Page images

mortal soul, owing to a sermon I preached from Rom. viii. 29, · Whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate.' This discourse, as he afterwards told me, made impressions on his mind which he could never obliterate. In this instance, I cannot but admire the truth of this passage, * Your thoughts are not my thoughts ;' for having been in his company, and conversed freely with him, I knew he was a deist ; and therefore I felt much concerned when I saw him come in, for I thought it was a pity I had such a subject to treat of that morning, as being unsuited to him, but God knew what would suit, and when He applies the truth, it is efficacious. May the Lord carry on his work in his heart, and make him a shining character in the church !

* Little did he who, thus silently and unseen, breathed and recorded this prayer of pastoral affection and piety, then think that it would meet an answer on the island shores of the Pacific; that the recently deistical object of it would be honored to be, not long after, the conductor of the first exclusively missionary voyage,—the bearer of the olive-branch of the gospel to the savage isles of the south.'

-Pp. 82, 83.

[ocr errors]

In the year 1795, only two years after Mr. Griffin's settlement at Portsea, the attention of the religious public was called to the project of forming The London Missionary Society. Our readers will be gratified by reading the following passage, which shows the interest he took in that great movement even from the beginning.

• There are now left but comparatively few survivors of those who took any prominent part in the proceedings of the series of public meetings held in September 1795, in London, at the formation of the London Missionary Society. It was the great privilege and happiness of Mr. Griffin to be, if not, strictly speaking, one of its founders, yet among the most zealous and enthusiastically approving of those who were engaged in its actual establishment.

He alludes to the subject in his diary.

«• September, 1795. The subject of forming a missionary society in London, to send the gospel to the heathen, excited a considerable degree of attention. We conversed among our people and with each other upon

the subject, and the church resolved to send me, as their deputy, to London, to meet other ministers on the 24th, for the purpose of forming a society suited to the end.'

• No peculiar honor, considered in the sense of merit, and as distinct from that of all others engaged, is, of course, intended to be claimed for Mr. Griffin for his participation in the proceedings of this great and happy assembly. But in the sense of high and holy privilege conferred, it may be accounted and recorded as one of the most distinguished honors connected with his ministerial life, and such as the best of men might most have envied, that on one of the most important of those glorious and celebrated meetings (called in the Evangelical Magazine the Conference'), at which the London Missionary Society

was instituted and set in operation,—that, namely, on the Thursday morning at Surrey Chapel, being the first meeting after the complete formation of the Society, and the election of its first directors, and at which the Rev. Rowland Hill preached, and the Rev. Dr. Haweis announced the plan of the South Sea Mission,-it was assigned to Mr. Griffin to offer to the heavenly grace, on behalf of the now fully organized and operative institution, the dedicatory prayer. It is understood, that as his style, in public prayer, even at this early period of his ministry, as was remarkably the case afterwards, was characterized by the qualities of terseness, comprehensiveness, fervor, and devotion ; he performed this essential and interesting part of the worship in a manner not unworthy of the great and sacred occasion.'—pp. 94—96.

In the course of Mr. Griffin's ministry he had many occasions to observe the work of God which occasionally manifested itself among seamen, in whose spiritual welfare he always took a deep interest. The following fact is from his diary.

‘A seaman in the Mediterranean, in the feet under the command of Lord Nelson, desirous of being spiritually serviceable to his mess. mates, began with a man who was sick ; he waited on him, then talked to him till his mind was awakened, and he became truly serious. Another, seeing the evident change effected on bis messmate, and observing how kind the good man had been to him, listened to their conversation, and heard till his mind was under a saving impression. Nine of the men were serious ; and before the battle of the Nile, when they perceived that the engagement would soon commence, they got as many of their friends as they could together, and spent a few minutes in prayer, and commended each other to God, and then took leave of each other, expecting never to meet altogether again.

• After the engagement, in which a great number of their ship's company were killed, they sought for each other; and though some of them had been stationed at different guns where several of their shipmates had been killed, not one of them was either killed or wounded. When the ship returned to Portsmouth without their having any previous knowledge of me, they inquired for me, and asked if they might partake of the Lord's Supper with us. They exhibited their principles of faith and conduct, and the rules which they had entered into with each other ; and nine of them sat down with us at the Lord's Supper.'—pp. 114, 115.

Mr. Griffin's eminent success, both as a preacher and pastor, was evinced in the rapid and constant increase of his congregation. The chapel in Orange Street had been twice enlarged during the first ten or twelve years of his ministry. Still it was too small to accommodate the multitudes who came to hear, and the project of building another place of ampler dimensions was entertained. This purpose was carried into effect in the year 1812. The previous chapel had been computed to hold

fourteen hundred, but the new one was adapted to accommodate three thousand. The interesting day which witnessed its opening formed a new era in the life of the devoted minister. His sphere of usefulness was hereby greatly increased, and the divine blessing appeared conspicuously to rest upon the bold and zealous efforts of Mr. Griffin and his friends. The circumstances connected with the consecration of the edifice to the service of God are thus pleasingly described by the biographers.

• The new chapel in King Street, Portsea, was opened for religious worship on the morning of the 7th of September, 1813. This was no ordinary occasion of the kind ; the size of the chapel, considered as that of a provincial edifice of Dissenting worship, and the celebrity of the preachers, would be alike calculated to attract an unusual assembly. Several persons of distinction in the neighbourhood attended, and ministers and laymen of eminence in the metropolis and various parts of the country flocked to this sacred gathering, to assist in devoting, by prayer and public worship, this temple unto the service of God. It may now, in truth, be said of it, with regard to a goodly num-, ber of the fellowship of the saints, “This and that man (or woman) was born there.' To God be all the glory! The Rev. Dr. Bogue, Mr. Griffin's beloved neighbor and elder brother in the ministry, offered, with deep solemnity and holy ardor, the dedicatory prayers. His early and esteemed friend, the Rev. William Jay, of Bath, then preached a most original and impressive discourse from Matt. xxviii. 18 : * All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. The Rev. Rowland Hill preached in the evening from 1 Thess. i. 5 : For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance.' Mr. Hill also preached on the three ensuing Sabbaths ; as may be supposed, he attracted to this large chapel overflowing congregations, and, as on his former visits to the town, his services were eminently blessed in their result. Mr. Griffin, in his published sermon on the death of the Rev. Rowland Hill, observes, * At the opening of this chapel, about twenty years since, Mr. Jay preached in the morning, and Mr. Hill in the evening. When he was going into the pulpit before preaching, the place being crowded almost to suffocation, le looked into the chapel from the vestry, and being informed of the names of some distinguished persons present, of the first rank, property, and station in the neighborhood, who came to pay respect to him and his family, he ejaculated, “ Lord, help me!' and, turning to me, he said, that soft and elegant sermon in the morning melts me. O what shall this

say ?! The sermon which followed this conversation proved that he was not always the ranter which some have imagined him to be. Shortly after, he visited us again, when the war had closed, and his nephew had been created Lord Hill : he was followed by a still greater number of the upper class of society, which excited him to some higher strains in the order of preaching, especially in the Sunday morning sermons ; but he was most at home, and said some of the strongest and best things, when using the most popular style of address.

poor babbler

• A most enduringly interesting proof of the divine blessing attended the first sermon delivered by Mr. Griffin in the new chapel. On the first Sabbath morning after his return from London-whither he had gone as the supply at Surrey Chapel in Mr. Hill's absence—he selected for his text, peculiarly appropriate, as it would seem, for such an occasion, Isa. lxiv. 1:0 that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence. According to the written statement of his eldest son and child, given on his admission to the church, this sermon was rendered, by the infinite mercy and distinguished grace of God, a great blessing to his soul, and one of the instrumental means of his decided conversion.

• At the date of a year after the opening of the chapel, we meet in our father's diary with the following expression of his gratitude to God, in connexion with this important event in the history of his ministry.

"September 6, 1814.-Have this day read the foregoing, of the 5th December, 1805, with some pleasing and grateful emotions of soul. The Lord heard my prayer, and enabled me and my friends to build a house for God that will hold, when crowded, three thousand people. It has now been opened twelve months to morrow; and, blessed be God, who has been my helper, the place has been attended far beyond my most sanguine expectations. The seats are all let, and the proceeds are quite sufficient to cover all expenses, and to help to liquidate the debt. What an infinite mercy that we have thus accomplished such an important object with so little difficulty, and such almost perfect unanimity! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits. In future, trust Him.'—pp. 229-232.

In the case of Mr. Griffin, the complete success of this magnanimous design no doubt justified, in his view and that of many others, the step which had been taken. How far, as a general rule, it may be proper to encourage such a centralizing of the Christian body is another matter—and how far the superhuman efforts demanded from one man by so large a congregation, may have accelerated the termination of his invaluable labors, deserves grave consideration. As a general principle, we cannot but think that a congregation of between two and three thousand in regular attendance, which with those connected must form a total of above three thousand, or three thousand two hundred, is much too large, and that whenever such a body of people can be drawn together under the ministry of the gospel, they will be made more useful to the surrounding population, to say nothing of their own edification and comfort, by being formed into two or three distinct churches. Large families ought to separate; populous nations are obliged to colonize; and Christian churches ought not to accumulate around one popular minister to such a degree as to overtask his strength, and deprive themselves of that distinct personal attention to their spiritual concerns, which in a crowd they cannot

expect from any minister, however gifted, but which under other circumstances every faithful man would gladly show them.

Mr. Griffin was blessed and honored by seeing two of his sons devoted to the Christian ministry. One, indeed, was cut off soon after his settlement at Exeter, and in the spring-time of promise and of fruitfulness. But the other, the Rev. James Griffin, of Manchester, one of the biographers, will, we trust, long continue to sustain the name and Christian reputation which have been bequeathed to him.

We should gladly extend our extracts, and had particularly marked for this purpose Mr. Griffin's very admirable letters addressed to his sons during the period of their academical studies, but we must hasten to a close.

The last years of Mr. Griffin's ministry, though marked by a decline of bodily vigor, were marked by no decay of mental energy. An abundant blessing attended his labors and those of his esteemed colleague, who was settled in the co-pastorship with him but a few years before his decease. In no event of his life was his practical wisdom and fervent zeal more displayed, than in the determination he formed to avail himself, before the etfects of his own decline in strength should become visible upon his congregation, of the assistance of some devoted and energetic young minister. His example in this particular is eminently deserving the attention of other pastors in similar circumstances. At the present moment there are many

Dissenting churches visibly declining or actually fallen into a state next to dissolution, through the continuance of infirm and unsuitable men in the pastorate. Sometimes the evil arises from an unbecoming jealousy on the part of aged ministers to see another increase while they must decrease, sometimes through the want of that self-knowledge which should make them conscious that they are not and cannot be what they were in former days, and sometimes through a mistaken policy on their own part, or that of their people, as to the possibility of supporting two ministers. Yet, assuredly, two ministers could, in most cases, be more cheerfully and adequately supported, by a flourishing and devoted congregation, than one by some paltry endowment and a few languishing and dispirited people. In some intances aged ministers deeply feel their incompetency, and would gladly give place to younger and more active men, could their wants be supplied for the few remaining years of their earthly sojourn; and such would surely be refreshed to see the churches over which they once presided, and among which they might cheerfully spend the evening of life, flourishing again as when themselves were young and strong to labor. But they have no re

« PreviousContinue »