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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: From Individual Effort to Group Endeavor

    I. Preaching Alone Over Small-Town New England

    With rapid steps, let us retrace briefly the trail of Miller’s early preaching experience as he starts out alone on his mission. In the latter half of 1831 he lectured in towns near his own Low Hampton-such as Dresden, Poultney, and Pawlet. These appointments were all in Baptist, Congregationalist, and Methodist churches, usually as a result of a pressing invitation. His messages were also presented to “crowded houses” in western Vermont, northern New York, and Canada East. 1Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 98, 99. The early part of 1832 was devoted largely to preparing the first articles on his faith for the Vermont Telegraph, to be noted later. In March there were some studies with a young minister, and Miller’s insistence upon a solid Bible foundation for all beliefs and practices. The secret of his growing power is disclosed in these simple sentences which tell of sunrise meetings for prayer in behalf of the speedy return of Christ:PFF4 503.1

    “I have just come from a prayer meeting this morning, at our school house, at sunrise. We are praying for the second coming of our Dear Redeemer when the ‘sanctuary will be cleansed.’ Pray with us my Br. I am more and more satisfied that the end of the world is at hand. The evidence flows in from every quarter.” 2Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, March 26, 1832 (last part of letter dated May 20, 1832). Miller kept on lecturing in various places, making the observation:PFF4 503.2

    “Many people believe that the calculation is right. Some are afraid of it and others will not believe. But among them all it makes a great deal of talk.” 3Ms. letter, Miller to “Dear Br. and Sister,” March 27, 1832.PFF4 504.1

    The summer and autumn witnessed Miller’s participation in a number of “protracted meetings” on the revival order, then common in that section. By February, 1833, in a letter to Hendryx, Miller rejoices that he “can now reckon 8 ministers who preach this [Advent] doctrine, more or less, like yourself,” and refers to more than a hundred lay “brethren that say they have adopted my views.” 4Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, Feb. 8, 1833. Then came the issuance of the pamphlet made up of the Vermont Telegraph articles brought into convenient form. His contacts multiply—such as on a steamboat, with men of high standing listening in; then filling in as supply preacher in Low Hampton, his home church. Next, he receives a preacher’s license from the Low Hampton church, and continues to speak in nearby towns in New York and Vermont. 5Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 106-110.PFF4 504.2

    In 1834 Miller’s preaching gathers momentum as he begins full-time preaching. He turns north, speaking thirty-two times while away from home for twenty-eight days, lecturing on the second advent and coming reign of Christ-at Keene (with eighty as the “fruits”), at Forks, and Keeseville (to a “great concourse”), and in Peru Village. In a letter to Hendryx he bursts forth in poetic vein with one of his periodic blends of rhyme and Biblical-prophecy truth with text-not meant for publication. While this is only a personal letter, Miller’s prophetic faith at this time is aptly epitomized. This he writes under the conviction that in a few short years he will stand “before the solemn bar of our omnipotent Judge.” 6Ibid., p. 112 It is saturated with Bible texts, and at the moment his “pen refuses to write anything except in verse” to his friend.PFF4 504.3

    Here is a short excerpt:PFF4 504.4

    “When from the East we see the cloud arise - Acts 1:9, 11
    And bring to view a Saviour long despised - Revelation 1:7 When we shall hear the trump’s portentous roll, - Isaiah 27:13
    That shakes the earth from center to the pole. - Psalm 18:7
    When from the great white throne indignant ire - Revelation 20:11
    Shoots forth its blaze, and sets the world on fire - Malachi 4:1
    Then all the wicked, all that pride could boast, - Malachi 4:1
    Shall be as stubble, saith the Lord of hosts. - Malachi 4:1
    When Kings, and Captains, tyrants mighty men, - Revelation 19:18
    Are the last supper, for the fowls of heaven - Revelation 19:17
    And kingdoms, thrones, powers, dominions riven, - Daniel 2
    Like chaff before the Angry whirlwind driven. - Daniel 2:35
    The dragon papal beast, the great arch foe, - Revelation 19:20
    Shall sink to endless night eternal woe: - Revelation 20:10
    The orb of day, his face, be hid in gloom, - Isaiah 24:23
    And the old reeling earth in nature’s tomb. - Isaiah 24:207Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, Aug. 17, 1834.
    PFF4 504.5

    Then having filled up the sheet, he desists. But his prophetic and doctrinal creed was thus committed to paper in verse form.PFF4 505.1

    Miller had kept no complete diary of all the places visited and invitations to preach received until October 1, 1834. Then, starting at “Fork,” he kept a methodical record in a little Text Book, as he begins his full-time preaching. Here are the first nine entries, as a sample, from October 1 to 16, 1834.PFF4 505.2

    “Place Time Text Text
    Fork, 1834 Oct. 1st, Luke 15:18 Revelation 8:13
    Keeseville, Oct. 5, Revelation 1:20 Job 33:24
    Beekmantown, Oct. 6, Daniel 8:13, 14 Daniel 10:14
    Oct. 7, Revelation 20:6
    Plattsburgh, Oct. 8, Daniel 8:13, 14 Revelation 20:6
    Keeseville, Oct. 11, 1 Corinthians 3:11
    Oct. 12, Romans 8:6, 7 Luke 15:18
    Westport, Oct. 14,. Daniel 8:13, 14 Daniel 10:14
    Oct. 15, 16 Revelation 20:68“Text Book,” No. 1, p. 1; also quoted in Bliss, Memoirs, p. 115.
    PFF4 505.3

    A terse note to Hendryx tells of a six-week tour of Clinton County, New York, adding, “I gave 36 lectures on the 2nd coming of Christ, was at two covenant meetings, and attended two protracted meetings in said time.” 9Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, Oct. 23, 1834. In the same letter he also mentions the disheartening side.PFF4 505.4

    “The evidence is so clear, the testimony is so strong, that we live on the eve of the present dispensation toward the close of the glorious day, that I wonder why minister and people do not wake up and trim their lamps....PFF4 506.1

    “In every church where I have lectured on this important subject, many, very many, seem to awake, rub open their eyes, and then fall back to sleep again.PFF4 506.2

    “Some ministers try to persuade their people not to hear me: but the people will go, and every additional lecture, will bring an additional multitude, until their meeting houses cannot hold them. Depend upon it, my br. God is in this thing.” 10Ibid. With steadily increasing momentum Miller entered the year 1835, sounding the “midnight cry” in ever clearer, more appealing tones. Revivals followed according to the now familiar pattern—Christians quickened, wanderers brought back, sinners awakened and converted. Doors opened faster than he could enter. He names nineteen calls, or invitations, outstanding, and speaks of others too numerous to mention. Upon invitation he spent a week in Stillwater, New York, then at various other towns—returning to some of them for a second series of lectures. Writing to Hendryx he remarks:PFF4 506.3

    “In every place I have visited the Lord has given me some fruits. Oh! Br. Hendryx this is marvelous in our eyes that he should take such an old ‘dry stick’ as I am, and bring down the proud 8c haughty infidel, yet blessed be his name he can & will work by whom he will, pray for me ... that I may be kept humble, for I am exceeding jealous of my proud heart. The churches are waking up in this quarter to the subject, & Ministers are appointing ministerial meetings to examine the subject. Br. Wescott, is full in the faith, & is preaching it, many more are quivering in the wind. I now have four or five Ministers to hear me in every place I lecture in, I tell you it is making no small stir in these regions.” 11Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, Match 6, 1835.PFF4 506.4

    Then he adds the significant sentence, “Old Elder Fuller is preaching this same doctrine in Connecticut, & writes me that it has a powerful effect.” This, apparently, is the first record of another minister preaching Miller’s views of the prophecies. 12Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 19. But it is only the beginning. In August Miller is still traveling and preaching:PFF4 506.5

    “I am yet engaged in my occupation in warning the inhabitants to be prepared for the great day of God Almighty, and am endeavouring to prove by the scriptures that it is near even at the doors.” 13Letter, Miller to Hendryx, Aug. 28, 1835. See Bliss, Memoirs, pp. 124, 125.PFF4 507.1

    Then follows a long list of cities in which he had recently lectured. He ends his letter with the news that he had just received an invitation to lecture in Stillwater, and closes with this hurried word: “Shall be under the necessity of starting in a few minutes. I shall be absent [from August 28] until about the first of October.” The first help toward his expenses comes at about this time-two half dollars from Canada. 14Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 20; Bliss, Memoirs, p. 122.PFF4 507.2

    The year 1836 is notable for the publication of his complete set of Lectures. 15Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 20. Spells of illness broke the continuity of his preaching, but still he drove on. In one place the meeting hall was “filled to overflowing for 8 days in succession.” Many clergymen were attending-Baptist, Methodist, Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Christian, Universalist. 16Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, July 21, 1836. And the sale of his books now increased and crystallized the interest. After eight weeks in St. Lawrence County he tells of “82 lectures,” and was about to leave on another tour. 17Ms. letter. Miller to Hendryx, Dec. 23, 1836.PFF4 507.3

    Miller began the year 1837 at Shaftsbury, Vermont, with a full course of sixteen lectures on the prophecies. At the close a Baptist clergyman who had come to confound Miller had himself been “convicted, confounded, and converted.” 18Isaac C. Wellcome, History of the Second Advent Message, pp. 65, 66. The effect upon the audience was profound. When Miller wrote to Hendryx he gave the particulars:PFF4 507.4

    “Elder Mattison got up at the close of my last discourse, and in a most solemn and impressive manner told the congregation that he ‘had been convicted, confounded, 8c converted,’ and confessed he had written and said things, against the speaker of which he was now ashamed, he had called him, ‘The end of the world man,’ and ‘The old visionary,’ ‘dreamer,’ ‘fanatic,’ etc. And said he, I came to meeting with a determination to not believe, and to expose him, and his folly to the people who should be present. And had therefore watched with a close attention and a jealous eye, &: after hearing the whole course of lectures, he would confess he had not, neither could he raise one single objection.” 19Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, Feb. 21, 1837.PFF4 507.5

    The year wore on, with series of meetings in some nineteen Vermont towns, and ending with Stillwater, New York, on December 31. The number of adherents grew, not merely unlearned laymen, but trained ministers now being constantly added as believers in the premillennial advent. That in itself is remarkable, for preachers do not change readily. There was an appeal, an earnestness, and a logic in the marshaling of Miller’s evidences that drew trained minds to his side. It was at this time that Charles Fitch, a Brown University man and Presbyterian preacher, wrote Miller a letter of inquiry, to be noted later.PFF4 508.1

    At the beginning of 1838 Miller began a second series of lectures at Lansingburgh, New York, continuing nine days in response to the urgent request of E. B. Crandall and his Baptist church. There were large, attentive audiences, and the strongholds of infidelity were visibly shaken. One hundred, holding infidel opinions, were brought to believe the Bible. 20I. C. Welcome, op. cit., pp. 66, 67. Upon returning to Low Hampton, after a number of engagements, Miller tells Hendryx of the important letter from Fitch, then pastor of the important Marlboro Chapel, Boston. It was the beginning of acquaintance and a friendship that ripened into the closest service together.PFF4 508.2

    Miller’s work was both intensive and extensive. As to results, back in 1834 he told of being in a town for twenty-two lectures, with eighty converted. 21Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, April 17, 1834. In 1835 he tells, tersely, of preaching “three times last Sabbath. Had a Solemn time. God was there.” 22Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, April 28, 1835. And in 1837 he writes of spending ten days in Morick, where he “gave two or three lectures a day. People were very much interested. Five hundred and more attended the meetings, night and day.” 23Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, Oct. 26, 1837.PFF4 508.3

    A copy of Miller’s Lectures was put into the hands of Josiah Litch, Methodist minister, with a request for his opinion upon its positions. The general thesis of the book was at first so distasteful to him that he could scarcely make up his mind to read it. He thought he could overthrow the whole system in five minutes. But to gratify his friend, he read it. However, Litch found the arguments “so clear, so simple, and withal so scriptural, that it was impossible to disprove the position which Mr. Miller had endeavored to establish.” 24Josiah Litch, “The Rise and Progress of Adventism,” Advent Shield, May, 1844, pp. 54, 55. By midsummer Miller wrote Hendryx that he had been absent from home more than three fourths of the time. Hendryx wanted him to come to Pennsylvania, but Miller replied:PFF4 509.1

    “You speak of my coming there, and the house being crammed. I need not go there to see a house, not only crammed, but jammed, last Sabbath I preached in Benson & saw the house jammed full, lobby and all. But my br. there is no pleasure to me particular in that. The multitude may to day cry ‘hosanna,’ & to morrow ‘crucify him.’ Lord what is man?” 25Ms. letter, Miller to Hendryx, July 27, 1838. Then he tells of charges of exhibiting a wrong spirit, made by an “Elder West,” and an “Elder Claflin” holds that Miller advocates wrong views on salvation. Here is Miller’s unique observation:PFF4 509.2

    “I think if we could take Eldr. West, 8c Eldr. Claflin, and boil them well over the fire of persecution, stir them well together with the rod of Christian experience, cool them off in the kettle of practical godliness, and strain them both through the sieve of Electing love, then stir in a little leaven of Christian piety. Then let them stand in a by place until supper time, when the blessed Savior should come they would be fit for use.” 26Ibid.PFF4 509.3

    There were many outspoken expressions. Miller’s attitude under criticism is revealed in this observation:PFF4 509.4

    “I have finally come to this conclusion that I must read the Bible for myself, try all that in me lies to divest myself of prejudice, judge with candor, get rid of self, preach what I believe to be truth, try to please God more than man. And then leave all in the hands oL my divine Master, and wait for his decission.” 27Ibid.PFF4 509.5

    The year 1839 marked Miller’s entrance into Massachusetts to lecture at East Randolph, Lowell, Groton, and Lynn. Up to June 10 Miller had given eight hundred lectures since July 9, 1834. 28Wm. Miller’s Apology and Defence, p. 20. His introduction to Massachusetts was largely through Elder Timothy Cole of Lowell, of the Christian Connection, who became one of his first adherents in that State. Miller returned in the autumn and winter and lectured in Exeter, New Hampshire, and Haverhill, Massachusetts, with good success. It was at Exeter on November 12, that Miller first met Joshua V. Himes of Boston, minister of the prominent Chardon Street Chapel (Christian), who invited him to come to his church in Boston, to which Miller gladly responded. His first series of lectures in Boston constituted the beginning of “altogether a new era in the history of Adventism”—entry into the larger cities. 29Litch, “The Rise and Progress of Adventism,” Advent Shield, May, 1844, p. 57. A deep interest sprang up in Boston which demanded another series, and molded the public mind. So Charles Fitch’s large Marlboro Chapel was secured for the series. And along with this came a second edition (of five thousand) of Miller’s Lectures. Miller’s period of solitary labor had ended.PFF4 510.1

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