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So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel; therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked mans hall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. (Ezekiel 33:7-8)
The sermons of Edward Dorr Griffin are a real treasure, as Griffin’s friend and biographer, William B. Sprague, as well as Samuel Miller, and others have noted. There are many to highlight but today we focus on one wherein Griffin reminds us of the duty of a pastor in dangerous times. As John Calvin said, “The pastor ought to have two voices: one, for gathering the sheep, and another for warding off and driving away wolves and thieves. The Scripture supplies him with the means of doing both, for he who is deeply skilled in it will be able both to govern those who are teachable, and to refute the enemies of the truth.” (Commentaries on the Epistles to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, p. 296). In line with this thought, consider Griffin’s words to those whose duty it is sometimes to warn as well as to encourage.
It is impossible for a minister to deliver the whole message of God without giving offence to some. And the reason is, that the character and destiny of sinners are such as they cannot bear to hear described. The truth is, that heaven and earth are at variance. The world is not as it was made, nor as it ought to be. It has revolted from God; and God esteems the character of unregenerate men as bad, and is as angry with them, as any watch man ever represented. Else why is every page of his word filled with solemn accusations and complaints, which call forth resentments against this book more than against any other book on earth? Why is it that every eye, as soon as it is opened, sees this controversy to be as real as the existence of God? Why was this beautiful paradise changed to a vale of tears, to be chastened with griefs and shaken with tempests? Why did a view of divine wrath against the world press out the bloody sweat of Gethsemane? Did not the agonies of Calvary show that God was angry with men? If all these proofs fail to strike, one is at hand which, one would think, could not be resisted. Why is it that when sinners die, God puts them into an eternal hell? Does this evince no anger, or anger less dreadful than the watchmen represent It evinces anger greater than human tongue ever described or human heart conceived. Settle it then that heaven and earth are at variance, and that God has a controversy with men.
In equally solemn tones I declare, as my office bids me, and call every angel to witness, that in this war God is right and the world is wrong. This great truth while I live I will declare, and hope to pronounce it with my dying breath. God is right and the world is wrong. I wish it were set forth in broad letters upon every forehead, and with a pen dipped in heaven were written upon every heart. I wish it were posted in sun beams at the corner of every street, and were graven with the point of a diamond on the rock forever. God is right and the world is wrong. Let this great truth pass from land to land to prostrate nations of unknown tongues, and rolling through every clime, bring an humbled world to their Redeemer's feet.
His conclusion is very sober:
Standing on my watch tower, I am commanded, if I see aught of evil coming, to give warning. I again solemnly declare that I do see evil approaching. I see a storm collecting in the heavens; I discover the commotion of the troubled elements; I hear the roar of distant winds. Heaven and earth seem mingled in conflict; and I cry to those for whom I watch, A storm! a storm! get into the ark or you are swept away. — Ah what is it I see? I see a world convulsed and falling to ruins; the sea burning like oil; nations rising from under ground; the sun falling; the damned in chains before the bar, and some of my poor hearers with them. I see them cast from the battlement of the judgment seat. My God, the eternal pit has closed upon them forever!
Read Griffin’s sermon titled “The Watchman” (in Vol. 2 of the 1839 edition of his Sermons) - directed to both pastors and their flocks - as well as many other powerful sermons at his page here. And get to know an early 19th century Presbyterian pastor whose words still ring true today.