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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    V. The “1843” Phase of the Millerite Movement

    And now we shall trace the rise and remarkable progress of the 1843 phase of the Millerite movement, stripped of diverting detail, so as to get a general bird’s-eye view of the whole. This will carry us from 1838, when Miller was joined by his earliest all-out ministerial associates in proclaiming the soon coming of the Saviour, up to and through the spring of 1844, or the close of the important “1843” phase of the Miller movement. The fact is now familiar to us that the basic principle of the “70 weeks” of Daniel 9, as the initial 490 years of the 2300 year-days of Daniel 8:14, which Miller ever stressed, had first been enunciated in the Old World by Petri and Wood before the close of the eighteenth century. And after crossing the threshold of the nineteenth, in 1810 and 1811, individuals on both sides of the Atlantic, apparently without knowledge or connection with each other, began independently to agitate this principle still more definitely, and agreed approximately on the time of ending-namely, in 1843, 1844, or 1847. This all, of course, took place several years before Miller had even become a professing Christian, much less a student of prophecy. This fact should be borne in mind.PFF4 517.3

    The convictions of these other men had been published both in the Old World and in the New, but as Litch says, “without making much of an impression upon the public by their attempt.” 43Litch, “The Rise and Progress of Adventism, “Advent Shield, May, 1844, pp. 49ff. The remainder of this section will largely epitomize Litch’s authoritative contemporary history, written by the first full-time ministerial associtate to join Miller a- competent minister of Methodist background, an editor and a discerning writer—and penned, April 24, 1844, just after the spring disappointment (p. 51). On Litch see pp. 528-533. And the number of expositors with this common concept grew steadily prior to Miller’s first sermon, and were still larger in number before his book of Lectures was issued in 1836. (See complete tabular chart in Part I, pp. 404, 405.) Though Miller reached his own conclusions independently, it is obvious that this interpretation was clearly not original with him, but was rather the simultaneous conviction of men in different countries and of various persuasions, who felt it to be a truth whose time for enunciation had come. Miller was therefore but one of a chorus of voices declaring it, and not one of the first at that. But with him it soon took on a form and a force before unknown. And under him it became a definite religious movement that was erelong to sweep the nation.PFF4 518.1


    It was not until Miller had been presenting his message publicly, and rather constantly for a number of years following 1831, that it began to receive much attention. His first articles in the Vermont Telegraph, as noted, had been published in 1832, gathered into pamphlet form in 1833-the same year he received a Baptist license to preach—and enlarged into book form in 1836, before his presentation began to attract any general notice. But these published Lectures were the means of creating a definite interest in his views, particularly in Massachusetts. Men began to investigate the thesis set forth. The Boston Daily Times re-published sections of them in 1838. They were thus given a wider popular reading and really created quite a sensation.PFF4 518.2

    They induced a public answer, as noted, in the form of two letters by Ethan Smith, but who sought only to show that the 2300 year-days had already ended in 1819, when the Greek revolution began to operate, and resulting in the fall of the Ottoman power. He declared that the sanctuary of Palestine was thus already “cleansed,” for, he contended, the Little Horn of Daniel 8 was Mohammedanism. He denied any connection between the visions and time periods of Daniel 8 and 9. But he admitted that the 2300 days were years ending in the nineteenth century.PFF4 519.1

    Observe the sequence. It was about this time that the copy of Miller’s Lectures was placed in the hands of Josiah Litch, a Methodist minister in Massachusetts, who soon became persuaded of its essential soundness, and began to write and publish on the subject. Practically the same experience came to Charles Fitch, pastor of the Marlboro Congregational Church of Boston. Meantime Miller was lecturing in some of the moderate-sized towns of Massachusetts, such as Lowell, where he was invited to preach by Timothy Cole, a minister of the Christian Connection, who was likewise greatly impressed.PFF4 519.2


    Then came Miller’s eventful acquaintance, in the autumn of 1839, with J. V. Himes, minister of the Chardon Street Chapel of Boston. This contact led to a distinctly new era of expansion and acceleration in the infant Advent Movement-entry into the great cities of the land, along with publication of the first Millerite paper, the Signs of the Times, and a new edition of five thousand copies of Miller’s Lectures, thus reaching larger numbers. This aggressive advance provoked a new published attack, this time by David Campbell, through his Illustrations of Prophecy. It was somewhat similar to Ethan Smith’s counter-interpretation, only he believed, like Miller, that Daniel 9 is definitely the key to Daniel 8, which was in direct conflict with the hostile Smith position. Nevertheless, both were anti-Miller.PFF4 519.3

    During the winter of 1839-40 Miller was lecturing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and Portland, Maine. At this time Litch’s prediction-first published in 1838-of the loss of Ottoman supremacy in August, 1840, aroused widespread interest, and spurred the study of prophecy. As a result many infidels became persuaded of the inspired origin of Bible prophecy. But most eventful of all was Miller’s series of lectures in Himes’s church in Boston, which resulted in Himes joining in wholehearted partnership in the advent cause. And other ministers, one by one, began to profess the advent faith.PFF4 520.1


    Prior to this, all endeavors had been by individual effort. But the need of a Second Advent Conference of the numerous ministers now supporting Miller’s positions became obvious, and was appointed for Himes’s Boston church. It met in October, 1840, with the well-known Episcopalian clergyman, Dr. Henry Dana Ward, of New York City, as chairman, and Congregationalist Henry Jones, likewise of New York, an abolitionist and temperance lecturer, as secretary. This was convened in an endeavor to unify the efforts of these men of divergent backgrounds, and to give added force and unity to their coordinated endeavor. This was effectively implemented through its widely distributed published Report. And along with the conference idea, the plan of “Social Meetings” was launched to strengthen one another’s faith through personal public testimony.PFF4 520.2

    At this time John Dowling, Baptist clergyman of New York, brought out his Review of Miller, advocating the old Antiochus Epiphanes theory for the Little Horn of Daniel 8, with the 2300 evening-mornings constituting but half days, or 1150 literal days in all, and these back in the second century B.C. And, along with this, was stressed the thousand years of a temporal millennium before the second advent. So each attack differed from the others, and each onslaught actually tended to neutralize or discredit the others. Nevertheless, each Millerite advance was matched by a countermove. This Bowling volume led to a Refutation by Litch, and suggested to Miller the idea of a complete system of Bible chronology, with the six thousand years of earth’s history ending about “1843.” Litch also wrote An Address to the Clergy, which moved many ministers to examine the question candidly, persuading not a few of them. Conviction was now breaking out in all directions.PFF4 520.3

    Litch then faced the issue of severing his close and congenial ties with the Methodist Church, so that he might be untrammeled in proclaiming his convictions on the second advent. His experiences in speaking before three Methodist Conferences at this time were unique—with the resulting dictum that, while he did not teach contrary to Methodism, he had gone beyond it. Then came the succession of further Millerite General Conferences—at Portland, then in the giant Broadway Tabernacle in New York City, and at Low Hampton, Miller’s home town. These in turn were followed by various other important conferences during the winter of 1841 and 1842, in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Vermont. Their very vigor aroused many ministers to their sense of duty, and led a goodly number to preach publicly on the second advent.PFF4 521.1


    Next, Apollo Hall on Broadway, in New York City, was secured for large public meetings. But the religious press quickly sounded the alarm, and aroused considerable prejudice. Nevertheless, a permanent interest was established in America’s great metropolis—then numbering some 391,000. Meantime, the Melodeon Auditorium was secured in Boston (with a population of 93,-000) for an Advent Anniversary Conference, lasting a week. There was deepening interest and heavy attendance. Next, the plan of utilizing the Methodist camp meeting idea was brought forward and endorsed. Litch, headed for Canada, spoke to large concourses of people. Indeed, so great was the interest that two camp meetings were conducted as a try-out in Hatley, Canada East (Quebec), on June 21, and in Bolton. Five or six hundred conversions resulted from this tour. Then on June 28 the first camp meeting in the States was held at East Kingston, New Hampshire, where an “immense multitude” assembled. The masses were now, for the first time, being touched and impressed. Great gatherings throughout Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine followed, which, according to Litch, literally “shook the nation.” 44Ibid., p. 69.PFF4 521.2


    The Big Tent, seating four thousand-but soon enlarged to accommodate six thousand-was then introduced. It was pitched six times that first season, distributed as follows: At Concord, New Hampshire, Albany, New York, Springfield and Salem, Massachusetts, Benson, Vermont, and Newark, New Jersey. Marked results attended. Meantime, six or eight large camp meetings and numerous courses of lectures covered New England, given by ministers of various faiths who had now definitely cast in their lot with the accelerating movement. Fitch proclaimed the second advent message to the faculty and students of Oberlin, and elsewhere in Ohio, and then established himself in Cleveland. Of this time Litch declares:PFF4 522.1

    “The work spread with a power unparalleled in the history of religious excitements. And had it been the object of Adventists to form a sect, never was there a more favorable opportunity to carry all before them, given to any people. But higher and holier objects were in their vision;—the saving of sinners from death, and the obtaining a preparation for the coming of the Lord, were the objects of their highest ambition.” 45Ibid.PFF4 522.2


    The winter of 1842 and 1843 saw Miller and Himes back in New York City lecturing in a large church where George Storrs, of the Methodist ministry, had been holding forth at Catharine and Madison streets, and in Enoch Jacobs’ Methodist Protestant Church on Anthony Street, where Apollos Hale did the preaching. Almost the entire church, including the pastor, embraced the teaching. Such was the interest that an Adventist daily paper—the Midnight Cry—was launched in New York City, in November, 1842, with editions of ten thousand copies a day, under the able editorship of J. V. Himes, L. D. Fleming, and Nathaniel Southard. 46With volume 2 it becomes a weekly. Litch, assisted by Hale, went to Philadelphia, where they soon found an open door, though before long the churches closed against them. They were then obliged to open a separate meeting place where all could come. Hale went on to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in January, 1843. And at this time a tract, translated into German, was produced for use among the German population.PFF4 522.3

    Market house at providence, rhode Island; athenaeum theatre at Boston, massachusetts; corinthian hall at rochester, New York; old town hall and South church, at worcester, massachusetts; courthouse at pittsburgh, pennsylvania; and scores of others of various sizes and uses, all echoed to the heralding of the same message
    Page 523
    PFF4 523

    Then Miller and Himes came on to Philadelphia (also with 93,000 population), and the city was tremendously moved. The “Saints rejoiced, the wicked trembled, backsliders quaked, and the Word of the Lord ran and was glorified,” according to the report. It was the beginning of marked expansions, south and west. A book room was opened. And a paper, the Philadelphia Alarm, was issued, but soon changed to the Trumpet of Alarm. Washington, B.C. (with only 23,000), was visited, and meetings were held in the Methodist Protestant Church in the Navy Yard. Pittsburgh and Cincinnati (45,000 each) opened up. About this time three prominent ministers, Dr. N. N. Whiting (Baptist, of Williamsburgh, Long Island), J. B. Cook (Baptist, of Middletown, Connecticut), and F. G. Brown (also Baptist, of Worcester, Massachusetts), accepted the advent faith and began to proclaim it, and there were impressive results. Litch again records:PFF4 524.1

    “The effect of it was electrical. Very many, who had previously looked upon the subject as beneath their notice, began to feel that it was possible, after all, that there might be something in it. This induced examination of the evidence, and that again produced conviction of the truth of the doctrine.” 47Ibid., p. 72. Other second advent papers were established by Fitch in Cleveland, and by H. B. Skinner and Luther Caldwell in Canada. The advent cause now moved forward with rapidity. Literature poured from the Adventist presses-books, pamphlets, tracts, and broadsides. Handbills and Bible text-stickers for letters were employed. And the number of periodicals soon launched was amazing. (See chart on pp. 624, 625.) Millions of pages were distributed to create interest, lead to decision, and establish in the new-found faith.PFF4 524.2


    All calculations of prophetic time were then believed, by the Millerites, to end sometime in or about the Jewish year 1843. But there was no specific set time. Miller had understood that the 70 weeks ended in A.D. 33, with the cross marking their close, and the longer 2300—year time period consequently ending about “1843.” Miller had always said “about 1843.” Pressed to be more specific, he finally said, probably sometime between the spring equinoxes of March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844—for he knew the Jewish sacred year ran from spring to spring. Some in the movement wondered whether the French entry into Rome on February 10, 1798, or perchance February 15—when the pope was taken prisoner and the Roman Republic established—might afford a clue to the time. But this was purely personal and speculative, not dogmatic. 48Idle tales began to be circulated at this early time about ascension robes-going out to the graveyards to watch, or from the housetops—but with “not a word of truth to the the whole story,” These continued. (ibid., p. 74; see also F. D. Nichol, The Midnight Cry, where these charges are examine and effectively answered in detail, and the tale traced to its source; see also Nichol, in the fully documented, “The Growth of the Millerite Legend, “Church History, December, 1952, pp. 296-313.) It was generally believed by the Millerites that the 1290 years (of Daniel 12:11) ended jointly with the 1260 years in 1798, and that the 1335 years (Daniel 12:12) would end forty-five years later, along with the 2300 years, in “1843.”PFF4 524.3

    There was also the Passover season, in April, when the crucifixion took place, and on which day God had originally delivered ancient Israel from Egypt. By this time various Millerite leaders had come to feel that the prophesied midst of the seventieth “week” of years could not be the extreme end. Others were not entirely clear that the “cleansing of the sanctuary” meant the coming of Christ, or the purification of the earth. Possibly it was the cleansing of the church from false doctrine. Still others wondered whether the anniversary of Pentecost might bring the advent, and yet others looked to the Feast of Tabernacles in the autumn. These, however, were individual ideas, and not any general expectation. Meantime, doors were opening everywhere, and the calls for preachers were so many that not half could be filled. So the movement swept on with ever-increasing momentum.PFF4 525.1


    As the spring and summer opened, tabernacle and camp meetings and conferences were held in East, West, and North. There was a widely growing anxiety to hear what these earnest men had to say. Himes took the Big Tent to Rochester and Buffalo, in western New York, then on to Cincinnati, Ohio. And in connection with each of these major series of meetings in the larger cities an aggressive advent paper was usually published. (See chart on pp. 624, 625.) There were penetrations into the South-by Storrs to Norfolk, Brown to Washington, D.C., Bates to the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and Chandler and Brewer to Virginia and North and South Carolina. Miller had been ill during the spring and summer of 1843, but by fall was again touring New England and western New York, and with greater results than ever.PFF4 525.2

    One place visited by Miller was Lockport, New York, where for several months the well-known Baptist clergyman, Elon Galusha, had been deeply exercised over the question of the second advent. Miller’s lectures, given in his church, fully persuaded him, and he too now became an active and ardent advocate of the doctrine. Litch went to Baltimore, first using the lecture room of a Universalist church, and then the Odd Fellows Hall. J. R. Gates went to central Pennsylvania. Miller and Himes went on to Washington, D.C., in February, 1844, to “sound the alarm” vigorously in the capital of the nation, going by way of New York and Philadelphia, where they stopped to deliver courses of lectures to large audiences. Appointments in different parts of the city of Washington brought about a revolution in public sentiment in the national capital regarding the second advent. In connection with this visit the Southern Midnight Cry was issued in Washington and in Baltimore. Thus we come to the end of the “Jewish year 1843,” and of the 1843 phase of the rapidly spreading Millerite movement. A tremendous impression had been made.PFF4 526.1


    When the “Jewish year 1843” passed (in the spring of 1844) without the return of the Lord, the public expected the Millerites would “yield the whole question.” But, Litch emphasizes significantly, “The [advent] doctrine does not consist in merely tracing prophetic periods.” Prophecy as a whole gives indis-putable evidence of the fact that the world is approaching a crisis. And, Litch concludes, “no disappointment respecting a definite point of time can move them, or drive them from their position, relative to the speedy coming of the Lord.” And he strongly suggests that they were “only in error relative to the event which marked its close.” 49Litch, “The Rise and Progress of Adventism, “Advent Shield, May, 1844, p. 80.PFF4 526.2

    There were among the Millerite ministers men of com-manding talent and attainment only a few have thus far been named who were the equal of the wise and learned opposers of the land, raised up, they believed, at a time when such help was needed. As to the actual number of ministers in the Miller-ite movement at this time Litch frankly said, “We have no means of ascertaining the number of ministers, and others, who have embraced the Advent faith. We only know that there are several hundred congregations, and a still larger number of ministers, who have publicly professed the faith, besides many who still remain in the churches of the land.” These, he ex-plained, were associated together for the accomplishment of a definite objective—to “sound the alarm.” And any organiza-tion that existed was of the most “simple, voluntary and prim-itive form.”PFF4 527.1

    There is one other point that should be mentioned here. Whenever Millerite writings were circulated they stimulated the sale and study of the Bible. It was known as pre-eminently a Bible movement, and Litch asserts that “a course of lectures in a village, would open a door for the sale of more Bibles in a week than would have been sold before for years.” 50Ibid., pp. 89-91. And, moreover, it was fundamentally Protestant in tone—the Bible, and the Bible only, as the rule of faith and practice.PFF4 527.2

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