and solemnity of the work to which they were destined. In his occasional meetings with them in private—in his own house or elsewhere—he always made them feel that they were in the presence of a friend, and often, by some wise counsel or some timely suggestion, left an enduring impression in favor of truth or right.

Such in general was the character of Dr. Miller's professorship. And now when we consider the length of the period through which it extended, and the great number-amounting to more than seventeen hundred—who were brought under its direct influence, and when we bear in mind that they have been scattered through every portion of our land as representatives of the seminary at which they have been trained, can we doubt that Dr. Miller lived pre-eminently for the benefit of his country and the world. Are there not multitudes now engaged in the ministry, and not a few even in heathen lands, who think reverently and gratefully of him, as one of the honored instruments by which they were formed for their high vocation? Do not the pulsations of his noble spirit vibrate to this hour in many a proclamation, from other lips, of the words of eternal life? And as the world grows old from the passing away of the ages, who can doubt that the good work that he performed will continue to develop itself in fresh accessions of light and strength and glory to that blessed cause to which he was so earnestly devoted.

There is one more relation in which Dr. Miller must be considered, or we shall fail to do justice to his eminently useful life-wc mean that of an author. The productions of his pen began to appear very shortly after he became a settled pastor; and they came at brief intervals almost till the close of his life. The versatility of his mind, and the variety and extent of his knowledge, made him at home in almost every field, whether literary or theological.

Dr. Miller's occasional sermons and addresses that were given to the public, through the press, were not far from forty-the first having been delivered the very next month after he was ordained, and the last a few years before his death. These discourses are generally of a high order, being especially reinarkable for their adaptation to the various occasions that called them forth. They are all so good, that it would be difficult to determine which are the best ; and yet, in casting our eye over them, the sermons on suicide, the sermon at the inauguration of Dr. Alexander, the sermon at the ordination and installation of the Rev. William Nevins, and the sermon on the danger of education in Roman Catholic seminaries, seem to us to have done, perhaps, the most ample justice to their respective themes. We exceedingly doubt whether any other minister of the Presbyterian Church in this country has published so large a number of occasional discourses, all of which have been so worthy of enduring preservation.

The number of volumes for which we are indebted to Dr. Miller's pen, if our estimate be correct, is thirteen. The first two are his “Brief Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century,” published in 1803. This work discovered an amount of laborious research, and of familiarity with the various departments of learning, that surprised even Dr. Miller's most intimate friends; and the marvel was, that the same man who could preach regularly on the Sabbath in so instructive and acceptable a manner, and who was so constant and faithful in the discharge of pastoral duty, could yet redeem time from his manifold professional engagements, to produce so elaborate and attractive a work as this. It was dedicated to the celebrated John Dickinson, President of the State of Delaware, who acknowledged the honor in very fitting and grateful terms. It was received with great favor by the more intelligent class of readers in this country, and was also published in Great Britain, where also it was met by many warm expressions of commendation. Though many years have passed since it was to be found in any of our bookstores, it may reasonably be doubted whether there is any work, treating of the same subjects, and covering the same period, that can be read with more advantage than this “Retrospect of the Eighteenth Century

Two of Dr. Miller's larger works were memoirs; the one published in 1813, the other in 1840; and both were worthy alike of his head and of his heart. The former was the me. moir of his venerable colleague, Dr. Rodgers, with whom he

[ocr errors]

had been associated in the pastoral office eighteen years. As Dr. Rodgers was ordained in 1749, and, of course, was among the early ministers of the Presbyterian Church, the record of his life involved, necessarily, to some extent, the history of the body with which he was connected; and we can hardly imagine how this service could have been performed in a more felicitous manner. At the same time, one is constantly kept in mind of the tenderness of the relation that existed between Dr. Miller and his colleague; and, while there is nothing in the book that savors of extravagant praise, there is every thing to show that it was written under the influence of a grateful and reverent spirit. The other memoir is that of the Rev. Dr. Nisbet, the first president of Dickinson College,-a man who was justly reckoned among the celebrities of his time. At the time this memoir was written, Dr. Miller was one of the few men living who had personal recollections of Dr. Nisbet, that could be rendered available in a biography; and it was well that so faithful and gifted a pen should have been employed upon so worthy a subject. Not only does the volume contain a very satisfactory account of his connection with Dickinson College, and of what he did, and what he was in his various relations during his residence in this country, but it also traces his eventful history in Scotland, especially showing the value of his services in connection with the interests of evangelical religion. As Dr. Nisbet's character was strongly marked, so Dr. Miller's account of him is full of simplicity and beauty, and worthy to be an enduring memorial of one whom both hemispheres may well consider it a privilege to honor.

Several of Dr. Miller's publications, and those, too, which had the widest circulation, were of a decidedly controversial character. In 1807 he published his letters on the “Constitution and Order of the Christian Ministry ;” and, two years later, published another work on the same subject in reply to strictures from several Episcopal clergymen, which the preceding work had called forth. In October, 1820, he preached a sermon at the ordination of the Rev. William Nevins, as pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, in which were some very plain utterances concerning Unitarianism.

The sermon was noticed in the Unitarian Miscellany, a periodical then published in Baltimore, with marked disapprobation; and this seems to have been the occasion of Dr. Miller's

1 writing a series of "Letters on Unitarianism,” making an octavo volume of upward of three hundred pages. In 1840 he published a volume, entitled “ The Primitive and Apostolical Order of the Church of Christ Vindicated,” containing a somewhat elaborate view of the claims of Presbyterianism and the objections to Episcopacy. Several other of his works, especially his “ Essay on the Office of Ruling Elder," and his “Sermons on Baptism,” have more or less of a controversial bearing. While Dr. Miller's natural gentleness of spirit and love of peace disinclined him to controversy, his clear and comprehensive mind, his freedom from prejudice and love of the truth, eminently qualified him for it; and hence he may be regarded as one of our best authorities in that department of theological literature. While his aim was to confound his adversary by unanswerable arguments, and to bring out what he believed to be the truth in the light of noonday, he never sought aid from vague insinuations or bitter invective; never forgot his own personal dignity even in the closest conflict in which he could be engaged. It is within our distinct recollection that an individual who had held for some time the relation of a vigorous opponent to him in a theological controversy, assured us that he was deeply impressed by his uniformly fair and gentlemanly bearing, and that, much as he differed from him, he could not but regard him with the highest respect.

Several other of Dr. Miller's works deserve special notice, both for the subjects to which they relate, and the able and interesting manner in which the subjects are treated. In 1827 he published a series of “Letters on Clerical Manners and IIabits, addressed to a student of the Theological Seminary at Princeton,” which have passed through several editions, and which deserve to pass through many more.

These letters convey a most accurate impression of the writer's own character; and none who read them and knew him, will need to look at the title-page to settle the question of authorship. We have beard it objected that some of the rules are too minute, and therefore unnecessary; but that they are not unnecessary is proved by the fact that they are very often violated, and that at the expense of lowering ministerial character and influence. 'In 1843 Dr. Miller published another small volume, containing “ Letters from a Father to his Sons in College;" and these again are adapted in the most felicitous manner to the end for which they are designed. They include every subject that a college student has occasion to consider; and it would be well if the work could be introduced as a manual in all our higher institutions of learning. In 1848 he published a work entitled “Thoughts on Public Prayer,"—the last, we believe, that came from his pen; and we know of nothing better fitted to aid and encourage the spirit of devotion on the one hand, or to render the exercise edifying and profitable on the other.

There are some other of Dr. Miller's works to which we might refer as evidence of the high place which he attained in the ranks of authorship, but enough has been said to show that he was among the most accomplished and most voluminous writers of his day. Considering the great number and variety of his productions—literary, theological, controversial, practical, and devotional; considering that nearly all of them have passed to a second or third edition, and have been received with great favor in every part of our country, while some have attracted much attention on the other side of the Atlantic; and finally, considering that they are still, and are likely to be for generations to come, the channels of a benign influence to the church; can we doubt that here was one of the elements of his greatest power; that though he might have been a great and good and eminently useful man, if he had never been known as an author, yet that, but for this, he could have not lived as he has done, and now does, in the thoughts and feelings of multitudes who never saw him.

After having thus glanced at Dr. Miller's life, and traced some of its results in the different departments of active usefulness, it is natural that we should contemplate what he did in connection with the higher power by which his character was formed, and his destiny controlled.

Dr. Miller possessed, originally, admirable qualities that

« ElőzőTovább »