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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    VI. Miller’s First Statement of Prophetic Faith

    Miller’s manner of study is also faithfully recorded. Though rather widely read in theological and Bible lore, in this period of intense study he “laid aside all commentaries, and used the marginal references and his Concordance as his only helps.” 9Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 6; also in Bliss, Memoirs, p. 69. He had previously studied various commentaries. But he resolutely put aside “all preconceived opinions” and traditional teachings, in order to seek out the “natural and obvious of Scripture meaning.” He wrestled with puzzling passages until they became clear, often devoting whole nights, as well as entire days, to their study. “The great plan of God for the redemption of fallen man” was his abiding theme. Here is his own statement of the process followed for the two years mentioned:PFF4 468.4

    “I determined to lay aside all my prepossessions, to thoroughly compare Scripture with Scripture, and to pursue its study in a regular and methodical manner. I commenced with Genesis, and read verse by verse, proceeding no faster than the meaning of the several passages should be so unfolded as to leave me free from embarrassment respecting any mysticisms or contradictions. Whenever I found anything obscure, my practice was to compare it with all collateral passages; and, by the help of Cruden, I examined all the texts of Scripture in which were found any of the prominent words contained in any obscure portion. Then, by letting every word have its proper bearing on the subject of the text, if my view of it harmonized with every collateral passage in the Bible, it ceased to be a difficulty.PFF4 469.1

    “In this way I pursued the study of the Bible, in my first perusal of it, for about two years, and was fully satisfied that it is its own interpreter. I found that, by a comparison of Scripture with history, all the prophecies, as far as they have been fulfilled, had been fulfilled literally; that all the various figures, metaphors, parables, similitudes, 8cc., of the Bible, were either explained in their immediate connection, or the terms in which they were expressed were defined in other portions of the word; and, when thus explained, are to be literally understood in accordance with such explanation. I was thus satisfied that the Bible is a system of revealed truths, so clearly... and simply given that the ‘wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.’” 10Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 69, 70.PFF4 469.2


    Miller formulated some fourteen “Rules of Interpretation.” Certain of these are worth noting carefully, as they show his processes and procedures in the study of prophecy, and in reaching his conclusions. Observe seven examples:PFF4 469.3

    “IV. To understand doctrine, bring all the Scriptures together on the subject you wish to know; then let every word have its proper influence; and if you can form your theory without a contradiction, you cannot be in error. Proof, Isaiah 28:7-29; 35:8. Proverbs 19:27. Luke 24:27, 44, 45. Romans 16:26. James 5:19. 2 Peter 1:19, 20.PFF4 470.1

    “V. Scripture must be its own expositor, since it is a rule of itself. If I depend on a teacher to expound to me, and he should guess at its meaning, or desire to have it so on account of his sectarian creed, or to be thought wise, then his guessing, desire, creed or wisdom, is my rule, and not the Bible. Proof, Psalm 19:7-11; 119:97-105. Matthew 23:8-10. 1 Corinthians 2:12-16. Ezekiel 34:18, 19. Luke 11:52. Matthew 2:7, 8.PFF4 470.2

    “VI. God has revealed things to come, by visions, in figures and parables; and in this way the same things are often time revealed again and again, by different visions, or in different figures and parables. If you wish to understand them, you must combine them all in one. Proof, Psalm 89:19. Hosea 12:10. Habakkuk 2:2. Acts 2:17. 1 Corinthians 10:6. Hebrews 9:9, 24. Psalm 78:2. Matthew 13:13, 34. Genesis 41:1-32. Daniel 2nd, 7th & 8th. Acts 10:9-16.”PFF4 470.3

    “VIII. Figures always have a figurative meaning, and are used much in prophecy to represent future things, times and events,—such as mountains, meaning governments, Daniel 2:35, 44; beasts, meaning kingdoms, Daniel 7:8, 17; waters, meaning people, Revelation 17:1, 15; day, meaning year, 8cc. Ezekiel 4:6.”PFF4 470.4

    “X. Figures sometimes have two or more different significations, as day is used in a figurative sense to represent three different periods of time, namely, first, indefinite, Ecclesiastes 7:14; second, definite, a day for a year, Ezekiel 4:6; and third, a day for a thousand years, 2 Peter 3:8.”PFF4 470.5

    “XII. To learn the meaning of a figure, trace the word through your Bible, and when you find it explained, substitute the explanation for the word used; and, if it make good sense, you need not look further; if not, look again.PFF4 470.6

    “XIII. To know whether we have the true historical event for the fulfilment of a prophecy: If you find every word of the prophecy (after the figures are understood) is literally fulfilled, then you may know that your history is the true event; but if one word lacks a fulfilment, then you must look for another event, or wait its future development; for God takes care that history and prophecy shall agree, so that the true believing children of God may never be ashamed. Psalm 22:5. Isaiah 45:17-19. 1 Peter 2:6. Revelation 17:17. Acts 3:18.” 11Ibid., pp. 70, 71.PFF4 470.7


    The first major conclusion reached by Miller was that “the popular views of the spiritual reign of Christ—a temporal millennium before the end of the world, and the Jews’ return—are not sustained by the Word of God.” All the Scriptures upon which these “favorite theories” were based were as clearly expressed as those that had been “literally fulfilled” at the first advent, and other events of the past. Applying this principle to the second advent, he reasoned:PFF4 470.8

    “I found it plainly taught in the Scriptures that Jesus Christ will again descend to this earth, coming in the clouds of heaven, in all the glory of his Father: that, at his coming, the kingdom and dominion under the whole heaven will be given to him and the saints of the Most High, who will possess it forever, even for ever and ever: that, as the old world perished by the deluge, so the earth, that now is, is reserved unto fire, to be melted with fervent heat at Christ’s coming; after which, according to the promise, it is to become the new earth, wherein the righteous will forever dwell: that, at his coming, the bodies of all the righteous dead will be raised, and all the righteous living be changed from a corruptible to an incorruptible, from a mortal to an immortal state; that they will all be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, and will reign with him forever in the regenerated earth: that the controversy with Zion will then be finished, her children be delivered from bondage, and from the power of the tempter, and the saints be all presented to God blameless, without spot or wrinkle in love; that the bodies of the wicked will then all be destroyed, and their spirits be reserved in prison until their resurrection and damnation; and that, when the earth is thus regenerated, the righteous raised, and the wicked destroyed, the kingdom of God will have come, when his will will be done on earth as it is done in heaven; that the meek will inherit it, and the kingdom become the saints.” 12Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, pp. 7, 8.PFF4 471.1

    Then continuing, Miller reached these conclusions as to the millennium and the return of the Jews:PFF4 471.2

    “I found that the only millennium taught in the word of God is the thousand years which are to intervene between the first resurrection and that of the rest of the dead, as inculcated in the twentieth of Revelation; and that it must necessarily follow the personal coming of Christ and the regeneration of the earth: that, till Christ’s coming, and the end of the world, the righteous and wicked are to continue together on the earth, and that the horn of the Papacy is to war against the saints until his appearing and kingdom, when it will be destroyed by the brightness of Christ’s coming; so that there can be no conversion of the world before the advent; and that as the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, is located by Peter after the conflagration, and is declared by him to be the same for which we look, according to the promise of Isaiah 65:17, and is the same that John saw in vision after the passing away of the former heavens and earth; it must necessarily follow that the various portions of Scripture that refer to the millennial state must have their fulfilment after the resurrection of all the saints that sleep in Jesus. I also found that the promises respecting Israel’s restoration are applied by the apostle to all who are Christ’s,—the putting on of Christ constituting them Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” 13Ibid., pp. 8, 9.PFF4 471.3

    It is worthy of remembrance that the reaching of these major conclusions preceded Miller’s specific study of the chronology of the prophecies, rather than the reverse. The primary and separating issue was really the premillennial advent as against the popular roseate scheme of world betterment and a temporal millennium.PFF4 472.1


    But the chronological prophecies likewise had a determinative bearing on all this. So Miller next applied himself to their study. His early conclusions on the prophecies were basic to all his future utterances, as will be seen from his next words:PFF4 472.2

    “Another kind of evidence that vitally affected my mind was the chronology of the Scriptures. I found, on pursuing the study of the Bible, various chronological periods extending, according to my understanding of them, to the coming of the Saviour. I found that predicted events, which had been fulfilled in the past, often occurred within a given time. The one hundred and twenty years to the flood, Genesis 6:3; the seven days that were to precede it, with forty days of predicted rain, Genesis 7:4; the four hundred years of the sojourn of Abraham’s seed, Genesis 15:13; the three days of the butler’s and baker’s dreams, Genesis 40:12-20; the seven years of Pharaoh’s, Genesis 41:28-54; the forty years in the wilderness, Numbers 14:34; the three and a half years of famine, 1 Kings 17:1; the sixty-five years to the breaking of Ephraim, Isaiah 7:8; the seventy years’ captivity, Jeremiah 25:11; Nebuchadnezzar’s seven times, Daniel 4:13-16; and the seven weeks, three score and two weeks, and the one week, making seventy weeks, determined upon the Jews, Daniel 9:24-27; the events limited by these times were all once only a matter of prophecy, and were fulfilled in accordance with the predictions.” 14Ibid., pp. 9, 10. (Italics supplied.) Miller thus came to see that the second advent was the grand focal point of all prophecy. And his acquaintance with “the standard Protestant commentators” is particularly noted:PFF4 472.3

    “I saw that, as the events predicted to be fulfilled in prophetic days had been extended over about as many literal years; as God, in Numbers 14:34, and Ezekiel 4:4-6, had appointed each day for a year; as the seventy weeks to the Messiah were fulfilled in 490 years, and the 1260 prophetic days of the Papal supremacy in 1260 years; and as these prophetical days extending to the advent were given in connection with symbolic prophecy, I could only regard the time as symbolical, and as standing each day for a year, in accordance with the opinions o/ all the standard Protestant commentators. If, then, we could obtain any clue to the time of their commencement, I conceived we should be guided to the probable time of their termination; and, as God would not bestow upon us an useless revelation, I regarded them as conducting us to the time when we might confidently look for the coming of the Chiefest of ten thousand, One altogether lovely.” 15Ibid., p. 11. These conclusions he considered wholly orthodox and in harmony with the best expositors. He did not consider himself an innovator or an originator.PFF4 473.1


    And now, with such clearly established premises and procedures, he reached certain sobering, yes, highly startling conclusions. Here again his expressed familiarity with the “best chronologers” and the “best historians” is to be particularlyPFF4 473.2

    observed:PFF4 473.3

    “From a further study of the Scriptures, I concluded that the seven times of Gentile supremacy must commence when the Jews ceased to be an independent nation, at the captivity of Manasseh, which the best chronologers assigned to B.C. 677; that the 2300 days commenced with the seventy weeks, which the best chronologers dated from B.C. 457; and that the 1335 days, commencing with the taking away of the daily, and the setting up of the abomination that maketh desolate, Daniel 12:11, were to be dated from the setting up of the Papal supremacy, after the taking away of Pagan abominations, and which, according to the best historians I could consult, should be dated from about A.D. 508. Reckoning all these prophetic periods from the several dates assigned by the best chronologers for the events from which they should evidently be reckoned, they would all terminate together, about A.D. 1843.” 16Ibid., p. 11. (Italics supplied.)PFF4 473.4


    The Bible had now become a new book to Miller. The dark mists of seeming obscurity and mysticism in the prophecies had been dissipated before “the clear light that dawned from its sacred pages.” The alleged contradictions and inconsistencies of past deistic days had largely vanished. But he was almost stunned by his tentative yet astonishing conclusions. They had not been anticipated; yet they seemed inevitable. Could they be true? Here is Miller’s summarizing statement:PFF4 473.5

    “I commenced their study with no expectation of finding the time of the Saviour’s coming, and I could at first hardly believe the result to which I had arrived; but the evidence struck me with such force that I could not resist my convictions. I became nearly settled in my conclusions, and began to wait, and watch, and pray for my Saviour’s coming.” 17Ibid., p. 12. Such was Miller’s specific prophetic faith, slowly developed out of his two years of intensive study and review, as he has placed it on intimate record. His mind was filled with mixed emotions. From then on, for several years, while this was a matter of practically settled conviction, he continued to review and study, and to ponder his relationships and responsibility, in the light of his convictions. He lived a devoted Christian life, was a Sunday school teacher and even superintendent. In church he sometimes served as reader and exhorter, and was exemplary in his support of religious worship. But if his conclusions on prophecy were sound, and such momentous events were actually due within a short space of time, it was obviously important that the world know about it. He knew that it would draw the opposition of the ungodly, but never dreamed it would be opposed by any true Christians. He supposed that they would rejoice in the glorious prospect. Moreover, he was concerned lest others might accept the conclusions without carefully examining the subject. In fact, he feared to present it lest there be some inadvertent error that he had not discovered. 18Ibid., p. 13.PFF4 474.1


    Objections and difficulties would, of course, arise in his mind. So he kept on studying to test these out. For example, there was the text, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man.” How then could the Bible reveal the time? But he found that we could know when it is “nigh, even at the door”—so we could know the proximity. That was as far as he ever dared to go—“about 1843.” And thus he continued his study of the texts commonly used to teach the temporal millennium, a single resurrection, and the return of the Jews-reviewing and testing. Thus he went on from 1818 to 1822 weighing various objections and resolving them. In this way he anticipated all the objections later advanced by opposers. Of this he says:PFF4 474.2

    “But, however strong they at first appeared, after examining them in the light of the Divine Word, I could only compare them to straws, laid down singly, as obstacles, on a well-beaten road: the car of truth rolled over them, unimpeded in its progress.” 19Ibid., pp. 14, 15. Becoming firmly settled in his personal conclusions, which had been reached some seven years prior, his “duty of presenting the evidence of the nearness” of Christ’s advent began to press upon him. He had thrown out occasional hints of his views. Now he began to speak more expressly about it and to write occasional letters about it. 20Letter, June 25, 1825, to “Dear Brother and Sister,” in Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 83, 84. But the majority regarded it as an idle tale. Nevertheless, he was becoming more and more convinced that he had a personal duty to perform in making known his convictions on the second advent.PFF4 475.1

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