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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    VII. Initial License in 1833; Broader Certificate in 1835

    For the first two years Miller preached or lectured simply as a layman-on his own, without any authorizing papers. He had been “expounding the words of Divine Truth in public,” to the “approbation and edification of the church.” This his home church desired to encourage, and to approve and authorize. So on September 14, 1833, the Baptist church of Hampton—of which Miller had been a member for seventeen years, or ever since his conversion in 1816—unsolicited by him and “unbeknown” to him, and in conformity with Baptist procedure, voted in regular “Church Meeting” to issue him a “license to preach.” 37Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 19; Bliss, Memoirs, p. 109. Immediately after it was handed him, at Low Hampton, Miller wrote to his sister and voiced his reactions to this license with its vote of confidence:PFF4 498.3

    “I have just returned from Dresden, where I have been to spend a Sabbath, and to preach to them the word of life. My texts, yesterday, were Hosea 13:1; Isaiah 61:7; and Psalm 102:16.... I do feel anxious to come and see you; and, if the Lord will, and your people should not object, to try to speak to them of the things of the kingdom. My brethren have given me a license—unworthy and old and disobedient as I am. Oh, to grace how great a debtor!” 38Bliss, Memoirs, p. 109.PFF4 499.1

    The 1833 certificate itself reads:PFF4 499.2

    “Let brotherly love continue: the Baptist Church of Christ, in Hampton and White-Hall, do certify that Brother William Miller is a member in regular standing in this Church. Brother Miller has been improving his gifts with us in expounding the words of Divine Truth, in public, for some time past, to the approbation and edification of the church. We are satisfied that Brother Miller has a gift to improve in public; and are willing he should improve the same, wherever his lot may be cast among the Zion of God,—that the name of the Lord may be glorified, and his followers edified. Done in Church Meeting, Saturday, Sept. 12, 1833. By order of the Church.PFF4 499.3

    ” (Signed,)“BYRON S. HARLOW, clerk pro tern.” 39Original in Adventual collection, Aurora (Illinois) College; photostat in Advent Source Collection; see also Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 108, 109. Now that he was authorized as a recommended and “regularly licensed preacher,” his friend Hendryx started to address him as the “Rev.” William Miller. This brought an emphatic rejoinder in a letter to Hendryx on the propriety of such a title:PFF4 499.4

    “Dear Br. Hendryx, I wish you would look into your bible and see if you can find the word Rev. applied to a sinful mortal as myself and govern yourself accordingly.” 40Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, March 22, 1834. Then, two years later, in 1835, Miller received a far broader and more weighty credential, transcending denominational bounds and further commending him to the public, specifically as a “lecturer on the prophecies.” This certificate was signed by over a score of Baptist ministers as well as by nearly a score of clergymen from other denominations in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Canada. 41Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 19.PFF4 500.1

    The full implication of these two ministerial papers should not be missed. The first was issued by Miller’s home church, which had known his personal life and beliefs intimately for years, where he had attended divine service even before his conversion in 1816, and of which he had been a member ever since-for seventeen years. They knew his specific views on the premillennial second advent and on prophecy in general, as well as on the millennium in particular.PFF4 500.2

    Furthermore, during 1832, his sixteen articles along these very lines had been appearing in the Baptist Vermont Telegraph, 42The Vermont Telegraph, started in 1828, was a Baptist newspaper of considerable circulation. It continued as a religious journal until 1835, when it passed into the hands of Orason S. Murray. It was then transformed into an antislavery paper, but soon developed strong infidel sentiments, which were raging like a desolating scourge at the time, and so came into direct conflict with the views of its founders. It was then disowned by the Baptists, who started the Vermont Baptist Journal. Miller’s articles, appearing in the Telegraph in 1832, were therefore issued when this journal was a respected and influential Baptist paper.(David M. Ludlum, Social Ferment in Vermont, 1791-1850, pp. 38, 61, 141, 142, 172; Henry Crocker, History of the Baptists in Vermont, pp. 461, 462.) of Brandon, and then were put into pamphlet form for circulation among the Baptists and others of New England.PFF4 500.3

    Yet even more significant than the Baptist license was the united action of the large group of Baptist ministers, scattered over New York, Vermont, and Canada, who had personally heard Miller’s rounded course of lectures in their own churches, or had read them in the newly printed form. They, too, freely declared it wholly proper for him to preach these specific doctrines and prophetic positions in the various churches to which he might be invited.PFF4 500.4

    But that is not all. To this imposing list were added the willing signatures of some seventeen other ministers of other denominations in New York, Vermont, and Massachusetts, who similarly felt his preaching to be proper and orthodox. And it was definitely designated as a “Ministerial Recommendation.” This was most unusual, surpassing all merely routine credentials. In recording this unique document, Bliss gives this introductory statement:PFF4 501.1

    “These lectures and sermons of Mr. Miller met the approval of a large number of the ministers of his denomination, with whose approbation, from this time, he went forth as a public laborer, endorsed and sanctioned by the following certificate.” 43Bliss, Memoirs, p. 120. The 1835 certificate itself, with two appendices, reads as follows:PFF4 501.2

    “March 19, 1835.

    “This may certify, to whom it may concern, that we, whose names are hereunto affixed,—being ministers in the denomination of regular Baptists,—are personally acquainted with Bro. William Miller, the bearer of this certificate; that he is a member, and a licentiate in good regular standing, in the particular Baptist church, in Hampton, N.Y.; that we have heard his lectures on the subject of the Second Coming and Reign of our Lord Jesus Christ; and that we believe his views on that particular subject, as well as others pertaining to the gospel, are worthy to be known and read of all men. As such an one, we commend him to God, and the affectionate acceptance of our brethren in the precious Saviour.
    “J. Sawyer, Jr., South Reading.
    E. Halping, Hampton.
    Amos Stearns, Fort Ann.
    Emerson Andrews, Lansingburgh.
    PFF4 501.3

    “June 28, 1836.

    “Having heard the above-mentioned lectures, I see no way to avoid the conclusion that the coming of Christ will be as soon as 1843.
    “R. S. Palmer, Stockholm, N.Y.
    Joel H. Green, Parishville.
    Silas Pratt, Nicholsville. Wareham Walker, Shaftsbury, Vt. Edw. B. Crandall, Lansingburgh,
    James Ten Brooke, Panton, Vt. N.Y.
    Edward Mitchell, Canada.
    Samuel B. Ryder, Jr., Canada.
    S. C. Dillaway, West Granville, N.Y.
    Wakeman G. Johnson, Whiting, Vt.
    B. Carpenter, Addison.
    J. Fuller, Poultney.
    Holland Turner, Plattsburg.
    A. Jones, Jr., Middlebury.
    Anthony Case, Cornwall.
    Albert Stone, Johnston.
    Prosper Powell, Troy, Vt.
    Samuel Marshall, Fort Ann, N.Y.
    Isaac Wescott, Stillwater.
    William W. Moor, Bristol.
    Edward S. Soullard, Middletown.
    PFF4 501.4

    “I do cordially recommend the above, and its bearer, Brother Miller.
    “George Norris, Granville.
    Jehial K. Wright, Weybridge.
    M. D. Miller, Monkton.
    Simon Fletcher, Bridgeport, Vt.
    John A. Dodge, Ferrisburg.
    Elias Hurlbut, Andover, Vt.
    Samuel Pollard, Weston, Vt.
    Edmund Goodnough, Agent B.G.T.S.
    Arurah Allen, West Haven.
    Hiram Safford, Keeseville.
    Friend Blood, Brookfield.
    Benjamin Willard, East Williamstown.
    Lyman Culver, Barre.
    Isaiah Huntley, Jericho.
    John Lord, East Randholph, Mass.
    James M. Beeman, Westford, Vt.
    Oliver Ayer, Littleton, Mass.
    PFF4 502.1

    “The above I certify to be a true copy of an original Ministerial Recommendation, signed by the above-named persons. The sentiments I believe correct, and according to the word of God. I think it will be fulfilled in 1843, or thereabouts.PFF4 502.2

    “Justus Da Lee, Cambridge.” 44Photostat of original in Advent Source Collection; see also Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 120-122. Miller was thus a licensed minister with an interdenominational certificate.PFF4 502.3

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