Dose of Truth
The people God uses
The Hebrew word, “Lemuel” means “devoted to God.” Lemuel Haynes took the meaning of his name as his personal calling and committed himself to God.
Haynes early life was anything but easy. At only 5 months old both of his parents abandoned him. Later he was indentured by a wealthy Christian farm family in Massachusetts. Though not her biological son, Mrs. Rose who viewed herself as his stepmother raised him as her own child, giving the little boy the love and encouragement he needed to blossom.
Though he had little formal schooling he stood out from other children. It was a custom in his rural community for people to read sermons to others each Sunday. Young Haynes soon began writing and delivering messages of his own. One Sunday he gave such a moving sermon everyone assumed it came from a book, it was not.
At age 21, the Revolutionary war came to his hometown of Lexington. He joined the “minutemen” to help protect the colonies. This experience convinced him he should fight so all men and women in the colonies could be free.
Poor health cut his military service short, and he began studying Greek and Latin with two pastors who oversaw his theological education. Because of his devotion, enthusiasm and speaking ability he became a pastor.
Long before it became popular, Haynes spoke passionately against the evils of slavery. While some said his sermons were political; he disagreed saying he was against slavery for purely theological reasons. His popularity grew and he often addressed standing-room-only crowds. Troublemakers eventually drove him from his pulpit because he stated slavery was a sin. Church members who permitted his removal later regretting not standing up for their pastor.
Elizabeth Babbitt was a schoolteacher and a good friend of Haynes. Over time their friendship turned to love, and she proposed marriage to him. He enthusiastically said yes. The two went on to have 10 children and lived in Vermont where he served as a pastor for 30 years.
You may be surprised to learn Lemuel Haynes was biracial. His wife was white. In America he was the first black pastor to lead a white church, and the first African American to be published internationally.
At a time when most people of African descent were considered property in the United States, God used this black pastor in remarkable ways. We would do well to remember these unexpected biblical events: the Jewish nation began when Abraham became a first-time father at age 100, (Genesis 21:1-5). God chose Rahab, a Canaanite prostitute, to deliver Jericho to his people, (Joshua 2:1-24). God picked Gideon, who repeatedly identified himself as inferior and used him to defeat Israel’s powerful enemy, the Midianites, (Judges 6:14-15).
Those God chooses to accomplish remarkable things often surprise us. Abraham, Rahab, Gideon, and Lemuel Haynes demonstrate how God can often use unexpected people in truly extraordinary ways.