Monday, December 01, 2008

Lemuel Hillery

Lemuel Hillery was born in Frederick County, Maryland in 1843 and moved to Illinois at the age of 13. He was wounded and partially disabled as a soldier in the Civil War. He was a member of a Brethren congregation only six months before he was chosen a minister at Marshalltown, Iowa in 1865. Like other Brethren ministers of the time, Hillery was a "free minister" meaning he served his congregation without a salary.

Hillery helped to organize scattered Brethren into congregations in Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Indiana. Stories and legends about his preaching skills are numerous. One such story is recounted in The Brethren Encyclopedia.

Brethren free ministers were expected to preach without notes. Some were so skilled at this art that they could deliver an excellent sermon extemporaneously when there was no opportunity to prepare in advance. Lemuel Hillery sometimes asked his listeners to suggest a Bible text for this sort of on-the-spot sermon.

On one such occasion, a minister from another denomination tried to embarrass Hillery by calling out a phrase from Numbers 22:21: "And Balaam saddled his ass." Hillery expertly parried the thrust. His sermon, constructed around a three-point outline, informed his listeners that (a) the other minister was Balaam; (b) the other minister's salary was Balaam's saddle; and (c) the congregation which paid the other's minister's salary was Balaam's ass.

Although not all Brethren approved of Hillery's (mis)application of the text, most could not resist admiration for his wit.

Source: The Brethren Encyclopedia