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é─˙hearers also are to be examinedé─¨

We make much of the responsibilities of elders in the church. We expect a great deal from them, and, if they are faithful shepherds, they expect much of themselves. They work with tireless diligence to shepherd the flock the Master has entrusted to them, profoundly sensible of the burden they carry. And, while many congregations heap responsibilities and expectations onto the backs of their pastors that are both unreasonable and unbiblical, the charge given to them in Scripture is heavy enough. Yes, we are allé─ţbiblically or noté─ţaware of the responsibilities of our pastors.

But how often do we think of our responsibility? Pastors do not work independently. The purpose of the sermon is not achieved until it has been received. He does the work of preparing and delivering; we do the work of hearing and responding. And it is no inconsequential thing how we respond to the exposition of Godé─˘s Word.

The following is another excerpt from an ordination sermon preached by Lemuel Haynes in 1791. After charging the ordinand with his responsibilities as shepherd, Haynes turned to the congregation to call them to serve with their pastor in the mutual ministry of the Word.

Lemuel HaynesMy brethren and friends, the importance 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 it would 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 an account. His work is great, and you must pray for him, as in the verse following the text, where the apostle says, é─˙Pray for us.é─¨ 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 that 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. é─˙Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vinyard and eateth not the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of their flock?é─¨ (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.

é─ţLemuel Hanes, cited in Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Crossway, 2007), 35.

Posted 2009·03·26 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Church History · Lemuel Haynes · Thabiti Anyabwile · The Faithful Preacher
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#1 || 09·03·26··09:46 || Betsy Markman

You mean it's not my responsibility to sit in church and make sure I'm adequately entertained?


What an excellent quote! May God raise up many like Lemuel in these days of apostasy.

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