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In the year 1897 a committee was appointed by the four synods having control of Columbia Theological Seminary to assist the editor, Rev. G. A. Blackburn, in examining and preparing for the press the unpublished writings of the Rev. John L. Girardeau, D. D., L.L. D. The principal function of this committee has been to determine, after a careful examination of a mass of material, what should be published and what withheld. With the present volume the labors of this committee will end. It has been a precious privilege to take some part, however humble, in giving permanent form to the thoughts of so distinguished a servant of Christ.
As this is to be a volume of sermons, perhaps the introductory words can be spoken more freely by the committee, through its chairman, than by the editor. My acquaintance with Dr. Girardeau began while I was pursuing my preparatory studies in the Theological Seminary at Columbia. At that time the Synod of South Carolina contained an unusually large number of remarkable preachers. Drs. Smythe, Thornwell, and Palmer were in their prime. A number of younger men were also coming rapidly into favor. Dr. Girardeau, in public estimation, was easily in the front rank of the younger generation; and he continued to hold the first place as long as he lived. For many years he was regarded as the great preacher of this section of the church.
Dr. John A. Broadus, of the Southern Baptist Church, relates that when he entered the ministry he
wrote to his former chaplain at the University of Virginia for some hints that would be helpful to him. To his request he received the following laconic reply: “Study Butler's Analogy and preach to the negroes, and it will make a man of you." Perhaps this counsel was never more literally followed or more thoroughly vindicated than by Dr. Girardeau. The white people of Charleston built for the colored population a large and handsome Presbyterian church. Dr. Girardeau became the pastor of the flock. It was in this field he won his great reputation as a pulpit orator. Visitors to Charleston had placed conspicuously before them the kindly relation of master and slave, as well as the profound interest felt by the white Christian for the spiritual welfare of their colored brethren. It is a mistake to suppose that great talents are wasted on plain people. To preach the gospel successfully to the poor demands an ability to bring the high themes of religion down to the level of ordinary understanding, or, rather, the capacity to quicken the sluggish intellect and elevate it to the plane of Scripture truth. Dr. Girardeau gave heed to the first part of the counsel as well as to the second. He was all his life an intense student. His bent was in the direction of those studies which most severely tax and, consequently, most effectively develop the intellectual powers. The volumes of his works already published vindicate, this remark. In two of them we have the fruits of his speculations in philosophy. The other three show how profoundly he had meditated on theological problems.
Dr. Girardeau belonged, in his measure, to the highest class of great preachers. The church has never lacked effective preachers at any period in which she was alive to her great mission. But the number of
those who have greatly impressed their own generation as living preachers, and continued to impress subsequent generations through their published discourses, is small. Weight of matter is indispensable to the deepest and most abiding impression in the case of the living preacher: it is all that is left after the voice of the preacher has been silenced by death. Dr. Girardeau possessed many qualities which appeared to advantage in the pulpit. In person and voice, in intellectual vigor, in sweep of fancy, in depth of feeling, and in dramatic power he was richly endowed. But these accessories are all gone. They live only in tradition. It is believed, however, that his discourses will bear publication. That they “are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a progeny of life in them to be as active as that soul was whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the present efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them.” We believe also that there is a demand for such a volume as this. Dr. Girardeau was more widely known as a preacher than as a teacher. And many are anxious to welcome a'volume of his sermons who feel no especial interest in his philosophical or theological speculations.
In the selection of these discourses regard has been had to the future usefulness of the author as well as to his reputation. Most of them are the products of his matured powers, and most of them were delivered in the ordinary course of his pulpit ministrations.
Before closing, it may be well to express the opinion that a biography of Dr. Girardeau should be furnished to the church. His piety was deep and fervent. It was perhaps his most characteristic quality. The life of such a man, carefully prepared and giving prominence to this trait, would be very helpful at this time.
If it should be found, as we apprehend may be the case, that he has preserved among his papers but little to aid the editor in such an undertaking, recourse may be had to the current history of the Southern church during the period in which he was a prominent actor. He took an earnest and influential part in the discussion and settlement of many questions affecting the worship, polity, and policy of the church.
W. T. HALL Columbia, S. C., June 13, 1905.
THE LAST JUDGMENT
2 Cor. v. 10. "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ, that every one may receive the things done in his body according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
I invite your attention, my brethren, to a subject of more than usual solemnity and awe. And I confess that I approach it not without fear, lest, on the one hand, a theme of terrific grandeur and transcendent interest should suffer from inadequacy of treatment, and lest, on the other, it should meet with a reception disproportionate to its claims, and only render more fearful a subsequent thoughtlessness and disregard. Conscious of this danger, I would earnestly invoke the influence of the Holy Spirit to impress upon every heart the truth which may he spoken.
The text brings to our notice the last act in the great drama of this world's history. Among minds fond of speculating upon the probable issues of the future, considerable discussion has taken place as to certain circumstances connected with the last judgment which can never be clearly ascertained before the event itself. The precise time of its arrival, the place of assembly,
NOTE.There is nothing in the manuscript of Dr. Girardeau to show when this sermon was prepared, nor where it was preached. It always made a profound impression, and congregations frequently requested him to preach it a second time. His most judicious friends never regarded it as the equal of many 'of his other sermons, especially of those that dealt with the completeness of the work of Christ, and the extent of His love for His people, but unfortunately none of these were written.