Saturday, November 8, 2008

Edward D. Griffin - Revival Pastor

In the early morning hours of November 8, 1837 Edward Dorr Griffin fell into a gentle sleep and passed into the presence of his Savior. He had suffered a slight paralytic stroke a few years earlier, followed by a dropsical condition (retention of serous fluid) in his chest a few months before his death. Despite pain and discomfort Griffin was not gloomy, but expectant. He anticipated seeing the One to whom he had led so many others, and he urged his family and friends to trust only in Christ. When a visiting friend expressed the desire to be as faithful as Griffin so she could experience God's kindness when she died, he said to her, "Don't say that again, sister; it is not because I am good, but because Christ has died."

Born on January 6, 1770 to a wealthy farmer in East Haddam, Connecticut, Edward D. Griffin attended Yale College and graduated with honors, intending to become a lawyer. However, he soon came under the sound of the Gospel, joined the Congregational church, and began theological studies. He was licensed to preach on October 31, 1792.

Griffin served as pastor of churches in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Jersey, beginning with the Congregational church in New Hartford, Connecticut in 1795. In 1800 his wife's health required a trip to New Jersey. While there Griffin received a call to be pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Newark. (There was much cooperation in those days between Presbyterians and Congregationalists, sometimes referred to as "Presbygationalists.") He accepted this call and became co-pastor with Dr. Alexander McWhorter. Griffin later served a church in Boston, then back to Newark in 1815 to become pastor of the newly-formed Second Presbyterian Church.

During his pastorates Griffin was involved in other ministries, too, such as the American Bible Society, which he helped to found, and the United Foreign Missionary Society. He also received calls from at least three colleges to become president. He accepted the call from Williams College in Massachusetts and was inaugurated as president there in 1821. Griffin remained at Williams College until 1836 when he resigned because of failing health and moved back to Newark to live with his daughter and her family.

Edward Griffin ministered during the time of national revival we know as the Second Great Awakening. After years of spiritual decline following the American Revolution, revival fires began springing up around the time Griffin began preaching. Revivals were being reported in areas from the Kentucky frontier to the institutions of higher learning on the East coast. Though little known today, Edward Griffin played no small part in this spiritual stirring.

Griffin's ministry met with much success, along with controversies. Many souls were won to Christ through his preaching and his godly example. He believed that revival is the result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, not something worked up by man. Yet he was no fatalist; his preaching was passionate, like his praying. He was urgent in his appeals to sinners to trust Christ. When engaged in controversy, Griffin stayed true to Scripture and always tried to display the kindness of God. His maxim was, "Crush heresy, but spare the heretic" (William B. Sprague, The Life and Sermons of Edward D. Griffin, Vol 1. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987. p. 252, reprint).

Griffin's words and demeanor suggest a calm confidence in a sovereign God who orders all things according to His will and for our good. His example was inspiring to people, even in his death. A local minister, "alluding to the providence which brought him back to Newark, beautifully remarked: 'It was fitting that he who came in his youth to teach us how to live should come, when his head was gray, to show us how to die'" (Sprague, p. 237). May this remembrance of Edward Griffin encourage us to trust God and serve Him with all our heart today!
Resources on Edward D. Griffin:
William B. Sprague, The Life and Sermons of Edward D. Griffin (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987. reprint) The memoir of Griffin takes up almost half of Vol. 1.

Iain H. Murray, Revival & Revivalism: The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism 1750-1858 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994) Much edifying information on revivals and many references to Griffin and other leaders of the time.

The memoir of Edward Griffin can be read online at Google Books.

Fire and Ice has several Edwards sermons you can download or read online.