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well known in later life, persistently manifested itself from youth. His brother says, “I never knew him to swear an oath nor use any vulgar language in his boyhood days. The wicked, wild, young men were no company for him.” At the age of nineteen be became intensely interested in a Methodist camp meeting held near Waveland. There seems to be some uncertainty as to whether he was really converted at this time, but whatever change of heart there was it was kept from his father; for since the latter was a strong Baptist, and much opposed to the Methodists, Robert did not want to wound his father's feelings.
At any rate he did not join the Methodists nor any other denomination until he was thirty-three years old. He was married to Sarah C. Harshbarger, November 19, 1846. She was two years his junior and was the daughter of Samuel Harshbarger, a deacon in the German Baptist Brethren church. It was largely her influence that caused him to become interested in the church for which he was to give the best years of his life. This, however, did not occur until twelve years later. During most of this time he was engaged in farming. He occasionally invested in stock, but in this he seems to have been unsuccessful. A growing family, sickness and the deaths of two of his children increased his financial difficulties.
The real history of Robert H. Miller began when he united with the church in 1858. It is evident that ever since his marriage he had been more or less inclined toward the Church of the Brethren. He had been reading his Bible and had frequent discussions with William Byrd, a Universalist. Elder Elias Caylor, of
Hamilton County, had been invited by the Ladoga brethren to come and hold a few meetings in that congregation. Some of them believed that the time was at hand for an ingathering. Elder Caylor came and Robert and his wife made application for membership and were baptized.
The old brethren were not slow to put such promising talent to work. Six months later an election was held in the Raccoon congregation for two ministers. The old church papers show that the election was held August 16, 1858. They read as follows: "Election held in the Raccoon church for two ministers; R. H. Miller and Daniel Stoner were made the choice of the church.” This was signed by Hiel Hamilton, Matthias Frantz, Daniel Himes and Wesley Burkett. The vote further shows that Brother Robert received the vote of every member of the church.
Brother Robert accepted the office with the determination to prove himself a workman that needeth not be ashamed. Whatever of law practice or political speaking he had been engaged in was now given up that he might devote himself to his nobler calling. He preached well from the first and very soon became the leading preacher of the Brethren in that part of the State. His advancement to the second degree, and ordination to the eldership followed in rapid succession. The exact dates of his advancement are not known, inasmuch as these papers, with many others of value, were burned with his house in 1863. By this time, however, he was elder in charge of his home congregation and remained its faithful shepherd for twenty years.
During all this time he was becoming better and
better known, first in Southern Indiana, and then throughout the Brotherhood, until his name was familiar to nearly every member of the church. The first man that he baptized was Wilson Spaulding, of Little Walnut, Putnam County, Ind. At dinner, after the baptism, Brother Robert said that he felt that he was doing some good by converting one man. Thereupon Brother Spaulding at once corrected him by saying that it was not Robert Miller but Daniel Miller, an old minister who had long had great influence over him.
He attended his first Annual Meeting at Hagerstown, Ind., in 1864. This was the last meeting for Elder John Kline, who was moderator that year, and who was cruelly murdered shortly after his return to Virginia. How fitting is the arrangement of the Master, that as one veteran lays down the cross, another is raised up to bear it forward. Brother Robert, on returning home, said that he did not make a speech because there were so many brethren there more able than he was.
Then, too, the old brethren looked with distrust upon a young man who dared to be too forward. In later years Brother Robert related the following incident taken from his early experience: “I remember once when young in the ministry, in company with another young preacher at Annual Meeting, we understood it was announced for us to preach in a town near by. When we had taken our seats a number of old ministers came into the crowded house. As we were young and strangers to nearly all, our embarrassment was like a load; still we hoped it would wear away. But just at the time for opening services, an old
brother came to us and said we were out of our place and that we must give the stand to the old brethren. We told him that it had been announced for us, but he said, *This belongs to Annual Meeting and you must give up to the old brethren.' I then said to the young brother with me that it was probable we would live to preach when these old brethren were gone, and we went down but not out. We resolved that if we would live and God would help, the time would come when they would not want us to go down.”
Shortly before the Hagerstown meeting, Brother Robert had preached in that congregation at a regular service. Here he attracted much notice by his powerful preaching, which seemed all the more strange in those days that a young man of forty could have such power. One of brother Robert's attentive and admiring hearers was a young man, not yet a member of the church, but who was afterwards to become so well known as Elder Lewis W. Teeter, of Hagerstown, Ind. He says he was simply carried away by Brother Robert's pleasing style of speaking, and by the resistless force of his logical arguments.
From now on the years were busy ones. He was engaged in farming to earn a livelihood for his family; but he never neglected his church work. Whenever he had any time to spare he was with his books and hard at study. He began to uphold the doctrine of the Brethren in public debates, and continued to do so until he became one of the greatest religious debaters in the United States. His work in the Brotherhood at large began in 1869, when he first appeared on the Standing Committee at Annual Meeting. His influ
ence on this body was soon felt and for twenty years no man was more effective in shaping the policies of the church. Another busy field was opened up in committee work. In this he was especially strong and was sent by Annual Meeting to all parts of the Brotherhood. Nor was this the extent of his labors, but realizing the need of a written work defending the doctrine of the church, he undertook and successfully completed, in 1876, his one great book, " The Doctrine of the Brethren Defended." For more than thirty years it has remained the standard work among the brethren in defense of their beloved principles.
For the church periodicals, at times, he was very active with the pen. The discussion of troublesome questions was often referred to him by the editors. He also had a large correspondence with brethren who sought his advice privately. His work in his home congregation and adjoining congregations did not slacken. Frequently he was called quite a distance by a local church that desired his help. On these trips he would sometimes spend many days, visiting several places, preaching strong, stirring sermons and building up the membership in the faith of the Gospel.
During these years he looked upon sorrow, sickness and death. His own health was often such that he was confined to his home for long periods, unable to attend to his pressing duties. Of the eight children born to his first union, the two oldest, a son and a daughter, died when quite small. His second son, John H., died Sept. 4, 1877, at the age of 22, after an illness of nearly two years. He had been Brother Robert's main help in running the farm, and his loss added new difficulties