Samuel Miller (1769-1850)

Reformed Orthodoxy, Jonathan Edwards, and Old Princeton

by Allen M. Stanton (Author)
©2022 Monographs XXII, 222 Pages


This book focuses on Samuel Miller (1769-1850), the first professor of Ecclesiastical History and Church Government at Princeton Theological Seminary. It introduces the reader to a first-generation representative of Old Princeton, and the challenge that Stanton presents to the Ahlstrom thesis. The Ahlstrom thesis states that Old Princeton adopted false presuppositions from the Scottish Enlightenment and consequently broke from the Reformed tradition. This book invites the scholars who embraced this thesis to reassess.
Stanton also provides readers with a synopsis of the archival resources for Miller’s career, including unpublished sermons, introductory lectures, and lectures on piety, preaching, and Sacred Chronology. These indicate that Miller was influenced by Reformed orthodoxy, scholasticism, and Jonathan Edwards significantly more than Scottish Common Sense.
This book represents the first detailed record of Samuel Miller ever produced and will be a significant contribution to Old Princeton scholarship.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1 Miller’s Life in Dover, Philadelphia, and Carlisle (1769-1792)
  • 2 Miller’s Ministry in New York City (1793-1813)
  • 3 Miller’s Involvement at Princeton Seminary
  • 4 Miller’s Lectures on Preaching
  • 5 Miller’s Lecture on Piety
  • 6 Miller’s Lectures on Sacred and Ecclesiastical History
  • Conclusion and Prospect
  • Bibliography
  • Index

←viii | ix→


Samuel Miller (1769-1850): Reformed Orthodoxy, Jonathan Edwards, and Old Princeton is a study based on archival records and manuscripts and is an engaging response to those insisting that the theology which was taught at Princeton Seminary from the time of its founding in 1812 to the time of its reorganization in 1929 was compromised by the influence of Scottish Common-Sense Realism (SCSR) on its most consequential professors, such as Miller.

This study finds, however, that Miller was much indebted to Reformed orthodoxy, scholasticism, and, in many respects, influenced chiefly by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758). Miller’s lectures on sacred chronology and ecclesiastical history, particularly, reveal that he, in fact, did stand in continuity with Edwards, at least on matters having to do with what might be called a biblical theology of the history of redemption. Establishing this will place Miller outside of boundaries set in scholarly literature. However, guided by questions, such as do the archival sources present a “different” Miller than presented in the printed works of Miller—as most scholarship prior to this study rests on published material? If so, what constitutes a difference? Do the archival sources replace or reinforce the (modified) main arguments of the critics of Miller and the Old Princeton tradition, such as Ahlstrom and followers? If so, a reassessment is necessitated—and as such is presented in this study.

←ix | x→

The introduction deals with a survey of scholarly literature which ends with stating the central research question and methodology deployed in this study. Chapters One and Two offer a bibliographical biography of the period 1769-1813. Thus, Chapter One introduces the life of Miller until his itinerate ministry in Dover, Delaware. Chapter Two introduces his ministry in New York City. This recalls his Brief Retrospect and a series of sermons in the archival material that establishes his Reformed orthodox leanings. Chapter Three places Miller in the context of his time at Princeton Theological Seminary beginning with his Inaugural lecture and the Introductory Lectures. Chapter Four deals with Miller’s lectures on preaching. In Chapter Five, Miller’s piety is examined and the consequence that has on orthodoxy and Edwards study. Chapter Six records the lectures chiefly on Sacred Chronology and shows a distinctive Edwardsean-ness of Miller.

This ground-breaking study, then, stands out in three ways for which Dr. Stanton is commended: first, the attention to archival research, including the digital imaging and analysis of records and manuscripts, contributes to a new direction in historical theology research. Although the method of research is time-consuming, it minimizes the response biases of the subject—and as such, printed material is supplemented by the archival sources presenting a more complete thought in historical context, in this case: Samuel Miller. Secondly, the result of research of the Samuel Miller Manuscript Collection, presented in this study, challenges a long-standing scholarly argument and assumption (Ahlstrom et al.). Third, the dichotomy of academics and piety—often present in contemporary scholarship, is nullified in this study through a careful examination of Miller’s work showing academic rigor and integrity, combining this with biblical piety designed to serve the ministry of both the academy (Princeton) and the church (Presbyterian Church) through teaching and preaching.

Adriaan C. Neele, PhD
Vice President and Professor of Homiletics and Historical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
Research Scholar, Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University

←x | xi→


In my seminary days (2006-2009), John Muether taught about Princeton Theological Seminary in his Church and the World course. How Charles Hodge fought with Darwinianism, how B. B. Warfield clashed with the Ritschlian theologians, and how J. Gresham Machen fought off modernism fascinated me. They seemed as if they were champion polemicists and that left me to wonder how far polemical theology went back in that institution.

This curiosity led me to pursue a ThM degree where I took a directed study with John Muether. As part of the reading, Muether assigned four books: David Calhoun’s two volumes on the seminary, Mark Noll’s The Princeton Theology 1812-1929, and Selden’s biographical introduction to the significant players and trustees of the seminary. When I read those works, Miller jumped off the pages. That led me to wonder why there was nothing more substantial on Samuel Miller?

Upon the completion of my ThM degree in 2012, my proposed thesis was centered on the degree to which polemic brought about the seminary through Ashbel Green, Samuel Miller and Archibald Alexander and was established by Charles Hodge’s Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review. I read all the biographies of the seminarians including the life of Miller, Alexander, and Hodge, each written by their sons, and I read many more articles, monographs, and titles from ←xi | xii→primary and secondary sources. After my work was reviewed, I was encouraged to look for a PhD degree program where I could focus on Miller alone.

In the meantime, I happened upon Sydney Ahlstrom’s article (which we will consider in due time), where he made accusations against the Princeton Theologians for breaking with the Reformed tradition. He made these particular indictments against Miller in his A Brief Retrospect. I had never gotten the feeling that he was overly committed to common-sense philosophy or any philosophy, for that matter. But soon I realized this was the consensus of secondary scholarship. I wondered just how far he was committed to Scottish Common-Sense Philosophy.

I discovered the library at Princeton Seminary contained twenty-eight boxes of unpublished material of Miller and that the Samuel Miller Papers (which contained the correspondence of Miller) was contained in Princeton University archives. Beginning in 2012, I started collecting artifacts. I grew more confident in my findings and I began producing articles on Miller.

On the Princeton’s polemic I wrote three consecutive articles for the Confessional Presbyterian Journal entitled, “The Theological Climate of the Nineteenth Century and the Found of a Polemical Seminary at Princeton,” CPJ 6 (2010), 22-30; “1812-1822: The Development of Princeton’s Polemic,” CPJ 7 (2011), 65-76; and, “1823-1830: The Establishment of Princeton’s Polemic,” CPJ 8 (2012), 20-34.

On Miller’s view of the ministry, “Princeton’s Pastor: A Reconsideration of Old Princeton’s View of the Christian Ministry,” The Puritan Reformed Journal 4 (2012), and Miller’s contribution to the founding of the seminary, “The Forgotten Founder and Shaper of Old Princeton,” The Journal of Presbyterian History 91 (2013), 4-17.

On Jonathan Edwards’ influence of Miller, “He was “Altogether Peculiar”: Samuel Miller’s Cautious Appreciation of Jonathan Edwards,” Jonathan Edwards Studies 7 (2017), 120-38.

On Samuel Miller’s controversy with Moses Stuart in “Samuel Miller’s (1769-1850) Theological, Historical, Biblical, and Pastoral Defense of the Eternal Generation of the Son,” Westminster Theological Journal 81 (2019), 141-65.

I completed the dissertation which is foundational to this book, Samuel Miller (1769-1850): Reformed Orthodoxy, Jonathan Edwards and Old Princeton (PhD dissertation: Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, 2021).

←xii |

All of these artifacts, articles, and dissertation led me to believe that more information was necessary on Miller and this has led me to write this book. I decided that Ahlstrom had overstated his case on Miller and that Miller was much more indebted to the Reformed orthodox theologians and to Jonathan Edwards.

For over twelve years, I have been fascinated with Old Princeton and Samuel Miller. I am grateful to Peter Lang Academic Publishing for agreeing to publish this volume. I would also like to thank my editor Philip Dunshea and co-editor Abdur Rawoof.

←xiv | xv→


Many people deserve thanks for making this study possible. I gratefully recognize Mike Glodo, Scott Swain, and John Muether (professors at Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando) for commending me to this work. When I completed the ThM on a similar theme, they all asked, “What about Samuel Miller? That would be a great topic for a PhD.” Thank you, gentlemen, for the commencement of this study!

I also would like to thank all those at Reformed Puritan Theological Seminary who contributed to my work. My sincere gratitude is reserved for my advisor, Dr. Adriaan Neele, for all of his encouragement, support, and advice. This would not have been completed without him! Thank you to Dr. Stephen Myers, who helped me craft many of my essays into articles, and to Dr. Greg Salazar for his constant encouragement. My humble gratitude extends to Dr. Joel Beeke, who had a significant role in accepting me into this program. I can’t leave out the PRTS librarians, Laura Ladwig and Kim Dykema; thank you both for all your assistance.

I would also like to acknowledge John V. Fesko, Paul Helseth, Kenneth P. Minkema, Stephen Myers, and William VanDoodewaard for agreeing to read this study and making invaluable suggestions. Dr. Helseth deserves a special thanks. I was introduced to him as we were working on similar projects. Dr. Helseth shared a number of files which enhanced this study.

←xv | xvi→

This leads me to thank Squirrel Walsh and Anna Lee Pauls, in helping me locate many letters contained in Princeton University Library. Further, I would like to acknowledge Kenneth Henke (Curator of Special Collections and Archivist at Princeton Theological Seminary) for hosting my visits to the archives in the seminary and helping me to locate many resources for the study. Anthony Luke Nelson assisted my long-distance studies by digitizing many artifacts. I sincerely thank Bryant Park for editing my work in a timely fashion and Mary Jane Morgan for her diligent efforts towards the final edition. This work has been much improved by her editorial skills.

I also must acknowledge the company that agreed to publish my book—Peter Lang International Academic Publishers. I would especially like to thank Dr. Philip Dunshea who made the publication so swift and easy. Thank you, Philip!

I also thank the church bodies where I have been blessed to serve as pastor. I began this study serving at Waynesboro (Mississippi) Presbyterian Church, and I completed it while pastoring at Pinehaven Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Mississippi. All of my elders (both in Waynesboro and Pinehaven) were supportive of my dreams to further my studies to obtain my doctorate.

The years 2019-2022 have presented a number of trials. I was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor in the Fall of 2019 which required resection, 6 weeks of radiation, and 6 cycles of chemotherapy. The very fact that I am alive is to be attributed to the mercy of God as He answered the prayers of the saints. I wish to thank Him for giving me life.

I need to thank Dr. John V. Fesko again for filling the pulpit in my absence and in my recovery. He has made tremendous sacrifices for the church’s sake and for mine. I have not made it back entirely, and he has said on more than one occasion, “I will help as long as you need me.” His service has not gone unnoticed. Thank you, John, I have been blessed by your kindness and the congregation of Pinehaven Presbyterian Church, (including me!), has been blessed by your solid preaching.

Two special women, who would never ask for my thanks but deserve my gratitude are my mother, Toni Stanton, and my mother-in-law, Barbara Kessler. They spent five months during the Winter of 2019-2020 with my family, helping out any time we needed them. They swapped in and out during my brain surgery, my recovery, and our family’s relocation to Houston for radiation treatment at MD Anderson. Furthermore, I would be remiss not to acknowledge my father, Tom Stanton, and my father-in-law, Dave Kessler, for all the support they have given us and their flexibility and sacrifice in allowing their wives to be at our disposal.

←xvi |

I would like to thank my wife—Lindsay. She has been a constant support to me. During my post-surgery recovery, when I could speak only a little, she patiently nursed me back to health. She has been my constant companion during many doctor’s visits. She facilitated speech therapy during my radiation treatments and encouraged me along the way. She has supported me through the many ups and downs of chemotherapy. She has always been sympathetic and provided a literal shoulder to lean on. When I was discouraged with my slow progress and healing, she encouraged me to take up the pen for this dissertation and write as I was able. Thank you, Lindsay! She is truly a helpmate (Gen. 2:24); “he who finds a wife finds a good thing.” (Prov. 18:22)


XXII, 222
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2022 (August)
Samuel Miller Charles Hodge Archibald Alexander Benjamin Breckenridge Warfield Protestant Scholasticism Reformed Orthodoxy Reformed Jonathan Edwards Sydney Ahlstrom the Ahlstrom Thesis Samuel Miller (1769-1850) Reformed Orthodoxy, Jonathan Edwards, and Old Princeton Allen M. Stanton
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2022. XXII, 222 pp.

Biographical notes

Allen M. Stanton (Author)

Allen M. Stanton obtained a PhD from Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary and is the pastor of Pinehaven Presbyterian Church in Clinton, Mississippi. He edited along with Ariaan C. Neele and Kenneth P. Minkema, The Sermons by Jonathan Edwards on the Epistle to the Galatians (2019).


Title: Samuel Miller (1769-1850)
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
246 pages