July 2013

You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2013.

For today’s post, we have the Rev. Caleb Cangelosi, pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Cookeville, TN, as our guest author, writing on one of the most renowned men of the old Southern Presbyterian Church.

It is a great honor to be elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of a Presbyterian denomination. Yet one man was given this honor twice. His name was William Swan Plumer, and though he has fallen out of general knowledge in our days, he was a titan of the nineteenth century Presbyterian church. Moses Drury Hoge, who served under Dr. Plumer for several years in Richmond, Virginia, had this to say about his mentor:

plumerws02Probably no man in our time was more widely known in these United States than Dr. Plumer. His reputation as a preacher secured for him great audiences wherever he went. Those who did not care for the ordinances of God’s house, and who rarely attended any place of worship, would flock to any church where it was known that he would officiate. He touched society at so many points and had so many ways of impressing himself on the public that his reputation extended far and wide. As an editor; as a contributor to the periodical press; writing for reviews, for magazines, for the publication boards of all denominations; as the author of commentaries on the Scriptures, and many religious books, some of which were republished in Europe, and others translated into German, French and Modern Greek; as a professor in two theological seminaries, which have sent forth hundreds of ministers, with his impress upon them, to labor in every part of the world; as a lecturer before literary institutions and benevolent associations; as a correspondent, writing innumerable letters, especially to those whom he knew to be afflicted and bereaved, letters full of sympathy and consolation; in all these and many other ways, he gained the eye, the ear and heart of the great public, by availing himself of every channel of communication and every avenue of usefulness.

Born on this day in 1802, Dr. Plumer passed into glory on October 22, 1880. Thus his life spanned nearly the entire nineteenth century, and his ministry traversed the high points of that century’s controversies. He was born in Greersburg, Pennsylvania, a small town northwest of Pittsburgh, to Presbyterian parents. His family eventually settled in Washington County, Ohio, along the banks of the Ohio River outside present day Marietta. His father was a river trader, and as he grew up he desired to obtain a liberal education and one day become a doctor.

Though he had grown up in a Presbyterian home, hearing the gospel from his earliest days, yet it was not until the age of 17 that the Lord saw fit to convert him, through the ministry of a Congregationalist minister serving in a Presbyterian Church under the 1801 Plan of Union. In Plumer’s own words, “I surrendered to God’s will & ways. I saw a beauty & fitness in the plan of salvation. I saw it was right that God should rule everywhere, in particular in me & over me. I at once desired to honor him in every possible way, &, in particular, if he would open the way, I desired to serve him in the ministry of the gospel. For my idol, medicine, I now cared nothing. I was not ashamed to let all the world know that I loved Christ.” His sense of call to the ministry accompanied his conversion, and he moved to Lewisburg, Virginia, to study at the classical school of Dr. John McElhenny. In 1822 he began attending Washington College, in Lexington, Virginia, and in 1825 he enrolled at Princeton Seminary. He completed his studies in September 1826, and was ordained as an evangelist in May 1827.

His ministry was primarily in the South. He planted several churches across Virginia and North Carolina, and after marrying in 1829 he became the Stated Supply of Briery Church in Prince Edward County, Virginia. In October 1830 he was, for the first time, installed as pastor of Tabb Street Presbyterian Church in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1834, he moved to First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Virginia, where he labored until 1846. It was during this pastorate that he cemented his reputation as a preacher, presbyter, and theologian. He was present as a commissioner at the 1837 General Assembly that saw the Plan of Union abrogated, and the Old School and New School split. In fact, though only 34 years old, he was one of the primary advocates for abrogation; William Henry Foote states that Plumer’s speech “changed the fate of the question,” swaying those on the fringe to vote against the Plan of Union. Upon returning home, and discovering that Amasa Converse and his Southern Religion Telegraph supported the New School, Plumer began the Watchman of the South, an Old School newspaper he edited until 1845. Due to Plumer’s sound theology and wide influence, the 1838 General Assembly elected him as Moderator at the young age of 35.

In 1847, Plumer was called to Franklin Street Presbyterian Church in Baltimore, Maryland. Here he began writing in earnest, and became what Moses Drury Hoge alluded to, one of the most prolific authors the Presbyterian Church in America has known. His writings were of a practical nature, yet they were filled with theological meat as well, as evidenced by his election in 1854 to the chair of Didactic and Pastoral Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. His Christ-centered and experientially-oriented piety is clearly seen in his Inaugural Address to the Seminary:

In proportion as men are truly pious, they make [Christ] the foundation and top-stone, the sum and substance and centre of all their hopes and rejoicings. He is believed on in the world, not merely because there is no other way of salvation, but because this way is so admirably adapted to all the necessities of sinners, and because it brings glory to God in the highest. The true believer not only trusts in Christ; he glories in him. He not only makes mention of him; he admits none into comparison with him…We sadly err, when we begin in the spirit, and end in the flesh; when we regard Christ as the author but not the finisher of faith. A legal spirit is the bane of piety. It is as great a foe to comfort as it is to gospel grace. Through the law believers are dead to the law that they might live unto God. This is the gospel plan. Here is the secret of growing conformity to God. Here is power, here is wisdom, here is life. We are complete in him.

Though nineteenth century Presbyterians, especially in the South, are well known for their reflection on ecclesiology, Plumer’s writings demonstrate that there was a breadth and depth to their theologizing that we often fail to see in them.

Plumer’s time at Western Seminary came to an end in 1862, as members of the Central Presbyterian Church (which he had pastored since 1855) became upset that he would not during corporate worship ask “God’s blessing upon the Government of our country in its efforts to suppress rebellion,” nor would he “give thanks to God for the victories which God has granted our armies.” Some have interpreted his inaction as due to pacifism. It is more likely that he was motivated by a conviction that the question of the war was a political question with which God’s ministers had nothing to do as such, coupled perhaps with Southern sympathies. Further research would be needed to discover the truth, but in any event, he resigned both pulpit and seminary chair, and five years later the Southern Presbyterian Church elected him to fill Dr. Thornwell’s chair of Didactic and Polemic Theology at Columbia Theological Seminary. During those intervening years, Dr. Plumer continued to write. Some of his most familiar books, including treatises on the law of God, experimental piety, and a commentary on the Psalms, were produced during this time.

Till his final months he was actively involved in preaching, teaching, writing, pastoring God’s people, and participating in church courts. In 1871 he was elected for a second time as Moderator of the General Assembly, this time of the Southern Presbyterian Church. Commentaries on Romans and Hebrews, as his Helps and Hints in Pastoral Theology, came out during the last years of his life. Unfortunately, though, his time at Columbia ended on a low note, as he was embroiled in disputes with other seminary professors, and many became disillusioned with his pedagogical effectiveness. At the 1880 General Assembly he was, against his wishes, made Professor Emeritus. A few months later, following complications from kidney stone surgery, he died.

To our loss, no Life and Letters was ever written of Dr. Plumer, perhaps in part because he had only two daughters and no sons (though one of his grandsons was a minister in the Southern Presbyterian Church). Yet his life was full and useful, and his writings call for our perusal and digestion. Several of his last words close this brief survey of his life and work. Upon being asked, “Do you suffer much, Doctor?” he replied, “Not nearly as much as my Saviour did.” When a visitor exclaimed, “I am sorry to see you suffer so, Doctor!” he responded, “One who loves me better than you do put me here.” When the word submit was used, he said, “Perhaps acquiesce is a better word for the Christian to use. We may submit, because we are obligated to – but the Christian cheerfully, joyfully yields all to his Lord’s will.” These sayings show the heart of this servant of Christ, devoted in every way to our reigning King who suffered for our salvation.

Tags: , , , ,

It was on this day, July 25, 1989, that the Rev. James Erskine Moore, one of the founding fathers of the PCA, passed on to his eternal reward. Two accounts will serve here to paint a good portrait of “Mr. Moore”, as the Rev. Vaughn Hathaway always respectfully refers to him. The first, shorter account is one drawn from Vaughn’s memory. The second and longer account is from the Rev. Rollin Keller, a retired OPC pastor in California. His recollection of Mr. Moore was first posted on his own blog, at http://rolliesword.blogspot.com/2013/03/james-e-moore.html

HATHAWAY:
The pastor had a challenging opportunity in front of him. He had been invited to a debate, and most of the audience was all on the other side of the issue! The “debate” was held at Harding College & High School in Memphis, Tennessee. The greater majority of the audience was made up of kids from high school and their parents. For the most part, they were all members of the Church of Christ denomination. The greater majority of these were novices. Rev. Moore didn’t go there to “debate” the guy. Or to shut him up. He went there to preach the Word. He went there to win souls. By the end of Mr. Moore’s first speech, he had the audience eating out of his hand. They were listening to him and the audience wasn’t listening to the Church of Christ minister. And, the Church of Christ minister was totally frustrated. He even said something outright, to the effect that Mr. Moore wasn’t responding to any of his points. Had you been judging the “debate” on technical merit, you might say that the Church of Christ minister won. But, he didn’t win any of the hearts of the people. Mr. Moore wasn’t concerned with winning the debate. He was concerned really with only one thing that night and that was to sow the seed of the Word and let the Spirit bring in the increase. As a result, the Church of Christ community was shaken by that debate and that Mr. Moore’s words lingered in their community for quite some time, because the Church of Christ minister was foolish enough in his “victory” to have the debate published.

KELLER:
mooreJEThere are several turning points in everyone’s life.  Some you recognize right away, but most you appreciate more as time gives a better perspective.  One of those turning points in my life was found in the person of the Rev. James Erskine Moore.  He became my pastor shortly after I became a Christian, and he taught me the distinctives of the Reformed faith, right from the Bible.

In the providence of God I met this man at the funeral of my beloved uncle Walter Saumert.  I vividly remember Mr. Moore reciting from memory I Thessalonians 4:13-18 as though God was speaking to me directly. The episode was dramatically enhanced by the fact that, as a new Christian, I had not yet read much of the Bible.  The fact that this was the first time death had struck down someone I loved also increased the impact of the moment.  God was working.  Anyone who knew Jim Moore will also understand that he had a flair of unaffected drama in his preaching and recitations.

Again I must attribute to divine providence the fact that my father decided the family needed to move about that time, and our move put us in the same area as the Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church and its pastor, the Rev. James E. Moore.  My mother and I began to attend the church, and that is when I first joined the O. P. C.

It was at this church that I came—albeit kicking and screaming—to be convinced of predestination.  Here also I was to meet the spunky girl who became my dear wife.  Barbara had been taught much of this good stuff, growing up in the home of an OPC minister, but in God’s timing we were both prepared to grow under the ministry of Jim Moore in our understanding of Christ and his church.  Barbara and I both were impressed with Mr. Moore’s preaching, but his manner required some acclimation.  He had an engaging, conversational style, and his voice was pleasant.  His vocabulary and syntax invited our thoughts to follow him easily.  But he flexed his jaw with certain words that made it appear he was trying to hold his teeth in his mouth.  This was most memorable when he pronounced the word “chuch” (or at least it sounded like that to me). It took at least one full sermon, more for others, before one could actually hear the message without distraction. Once acclimated, however, we were strongly edified by this dear man’s preaching.

The church was very small, and the youth group was accordingly small.  The Moore’s son, David, his sister Gwladys Ann, John Molloy, Dorris Stegemeier, Barbara and I were the regulars.  In addition there were some occasional visitors. Younger kids included Katie Moore (now Mrs. Yaegashi, a missionary in Japan). David Moore served many years as a missionary in Japan also, and now uses his Japanese language proficiency to serve as a translator for emergency calls with the phone company.

Jim Moore made his home a friendly and inviting place for us all.  His beloved wife, Maglona, was no small part of this pleasant environment.  They always had ice cream to dispense, and we habitually played “up Jinx” (a team game which included slapping a quarter on the table in stealth so as to keep the opposing team from guessing which hand lay upon the quarter).

Sometimes we sang hymns in this home, sometimes we had prayer.  It was in the Moore home that I first met Professor John Murray.  Mr. Murray was in the area to deliver a series of lectures to Fuller Seminary on the subject of Christian ethics.  Those lectures were later published as Principles of Christian Conduct.

Mr. Moore taught us to be careful Sabbatarians.  He had definite convictions about the church and that the Bible only knows of two perpetuating offices.  As a brash new Calvinist I once made comment about a minor baseball injury, being glad that was over, but Mr. Moore chided me not to make light of providence.  He was indeed a man of propriety and integrity, and a man of firm convictions.  Unfortunately it was his conviction that it was sin for me to get married before I attended seminary that drove a wedge between us.  We never experienced as close a relationship after that.  But we respected each other to his dying day.

He was brought into my life at an important time, and God used the Rev. James E. Moore to bless my life immeasurably when I needed him.

Words to Live By:

One of Rev. Moore’s favorite hymns, by Henry Alford (and best sung to the tune Gresham), paints a wonderful picture of the hope that stands before us, secure in Christ our Saviour:—

Ten thousand times ten thousand in sparkling raiment bright,
The armies of the ransomed saints throng up the steeps of light;
’Tis finished, all is finished, their fight with death and sin;
Fling open wide the golden gates, and let the victors in.

What rush of alleluias fills all the earth and sky!
What ringing of a thousand harps bespeaks the triumph nigh!
O day, for which creation and all its tribes were made;
O joy, for all its former woes a thousandfold repaid!

O then what raptured greetings on Canaan’s happy shore;
What knitting severed friendships up, where partings are no more!
Then eyes with joy shall sparkle, that brimmed with tears of late;
Orphans no longer fatherless, nor widows desolate.

Bring near Thy great salvation, Thou Lamb for sinners slain;
Fill up the roll of Thine elect, then take Thy power, and reign;
Appear, Desire of nations, Thine exiles long for home;
Show in the heaven Thy promised sign; Thou Prince and Savior, come.

http://nethymnal.org/htm/t/e/tenttent.htm
or
as performed by Indelible Grace

The tune Gresham is also displayed here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A few years back, an alert ruling elder at the Hixson Presbyterian Church spotted an old copy of The Central Presbyterian at a local sale. Purchasing the old newspaper, he then graciously donated it to the PCA Historical Center. Reproduced here is one of the articles from that July 24, 1858 issue. The language reflects the era, and the piece is obviously sentimental in nature, but interesting nonetheless —

A Pastor’s Farewell to his Study.

Providence has assigned me another location, and I must leave, among other places greatly endeared, that upper chamber, called the study.  It is now more than twenty years since I first took possession of it.  It seemed an interesting locality then; but how much has occurred since to give the place a deeper hold upon my mind.

Charles Hodge's StudySermons have been studied out here, with long and earnest thought.  And there they lie on that shelf, piles of them.  They have had their day.  The simple author thought quite highly of, now and then, of one of them, when in the glow and excitement of effort he finished the last sentence.  But the mist in which they loomed up so auspiciously, has passed away and their glory has drooped sadly.  He does not exactly know how much light they gave at first; but he has tried some of them lately, and he has the comfort of saying, they ignite freely, and give a cheerful radiance in the place of the ordinary kinds of in-door illumination.

[Above right: A drawing of Charles Hodge’s study, where he met his classes from 1833 to 1836, when he suffered from lameness.]

There are ranges of books.  Old men are there—fathers and ancients.  And young men are there; some of them wiser than their fathers—others less so.  They have stood there through slowly rolling years.  They disagree, some of them, with each other.  And the words of some of them are like those of a fierce hussar in anger with his fellow.  But they have not broken the peace of the study, standing quietly side by side.

There is a book.  As I look at it in its place upon the shelf, it awakens interesting trains of thought.  I will take it down and read the inscription on the fly-leaf.  The hand is fair, and the heart was warm that dictated the utterance made by that pen.  But they use no such things where the writer has gone.  It is a good book—a good man gave it, who has gone to be with the good.  And good the work did me.  It will outlive me, and do good to others.  I love to pray for those who may yet use those books.  They will soon be scattered.  Let them go.  They have been my pleasant and profitable companions in the study; may they go and do good, yet greater good to others.

I look round about the study.  That map of the world, how often I have gazed upon it, as I looked to see where moral darkness yet reigns unbroken and again to see where the kingdom of Christ has come in the place of Satan’s kingdom.  That map has been a powerful preacher.  Silently it revealed to me those works of God, the continents, the islands, the oceans, the kingdoms.  That map has hung long against the wall.  Often as I rested from driving the pen, and looked up, it caught my eye.  There was the world—light and shadow—civilization and barbarism—delusions hoary with age, fortified as by mountains and rocks, in the depravity of the heart, and there was Christianity, a little cloud in the vast horizon, but bright and growing brighter, and hastening to fill all lands with its brightness.  I am much obliged to that map.  It has made many valuable moral impressions upon my mind.

Another book arrests my eye.  A note, in a fair hand, is pasted on a fly-leaf, and it reads, “Presented to our pastor by his Bible Class: a small token of their gratitude for his labors for their good.”  The writer was one of the liveliest of youthful saints, and long since went to the presence of that other Teacher, who leads his friends to living fountains of waters.

I muse on.  In this room have been numbers of anxious inquirers.  “Hit of the archer,” they came in here, sore wounded, and would fain know how they might be healed.  Some were healed while here, for the Great Physician was present; and many more, following counsels here given, went away and soon after, “touching the hem of his garment, were made whole.”  They will never forget this room.

Here have been those—their number is great—who came here to ask, if Zion’s gates were open to them, for, hoping in the Saviour’s mercy, they would fain confess him before men.  They told us, who watched at Zion’s gates, why they wished to come.  And most touching tales have here been told of the anguish of conscious guilt, and of the terrible gloom of a soul that had no God, of conflict and struggle and temptation, of light dawning upon darkness, of the calm that followed the storm, of a Saviour found, trusted, loved, enjoyed. Ornaments they became of Zion below, though not a few of them have gone up higher.

Sons and daughters of sorrow have come in here.  It would relieve them to tell their griefs, even to so poor a representative of “the Man of Sorrows,” as the pastor.  Some of them sorrowed as does the world, and groped after comfort, and found it not because of their unbelief.  Others were children of the Highest, passing under the rod, and through the fire.  They came to see if they could not pick up a crumb that had fallen from the Master’s table, to see if sorrow’s solace could not be found in what they might hear of Him “who carried our griefs.”  In cases not a few, the weary found rest, and sorrow’s tears were wiped away, and the retiring mourner could say, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”

Little children have been here in the pastor’s study.  He welcomed them, seeing the Great Shepherd’s example, and was interested in their childish wonder at so many books, and pleased their curiosity by such pictures as a place so lean of that material as the study, could furnish.  Those loved little ones!  Childish things have dropped from their hands, for years and years are gone.  They are scattered—some to distant regions of this land, and some to the farthest realms of the earth; though some in childhood fell asleep, and others later fell asleep,—

 “That sleep
From which none ever wake to weep.”

But I must leave the study.  Much it has to do with time, more with eternity—a place of wearisome toil though often of joyful labor; a place of anxiety and care, mingled with gleams of light from the celestial land; a place where God was sought for the anxious pastor’s own soul—oftener for the souls of others; a place, a humble Pisgah, where glimpses were caught, at times, of the Delectable Mountains and the Celestial City!

My study!  Others will look out of those windows on the pleasant scenery—on the verdant hills and meadows here, and on the glorious ocean yonder.  Other voices will be heard within these walls.  Others will be here, who have never known what joys and sorrows have been here before them.  May it still be a hallowed place, honored by the occupancy of Pilgrims to nobler mansions above; a place where others shall try the power of prayer, and know the sweetness of submission, the strength of faith, the joy of hope, and all the sacred pleasures which flow from communion with God, the Infinite One, and the invisible world.

– H.B.H.

[excerpted from The Central Presbyterian, vol. 3, no .30 (24 July 1858), pg. 1, and originally published in The Boston Recorder.]

Words to Live By:
We seem to be designed for places. Whether our home, our study, or our church, we place a special value on these places and derive an earthly comfort from them unlike any other. But this world is passing, and God has designed us to have an eye on our eternal home, that we might walk before God in the light of the living. As we seek His mercy and grace, may our surpassing comfort be found in Christ alone. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, may we be made ready to worship God in sweet fellowship, through all eternity.

For a day in your courts is better
than a thousand elsewhere.
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
(
Psalm 84:10, ESV)

Tags: , , , , ,

The Day of Small Beginnings

Drawing from three separate quotations, we have in short compass the story of Jenny Geddes and her little wooden stool, which God used to bring about a revolution and return to biblical truth. Somewhere here in the Archives we have a photograph of what that little stool probably looked like. Perhaps later today that photo can be added to our post.

*    *    *

Two years ago, while walking about in Old St. Giles’ church in Edinburgh, with Dr. W. G. Blaikie, whose fame as author, scholar, and preacher, is known throughout the Presbyterian Church, he said, ― this is the first time I have been here in seventeen years. And yet this is the church in which Knox preached and Jennie Geddes worshipped. Here she threw the famous stool at the head of the Dean who was reading the liturgy, under orders from King Charles. The outburst of popular indignation, occasioned by this act, was the beginning of the great struggle for religious liberty in Scotland.

*    *    *

The war in behalf of purity in religion began in Scotland. Archbishop William Laud [1573-1645] prepared a new Prayer-book and sent it to Edinburgh for the use of the churches. On July 23, 1637, the priest of St. Giles Church came forth in white surplice to read the new ritual. Jennie Geddes flung her stool at his head, and a riot drove the minister from the chancel. All Scotland arose in arms against Laud’s innovations, and in 1638 the National Covenant was signed, binding the Scottish people to labor for the purity and liberty of the gospel. In the same year, at Glasgow, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland deposed the bishops and re-established the Presbyterian system.
Two brief wars with Scotland were waged by King Charles, but the lack of money compelled him to summon the representatives of the people. The combatants stood face to face in the arena of debate. The issues of religious and of civil liberty were at length to be decided in a conflict between Charles Stuart and the English Parliament.

*    *    *

It has been said, and not without a show of propriety, “that the First Reformation in Scotland was commenced by a stone cast from the hand of a boy, and the Second Reformation by a stool from the hand of a woman.” By causes in themselves so insignificant does God often produce the grandest results. Detach them from their connections, and they are nothing. Associate them with the other links in the chain of providential influence to which they belong, and they become mighty for good or for evil. The bite of a spider has caused the death of a monarch, and the monarch’s death a revolution in his empire.

*    *    *

Words to Live By:
The Lord delights to use the weak things of this world to accomplish His purposes.

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, NASB)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

John, Father of Samuel

You see it in the Bible—when you wanted to bless someone, you looked to bless their father (1 Samuel 17:56). Conversely, a curse on a son was understood as a curse on the father (Gen. 9:25; 1 Kings 11:9-12). All Christians want their children to grow strong in the Lord, to be greatly used in His kingdom. So when we see such a child now grown, it is understandable that we might look to the parents, to see their character and method with their children, that we might learn and profit from their wisdom. Dr. Samuel Miller, of Princeton, was a man greatly used of the Lord, and so it fitting that we should look at the life of his father, the Rev. John Miller. This day, July 22, 1791, marks the date of Rev. John Miller’s passing.

John Miller was born in Boston, on December 24, 1722. By ancestry, he was the great-great-grandson of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. His father, John Miller, Senior, had immigrated from Scotland in 1710 and found remarkable success as a manufacturer, refining sugar. The Millers had two children, John, the eldest, and Joseph, who never married and who, in early adulthood, was lost at sea during a voyage to Great Britain. John, the subject of our post today, never graduated from any college, but did manage to obtain an excellent classical education at a public school of high reputation in Boston. Here he became proficient in Latin and Greek, and it was during this time that he also came to faith in Christ and began to aim toward the pulpit ministry.

In May of 1748, John was licensed to preach by the Congregational association in Boston and soon began to travel throughout the Delaware and Maryland colonies. When a call came to serve the Presbyterian church in Dover, Delaware, John returned to Boston to secure ordination. Once installed in the Dover church, it was not long before an additional call came, to also serve the Presbyterian church in Smyrna (also known as Duck Creek), which was twelve miles north of Dover. Rev. Miller’s solution was to pastor both churches concurrently, establishing his home between the two churches, some four miles from Dover. And in this arrangement he spent the remaining years of his ministerial career, serving as pastor of these two churches for over forty years.

As seems so often to have been the pattern in those times, Rev. Miller had deferred marriage until he was established in a charge. But now, wasting no time, he courted and then married Margaret Millington, the daughter of a successful planter.  Dr. John Rodgers of New York was  on one occasion heard to pay the compliment that she was one of the most beautiful women that he had ever seen. Yet her physical beauty was exceeded by her moral beauty, and she proved to be a great blessing to her husband, to her children, and to all who knew her. Margaret was known for her good sense, for her prudence, for her skill and wisdom in keeping her home, and for her active engagement in charity towards others. Above all, Margaret’s life was characterized by an honest and sincere love of her Lord.

Not long after having been settled as a pastor, Rev. Miller purchased a farm of 104 acres, and here he resided for the remainder of his life. Never a man of great means, the farm allowed him to supply many of the basic needs of his family, and by careful husbandry, allowed Rev. Miller to eventually send four sons to college.

“On this estate his children were born, and from here they went forth to do good.” Of his children, two sons died in infancy, and one son died before his own passing—John, a medical doctor, who died in 1777,  at age 25. The remaining children were present at his beside when the Rev. John Miller died, at the age of 69, and in the 44th year of his ministry. These were: Elizabeth [1755-1817], wife of Col. Samuel McLane; Mary [1762-1801, wife of (1) Vincent Loockerman, Jr. (he died in 1790,) and (2) wife of Major John Patten; Edward [1760-1812]; Joseph [1765-1798], who married Elizabeth Loockerman; Samuel [1769-1850],  who was twenty years pastor of the Wall Street Church in New York, then Professor of Theology in Princeton Seminary; and lastly, James [1772-1795]. Thus Samuel, who never enjoyed robust health himself, was the last surviving child of the Rev. John Miller, and that by over thirty years and more.

Words to Live By:
What distinguished the rearing of the Miller children? There are undoubtedly many things that we could look at and discuss. But one moment in their parents’ lives seems particularly significant. Ten years before Samuel Miller was born, his parents lost their first child, Joseph. A few days following, Joseph’s death, his father made this entry in his journal:

“October 5th, 1759. Last night my son Joseph, a promising child, aged nineteen months and eight days, departed this life, after a short but violent illness in the lungs. My heart was far too much bound up in the child. His little, pretty ways insensibly stole my affections from objects infinitely superior to all earthly comforts; the parting stroke has given me a much more affecting view of this than I had before. Oh that I may see the rod and him that has appointed it—see that God has a controversy to plead with me and my house.”

Our children belong to the Lord, and they are His alone. Perhaps what the Rev. John Miller learned is summed up in the words of Psalm 127:

Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.
Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward.

God gives us a great blessing in our children, but they belong to Him. And as difficult as it may be, our hearts must never be set upon His gifts, but always only upon the Giver.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

« Older entries § Newer entries »

%d bloggers like this: