William Miller (missionary)

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Reverend William Miller CIE (13 January 1838 – July 1923) was a Scottish educationalist and Free Church of Scotland missionary to Madras. He was also a member of Madras Legislative Council for four terms—in 1893, 1895, 1899, and 1902.[1][2][3]

He was chiefly notable for transforming Madras Christian College into an ecumenical enterprise and imbuing the minds of Madras Province South Indians with Fulfilment theology, with an idea of "Christ the fulfiller"—in a sense, he is considered not only the pioneer of Fulfilment theology, but also of Hindu Renaissance by making Indian converts to think Christianity in Indian context. He was the recipient of Kaiser-i-Hind Medal and the first LL.D, honoured by the Madras University.[3][4][5]


Miller was born Thurso in 1838,[6] and was educated at Aberdeen University and Edinburgh University.[3]

He arrived Madras in 1864 at the age of twenty-four, as the only missionary of the Free Church of Scotland in Madras city at the time of his arrival. Initially, as a missionary, he was engaged in outdoor preaching, congregational work, medical aid, and the education of boys and girls.[2][3][4]

Madras Christian College received vitality with the arrival of Miller in 1862, and soon became the greatest architect of the college. In 1863, he envisioned that only Christian education could train the greatest leaders of India, he began to specialise on the institution that later became the Madras Christian College—A Christian school[General Assembly School] founded on 3 April 1837 by John Anderson, Scottish missionary and the founder of the mission of the Free Church of Scotland at Madras, later became known as Madras Christian College that grew from the school into a college and then Campus under the leadership of William Miller. After he took over the college succeeding Anderson, within two years of his arrival, he upgraded the school into a college and reoriented the educational policy of the institution. The first college class was formed in 1864, studying for the First examination in Arts(FA) of the university. By 1865, the first class of six students appeared for matriculation examination. And, by 1867, a new class was opened to prepare for the BA courses. Miller procured the support of leading missions, including Anglican, Wesleyan, and Presbyterian bodies that ultimately turned a small sectarian institution into a mammoth and a central Christian college for all South India, and soon to be in the front rank of all institutions in India. Miller transformed the institution into an ecumenical and co-operative enterprise and named it as Madras Christian College on 1 January 1877.[1][3][4][7]

He not only erected great buildings for the college, chiefly by his own gifts and those of his brother. but also garnered support and sponsorship from a group of loyal and able men, both Indian and British. His dormitories, or college hostels were first of their kind in South India—he used these to train future government officials and members of municipal and local boards in the art of conducting public business and running democracy. The alumni of the college, occupied prominent positions in all fields, including national movements, politics and government offices.

Miller is credited for opening hostels, several academic and cultural associations, that ultimately shaped Madras Christian College into a premier educational institution in South Asia. He later opened up the institution for Hindu students to a Christward direction through education, rather than just conversion of their faith – Vengal Chakkarai Chetty, P. Chenchiah, and many more were in fact attracted to Christianity under the influence of Miller.[3][4][7]

He served as the active principal of Madras Christian College for 45 years, another 16 years as Honorary principal, and helped the government shape its educational policy as an educator in all over India. He worked as an educator in India until 1896, and also served as a leading member of Madras University syndicate. For his educational work, he won the appreciation and financial aid from the government.[1][2][3]

He was nominated to Madras Legislative Council (1891–1909) consecutively four times in 1893, 1895, 1899, and 1902. In 1896, he was unanimously chosen the moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, the highest honour accorded in the church. He received Kaiser-i-Hind Medal and several honorary degrees were conferred by the universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh.[1][3]

He was appointed as Vice-chancellor of the University of Madras in 1901. In 1907, due to ill-health, he left India to reside in Edinburgh, Scotland, and died in 1923 at the age of eighty-five.[1][2][3]

A biography on William Miller entitled Dr. William Miller was written and published by O.Kandaswami Chetty in 1924.[5]


  • Scottish Missions in India, 1868.
  • Indian Mission and How to View Them, 1878.
  • Lectures for Educated Hindus, 1880.
  • The Christian College for Madras, a printed memorandum to the Free Church Foreign Mission Committee (FCFMC), 1874.[2][8]


Miller argued that the Hinduism could not be excluded from the plans of God, and believed that Christianity and Hinduism could work in concentric circles to fulfill the master plans of God. Miller, who is considered as the pioneer of Fulfillment theology, in his Scottish Missions in India published in 1868 noted that:

Miller asserted that the institutional and historic Christianity is not superior to Hinduism; instead, it is Christ who is the fulfiller of Hinduism. According to him, though, Christ and His teachings were ultimately central, he felt that enriching truths can be found in Hinduism which would contribute to the common good of humanity and to the Church of Christ. He affirmed that Christianity has no monopoly on truth as Hinduism's emphasis on the immanence of God and on social solidarity has much to teach humanity;other religions could make contributions to the completeness of Christianity, while Christ can fulfill the aspirations of the followers of other religions.[2]

Miller felt that educational institutes in India could not be used as places for conversion; instead, as avenues for preparing the Hindus in a Christian direction – Preparatio evangelica. According to him, Christian missions are like leaven, though, not seen from outside, yet is innately transforming. According to O. Kandaswami Chetty, biographer of Dr. William Miller, for Miller "Christ was the friend of all that was good and true not only in Christianity, but in Hinduism." [sic] The idea of Christ the fulfiller imbued the minds of South India, part of then-Madras Presidency, due to the teachings of Miller at Madras Christian College and due to his missionary work in Madras. According to Eric J. Sharpe, professor of Religious Studies at the University of Sydney, J. N. Farquhar's work on Fulfillment theology in Bengal was built on foundations originally laid in Madras.[5]

Though, the object of missionary work and missionary colleges like Madras Christian College was to preach Christ and train Christians, Miller encouraged the Indian converts to rethink Christianity in Indian context, possibly to integrate Christianity and Hinduism; hence, was considered the pioneer of Hindu Renaissance. He discouraged proselytism, encouraged the retention of national manners, and advocated the habit of independent thinking.[3]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Madras Christian College Milestones". mcc.edu.in. Retrieved 20 May 2012. Miller becomes the member of the Madras Legislative Council in 1893, and again in 1895, 1899 and 1902. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Doyle, Sean. Synthesizing the Vedanta: The Theology of Pierre Johanns, S.J. Peter Lang. pp. September. ISBN 9783039107087. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Eddy, Sherwood (1945). Pathfinders of the World Missionary Crusade. Ayer Publishing. pp. 95–. ISBN 9780836911275. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Madras Christian College – With the support of few other Protestant Missions in Madras, Miller transformed the Institution into an ecumenical, co-operative enterprise, and named it Madras Christian College on January 1, 1877.". infinitecourses.com. Retrieved 24 May 2012. Madras Christian College traces its origin to the General Assembly School founded by Rev. John Anderson, a Missionary from the Church of Scotland, on April 3, 1837. 
  5. ^ a b c d "Edinburgh to Tambaram: A Paradigm Shift in Missions, or the horizon of Missions broadened?". docstoc.com. Retrieved 24 May 2012. William Miller of Madras Christian College could be seen as a pioneer of fulfilment theology – the idea of Christ the fulfiller was made familiar to the minds of South India largely due to the teachings and influence of Miller 
  6. ^ "Rev. Dr. William Miller". Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  7. ^ a b "Madras Christian College – Our Legacy". mcc.edu.in. Retrieved 22 May 2012. Madras Christian College (MCC) began life as a School founded in 1837 by the Rev. John Anderson, a missionary from Scotland. The School became a College in 1865 during Dr. William Miller's dynamic stewardship of the institution 
  8. ^ "CONTENT AND STRUCTURE". mundus.ac.uk. Retrieved 22 May 2012. Dr William Miller (1838–1923), Principal of Madras Christian College, plus a printed memorandum by Miller to the Free Church Foreign Mission Committee (FCFMC) entitled 'The Christian College for Madras' (1874). 
  9. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25357. p. 2287. 23 May 1884.

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