Yale University. Class of 1842.

The Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 3 online

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against indulgences. Of this discourse we have only the skele-
ton published, beginning — " In the first place, ye should know,"
&c.t After sermon, the prior and subpripr of the Augustines,
trembling for the safety of the order, came to him < and said,
** Brother, you have done a bold deed, you will get us into trou*
ble. The Dominicans are already chuckling, because they think
our order will be crushed." Luther replied with a smile, " If it
is not begun in God's name, it will soon come to nothing, if it
be begun in his name, let him manage it."|

^ MaUi. 17, 90, 31. f Voa<3erloeh» i. 46, 50. Lomler. i. t, 15.
t Aud. i. 40—44.



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and Commencement of the ReformatiotL 621

The excitement was iatensa When Tetzel heard of it, he
was frantic with rage, and danced and roared like a madman.
He would have Luther burnt, that is wliat he would ; and he
kindled a Rreat fire in the market-place at Jiiterbek, to show how
he would burn Luther, if he conkl catch him. But Luther went
on quietly, minding his business, lecturing and preaching as
before.

Luther took the old and coireet view of indulgences, namely,
that they were only the remission of ecclesiastic penalties, and
not of future punishment in purgatory. This he supposed to be
so plain a truth, that it need only be clearly stated to gain the
assent of the whole church. In this he found himself gfeatly de-
ceived. At length he peremptorily refused absolution to those
who came to his confessional with the indulgences of Tetzel.
This excited TetzePs rage anew, and he stormed the more fiiri-
ously. Luther knew that he was right, and Tetzel wronc, and
he was determined to maintain his ground. He resolved on a
still more decided step. At noon of October 31st, 1517, (nearly
two months after he had preached his first sermon against indul-
gences), he nailed to the side-door of the castle church in Wittem-
berg, his ninety-five theses agsdnst indulgences, which he ofiered
to defend against all opponents. This particular time and church
were selected, because, it being All-hallow eve, and that church
being newly built, and dedicated to all saints, and supplied with
relics, would be visited by the largest crowds of people, who
would read the theses, and make them matter of earnest conver-
sation, as the subject was then exciting great interest. "^^

The same day he wrote an eloquent letter to the cardinal Al-
bert, the primate of Germany, under whose direction Tetzel was
acting,! and at the same time the substance of his sermon was
issued from the press.

Of the efiect of these publications, a contemporary thus speaks :
"Before fourteen days were past, they were scattered through all
Germany, and in four weeks they had run through all Christen-
dom, as if the angels had been the messengers, and placed them
before the eyes of all men. No man can conceive what a noise
was made about them. They were immediately translated ; and
the matter greatly pleased everybody, except the Dominicans and
the bishops, and many others who daily fed on the pbpe, and enjoy-
ed the treasures of the earth which he raised up.'' Luther after-
wards said : " At that time I was a preacher here In the cloister
— a young doctor just off' the anvil, hot and hasty in the Holy
Scripture. As now, many people ran from Wittemberg to Jii-
terbok after indulgences, and I, as true as my Lord Christ has
redeemed me, knew not what indulgence was, and nobody knew,

* Voa Oerlach, i., 29—41. t n>W» i.> 40—45. D. W. i., 67—70.

TmBD SERIES, VOL. 11^ NO. 4. 4



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622 Childhood and Youth of Martin Luther.

I began to preach cautiously, that men could do better, could aCt
in abetter way than to buy indulgences." — "I did not rightly
understand about indulgences, and all the papists' in aheap were
utterly ignorant of them. On that account I wished to discuss
the matter, not for the purpose of rejecting them, but that I might
know their nature and power."— 7'' Since all the bishops and doc^
tors kept still, and nobody would tie the bells on to the cat, then
Dr. Luther was made a great man, that he should come and take
bold of the matter."*

We now see Luther in conflict with the church, but sorely
against his will ; he was forced to it by her enormous corruptions.
He still believed her to be the tnje church, and had not the re-
motest idea of being separated from her. Hear his own testimony
seventeen years after. '^ By these theses themselves is my shame
pubUcly manifested, that is, my great weakness and uncertainty,
which pressed me first to begin Uiis controversy with great fear
and trembling. I had fallen upon this business improvidently ;
and because I could not withdraw, I yielded not only much to
the pope, in very important articles, but also willingly intreated
him, and in real earnest. For who was I then? A miserable,
despised monk, more like a corpse than a man ; that I should set
myself against th^ majesty of the pope, before which not only
the kings on the earth, and the whole world, but, if I may so
speak, even heaven and hell trembled, and must regulate them*
selves according to his nod. What my heart endured aod suf-
fered during that first a.nd the following years, in what humility^
not feigned, but deep and sincere, yea, I would say, in what de-
spair 1 was confounded. Ah ! those self-sufficient spirits, who
afterwards assailed the pope's majesty with such boldness and
presumption, know nothing of all this ! Nevertheless, they, with
all their art, would never have been able to curl a single hair of
"ad not Christ first, by me, his weak and un-
t, already inflicted on him a deep and incura-
ley bore away the lame and the honor, as if
L who had done it, which I wilUngly conceded
^hen they stared at me and left me alone in the
»yous, and confident, and sure in the business;
[)t many things which now, thank God, I do
the dead or dumb teachers, that is^ the books
and canonists, could not give me sufficient in-
id to seek council of the living. Then I found
many pioiis men who had great pleasure in my propositions, and
thought much of them. But then it was impossible for me to
look upon and consider them, the members of the church, gifted
with the Holy Ghost — ^for I could thus regard on]y the pope%

• Pf. 66-S.



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Preaching of the late Dr, Oriffin. 623

cardinals, bishops, theologians, canonists, monks, and priests.
In them I had expected the spirit; for I had so greedily devoured
and drank in*, so to speak, ttieir doctrine, that I was entirely stu-
pified by it, and felt not whether I was asleep or awake. And
when I had, by the Scripture, ov«rcomeall the arguments which
lay in my way, I could not even then easily, nor without great
trouble, anxiety, and labor, aod only by the grace of Christ, over-
come this one, that we must hear the Church ; for I then with
great earnestness and perseverance, and from the depths of my
heart, believed the pope's church to be the true church."*

Such was the manner in which the reformation was began by
Luther ; such the long process of preparation of mind and heart;
such the outward conflicts and dangers ; such the inward fears
and anxieties. When we examine the history of the Reformation
in its sources, especially when we look into the soul of Luther,
how utterly inadequate, jejune, and even contemptible, seem the
speculations on the part which he bore in that great event, in-
dulged by historians of such eminence as Hume and Robertson,
and even Hallam^ of our own generation. To such men we must
say, as Henry More said to Southey, in respect to his biography
of Wesley, '< Sir^ thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well
is deep!*



ARTICLE m.
PREACHING OP THE LATE DR. GRIFPIN.

Bj Ebt. Gm. SbspaUK BJkf PioC Surod BhaCoiie, TkM. Smb^ Bugor, tfe.

Sermons by the late Edward Dorr Gr^n^ D.D., with a Memoir of his
Ufe. By WauAM B. Spbague, D.D. New York: M. W. Dodd.

Veey few preachers in this country have had so high a
reputation for eloquence as the late Dr. Griffin ; and his repu-
tation was well earned and altogether deserved. His Sermons
have been before the public for a number of years, and they
need no commendation from the press; they are capable of
making their own way, not merely to the favor, but to the
hearts of the people. We only wish they were published, in a
form, and at a price, which would make them more available to
the great ends to which they are so smgularly adapted. Then will

• Mart i. 77- X



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624 Preaching of the late Dr. Grifin.

they be read by the yoang preacher, who will come to this great
model, both for incitement and correction : they will be read also
by the common Christian, who will derive from these glowing
structures, a genial warmth in the season of spiritual languish-
ing and decay : and by the worldly man, too, who, attracted by
an eloquence so splendid and comnumding, will meet, as he
reads, arguments and expostulations which will enter to the very
depths of his soul.

We have to do, in this article, onlv with the preaching of Dr.
Griffin ; and as we begin with the aamission, that be was one of
the most remarkable and effective preachers c^the age, it might
be well to inquire into the training, the endowments, tne circum-
stances, and the habits, which went to the formation of so ad-
mirable a modeL

Of the original religious experience of Dr. Griffin, we have no
minute account From what is said of it, we infer that there
was nothing peculiarly marked or decisive about it. It occurred
in July, 1791, in a season of sickness. He says : '^ l^he thought
which I had frequently had before in sickness, returned upon me
with great power. If I cannot bear ihis for a short time, how
can I bear the pains of hell forever ? I have no distinct recol-
lection of the exercises which accompanied this uneasiness. I can
only say that I found myself resolved to lead a different life, and
devote myself to the service of God. I had often formed such a
resolution, but this seemed to be more deep and real." It was
two or three months before he cherished the beUef that he was
a Christian. While this is not a remarkable experience in itself
considered, it is a remarkable experience, as belonging to Dr.
Griffin — remarkable, that such a mind and heart as he subse-
quently developed, came so coolly and auietly into the kingdom
of God. The experience seems hardly in keeping with the
preacher. His call away from tl\.e bar to the pulpit is more
characteristic. On a certain Sabbath, a day in which his mind
was strongly exercised on this subject, putting a small Bible un-
der his arm, he walked toward his chamber. As he went, the
thought occurred to him, ^^ I have seen ministers carry a Bible
thus to the meeting house.^ He says : " The question instantly
came back upon me — ' and why should not you be a minister V
It made no impression. ^ And why should not you be a minis-
ter ? * Still I turned it offl * And why should not you be a minis-
ter?' " It was this question, thus suggested, and pertinaciously
returning, which led him to examine, and pray, and soon to re-
solve most heartily, to abandon his legal studies and all his hopNSS
in thatlline, and to ''hug the cross" and become one of its
preachers.

Of his intellectual habits, the traiijiing of his mind, his mode
of disciplining and replenishing it, we I910W as little, in detail, as



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Preaching of the late Dr. Chriffin. 626

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 grapbiqally, the pro-
cess 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 Ed-
wards, then of New Haven, afterwards President of Union Col-
lege. 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 tnanner 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 resolv^ 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 Ne wark. 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. GriffiA would have attained to be a still
istronger man, if he had remained in this field. He seems not
to have made any marked progress intellecstually after leaving
it ; but to have arrived at his full growth imd strength ajt thirty-
eight or forty. It might have been so, had he continu^ where
he was. Still we think it remains to be proved, that changing
the sphere of labor, is conducive to the mental and spiritual pro-
gress 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 us^ over ag^n, 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



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626 Preaching tf the late Dr. Griffin.

very snre, that the pastoral sphere in its pennan«ice, 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 in-
fluences ; the pastor may give himself now to reading and think-
ing, and so replenish hie mind ; then, to active duties, to inter-
course 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 aUd roused to its highest ex-
ertion 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 all-
moving power. He was a man of strong and intense feelings, es-
pecially under some heavy impulse ; the tide was deep and strong,
rapid, and overbearing. This strength of feeling stimulated the
mmd, so as to quicken, if not almost create imagination. Our
author was not remarkable, we think, for an imagination that
would present a ereat variety and beauty of illustration, but fox
one which woula 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 alwiq^s
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, capa-
ble 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 disre-
lished truth. He was not a man of precise points, of nice, dis-
tinctions, of clear, consecutive arrangement. It seems to us,
that there was not that symmetry of development, that equable
play of the several facutees, which make the very highest cpm-
bined 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 un&r ; as it were embarras-
sed, overborne by the former. A little more of severe,, coercive
dealing wilh himself; of breaking into the line of rigid and
straight thought and argument, me refractory powers, would



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Prmching of the late Dr. Chiffin. 627

have conduced to a still more effectire bearing of those extraor-
dinary 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 relidon and eternity, and
so were waked up those intense energies oi feeling we have as-
cribed 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 primfe power in the orator,
sacred or profane. Without it, he may be clear, instructive, ana
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
Hps. And then his voice was in good keeping with his person ;
it could express the softest and gentlest emotions with inimitable
vffect, 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
h^ had the faculty, beyond most men, of saying things in a novel
and striking way, he manifestly did not rely upon this for suc-
cess, 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 ma-
terial 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 solenm hour upon his knees."
He resolved to read some devotional piece, besides the Scriptures,
every day; this practice Would give warmth and simplicity to
Ae 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 tjiem 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 un-
seen realities ; and at times, his discourses were remarkable; so
that, when he went into the pulpit, he had only to speak what



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628 Preaching of the kUe Dr. Grifin.

be knew, and testify what be bad seen. He giyes the following
account of bis own course to a clerical brother, who inquired
after it. Ho says : '4 believe tbat an early commencement and

{pursuit of a systematic study of tbe Bible, in connection with a
ong 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 tbe heart at every stroke, and the habit
of stsiking 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 con-
tinual visiting."

.1- From these endowments and habits, it might be inferred, that
the subject of them would prepare and ^eadi sermons of a high
order. He did preach very powerful sermons. They were pro*
nounced so, at the time, by competent judges. They were fell
to be such by the congregations that heard them. In some in-
stances the whole mass were affected, and numbers awakened
and convicted by a single sermon. Wherever be preached for
any length of time, souls were converted to God. '^ Few minis-
ters of Sie age, I believe," says Dr. Humphrey, ''have been in-
strumental oi awakening and saving more souls than Dr. Grif-
fin." '^ 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 con-
fess 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 immor, 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 spec^
mens 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 tbe Memoir : '' His powers d
criticism were well nigh unrivalled. A piece 6i 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



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Preaching of the late Dr. Griffin. 629

overweening pretensions. To a firiend, 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 pro-
ceeded in his criticism to verify his declaration, by drawing
blood at every stroke." The ground of surprise is, thi^t so keen
and severe powers of criticism did not pe^rceive, 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 i^e-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 stag-
nant mass to life." A very rousing appeal to sinners is prefacSl
with — " It is painful to disturb the ashes of the dead." Again,



Online LibraryYale University. Class of 1842The Biblical repository and classical review, Volume 3 → online text (page 77 of 94)