Preaching the Gospel with a Passion for Particular People
Michael Haykin writes on “The Spirituality of Samuel Pearce” (1766-1799), minister of Cannon Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, England, and a member of the Baptist Missionary Society with William Carey.
Haykin writes about Pearce’s passion for the salvation of his fellow man.
This passion is strikingly revealed in an incident that took place when he was asked to preach at the opening of a Baptist meeting-house in Guilsborough, Northamptonshire, in May, 1794. Pearce had spoken in the morning on Psalm 76:10 (“Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain”). Later that day, during the midday meal, it was quite evident from the conversation that was going on at the dinner tables that Pearce’s sermon had been warmly appreciated. It was thus no surprise when Pearce was asked if he would be willing to preach again the following morning. “If you will find a congregation,” Pearce responded, “I will find a sermon.” It was agreed to have the sermon at 5 a.m. so that a number of farm labourers could come who wanted to hear Pearce preach and who would have to be at their tasks early in the morning.
After Pearce had preached the second time, and he was sitting at breakfast with a few others, including Andrew Fuller, the latter remarked to Pearce how pleased he had been with the content of his friend’s sermon. But, he went on to say, it seemed to him that Pearce’s sermon was poorly structured. “I thought,” Fuller told his friend, “you did not seem to close when you had really finished. I wondered that, contrary to what is usual with you, you seemed, as it were, to begin again at the end—how was it?” Pearce’s response was terse: “It was so; but I had my reason.” “Well then, come, let us have it,” Fuller jovially responded. Pearce was quite reluctant to divulge the reason, but after a further entreaty from Fuller, he consented and said:
Well, my brother, you shall have the secret, if it must be so. Just at the moment I was about to resume my seat, thinking I had finished, the door opened, and I saw a poor man enter, of the working class; and from the sweat on his brow, and the symptoms of his fatigue, I conjectured that he had walked some miles to this early service, but that he had been unable to reach the place till the close. A momentary thought glanced through my mind-here may be a man who never heard the gospel, or it may be he is one that regards it as a feast of fat things; in either case, the effort on his part demands one on mine. So with the hope of doing him good, I resolved at once to forget all else, and, in despite of criticism, and the apprehension of being thought tedious, to give him a quarter of an hour.
As Fuller and the others present at the breakfast table listened to this simple explanation, they were deeply impressed by Pearce’s evident love for souls. Not afraid to appear as one lacking in preaching skill, especially in the eyes of his fellow pastors, Pearce’s zeal for the spiritual health of all his hearers had led him to minister as best he could to this “poor man” who had arrived late.