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of the original religious experience. We barely know that he went into college and came safely and honorably out again, “having distinguished himself in every department of study, and given unequivocal indications of a commanding and splendid intellect." The materials for a more minute intellectual history, were probably wanting, as is very apt to be the case. But when reading the doings of these gigantic men, we feel the strongest desire to be told, particularly and graphically, the process by which they grew to what they became.
After leaving the law, which he read for a season, he pursued his theological studies under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Edwards, then of New Haven, afterwards President of Union College. He was licensed to preach the gospel on the last day of October, 1792. He was not ordained till June 4th, 1795, on
, which day he became pastor of the congregational church at New Hartford, Conn. He was at this time, twenty-five years of age. He exercised his ministry in connexion with four different congregations, namely: one at New Hartford, two in Newark, and one (Park street) in Boston. His resolved manner of life and study was, “to retire to rest by nine, to arise (unless it becomes necessary to have different hours in winter) by five; to devote to reading and transcribing from the Bible, and to devotion, all the time until eight; exercise until nine ; study until twelve ; rest until two; study until five; exercise, rest, or visit, until night, necessary visits and company excepted.” He resolved to begin early in the week to write his sermons, and to endeavor to keep some sermons beforehand; which last, if he actually did, he certainly was an extraordinary man.
Dr. Griffin's brightest and best years, we are inclined to think, were the eight years he spent in his first residence at Newark. He entered upon this field at thirty-one, and left it for Andover at thirty-nine. This field was peculiarly fitted both to foster and to bring out his characteristic powers, in their most elastic and growing period. We have heard the opinion expressed more than once, that Dr. Griffin would have attained to be a still stronger man, if he had remained in this field. He seems not to have made any marked progress intellectually after leaving it; but to have arrived at his full growth and strength at thirtyeight or forty. It might have been so, had he continued where he was. Still we think it remains to be proved, that changing the sphere of labor, is conducive to the mental and spiritual progress of ministers. Certainly, a great pressure to effort is taken away, and no motive of equal power put in its place. As all the old thoughts may be used over again, the invention is not so hardly tasked to find new ones, as it would have been, where the old were not so available. And is it not the tasking that gives the strength and insures the progress? At any rate, we are
very sure, that the pastoral sphere in its permanence, when there is a mutual fitness between it and the incumbent, is admirably adapted to nurture and develope the powers of the mind and the heart. There is a peculiar combination of opportunities and influences; the pastor may give himself now to reading and thinking, and so replenish his mind; then, to active duties, to intercourse with other minds and hearts, and so learn from the liv. ing book, and thus keep his powers fresh, practical, vigorous; in addition, his mind is quickened and roused to its highest exertion by the stirring scenes in which it is often his lot and privi. lege to move. We should think the mind of a pastor never could stagnate and become stationary: we wonder that it ever does.
We will speak here of the endowments of Dr. Griffin; the powers he received from nature and education. They were on the whole, such as go to constitute the commanding and effective preacher. His greatest power, perhaps, was passion, the allmoving power. He was a man of strong and intense feelings, especially under some heavy impulse ; the tide was deep and strong, rapid, and overbearing. This strength of feeling stimulated the mind, so as to quicken, if not almost create imagination. Our author was not remarkable, we think, for an imagination that would present a great variety and beauty of illustration, but for one which would give very strong pictures within certain limits; his mind sets things all blazing before us; but now and then they blaze offensively, because the bold imagination is not always subjected to a sound and chastening judgment. The biographer of Dr. Griffin ascribes to him, as the other leading attribute of his mind, the reasoning faculty; hardly knowing which to mark as the predominant feature, this, or the imagination; and then adds, that "he was one of the rare instances of pre-eminence in both.” Dr. Griffin had the power of reasoning with great effect in all the ordinary cases in which reasoning was required; but that his mind was thoroughly disciplined, severely logical, capable of long processes of snugly-linked argumentation, we have not seen the evidence in his works. He was not the man to shut up a wary opponent to the conviction and admission of a disrelished truth. He was not a man of precise points, of nice distinctions, of clear, consecutive arrangement. It seems to us, that there was not that symmetry of development, that equable play of the several
faculties, which make the very highest combined efficiency. The impassioned part, the sparkling part, was allowed to get ahead of the reasoning, the order-giving part. The latter seemed, at times, forced under; as it were embarrassed, overborne by the former. A little more of severe, coercive dealing with himself; of breaking into the line of rigid and straight thought and argument, the refractory powers, would
have conduced to a still more effective bearing of those extraordinary energies of mind and heart.
Dr. Griffin took a strong hold of subjects; he had a great and mighty grasp, and could reach round and wield great things. He took clear and strong views of things; in a good sense he was a visionary man, or a man of visions. He looked, direct and full, upon the amazing realities of religion and eternity, and so were waked up those intense energies of feeling we have ascribed to him; and the wheels of the mind began to move, and everything proceeding was strong, huge, heavy, overbearing, if not overwhelming. And here we will just say, that this power or susceptibility of kindling, is a prime power in the orator, sacred or profane. Without it, he may be clear, instructive, and even interesting; but he never can arrive at any of the lofty achievements of eloquence.
The physical endowments of our author were as marked and remarkable as the intellectual. In more senses than one," says his biographer, “he might be called the giant of the pulpit. His stately and noble form, his erect and dignified attitude, would enchain a congregation of strangers, before he opened his lips. And then his voice was in good keeping with his person; it could express the softest and gentlest emotions with inimitable effect, while it could swell into the majesty of the thunder, or break upon you in the fury of the tempest.
The habits of Dr. Griffin, as they are described in the Memoir, were such as contributed to his power as a preacher. Though he had the faculty, beyond most men, of saying things in a novel and striking way, he manifestly did not rely upon this for success, without study. He was careful, and elaborate often, in his preparations for the pulpit. He usually wrote his sermons, taking time to do it thoroughly, and well, and in season. The hurried Saturday night and Sabbath morning labor found no support in his practice. From his devotions, he obtained material for his sermons. What he advised to, he evidently did himself,
brought out in the public discourse “ that precise view of truth which he had in his most solemn hour upon his knees." He resolved to read some devotional piece, besides the Scriptures, every day; this practice would give warmth and simplicity to the sermons it affected. Another thing still more important, he was in the habit of reading his own heart a great deal. He studied its recesses and operations very closely, and by understanding his own, he understood the hearts of others; and could approach and traverse them with singular skill and success. Another of his devotional habits, was meditation. From his diary we infer, that he dwelt more than is usual, upon God and Christ, and unseen realities; and at times, his discourses were remarkable; so that, when he went into the pulpit, he had only to speak what
he knew, and testify what he had seen. He gives the following account of his own course to a clerical brother, who inquired after it. He says: “I believe that an early commencement and pursuit of a systematic study of the Bible, in connection with a long course of revivals of religion in which I was permitted to be engaged, and an habitual aim, in my ordinary sermons, to reach the conscience and the heart at every stroke, and the habit of striking out, as I correct my sermons for a new exhibition of them, every clause and word which is not subservient to this end, may be numbered among the most efficacious means of forming my present manner of preaching, such as it is. Perhaps the most powerful circumstance not yet named, was entering upon a field calling for constant and impassioned preaching and continual visiting.”
From these endowments and habits, it might be inferred, that the subject of them would prepare and preach sermons of a high order. "He did preach very powerful sermons. They were pronounced so, at the time, by competent judges. They were felt to be such by the congregations that heard them. In some instances the whole mass were affected, and numbers awakened and convicted by a single sermon. Wherever he preached for any length of time, souls were converted to God. Few ministers of the age, I believe,” says Dr. Humphrey, “have been instrumental of awakening and saving more souls than Dr. Griffin." • Some of our transatlantic brethren, who have listened to him, and who were familiar with the best specimens of the eloquence of the pulpit in Great Britain, have unhesitatingly expressed their conviction that Dr. Griffin was not exceeded, either in matter or manner, by the best British preachers they had ever heard."
When we come to look into these sermons, which were so admired and so effective in the hands of their author, we consess there are some things that disappoint and surprise us. They do not, as a whole, quite come up to the standard of excellence and power which our imagination, stimulated by rumor, had erected for them. They are not so richly instructive; do not contain so much clear and connected doctrinal discussion, as we expected, from our knowledge of the author. We supposed Dr. Griffin's sermons were of a more solid character, than the specimens before us indicate.
We are surprised at the palpable violations of good taste which we find in these sermons; and we are the more surprised, after reading the following in the Memoir: “His powers of criticism were well nigh unrivalled. A piece of composition which, to an ordinary eye, might seem to be tolerably free from defects, he would take and reveal errors enough, even to the author's own eye, at least to furnish an antidote against any overweening pretensions. To a friend, who requested him to criticise a sermon, he said-'Yes, I will do it, but you ought to know that I am a bloody man in these matters,' and then proceeded in his criticism to verify his declaration, by drawing blood at every stroke." The ground of surprise is, that so keen and severe powers of criticism did not perceive, and cut some of the obtrusive blemishes from his own productions. We are still more surprised, when we are told that he was in the habit of striking out and emending on every repetition ; and that all the sermons given to the public were carefully re-written, and received the final corrections of the author in the latter days of his life.
Most of the blemishes we refer to, are the result of attempting too much; carrying out figures too far. The following are instances : “ They have no cause to despair who have long been spiritually dead, shut up in the darkness of the sepulchre, with a great stone upon it, bound with grave clothes and covered with putrefaction.” Again : "Over the pollutions of your sepulchre hovers the heavenly Dove, offering to brood the stagnant mass to life.” A very rousing appeal to sinners is prefaced with—"It is painful to disturb the ashes of the dead.” Again, we have the shout of a soul on its first rising to spiritual life: "I live, I live, you cried, as your grave-clothes dropped at your feet.” In this very common Scriptural trope, a state of sin, a state of death, the comparison is only at the point of insensibility and helplessness. We offend, then, in this figure, when we carry it out into the odious detail and results of literal death. Yet this is occasionally done by preachers; in their zeal to startle and impress, they stop not sometimes till they tear open, and bring up, all the rottenness of the grave. Dr. Griffin is, now and then, rather extravagant, overgrown, in his representations—as in the following: “Yes, the same lips on which the strains of immortal love might play—which, when opening on the theme of redeeming grace, breathed the fragrance of a thousand isles—when they came to direct their breath against sin, woulå make an eruption which threatened to bury nations under the burning lava.” We do wonder how it happened, that the
" following escaped the dash of the author's pen: "Go, then, and pursue your ways, and be the hardest of all men; go, and sink to a lower hell than Sodom found; go, and spend an eternity in longing to ascend to the sublime heights of Gomorrah.” Such things are too extravagant to be effective. From many they will bring a smile rather than a tear. We sometimes have a figure introduced in a way to create confusion : "O, my friends, where are you when your flesh and blood are setting out for heaven.” What, we pause and ask, your flesh and blood setting out, in the face of the declaration that "flesh and blood cannot