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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    II. “Extra” Gives Vivid Description of Newark Camp

    These ten serial stories were then quickly assembled and printed in the Herald office as an eight-page Extra of tabloid newspaper size, the bold display type on page one reading:PFF4 739.1

    “The Sermons, Doctrines, and Peculiar Views of the Millerites, as Preached by Father Miller and His Brethren, Messrs. Himes, Litch, Fitch, be., in the Big Tent at Newark, November, 1842, Wherein They Attempt to Prove, From the Prophecies of Scripture, That the World Will Be Destroyed in 1843.”PFF4 739.2

    This unique journalistic venture constituted one of the earliest American tabloids. It claimed to give an accurate and vivid description of the camp meeting “from the opening to the closing scene.” Each article, from November 3 on through to November 14, was signed “Au Revoir,” the nom de plume of the special reporter. The Extra in no way supported the Millerite positions, but did claim to give a “fair outline of the whole proceedings.” 2New York Herald Extra, p. 8, col. 1. And no other comparable press report was issued during the movement. Two advertisements of the Extra appeared in the regular Herald of November 16 and 19. This Extra, one in a series, was issued as part of a Herald project for the “Advancement of Literature and Science,” and as “a memorial to future times.”PFF4 739.3

    The reports of Miller’s sermons appear fairer than the observations on the meetings in general. Nevertheless, this secular newsman described the camp as exhibiting much more decorum and better order than the usual Methodist camp meeting. As to the program for the first day, he explained that an early morning prayer meeting came first, and then the main preaching service of the morning, featuring Josiah Litch. The noon meal was followed by special prayer groups. Next came the leading afternoon service with Father Miller’s sermon. And “Au Revoir” frankly attests the “piety and sincerity” of the participants.PFF4 740.1

    An editorial note at the close of the report refers to “prophetic fevers and millennium inflammations,” which of late have assumed “epidemic” proportions. And it boldly asserts that the newly developed geology proves the earth to be of “unlimited antiquity,” having required “a million of years” in its formation, and opines that it is “still progressing in infinitely long periods of time; nor does the earth even now show any signs of age. 3Ibid., p. 8, col. 8. That was the editorial attitude toward the cataclysmic—end emphasis of the Millerite meetings. And, as with the original articles, the Extra includes four cartoon drawings—the layout of the camp, a “portrait” of Miller, then a caricature of Miller preaching in the Big Tent, and a view of the great canvas auditorium.PFF4 740.2

    As they afford the best contemporary close-ups available, let us follow the series through. “Au Revoir” starts out by describing the Great Tent pitched for the ten-day sojourn—a magnificent affair, he said, the “largest ever erected in the United States, or probably anywhere else.” 4Ibid., p. 2, col. 1. A vivid description of its construction and layout follows—a broad aisle down the center, to separate the two sections of long, low benches; and the pulpit placed on the low side of the tent, toward which the ground sloped, as in an amphitheater. A well-organized watch policed the place, the huge camp having become the “universal subject” of discussion. There was an of smaller tents, some with stoves. Others had cots and for sleeping. And there was a great cooking hut, where enormous stove of great capacity enabled them to meals at a shilling each.PFF4 740.3

    The campground was first consecrated by prayer. Then the men went to work, erecting the tents and putting the giant camp in order—hampered considerably by the pranks of mischievous boys and obstructing adults. The reporter records the answers of a minister as to why they looked for the Lord to come in “1843.” The reasons for his faith, and its prophetic basis, were all carefully expounded—with the basis found in Daniel 8 and 9, the year-day principle, the relation of the 70 weeks of years to the longer time period of 2300 years, and how the beginning and end of that great period are clearly established. 5Ibid., p. 2, cols. 3, 4. And the minister reminded his inquirer that “there’s nothing strange or uncommon in the Millerite doctrine.” Many others have held it, and still hold it. Rather, the majority had largely abandoned the earlier general faith. That was the reason for the present disparity of view!PFF4 741.1

    The second dispatch reports the arrival of William Miller, and repeats that “there is much more order,” decorum, and good management in these Miller meetings than in camps of other persuasions—no disorderly persons, all “quiet and decorous.” After a prayer meeting Litch delivers the morning lecture on the world’s end about “1843.” And after the noon meal another prayer meeting is held. A hymn of the advent faith, “The Plain Truth,” is sung by three women, and then another, appropriately called “The Last Trumpet.” Next, the big bell rings, and they all assemble in the Big Tent to hear Miller preach in his vivid style on the “Seven Times” of Leviticus 26:27, 28. A sizable portion of the address is given—the reasoning, the evidence, the appeals. Even the interruptions and ejaculations are recorded. It is really a good piece of sermon reporting. 6Ibid., p. 2, col. 4; p. 3, cols. 1, 2, 3.PFF4 741.2

    Then came Sunday, the big day, with 6,000 people present. The railroad and steamboat bring 1,640 people from New York, and the camp is completely surrounded by vehicles of every description, yet without confusion. The people fill all available hotels and lodging houses. Again the preaching and other services last until ten o’clock at night, with Miller, Litch, and Himes in the forefront. 7Ibid., p. 3, cols. 3, 4. Another day is done.PFF4 742.1

    On Monday, November 7, the reporter tells of ever-mounting interest, and the total of sixty converts to date. Men of wealth are said to be preparing to sell their properties to advance the advent cause. On Sunday the ministers of the city had preached against Miller’s positions, some maintaining that “the end of the world would come in about 1,000 years.” Others said in about 100 years, or 150. 8Ibid., p. 3, col. 4. The reporter tells how Miller—“very sincere, although he is a Yankee”—presented his argument for 6,000 years from creation to “1843.” And the reporter interjects a countering aside on the variant datings of Ussher and Lightfoot, the noted Bible chronologers. Then he shares with his readers the camp’s “Rules and Regulations,” ten in all. They reveal so much concerning the camp that they are repeated here:PFF4 742.2

    “Art. 1.-The ground within the circle of the tents being our sanctuary, no smoking will be allowed therein, at any time, nor any unnecessary walking during the services at the [preaching] stand.PFF4 742.3

    “Art. 2.-Public services at the stand will commence at 10 A.M., at 2 P.M., and at 6 in the evening, notice of which will be given by the ringing of the bell.PFF4 742.4

    “Art. 3.-During service at the stand all services in the tents will be suspended.PFF4 742.5

    “Art. 4.-The ladies will take the seats on the right of the stand, and the gentlemen on the left.PFF4 742.6

    “Art. 5.-Hours for meals are as follows, viz: breakfast at 6i/2, dine at 12, supper at 5.PFF4 742.7

    “Art. 6.-Places for retirement for the ladies on the right of the stand, across the meadow, for the gentlemen, the grove across the railroad.PFF4 742.8

    “Art. 7.-All persons who are not members of some tent company must leave the ground at the ringing of the bell for retirement to rest; at which time it is expected that all exercises in the tents will cease for the night.PFF4 743.1

    “Art. 8.-Each tent company will, at the earliest convenience, choose a tent-master, who with a committee of one, will represent the company to which they belong in the general committee, and will be held responsible for the order of the tent company to which they belong.PFF4 743.2

    “Art. 9.—The tent-master will lead in, or call on some one to lead in the devotions of the tent company morning and evening.PFF4 743.3

    “Art. 10.-One or more lights must be kept burning in each tent the whole of each night during the meeting.” 9Ibid., p. 4. col. 1.PFF4 743.4

    Now follows a description of the special tents for prayer, which the newsman denominates as “pious” and “sincere,” though strange to his secular reportorial ears. In fact, he records some of the prayers, and the fervent responses characteristic of the Methodists and many others of the time. They prayed for repentance and cleansing, for the Holy Spirit, for salvation, for preparation to meet the Lord, for the unsaved, for the ministers and priests in the churches wedded to false views—and all in the name of Him who is coming soon in the clouds of heaven to save the righteous and destroy the wicked. 10Ibid., p. 4, cols. 1, 2.PFF4 743.5

    The tolling bell then announced the meeting in the Big Tent, as six thousand assemble. But that night a terrible wind and rain storm blew down several smaller tents and weakened the Big Tent, so that it was necessary to lower it—with no services during the following day in that tent. Miller and his associates were given dinner in the hotel, and Miller preached in one of the Presbyterian city churches on the four world kingdoms of prophecy of Daniel 2. From this he led on to Daniel 7, and the same world powers and Rome’s divisions, symbolized by the ten horns—with the Papacy as the Little Horn that uprooted the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and Lombards. Then Miller turned to Daniel 8, with the Persian and Grecian kingdoms followed by Rome, and the 2300 years from 457 B.C. to about A.D. 1843. He showed the relationship of the 70 weeks to Messiah’s death, which period was cut off for the Jews from the 2300 years, and the 1810 years remaining leading up to the climactic year “1843.” Preachers of the town, from all denominations, were present. 11Ibid., p. 4. col. 2 to p. 5, col 1.PFF4 743.6

    On Wednesday, November 9, up went the Big Tent again. But as the seats and ground were still wet, Miller again preached in one of the churches, this time on Daniel 11. This prophecy, Miller explained, covered Persia, Grecia, and Rome pagan and then papal. The 1290 year-days he held closed in 1798, and the 1335 years in “1843.” And again clergymen from the city were present. 12Ibid., p. 5, cols. 1-3.PFF4 744.1

    The dispatch of Thursday told of Dr. William Brownlee of New York, brought to Newark to make rebuttal to Miller’s positions, speaking to a packed audience in the Dutch Reformed Church. (The reporter is openly and ever against Miller’s positions.) Brownlee preached on the thousand years of world betterment and the reign of Christ as spiritual, with the resurrection as likewise spiritual. He declared the resurrection of the soul does not mean the resurrection of man to life. The restoration of the Jews, he admitted, would probably take place between 1843 and 1847, which is the meaning of Daniel 8:14. Satan would be bound during the 1,000 years, at the end of which he will be loosed. But a more accurate ending of the 2300 years, Brownlee held, would doubtless be for 1866, when Antichrist will receive his great blow, and the end of the sorrows of the Jews will come. Brownlee thus dates the 1260 year-days of the papal Antichrist from Phocas in 606, and likewise recognizes the 2300 prophetic days as literal years. The difference lay in the terminal point, and anticipated events.PFF4 744.2

    According to the reporter, Brownlee agreed that the four powers of Daniel 7 are Babylonia, Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome, the ten horns the divisions of Rome, and the Little Horn the Papacy—just as Miller held. But the world’s end will not come till both the Papacy and Mohammedanism are destroyed. The gospel must be carried to every individual, and that would take ten million preachers. Brownlee’s final charge was that the millennium might actually last 360,000 years—on the year-day principle—as the world is yet in its infancy. So 1866 may be the dawn of the millennium, as Antichrist receives his great blow, with the full beginning of the millennium in 2015. Thus countered Brownlee. 13Ibid., p. 5, col. 4 to p. 6, col. 2.PFF4 744.3

    “Au Revoir” then continues his report of the. Millerite meetings through Friday and Saturday, including a biographical sketch of Miller that is fairly accurate, as far as it goes. He gave this as the physical description of Miller-thick set, broad shoulders, light brownish hair, slightly bald, a benevolent countenance, and his head shaking slightly with palsy. 14Ibid., p. 7, col. 3. The reporter says that he has “taken unusual pains” to make his reports of Miller’s positions accurate. He had attended the meetings morning, noon, and night, and admits that he is “completely fagged out.” Finally he tells how, in the preachers’ tent, there is a large collection of books and papers, and people buying them. The closing meetings are described sketchily, and he tells how the farewell service fully answered many of the ridiculous tales and charges about money-making, property disposition, et cetera. The puerility of current popular attacks of enemies was made very apparent. Farewells are said, and William Miller leaves for New York. The Newark meeting is over. 15Ibid., p. 8, cols. 1, 2.PFF4 745.1

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