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Theological Education, History, Samuel Miller, Princeton Seminary, Gradate Education in Early America


In the Nineteenth Century graduate theological education became the dominant form of training for the ministry in Protestant churches. In North America, one of the first institutions founded to provide graduate training for the ministry was the Theological Seminary of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America at Princeton. This thesis examines the life and work of Samuel Miller (1769-1850), one of the key proponents for the foundation of, what is now, Princeton Theological Seminary and one of its first professors. Through an examination of the context of his life, his response to the perceived failure of training for the ministry at the College of New Jersey, and his writings, lectures, sermons, and other addresses at the seminary, it presents the thesis that the model of ministerial formation in piety and pastoralia which Samuel Miller presented while at Princeton Seminary was an attempt through professional education to fuse piety and learning in the creation of competent pastors. More than this Miller saw graduate theological education as the way to build a united church. Miller realised the limits of education in the creation of piety and ministerial formation but nonetheless considered graduate theological education the best option for the church. As he strove to build a “nursery of vital piety,” Miller grasped the importance of community-based personal formation, which he intended, not just to train the student, but primarily to promote the (homogenous) unity of the church through a common experience of education. It concludes that Miller’s vision of church unity was fundamentally flawed, but that this vision provides a key to his outlook on life and underpins the reasons that he strove to found the Seminary.

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