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The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4

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    CHAPTER FORTY: The Aftermath of the Bitter Disappointment

    I. The Tragedy and Grief of Disappointment

    Let us now go back to the Disappointment. All over the land, on that fateful day of October 22, the Adventist believers had gathered in their homes, in churches or in halls, or wherever they might find refuge from the mockers and the mobs. They had closed their businesses, abandoned their crops, and had wound up their earthly affairs. They had confessed their sins, made right all wrongs, and now pressed together in the bonds of Christian hope and fervent expectancy. It was the day of great expectancy and ardent longing. They were waiting for their Redeemer.PFF4 855.1

    But the sun passed its zenith, and declined toward its setting. The cloud of shining glory for which they strained their eyes, and which they believed would bring their Lord, did not appear. No lightning rent the sky, no earthquake shook the land, no trumpet smote the ear. The westering sun went down silently but relentlessly upon their disappearing hopes. Darkness covered the land, and gloom—irrepressible gloom—settled down upon the waiting, watching host. Grief and despair overwhelmed them all. Men and women wept unashamedly, for their Lord had not come.PFF4 855.2

    At first they could not pray; their hearts were numbed with disappointment. In recent days and weeks Jesus had become nearer and dearer than all earthly kinfolk—but now it seemed they had lost Him. Some slipped away in the darkness to their cold, cheerless homes. Others, unable to determine what to do, stayed on until the chill, gray dawn of October 23 appeared, symbolizing the grayness and bleakness of their own saddened lives. Was there to be no second coming of Christ? Were the promises of God but a delusion and a mockery? Was the Bible prophecy of the triumphant climax of their hopes all false? Should they neither see the glories of the earth made new nor walk the golden streets of the city of the redeemed? Could it be that God was not in it all? Slowly the days wore on as they sought to get their bearings.PFF4 855.3

    The world at large took for granted that, after the collapse of the October 22 expectancy, Millerite Adventism would soon be regarded as a completely discredited chapter in the fabulous forties, a religious frenzy that had ended in disillusionment and disaster, unworthy of place or record in the legitimate history of the church. In fact, opponents expected the whole movement to disintegrate and come to nought. Small wonder that many adherents fell away, in whom the Word of God with its prophecies had taken but shallow root. And most of the leaders were not in a position to meet the fanaticism and false philosophies that soon sprang up in certain quarters.PFF4 856.1

    But still there remained a goodly company. And their first thought was that, although prophetic time had run out, they were doubtless in a little time of waiting—possibly but a few days—until the Lord should come. Later, they sought to correct their chronology. Perhaps the timing was never intended to be definite or exact to the year or day. Or possibly there was some hidden error in their dates or computations, which neither they nor their opponents had found. Strangely enough, they did not at first think of seeking the explanation of their disappointment through a re-examination of the stipulated closing events of the 2300 years demanded by the terms of the prophecy.PFF4 856.2

    Still confident that their terminus would bring the advent, and the destruction of the present world by fire, they simply looked to the near future for the fulfillment. The implication thus seemed inevitable that the “true Midnight Cry” must still be future. And it therefore followed that the seventh-month movement had not really been led of God, but had been a tragic mistake. Meantime, as noted, fresh times began to be set by some-1845, 1846, 1851, 1854, and reaching into the 1860’s and 70’s. But the majority groped on in bewilderment, soon giving up the “time” idea altogether. Miller deprecated any further time setting.PFF4 856.3