Lemuel Haynes (d. 1833) stands out in the African-American Christian tradition as a powerful gospel preacher in the 19th century. He was sort of adopted as a very young child by solid Calvinist Congregationalists in Massachusetts. He was schooled a bit and self-taught for the most part. He served in the Continental Army until he became quite ill in 1776. To make a long post shorter, he began to teach the Scriptures to his friends and family and they realized he had a gift of preaching the gospel. The rest is church history, so to speak: “He was licensed to preach November 29, 1780, and five years later became the first African-American ordained by any religious body in America,” writes Thabiti Anyabwile in the book he edited on Haynes (May We Meet in the Heavenly World [Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009], 6). Furthermore, he was awarded an honorary master’s degree by Middlebury College in 1084, another first for an African-American.
Here’s a great window into the piety of Hanyes. On his tombstone is written (by his wish): “Here lies 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 reads this, to trust their eternal interest on the same foundation” (19).
Many thanks go out to Reformation Heritage Books and Thabiti Anyabwile for this great little jewel. It not only contains a bio, but also a few excerpts from Haynes’ pen. May We Meet in the Heavenly World is part of the series, “Profiles in Reformed Spirituality” that RHB is in the middle of publishing (note: I posted on the John Calvin profile here).
One more note: RHB has Turretin’s Institutes on sale for 80.00!