This month is set apart to celebrate the lives and achievements of African-Americans in our country. As believers, we’re called to recognize the image of God in all people (Gen. 1:27) and acknowledge those who are faithful in the work of the Lord (1 Cor. 16:16 and 18). In honor of this month, I’d like to acknowledge and spotlight a pastor God rescued, brought up, and used early on in American History to expose the ridiculous and sinful nature of barriers based on the color of skin and to be an example of what the care and concern of every believer should be.
His name was Lemuel Haynes. This was his adopted name taken from the King mentioned in Proverbs 31 and given by the Deacon who took him in after his father and mother had abandoned him. Although, his parents wouldn’t have known everything about Lemuel in passing on this name, God did and as a pastor he would grow to carry out the instruction of this passage to, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (vs. 9). Lemuel was faithful to the truth of God’s Word and boldly proclaimed it wherever he was positioned. From a very young age he longed to learn more about the Lord, His truth, and will. As a boy, he wrote, “I make it my rule to know something more every night than I knew in the morning.” He craved the knowledge found in Christ which then led to his conversion. He said of his salvation, “It was reliance on the merits of the Savior that supported me. Had I a thousand souls, I would venture them on him.” As with all men, he knew there was nothing in himself that could save him. He needed to be rescued and that was found in trusting in Christ’s work, not his own.
It was through reading sermons to his family on Saturday evenings and writing his own that God eventually led him to the pastorate. In 1785, he was officially ordained as a minister. He spent his first 2 years in ministry as pastor to an all-white church in Connecticut before moving on to a mostly white church in Vermont to pastor for 30 years. The color of his skin didn’t determine his ability to preach or qualify who he could preach to. People needed to hear the Gospel and truth of God’s Word and Lemuel had a passion to make it known. His concern was for the souls of men. In his final sermon to his church in Vermont, who removed him because of growing prejudices, he proclaimed, “All gospel ministers know experimentally, in some degree, ‘the terror of the Lord’ and are led to ‘persuade men’ [as Paul speaks to in 2 Cor. 5:11]. The man who does not appreciate the worth of souls and is not greatly affected with their dangerous situation is not qualified for the sacred office. It was the saying of a pious minister who would arise at midnight for prayer, ‘How can I rest, how can I sleep, when so many of my congregation are exposed every moment to drop in hell!’” Lemuel carried the weight of concern for every man under sin and sought to preach the gospel for their deliverance. As men and women of God, we have been freed through Jesus from the barrier sin has made between us and God. We cannot create or perpetuate barriers between us and others. All men need the Gospel of Jesus Christ. All believers are called to “appreciate the worth of souls,” have concern for their “dangerous situation,” and care with the good news of Jesus.
Let Us Be Encouraged And Challenged By This Great Example We’ve Been Given, Pastor Rudy