The Lantern that John Rodgers Broke

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Samuel Miller tells a story of his mentor and senior colleague, John Rodgers, and a lantern that he once broke as a boy.

It is generally known, that Mr. [George] Whitefield often preached in the open air; sometimes, because houses of worship were shut against him; and at others, because his audiences were too large to be accommodated in any ordinary building. In Philadelphia, he often stood on the outside steps of the Court-house, in Market-street, and from that station addressed admiring thousands who crowded the street below. On one of these occasions [c. 1739], young Rodgers was not only present, but pressed as near to the person of his favourite preacher as possible; and to testify his respect, held a lantern for his accommodation. Soon after the sermon began, he became so absorbed in the subject, and, at length, so deeply impressed, and strongly agitated, that he was scarcely able to stand; the lantern fell from his hand, and was dashed in pieces; and that part of the audience in the immediate vicinity of the speaker’s station, were not a little interested, and, for a few moments, discomposed, by the occurrence.

The impressions thus begun, were confirmed and deepened, and resulted, in a short time afterwards, as he hoped, when he was but little more than twelve years of age, in a saving knowledge and acceptance of Jesus Christ as the only refuge and hope of his soul; and in a cordial devotedness to his service.

From this period he resolved, if God should enable him, to devote himself to the service of Christ, in the work of the Gospel ministry.

Miller adds that there is more to the story.

A subsequent circumstance, connected with this event, and not less remarkable, is worthy of being recorded. Mr. Whitefield, in the course of his fifth visit to America, about the year 1754, on a journey from the southward, called at St. George’s, in Delaware, where Mr. Rodgers was then settled int he Gospel ministry, and spent some time with him. In the course of this visit, Mr. Rodgers, being one day riding with his visitant, in the close carriage in which the latter usually travelled, asked him, whether he recollected the occurrence of the little boy, who was so much affected with his preaching, as to let his lantern fall? Mr. Whitefield answered, “Oh yes! I remember it well; and have often thought I would give almost anything in my power to know who that little boy was, and what had become of him.” Mr. Rodgers replied with a smile, “I am that little boy!” Mr. Whitefield, with tears of joy, started from his seat, took him in his arms, and with strong emotion remarked, that he was the fourteenth person then in the ministry whom he had discovered in the course of that visit to America, of whose hopeful conversion he had been the instrument.

This fascinating account is derived from Miller’s Memoirs of the Reverend John Rodgers, D. D. (1813). Rodgers was such an important figure in colonial American Presbyterianism that this biography is a valuable window into the period as well as a portrait of the man. Take time to peruse its pages, and learn more about the boy who broke a lantern in his excitement at hearing the gospel preached, and later became a leading minister of the gospel in the early American Presbyterian Church.

An LCP milestone for B.B. Warfield

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The 1974 Bibliography of Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, 1851-1921 by John E. Meeter and Roger Nicole identifies 1,574 works - with caveats - by the most prolific of authors - and that is after excluding another 1,070 titles which were deemed too brief to include in their list.

At Log College Press, Samuel Miller was the first of our authors to reach 100 titles available to read online here, but now B.B. Warfield is the second to reach that milestone. Although it is only a fraction of the total works written or published by Warfield, it is a substantial assembly of material for the student of his body of literature, and it continues to grow.

Among the 100+ Warfield works available to read at LCP thus far, one may find:

  • at least 15 separate published compositions, including hymns and poems (for purposes of this count, his 1910 Four Hymns and Some Religious Verses is reckoned as one publication);

  • at least 14 separate published works on aspects of the Scriptures;

  • at least 12 separate published works pertaining to the Westminster Assembly and its Standards;

  • at least 11 sermons (found in his 1893 The Gospel of the Incarnation; and his 1913 The Saviour of the World);

  • at least 8 separate published works on aspects of Christology;

  • at least 5 separate published works relating directly to John Calvin;

  • at least 4 separate published works on systematic theology; and

  • 2 inaugural addresses.

Not included in this list are published writings by Warfield found elsewhere on LCP, such as our Compilations page, such as his “Incarnate Truth” and “The Christian’s Attitude Toward Death” in Princeton Sermons (1893); and “Present Day Attitude to Calvinism in Calvin Memorial Addresses (1909).

Also, take note of the (at least) 9 separate works (including the Meeter/Nicole bibliography referenced above) specifically focused on Warfield available at our Secondary Sources bookstore page (which does not include many other works about Princeton which also contain valuable material by and about him).

There is a rich treasury of Warfield literature to be explored at LCP and it is only growing. Begin by perusing his author page here.

100 Works by Samuel Miller on LCP

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Back in January of this year, we aimed to count who was the most prolific author on LCP. Samuel Miller was the winner of the “contest” at that time, hands down at 74 separate works. A new milestone has now been reached - Samuel Miller now has 100 separate works available to read online at LCP.

We will continue, DV, to add works by Samuel Miller as we are able, but now that he has reached the century mark here, so to speak, permit us to highlight some select Miller works of particular interest. There are many more to peruse at your leisure at his page.

  • A Sermon Preached in New-York, July 4th, 1793. Being the Anniversary of the Independence of America ("Christianity the Grand Source and Surest Basis for Political Liberty") (1793) - This Fourth of July sermon is Miller’s first published work, and it is was an important expression of his early political views from the pulpit.

  • A March 4, 1800 letter from Samuel Miller to US President Thomas Jefferson — this correspondence predates Miller’s 1808 breach with Jefferson over the latter’s refusal to call for a day of fasting and prayer.

  • A Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century, Vols. 1-2 (1803) - This remarkable work - an intellectual survey of the 18th century - began as a New Year’s Day sermon preached on January 1, 1801 and turned into a mammoth (over 1000 pages) history that resulted in him earning a doctorate in divinity at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • The Guilt, Folly, and Sources of Suicide: Two Discourses (1805) - An important piece that unites Biblical doctrine with pastoral counsel on a sensitive topic.

  • The Duty of the Church to Take Measures for Providing An Able and Faithful Ministry: A Sermon at the Inauguration of Archibald Alexander as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Princeton Theological Seminary (1812) - An important inaugural discourse that encapsulates the vision that Samuel Miller and Archibald Alexander shared for the work of the seminary at Princeton.

  • Memoirs of the Reverend John Rodgers, D. D. (1813) - One of many biographical sketches that Miller produced in his career, this one tells the life story of his senior colleague and mentor, who was so influential in early American Presbyterianism.

  • The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions (1824) - This is a most valuable statement on why confessionalism is a matter of such great importance to the Church.

  • The Earth Filled With the Glory of the Lord (1835) - If you want to understand Samuel Miller’s eschatology, this is the place to start.

  • Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolical Constitution of the Church of Christ (1836) - Of the many valuable sermons, tracts and treatises on ecclesiastical polity which Miller produced, this is perhaps the most significant and comprehensive, touching on matters of church government, doctrine and worship. See also his several works on the office of ruling elder.

  • Infant Baptism Scriptural and Reasonable: and Baptism by Sprinkling or Affusion, the Most Suitable or Edifying Mode (1837) - This treatise is a convincing Scriptural argument for paedo-baptism in the Presbyterian manner of sprinkling.

  • Lives of Jonathan Edwards and David Brainerd (1837) - Another great biographical work by Miller which is worth highlighting.

  • Thoughts on Public Prayer (1849) - Ever concerned with decency and order, Miller’s classic on public prayer illustrates his desire for the edification of the saints.

Also, be sure to take note of Miller’s introductory essay on the Synod of Dort. First published in 1841, it has now been re-issued by Log College Press under the title A Place Like Heaven: An Introduction to the Synod of Dort. Miller tells the story of this remarkable church synod, which met left its mark on history 400 years ago.

The Synagogue as Model for the Christian Church: Samuel Miller and T.D. Witherspoon

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Samuel Miller once wrote that the Christian Church was modeled after the Jewish Synagogue rather than the Jewish Temple. This was a Presbyterian position, he argued, which was consistent with not only the historic Continental Divines, but also with leading Anglican Divines.

…I have given you a very brief sketch of the evidence that Christian Churches were organized by the Apostles, after the model of the Jewish Synagogues. I have shown that the mode of worship adopted in the Church, the titles of her officers, their powers, duties, and mode of ordination, were all copied from the Synagogue. This evidence might be pursued much further, did the limits which I have prescribed to myself admit of details. It might easily be shown, that in all those respects in which the service of the Synagogue differed from the Temple, the Christian Church followed the former. The Temple service was confined to Jerusalem; the Synagogue worship might exist, and did exist wherever there was a sufficient number of Jews to form a congregation. The temple service was restricted with regard to the vestments of its officers; while in the Synagogue there was little or no regulation on this subject. And, finally, it is remarkable, that the mode in which the Bishops and Elders of each Synagogue were seated during the public service, was exactly copied into the Christian assemblies. With regard to these and many other particulars which might be mentioned, the Christian Churches in primitive times, it is well known, departed from the ceremonial splendour of the Temple, and followed the simplicity of the Synagogue. In fact, there is ample proof, that the similarity between the primitive Christian Churches, and the Jewish Synagogues was so great, that they were often considered and represented by the persecuting Pagans as the same.

In support of the foregoing statements, it would be easy to produce authorities of the highest character. The general fact, that the Christian church was organized by the inspired apostles, not on the plan of the Temple service, but after the Synagogue model, is amply shown, by the celebrated John Selden, in his work, De Synedriis; by Dr. [John] Lightfoot, a learned Episcopal divine, in his Horae Hebraicae; by the very learned [Hugo] Grotius, in several parts of his Commentary; by Dr. (afterwards) [Edward] Stillingfleet, in his Irenicum: and, above all by [Cornelius] Vitringa [Sr.], in his profound and able work, De Synagoga Vetere — to which the author has given given this bold title — “Three books on the ancient Synagogue; in which it is demonstrated, that the form of government, and of the ministry in the Synagogue was transferred to the Christian Church.” If there be any points concerning the history and polity of the Church, which may be considered as indubitably established, this, unquestionably, is among the number (Letters Concerning the Constitution and Order of the Christian Minister, pp. 40-41).

Thomas Dwight Witherspoon concurred, as he has stated in his classic works Children of the Covenant, and The Five Points of Presbyterianism: The Distinctives of Presbyterian Church Government.

"When our Saviour appeared, therefore, He found, in every city of the Jews, a synagogue, with its bench of Elders, its ordinances of worship, and its provisions for the poor, as we have them in our congregations at the present day. When He went from city to city, He entered into their synagogues on the Sabbath day, and taught the people. He instructed his disciples to submit questions of discipline to the Church; that is, to these officers, who were its representatives. It is true that these church-sessions, if I may so call them, did not recognize, in most instances, the authority of our Saviour. ''He came to His own, and His own received Him not." The Elders joined with the Scribes and the Priests in putting him to death. But after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, there were many of these Jewish congregations, in which great numbers were converted to Christianity, so that the congregation was, in faith, no longer Jewish, but Christian. In these cases the synagogue became a church edifice. The Elders of the synagogue became Elders of the Christian Church. The rite of Baptism took the place of the rite of Circumcision. The Lord's Supper came in the room of the Passover. The day of the week took the place of the Jewish Sabbath. Hymns to Christ as God mingled with the old synagogue anthems to Jehovah. The epistles of inspired Apostles were read along with the Old Testament Scriptures; and thus, by a transition as natural as it was impressive, the Jewish church became Christian, with all its essential features unchanged.

That this is no mere theory, or special pleading on the part of the advocates of Presbyterianism, will be evident to every attentive reader of the following extracts from the works of one of the most learned and eminent prelates of the Episcopal Church. The late Archbishop "[Richard] Whately, of Dublin, as distinguished for his learning as for his integrity and piety, in his work, entitled "The Kingdom of Christ Delineated, in which he traces the origin of the first Christian churches planted by apostolic hands, uses the following language. (See Ed. of Carter & Bros., New York, 1864, p. 29.)

"It appears highly probable — I might say morally certain — that wherever a Jewish synagogue existed, that was brought, the whole or the chief part of it, to embrace the gospel, the Apostles did not there so much form a Christian church (or congregation: Ecclesia,) as make an existing congregation Christian" (the italics are his own,) "by introducing the Christian sacraments and worship, and establishing whatever regulations were requisite for the newly adopted faith, leaving the machinery (if I may so speak,) of government unchanged; the rulers of synagogues, elders and other officers, (whether spiritual or ecclesiastical, or both,) being already provided in the existing institutions." "And," he continues, "it is likely that several of the earliest Christian churches did originate in this way; that is, that they were converted synagogues, which became Christian churches as soon as the members, or the main part of the members, acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah. * * * And when they founded a church in any of those cities in which (and such were probably a very large majority,) there was no Jewish synagogue that received the gospel, it is likely that they would conform, in a great measure, to the same model."

Here, then, is a statement from one of the highest functionaries, and most learned writers of the Episcopal Church, that the primitive Church was built upon the model of the Jewish synagogue, the government of which, as we have already seen, was distinctively Presbyterian, A careful study of the Acts and Epistles will lead us also to the conclusion that the Church of the Apostles was essentially Presbyterian. On their missionary voyages they "ordained Elders in every city." As in many of these cities there was only a small congregation of believers, the Elders ordained in them must have been Ruling Elders, as the language implies that there were several in one city. These Elders ruled in councils, or courts, that were distinctly Presbyterian. Timothy was ordained by "the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery." The Synod which met at Jerusalem, (Acts, chap. 15.) was a Synod composed of the Apostles and Elders (Children of the Covenant, pp. 156-160; see also The Five Points of Presbyterianism [LCP edition], p. 17).

Thus, in these two writers we see what representative leading 19th century American Presbyterians believed, in agreement with leading historic European Calvinists, that the Christian Church is modeled after the Jewish Synagogue.

Samuel Miller: No such thing as a solitary religion

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Following up on yesterday’s post, Samuel Miller concurs with T.V. Moore that Christianity is not a lone wolf faith, but a corporate, and social, religion.

The Bible knows nothing of a solitary religion. The spirit and duties of Christianity are, characteristically, social. Man, in his state of primitive rectitude, was made a social creature; and redeemed and restored man, when he shall reach that holy heaven which is in reserve for him hereafter, will find it to be a state of perfect and most blessed society. It is true, the Christian, in the course of the spiritual life, is required, and finds it to be as profitable as it is delightful, to be often alone with his God. But the object of this retirement is, like that of Moses in ascending the mount, — not that he may remain there; but that he may come down with his face shining; his heart expanding with holy love; and all his graces refined and invigorated, and thus prepared the better to act his part in those interesting relations which he sustains to his fellow men. Accordingly, the visible Church, with which we are all bound to be connected, and which is the means of so many blessings to its members and to the world, is a social body. It is called in our text a “flock," under the care of the great "Shepherd and Bishop of souls," and under the immediate superintendence of the under-shepherds, commissioned and sent for this purpose.

Read Miller’s complete 1832 sermon on “Ecclesiastical Polity” from the Spruce Street Lectures here. And consider how Christians are not just born again as “isolated units” (Moore) but are meant to be children of the family of God, that is, his body, the Church.

Samuel Miller on seeking "young Samuels"

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the scarcity of Presbyterian ministers in America was alarming. Elwyn Allen Smith, writing in The Presbyterian Ministry in American Culture: A Study in Changing Concepts, 1700-1900, p. 117, notes that in 1802 the PCUSA had 334 ministers throughout the country. The 1800 US census shows a population of 5,308,000 living in the country at that time; therefore, the number of ministers was quite small proportional to the overall population. Keenly conscious of this pastoral deficit, Samuel Miller wrote to Edward Dorr Griffin, a Congregational minister who served as a delegate to the PCUSA General Assembly of 1805, encouraging him to speak to Ashbel Green about specific subjects, including the need to provide for the education of future ministers. The situation as Miller saw it was dire.

The great scarcity of ministers, and the indispensable necessity of adopting speedy and vigorous measures for increasing their number. I consider our prospect on this score melancholy and alarming.

The same day (May 13, 1805), Miller wrote in a letter to Dr. Green that “I cannot help mentioning again my anxiety about the scarcity of ministers in our connexion.” It was at Miller’s urging that Dr. Green put forth a resolution adopted by the General Assembly to promote the recruitment and training of candidates for the ministry.

Following this action taken by the General Assembly, the Presbytery of New York (of which Samuel Miller was a member), meeting in October 1805, responded to the call by issuing their own address to the churches within their bounds, as well as to “young men” and “pious parents,” to promote the education of candidates for the ministry by prayer, focused evaluation of the gifts of possible candidates and financial and other support for their training.

This 1805 address was the product of a newly-formed standing committee subsisting of five ministers and five ruling elders. Samuel Miller was one of the ministers, and was the co-author, along with delegate Griffin, of this work. Each of the three audiences (churches, youth and parents) was appealed to with a call to consider what they could do to help the church increase its number of faithful ministers.

After explaining to churches the need and seeking prayer and tangible support for the education of minsters; and after asking young men to consider searchingly whether they might indeed be called to serve the kingdom of God by means of the ministry of the Word; “pious parents” are asked

Who among you have any sons to devote to Christ for the service of his sanctuary? Who among you have any young Samuels, the children of prayer, whom you have lent unto the Lord with ardent desires, that as long as they live they may be the Lord’s? Can you better dispose of them than by training them up for the gospel ministry, to bear the vessels of Him to whose service you have solemnly consecrated them in baptism? Would it not fill you with sublime joy to know that you had brought children into the world to be the instruments of large accessions to the assembly of the redeemed, to the everlasting kingdom of Messiah?…If you love your pious sons, give them to the church, and increase their everlasting happiness. If you love your Saviour, whose bowels yearned and bled for you, from your own bowels give him ministers; give to his service those whom he died to redeem, to sooth and comfort your parental hearts.

It is certain, from what we know of Samuel Miller’s parents, the Rev. John and Mrs. Margaret Miller, that he himself was a son of prayer. It is certain too that Samuel Miller had a son who followed him into the ministry, Samuel Miller, Jr. It is also certain that these labors of men like Samuel Miller, Ashbel Green and Edward Griffin helped to plant seeds that led to the founding in 1812 of what became known later as the Princeton Theological Seminary. By 1820, according to Elwyn A. Smith, there were 849 ministers and candidates.

We have here in this extract from church history a model for the building of God’s kingdom. Faithful ministers are an essential component of the extension of the church, and there is always a need for more of such to labor for Christ. It was Miller’s vision that the candidates needed to be “able” and “learned" as well as “pious.” There is both work to be done and prayers to be offered for this aspect of kingdom-building. Remember the words of our Savior:

Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest (Matt. 9:37-38).

Samuel Miller Defends the Puritans and Pilgrims on Christmas

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In December of 1825, Samuel Miller had occasion to write to the editor of the New York Commercial Advertiser. The paper had made a point of defending the observance of Christmas, which in that era was a significant break from Protestant practice in America, and chose to criticize the Puritans for their opposition to it as well. Miller was serving as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at the College of New Jersey (Princeton) at the time. His father, John Miller, though a Presbyterian by conviction had joined the Old South Church (Congregational) in Boston, Massachusetts under the ministry of the Rev. Joseph Sewall, son of the Puritan Samuel Sewall. Christmas observance in Massachusetts was banned from 1659 to 1681, but did not become popular in New England until the mid-nineteenth century (it was made a federal public holiday in 1870). Miller, “one of the descendants of those venerable men” (as he describes himself), took upon the task of writing a letter in response to the paper in defense of the views and practices of the Puritans and Pilgrims who opposed Christmas. He signed his letter using a pseudonym, “Biblicus.” He begins thus:

As you have, in your paper of yesterday, availed yourself of your editorial privilege, to plead in behalf of the religious observance of Christmas, and undertaken, moreover, to “condemn the error” of the Puritans in refusing to observe this festival themselves (for in no other sense, that I know of did they ever “prohibit” the observance of it),* will you allow a subscriber to your paper, and one of the descendants of those venerable men, to say a word in their vindication? No controversy on this subject is intended; and if I know how to pen these few lines in such a manner as to preclude the possibility of any further discussion, I should be glad to do it. I assure you, sir, it makes no part of my present plan to “condemn,” or even to find the least fault with, those who think it their duty to observe Christmas, and other holy days. “Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind.” I venerate and love many who are of that opinion, though I cannot think with them. But you, surely, will not deny me the privilege of saying a word, the only object of which is to alleviate, if not to advert, the sentence which you have passed against a body of men “of whom the world was not worthy,” and whose example I wish many were as willing to follow as to praise.

The Pilgrims of Plymouth, Massachusetts were known for their opposition to the observance of this extra-Biblical holy day. William Bradford wrote in Of Plymouth Plantation:

And herewith I shall end this year [1621]. Only I shall remember one passage more, rather of mirth then of waight. One ye day called Christmas-day, ye Govr [William Bradford] caled them out to worke, (as was used,) but ye most of this new-company excused them selves and said it wente against their consciences to work on yt day. So ye Govr tould them that if they made it mater of conscience, he would spare them till they were better informed. So he led-away ye rest and left them; but when they came home at noone from their worke, he found them in ye streete at play, openly; somepitching ye barr, & some at stoole-ball, and shuch like sports. So he went to them, and tooke away their implements, and tould them that was against his conscience, that they should play & others worke. If they made ye keeping of it mater of devotion, let them kepe their houses, but ther should be no gameing or revelling in ye streets. Since which time nothing hath been atempted that way, at least openly.

Miller then laid out the main reasons why the Pilgrims and Puritans were opposed, on Biblical grounds, to the observance of Christmas:

The “Pilgrims,” then, for themselves only, refused to observe Christmas, and other holy days, for the following reasons.

I. They thought that no warrant for any such observance was to be found in Scripture. They believed that every institution of this nature, pertaining to the Old Testament economy, was abolished at the coming of Christ; that no similar days were appointed in their place; that neither the Savior nor his inspired Apostles gave the least countenance, either by precept or example, to the sanctification of any other day than the Sabbath.

II. They considered the Bible as the only infallible rule of faith and practice. They denied that the Church, or any member of it had a right to institute new rites or ceremonies. They were persuaded that the Lord Jesus Christ alone was the Supreme Head and King of the Church; and had no doubt that He, and those Apostles whom He inspired by his own Spirit, were as competent judges of what was proper, and for the edification of the Church, as any individual or body of individuals have been since; and, of course, that for uninspired, and therefore fallible men, to undertake to add to the number of Christ's appointments, is a measure, to say the least, of very questionable propriety.

III. They were confident that, for a long time after the death of the Apostles, no stated festival or Fast Days whatever were observed in the Church. Justin Martyr, who wrote a little after the middle of the second century, and who gives a particular account of the institutions and habits of the Christians, gives no hint of any day being kept holy, excepting the first day of the week, or the Christian Sabbath. Before the time of Origen, who flourished about the middle of the third century, the Christians had introduced several holy-days, partly to gratify the converts from Paganism; who, on coming into the Church, wished to have some substitute for the Pagan festivals which which [sic] they had abandoned. But even at this time, the observance of Christmas was unknown. — Origen give a list of the holy-days observed at the time in which he wrote; but says nothing about a festival for Christ's nativity; from which Lord Chancellor King, in his “inquiry into the Primitive Church within the first three hundred years after Christ,” confidently infers that no such festival was observed till after the time of Origen. Indeed the Christians during the first three centuries, differed so widely concerning the month and day of the Savior's birth; some placing it in April, others in May, etc. that there is an utter improbability, on this ground alone, that they commemorated the event by an ecclesiastical festival.

IV. The Puritans attached no little importance to another consideration. Supposing, (what they could not admit) that the church possesses the power to institute observances, which Christ and his Apostles never knew: supposing that [“]teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” or in other words, adopting “human inventions in the worship of God,” could be justified; what limit they asked, could be set to this power? How far may it be carried? When the door to uncommanded observances is once opened, by whom or when will it be effectually closed? You, and a few others, Mr. Editor, might think two or three well-adjusted church festivals, besides fifty-two Sundays in the year quite sufficient. The Protestant Episcopal Church, however, in this country, has appointed about thirty stated festivals, besides a still larger number of Fast-days. The Church of England has a greater number, it is believed, both of fasts and festivals. The Church of Rome, from whom the Church of England selected her list, observes a far greater number than either. In favor of every one of these days, serious, respectable men have something very plausible to say; and have actually uttered very contemptuous, and even indignant things against plain, simple-minded Protestants, who could not easily allow such a mass of superstition. Is it any wonder, then, that the Puritans, perceiving the tendency in all churches to go to extremes in multiplying such observances, whenever they began to be introduced; and knowing that there was no way to prevent this, but by shutting them out altogether: deliberately preferred the latter as the safer course? — and truly, if there be no Bible warrant for festivals; — no solid warrant for them in the practice of the Christian Church for the first 300 years, and, above all, none for Christmas; if the whole business of bringing institutions into the Church for which there is no Divine authority, be unlawful and of dangerous tendency; and if, whenever the practice has been admitted, it has been almost always abused, that is, carried much further than it ought to have been, I cannot help thinking that the Puritans had at least plausible, if not conclusive, reasons for taking the course which they did.

The editor added a rejoinder to Miller’s letter, arguing that Puritan Massachusetts had indeed made the observation of Christmas illegal, but did not attempt to justify its observance on Biblical grounds.

Take time to read what Miller wrote in this letter here, as well as elsewhere in Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolical Constitution of the Church of Christ and The Worship of the Presbyterian Church, on the subject of holy days. In his words, “Presbyterians do not observe holy days [excepting the Christian Sabbath or Lord’s Day].”

What should we call God's holy day? Samuel Miller answers

In January, 1836, Samuel Miller, writing for The Biblical Repertory and Theological Review, addressed a question with which many Christians today still wrestle. What should we properly call the first day of the week, that is, God’s holy day? His ten-page article is titled “The Most Suitable Name for the Christian Sabbath.”

As Miller reviews the history of the title of this day of the week, he considers the Jewish Sabbath, and certain modern objections to a Christian association with that term; distinctions observed in the early Church between “Sabbath,” “Lord’s Day,” and “Sunday;” the Quaker preference for no other designation than “first day of the week;” and the Anglican and Puritan understandings of both the purpose of the day and its appropriate title.

Finally, Miller weighs the origin and meaning of the terms “Sunday,” “Sabbath,” and “Lord’s Day,” and makes his own preference known, giving solid arguments as to why. Consider his reasoning for yourself here. There is much food for thought for us today from a 19th century Presbyterian pastor who loved God’s holy day.

The Most Prolific Authors at Log College Press

As we have been adding writers and their works at Log College Press since 2017, the site has continued to grow. Some of the authors that we highlight here have been tremendously prolific. A review of the official bibliography of William Buell Sprague shows that he is credited with at least 160 published titles, plus a great deal of additional material. Samuel Miller’s bibliography as compiled in 1911 by his grand-daughter, Margaret Miller, runs 22 pages; an updated, annotated, comprehensive bibliography compiled by Wayne Sparkman for The Confessional Presbyterian, Vol. 1 (2005) runs 30 pages. The Archibald Alexander family has a catalogue of their writings which is also quite extensive. A question arises: which author has the most titles on our site currently?

It should be noted that while we have ten volumes of the Works of Thomas Smyth (which each contain many separate writings), the Works of Sprague or of Samuel Miller have never been likewise assembled. Many of our authors have written letters which are listed separately as well as books of sermons which contain many compiled writings. Just one of Alfred Nevin’s titles is his mammoth Encyclopedia of the Presbyterian Church, while the actual text of the mission report of Lewis Johnston, Jr. (the first African-American minister ever ordained by the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America) constitutes just less than one page. It should also be noted that additional writings by some authors found on the Compilations page are not always represented on their personal pages, and are not included in this count. Therefore, for purposes of this snapshot count (as of today) we are measuring each author’s prolificity by the number of titles associated with them as currently represented on the site. Remember that the work of adding their titles is ongoing. Also, note that each volume of, for example, a two or three volume set is counted separately for our purposes here. But as of today, after reviewing all authors with 10 or more titles listed, the results are as follows:

Thus, Samuel Miller, Sr. is our unofficial winner of the title of our “Most Prolific Author to be Found on Log College Press” survey. But as you can see, we have many voluminous writers listed and the numbers will continue to grow. Altogether, by the way, the authors listed above represent 1,253 titles currently available to read on Log College Press. Many more are also available at our Library Index. Be sure to explore our site and learn about the remarkable body of Presbyterian literature that exists here at Log College Press.

A note about the author links above: These links are provided to make easy access to their individual writings. As the website continues to grow and be re-structured, however, it may require URL changes to author pages which will mean that some of these links may be broken in the future. But all authors can be found at the main index here.

Two 19th Century Presbyterians on the Liturgical Calendar: Miller and Van Rensselaer

The observance of the liturgical calendar was a relatively late development in mainstream American Presbyterianism. Julius Melton, in his valuable study Presbyterian Worship in America: Changing Patterns Since 1787, notes that the transition from the Puritan understanding of worship which kept one holy day, the Sabbath, fifty-two times per year, which characterized early American Presbyterianism, to the acceptance of the liturgical calendar, was largely effected in the late 19th century by the efforts of minister Henry Van Dyke, Jr. (1852-1933) and ruling elder Benjamin Bartis Comegys (1819-1900).

But even through the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Southern Presbyterian Church, for example, was noted for its rejection of holy days such as Christmas and Easter. Morton Smith writes:

As the PCUS came into being, it sought to live by these principles [that is, regulative principle of worship articulated in the 108th and 109th questions and answers of the Westminster Larger Catechism] very strictly. That this is the case may be illustrated with regard to the matter of the Church calendar, and the observance of special days, such as, Christmas and Easter. The 58th question of the Shorter Catechism, commenting on the Fourth Commandment, says: “The fourth commandment requireth the keeping holy to God such set times as He hath appointed in His Word; expressly one whole day in seven, to be a holy Sabbath to Himself.” The Assembly of 1899 was asked by an overture to make a “pronounced and explicit deliverance” against the recognition of “Christmas and Easter as religious days.” The following answer was given: “There is no warrant in Scripture for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, rather the contrary (see Gal. 4:9-11; Col. 2:16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, condusive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Generally speaking, this would seem to exclude any church calendar other than the regular Sabbath days of the week (How the Gold is Become Dim: The Decline of the Presbyterian Church, U.S. as Reflected in Its Assembly Actions, pp. 98-99).

Smith goes on to say such days did not become entrenched in the PCUS until the mid-twentieth century. Ernest Trice Thompson also speaks to this issue:

There was, however, no recognition of either Christmas or Easter in any of the Protestant churches, except the Episcopal and Lutheran. For a full generation after the Civil War the religious journals of the South mentioned Christmas only to observe that there was no reason to believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25; it was not recognized as a day of any religious significance in the Presbyterian Church. (Presbyterians in the South, Vol. 2, p. 434).

Thompson further attributes the shift in practice with respect to the calendar to the introduction of Christmas festivities in Sunday Schools, that is, “Christmas tree jollifications,” as they were described by one writer in an 1883 issue of the Southern Presbyterian.

The 20th century Presbyterian embrace of the liturgical calendar is well documented. But to better understand the early American Presbyterian rationale for limiting the church calendar to the weekly Sabbath only, the writings of Samuel Miller and Cortlandt Van Rensselaer may serve as useful resources.

In 1836, Samuel Miller wrote a classic treatise titled Presbyterianism the Truly Primitive and Apostolical Constitution of the Church of Christ. Later a chapter from this work was extracted by the Presbyterian Board of Publication titled “The Worship of the Presbyterian Church.” Both works are available to read at Log College Press here. A significant portion deals with the church calendar: Section II — Presbyterians Do Not Observe Holy Days. Miller lays the groundwork for this by stating the principle for which the Presbyterian Church historically stood in regards to its worship:

A fundamental principle of the Presbyterian Church, in forming her "Directory for the worship of God' is, that here, as in every thing else, Holy Scripture is the only safe guide. One of the earliest practical errors which gained ground in the Christian community, was the adoption of the principle that the ministers of religion might lawfully add, at their pleasure, to the rites and ceremonies of the Church.

Miller goes on to list a number of reasons to explain why Presbyterians do not observe holy days apart from the Christian Sabbath, beginning thus:

Our reasons for entertaining this opinion, are the following:

1. We are persuaded that there is no scriptural warrant for such observances, either from precept or example. There is no hint in the New Testament that such days were either observed or recommended by the Apostles, or by any of the churches in their time. The mention of Easter, in Acts xii. 4, has no application to this subject. Herod was a Jew, not a Christian; and, of course, had no desire to honour a Christian solemnity. The real meaning of the passage is, — as the slightest inspection of the original will satisfy every intelligent reader; "intending after the passover to bring him forth to the people."

2. We believe that the Scriptures not only do not warrant the observance of such days, but that they positively discountenance it. Let any one impartially weigh Colossians ii. 16; and also, Galatians iv. 9, 10, 11; and then say whether these passages do not evidently indicate, that the inspired Apostle disapproved of the observance of such days.

3. The observance of Fasts and Festivals, by divine direction, under the Old Testament economy, makes nothing in favour of such observances under the New Testament dispensation. That economy was no longer binding, or even lawful, after the New Testament Church was set up. It were just as reasonable to plead for the present use of the Passover, the incense, and the burnt offerings of the Old economy, which were confessedly done away by the coming of Christ, as to argue in favour of human inventions, bearing some resemblance to them, as binding in the Christian Church.

Miller proceeds to review the history of the introduction of these festivals into the Christian Church. Following this, he makes a strong assertion and concludes:

7. The observance of uncommanded holy-days is ever found to interfere with the due sanctification of the Lord's day. Adding to the appointments of God is superstition. And superstition has ever been found unfriendly to genuine obedience.

If the foregoing allegations be in any measure well founded; if there be no warrant in God's word for any observances of this kind; if, on the contrary, the Scriptures positively discourage them; if the history of their introduction and increase mark an unhallowed origin; if, when we once open the door to such human inventions, no one can say how or when it may be closed; and if the observance of days, not appointed of God, has ever been found to exert an unfriendly influence on the sanctification of that holy-day which God has appointed, surely we need no further proof that it is wise to discard them from our ecclesiastical system.

In 1842, Cortlandt Van Rensselaer, founder of the Presbyterian Historical Society and head of the Presbyterian Board of Education, wrote a “New Year’s Gift” in response to New Jersey Episcopal Bishop George Washington Doane’s pamphlet “The Rector’s Christmas Offering,” an exposition of the liturgical calendar. This response, Man’s Feasts and Fasts in God’s Church, is a very thorough examination of all the types of festivals endorsed by the Episcopal Church and others (“twenty-eight festivals and nearly one hundred fasts — all holy days of the Church,” divided into several categories by Van Rensselaer), from the perspective of the historic Presbyterian position. This too is available to read at Log College Press here. Van Rensselaer would go on to preach at Bishop Doane’s funeral, but his critique of the liturgical calendar endorsed by Doane is scathing. After 31 pages, he concludes:

I have thus examined the Bishop's ten reasons; and though they are almost equal in number to the Apostles, I have found nothing else apostolic about them. No proof whatever is even attempted from Scripture. This looks as if there was very little Bible in these ceremonies.

These works by Miller and Van Rensselaer ably articulate the historic Presbyterian objections to the introduction of the extra-Biblical liturgical calendar. To fully understand the position of the early American Presbyterian Church in opposition to the church calendar, take time to read the writings of these men for yourself.

Samuel Miller on Dort

The Christian world, since the days of the apostles, had never a synod of more excellent divines (taking one thing with another) than this synod [Westminster] and the Synod of Dort were. — Richard Baxter

The divines of that assembly [Synod of Dort]...were esteemed of the best that all the reformed churches of Europe (that of France excepted) could afford.” — John Owen

The Synod of Dort, that great ecumenical Reformed council, was first convened on November 13, 1618, four hundred years ago today.

Thomas Scott (1747-1821), the famous British Anglican rector and Biblical commentator, published a study of The Articles of the Synod of Dort in 1818. Two decades later, in 1841, Samuel Miller wrote an Introductory Essay to this valuable work that itself is a worthy read. Sprinkle Publications of Harrisonburg, Virginia republished these works together in 1993.

Take time on this historic anniversary to read what Miller and Scott had to say about the great Synod of Dort. It is well worth your 21st century time to better understand this 17th century council through 19th century eyes.

Happy Birthday to Samuel Miller!

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.

The Pseudonyms of Samuel Miller

Students of the writings of Samuel Miller (1769-1850) have several places to go to find a bibliography of his writings.

  • Jeremiah Chamberlain (1794-1851), “Catalog of Books by the Rev’d Samuel Miller D.D.” (n.d.) in Papers, Presbyterian Historical Society;

Miller’s writings are voluminous, and Log College Press is working to add as many as possible to the site. Careful distinctions have to be made between the writings of Samuel Miller the Elder, and his son, Samuel Miller, Jr. (1816-1883); Samuel Miller of the German Reformed Church (1815-1873); Samuel Miller of Glasgow (1810-1881); etc. Some of our Miller’s writings, it may be observed, were published under pseudonyms. They are varied and curious.

  • The Doctrine and Order of the Waldenses. Signed, HistoricusFive articles in The Virginia Evangelical and Literary Magazine, pp. 259-264, 297-301, 370-374, 514-520, of 1820, and pp. 57-63 of 1821. Richmond.

  • Open Letter on the observance of Christmas. Signed Biblicus.  Commercial  Advertiser, Dec. 29, 1825. New York.

  • Remarks on a Certain Extreme in Pursuing the Temperance Cause. Signed, A Friend to Temperance SocietiesIbid., vol. II, 1830, pp. 242-250. Philadelphia.

  • Open Letter on Voluntary Societies, signed Pacificus. The New York Observer, Dec. 3, 1837.

  • Micae Ecclesiasticae, signed BiblicusThree open letters. The Presbyterian, Feb. 9, 16, 23, 1839. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Open Letter "To T L, Esquire," signed Apostolus. The Presbyterian, Feb. 29, 1840. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Licentiates. An open letter, signed Clericus. The Presbyterian, May 21, 1842.

  • Rights of Ruling Elders. An open letter, signed Canonicus. The Presbyterian, May 21, 1842. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Rights of Ruling Elders. A series of five open letters, signed CalvinThe  Presbyterian, Nov. 26, Dec. 3, 10, 17, 24, 1842. Philadelphia and New York.

  • Remarks on Clericus. An open letter, signed S.M. The Presbyterian, Feb. 19, 1848. New York and Philadelphia.

  • The Bishop and the Bible, or, the nail driven home, by “Old Covenanting and True Presbyterian” and Samuel Miller (Albany [NY]: Munsell & Rowland, 1858), 35pp.; 23cm. Under the pseudonym, some 60 works, published between 1714-1981, can be located; the section attributed to “Samuel Miller” is an outline of a sermon on women’s rights, or rather, the rights of women in all ages, stations and nations. Given the date of publication, the work is more likely authored by some other Miller, perhaps his son. Copies of this particular work were located at the Upper Hudson Library System and at the Wisconsin Historical Society.

These pseudonyms tell us something about the writer, and the emphasis he wished to place on particular writings. The full survey of Samuel Miller’s written corpus has yet to be assembled, but we are working at Log College Press, along with others, to advance that worthy project.

Samuel Miller on Spiritual Weapons for the Christian Soldier

In an 1826 sermon delivered at the Second Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland, on the occasion of the installation of John Breckinridge in the pastoral office there, titled Christian Weapons Not Carnal, But Spiritual (based on the text from 2 Corinthians 10:4: "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds"), Samuel Miller explains both the defensive and offensive spiritual weapons that Christians have at their disposal in the spiritual warfare that all saints must face in this earthly pilgrimage. 

After first discussing the carnal weapons which Miller says the Apostle means to exclude from the Christian's armament, he delineates the Christian's defensive spiritual weapons from Ephesians 6. 

The same apostle who penned our text, in the sixth chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, speaks at large of the christian armour; describing its several parts, and showing the use of each. In that place it served his purpose to speak chiefly, though not exclusively, of the christian's DEFENSIVE ARMOUR; such as the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation; which belong to all believers. 

But in the passage before us, he had occasion to refer partictularly to the weapons of CHRISTIAN MINISTERS, and more especially to those of the OFFENSIVE kind; or those which are important, not merely for the protection and defence of their own persons; but also for attacking and vanquishing the enemies of their Master.

The offensive spiritual weapons at the disposal or Christians, or Christian ministers, for overcoming the spiritual forces that wage war against the Church, according to Miller, include the following:

  • The Christian's "grand weapon" is the WORD OF GOD, which is the "sword of the Spirit" spoken of in Ephesian 6;
  • The RIGHT ADMINISTRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS, whereby "the 'sacramental host' of God's people are embodied and arrayed, in the sight of the enemy's camp; and an epitome of their religion, as it were, addressed to the senses of every beholder";
  • The HOLY DISCIPLINE OF THE CHURCH is the outworking of the keys of the kingdom given to Christ's ambassadors;
  • FERVENT, IMPORTUNATE PRAYER is one of the most powerful tools in the arsenal of every believer, whereby God is called upon to act and to defend his own cause, while saints are thereby strengthened; and
  • HOLY EXAMPLE, as Miller says: "It was long ago enjoined by the Saviour himself — Let your light shine before men, that others, seeing your good works, may glorify your Father in heaven." Thus have many enemies of Christ been converted from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light after seeing the faithful example of believers and martyrs. 

    The whole sermon by MIller was a fitting word for one beginning the pastoral ministry, and remains a powerful exposition of what is meant by carnal and spiritual weapons. This division between defensive and offensive spiritual weapons is a good one for believers to keep in mind since we have need of both to protect ourselves from the evil one, and to do what we can, by the grace of God, and the power of His Spirit, to advance the work of the kingdom of Christ on earth. 

Samuel Miller on the High Calling of Parenting

Samuel Miller, in his discourses on the guilt, folly, and sources of suicide (a booklet we hope to reprint soon, Lord willing), has a marvelous paragraph about parenting. May the Lord enable every Christian parent to take these words to heart and live them out to some degree:

Parents! You see the numerous dangers to which the traveler through this vale of tears is exposed. How should your solicitude be excited, your zeal be roused, and all the tender anxieties of parental affection be called into exercise, in behalf of your Offspring, who are entering on the journey of life, and about to encounter all its perils! You are the guardians of their health and lives, you form their morals, you direct their pursuits, you are the depositories of their happiness in this world, and, in a degree, in that which is to come. With what unceasing care, then, should you imbue their minds with correct principles! With what sacred fidelity should you put them on their guard against the licentious opinions of the age, against the contagion of evil company, and against the destructive habits of intemperance and sloth! With what devout tenderness should you exhort them, warn them, pray over them, and endeavor to win them, both by precept and example, to the love and fear, as well as to the knowledge of God! O Parents! were these things duly considered, what a revolution should we witness in your mode of treating your children! We should see you more attentive to domestic instruction and discipline, than to the frivolities of a fashionable education. We should see you embracing every opportunity to inculcate on their minds, that virtue is superior to wealth; that holiness is a distinction infinitely more valuable than the magnificence and honors of this world. We should see you, in a word, making their moral and religious culture your chief concern, and studying daily to impress upon their hearts the conviction that, to fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole duty and happiness of man.