James Parker Miller

By James R. Cope

Editor’s Note:

The following article is the complete sermon which Brother James R. Cope delivered at the funeral of James Parker Miller. It is published without comment. To add words to it would detract from it. Editor.

Except for members of his family and one or two other persons, I have probably known James Parker Miller longer than any other person in this assembly. Both of us were in gospel meetings in Detroit, Michigan, during the first week of October, 1943, when we first met. He often told that the two of us were sitting on a park bench in that city discussing problems of the brotherhood at the very moment Rodney was being born in Philadelphia. Though we saw each other infrequently and I was with him for a gospel meeting in Evansville five years later, there was to develop between us a bond about which neither of us talked a great deal but which both of us understood. It was a bond which grew deeper, warmer and increasingly meaningful as those early years moved into a decade, that decade into a score of years; and now almost 35 years later with his time on earth ended and mine rapidly running out, I find myself beside his bier struggling for the kind of words he often, with sympathy and with meaning, spoke to many of you under similar circumstances as he sought so earnestly to bring the ointment of comfort to your broken and bleeding hearts. It was this bond which brought us to Florida together. It was this bond which caused us to stand together, kneel in prayer together and fight side by side together on every major issue with which our brethren have wrestled for the last 30 years. It was this same bond that causes me to believe that the same spirit of this noble warrior which dwelt in this oft-carved, pain-wrecked body of clay, around which we gather today, peers from the portals of glory in that God-built, God-made city which hath the foundations about which he preached so much, that city toward which judges, kings, patriarchs, prophets, priests, and preachers of 6000 years have looked and for which they have lived and labored and died. Methinks that same voice which here so often shouted the story of the suffering but reigning Savior is now singing with that great blood-washed throng redemption’s song of Moses and the Lamb! It is this bond, not of mere earthly interests, which has been the basis of our love and friendship and fellowship for more than half the life of either of us. It is the bond of the gospel, my brethren, the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! It was this bond which bound the beloved John to Gaius and was the basis of his deep love for that brother. It was this bond of common faith and hope and love which bound Jim Miller and me together through the years.

But be it said to his perpetual praise: it was this same faith, hope and love which bound James Miller to every gospel preacher, to every faithful elder, to every man, to every woman, and to every child who held steadfastly to the same gospel he proclaimed. I never had occasion to doubt where he stood for I never doubted what or in whom he believed.

In our experiences together for the last 35 years, I had occasion to introduce Jim Miller to more audiences than any other man of my lifetime unless that man be Homer Hailey. I suspect also that I heard him preach as many different times as any other man within my lifetime. I never saw him when his faith faltered or his defense and proclamation of it was so faint he could not be heard. He was never at a loss for words either in private conversation or on the platform. And in the fine art of public repartee he had no superior and possibly no equal. His first and most influential speech teacher was his own mother. The finished product was the best evidence of her success. Jim’s tenderness and gentleness he obtained from her. His business head, sales ability, and sometime bluntness came from his father whom I knew. His energy came form both sides of the house. Knowing both parents as I did, I have often said that he got his brains and manners from his mother, his brass and brawn from his father, and his drive from both.

In his high school and college days, James Miller was a champion in every forensic field he entered. He excelled in declamation and oratory but debating was his first love in those days. He met and mastered representatives of some of the biggest name schools in America. Various men who have made their marks all the way from state legislatures and the federal congress, with govenors’ mansions thrown in for good measure, bowed in those yesteryears before this boy who was destined to give his life in the service of the government whose eternal King gives Caesar his power. How great the contrast! How different the issues! How divergent the rewards!

It was during these college debating years at Union University that James P. began his preaching. Some years later he was exposed firsthand to brotherhood journalism and still later became editor of the old Christian Leader published for many decades in Cincinnati. Nineteen years ago this month he and Elwood Phillips became co-owners and co-editors of Searching the Scriptures. In all these years his column, “I Marvel,” has appeared periodically in this journal. The rapid growth and wide circulation of this paper is due much to Brother Miller’s talking about it and obtaining subscribers all across the country.

James Miller was an exceedingly popular preacher. His first regular preaching stand was in Philadelphia, later in Evansville, and then in Paducah in his native Kentucky. When he and Bobbie and Georgia Deane and I first came:-to Florida, he spent practically all of his preaching #efforts in protracted meetings. His services were in constant demand and hundreds responded to the gospel call through his efforts. Later the Millers left the Florida College campus for a stay of two or three years in Orlando. But Tampa always had a hold on them. They came back to Seminole where they remained longer than anywhere else. Some years ago he moved to Twelfth Street in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and finally back to Florida. After some years at Meritt Island, he again moved to Tampa only this last summer and, when not in meetings, worshiped and worked at Del Rio.

In the early years of the present administration at Florida College, he traveled extensively in the interest of the school. Other than gas money he never drew a dime in salary. Bobbie taught with us almost 20 years, and Jim became such a fixture on campus that many thought he was officially connected with the College. It was while making his home in Paducah in 1949 that James P. volunteered Bobbie’s services to teach home economics and business in Tampa. He was traveling with me to Illinois on a tour in quest of faculty members for the new administration when his decision was made to move. The more he heard about Florida, the more he seemed to like the climate. “Florida College needs a teach with Bobbie’s qualifications,” he said, “so if she’s willing to go, you can pay her and you’ll get me for good measure!” The deal was made on the spot subject to Bobbie’s liking, and that explains why the larger part of the last half of the Millers’ life has been in the Sunshine State.

I need not tell this audience about the devotion between Jim and his beloved Bobbie whom he affectionately called “Mother,” or of the pardonable pride he had in Rod. She was the darling of his heart and life, and he the apple of his father’s eye. His love extended to his lively daughter-in-law Carla, whom he considered as his own daughter. He knew the joy of grandfatherhood and was happy to report the doings of little Brian and Meredith.

His concern for the aged saint is well known in this audience for there are those here today whose hearts have throbbed at the tender and encouraging words he spoke to them, the hearty laugh he brought them, and the hope-giving prayer he prayed beside their own or a lifelong companion’s sickbed. And little children knew the gentleness of his voice and the security of his sturdy hand clasped around their own. They knew that “Brudder Miller” knew where to find striped candy, bubble gum, and ice cream. Grandmothers now, who were young mothers in the early days of Florida College, will never forget his thoughtfulness for their need to get away from the daily routine of child watching as he volunteered his services to baby sit while they did their grocery shopping, their laundry, or simply drove away for two or three hours on Saturday afternoons to be with their student or faculty-member husbands. I know these things first hand because on numerous occasions he carried my own children, sometimes with Rodney and sometimes without him, to the soda fountain or walked them in the nearby park and often encouraged my wife in her motherhood role when I was hundreds of miles from home. He was a great lover of Kipling’s poetry, memorized it extensively, and learned well how to walk with kings yet lost not the common touch.

To this audience, even as it would be with hundreds of others across this land, if I were to detail numerous episodes in Jim Miller’s life, such would be but a reply of information you and they have known from firsthand experience. Time forbids that I even attempt to trace the detailed course of this man’s life since the day he began preaching. There are so many interesting things both in and out of the pulpit it would take hours, if not days, to do them justice. Many of you have read Rodney’s book about his father. If you have not read it, I hope you will. It is rightly titled Pap-the Broken Mold. It does the job I refer to and does it well. In some way this man has touched every life present for good. This within itself is a great compliment. Everyone here knows, however, that nobody got close to our brother without feeling the effects of his presence for good. Even his critics who, before encounter, thought him an easy prey left his presence aware that they had met a man!

I find myself in a strait between two strong desires at this time. On the one hand I want to reminisce about those pleasantries as well as some of the pains of the past yet know that the word of God needs to be exalted. Some days ago when plans were being finalized for this occasion, these two points were considered and discussed among Jim, Bobbie and Rodney. I am following their wishes when I keep the personal references to a forgivable minimum and address myself to matters eternal.

I had thought to give attention to these peculiarly spiritual matters in my own words and way. I knew that Jim wanted me to speak on something taken from the Ephesian letter, for this was his favorite book. As I thought about this matter, it occurred to me that I could never compose anything to equal what James P. Miller himself has said about certain aspects of this great epistle. Though I shall try not to impose unduly upon your time, I here call your attention to some of tire richest thoughts James Parker Miller ever penned when he wrote his popular workbook-commentary: “The Glorious Bride”– Paul’s Essay on the Church. He pulled no punches in the pulpit. He pulled no punches with his pen.

Concerning emphasis on the church, Brother Miller said:

“It is common today to hear that we give too much emphasis to the church. Such men say we ought to preach Christ and say little about the church. If the church were purposed from all eternity, if the church is the bride of Christ, and if the Lord bought it with his death on the cross, we are not afraid we will give it too much attention. When we preach the cross of Christ, we preach the church paid for at the cross and bought by the blood of Jesus. If there is any way to emphasize this too much, then there must be a way to emphasize the cross and the blood of Christ too strongly. What sound Christian in the world can believe such could be true?”

Brother Miller wrote about Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders as recorded in Acts 20. He speaks of Paul’s reference to his own steadfastness and makes some timely observation. He said:

“The Lord has always needed men who could not be moved in their service to him. Paul above others was unique in this regard. He makes this great statement in verse 24. ‘But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.’ Paul was not affected by the things that cause other men to become unfaithful.

“First, he was not moved by his former teachers and associates. If after the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus he had trusted in their advice he would have never become the great apostle to the Gentiles. He would have said, ‘Wait and See how it all comes out.’ Wait and see who wins the battles and then throw your lot with the victors.

“Paul was not moved by financial considerations. Trained as other Jewish boys in a trade, he made tents time and again to pay his way while he suffered for the cause he knew was right. Paul would have stood with the Lord at the cost of his life and openly did so at Lystra.

“The apostle was not moved by the unpopularity of the cross of Christ. He would have stood for the gospel if he had to stand alone and did so in his first defense before the Roman authorities. He wrote to Timothy in II Timothy 4:16-17: ‘At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.’

“What about you? Can you be moved from faithful service to the Lord by those with whom you formerly associated? Can you be moved by the love of money? Does it hurt you to the point that you compromise the truth when the teaching of Jesus becomes unpopular? None of these things moved Paul.”

Regarding the “All-Sufficiency of the church” Brother Miller wrote:

“As a result of having the whole council of God preached by Paul, the church of Ephesus was in the unity of the faith. (see Eph. 4:1-6) This gave them all that they needed to do anything that the Lord wanted done. They were completely independent spiritually from everything else on earth. They looked to no school, paper, or center or influence. They were not a part of any super organization that exercised control over them. God needs no unit larger than the local congregation to do his work. The local church is sufficient; it is all-sufficient!”

I suppose there is no other part of the Ephesian letter in which Brother Miller delighted more than the first six verses of Ephesians chapter 4. These verses read as follows:

1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called.

2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forebearing one another in love;

3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of-your calling;

5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,

6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Here are some statements Brother Miller made concerning this text:

“There is a wonderful unity and harmony in all that the Holy Spirit revealed. For uninspired men to make an outline of this body of teaching would be difficult indeed. The God of heaven has made one for us in the next three verses. These divine items are so important we will deal with each separately and in depth.”

In the expression, “One Body,” we find unity in organization.

“In the first chapter, verse 22 tells us Christ is the head over all things to the church and verse 23 tells us that the church is his body. This gives us one head and one body. Anything else would be a reproach on the figure used for the church and on every teaching of the sacred scriptures. Men teach that Christ is the head of every denomination on earth and this would give us many bodies with just one head. We call attention again to this figure as it is used in 1 Corinthians 12:14 where Paul tells us, ‘the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body, is it therefore not of the body?’ Christians are the members of this wonderful body and in the passage above some are likened to the hand, the eye, the foot, etc. Again we learn that all members of the body have different functions but all are essential to the proper working of the church of Christ. For many years we have used this simple statement to show that there is but one organization in the New Testament bought by the blood of Christ and that all man-made denominations are wrong. The same can be said of any man who tries to attach to the divine head anything not found in the word of God. The body, the church, can only move at the direction of the head and that is Christ.”

In “one Spirit” we see unity in revelation.

“God purposes, Christ executes, and the Holy Spirit reveals. His revelation to man is perfect. This is why we can demand exact obedience to God’s word. We know that the Spirit gave to the apostles exactly what the Lord gave to him and they in turn wrote it for us. Jesus told the disciples in John 16:13, ‘howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.’ Th4 is why we are silent when the scriptures are silent. We have all of the mind of God in the word of God that our heavenly Father planned for us to have in this age.”

In “one hope” we observe unity of purpose.

“In Colossians 1:5 Paul calls it ‘the hope that is laid up foryou in heaven.’ It causes the Christian to endure persecutions and hardships without a murmur. The hope for a better tomorrow makes all of us work for that day to be realized. We need to remember that those who do not obey the gospel cannot have this hope. In 1 Thessalonians 4:13 we are told of ‘those who have no hope.’ This cannot be true with God’s children who ‘for the joy set before them’ work for their reward in heaven.”

In “one Lord” we find unity of authority.

“There is but one source of authority in the New Testament which is Christ, the one Lord. When he gave the great commission he said, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.’ On the Mount of Transfiguration the apostles were told by God from heaven to hear Christ. We have the wonderful reading in Hebrews 1 which tells us that ‘God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.’ The troubles of the world could be solved if men would just listen to Jesus. For the church to own Christ as head and then act without his authority is unthinkable. This is why we must do all ‘in the name of the Lord.’ The present issues before the church would disappear if we would just hear Christ and Christ only.”

In “one faith” there is seen unity of belief.

“This can only be possible because we have one faith. We draw all of our instructions from the same source, the New Testament. The popular idea in the world today is that every man can have his own faith and indeed this is what the creeds of man have created. Sometimes we hear men speak of `my faith’ and ‘our faith.’ All of this is unknown to the word of God. There is but one Lord and he gave but one faith.”

In the term “one baptism” is seen unity of practice.

“The one baptism of this passage is the door to all the other blessings listed. We are baptized into the one Lord to become children of the one God, at the direction of the one Faith that we may be a part of the one body and be guided by the one Spirit to enjoy the one hope. It is little wonder that we have it as one of the seven essential things in the New Testament. We can tell men and principles by the company they keep. The place the one baptism has in these verses denotes its importance in the one faith.”

In “one God” we find unity of worship.

“Little needs be said here about the oneness of God. He is the Father of all things and the object of our worship.

When John at the close of the book of Revelation tried to worship the angel he was instructed to ‘worship God.’ This is the message Christ gave to the woman at the well in John 4 and God has the right to expect worship from his children. Let us never be negligent in our devotion to the God ‘who gives us air to breathe and food to drink. Without him we cannot live and apart from him we dare not die.”

In the written works and recorded sermons of James Miller we have a wealth of information through which, like Abel of old, “though dead, he speaks.” Not only for his son and grandchildren will his influence live by these published means; but when the history of churches of Christ of this generation is written, the name of James Parker Miller will stand forth as one who loved the Lord, the Lord’s Word, the Lord’s Cause, and the Lord’s people.

James Miller was first a Christian, second a preacher, next a. debater and then a writer. His first spiritual love was God and His kingdom; his first fleshly loves were his wife and son. He never confused these two loves and, so far as I know, he neglected neither of them. He leaves written on the scroll of time a rich heritage for his posterity and, based on what I am able to determine regarding the Christian’s hope born of a faith in the living God, he leaves the name of James Parker Miller written in the Lamb’s Book of Live. His greatest bequest, however, is the hundreds of precious souls-many of you here today-who now enjoy or shall enjoy the life that never ends because of the simple story of redemptive love which he so fervently preached and to which he dedicated his life.

My brethren, James Miller was a great servant of God and he was your personal friend. He was your brother and he cared for your souls. We have loved and lost him for a little while. The last time I saw him we reaffirmed our personal affection for each other. My hope is that our spirits may dwell together forever when life’s little dream has passed. That you and I may sanctify his teaching and influence toward preparing ourselves for that heavenly city should be our aim and constant effort. He was my friend. He was my brother. I loved him much. May God bless his memory!

Truth Magazine XXII: 10, pp. 170-173
March 9, 1978