J. R. Miller

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the architect J. R. Miller, see James Rupert Miller.
JR Miller

James Russell Miller (March 20, 1840 – July 2, 1912) was a popular Christian author, Editorial Superintendent of the Presbyterian Board of Publication, and pastor of several churches in Pennsylvania and Illinois.

Early years[edit]

J.R. Miller was born near Frankfort Springs, Pennsylvania, on the banks of the Big Traverse, which according to his biographer, John T. Faris, is a merry little mill stream which drains one of the most beautiful valleys in the southern part of Beaver County. His parents were James Alexander Miller and Eleanor Creswell who were of Irish/Scottish stock.

James Russell Miller was the second child of ten, but his older sister died before he was born. James and his sisters attended the district school in Hanover Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania until, when James was about fourteen, his father moved to a farm near Calcutta, Ohio. The children then went to the district school during the short winters and worked on the farm during summer.

In 1857, James entered Beaver Academy and in 1862 he progressed to Westminster College, Pennsylvania, which he graduated in June, 1862. Then in the autumn of that year he entered the theological seminary of the United Presbyterian Church at Allegheny, Pennsylvania.

The Christian Commission[edit]

The Christian Commission was created in response to the disastrous First Battle of Bull Run. On November 14, 1861, the National Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) called a convention which met in New York City. The work of the United States Christian Commission was outlined and the organization completed next day.

In March 1863, James Miller promised to serve for six weeks as a delegate of the United States Christian Commission, but at the end of this time he was persuaded to become an Assistant Field Agent and later he was promoted to General field Agent. He left the Commission on July 15, 1865.

The Pastorate[edit]

Mr. Miller resumed his interrupted studies at the Allegheny Theological Seminary in the fall of 1865 and completed them in the spring of 1867. That summer he accepted a call from the First United Presbyterian Church of New Wilmington, Pennsylvania. He was ordained and installed on September 11, 1867.

Rev. Miller held firmly to the great body of truth professed by the United Presbyterian Church, in which he had been reared, but he did not like the rule requiring the exclusive singing of the Psalms, and he felt that it was not honest for him to profess this as one of the articles of his Christian belief. He therefore resigned from his pastorate to seek membership in the Presbyterian Church (USA). In his two years as pastor, nearly two hundred names were added to the church roll.

The Old and New School Presbyterian Churches were reunited as the Presbyterian Church (USA) on November 12, 1869, and Dr. Miller became pastor of the Bethany Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia just nine days later. When he became pastor at Bethany the membership was seventy five and when he resigned in 1878 Bethany was the largest Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, having about twelve hundred members.

Rev. Miller then accepted the pastorate of the New Broadway Presbyterian Church of Rock Island, Illinois.

In 1880 Westminster College, his alma mater conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Divinity and later in the same year came the invitation to undertake editorial work for the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia. Hence Dr. Miller had to resign the Rock Island, Illinois pastorate.

In Philadelphia J.R. Miller D.D. became interested in the Hollond Mission and eventually became its pastor. During the sixteen months of the pastorate the church membership grew from 259 to 1,164 and Sunday School membership climbed from 1,024 to 1,475.

On October 29, 1899, St. Paul Church in West Philadelphia was organized with sixty-six members. Dr. Miller was chosen temporary supply and became pastor in 1906. Dr. Miller remained pastor until the year of his death, 1912. The church at that time had 1,397 members.


On June 22, 1870, James Miller married Miss Louise E. King of Argyle, New York, whom he had met two years earlier. They had three children,

  • William King,
  • Russel King, a fairly well known music teacher and composer, and
  • Mary Wannamker Miller who married W.B. Mount.

Editor and author[edit]

J.R. Miller began contributing articles to religious papers while at Allegheny Seminary. This continued while he was at the First United, Bethany, and New Broadway churches. In 1875, Miller took over from Henry C. McCook, D.D. when the latter discontinued his weekly articles in The Presbyterian, which was published in Philadelphia.

Five years later, in 1880, Dr. Miller became assistant to the Editorial Secretary at the Presbyterian Board of Publication, also in Philadelphia.

When Dr. Miller joined the Board its only periodicals were

  • The Westminster Teacher
  • The Westminster Lesson Leaf
  • The Senior Quarterly
  • The Sabbath School Visitor
  • The Sunbeam
  • The Presbyterian Monthly Record

During his tenure at the board the following periodicals were added:

  • The Junior Lesson Leaf in 1881
  • The German Lesson Leaf in 1881
  • Forward in 1882
  • The Morning Star in 1883
  • The Junior Quarterly in 1885
  • The Lesson Card circa in 1894
  • The Intermediate Quarterly circa 1895
  • The Question Leaf circa 1996
  • The Blackboard circa 1898
  • The Home Department Quarterly in 1899
  • The Primary Quarterly in 1901
  • The Normal Quarterly in 1902
  • The Bible Roll in 1902
  • The Beginners Lessons (forerunner of The Graded Lessons) in 1903
  • The Primary Teacher in 1906
  • The Graded Lessons from 1909 to 1912
    • for Beginners
    • Primary
    • Junior
    • Intermediate
    • Senior
  • The Westminster Adult Bible Class in 1909

The Sabbath School Visitor — the Board’s oldest periodical — became The Comrade in 1909.

From 1880, when James Miller first joined the Board to 1911, when he effectively retired because of ill health, the total annual circulation grew from 9,256,386 copies to 66,248,215 copies.

Dr. Miller's first book, Week Day Religion, was published by the board in 1880, the year he joined the Board.


J.R. Miller D.D.'s lasting fame is through his books. Many are still in publication.

John T. Faris provides the following Bibliography.

  1. Week Day Religion, 1880
  2. Home Making, 1882 (currently published by The Vision Forum as The Family)
  3. In His Steps: for Those Beginning the Christian Life, 1885
  4. The Wedded Life, 1886
  5. Silent Times, 1886
  6. Come Ye Apart, 1887
  7. The Marriage Altar, 1888
  8. Practical Religion, 1888
  9. Bits of Pasture, 1890
  10. Making the Most of Life, 1891
  11. The Everyday of Life, 1892
  12. Girls: Faults and Ideals, 1892
  13. Young Men: Faults and Ideals, 1893
  14. Glimpses Through Life’s Windows, 1893
  15. The Building of Character, 1894
  16. Secrets of Happy Home Life, 1894
  17. Life’s Byways and Waysides, 1895
  18. For a Busy Day, 1895
  19. Year Book, 1895
  20. Family Prayers, 1895
  21. The Hidden Life, 1895
  22. The Blessing of Cheerfulness, 1896
  23. Things to Live For, 1896
  24. Story of A Busy Life, 1896
  25. A Gentle Heart, 1896
  26. Personal Friendships of Jesus, 1897
  27. By the Still Waters, 1897
  28. The Secret of Gladness, 1898
  29. The Joy of Service, 1898
  30. The Master’s Blessed, 1898
  31. Young People’s Problems, 1898
  32. Unto the Hill, 1899
  33. Strength and Beauty, 1899
  34. The Golden Gate of Prayer, 1900
  35. Loving My Neighbour, 1900
  36. The Ministry of Comfort, 1901
  37. Summer Gathering, 1901
  38. How? When? Where?, 1901
  39. The Upper Currents, 1902
  40. Today and Tomorrow, 1902
  41. In Perfect Peace, 1902
  42. The Lesson of Love, 1903
  43. The Face of the Master, 1903
  44. Our New Eden, 1904
  45. Finding the Way, 1904
  46. The Inner Life, 1904
  47. Manual for Communicant Classes, 1905
  48. The Beauty of Kindness, 1905
  49. When the Song Begins, 1905
  50. The Best Things, 1907
  51. Glimpses of the Heavenly Life, 1907
  52. Morning Thoughts for Every Day in The Year, 1907
  53. Evening Thoughts, 1908
  54. The Gate Beautiful, 1909
  55. The Master’s Friendships, 1909
  56. The Beauty of Every Day, 1910
  57. The Beauty of Self Control, 1911
  58. Learning to Love, 1911
  59. The Book of Comfort, 1912
  60. The Joy of The Lord, 1912
  61. Devotional Hours with the Bible, eight volumes, 1909-1913

This list is woefully incomplete as it captures only a few of J.R Miller pamphlets, and there are several dozen of them. Neither does the list attempt to list alternative titles. For example "Bits of Pasture" was renamed to "In Green Pastures", and this was one of Miller's best selling works.

Other books known to exist are:

  1. The Garden of the Heart (Hodder and Stoughton, 1910, copyright 1906)
  2. The Pathos of Divine Love

Faris reports that Miller sold over two million copies of his books during his lifetime.[1]

Archival Collections[edit]

The Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has J.R. Miller's papers including materials from the United States Christian Commission, sermons, and a scrapbook of his articles.


External links[edit]