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Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Midnight Cry!

MILLER, William, founder of the sect of Adventists, or "Millerites," born in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 5 February, 1782; died in Low Hampton, New York, 20 December, 1849. His father, Captain William Miller, was a soldier of the Revolution and of the war of 1812. His mother was the daughter of Elnathan Phelps, of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, a popular Baptist clergyman.

Religious meetings were often held in his father's house, and the zeal of the exhorters and revivalists had much to do with shaping the boy's career, who had little else to break the monotony of his farm life. The few books he could borrow were mainly religious, stimulating the morbid tendency of his mind, but he earned copies of "Robinson Crusoe" and "The Adventures of Robert Boyle" by chopping wood.

He became a prosperous Green Mountain farmer, was a recruiting-officer at the beginning of the war of 1812, and a captain at Plattsburgh. He owned a farm of 200 acres unencumbered, and was a justice of the peace, constable, and sheriff. He was a ready and smooth versifier, and was called the "poet of Low Hampton." In his early manhood he read Hume, Voltaire, and Tom Paine, and advocated their teachings.

He afterward professed faith in Christianity, uniting with the Baptist Church at Low Hampton, when his absorbing study of the Bible began. "I lost all taste for other reading," he wrote of this period. He began with Genesis, and left not a sentence unstudied, accepting no help or direction beyond the concordance and the reference of his polyglot Bible. He was guided in his interpretation entirely by his private judgment, and ultimately concentrated his attention upon the prophecies, particularly those of the second coming.

In 1831 he rose from his prolonged study under a solemn conviction that to him had been given the key unlocking the prophetical numbers, and that he must go forth and proclaim to a doomed world that in twelve years, at longest, the end of all things would come; that some time between 21 March, 1843, and 21 March, 1844, Jesus Christ would appear in person to judge the world.

He was licensed to preach by the Baptist church at Low Hampton, but was never ordained. Multitudes pressed to hear him wherever he went, and he could not respond to the numerous invitations he received to lecture upon the prophecies. He paid his own expenses as a rule, and there was no admission-fee to his lectures. Churches were thrown open to him everywhere at first--excepting those of the Episcopalians and Roman Catholics--and many prominent clergymen became advocates of his doctrine.

The tide of his popularity turned when some of his converts fastened the name of "Babylon" upon the churches, calling upon "believers in the blessed hope" to "come out of her" if they would be saved.

Father Miller's lectures were illustrated by great charts, upon which were depicted the apocalyptic beasts, Nebuchadnezzar's image, etc. These charts presented a mathematical demonstration of the mystical problem of the 2,300 days of Daniel's vision, showing just when "the third woe" must be sounded, and the seventh trumpet, and just when the stone must smite the image, etc.

The vital point of his argument was the connection between the seventy weeks of Daniel and the 2,300 days, and therein was the revelation of the exact time of the end. The grand culmination of the fanaticism was 24-25 October, 1844, "the tenth day of the seventh month" excitement.

The mistake in fixing upon 1843, it was shown, grew out of a neglect to consider the difference between Roman and Jewish time; 1843 Jewish time was 1844 Roman time, and the new revelation had given not only the year but the month and the day, "and probably the hour even." The clue had been found in the fact that the tenth day of the seventh month was that of the great day of the atonement. The literature of the "tenth-day excitement" may be found in the many publications of the sect at the time, and is by no means discreditable to its authors.

Naturally there was intense excitement among the believers, until not only the month of October but that of November had passed. They gathered themselves together in great multitudes, and hundreds were baptized by immersion. They did not array themselves in ascension-robes, as has been universally believed. The offshoots of the fanaticism were many, each founded on some interpretation of Scripture according to private judgment.

One Mrs. Miner, of Philadelphia, went to Palestine to make ready that land for the tarrying Messiah. There was a "shut-door" faction, which asserted that Christ came spiritually on the tenth day, and had "shut the door" against all unbelievers. The "Feet-Washers" were another phase of the reaction from disappointment. There was a marked drift to the Shakers, while many went back to "Babylon," thankful for the refuge.

But the majority of Father Miller's converts, 50,000 or more, did not forsake their leader, nor give up their faith in the speedy appearing. On 25 April, 1845, he called a convention of his followers, a declaration of faith was agreed upon, and the name of "Adventist" was adopted by the new sect, which, under various names, has been increasing ever since. Father Miller published many sermons and lectures, and his "Dream of the Last Day" had a large circulation. See "Memoirs of William Miller," by Sylvester Bliss (Boston, 1853).

- Edited Appletons Encyclopedia by John Looby, Copyright © 2001 StanKlos.comTM