Sunday, August 2, 2009

Thoughts on Thabiti Anyabwile

The following excerpt from a sermon preached in 1892 by Francis J. Grimké (1850-1937) addressed the rampant emotionalism in the pulpits of black churches of his day. More than one hundred years later, we can see not only that the same tendencies still exist, but that Grimké’s message applies equally to people of all colors. The emotionalism of, say, an American of Scandinavian descent may lack the exuberance Grimké saw, but it is no less superficial and no less spiritually retarding
. . . . where emotionalism prevails, there will be a low state of spirituality among the people , and necessarily so. Christian character is not built up that way. Such growth comes from the knowledge and practice of Christian principles. If the body is to grow, it must be fed, and fed on wholesome and nutritious food. The same is true of the soul; and that food is God’s Word , line upon line and precept upon precept. There is no other way to of getting out of the bogs and malarious atmosphere of selfishness and pride and ill will and hatred and the many things which degrade and brutalize into the higher regions of love and purity and obedience and felicity except by the assimilation of Christian principles, except by holy and loving obedience to the word of God. We cannot get up there by on the wings of emotion; we cannot shout ourselves up to a high manhood and womanhood any more than we can shout ourselves into heaven. We must grow up to it. And until this fact is distinctly understood and fully appreciated and allowed to have its weight in our pulpit ministrations, the plane of spirituality upon which the masses of our people move will continue to be low. Shouting is not religion. The ability to make noise is no test of Christian character. The noisiest Christians are not the most saintly; those who shout the most vigorously are not always the most exemplary in character and conduct.
—Francis J. Grimké, cited in Thabiti Anyabwile, The Faithful Preacher: Recapturing the Vision of Three Pioneering African-American Pastors (Crossway, 2007), 130–131.

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