as its ideal those who model fidelity and love toward God, men who will pour themselves out for the benefit of the Lord's sheep. Men of this mold are gifts to the church from her Lord. In the late 1700s the Lord did indeed give such a gift to the church--Lemuel Haynes.
Lemuel Haynes was born on July 18, 1753 in West Hartford, Connecticut. Early biographers speculated that Haynes's mother was either a daughter of the prominent Goodwin family of Hartford or a servant named Alice Fitch who worked for one John Haynes. However, speculations about his parentage proved profitless. Abandoned by his parents at five months of age, Haynes was raised as an indentured servant by the Rose family in Middle Granville, Massachusetts. The Roses treated Lemuel as one of the family's own children, giving him the same pious instruction in Christianity and family worship that Deacon Rose gave all his children.
[Footnote 1: Timothy Mather Cooley, Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M., for Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt., and Later in Granville, New York (1837; reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969).]
Following his indenture, Haynes volunteered in 1774 as a Minuteman and in October 1776 joined the Continental Army, thus becoming part of the American Revolution. Haynes volunteered just as the Continental Pastoral Ministry in Light of Eternity Navy and Army suffered heavy casualties at the Battle of Valcour Bay on October 11, 1776 and General Washington's forces met defeat at the Battle of White Plains on October 28, 1776. In November 1776 Continental forces witnessed over three thousand casualties and the loss of over one hundred cannons and thousands of muskets in defeats at Fort Washington and Fort Lee. Lemuel served in the Continental Army until November 17, 1776, when he contracted typhus and was relieved of duty. Despite the dismal prospects of the Revolution at this point, as a patriot Haynes was determined to defend with life and tongue the newly developing nation and its ideals of liberty. His political values were shaped by his "idealization of George Washington and allegiance to the Federalist Party."
[Footnote 2: Helen MacLam, "Introduction: Black Puritan on the Northern Frontier," in Richard Newman, ed., Black Preacher to White America: The Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes, 1774-(New York: Carlson, 1990), p. xx.]
But it was during his time with the Rose family and after the American Revolution that Haynes demonstrated his interests and talents for theology and ministry. "Haynes was a determined, self-taught student who pored over Scripture until he could repeat from memory most of the texts dealing with the doctrines of grace." Though Haynes benefited from the devout religious practice and instruction of Deacon Rose, the works of Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Philip Doddridge influenced him the most. Indeed, Haynes owed much to the revival and evangelism efforts of Whitefield and Edwards, who greatly impacted America, and especially the New England area, during the Great Awakening of the 1740s.
[Footnote 3 : Ibid.]
Haynes began his formal ministerial training by studying Greek and Latin with two Connecticut clergymen, Daniel Farrand and William Bradford. He was licensed to preach on November 29, 1780 and five years later became the first African-American ordained by any religious body in America. In 1804 Middlebury College awarded Haynes an honorary Master's degree--another first for an African-American.
Owing largely to his Puritan-like experiences with the Rose family and his admiration of Whitefield and Edwards, Haynes adopted a decidedly Calvinistic theology. Calvinism was typical of African-American writers during Haynes's lifetime. One biographer, reflecting on a host of African-American writers in the late 1700s, observed:
Indeed, Calvinism seems to have corroborated the deepest structuring elements of the experiences of such men and women as they matured from children living in slavery or servitude into adults desiring freedom, literacy, and membership in a fair society. From Calvinism, this generation of black authors drew a vision of God at work providentially in the lives of black people, directing their sufferings yet promising the faithful among them a restoration to his favor and his presence. Not until around 1815 would African American authors, such as John Jea, explicitly declare themselves against Calvinism and for free-will religion.
[Footnote 4: John Saillant, Black Puritan, Black Republican: The Life and Thought of Lemuel Haynes, 1753-(New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 4.]
Despite what appeared to be a Calvinistic hegemony, the New England area was not without its disputes and controversies. Following the First Great Awakening, significant arguments regarding church membership, salvation, assurance, and the revivals themselves unsettled and divided churches. Jonathan Edwards, one of Haynes's theological influences, was fired from his Northampton pastorate for refusing to administer Communion to church members and their children who, though morally upstanding, did not profess saving faith in Christ, a practice known as the "half-way covenant." Other churches divided into "New Light," "Old Light," and "Moderate" local assemblies. New Light congregations welcomed the revival of the Great Awakening with open arms, while their Old Light counterparts opposed the revival and the emotional excesses that accompanied it. Moderates attempted a middle-of-the-road understanding that recognized God's activity in the revival but sought to curb emotionalism. These ecclesial and theological controversies were the protean matter of Haynes's intellectual formation. Haynes was a "New Light moderate" and a strict Congregationalist who favored the independence of the local church and the need for a regenerate membership.
Lemuel Haynes's pastoral career spanned forty years. He began his life of Christian service as a founding member and supply pastor to the church in Middle Granville, Massachusetts. He served in Middle Granville for five years, then received ordination from the Association of Ministers in Litchfield County, Connecticut. Haynes completed his ordination in 1785 while serving a church in Torrington, Connecticut. However, despite his evident prowess as a preacher, he was never offered the pastorate of that church due to racial prejudice and resentment among some churches in the area. In 1783 Haynes met and married twenty-year-old Elizabeth Babbit, a young white schoolteacher and a member of the Middle Granville congregation. The couple bore ten children between 1785 and 1805.
On March 28, 1788 Haynes left the Torrington congregation and accepted a call to pastor the west parish of Rutland, Vermont, where he served the all-white congregation for thirty years--a relationship between pastor and congregation rare in Haynes's time and in ours both for its length and for its racial dynamic. During his stay in Rutland, the church grew in membership from forty-two congregants to about three hundred and fifty as Haynes modeled pastoral devotedness and fidelity to the people in his charge. He also emerged as a defender of Calvinistic orthodoxy, opposing the encroachment of Arminianism, universalism, and other errors.
In March 1818, on the heels of a five-year-long dispute with a deacon and growing alienation between Haynes and members of the congregation, several of whom were facing various church discipline charges, the church voted against continuing its relationship with their pastor of thirty years. In his farewell sermon to the Rutland congregation, "The Sufferings, Support, and Reward of Faithful Ministers, Illustrated," Lemuel Haynes concluded:
The flower of my life has been devoted to your service:--and while I lament a thousand imperfections which have attended my ministry; yet if I am not deceived, it has been my hearty desire to do something for the salvation of your souls.
Following his tenure in Rutland, Haynes remained active in ministry, serving despite declining health. He served as pastor in Manchester, Vermont from 1818 until 1822. In 1822 he began an eleven-year preaching ministry with a church in Granville, New York. Haynes contracted a gangrenous infection in one of his feet in March 1833. But he continued his duties with the Granville, New York congregation until May of that year, when health limitations overtook him. Lemuel Haynes died on September 28, 1833 at the age of eighty.
[Footnote 5: MacLam, "Introduction: Black Puritan on the Northern Frontier," in Newman, ed., Black Preacher to White America: The Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes, 1774-, p. xxxv.]
As a pastor, Haynes seemed always to be possessed with thoughts of the welfare of his congregation. Their salvation was paramount. His sermons made explicit the centrality of the cross of Christ and were rich in both theological instruction and practical application for his hearers. Lemuel Haynes is a wonderful model of the "old ideas" that stand the test of time and point the way forward even in our day.
The sermons included in this volume provide a glimpse into Haynes's understanding of pastoral ministry. In general, an eschatological expectation gripped Haynes's heart and mind. In each of the selections included here, the anticipation of meeting the Lord Jesus Christ at the Judgment motivated Haynes's instructions to his hearers. Haynes well understood that the bar of Christ, especially for the minister, would be a time of penetrating judgment, a time at which the heart and habits of the pastor would be laid bare and his just rewards made known.
Consequently, Haynes believed that a minister's Christian character was essential to his faithfulness and to his effectiveness in the gospel ministry. In a 1792 ordination sermon, "The Character and Work of a Spiritual Watchman Described," Haynes underscored five key traits a minister needs to possess. First, they are to "love the cause in which they profess to embark." That is, they must love Christ Himself and the proclamation of His divine glory to those who would hear and be saved. Second, the minister is to be wise and prudent, understanding the subtlety of the spiritual task and the spiritual enemies against whom he is engaged. Third, patience must accompany every member of the ministry. Fourth, courage and fortitude must fill his heart. And fifth, vigilance, alertness, and close attention to the business of watching for souls must characterize the spiritual watchman, the faithful preacher. Apart from these qualifications, the Christian minister is completely unprepared to give an account to God for his conduct and his care for God's people. But those who are prepared would examine their motives for entering the ministry, would be careful to know their duties as pastors, would seek to please none but God, would work to make their preaching plain, sober, modest, and reverent, and would work to know as much as possible about the souls entrusted to their care.
Haynes's eschatological vision of pastoral ministry was displayed most clearly in a 1798 funeral sermon entitled "The Important Concerns of Ministers and the People of Their Charge." In this sermon Haynes anticipated that the pastor and the congregation would have a special relationship to one another in the coming judgment of Christ, where the congregation would be the "hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing ... in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming." However, the Second Coming of Christ and the accompanying judgment of ministers and their people was, in Haynes's estimation, a proposition filled with both joyous promise and striking terror. At stake, more than merely the souls of pastors and congregants, was the very glory of God Himself--whether the character of the Redeemer was properly displayed before His creation through the ministry of which both minister and member were a part. If the pastor was faithful, the congregation and their shepherd would enjoy a special intimacy with one another, an intimacy deepened by the congregants' commendation of the pastor and by the pastor's recommendation of his people before the Lord Himself. However, if either the pastor or the congregation were unfaithful, their eternal relationship would be one of accusing and exposing the other before God and His Son. For everlasting good or for eternal ill, the pastor and the congregation were joined in a most solemn union before God, according to Haynes. Haynes concluded, "The influence of a faithful or unfaithful minister is such as to effect unborn ages; it will commonly determine the sentiments and characters of their successors, and in this way they may be doing good or evil after they are dead, and even to the second coming of Christ." The unfaithful minister would be tried for his treasonous neglect of the souls of the people, and the unfaithful congregation would stand to hear the pastor's denouncement of their spiritual apathy and hardheartedness. Therefore, ministers ought to preach, and people ought to listen, "with death and judgment in view."
[Footnote 6:Haynes used 1 Thessalonians 2:19 as his key text for the funeral sermon of the Rev. Abraham Carpenter. The text reads: "For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?"]
After three decades of pastoral ministry, the church in Rutland, Vermont discharged Lemuel Haynes from his pulpit. By most accounts, the strong sin of racial prejudice finally overcame some members of the congregation who challenged Haynes's leadership. At the occasion of his farewell sermon, "The Sufferings, Support, and Reward of Faithful Ministers, Illustrated," Haynes only briefly recounted some of his thirty years in Rutland. For the most part he took the opportunity to instruct the congregation one last time in the calling, character, and challenges of pastoral ministry. Perhaps feeling the sting of his own situation, Haynes focused on the joys and sorrows that accompany faithfulness in ministers. Faithful ministers are commissioned and sent by Christ as His ambassadors and messengers, a commission that determines their direction and manner in ministry, including how and what to preach and how long they are to serve in a particular place. That commission, asserted Haynes, sometimes ends quickly for the faithful minister:
The lives of ministers are often shortened by the trials they meet with; some times they are actually put to death for the sake of the gospel: they can say with this holy apostle, As dying, and behold we live! As chastened, and not killed; As sorrowing, yet always rejoicing. The memory of a Patrick, a Beveridge, a Manton, a Flavel, a Watts, a Doddridge, an Edwards, Hopkins, Bellamy, Spencer and Fuller is previous to us; but alas! we see them no more. No more in their studies; no more the visitants of their bereaved flock; no more in their chapels or sanctuaries on earth. They have run their race, finished their course, and are receiving their reward. Their successors in office are pursuing them with rapid speed: and will soon, very soon accomplish their work.
Haynes anticipated that his own demise would follow shortly after leaving the pulpit in Rutland. But for all the bonds and afflictions, briars and thorns, vilification, and opposition faced by faithful ministers, the faithful ministers were never to despair or lose heart because their lot in eternity would be great joy and satisfaction with their Master.
For those in or contemplating entrance into pastoral ministry, Lemuel Haynes reminds us of the solemn importance of faithfulness in the gospel minister. Haynes warns us of a blithe attitude toward our work as ministers, ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Indifference is deadly--to our people and to ourselves. Ours is a life dedicated to caring for another's children with the anticipation of one day returning them to their Heavenly Father. At that time we shall give an account of our stewardship--what we have taught His children, what model or example we have provided, whether we have tended to the state of their souls, and most importantly, whether we spoke reproachfully or gloriously of their True Father. If we would be faithful, we must keep the coming of our Lord in full view as we discharge all the duties we have been given by Him who walks in the midst of the seven lampstands (Revelation 1:13).
Sketch of Rev. Lemuel Haynes, a frontispiece in Timothy Mather Cooley,
Sketches of the Life and Character of the Rev. Lemuel Haynes, A.M., for Many Years Pastor of a Church in Rutland, Vt., and Later in Granville, New York (1837; reprint, New York: Negro Universities Press, 1969).
The Character and Work of a Spiritual Watchman
Haynes's first published sermon was preached at the ordination of Rev. Reuben Parmelee (1759-), the first minister of the seven families (nine members) who gathered together to form the First Congregational Church, Hinesburgh, Vermont. The sermon was likely preached in 1791, when the first organized church was established through the efforts of Parmelee. For three years prior Christians had met in homes and farms and in the open air with no consistent pastoral oversight. While most sources assume the sermon was published in 1791, it was probably the first publication of the printing partnership of Collier and Buel of Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1792. The Character and Work of a Spiritual Watchman Described,
a Sermon, Delivered at Hinesburgh, February 23, 1791, at the Ordination of the Rev. Reuben Parmelee
For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account.
Nothing is more evident than that men are prejudiced against the gospel. It is from this source that those who are for the defense of it meet with so much contempt. It is true, they are frail, sinful dust and ashes, in common with other men; yet on account of the important embassy with which they are entrusted, it is agreeable to the unerring dictates of inspiration "to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake" (1 Thess. 5:13).
To illustrate this sentiment was the delight of the apostle in this verse: "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." He was far from inculcating anything that might seem to confront what the apostle Peter has enjoined in 1 Peter 5:3, "neither as being lords over God's heritage." The word signifies to lead, guide, or direct (Guyse's paraphrase).
Our text contains an important motive--to excite the attention and respect that is due to the ministers of Christ on account of their relation to Him. This involves the aspect that their work has to a judgment-day: "For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account." They are amenable to their great Lord and Master for every sermon they preach and must give an account of the reception they and their work met with among their hearers. Under the influence of such a thought, let us take notice of a few things, supposed by the work assigned to ministers in the text, and say something with respect to their character, whence it appears that they must give account when they may be said to be properly influenced by such considerations.
I. There are several ideas suggested by the work assigned to gospel ministers in the text, which is, to watch for souls.
1. That the soul is of vast importance; else why so much attention paid to it as to have a guard to inspect it? All those injunctions we find interpreted through the sacred pages to watchmen to be faithful are so many evidences of the worth of men's souls. What renders them so valuable is the important relation they stand in to their Maker. The perfections of the Deity are more illustrated in the redemption of fallen men than they would have been in the salvation of apostate angels; else why were the latter passed by, while God chose the former as the objects of His attention? God has from eternity appointed a proper number for the display of His mercy and justice; means are necessary to fit them for the Master's use; so the soul, in this view, is of infinite importance.
2. Being commanded to be watchmen over the souls of men implies that they are prone to neglect them or to be inattentive to those souls. When one is set to inspect or watch over another, it supposes some kind of incapacity that the individual is under to take care of himself. The Scripture represents mankind by nature as fools, madmen, being in a state of darkness, etc.
Men in general are very sagacious with respect to temporal affairs and display much natural wit and ingenuity in contriving and accomplishing evil designs; "but to do good they have no knowledge" (Jer. 4:22). This is an evidence that their inability to foresee danger and provide against it is of the moral kind. If there were a disposition in mankind, correspondent to their natural powers, to secure the eternal interest of their souls in the way God has proscribed, watchmen would in a great measure be useless.
3. The work and office of gospel ministers suggests the idea of enemies invading, that there is a controversy subsisting, and danger approaching. When soldiers are called forth, and sentinels stand upon the wall, it denotes war. The souls of men are environed with ten thousand enemies that are seeking their ruin. Earth and hell are combined together to destroy. How many already have fallen victims to their ferocity! The infernal powers are daily dragging their prey to the prison of hell. Men have rebelled against God and made him their enemy; yea, all creatures, and all events, are working the eternal misery of the finally impenitent sinner.
4. We are taught in the text and elsewhere that the work of a gospel minister is not with the temporal but with the spiritual concerns of men: they watch for souls. Their conversation is not to be about worldly affairs but about things that relate to Christ's kingdom, which involves the everlasting concerns of men's souls. When a minister's affections are upon this world, his visits among his people will be barren. He will inquire about the outward circumstances of his flock and perhaps, from pecuniary motives, rejoice at prosperity, as though that was of greatest concern. But he will have nothing to say with respect to the health and prosperity of their souls, having no joys or sorrows to express on account of the fruitful or lifeless state of the inward man.
II. Let us say something with respect to the character of a spiritual watchman.
Natural endowments, embellished with good education, are qualifications so obviously requisite in an evangelical minister that it is needless for us to insist upon them at this time; and that the interest of religion has, and still continues, greatly to suffer for the want of them is equally notorious.
In the early ages of Christianity, men were miraculously qualified and called into this work of the gospel ministry; but we are far from believing that this is the present mode by which ordinary ministers are introduced.
1. It is necessary that those who engage in this work love the cause in which they profess to be embarked; the love of Christ must be shed abroad in their hearts. Hence our blessed Lord, by whose repeated inter rogations to Simon whether he loved Him, has set before us the importance of this qualification in a spiritual shepherd. The sad consequences of admitting those into the army who are in heart enemies to the commonwealth have often taught men to be careful in this particular. The trust reposed in a watchman is such as renders him also capable of great detriment to the community. He that undertakes this work from secular motives will meet with disappointment. What a gross absurdity it is for a man to commend religion to others, while he is a stranger to it himself. "The pious preacher will commend the Savior from the personal fund of his own experience." Being smitten with the love of Christ himself, with what zeal and fervor will he speak of the divine glory! Love to Christ will tend to make a minister faithful and successful. The importance of this point urges me to be copious on the subject, were it not too obvious to require a long discussion.
2. Wisdom and prudence are important qualifications in ministers: hence that injunction of the Great Preacher (Matt. 10:16): "Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Such a minister is a man of spiritual understanding whose soul is irradiated with the beams of the Son of Righteousness, has received an unction from the Holy One, is taught by the Word and Spirit, and walks in the light of God's countenance. He has seen the deceit of his own heart, knows the intrigues of the enemy, sees the many snares to which the souls of men are exposed, and, not being ignorant of the devices of Satan, will endeavor to carry on the spiritual campaign with such care and prudence that the enemy shall not get an advantage. He knows that he has a subtle enemy to oppose, and also human nature, replete with enmity against the gospel; and he will endeavor in every effort to conduct himself with that wisdom and circumspection as shall appear most likely to prove successful.
3. Patience is another very necessary qualification in a spiritual watchman. Being inspired with love to the cause, he will stand the storms of temptation and will not be disheartened by all the fatigue and suffering to which his work exposes him but will endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
4. Courage and fortitude must constitute part of the character of a gospel minister. A sentinel who is worthy of that station will not fear the formidable appearance of the enemies, nor tremble at their menaces. None of these things will move him, neither will he count his life dear unto him as he defends a cause so very important. He has the spirit of intrepid Nehemiah: "Should such a man as I flee?" (6:11). He stands fast in the faith, conducts himself like a man, and is strong.
5. Nor must we forget to mention vigilance, or close attention to the business assigned him, as an essential qualification in a minister of Christ. A man does not answer the idea of a watchman unless his mind is engaged in the business. The word that is rendered "watch" in the text [Heb. 13:17] signifies, in the original, to awake, to abstain from sleeping (Leigh's Critica Sacra). Indeed all the purposes of a watchman set upon a wall are frustrated if he sleeps on guard; thereby he himself and the whole army are liable to fall easy prey to the cruel depredations of the enemy. The spiritual watchman is not to sleep but to watch for the first motion of the enemy and give the alarm, lest souls should perish through his drowsiness and inattention.
Some further observations with respect to the work of a gospel minister will be made in their place.
III. We will now show that ministers must give account to God of their conduct, especially as it concerns the people under their charge.
This solemn consideration is suggested in the text below. It is the design of preaching to make things ready for the day of judgment. "To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life" (2 Cor. 2:16). We are fitting men for the Master's use, preparing affairs for that decisive court. This supposes that things must be laid open before the great assembly at the day of judgment, or why is it that so many things relate thereto and are preparatives thereof?
The work of a gospel minister has a peculiar relation to the future. An approaching judgment is that to which every subject is pointing and that renders every sentiment to be inculcated vastly solemn and interesting. Ministers are accountable creatures in common with other men; and we have the unerring testimony of Scripture that "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil" (Eccles. 12:14). If none of our conduct is too minute to be known, we may well conclude that important affairs relating to the work and office of gospel ministers will not pass unnoticed.
Arguments taken from the names given to the ministers of Christ show that they must give account. They are called soldiers, ambassadors, servants, stewards, etc., which points out the relation they and their work stand in to God: they are sent by God and are answerable to Him who sent them, just as a servant or steward is to give account to his lord and master with respect to his faithfulness in the trust reposed in him. God tells Ezekiel that if watchmen are not faithful, and souls perish through their neglect, He will require their blood at the hands of such careless watchmen. It is evident that early ministers were influenced to practice faithfulness from a view of the solemn account they expected to give at the day of judgment. This gave rise to those words, "But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye" (Acts 4:19). If God's omniscience is a motive to be faithful, that must be because of the view that he will not let our conduct pass unnoticed but will call us to an account.
It was approaching judgment that engrossed the attention of Paul and made him exhort Timothy to study to approve himself unto God. This also made the beloved disciple speak of having "boldness in the day of judgment" (1 John 4:17).
The Divine Glory is the only object worthy of attention, and to display His holy character was the design of God in creation, as there were no other beings existing antecedent to attract the mind of Jehovah. And we are sure that God is pursuing the same thing still, and always will. "He is in one mind, and who can turn him?" (Job 23:13). There is no conceivable object that bears any proportion with the glory of God; and for Him ever to aim at anything else would be incompatible with His perfections. The day of judgment is designed to be a comment on all other days; at that time God's government of the world and the conduct of all toward Him will be publicly investigated, that the equity of divine administration may appear conspicuous before the assembled universe. It is called a day "when the Son of man is revealed" (Luke 17:30). The honor of God requires that matters be publicly and particularly attended to, that evidences be summoned at this open court. Hence the saints are to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2).
It will lead to the mutual happiness of faithful ministers and the people to have matters laid open before the bar of God, so that, as in the words following our text, they may do it with joy and not with grief. The apostle speaks of some ministers and people who should have reciprocal joy in the day of the Lord Jesus, which supposes that ministers and the people under their charge are to meet another day as having something special with each other. The connection between ministers and people is such as renders them capable of saying much for or against the people under their charge, with hearers making the same observations in respect to their teachers; and in this way the mercy and justice of God will appear illustrious.
Since, therefore, the work of gospel ministers has such a near relation to a judgment day, since they are accountable creatures and their work so momentous, since this is a sentiment that has had so powerful influence on all true ministers in all ages of the world, the connection is such as to render them capable of saying many things relating to the people under their charge. Above all, since the displays of divine glory are so highly concerned in this matter, we may without hesitation adopt the idea in the text--namely, that ministers will give a solemn account to their great Lord and Master regarding how they discharged the trust reposed in them.
IV. We are to inquire what influence such considerations will have on the true ministers of Christ, or when they may be said to preach and act as those who must give account.
1. Those who properly expect to give account will be very careful to examine themselves with respect to the motives by which they are influenced to undertake this work. Such a minister will view himself as acting in the presence of a heart-searching God who requires truth in the inward part and will shortly call him to account for all the exercises of his heart. He will search every corner of his soul to determine whether the divine honor or something else is the object of his pursuit. He has been taught by the rectitude of the divine law that God will not pass by transgressors but will judge the secrets of men. The work will appear so great that nature will recoil at the thought, like Jeremiah: "Ah, Lord GOD! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child" (Jer. 1:6). Or with the great apostle, "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Cor. 2:16). The true disciple of Jesus will not thrust himself forward into the ministry like a heedless usurper but with the greatest caution and self-diffidence.
2. A faithful watchman will manifest that he expects to give account by being very careful to know his duty and will take all proper ways that are in his power to become acquainted with it. He will study, as the apostle directs Timothy, to show himself "approved unto God" (2 Tim.2:15). He will give attendance to reading, meditation, and prayer and will often call for divine aid on account of his own insufficiency. As a faithful soldier will be careful to understand his duty, so the spiritual watchman will adhere closely to the Word of God for his guide and directory.
3. A minister who watches for souls as one who expects to give account will have none to please but God. When he studies his sermons, this will not be the inquiry, "How shall I form my discourse so as to please and gratify the humors of men and get their applause?" but "How shall I preach so as to do honor to God and meet with the approbation of my Judge?" This will be his daily request at the throne of grace. This will be ten thousand times better than the vain flattery of men. His discourses will not be calculated to gratify the carnal heart; rather he will not shun to declare the whole counsel of God.
The solemn account that the faithful minister expects to give on another day will direct him in the choice of his subjects; he will dwell upon those things that have a more direct relation to the eternal world. He will not entertain his audience with empty speculations or vain philosophy but with things that concern their everlasting welfare. Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, will be the great topic and darling theme of his preaching. If he means to save souls, like a skillful physician he will endeavor to lead his patients into a view of their maladies and then point them to a bleeding Savior as the only way of recovery. The faithful watchman will give the alarm at the approach of the enemy, will blow the trumpet in the ears of the sleeping sinner, and will endeavor to awake him.
4. The pious preacher will endeavor to adapt his discourses to the understanding of his hearers. "He will not be ambitious of saying fine things to win applause, but of saying useful things, to win souls." He will consider that he has the weak as well as the strong, children as well as adults to speak to and that he must be accountable for the blood of their souls if they perish through his neglect. This will influence him to study plainness more than politeness. Also he will labor to accommodate his sermons to the different states or circumstances of his hearers; he will have comforting and encouraging lessons to set before the children of God, while the terrors of the law are to be proclaimed in the ears of the impenitent. He will strive to make distinctions in his preaching, that every hearer may have his portion.
The awful scenes of approaching judgment will have an influence on the Christian preacher with respect to the manner in which he will deliver the message. He will guard against that low and vulgar style that tends to degrade religion; but his language will in some measure correspond with those very solemn and affecting things that do engage his heart and tongue. He will not substitute a whining tone in place of a sermon that, to speak not worse of it, is a sort of satire upon the gospel, tending greatly to depreciate its solemnity and importance and to bring it into contempt. But the judgment will appear so awful, and his attention so captivated with it, that his accents will be the result of a mind honestly and engagedly taken up with a vastly important subject. "Such a preacher will not come into the pulpit as an actor comes upon the stage, to personate a feigned character, and forget his real one; to utter sentiments, or represent passions not his own" (Fordyce).
He does not aim to display his talents. But like one who feels the weight of eternal things, he will not address his hearers as though judgment were merely an empty sound; rather he views eternity as just before him, and a congregation on the frontiers of it, whose eternal state depends upon a few uncertain moments. Oh, with what zeal and fervor will he speak! Death, judgment, and eternity will appear as it were in every feature and every word! Out of the abundance of his heart, his mouth will speak. His hearers will easily perceive that the preacher is one who expects to give account. He will study and preach with reference to a judgment to come and will deliver every sermon in some respects as if it were his last, not knowing when his Lord will call him or his hearers to account. We are not to suppose that his zeal will vent itself in the frightful bellowings of enthusiasm; but he will speak forth the words of truth in soberness, modesty, and Christian decency.
5. They who watch for souls as those who expect to give account will endeavor to know as much as they may the state of the souls committed to their charge, that they may be in a better capacity to do them good. They will point out those errors and dangers that they see approaching; and when they see souls taken by the enemy, they will exert themselves to deliver them from the snare of the devil. The outward deportment of a faithful minister will correspond with his preaching: he will reprove and rebuke, warning his people from house to house. The weighty affairs of another world will direct his daily walk and conversation in all places and on every occasion.
A Few Particular Addresses
First, to him who is about to be set apart to the work of the gospel ministry in this place:
Dear sir, from the preceding observations you will easily see that the work before you is great and solemn; and I hope this is a lesson you have been taught otherwise; the former acquaintance I have had with you gives me reason to hope that this is the case. You are about to have these souls committed to your care; you are to be placed as a watchman upon the walls of this part of Zion. I doubt not that it is with trembling you enter upon this work. The relation that this day's business has with a judgment to come renders the scene affecting. Your mind, I trust, has already anticipated the important moment when you must meet this people before the bar of God. The good profession you are this day to make is before many witnesses. Saints and wicked men are beholding. The angels are looking down upon us. Above all, the great God with approval or disapprobation beholds the transactions of this day; he sees what motives govern you and will proclaim them before the assembled universe. Oh, solemn and affecting thought! The work before you is great and requires great searching of heart, great self-diffidence and self-abasement. How necessary that you feel your dependence upon God; you cannot perform any part of your work without his help. Under a sense of your weakness, go to Him for help. Would you be a successful minister, you must be a praying, dependent one: do all in the name and strength of the Lord Jesus. Would you be faithful in watching for the souls of men, you must continually watch your own heart. If you are careless with respect to your own soul, you will be also with respect to others'.
Although the work is too great for you, yet let such considerations as these revive your desponding heart. Because the cause is good, better than life, you may well give up all for it. It is the cause of God, and it will prove victorious in spite of all opposition from men or devils: God has promised to be with His ministers to the end of the world, and the work is delightful. Paul somewhere blesses God for putting him into the work of the ministry. The campaign is short, and your warfare will soon be accomplished; the reward is great, and being found faithful, you will receive a crown of glory that fades not away.
Second, we have a word to the church and congregation in this place. My brethren and friends, the importance of the work of a gospel minister suggests the weighty concerns of your souls. As ministers must give account as to how they preach and behave, so hearers also are to be examined as to how they hear and improve. You are to hear with a view to the day of judgment, always remembering that there is no sermon or opportunity that you have in this life to prepare for another world that shall go unnoticed at that decisive court. Your present exercises, with respect to the solemn affairs of this day, will then come up to public view.
God, we trust, is this day sending you one to watch for your souls. Should not this excite sentiments of gratitude in your breasts? Shall God take so much care of your souls and you neglect them? How unreasonable would it be for you to despise the pious instruction of your watchmen! You would therein wrong your own souls, and it would be evidence that you love death. You must bear with him in not accommodating his sermons to your vitiated tastes because he must give account. His work is great, and you must pray for him, as in the verse following the text, where the apostle says, "Pray for us." Since it is the business of your minister to watch for your souls with such indefatigable assiduity, you easily see how necessary it is that you do what you can to strengthen him in this work and that you minister to his temporal wants, so he may give himself wholly to these things. The great backwardness among people in general with respect to this matter at present has an unfavorable aspect. "Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?" (1 Cor. 9:7).
Doubtless this man is sent here for the rise and fall of many in this place. We hope he will be used as a mean of leading some to Christ; on the other hand, we tremble at the thought that he may fit others for a more aggravated condemnation. Take heed how you hear.
A Few Words to the Assembly in General Will Close the Subject
What has been said about the character and work of gospel ministers shows us at once that this is a matter in which we are all deeply interested. The greater part of the people present, I expect to see no more until I meet them on the day that has been the main subject of the foregoing discourse. With respect to the characters of the people present, we can say but little about them; only this we may observe--they are all dying creatures, hastening to the grave and to judgment! There must we meet you; there an account of this day's work will come into view; there each one must give account concerning the right discharge of the work assigned to him. The preacher must give account, and you that hear also. Let me say to such as are yet in their sins and proclaim it from this part of the wall of Zion: the enemy of your souls is at hand--destruction awaits you. Oh, flee! Flee to Christ Jesus; bow to His sovereignty. Know this: except you are born again and become new creatures, you cannot be saved.
Shall ministers watch and pray for your souls night and day, and you pay no attention to them? Since they are so valuable, having such a relation to God, if men regarded divine glory, they would regard their souls as being designed to exhibit it. Be instructed, then, to delay no longer, but by repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ make peace with Him before you are summoned before His awful bar. Let me bear testimony against a practice too common on such occasions as this: many people think this a time for carnal mirth and dissipation, than which nothing can be more provoking to God or inconsistent with that day and the strict account that such an occasion tends to excite in the mind. May all, both ministers and people, be exhorted to diligence in their work, that finally we may adopt the language of the blessed apostle: "...as also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are ours in the day of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 1:14). Amen. The Important Concerns of Ministers and the People of Their Charge (1797)
Haynes preached this sermon at the funeral of Rev. Abraham Carpenter (1739-), founding pastor of a new congregation in the Rutland area in 1788. Carpenter, a strict Congregationalist, served from 1773 in Plainfield's "Whipple Hollow" or "Orange Parish" area of New Hampshire. Carpenter died in September 1797.
This funeral sermon is rare; there are only two known copies, one each at Brown and Howard Universities. It was printed in Rutland, Vermont. The Important Concerns of Ministers and the
People of Their Charge at the Day of Judgment;
Illustrated in a Sermon, Delivered at Rutland,
Orange Society, at the Interment of
The Rev. Abraham Carpenter, Their Worthy Pastor
For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming?
--1 THESS. 2 : 1 9