Samuel Miller & Thomas Jefferson

Samuel Miller’s Assessment of Thomas Jefferson

Dr. Samuel MillerI found this interesting. In 1808, Dr. Samuel Miller wrote to President Thomas Jefferson, suggesting that the President declare a day of fasting and prayer. This would have been at a point in time when Miller was a pastor in New York City, and prior to his 1813 appointment to serve as a professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary. President Jefferson replied to Miller in a somewhat lengthy letter, declining the suggestion and stating his principles for doing so. While Jefferson’s reasoning is interesting in itself, particularly in contrast with the conduct of contemporary politics, Miller’s later (1833) assessment of Jefferson is also worthy of reflection. We might also examine whether, or how, Miller’s conclusion that “It was wrong for a minister of the gospel to seek any intercourse with such a man,” reflects on current discussions about the doctrine of the spirituality of the Church.
[The short version of this matter is posted here first. For those that want to read deeper, there was a fuller discussion of the subject earlier in Miller’s biography, reproduced below.]

Excerpted from The Life of Samuel Miller, vol. 1, pp. 235ff. (available online, here.):—


Mr. Jefferson was approaching the commencement of his last year in the Presidency, when Dr. Miller wrote to him a letter, and received a reply, in regard to which, after the lapse of twenty-five years, the latter made the following memorandum:–

“I can never read this letter [Mr. Jefferson’s] but with regret and shame. At the time in which it was written, I was a warm and zealous partizan in favor of Mr. Jefferson’s administration.. I substantially agreed with him in political principles, without being aware of the rottenness of his moral and religious opinions. I had written to him, urging him to recommend to the nation a day of religious observance, on account of the peculiarly solemn and interesting circumstances, in which we were placed as a people. I informed him that a number of serious persons, (clergymen and others,) of different denominations, had thoughts of formally addressing him on the subject, and, as a body, requesting him to appoint a day of special prayer. I stated that I was very desirous of his appointing such a day, and had thought of uniting in the effort to secure a joint address; but that, before doing so, I wished to know, whether it would be disagreeable to him to receive such an application; assuring him that neither I nor my associates in this plan, had any wish to embarrass him; and that, if it would give him pain to be thus addressed, I would endeavor to prevent the adoption of the proposed measure. To this communication his letter was an answer.

‘ I now (1833) feel, that I was utterly wrong in thus writing; and, if I had known the real character of the man, I should never have done it. It was wrong for a minister of the gospel to seek any intercourse with such a man. It was wrong so far to consult his feelings, as to oppose a formal and joint address, that he might be spared the pain of refusing.’ Continue reading “Samuel Miller & Thomas Jefferson”


Samuel Miller on Literary Degrees


The practice of conferring honors of literary institutions on individuals of distinguished erudition, commenced in the twelfth century, when the Emperor Lothaire, having found in Italy a copy of the Roman law, ordained that it should be publicly expounded in the schools; and that he might give encouragement to the study, he further ordered that the public professors of this law should be dignified with the title of Doctors. The first person created a doctor, after this ordinance of the Emperor, was Bulgarius Hugolinus, who was greatly distinguished for his learning and literary labors. Not long afterwards, the practice of creating doctors was borrowed from the lawyers by divines also, who in their schools publicly taught divinity, and conferred degrees upon those who had made great proficiency in science. The plan of conferring degrees in divinity, was first adopted in the Universities of Bologna, Oxford, and Paris. (See Mather’s Magnalia, Christi Americana, B, IV, p. 134.)

It is remarkable that the celebrated Dr. Samuel Johnson, when he had become eminent in literature, could not obtain the degree of Master of Arts, from Trinity College, Dublin, though powerful interests were made in his behalf for this purpose, by Mr. Pope, Lord Gower, and others.—Instances of the failure of similar applications, made in favor of characters still more distinguished than Johnson then was, are also on record. So cautious and reserved were literary institutions, a little more than half a century ago, in bestowing their honors.

Miller’s Life of John Rodgers.

[excerpted from The Christian Observer, vol. xxix, no. 3 (19 January 1850): page 1, column 4.]



Three New Books on Princeton Seminary, Part 3

The last of these three new books published in commemoration of the 200h anniversary of the founding of the Princeton Theological Seminary is also edited by Dr. James M. Garretson. It is titled Past0r-Teachers of old Princeton. That title by itself might be a little misleading, but the subtitle spells out more clearly the book’s content : Memorial Addresses for the Faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921. Obviously that 1921 date takes the content up through the death of Dr. Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, and even the title evokes Machen’s comment on the death of Warfield, that “old Princeton had died.”
Where some the content found in the first two volumes might be found elsewhere, these funeral addresses and obituaries provide rich biographical reading that hasn’t been readily available until now. On a more minor note, Pastor-Teachers of old Princeton appears to have gone to the printer first, before the other two volumes, judging from dates found in the prefaces. That would then explain why this volume lacks the birth and death dates as a feature in the table of contents. The addition of those dates is a nice feature which must have been a subsequent improvement.  I’ve added those dates for your reference, below.

Contents :
“Mark the Perfect Man,” by Charles Hodge [an obituary upon the death of a Princeton student, age 22].
Introduction, by Dr. James M. Garretson
• “A Sermon on the Death of Dr. Archibald Alexander,” by the Rev. John Hall.
• “Archibald Alexander, D.D.,” Address by William M. Paxton.
• “The Life of Archibald Alexander,” A Review by Charles Hodge.
SAMUEL MILLER [1769-1850]
• “Funeral Sermon Occasioned by the Death of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller,” by Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander.
• “A Discourse Commemorative of the Life of the Late Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D. of Princeton, N.J.,” by the Rev. H.A. Boardman.
• “Brief Biographical Notice of Dr. Miller.”
• “A Discourse Commemorative of the Rev. Samuel Miller, D.D., Late Professor in the Theological Seminary at Princeton,” by William B. Sprague.
• “The Life of Samuel Miller; A Review.”
• “He Preached Christ,” A Sermon by the Rev. Charles Hodge.
• “Remember These Things” A Sermon by the Rev. John Hall.
• “James Waddell Alexander” An Address by Theodore L. Cuyler.
• “Obsequies of Dr. J. Addison Alexander” by the Rev. John Hall.
• “Joseph Addison Alexander, D.D.” Address by William C. Cattell.
• “The Life of Joseph Addison Alexander, D.D.,” A Review.
CHARLES HODGE [1797-1878]
• “Address” by William M. Paxton.
• “A Tribute” by Charles A. Aiken.
• “Memorial Discourse” by Henry A. Boardman.
• “Minute Adopted by the Board of Directors.”
• “A Discourse Commemorative of the Late Dr. Charles Hodge” by Lyman A. Atwater.
• “The Life of Charles Hodge,” A Review by Francis L. Patton.
• “Funeral Address” by A. A. Hodge.
• “Commemorative Sermon” by John De Witt.
• “Address Delivered at the Funeral of Archibald Alexander Hodge” by William M. Paxton.
• “A Discourse in Memory of Archibald Alexander Hodge” by Francis L. Patton.
• “Address at the Funeral of Rev. Alexander Taggart M’Gill” by W. Henry Green.
• “In Memoriam”
• “A Memorial Address” by W. Henry Green.
• “Memorial Tablet to Dr. James C. Moffat, D.D.” by John De Witt.
• “A Memorial Address” by Francis L. Patton.
• “The Life and Work of William Henry Green: A Commemorative Address” by John D. Davies.
• “Discourse at the Funeral Service of William M. Paxton” by John De Witt.
• “A Memorial Discourse” by Benjamin B. Warfield.
• “Obituary,” Princeton Theological Review, April 1921.
• “A Memorial Address” by Francis L. Patton.
Index, pp. 553-565.

Three New Books on Princeton Seminary

This being the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey, the Banner of Truth Trust has just published three new books in commemoration of the occasion.

Thanks to a very kind donor in Pennsylvania, we are able to add these new titles to the research library at the PCA Historical Center. As we are only today accessioning the books, I haven’t had time to look them over, so won’t offer a review at this time. But I can provide a look at the table of contents for each book. Dr. James M. Garretson serves as compiler and editor of all three of these books, providing introductions and biographical sketches as well. The first two volumes form a set addressing the subject of Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry. The third volume, Pastor-Teachers of old Princeton, is a gathering of “memorial addresses for the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary, 1812-1921.

Princeton and the Work of the Christian Ministry.
Contents of Volume 1

Foreword by Dr. David B. Calhoun
Preface and Introduction by Dr. James M. Garretson
• “A Golden Jubilee: A Discourse Addressed to the Alumni of the Seminary,” by William Buell Sprague.
• “A Brief History of Princeton Theological Seminary,” by Samuel Miller.
• “The Duty of the Church: The Sermon Delivered at the Inauguration of Rev. Archibald Alexander as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology,” by Samuel Miller.
• “An Inaugural Discourse,” by Archibald Alexander.
• “A Charge to the Professor and Students of Divinity,” by Philip Milledoler.
• “Preface to the Memoirs of Thomas Halyburton.”
• “On the Nature of Vital Piety: Introductory Essay to Advice to a Young Christian.”
• “Evidences of a New Heart.”
• “The Cure of Souls: Introduction to Pastoral Reminiscences.”
• “Pastoral Fidelity and Diligence: Review of Gildas Salvianus; or, The Reformed Pastor.”
• The Character of the Genuine Theologian.”
• “On the Importance of Aiming at Eminent Piety.”
• “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth.”
• “The Pastoral Office.”
• “Thoughts on the Education of Pious and Indigent Candidates for the Ministry.”
• “A Missionary Sermon.”
• “Christ in the Midst: Address at the Dedication of a New Church Building.”
• “Lectures on the Shorter Catechism: A Review.”
• “The Duty of Catechetical Instruction.”
• “Suggestions in Vindication of Sunday Schools.”
• “The Use and Abuse of Books.”
IV. SAMUEL MILLER [1769-1850]
• “The Force of Truth: Recommendatory Letter for The Force of Truth: An Authentic Narrative.”
• “The Life of M’Cheyne: An Introductory Letter to The Memoir and Remains of R.M. M’Cheyne.”
• “The Difficulties and Temptations which Amend the Preaching of the Gospel in Great Cities.”
• “A Sermon on the Work of Evangelists and Missionaries.”
• “A Sermon on the Public Worship of God.”
• “Christian Weapons Not Carnal But Spiritual.”
• “The Importance of the Gospel Ministry.”
• “The Importance of Mature Preparatory Study for the Ministry.”
• “Holding Fast the Faithful Word.”
• “A Plea for an Enlarged Ministry.”
• “Christ The Model of Gospel Ministers.”
• “The Sacred Office Magnified.”
• “Ecclesiastical Polity.”
• “The Duty, Benefits, and Proper Method of Religious Fasting.”
• “Revivals of Religion.” (Parts 1 & 2)
• “Christian Education.”

To keep our posts short, I’ll post the contents of the other two volumes in separate entries tomorrow. These look like great compilations of some very valuable material. Some of these sermons and addresses may be available in digital format on the Internet and elsewhere, but much of the content is otherwise unavailable. Besides, who doesn’t prefer the convenience and ready access of a good book?

Passports to the Table – Samuel Miller on Tokens (1837)

Use of Tokens

[excerpted from The Charleston Observer 11.2 (Sat., 14 Jan. 1837): 6, col. 2]

The enquiry [sic] is often made whence originated the use of tokens at one period in this country, so extensively in the Presbyterian Church, but now almost obsolete? The following answer from the Rev. Dr. Miller of Princeton, to the Editor of the Southern Religious Telegraph, appears to us satisfactory. — Philadelphia Obs.

“The use of Tokens had its origin in the churches of Scotland. At the commencement of the Reformation in the country, the Lord’s Supper was administered four times in each year. Afterwards, for reasons altogether insufficient, as I suppose, that ordinance came to be administered less frequently ; in none more than twice. The consequence of this arrangement was, that, whenever the ordinance was dispensed in each church, it was made an ecclesiastical occasion. The pastors of three, four, or five neighboring churches left their own pulpits on that day, went to the aid of their brother, and took the mass of their congregations with them, to enjoy the privilege of communing with their sister church. The sacramental service was commonly preceded by preaching on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, one of which days was observed as a Sacramental Fast ; and the Monday following the Sabbath as a day of Thanksgiving. This, of course, gave rise to much preaching, which rendered the presence and aid of several ministers highly desirable, if not necessary. When the Sabbath came, the Ministers, Ruling Elders and Communicants of four or five different churches were all assembled, and gathered round the same sacramental table. In these circumstances, the question arose, How should those who were really communicants, in good standing, be distinguished from unworthy intruders, who belonged to no church, and were perhaps even profligate ; but who, from unworthy motives, might thrust themselves into the seats of worthy communicants, and thus produce disorder and scandal? To meet this difficulty, the plan was adopted, to deposite [sic]in the hands of each pastor and his elders, a parcel of cheap metallic pieces, called “Tokens,” which they were to dispense to all the known members of their own church, who were in attendance, and wished to commune. Thus, although not a quarter part of the communicants were personally known to the pastor or elders of the church in which the sacramental service occurred ; yet those cheap and convenient little certificates of church membership, (for such they were intended to be) being received by each communicant, from the minister and elder of his own church, prevented imposition and secured regularity and order.

Such was the origin of Tokens. They were then of solid use. And wherever similar circumstances and practices exist now, they or something equivalent, may be usefully emplayed [sic]. As in many other cases, however, they have been long used, both in this country and in Europe, where the circumstances which brought them into use no longer exist. But it does appear to me that the use of these passports to the communion table, in cases in which the members of a single church only (every one of whom is known to the minister and elders) are about to commune, is a strange, if not a ludicrous example of the pertinacity with which good people cleave to old habits, when the reasons for them have entirely ceased.