January 7: Dr. Samuel Miller [1769-1850]

Dr. Samuel Miller“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”

It was on this day, January 7th, in 1850, that the esteemed Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller passed from this earth to stand before His Lord and Savior. Dr. Miller had long served as professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at the Princeton Theological Seminary. The Seminary had been established in 1812, and Dr. Miller was installed as the Seminary’s second professor in 1813, joining Dr. Archibald Alexander in the work. Miller proceeded to labor at this post until his retirement in 1849. The following text presents first that portion of the Report from the Board of Directors of the Seminary concerning Miller’s decease, and then in the second paragraph, the official response of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. as it met that same year. Drawn from Samuel Baird’s Digest (1855), pp. 303-304:—

174. Obituary notice of Dr. Miller, of Princeton Seminary.

1850, p. 621. [The Board of Directors of the Princeton Seminary report that] “at the tme of this inauguration, [of Dr. J.W. Alexander,] the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, Emeritus Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government, who had been appointed by the Board to take a part in the exercises, was unable to be present by reason of the feeble state of his health. He continued gradually to sink, honouring religion, and enjoying in a high degree its supports and consolations, until on the 7th day of January, 1850, he departed this life in the eighty-first year of his age; having been Professor from the year 1813. The Board would here express their grateful sense of the divine goodness, in raising up for the Seminary in its infancy a man of such distinguished personal excellence, and such fitness for the high and important office in which he was so ably, so successfully, and so long employed.

p. 465. Resolved, That the Assembly record with deep emotion the decease of the venerable Professor Emeritus of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government, Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, of whom becoming mention is made in the Report by the Board; and while the Church is, in this dispensation of Divine Providence, called to mourn the departure of one who has long stood among the foremost in her counsels, and in her confidence—one of the most prominent and able defenders of her faith and order—one of the staunchest friends of all her benevolent institutions—one whose conspicuous talents, ripe judgment, and elevated piety, made him eminently a fit model and a safe guide for her rising ministry; and whose rare excellence and purity of character beautifully exemplified, in the eyes of all who knew him, that religion to the cause of which his life was devoted—it is matter of profound thankfulness that such a man was raised up to the Church, and spared to her through so many years of usefulness, and permitted to perform so valuable a part in founding our first Theological Seminary—which has served to a great extent as the model of all our after institutions—in arranging its plan and giving it establishment; and that it was not until this great work of his life was done, and he had ceased from the active discharge of these duties, that he was taken to his glorious reward.

Excerpted from A Collection of the Acts, Deliverances, and Testimonies of The Supreme Judicatory of the Presbyterian Church, from its origin in America to the present time: with Notes and Documents explanatory and historical: constituting a complete illustration of her polity, faith, and history, by Samuel J. Baird. Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1855, pp. 303-304.

Words to Live By:
In my work at the PCA Historical Center, I have been struck over the years at how just a very few in the Church are accorded an extra measure of respect and admiration. Those who knew them honor their memory as ones marked by an unusual depth of character, an undeniable piety, who were circumspect in all their dealings with others. Samuel Miller was such a man. So too was Dr. Robert G. Rayburn, of whom we wrote this past Monday, and Harold Samuel Laird was yet another. Would that all Christians had that same bearing and could command similar respect. Is that possible? How does one come to be such a person? There is no easy answer. The only answer I have thus far is that we must live our lives as close to the Lord as possible, always quick to confess our sins, and with our eyes fixed on Christ, (in the words of Eugene Peterson) striving to live “a long obedience in the same direction”.

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