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they watch for your souls

Lemuel Haynes (17531833) is one of three pastors profiled in Thabiti Anyabiles book The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors. Married to a white woman, and for thirty years the pastor of an all white congregation, to say he was unusual for his time is a huge understatement. Educated In Latin and Greek, and influenced by Calvinists such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, and Philip Doddridge, he really blows apart our expectations.

The following excerpt is from a sermon entitled The Character and Work of a Spiritual Watchman Described. The text is Hebrews 13:17, For they watch for your souls, as they that must give an account. Delivered on 23 February, 1791, on the occasion of the ordination of Rev. Reuben Parmelee (17591843), the focus is on the responsibilities of the shepherd. However, as with all biblical sermons, there is application for us all. In this portion of the sermon, the preacher is reminded that he must watch over the souls of his flock because they are prone to stumble and fall.

Lemuel Haynes   Being commanded to be the watchmen over the souls of men implies that they are prone to neglect or 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.

Lemuel Haynes, cited in Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Crossway, 2007), 2627.

Although this sermon was directed toward shepherds, the application to the flock is to recognize that theythat is, weneed to be watched over. We cannot trust ourselves outside of the communion of saints and the ministry of those God has placed over us. We are prone to neglect or be inattentive to the state of our souls. We must take care to watch ourselves, and to see that we are in a place and attitude in which we can be watched.

Posted 2009·03·19 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Church History · Lemuel Haynes · Thabiti Anyabwile · The Faithful Preacher
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