This Day in Presbyterian History:
If You are Number Two, Do You Try Harder?
Samuel Miller was definitely number two among that faculty of Princeton Seminary that year of September 29, 1813. Started only one year before, Archibald Alexander was the first professor of the Presbyterian Seminary with only a handful of students. As another war with Britain was raging (the War of 1812), it was a trying time for a smooth start. On top of that, the students of Princeton College were anything but spiritual. College pranks had brought the college close to shutting down. Samuel Miller, fresh from a pastoral experience in a city church, would arrive on the campus and quickly became a force for spiritual good at both the seminary and the college, even in his position as Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government.
Helping this whole process were a number of personal resolutions which Miller wrote down for himself, as a way of guiding his relationship with other people at both the college and the seminary. Those resolutions are too long to print here, but two of them speak to Christian people being in a supporting role, whether in the church, your called profession, or in any organization.
Number 3 reads, “I will endeavor, by the grace of God, so to conduct myself toward my colleague in the seminary, as never 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.”
Number 4 reads, “. . . Resolved, therefore, that, by the grace of God, while I will carefully avoid giving offence to my college, 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 consequence—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 context. What am I, that I should prefer my own honor or exaltation to the cause of my blessed Master.”
These were only two of the seven resolutions. But even considering these two alone, what would be the result in our churches if both officers and members would more fully reflect in their character and conduct these two resolutions. Truth and duty indeed were the only two exceptions to the rule. Otherwise, the guiding principle was to always esteem others more highly than yourself.
Words to live by: Samuel Miller wrote above, “I will give up all my own claims, rather than let the cause of Christ suffer by animosity or conflict.” What a magnanimous spirit! What a change this would cause in many local churches, to say nothing of our evangelical and Reformed denominations, if all the officers and members possessed Samuel Miller’s spirit. Examine yourself, dear reader, or examine your small group, or examine your local fellowship. How do you measure up? What can be done if you find your character and conduct lacking? Is it not time for a revival of religion in your circles?
Through the Scriptures : Daniel 10 – 12
Through the Standards: Limitations of Vows
“No man may vow to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he has not promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.”