File Name: Milligan, Robert - Commentary on Hebrews
File Submitter: djmarko53
File Submitted: 24 Aug 2019
File Category: CommentariesAuthor: Robert Milligan
e-Sword Version: 9.x - 10.x
This is the Complete Commentary by Robert Milligan.
It was first published over 100 years ago and in the
Public Domain. Last ©1989 by Gospel Advocate Co.
This Commentary is a true Classic when compared to
all other Commentaries on Hebrews. The 1989 Print
edition was approx. 500 pages.
Robert Milligan was born in the county of Tyrone, in north
Ireland, July 25, 1814. At age four his parents came to America.
They settled on a farm in Trumbull County, Ohio. While helping
his father clear new ground, young Milligan received a chest
injury which caused him to give up farming and perhaps
changed the course of his life.
In 1831, being seventeen years of age, he entered a classical
academy in Beaver County Pennsylvania taught by Dr. John
Gamble. Two years later he enrolled in a classical academy
at Jamestown, Pennsylvania. He seems to have made rapid
progress. At age twenty-one he was back at his father's house.
As his parents were devoted members of the Reformed
Presbyterian Church, he was at this time fast becoming a
communicant in that religious group. Looking for a milder
climate farther south, at age twenty-three, he opened a
school of classical arts at Flat Rock, Bourbon County
Kentucky (now Little Rock). He also taught the Scriptures
to his students. Questions from his students caused him t
o rethink his faith, "he was thus providentially made to
realize the great responsibility of the man who presumes
to interpret for others the oracles of God."
Thus with an open mind studying the Bible in the originals,
he concluded that he was a member of a church not
authorized in the word of God. So, on March 11, 1838,
he was immersed by Elder John Irvin of the Cane Ridge
congregation three miles away.
After two years at Flat Rock he determined to resume his
education at Yale. On his way to New Jersey, he stopped
at Washington, Pennsylvania, to visit friends. A small group
of disciples persuaded him to stay and teach them. He
stayed, and entered Washington College receiving his B.A.
degree at the age of twenty-six. Shortly after graduation,
he was offered a professorship at Washington College. He
was also set apart as a preacher of the gospel among these
Christians according to the custom of the time. Thomas
Campbell laid his hands on Milligan. While at Washington,
he studied the classics in both Greek and Latin languages.
When the college was brought under control of the
Presbyterian Synod, thus more strictly denominational, Milligan
resigned. However, during this time he met and married Ellen
Blaine Russell in January 1842, the twenty-eighth year of his
life, and she was said to have remained his faithful wife until
In 1852 he accepted an offer to teach mathematics at the
University of Indiana in Bloomington. He also taught chemistry,
astronomy, and natural philosophy. The University would have
bestowed upon him the doctor's degree, but he refused. Because
of ill health and that of his family, he resigned after two years.
Alexander Campbell's Bethany College had been seeking his
services as a professor for some time, so he accepted this offer
and moved to Bethany, West Virginia.
At Bethany College, he taught mathematics and astronomy. He
was ordained an elder in the Bethany church of Christ, and was
appointed coeditor of the Millennial Harbinger. Professor J.W. McGarvey
writes that for five years he was, . . . discharging the duties of his
professorship with his accustomed assiduity, and entering upon a
work of personal religious labor among the students of the college
and the citizens of the community such as had never before been
known in that institution.
Thus his influence was distinctly felt by the young men in the college,
and by numerous others in the community. During these years Bacon
College at Harrodsburg, Kentucky, had closed its doors because of
financial problems. Mr. John Bowman, an alumnus, was able to raise
$200,000 to aid in reopening the school. It was rechartered as Kentucky
University. Thus the school began to attract attention from the entire
disciples' brotherhood. When John Bowman and his advisors began
to search for a new president they fixed their eyes on Robert Milligan.
It was a hard decision to leave a field where he had been so successful.
In a letter to McGarvey in June, 1857, he wrote, "Nothing but a sense
of duty will induce me to dissolve my present relations; but I confess
that it is difficult to withstand the generous appeals of my Kentucky
brethren." In 1859, he answered this call to return to Kentucky and
assume the presidency of Kentucky University. The school opened
with one hundred ninety-four students. The faculty consisted of Robert
Milligan as president, Robert Richardson, Henry H. White, John H.
Nieville, and Robert Graham. Kentucky University remained in
Harrodsburg until the summer of 1865, when most of the buildings were
destroyed by fire. A committee was formed to raise another $100,000.
They were successful; a new location was found, and "the University
was removed to Lexington, Kentucky, where it succeeded to the
property of Transylvania University.” After moving to Lexington during
that year, Robert Milligan resigned as president of Kentucky University
and became head or president of the College of the Bible. It was one
of three colleges of the University. Robert Milligan and John W.
McGarvey were the faculty. Milligan held this position until his death.
As an administrator, his success was blunted somewhat by his indecision,
but his life's real purpose was realized and fulfilled in his classroom work
and his writings. He taught for a period of thirty-five years as a college
professor and was very successful. Having great intellectual power, he
was master of every situation with his students, sometimes appearing
as a king on his throne. He was a man of humility and peace. When
financial difficulties developed and the question arose over the misuse
of money to the College of the Bible, Professor J. W. McGarvey was
asked to resign. Milligan was opposed to the dismissal of McGarvey
and appeared before the Board of Curators on McGarvey's behalf.
He said, ". . . allow me to say that it has never been my good fortune
to cooperate with any man more earnest in his work, and in the course
of thirty-three years as a teacher I have never met one more honest
and faithful in the discharge of his duties than Professor McGarvey."
The President's appeal was in vain and McGarvey was dismissed;
however, records show that he was later reinstated. Milligan was
able to stay on as he would go to great pains to avoid conflict. He
pursued peace, was devoted to his work, and seemed to labor long
with less regard to personal interests. During his last days at the
College, he was ill much of the time. He insisted on meeting his
classes, even though he was ordered by his doctor to stay in bed.
When unable to attend the classroom his students would meet at
his home for instruction. He wrote a total of seven religious
volumes and almost all of them during the time of his college
duties and with failing health. During his last days he had to
take medicine each day. His physician told him to drink some
whiskey or brandy each day, but he refused because of the
dreaded influence it might have on others, especially his young
Many think that Milligan's Scheme of Redemption was his
greatest work. It was used, it seems, in ministerial training
during those early days and is still used in reprinted editions
in the classrooms of some Christian colleges. The book deals
with the nature of God, the beginnings, the patriarchal age,
the giving of the law at Sinai, and then proceeds to discuss
the person and work of Jesus Christ. After discussing the
Holy Spirit and conversions, he proceeds to discuss the
church, its organization, work and ultimate glorification.
Robert Milligan died March 20, 1875, at the age of sixty-one.
J. W. McGarvey had the privilege of sitting by his side during
the last hour or two of his life. His funeral was held at the
Broadway Christian Church in Lexington. The building was
crowded with family and friends and many could not gain
admittance. The service was conducted by McGarvey and
Graham. At the grave Professors Ricketts and McGarvey
led prayers. It is very evident that he was held in high esteem
by his associates. We quote from the Apostolic Times:
"Robert Milligan will long live in the affectionate remembrance
of thousands. He was of the few who seem to be elevated
above the race by the purity and blamelessness of their lives.
Not a few think he was the best man they ever knew. To those
whom he educated for the Christian ministry he was inexpressibly
dear. In him were united the humility, simplicity, and candor of a
child with the loftiest traits of a noble manhood. Though dead he
will live in the labors he has left as a precious legacy to the world
and the church. One such life is worth more than a volume of
arguments for the truth of our holy religion. He was a shining
example of the rich grace of our God; and to Him we give all the
praise for such an example of piety as we have in our departed
friend and brother."
Standing some twenty to thirty feet high in the beautiful Lexington
Cemetery is a marble monument erected by family and friends to
his memory. Carved into the stone are these words: "Robert Milligan,
Born in the country of Tyrone Ireland, July 25, 1814, Died in Lexington,
Kentucky, March 20, 1875. —He was a good man and full of the Holy
Spirit and of faith."
The life of Robert Milligan (1814-1875) represents a man, a man who
became an early student, teacher, preacher, author, scholar, and
administrator. He taught a classical school at an early age. He became
a New Testament Christian at age twenty-four or perhaps twenty-five,
thus entering the Restoration Movement at Cane Ridge, Bourbon County
His influence was widely felt in the brotherhood through his teachings and
writings. His aim was always to bring about a clearer understanding of the
Scriptures. He saw the Bible as a whole and his views were formed after
intensive study of Scripture. His writings reveal that he taught much on
fundamental and doctrinal subjects such as conversion, the Holy Spirit,
the Judgment, baptism for the remission of sins, instrumental music and
church worship. Some of his thoughts on prophecy and his position on the
millennium question would differ from most of us holding the Restoration
Plea today, but this would not reduce his major impact as a meticulous
and prolific writer.
His love for God and his word seemed to be the dominating factor in his
life. He was a liberal giver to the poor, and especially to his poor students.
His pain and sufferings, especially in the later days, did not prevent his
living an humble, obedient, and useful life. We are sometimes amazed at
his success. Will we do as well?