It was 249 years ago today, on October 31, 1769, that Samuel Miller was born in Dover, Delaware to the Rev. John and Margaret Miller. From the two-volume biography of his life by his son, Samuel Miller, Jr., we may learn about his early years.
The elder Samuel Miller (then known as “Sammy”) was a young witness to history having been present at the State House in Philadelphia (Independence Hall) at the time of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. He watched as George Washington, and many other founding fathers, some of whom were friends of his father, entered and departed while the work of preparing the US Constitution was going on. He was also a student at the University of Pennsylvania in 1789 while the first General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was meeting and working to revise the standards of the church. Miller’s friend — and later, colleague — Dr. John Rodgers played an important role at that Assembly (Miller was Rodgers’ biographer). He also developed close ties at this time to Dr. Ashbel Green, whose advice and counsel to young Miller would prove important as he entered upon his theological studies.
Miller was just beginning his pastoral career as the 18th century was coming to a close. In this period of his youth he would embrace some things that he later repudiated (Freemasonry, Thomas Jefferson) while he took an early stand in 1797 promoting the freedom of slaves as well as their protection after receiving freedom. After preaching a New Year’s sermon on January 1, 1801, Miller was inspired to publish a remarkable work in two volumes: A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century (1803). More volumes were projected but not completed. However, the value of this comprehensive look at the various progress and accomplishments in a diversity of fields within the preceding century earned Miller great respect as an academic, as well as the degree of Doctor of Divinity from his alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and Union College, and also membership in the prestigious Philological Society of Manchester, England.
Miller’s life and career as a pastor-educator (he became the second professor to serve on the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary) would go on to span another nearly 50 years. The young American Republic became established and grew during this period, while Miller’s beloved Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) would undergo several significant upheavals, before Miller entered his eternal rest on January 7, 1850.
We have written much about the life and works of Samuel Miller previously here at Log College Press, but on the occasion of his 249th birthday, it worth taking note of his early beginnings. To read more about Samuel Miller, please consult:
Samuel Miller, Jr., The Life of Samuel Miller (2 vols.);
John DeWitt, The Intellectual Life of Samuel Miller;
Henry A. Boardman, A Discourse Commemorative of the Character and Life of the Late Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D. of Princeton, New Jersey; and
William B. Sprague, A Discourse Commemorative of the Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D.