The Death of Samuel Miller: January 7, 1850

It was the end of a span that covered the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the colonial era to the establishment of the American republic. He had been ailing for some time. At the age of eighty, he had regrets from his early years, including his involvement in the Masonic Lodge (which he would later warn his children against), and his political support for Thomas Jefferson (whom he came to regard as a dangerous infidel). But over his lengthy career as a pastor and professor, he was the epitome of "an able and faithful ministry." Ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1793, Samuel Miller (1769-1850) served as Trustee of Princeton University from 1807 to 1850, and as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1813 to 1846. As a writer, he was prolific; as an historian and as a theological scholar, he distinguished himself. As a pastor, father, husband, and friend, he was beloved by many.

His funeral sermon was preached by his close friend, Archibald Alexander (1772-1851), for whom Miller had preached on the occasion of Alexander's inauguration as professor at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) in 1812. Commemorative discourses on his life were given by other close friends, such as William Buell Sprague (1795-1876) (see here) and Henry Augustus Boardman (1808-1880). Miller's son, Samuel Miller, Jr. (1816-1883), tells of his final days and the memorials rendered to him in The Life of Samuel Miller; as does James Waddel Alexander (1804-1859) in his Life of Archibald Alexander, who was one of the last men to speak with Miller on this earth (Miller died about six hours after Archibald Alexander's visit). See more about Miller's life, theology and final days in James M. Garretson, An Able and Faithful Ministry: Samuel Miller and the Pastoral Office (2014).

Alexander said this of his friend: "In all the private and domestic relations of his life he was exemplary. As a neighbor he was kind and courteous to all, and exactly just in his dealings. As a minister he was faithful and evangelical, and was accustomed to present the truths of the Gospel in a manner so distinct and methodical, that his discourses could not only be understood with ease, but readily remembered by the attentive hearer. As a member of the church judicatories, he was an able advocate for truth, a warm friend to experimental and practical piety, and of course a friend of revivals. No member of the Church has done more to explain and defend her doctrines than our deceased brother. With his colleagues he was uniformly cordial; and I have never known a man more entirely free from vainglory, envy, and jealousy." 

We remember his passing on this anniversary with the text that Henry Boardman chose for his discourse on Miller's life: "And Samuel died: and all the Israelites were gathered together, and lamented him" (1 Sam. 25:1).