Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday School--Samuel Miller

Samuel Miller, a staunch conservative Calvinistic Presbyterian, wrote in a letter in the New-Jersey Sabbath School Journal:

“Rev. and dear Sir, Princeton, September 10, 1828.

"When you requested me, the other day, to express, in writing, my opinion of the Sabbath School system, as pursued in the United States, I was, I confess, in some degree surprised. I had been under the impression that all the enlightened and reflecting part of the community were already so deeply convinced of the utility and importance of that invaluable addition to the other benevolent institutions of the day, that all further reasoning in its behalf was unnecessary. If this be not the case, I regret the fact; and am ready, most cheerfully, to contribute my mite toward the promotion of what is so extremely desirable as a correct and universal public sentiment in reference to this subject….

"I once thought there was no good reason why the children of intelligent, pious parents—parents able and willing to instruct their own children—should be sent to the Sabbath School; being under the impression that everything in the way of tuition could be quite as well, if not better, done for them at home. But I have altered my mind on this point. I would urge children of all classes to attend. I think it my duty to send my own children, not merely for the sake of example, and to stimulate others, whose children may be less favorably situated, to do the same; but also from a persuasion that my children are really likely to be better managed, and in some respects better instructed, in a well conducted Sabbath School, than under my own roof….

"In truth, I am of the opinion, that every minister ought to consider the sheet-anchor of his hopes, not only for the Church and the State, but also for his own personal comfort, usefulness and popularity, as lying, under God, peculiarly with the children and young people of his charge. If I could be so far forgetful of my allegiance and duty to my Divine Master, as to pursue, supremely, my own personal comfort and popular acceptance, I could not, I am persuaded, take any other course so well adapted to the attainment of my object as that of paying unwearied attention to the rising generation; mingling much with them; and taking a deep interest and an active part in every lawful institution intended to promote knowledge, virtue and piety among them." (138ff.)

[The author of the Life of Samuel Miller explains: "One of the foregoing extracts might seem to imply more than Dr. Miller intended. It is the one referring to his own children. All know that parents, too often, make the Sabbath School an excuse for neglecting religious instruction at home; but against such neglect the ordering of his own household was a constant protest. Explaining his words by his practice, we must conclude that he only meant to represent the Sabbath School as an important auxiliary to family training… (p.139 emphasis mine)].


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