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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    IV. Conflicting Positions Taken by Opponents

    Opposition increased steadily against the message of the imminent premillennial second advent. Heralded with increasing effectiveness by Miller and his associates, it had reached formidable proportions. Devout and learned ministers, as well as earnest laymen in practically all the churches, were espousing the premillennial faith in increasing numbers. This was alarming, and leading opposition churchmen were deeply perturbed over the uncomfortable Millerite challenge concerning the “good time coming,” so popular in contemporary ecclesiastical circles. Strong men in high positions tried to stop, or at least to check, the rising tide. There was a succession of such attempts. Thus the Monthly Miscellany of Religion and Letters in 1840 had an article by “F. P.” (Francis Parkman, of Boston), “Predictions of the End of the World,” consigning Miller to the category of “false prophets,” but without attempting to meet his arguments. The closing paragraph sets forth Parkman’s contention:PFF4 750.1

    “That much remains to be done before ancient prophecy is completed, whoever reads may understand. That the world will continue, and generations succeed after we have left it, we may be assured. How long, or how many, this shall be, is with the secret things that belong to God, ‘whose glory it is to conceal a matter,’ and whose wisdom and kindness are displayed alike in what he has revealed and in what he has hidden.” 18“F. P.,” Monthly Miscellany of Religion and Letters, May, 1840, p. 248.PFF4 750.2

    Two opposition books likewise were issued from Boston in 1840. The first was Miller Overthrown, or the False Prophet Confounded. The author line reads, “A Cosmopolite—a Roman Catholic.” This treatise held, like various others of the time, to the Antiochus Epiphanes theory for the Little Horn of Daniel 8. Strangely enough, this Catholic attack became almost the “standard text” for many Protestant antagonists of Miller. The second volume, Miller’s Theory Utterly Exploded, by Otis A. Skinner, a Universalist, thrust all the prophecies back to the destruction of Jerusalem—essentially the Preterist theory of Alcazar, Spanish Jesuit of 1600, devised back in post-Reformation times to divert the disconcerting application of “Antichrist” away from the Papacy. 19On Preterism, see Prophetic Faith, Vol. II, chap. 22.PFF4 750.3

    Then came the elaborate work by the well-known Baptist clergyman, Dr. John Bowling, of New York City, just noted. It was titled An Exposition of the Prophecies Supposed by William Miller to Predict the Second Coming of Christ in 1843, With a Supplementary Chapter Upon the True Scriptural Doctrine of a Millennium Prior to the Judgment. Bowling here contends impressively:PFF4 751.1

    “It is necessary to use argument and fact to knock down the foundation upon which his [Miller’s] theory is based, and nothing else will satisfy a candid and inquisitive mind.” 20Dowling, An Exposition of the Prophecies, p. 24.PFF4 751.2

    After seeking to demolish Miller’s applications and positions on the prophecies, and pointing out their “inconsistencies” and “errors,” as he viewed them—though in doing so departing from all time-honored Protestant applications of the time periods of Daniel-Bowling makes this rather odd statement:PFF4 751.3

    “If I am asked the question—As you reject the interpretation Mr. Mfiller] gives of these prophetic times, can you furnish a better? I reply, I do not feel myself bound to furnish any.” 21Ibid., p. 111.PFF4 751.4

    Dowling’s millennial view was simply the standard Whitbyan postmillennial position:PFF4 751.5

    “The doctrine I hold in relation to the millennium, and for which I think I am indebted to the Bible, is—That the reign of Christ on earth will not be a personal but a spiritual reign; that it will be preceded by the overthrow of Popery, Mohammedanism, Paganism, and all false systems; that it will consist in the universal prevalence of righteousness and true holiness, throughout the whole world; that during its continuance, war, rapine, robbery, and oppression, shall be unknown; there shall be nothing to hurt or destroy, and universal love shall govern the actions of all mankind; that this glorious age shall pass away and be succeeded by a brief but dreadful period of wickedness, after which the Lord Jesus shall be revealed.” 22Ibid., p. 167. On Whitbyanism, see Prophetic Faith, Vol. II, pp. 651-655, 805-807.PFF4 751.6

    Dowling’s book had a varied reception, some lauding while other non-Millerites sharply castigated it. Supporting Dowling was the Christian Witness, which said editorially:PFF4 751.7

    “It contains a brief treatise upon the Scripture doctrine of the millennium, showing reasons for believing that we are not to expect a personal reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years, but a spiritual reign, denoting the universal prevalence of Christianity.” 23I. C. Wellcome. op. cit., p. 201. Considerable draft is made in this section on Historian Wellcome, for he was a contemporary, with access to all contemporary facts and sources.PFF4 752.1

    David Campbell then produced his Illustrations of Prophecy, well described as a “strange medley.” It made an attempt to so explain the seals, trumpets, and vials of Revelation, and the beasts and horns of Daniel, as to counteract Miller’s positions. It followed the main outline of Ethan Smith. According to Campbell, the Papacy fell in 1672, the Little Horn of Daniel 8 was Mohammed, the millennium will come before the second advent, and the Jews return literally, to Jerusalem. Laudatory advertisements of this treatise were aggressively circulated among members of Miller’s audience at the doors of the auditorium when he was lecturing in New York City. But this seemed only to increase the interest in the Millerite teachings.PFF4 752.2

    Tension also developed over the proscription, at Dartmouth College, of students embracing the Millerite doctrines in reference to the end of the world. This is revealed in a letter from J. E. Hood, one of the Dartmouth students, to Dr. William Coggswill, secretary of the American Education Association, of Hanover, New Hampshire. Dated July 8, 1840, it reads:PFF4 752.3

    “Dear Sir:—At a private interview with myself on the 1st inst., you said to me: ‘The Educational Society will not hereafter aid any man who adopts the doctrines of Miller in reference to the end of the world.’ ... I was puzzled and pained to hear from your lips such a declaration. I could with difficulty credit my own senses, until you had explicitly and emphatically repeated the statement.... Finally, I am not a Millerite, yet I believe it wrong to proscribe my brethren for their religious opinions. I believe that the Education Society has turned out of its primitive path for the purpose of crushing a ‘small and despised sect’ who are guilty of no crime but that of holding ‘new and strange doctrines.’ I therefore feel it is my duty respectfully to decline any further aid from its funds, and return the last appropriation. “J E. Hood.” 24Ibid., p. 203; Signs of the Times, Aug. 1, 1840, p. 70.PFF4 752.4

    But doubtless the most conspicuous of all opposition volumes was by the noted Biblical scholar, Prof. Moses Stuart, Congregationalist, and for over thirty years professor of sacred literature at Andover. It was entitled Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy. Expectation was raised high as Stuart said in the preface:PFF4 753.1

    “It is time for the churches, in reference to the matter now before us, to seek some refuge from the tumultuous ocean on which they have of late been tossed.” 25Moses Stuart, Hints on the Interpretation of Prophecy, p. 5.PFF4 753.2

    But his rationalistic and even provocative handling of the prophecies—abandoning the argument of all the noted Protestant scholars of Reformation and early nineteenth-century times—brought consternation to many fellow scholars. Thus the well-known Isaac T. Hinton, not a Millerite (noted in Part I), felt constrained to call special attention to Stuart’s definite aid to Catholicism:PFF4 753.3

    “We regret that, in the midst of the great moral conflict with Antichrist which is now carrying on, those into whose hands ‘the saints’ were so long ‘given’ should find so able a coadjutor. Without, of course, for one moment, intimating any such ambitious design, we are clearly of opinion that the worthy Doctor of Andover has already earned a Cardinal’s hat; and if his forthcoming work should be equally ingenious in behalf of Romanism, the pontificate itself would be only an adequate reward!—We have, however, no fears that Christians of sound common sense, and capable of independent thought, will, after a candid consideration of the scheme which excludes papacy from the page of prophecy, and that which traces in the prophetic symbols a faithful portraiture of its abominations, make a wrong decision.” 26Isaac Taylor Hinton, The Prophecies of Daniel and John Illustrated, p. 231, note.PFF4 753.4

    The Universalists, however, took courage and capitalized upon Stuart’s contention, as indicated by the pointed Hartford Universalist editorial, which caused considerable perturbance among many evangelical Protestants. It said:PFF4 753.5

    “When we see such men as Professor Stuart, forced by the power of truth, to abandon the old, antiquated, erroneous notions concerning the Apocalypse, we are inspired with hope. In his zeal to overthrow Millerism, the Professor has involved himself in a dilemma from which he will find it no easy matter to retreat.’” 27This is, of course, straight Preterism.PFF4 753.6

    “In his ‘hints on the interpretation of prophecy,’ he refutes Miller’s views of the second coming of Christ, by taking Universalist’s ground, and limiting the fulfillment of the predictions of the Revelator to a time not far distant from that in which they were made. 28The Universalist (Hartford), Nov. 26, 1842, p. 100.PFF4 754.1

    “The utterance of such doctrine by Moses Stuart is a new thing under the sun. ‘It tends,’ as we are told by a Presbyterian paper of repute, ‘as the opinions of Professor Bush do, fearfully to Universalism.’ Professors Stuart and Bush are liberalizing the minds and enlightening the understandings of the Calvinistic party, by administering small doses of Universalism, as the remedies for the popular tumults and excitements.” 29Ibid., Jan. 7, 1843, p. 149.PFF4 754.2

    That Universalist papers should openly jeer at the second advent and judgment was to be expected. Thus the editor of the Universalist Trumpet, of Boston, likewise says:PFF4 754.3

    “Wm. Miller is a weak-minded, vain, and self-confident old man, who has learned some passages of Scripture by heart; but who in our judgment, either dishonestly perverts the sacred writings, or is almost totally ignorant of their true sense. He has been in the vicinity of Boston some two or three months. He is constantly giving lectures on his theory, which are attended by immense crowds. The meeting-houses are generally closed against him, except the two occupied by a sect calling themselves ‘Christians.’PFF4 754.4

    “But the most astonishing fact is yet tq be disclosed. The Baptist Society in Cambridgeport, had their house open every day last week, for Miller, and their clergyman was in the pulpit with him, taking part in the services. We are surprised beyond measure, at this movement.... That such men as J. V. Himes, and P. R. Russell (the Christian ministers), should abet Miller’s imposition, might have been expected. They are fit for such things. We agree with the Rev. Dr. Sharp, in a remark he is said to have made, ‘that Miller’s theory is all moonshine; and we are astonished that a truly respectable society should give the least countenance to such deception.” 30Quoted in I. C. Wellcome, op. cit., p. 206.PFF4 754.5

    On the other hand, J. H. Noyes, editor of the Witness and Advocate of “Perfect Holiness,” strangely contended in 1840 that Christ had already come the second time during the lifetime of His disciples:PFF4 754.6

    “Our readers are doubtless aware that Miller’s famous doctrine of the speedy coming of Christ ‘in the clouds of heaven,’ is based on that old desperate delusion of Christendom,—the denial that he has already come.PFF4 755.1

    “Miller thus adds to the long list of foolish, not to say blasphemous devices, by which ungodly men have sought these thousand years to turn aside and stultify the plainest and most solemn declaration of the Son of God.... On the other hand, we have reason to rejoice that this delusion makes occasion for many to examine honestly the subject of the Second Coming.PFF4 755.2

    “All sober men must soon find themselves shut up to the acknowledgment that Christ came the second time according to his promise, within the lifetime of some of his followers.” 31The Witness, June 6, 1840, p. 152. A later issue says Judas Iscariot was the Man of Sin, or falling away of 2 Thessalonians 2; see also I. C. Wellcome, op. cit., p. 208.PFF4 755.3

    Then came Dr. Horace Bushnell, eminent and eloquent Congregational clergyman and theologian, also of Hartford, Connecticut, who differed by flatly declaring that no personal advent of Christ is to be looked for at all. 32Later (in 1849) Bushnell was summoned before the Hartford Central Association of Ministers for “heretical opinions.” Here is a startling excerpt:PFF4 755.4

    “‘Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you.’ ‘In what sense then is he going, and in what sense will he come again—what change of relationship he will inaugurate between himself and his followers, and as to what kind of a personal relation he undertakes to hold with them now, is the subject to which the author invites the attention of his auditors.’PFF4 755.5

    “Christ says, ‘It is expedient for you that I go away,’ adding the promise, ‘I will come to you.’ He means by this that the time has now arrived when there must be a change of administration, when he must needs be taken away from their eyes, and begin to be set in a new spiritual relation which permits a universal access of men to him, and a universal presence of him with them.PFF4 755.6

    “What is wanted now is an unlocalized, invisible, spiritual presence, everywhere present Saviour, such as we all may know and receive, being consciously known and received by him, AND THIS WILL BE HIS COMING AGAIN, OR HIS SECOND COMING, such a kind of coming as shows him bearing rule in Providence, and riding in the clouds of heaven-rolling on the changes, unfolding the destinies of time, and preparing his universal kingdom.... In all of which Christ, you will perceive, is proposing to do exactly nothing which many of his disciples, taken by faith of his second coming, so fervently preach, and so earnestly magnify. They believe that he is to come in a body, and be visible as in a body.... Every ship that sails will be crowded with eager multitudes pressing on to see the visible Christ. Thronging in thus, month by month, a vast seething crowd of pilgrims, curious and devout, poor and rich, houseless and hungry, trampling each other down-many of them sick, not one of them truly in the enjoyment of God’s peace, not one of a thousand getting near enough to see him-still fewer to hear him speak, how long will it take, under such kind of experience, to learn what Christ intended, and the solid truth of it when he said, ‘It is expedient for you that I go away.’PFF4 755.7

    “Nothing could be more INEXPEDIENT, OR A PROFOUNDER AFFLICTION THAN A LOCALLY DESCENDED, PERMANENTLY VISIBLE SAVIOUR.... We have no want then of a locally related, that is, of a bodily resident Saviour.” 33I. C. Wellcome, op. cit., pp. 208, 209.PFF4 756.1

    Small wonder that the Hartford Universalist gives four more columns to rejoicing over this bombshell cast into the Protestant camp by Dr. Bushnell, congratulating him on rejecting the whole concept of the personal advent of Christ. Such were some of the conflicting and really demoralizing developments now appearing in Protestant ranks from men in high positions determined to neutralize the Millerite premillennial positions. And such were the rather desperate lengths to which men in high places went, in the heat of controversy, utterly at variance with the historic position of the Protestant church—and with each other—in order to stem this tide of Millerism.PFF4 756.2

    Mention should also be made of the slightly later (1844) Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Great Image, by Dr. George Bush, professor of Hebrew and Oriental Literature at New York City University. Sylvester Bliss, editor of the Advent Shield, simply says:PFF4 756.3

    “The author sustains us [the Millerites] fully until we come down to the fifth kingdom, which he places in the present state of the world, but under a highly perfected state of things which he supposes will continue forever. This is the ground which all will finally be obliged to take, who persist in denying the personal Advent of Christ. If there is such an event ever to take place, it must be in this age of the world. Those who defer it far in the future, must be driven to a denial that it will ever occur. There is no middle ground. There is no other alternative.PFF4 756.4

    “The work before us endeavors to show that the breaking of the image by the stone is a very gradual work; but we are unable to see the force of the argument for such a conclusion.” 34Advent Shield, January, 1845, p. 288.PFF4 756.5

    An eighteen-page review of Remarks on the Book of Daniel (also 1844) by Dr. Irah Chase, Baptist, and for many years professor of Ecclesiastical History in Newton Theological Institution, appears in the May, 1844, Advent Shield, by Apollos Hale. Chase’s reckless draft upon any and all arguments, however contradictory to those of fellow opposes, in an attempt to stay the onward sweep of Millerism, is pointed out by Hale, who observes:PFF4 757.1

    “Judaism buried up the word of God with the traditions of the elders. Popery has robbed the church of this treasure by law. Neology [i.e., rationalism] perpetrates the same crime, by stripping the Bible of its divinity. Professor Chase has clearly placed himself with that class of divines.” 35Apollos Hale, “Review of Professor Chase,” Advent Shield, May, 1844, p. 127.PFF4 757.2

    Here again there is recourse to the device of Porphyry, the pagan Sophist, making the Selucids the fourth empire, instead of the Romans—and the little horn simply Antiochus Epiphanes, in the time of the Maccabees, with the 2300 days reduced to 1150 literal days, with 2300 evening and morning daily sacrifices of the Jews. This appeared to be the climax to the arguments of Stuart and Bowling, filled with “ifs” and uncertainties. And yet the Methodist Advocate and Journal, of New York, appeared delighted with it. 36Ibid., pp. 143, 144. Hale, however, asserts that such arguments “outrage” all the hallowed expositions of the past, and “abandon their own avowed and cherished views,” that is, of the great antecedent Protestant interpreters from the time of the Reformation. 37To the roster of opponents must be added the names of Nathaniel Colver, W. J. Hamilton, E. Pond, C. E. Stowe, Samuel F. Jarvis, Richard C. Shimeall. P. E. Dimmick, Edwin F. Hatfield, Samuel I. Prime, Moses Springer, Abel Stevens, Noah Levings, Morris Henry, O. E. Morreel, etc.PFF4 757.3

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