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Hampton Negro Conference. Number III. July 1899.

1899VA-State-Hampton_Proceedings (53).pdf

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52

God's ministers are a separate class of men, distinguished by a special, divine call to preach the word of God. They are partakers of the heavenly calling by which men are brought out of the world and made the servants of Christ. The mission of the pulpit is to publish the gospel in the world. It is to tell men plainly what is the new message of God and what are the terms of the gospel so that they may not misapprehend Him. Besides this instruction in what the vital truth of Christianity is for the apprehension of faith, the pulpit is to furnish the world with all other needed instruction in religious things, and in the reasons and proofs of divine truths. The work of the pulpit is necessarily intellectual. It deals with men's minds and rational nature. It must adapt the divine word to the human mind. True preaching is addressed first to the intellect, for men must know the truth before they can be expected to love it or obey it. The work of the pulpit is educative in its character, and the preacher must, therefore, be prepared to teach by being properly educated himself.

I should like to say a few words in regard to the special responsibilities of the Negro pulpit. In the first place we are a peculiar people, not because of our color, but by force of circumstances. It has been a little more than thirty years since we began to live under these conditions. When our race was emancipated there could not be found in all the Southland one educated Negro preacher, and yet, such as they were, we were taught to respect and love them, and look to them for instruction upon everything touching our present and future condition. This spirit seems to have been transmitted to our children, and even after the lapse of thirty years, which have brought upon the stage of activity professional men and leaders of the highest type, the minds of the masses are still turned toward the pulpit for instruction.

The white minister has not nearly so much to do with the secular affairs of his congregation as the Negro pastor has. In every convention of assembly of Negroes in which efforts are put forth touching their improvement, morally, socially, mentally or materially, the influence of the preacher is referred to and sought. No great enterprise among our people can succeed without the cooperation of the pulpit. The pastor must be financier and legal adviser, as well as spiritual leader. For the present and for many years to come, the head of a Negro church must expect to help his people develop along all lines which tend to the betterment of their condition.

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