“Come into the pulpit as one who feels the weight of eternal things” by Lemuel Haynes

“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 preach distinguishingly so 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 himself.

Such a preacher will not come into the pulpit as an actor comes to the stage to personate a feigned character or to display his talents, but as one who feels the weight of eternal things. He will not address his hearers as though judgment was a mere empty sound.

But he will address his hearers viewing eternity 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! How will death, judgment, and eternity 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 an account. He will study and preach with reference to a judgment to come, and 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.”

–Lemuel Haynes, “The Character and Work of a Spiritual Watchman Described,” in Black Preacher to White America: The Collected Writings of Lemuel Haynes, 1774-1833, Ed. Richard Newman (Brooklyn, NY: Carlson Publishing, 1990), 50-51.

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