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into his sentiments and feelings, with many of the most interesting facts of Mr. Millar's life, and we are persuaded they will both interest and instruct our readers. They show the influence which individual character may exert, when it is formed on Christian principle and governed by Christian morality; more especially, when all its powers are devoted to the advancement and illustration of Christian truth and righteousness.
Mr. Robert Millar was born in the village of Ballendean, in the parish of Inchture, on the 27th July, 1761. He was the eldest of a family of three sons and two daughters, children of a very respectable farmer. His parents, especially his father, were religious, pious people, and educated their family in the strict articles of the Calvinistic faith, which they themselves conscientiously professed and believed. By the excellent instructions of his father, and the bright example of piety which he uniformly exhibited, moral impressions were made upon the mind of his son, which no circumstances in after life had power to efface. The subject of this memoir received his early education at the parish school of Inchture; and was particularly distinguished for patience and perseverance in the prosecution of his studies; his talents, if not brilliant, were solid and good; and his gentle, forbearing temper, rendered him a very great favourite with his young companions. Being naturally of a studious disposition, he acquired the various branches of learning with astonishing facility; and when only seven years of age, was appointed to take charge of a class composed of boys several years older than himself. He had scarcely attained his ninth year, when he fell into delicate health; on account of which, he was boarded for the four following summers with a most respectable family at Pitkeithly, near Perth, of the name of Stoddart, from whom he received much kindness and attention, and for whom he continued through life to entertain feelings of the liveliest gratitude. When there, he was thrown much upon his own resources. From the nature of his complaint, he was recommended to be as much as possible in the open air, and being an enthusiastic admirer of the works of nature, his little chair was, at his own request, carried to some romantic spot, where he would sit alone for hours, engaged with his book, or in contemplating the Almighty in the surrounding glory. Singularly fond of reading, especially books of divinity and devotion, it was the Book of God which he liked best, committing large portions to memory. Even at this tender age, he was strikingly distinguished for that firmness of principle, that love of truth, and integrity of soul, which so strongly marked
the character of his future life. When accused of being too fastidious in his notions of honour, he would quietly reply, “ He who walketh uprightly, walketh surely.” He was extremely fond of reading the Prophecies, and comparing, as well as he was able, the Old Testament with the New. He was often a good deal puzzled concerning the doctrine of the Trinity, and could not reconcile what he
heard from the pulpit with what he learned from his Saviour's teachings; but when he was told that it was a mystery, and that we were bound to believe it on the testimony of God, and that it was sinful and presumptuous to disbelieve what our finite understandings could in no degree comprehend, he was awed into silence, and for a length of time thought no more upon the subject. By the year 1774, his health was so far restored as to render a continued residence at Pitkeithly unnecessary; and the two following years he remained at his father's. Here he became an accepted member of the Established Church, partaking of the Lord's Supper in the Parish Church of Inchture, of which his uncle, the Rev. John Millar, was the minister. His father wishing him to pursue the business of a merchant, he was bound apprentice in 1776 to Alexander Christie, Esq. the Provost of Montrose, and brother to Mr. William Christie, author of the Discourses on the Divine Unity. The ministry, however, was the profession to which he himself had fondly looked forward; but from the limited means of his father, such a thing was next to impracticable; and without having his inclinations particularly consulted, he was sent to Montrose. It was surely a wise arrangement of Providence. Had it been otherwise, he would in all probability have remained a stranger to those life-giving truths which through a long and checkered existence were to him as his meat and his drink. Mr. Millar possessed the happy talent of accommodating himself to, and making the most of, any situation in which he might happen to be placed; and although, of course, closely confined, and his whole time devoted to the service of his master, yet, by greatly curtailing his hours of repose, he was able to give the earliest portion of the morning to his favourite occupation of reading, and to those private religious exercises which no pressure of business had ever power to make him neglect. He was in the habit of remarking, that if persons had time for everything else, they might surely find a moment to spend with their Maker, and that a single heart-petition was more acceptable to him than many read prayers. Residing with the mother of Mr. Christie, he was at first treated exactly as the other apprentices had been; but he was so remarkable for his order, regularity, and exemplary conduct, that numerous little indulgences were afterwards granted him; and notwithstanding his youth, he was soon called upon to conduct family worship every morning and evening. Possessing considerable talents for composition, he employed a few of his spare moments in writing for a friend in whom he was extremely interested, “ A Series of Letters addressed to a Young Man entering into the World.” These he published anonymously in one of the Montrose periodicals; and so great was the approbation with which they were received by the public, that through the medium of the same magazine he was requested to continue them. But this he declined. It is a curious circumstance, that his master so highly approved of the letters, that, without knowing his apprentice was the author, he caused him to read aloud his own compositions for the benefit of himself and a member of his own family, adding, that the precepts they inculcated could not be too strongly impressed on their minds. Several years after, he also published a long essay upon “ The Duty and Necessity of Religious Inquiry.”
It was during his residence at Montrose, that that important change in his religious sentiments took place, which he never saw reason to alter, but which he adhered to through life with an unswerving firmness. Mr. William Christie, since well known to the Unitarian public, author of the discourses already named, then preached in the Unitarian Meeting-house in Montrose. At no time a bigot in matters of faith, Mr. Millar was easily persuaded to go and listen occasionally to a man whose character and talents he so much admired; from his lips he heard truths which he had never heard before, and all the doubts of his boyish days, long since forgotten, again revived in his mind. He studied the Sacred Writings afresh; early and late he searched the Scriptures; of himself he dared to judge that which was right; and the more deeply and impartially he drank from that holy source, the more did darkness seem to vanish before him. He was staggered, perplexed. Nurtured in the bosom of the Established Church, and attached to her doctrines, he felt as if it were next to impossible she could be in error; yet, when he brought her Articles to the standard of the Word of God when he compared her teachings with the pure and simple belief of Him who spake as never man spake, and whose words were the oracles of heaven above all, when he contrasted the view she took of the moral character of the great Father of all, with that which is so beautifully and differently revealed by his Son, harmonising at the same time so perfectly with the whole works of creation, he got more and more bewildered he was lost in uncertainties. Through the Messrs. Christie, he became acquainted with the late Rev. Thomas Fyshe Palmer, a name known and sacred to every lover of civil and religious liberty, and a friendship was contracted between them which ended only with the life of Mr. Palmer. To him Mr. Millar freely communicated his thoughts; and much relief he experienced from that unreserved interchange of sentiment and opinion. Mr. Millar was religious from principle as well as from feeling. He was an honest Christian, and whatever might be the consequence, he resolved to think for himself; but when he remembered his parents (particularly his father), their deep-rooted attachment to the Calvinistic faith, and the pain which would accompany the knowledge of his change of opinion, he must have sunk altogether, had it not been for the consciousness that duty was imperative. But his struggles were severe. Early prejudices-doctrines which he had learned, and heard, and listened to from childhood, till they had become, as it were, incorporated with his very being, could not be immediately discarded; and for several years his health suffered greatly from the mental conflict. He left the Church; and in 1782 joined the Unitarian meeting at Montrose. His sentiments and feelings upon the subject will be best understood from the following extracts, taken from a letter written to a friend some time after:—“I frankly own, that hitherto I have been at a loss what to gather from the Scriptures as to the physical nature of Christ. In conversation with an Arian, I have argued as a Socinian—and with a Socinian, as an Arian. There are difficulties on both sides, and both have much to say. I have therefore hitherto remained satisfied, in the idea the Sacred Writings give of the moral nature and character of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, the Messiah, and, under God, the Saviour of the world. Possibly, from farther inquiry, my principles on these points may be more extended, just, and correct. There is from reason and Scripture for the Unity of God the Father; and I cannot resist it. I have read, thought, examined, and judged upon both sides. I was slow in my decisions, and even had a strong prejudice in favour of the Trinity. And if any one will thoroughly and satisfactorily confute to me all the arguments for the Unity of God, and show me as much evidence for the Trinity, I am this moment ready to relinquish my opinions, and be a Trinitarian. But till that be done, I must surely favour the side I think is truth; for what avails any opinion whatever, or anything under heaven, in comparison with truth and sincerity.” To describe the sorrow of his father, his uncle, and, indeed, the whole of his relations and well-wishers, on learning this to them, sad
every evidence change-would be impossible. They implored, they entreated, and remonstrated. His father wrote, conjuring him, if he valued his eternal salvation, to return to the Church; his uncle visited him, and endeavoured to lay before him the hollowness and insufficiency of those doctrines which he had embraced; but all was ineffectual. How much soever it pained him (and what it cost him, none knew but God and his own soul), thus to wound the hearts of those so truly beloved, the sacrifice was made, he stood firm,—sensible that he who loveth father or mother more than Jesus Christ, is not worthy of him. His uncle, although a Trinitarian, was rational, and like every true Christian, was liberal. When he found that his nephew was really sincere in the views he had adopted, and that from the unpopularity of the doctrines, they must be purely a matter of conscience with him; above all, when he remembered his piety, his devotion, and how strictly his life was in harmony with his belief, he frankly told his mind to his brother, giving it as his opinion, that they ought not to molest him any more upon the subject, adding, that he only “ hoped every one was equally honest in his faith.” The old man listened, acknowledged that perhaps it was best, and his son received no farther trouble from his relations on account of his principles. Mr. Millar wrote an “ Apology for his faith," which was never published, containing arguments and reasons for leaving the Church, which he sent to his father; and although the latter could not approve of the tenets, he was pleased with the Christian spirit and candour in which it was written.
Mr. Millar had now been seven years at Montrose, and the period of his apprenticeship had expired; but so greatly had he, by his integrity and amiability of conduct, endeared himself to his master, that, at his urgent request, he consented to remain two years longer; and before finally leaving the town, to evince the high respect they entertained for his character, the magistrates presented him with the freedom of the burgh. A regular correspondence was afterwards maintained between him and Provost Christie. About 1787, Mr. Millar commenced business as a merchant, in Dundee; where, by unremitting industry and close application, he soon realised a comfortable independence. Although a stranger in the place, he speedily made friends for himself; his name had preceded him, and he was already regarded with the deepest esteem. Numerous were the attempts of his youthful associates to undermine, not only his religious, but moral prin. ciples also; but every endeavour was ineffectual—sneers and ridicule were repelled with a good-natured firmness. The following anecdote is one, amongst many, which might be