Lemuel Haynes | Hero of Faith

Biography by

Katherine Bussard

Ex. Director & COO

“In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.”  —Colossians 3:11

Lemuel Haynes: Christ is My All | 1753-1833

Most Americans today have never heard of Lemuel Haynes, but the 18th century, there was hardly an American who did not know his name. Haynes was more than a hero of the American Revolution—he was the first African American man to receive a degree of higher education in America, was one of the first ordained African American Minister of the Gospel, and inspired sermons were widely published and read throughout the nation.

Born into a bi-racial family, his parents abandoned him when he was just 5 months old. As was often the case with abandoned and orphaned children of all ethnicities in that time, young Lemuel was indentured to a family where he would later work in exchange for room and board.  The infant was indentured to and raised by Deacon David Rose (a blind farmer) and his family in Granville, Massachusetts, where it said that Mrs. Rose loved the abandoned baby even more than her own. Haynes was given a thorough academic education and grew up helping with chores on the family farm during the day, while attending church and studying the Bible with the Rose family in the evenings. The Roses exposed Lemuel the preaching of acclaimed Great Awakening preachers of the day, including George Whitfield, Jonathan Edwards, and Philip Doddridge. On Saturday evenings, the family would take turns reading sermons by these famous preachers aloud.  One night, it was Lemuel’s turn and read a sermon with on John 3:3 with astounding zeal; Deacon Rose asked who the author was-Edwards or Whitfield. Lemuel replied that he wrote the message himself.

As Lemuel grew up, the family encouraged his calling to preach and saw that he was mentored by local pastors, taught New Testament Greek, and trained in oration. Local pastors would bring their sermons for Lemuel to proofread and aid in research before Sundays and shared opportunities for him to speak to their congregations. When his term of indenture ended, Lemuel stayed close to the Rose family and his church family, building his own home in Granville. However, He did not immediately turn to seminary.

He felt that part of calling to serve God with his life was to first serve his country. Lemuel enlisted with the Massachusetts Minuteman in 1776 and went on to serve in the Continental Army, where he eventually observed Washington’s extraordinary leadership and devout faith.  Perhaps his most noteworthy miliary service was under the command of Ethan Allen, with the legendary “Green Mountain Boys”, a commissioned Army Ranger Unit formally known as the Green Mountain Continental Rangers, which was acclaimed for their exceptional sharpshooting abilities.  Their unit was instrumental in turning the tide of the war and was instrumental in capturing Fort Ticonderoga from the British without a single shot being fired. Though a dedicated patriot, eventually, Lemuel fell ill and had to leave active duty for health reasons.

It was at this time in the middle of the war, that he finished his degree and received ordination from one of the largest denominations of his day: the Congregational Church. As a pastor, Lemuel quickly distinguished himself with his deep theological roots and his convictions about faith shaping all aspects of life, including citizenry and society. He was a sought-after pastor and early in his career preached in many mixed churches, before eventually serving more than 30 years as the pastor of a single white, New England congregation. In his preaching, Haynes never shied away from difficult or unpopular doctrine, but preached with great courage on any topic that was true according to the word, profitable for church, and “seasonable” for the culture. Above all else, he was devoted to the saving message of Jesus Christ, and in an 1803 personal letter, described his time as a pastor of a church exploding with revival growth in this way:

Not a day nor night in a week but people would crowd to meetings. The inquiry among the youth and others was, “What shall we do to be saved?” Children of eleven and twelve years of age seemed to be more engaged about religion than they were before about their play. The minds of the people general were attentive. My house has been often thronged with the people who desired to discourse about religion…Thus it has please the Lord to do wonders among us, to the praise of His glorious grace.

He also used his pulpit to engage the culture for the glory of God. His faith demanded that he speak out against the injustices of his day, and he became an ardent abolitionist. He opposed the humanistic revolution in France, calling it the “The French Insanity”, and was an outspoken advocated for Constitutional remediation when he felt that American government under the Jackson and Madison administrations threatened individual liberty. Each year on George Washington’s birthday, he preached on the Christian principles that Washington lived by and articulated in his farewell address. Because dozens of Lemuel Haynes’s sermons were printed (some messages were republished more than 70 times) and circulated throughout the nation, his messages on these important topics are thought to have profoundly influenced how the Christian faith engaged with civic life during the early days of our nation.

In addition to a distinguished life of ministry and service, Lemuel married a white schoolteacher, and together they had 10 children and many grandchildren. Lemuel Haynes passed into eternity on September 28, 1833. In accordance with his dying wishes, these words were inscribed on his tombstone: “Here likes the dust of a poor hell-deserving sinner, who ventured into eternity trusting wholly on the merits of Christ for salvation. In the full belief of the great doctrines he preached while on earth, he invites his children, and all who read this, to trust their eternal interest on the same foundation.”

Lessons from Lemuel’s Life:

Lemuel was known for knowing the Word; at the drop of a hat or in a toast at a party, he would reference scripture with a quick wit and great wisdom. From his boyhood, when he said, “I make it my rule to know something more every night that I knew in the morning,” to his dying day, Lemuel was a disciplined and relentless student of scripture. May we likewise, be devoted to spiritual discipline and become dangerously learned. As one writer put it,

“Lemuel kept Scripture at the fingertips of his heart, which enabled him to treat whatever he studied with heavenly wisdom and make powerful use of it in his world. There is great need in our own day for levelheaded, Bible-bleeding thinkers. Let us stand for truth, though all the world stands against us.”

Like Lemuel, may we be mastered by Truth until it becomes a reflex. May we rightly divide the Word of truth, so that we are courageous citizens of heaven and of earth. Most of all, may we model the pastor’s example and never loose sight of the Cross as our foundation. May we know that Christ is truly our All—the One who matters above all else.

Lemuel Haynes in His Own Words:

“Liberty and freedom is an innate principle, which is unmovably placed in the human species; and to see a man aspire after it, is not enigmatical, seeing he acts no ways incompatible with his own nature….Liberty is Jewel which was handed down to man from the cabinet of heaven.”

“Liberty is equally as precious to a black man as it is to a white one, and bondage equally as intolerable to the one as it is to the other.”

“The reality of a future punishment is a ties so clearly impressed on the human mind, that even Satan is constrained to own that there is a hell.”

“As ministers must give account of how they preach and behave, so hearers also are to be examined how they hear and improve.”

“The divine glory is an object only worthy of attention; and to display his holy character, was the design of God in creation; as there was no other beings existing antecedent thereto, to attract the mind of Jehovah; and we are sure that God is pursuing the same thing still, and always will.”

I have been examining myself and looking back upon my past life, but I can find nothing in myself and nothing in all my past service to recommend me at the bar of Jehovah. Christ is my all. His blood is my only hope of acceptance. My pains are great; but blessed be God, they are not eternal. I long to be heaven.

References & Resources:

Barton, David. Setting the Record Straight: American History in Black and White. Wallbuilders, 2004.

Barton, David. “Who Was Lemuel Haynes?” One Room School House Season 5, Episode 11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLGZ9HH-WtE

Gerrish, Alex. “Lemuel Haynes: America’s First Black Ordained Minister. https://connecticuthistory.org/lemuel-haynes-americas-first-black-ordained-minister/

John J. Duffy, Samuel B. Hand & Ralph H. Orth, The Vermont Encyclopedia – Green Mountain Continental Rangers, 2003, page 144.

Lemuel Haynes Quotes: https://libquotes.com/lemuel-haynes/quote/lbk6m2w

Walker, Luke. The Black Puritan”. https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-black-puritan

Wallbuilders. “Lemuel Haynes”. https://wallbuilders.com/resource/lemuel-haynes/

Wilson, Jared C. “Lemuel Haynes and the Right Preaching of Justice.” For the Church. https://ftc.co/resource-library/blog-entries/lemuel-haynes-and-the-right-preaching-of-justice/

About the Author

Katherine Bussard
Ex. Director & COO
As Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of Salt & Light Global, Katherine works to disciple servant-leaders in all walks of life, equipping them to share the redemptive love and truth of Jesus. She facilitates training in good governance for communities around the state, mentors other Christian women in leadership, and champions sound public policy. In speaking, writing, and serving, Katherine seeks to encourage the body of Christ to see all of who they are what they do through God’s Word. Katherine resides with her husband and partner in Kingdom service, Jeff.

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