Rare Samuel Miller Work Added to Log College Press

It was while studying a work by a family friend, Julius Melton, Presbyterian Worship in American: Changing Patterns Since 1787, that this writer first came upon a reference to a volume by Samuel Miller. Melton drew upon Miller's volume to discuss the early conflict in a New York congregation between the use of the Psalms of David versus the hymns of Isaac Watts. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that this volume was so rare that it did not appear on two bibliographies known to this writer of Samuel Miller's works, including "the bibliography compiled by his granddaughter, Margaret Miller, published in The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. IX, No. 4, October 1911, entitled, 'A List of the Writings of Samuel Miller, D.D., LL.D., 1769-1850, Second Professor in Princeton Theological Seminary 1813-1850.'" However, it does appear in the bibliography of Miller's works compiled by Wayne Sparkman, Director of the PCA Historical Center, in the first volume of The Confessional Journal (2005).

The Miller volume in question is a Sketch of the Early History of the First Presbyterian Church, a 1937 reprint of A Brief Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the First Presbyterian Church of the City of New York written "about the year 1796." Copies of the 1937 reprint exist in several libraries, one of which is Princeton Theological Seminary Library, which gave this writer the courtesy of photographing the volume, thus allowing a digital copy to be made, which may now be the only such digital copy currently available on the internet. 

The "Brief Narrative" does not appear to exist in published form, but it exists in the manuscript collection for the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York, located at the Presbyterian Historical Society, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: "Session minutes, 1765-1808; list of baptisms, 1766-1803; and a "Brief Narrative of the Origin and Progress of the First Presbyterian Church in the City of New York.'" Samuel Miller, Jr.'s biography of his father does not mention either title, but does include a suggestive footnote in Vol. 1, p. 82: "A history of the 'First Presbyterian Church of New York,' as it seems still to have been called after it was composed of the 'United Presbyterian Congregations,' may be found in Dr. Miller's Memoirs of Dr. Rodgers, Chaps. iv &c." Indeed, a comparison of multiple passages in Miller's 1813 biography of John Rodgers, his friend and colleague, with the 1796 "Brief Narrative" / 1937 "Sketch" shows many that are exactly the same, which is not surprising as Miller would naturally draw upon his earlier research for the history of the church which he and Rodgers co-pastored. 

The 1937 reprint does include additional supplemental material beyond what Miller wrote, including a list of ministers of the First Presbyterian Church, and a timeline that goes forward to the 1920's, as well as editorial notes. It is now available for those interested in early American Presbyterian Church history to download and read for themselves Miller's historical research. Take note of its several illustrations too. Please disregard the less-than-perfect quality of the photographs by this amateur historian and photographer which now make up this PDF file. Download it and read it when it you can - it is only 46 pages, but they are pages of gold. 

All the Earth Shall Be Filled With the Glory of the Lord

In 1835, Samuel Miller (1769-1850) preached a sermon before the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Baltimore, Maryland. His text was that from Numbers 14:21: "...all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord." It is a great promise that gives hope to Christians concerning the expansion of Christ's kingdom on earth. But it does not stand alone in God's Word. A significant portion of his sermon involves the assembling together of other Scriptures which only serve to undergird this promise. 

"1. First of all, and above all, our hope is founded on JEHOVAH'S FAITHFUL AND UNERRING PROMISE. This is, undoubtedly, the chief ground of confidence. For that a religion which has been preached for eighteen, centuries, and which has been as yet received, even nominally, by less than a fourth part of mankind, will one day, and, at most, in a century or two from this hour, pervade and govern the world, we can expect with confidence only on the promise of Him who is Almighty, and who cannot lie. But this promise is surely enough for the most unwavering confidence. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good? Jehovah is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but one jot or tittle of all that has gone out of the mouth of Jehovah shall not pass away, until all be fulfilled. 

Let us attend, then, to some of the promises on this subject with which the word of God abounds. Take the following as a small specimen of the 'exceeding great and precious'  catalogue found in the inspired volume.

  • The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, Rev. 11:15.
  • Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession, Ps. 2:8.
  • All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord; and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him, Ps. 22.27.
  • From the rising of the sun, even unto the going down of the same, my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place shall incense be offered unto my name, and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the Lord of hosts, Mal. 1.11.
  • And I will gather all nations, and tongues, and cause them to come and see my glory, Isa. 56.18.
  • And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it, Isa. 2:2.
  • His name shall be continued as long as the sun; men shall be blessed in him, and all nations shall call him blessed, Ps. 72:17.
  • The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, and the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God, Isa. 35:1-2.
  • And the kingdom, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; and all dominions shall serve and obey him, Dan. 7:27.
  • He shall say to the North, Give up; and to the South, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth, Isa. 43:6.
  • His way shall be known upon earth, and his saving health among all nations, Ps. 67:2.
  • And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it, Isa. 40:5.
  • Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God, Ps. 68:31.
  • The isles shall wait for his law, Isa. 13:4.
  • He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth, Zech. 9:10.
  • All the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God, Isa. 52:10.
  • We see not yet all things put under Him, Heb. 2:8.
  • But he must reign, until all enemies shall be put under his feet, 1 Cor. 15:25.
  • At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that he is Christ to the glory of God the Father, Phil. 1:10-11.
  • For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea, Hab. 2:14.

Such is a specimen of Jehovah's promises respecting the future prevalence and power of the gospel. Read them, Christians, with joy and confidence. Ponder them daily and well in your hearts, as a source of continual encouragement. And remember that they shall all, without failure, be gloriously accomplished. I cannot tell you precisely when this happy period shall arrive; but I can tell you, on authority not to be questioned, that, at the appointed time, this earth, so long the abode of sin and sorrow, shall be restored from its desolations, and made to bloom like 'the garden of the Lord.' I can tell you, that her Almighty King will yet, notwithstanding every unfavorable appearance, make Zion beautiful through his own comeliness put upon her; that he will yet cause her righteousness to go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth, Isa. lxii. 1. These promises may not, indeed, be all fully accomplished, until we, who now listen to their recital, shall be all sleeping in the dust; or, rather, if by the grace of God, we be made meet for it, -- rejoicing before the throne, in possession of still brighter glory. But, 'though we die, God shall surely visit his people' in mercy. Though neither we, nor even the next generation shall be permitted to witness on earth the complete development of 'the latter day glory;' yet let us rejoice in the assurance that it will come in due time, and in all its promised blessedness. The vision is yet for an appointed time; but in the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry, Hab. ii. 3."

This powerful sermon has inspired many over the years to pray and labor for the pouring out of God's Spirit upon the nations, as should we all. There is a similar text in Psalm 72, to which Samuel Miller also refers in his Thoughts on Public Prayer

"I once heard of a minister who, in a time of revival, when his own heart, as well as the hearts of his hearers were unusually warmed with the power of the Holy Spirit, closed a prayer in the midst of the revival, with great acceptance, in the words of the Psalmist (72:18-19): 'Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who only doeth wondrous things; and blessed be his glorious name forever; and let the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and amen! The effect was electric in suddenness, and most happy." 

Samuel Miller's Definition of Presbyterianism

"Presbyterians believe, that Christ has made all ministers who are authorized to dispense the word and sacraments, perfectly equal in official rank and power: that in every Church the immediate exercise of ecclesiastical power is deposited, not with the whole mass of the people, but with a body of their representatives, styled Elders; and that the whole visible Church Catholic, so far as their denomination is concerned, is not only one in name, but so united by a series of assemblies of these representatives, acting in the name, and by the authority of the whole, as to bind the whole body together as one Church, walking by the same principles of faith and order, and voluntarily, yet authoritatively governed by the same system of rule and regulation...That is a Presbyterian Church, in which the Presbytery is the radical and leading judicatory; in which Teaching and Ruling Presbyters or Elders, have committed to them the watch and care of the whole flock; in which all ministers of the word and sacraments are equal; in which Ruling Elders, as the representatives of the people, form a part of all ecclesiastical assemblies, and partake, in all authoritative acts, equally with the Teaching Elders; and in which, by a series of judicatories, rising one above another, each individual church is under the watch and care of its appropriate judicatory, and the whole body, by a system of review and control, is bound together as one homogeneous community. Wherever this system is found in operation in the Church of God, there is Presbyterianism." 

-- Samuel Miller, Presbyterianism (Lord willing, a future publication of Log College Press!) 

Biblical Fasting

Have you wondered if fasting is still an ordinance of God for Christians today? Samuel Miller (1769-1850) provides sound teaching on this extraordinary element of worship prescribed in the Westminster Confession of Faith (21.5) and in the Westminster Directory of Public Worship. It is, as he affirms, a duty, and a blessing, to those who seek to draw near to God in a special way. His 1831 sermon on The Duty, The Benefits, and the Proper Method of Religious Fasting remains a faithful witness to an ordinance that is much-neglected today.

Consider his words concerning Daniel and how they resonate today: "Religion was at a low ebb among the professing people of God. Even their deep adversity had not led them to repentance and reformation. ... But this holy man trusted in God; and in the exercise of faith, saw, beyond the clouds which encircled him and his people, a ray of light which promised at once deliverance and glory. He perceived nothing, indeed, among the mass of his Jewish brethren which indicated a speedy termination of their captivity; but he 'understood by books,' that is, he firmly believed, on the ground of a recorded prophecy, delivered by Jeremiah, that the period of their liberation was drawing nigh. In this situation, what does he do? Instead of desponding, he 'encourages himself in the Lord his God.' And, instead of allowing himself to indulge a spirit of presumption or indolence, on account of the certainty of the approaching deliverance, he considers himself as called to special humiliation, fasting and prayer; to humble himself before God under a sense of the deep unworthiness of himself and his companions in captivity; and to pray with importunity that their unmerited emancipation might be at once hastened and sanctified. Such is the spirit of genuine piety."

Miller helps us to understand that fasting has its place in the life of a Christian. Take time to study this religious duty, and to find the blessing that God has ordained for those who practice it in faith. 

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). 

The 1813 Resolutions of Samuel Miller

When Samuel Miller took his place as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1813, he set down in writing a series of resolutions. Though not New Year resolutions per se, yet they set a good example of what pious resolutions can be.

December 3d, 1813. This day I arrived in Princeton, to enter on the discharge of my duties, as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government in  the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the United States.

I feel that, in coming hither, I am entering on a most weighty and important charge. At this solemn juncture I have adopted the following Resolutions, which I pray that I may have grace given me faithfully to keep.

I. Resolved, that I will endeavor hereafter, by God's help, to remember more deeply and solemnly than I have ever yet done, that I am not my own, but Christ's servant; and of course, bound to seek, not my own things, but the things which are Jesus Christ's.

II. Resolved, that I will endeavor, by the grace of God, to set such an example before the candidates for the ministry committed to my care, as shall convince them, that, though I esteem theological knowledge and all its auxiliary branches of science very highly, I esteem genuine and deep piety as a still more vital and important qualification.

III. Resolved, that I will endeavor, by the grace of God, so to conduct myself toward my colleague in the seminary [Archibald Alexander], as never to give to give the least reasonable ground of offence. It shall be my aim, by divine help, ever to treat him with the most scrupulous respect and delicacy, and never to wound his feelings, if I know how to avoid it.

IV. And whereas, during my residence in New York, a very painful part of my trouble arose from disagreement and collision with a colleague, I desire to set a double guard on myself in regard to this point. Resolved, therefore, that, by the grace of God, while I will carefully avoid giving offence to my colleague, I will, in no case, take offence at his treatment of me. I have come hither resolving, that whatever may be the sacrifice of my personal feelings - whatever may be the consequnce - I will not take offence, unless I am called upon to relinquish truth or duty. I not only will never, the Lord helping me, indulge a jealous, envious, or suspicious temper toward him; but I will, in no case, allow myself to be wounded by any slight, or appearance of disrespect. I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or contest. What am I, that I should prefer my own honor or exaltation to the cause of my blessed Master? 

V. Resolved, that, by the grace of God, I will not merge my office as a minister of the Gospel, in that of professor. I will still preach as often as my Master gives me opportunity and strength. I am persuaded that no minister of the Gospel, to whatever office he may be called, ought to give up preaching. He owes it to his ordination vows, to his office, to his Master, to the Church of God, to his own character, to the benefit of his own soul, to go on preaching to his last hour. Lord, give me grace to act on this principle!

VI. Resolved, that, as indulgence in jesting and levity is one of my besetting sins, I will endeavor, by the grace of God, to set a double guard on this point. The example of a professor before a body of theological students, in regard to such a matter, is all important.

VII. Where so many clergymen are collected in one village, clerical character is apt to become cheap; and it seems to me, that a peculiar guard ought to be set, by each one, to prevent this, by a careful, dignified, and sacredly holy example. Resolved, that I will endeavor, by the grace of God, to exercise special and prayerful attention to this matter.

From Samuel Miller, Jr., The Life of Samuel Miller, 2:9-10 (quoted in James Garretson, An Able and Faithful Ministry, 83-85

Samuel Miller's Thoughts on Public Prayer

Samuel Miller's Thoughts on Public Prayer (1849) is an important volume for teaching and ruling elders leading in corporate worship, as well as anyone who has to pray publicly, whether in family worship, social settings, or at other occasions. Miller lays out a history of public prayer, discusses liturgies, opens up frequent faults in public prayer, and shows forth the characteristics of a good public prayer, as well as the best means of attaining excellence in this gift and grace. Tolle lege!

Samuel Miller on how the Christian should think about suicide

Suicide is a deep misery, impacting family and friends of the loved one who takes his/her life. But it is also a sin, a breaking of the 6th commandment. We may think of suicide as a modern/post-modern problem. But in 1805, Samuel Miller was confronted with a rash of suicides (nine in 3 months). He approached the crisis head-on, preaching and then publishing addresses inscribed to the young people of his congregation: The Guilt, Folly and Sources of Suicide (1805). To the one who thinks he would never be tempted to commit suicide, Miller speaks these words:

Brethren, be not deceived! Every individual who hears me has an interest in this subject. Who can foresee the situations in which he may hereafter be placed, or the temptations by which he may hereafter be assailed? Or who can tell how soon the conduct of a near relative, or of a valued friend, may bring the subject home, with the deepest interest, to his bosom? It is probable, that the most of those who have fallen into this deplorable sin, were once as ready as any of my present hearers can now be, to think and to say, What, is thy servant a dog that he should do this thing? In truth, it becomes depraved creatures with regard to every sin, to be humble and watchful; for there is no sin into which they may not fall, if forsaken by restraining grace. That we may, therefore, be armed against the hour of temptation ourselves, and that we may be able to convince and warn others, let me request you seriously to attend, while I endeavour, First, To lay before you the Guilt and Folly of the sin in question; and, Secondly, By tracing the evil to its Sources, to put you on your guard against such principles and habits as may lead to danger.

Have you been touched by suicide? Are you being tempted to take your own life? Read Miller.

Have you seen Samuel Miller's introductory essay on the Articles of the Synod of Dort?

Samuel Miller was a J. I. Packer of the 19th century, supplying introductory essays for several works. We've already posted his essay on the Sabbath (1833), but here's another one: his 1841 introductory essay to the Articles of the Synod of Dort. In this 74-page essay, Miller discusses the circumstances leading up to the Synod, as well as the writing of the Articles and the theology found in them. Anyone interested in the history of Calvinism will appreciate Miller's assessment of this document and its history. 

Why does formal training for gospel ministry matter? Samuel Miller answers.

Samuel Miller, the Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary in the first half of the 19th century, gave six answers to this question in his book, The Importance of a Thorough and Adequate Course of Preparatory Study for the Holy Ministry (1832):

1. The great importance of careful and mature preparatory study in candidates for the Ministry, appears from the nature and importance of that public service which the sacred office demands. 

2. A further and very important argument in favour of mature preparatory study is, that very few who do not lay a good foundation in the beginning, ever supply the deficiency afterwards.

3. The great importance of regular and mature training for the holy Ministry is manifest from the peculiar state and wants of our country.

4. The great importance of mature study, and thorough training for the holy Ministry, is manifest from the predominant influence which, the Press exerts, and seems destined in a still higher degree, to exert, in every part of our country.

5. Ample and mature preparatory study is of exceeding great importance to a candidate for the holy ministry, as a substitute for that experience which cannot be possessed in the outset of an ecclesiastical course; and for the general formation of the character.

6. The importance of mature study and thorough training for the sacred office, is powerfully and uniformly attested by the history of the Church.

Have you seen this essay by Samuel Miller on the Sabbath?

Samuel Miller was perhaps the J. I. Packer of the early 19th century - not only was he a prolific author in his own right, but he also wrote introductory essays to the works of other authors. At least, he wrote a 1833 introductory essay to John Holmes Agnew's Manual on the Christian Sabbath. Miller's essay deserves to be more well-known - which is why Log College Press exists!

How did Presbyterians in the first half of the 19th century think about the Lord's Day?

A Manual on the Christian Sabbath, by John Holmes Agnew, will help to answer that question. Originally lectures to students at Washington College (now Washington and Lee College) in Lexington, Virginia, this work covers the perpetual obligation of Christians to observe the Lord's day, the design of the day, the blessings and usefulness of the day, and our duties on the day. Worth the price of the book (or rather, the download!) is a Packer-esque introduction by Samuel Miller. 

The 19th century has much to teach us about the Sabbath day; this volume, with Miller's introduction, is a good place to begin.