HIS SICKNESS--VISIT TO MASSACHUSETTS--FANATICISM--MR. MILLER REPUDIATES IT.
"AT the close of his lectures in Philadelphia, Mr. Miller went to Trenton, N. J., to spend the Sabbath (February 12, 1843). By invitation of the mayor of that city, he lectured there three days, and was listened to by crowded houses.
"From Trenton he returned to New York city, but held no public meeting there. He improved the opportunity to visit a brother at Williamsburg, Long Island, where he had an interview with the editor of the Gazette and Advertiser, who thus referred to it:--
"'Our curiosity was recently gratified by an introduction to this gentleman, who has probably been an object of more abuse, ridicule and black-guardism, than any other man now living. A large number of the veracious editors of the political and religious newspapers have assured us that Mr. Miller was totally insane, and sundry preachers had confirmed this assurance. We were somewhat surprised to hear him converse on religious subjects with a coolness and soundness of judgment which made us whisper to ourselves,
"If this be madness, then there is method in't."
"'When our interview closed, we were left wondering at the cause of that malignant spirit of slander and falsehood with which a man has been assailed, who has spent his time and substance in a course of unceasing toils to persuade men "to flee from the wrath to come."'
"From New York, Mr. M. went up the Hudson River as far as Lansingburg, N. Y., where he lectured from the 17th to the 21st of February. The day following, in compliance with the urgent request of the Baptist church in Half Moon, N. Y., he visited that place, and commenced a course of lectures, which continued till the 5th of March.
"At the request of Mr. Davis, pastor of the Presbyterian church in Ballston Center, Mr. M. next lectured in his house from the 6th to the 11th of March; and, on the 12th, gave two discourses at the Spa. As usual, a large number were present, and God's blessing was manifested.
"On the 15th of March, he delivered two discourses at Rock City, in the town of Milton, N. Y., about six miles from Saratoga Springs. He had attempted to go as far as Albany, to fulfill an engagement there; but, after getting within fourteen miles of that city, he was obliged to return to Rock City, where he was taken sick with his old complaint, erysipelas, in his right arm. He remained at the house of Dea. Dubois, where he received the kindest attention, till the 23d of March. On that day he was removed to the house of Herman Thomas, in the same place. He was carefully provided for there till the 30th, when he was so far convalescent as to be removed by his son. By short and easy journeys he reached his home at Low Hampton on the 31st, as comfortably as could have been hoped for.
"On the 6th of April he commenced a letter to Mr. Himes, in which he says: 'I am now at home; was brought home six days since. I am very weak in body, but, blessed be God! my mind, faith, and hope, are yet strong in the Lord,--no wavering in my belief that I shall see Christ this year,' &c. This letter not being completed on the 13th of April, his son forwarded it to Mr. Himes, adding, 'Father is quite low and feeble, and we fear he may be no better.'
"His complaint manifested itself in a multiplicity and succession of carbuncle boils, which were a great drain on his system, and wasted his strength rapidly. On the 3d of May, when their violence had greatly abated, he wrote: 'My health is on the gain, as my folks would say. I have now only twenty-two boils, from the bigness of a grape to a walnut, on my shoulder, side, back, and arms. I am truly afflicted, like Job, and have about as many comforters, only they do not come to see me, as Job's did.' Two weeks later, he was again much more feeble, and his physicians prohibited visitors from seeing him.
"On the 28th of May, his son wrote: 'Father's health is no better, on the whole. He continues very weak and low, confined to his bed most of the time.' In addition to his numerous boils, he had, by a fever, been brought near to death's door.
"About the 1st of July he was so far recovered as to be able to walk about his house, and his health continued to improve, so that, from the 6th to the 9th of September, he gave a course of lectures in N. Springfield, Vt. He lectured in Claremont, N. H., on the 11th; in Springfield, N. H., on the 12th; in Wilmot, N. H., on the 14th; in Andover, N. H., on the 17th; in Franklin, N. H., on the 18th; in Guilford, N. H., from the 21st to the 24th; in Gilmanton, N. H., on the 25th; and at Concord, N. H., on the 26th and 27th. On the 2d of October he gave two addresses at the camp-meeting in Exeter, N. H., and arrived at Lowell, Mass., on the 3d. He went to Boston on the 6th, gave three discourses, and then returned home to Low Hampton, where he remained till the 9th of November.
"During this tour, Mr. Miller was much pained by witnessing a tendency to fanaticism on the part of some who held to his views. As he had no sympathy for anything of the kind, and has been unjustly identified with it in the minds of the public, it becomes necessary to show its origin, that its responsibility may rest where it rightly belongs.
"The views of Mr. Miller being embraced by persons belonging to various religious denominations, it was impossible, from the nature of the case, for those of any particular faith to teach their own private opinions in connection with the Advent, without exciting the jealousy of those who held opposite sentiments. To avoid any such clashing of opinions, the following platform was adopted by the first conference held by believers in the Advent (October 14, 1840), in their Address unanimously presented to the public, namely:--(1)
"'Our object in assembling at this time, our object in addressing you, and our object in other efforts, separate and combined, on the subject of the kingdom of Heaven at hand, is to revive and restore this ancient faith, to renew the ancient landmarks, to "stand in the way, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way" in which our fathers walked, and the martyrs "found rest to their souls." We have no purpose to distract the churches with any new inventions, or to get ourselves a name by starting another sect among the followers of the Lamb. We neither condemn nor rudely assail others of a faith different from our own, nor dictate in matters of conscience for our brethren, nor seek to demolish their organizations, nor build new ones of our own; but simply to express our convictions, like Christians, with the reasons for entertaining them, which have persuaded us to understand the word and promises, the prophecies and the gospel of our Lord, as the first Christians, the primitive ages of the church, and the profoundly learned and intelligent reformers, have unanimously done in the faith and hope that the Lord will come quickly in his glory, to fulfill all his promises in the resurrection of the dead.
"'We are agreed and harmonize with the published creed of the Episcopal, Dutch Reformed, Presbyterian, and Methodist churches, together with the Cambridge Platform of the Congregational church, and the Lutheran and the Roman Catholic churches, in maintaining that Christ's second and only coming now will be to judge the world at the last day.
"'We are not of those who sow discord among brethren, who withdraw from the fellowship of the churches, who rail at the office of the ministry, and triumph in the exposure of the errors of a secular and apostate church, and who count themselves holier than others, or wiser than their fellows. The gracious Lord has opened to us wondrous things in his word, whereof we are glad, and in view of which we rejoice with fear and trembling. We reverently bless his name, and we offer these things, with the right hand of our Christian fellowship and union, to all disciples of our common Lord, of every sect and denomination, praying them, by the love of the crucified Jesus, to regard the promise of his coming, and to cultivate the love of his appearing, and to sanctify themselves in view of his approaching with power and great glory; although they conscientiously differ from us in minor points of faith, or reject some of the peculiarities which exist in individuals of this Conference.
"'We do not seek to excite the prejudices of our fellow-men, or to join with those who mock at sin, or who scoff at the word or promise of the great Jehovah, or who lightly esteem offices and ordinances of the church, or who empty of their power the threatenings of the holy law, or who count the blood of the atonement a useless thing, or who refuse to worship and honor the Son of God even as they honor the Father; nor do we refuse any of these, or others of divers faith, whether Roman or Protestant, who receive and heartily embrace the doctrine of the Lord's coming in his kingdom.
"It was thus unanimously agreed that the sectarian questions which divide Christians should be avoided in the presentation of the advent doctrine, and that 'minor points of faith,' and the 'peculiarities' in the belief of any, should not be made prominent, to impede their united labors.
"In the autumn of 1842, Mr. Miller's views were embraced by John Starkweather, a graduate of the Andover Theological Seminary, and a minister of good standing in the Orthodox Congregational denomination. He had been a minister at the Marlboro' chapel, in Boston, and at other places, and was regarded as a man of peculiar sanctity. He was at that time, unemployed by any people, and Elder Himes being obliged to spend much of his time in preaching in other places than Boston, Mr. Starkweather was called as an assistant pastor of his church, at the chapel in Chardon-street.
"Mr. Starkweather commenced his labors there in October, 1842. He was tall, well formed, and had a voice of great power and not unpleasant tones. His personal appearance was thus prepossessing, which, with his reputation for superior sanctity, enabled him easily to secure the confidence of his hearers, who nightly thronged the chapel.
"His principal theme was the necessity of a preparation for the Saviour's coming. At such a time no subject seemingly could be more appropriate. But Mr. Starkweather had embraced peculiar views respecting personal sanctification; and, contrary to the understanding which had been had on the subject of sectarian views, he made his own notions not only a test of readiness for the Lord's coming, but of Christian fellowship,--demanding the largest liberty for himself, and granting none to others. He taught that conversion, however full and thorough, did not fit one for God's favor without a second work; and that this second work was usually indicated by some bodily sensation.
"During the winter, the losing of strength and other cataleptic and epileptic phenomena became manifested, and were hailed by him as evidences of the great power of God in the sanctification of those who were already devoted Christians. He denominated such 'the sealing power.'
"Those who were familiar with the history of fanaticism in past ages, who had read with pain the termination of the career of the eloquent Edward Irving in England, who knew the devastation caused by fanaticism in the time of the Reformation, of its effects in the early ages of Christianity, and of the results produced by it even in many portions of our own country during the infancy of some of the sects among us, were at no loss respecting its character.
"It was at first supposed that Mr. Starkweather was an innocent cause of this, and that he was ignorant of his strong mesmeric powers, by which he had obtained a sympathetic influence over some of his hearers. He was reasoned with on the subject, but to no purpose. His mind was bent in a certain direction, and pursue his course he would. His actual spirit was not discovered until leading brethren publicly dissented from such exercises as any necessary part of Christianity. At this the uncaged lion was aroused, and it became evident what manner of spirit he was of.
"Near the close of April, 1843, it was deemed necessary to take a decided stand on the subject. A meeting had been appointed for the afternoon, and Mr. Himes, who had been absent during these occurrences, with judicious brethren determined to endeavor to stem the current of fanaticism which had commenced. In a calm and faithful manner, he gave them the history of various movements which had been destroyed or greatly injured by fanaticism; and, without intimating that evidences of such then existed, he exhorted them to learn from past experience, and see to it that they avoid the rocks on which others had been shipwrecked.
"Mr. Starkweather arose in reply, and was so vehement that Mr. Himes felt justified in again addressing the audience, exposing the nature of the exercises that had appeared among them, and their pernicious tendency.
"This so shocked the sensiblities of those who regarded them as the 'great power of God,' that they cried out and stopped their ears. Some jumped upon their feet, and some ran out of the house. 'You will drive out the Holy Ghost!' cried one. 'You are throwing on cold water!' said another.
"'Throwing on cold water!' said Mr. Himes; 'I would throw on the Atlantic Ocean before I would be identified with such abominations as these, or suffer them in this place unrebuked.'
"Starkweather immediately announced that 'the saints' would thenceforth meet at another place than the Chardon-street chapel; and, retiring, his followers withdrew with him.
"From this time he was the leader of a party, held separate meetings, and, by extending his visits to other places, he gained a number of adherents. He was not countenanced by the friends of Mr. Miller; but the public identified him and his movement with Mr. Miller and his.
"This was most unjust to Mr. Miller; but to this day the Romanists identify, in the same manner the fanaticism consequent on the Reformation, with Luther and those who repudiated the doings of Munzer, Storch and others.
"While Starkweather was thus repudiated, he persisted in forcing himself, wherever he could, upon the public, as a religious teacher and lecturer on the Advent.
"On the 9th of August, 1843, a camp-meeting commenced at Plainfield, Ct., at which Starkweather was, and some manifestations were exhibited which were entirely new to those present, and for which they could not account. Another meeting was held at Stepney, near Bridgeport, on the 28th of the same month, where the developments were more marked. A few young men, professing to have the gift of discerning spirits, were hurried into great extravagances. Elder J. Litch published a protest against such exhibitions, in which he said:--
"'A more disgraceful scene, under the garb of piety, I have rarely witnessed. For the last ten years I have come in contact nearly every year, more or less, with the same spirit, and have marked its developments, its beginning, and its result; and am now prepared to say that it is evil, and only evil, and that continually. I have uniformly opposed it wherever it has made its appearance, and as uniformly have been denounced as being opposed to the power of God, and as resisting the operations of the Spirit. The origin of it, is the idea that the individuals thus exercised are entirely under the influence of the Spirit of God, are his children, and that he will not deceive them and lead them astray; hence every impulse which comes upon them is yielded to as coming from God, and, following it, there is no length of fanaticism to which they will not go.'"--Midnight Cry, Sept. 14, 1843.
. . . . . .
"During Mr. Miller's confinement by his sickness, he had not come in contact with any of these things; but, on his last tour into Massachusetts, he had seen something of it, and took the earliest opportunity to do his duty respecting it, by a prompt disclaimer. Before reaching home, he stopped a day at Castleton, Vt., and wrote the following letter, which was published in the Signs of the Times of November 8, 1843:--
"'DEAR BROTHER: My heart was deeply pained, during my tour east, to see in some few of my former friends a proneness to wild and foolish extremes and vain delusions, such as working miracles, discerning of spirits, vague and loose views on sanctification, &c.
"'As it respects the working of miracles, I have no faith in those who pretend beforehand that they can work miracles. See Rev. 13:13, 14: "And he doeth great wonders, so that he maketh fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, and deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast." Whenever God has seen fit to work miracles, the instruments have seemingly been unconscious of having the power, until the work was done. They have, in no instance that I recollect, proclaimed as with a trumpet that they could or would work a miracle. Moses and the apostles were more modest than these modern pretenders to this power. You may depend upon it, whosoever claims the power has the spirit of Antichrist. Rev. 16:14: "For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty."
"'I know they pretend to prove that men are to have this power unto the end of the world, by Mark 16:17. But take the whole passage together, and what does it prove? Not that all believers can do these miracles, but that these miracles would follow those who believe; that is, those who believed in the record that God had given would, in the apostolic age, have a confirmation of the truth of that word by those miracles, which would follow them.(2) The word would be thus confirmed by miracles, performed by prophets and apostles, who were inspired to write the Old and New Testaments. I see no reason for the working of miracles in this age; "for if they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe though one should arise from the dead." Since the apostles' day, none have worked miracles but the anti-Christian beast.
"'The discerning of spirits is, I fear, another fanatical movement to draw off Adventists from the truth, and to lead men to depend on the feeling, exercise, and conceit of their own mind, more than on the word of God. It builds up a spirit of pride and self-righteousness, and thus loses sight of the humbling doctrine, to account others better than ourselves. If all Christians were to possess this gift, how should we live by faith? Each would stand upon the spiritual gifts of his brother, and, if possessed of the true Spirit of God, could never err. Surely the devil has great power over the minds of some at the present day. And how shall we know what manner of spirit they are of? The Bible answers: "By their fruits ye shall know them." Then it is not by the spirit.
"'I think those who claim this power will soon manifest, by their fruits, that they have another rule than the Bible. I have observed that those persons who think that they have been baptized by the Holy Ghost, as they term it, become more sensitive of themselves, and very jealous for their own glory; less patient, and full of the denunciatory spirit against others who are not so fortunate as themselves. There are many spirits gone out into the world; and we are commanded to try the spirits. The spirit that does not cause us to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world, is not the spirit of Christ. I am more and more convinced that Satan has much to do in these wild movements. He has come down, having great wrath, knowing he hath but a short time; and he will, if possible, deceive the very elect.
"'On sanctification I have but little at present to say. Sanctification has two prominent meanings in Scripture: setting apart for holy purposes; and being cleansed from all sin and pollution. Every soul converted to God is sanctified in the first sense. He devotes himself to God, to love, serve, and obey him forever. Every one who obtains complete redemption, body, soul, and spirit, is sanctified in the second sense. The first kind is, or ought to be, now enjoyed by every true believer in Christ. The other will never be accomplished till the resurrection of the just, when these vile bodies shall be changed. We are sanctified, in the first sense, through faith and a knowledge of the truth; and, in my opinion, are not perfect until we are perfect in faith and knowledge of the word of God. Yet many among us, who pretend to be wholly sanctified, are following the traditions of men, and apparently are as ignorant of truth as others who make no such pretensions, and are not half so modest. I must confess that they have to me an appearance of boasting.
"'I would not judge harshly; but I cannot see any reason to believe them any more holy than many others who make no such claims. I would say nothing to prevent any man or woman from living holy. This is what we are all seeking after, and what I expect to attain, when Christ shall come and blot out my sins, according to his promise. Acts 3:19. I think those with whom I have conversed, who pretend to have obtained this grace, instead of enjoying more than others, labor, in their arguments, to lower down the standard of holiness to their present capacity. Instead of looking for a blessed hope at the appearing of Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile bodies, and raise our capacity to enjoy and adore him forever, in an infinitely higher state of perfection, they think they are actually enjoying all the promises now, and are not in need of any further work of grace to give them a right to the eternal inheritance of the saints.
"'If this be so, and we are truly perfect, sanctified, and prepared for our possession in Heaven, then every moment we are debarred our right of entering and taking possession of our inheritance would be an illegal withholding of us from our just rights of participating in the enjoyment of the will of our blessed Master. But it is not so. We are minors, and subjects of chastisements. Prov. 3:11, 12: "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, neither be weary of his correction; for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.' Heb. 12:5-9: "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?"
"'Therefore, let us all be modest, unassuming, and godlike, pressing on to the mark. Let us not, therefore, judge one another any more. Rom. 14:13: "But judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling-block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way." 1 Cor. 8:9-13: "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak. For if any man see thee, which hast knowledge, sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him that is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; and through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." If my brother is truly perfect in every good work, he will bear with me and my weakness. Rom. 15:1: "We, then, that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves." 1 Cor. 9:22: "To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some."
"'I have not written this to condemn my "perfect" brother, or to call out a reply. He may call one thing perfect sanctification, and I another. If he is "perfect" and strong, he can bear my weakness. If he wants contention, it will show that he is not perfect, but contentious. I beg of my brother to let me follow on to know the Lord; and God forbid that I should call him back. I hope he will not boastingly exclude me from the path he would tread. May God sanctify and prepare us for his own use, and deliver us from the wrath to come.
"'Yours in the blessed hope, WM. MILLER.
"'Castleton, Vt., Oct. 12, 1843.'
"Not only Mr. Miller, but all who were in his confidence, took a decided position against all fanatical extravagances. They never gave them any quarter; while those who regarded them with favor soon arrayed themselves against Mr. Miller and his adherents. Their fanaticism increased; and though opposed by Mr. Miller and his friends, the religious and secular press very generally, but unjustly, connected his name with it;--he being no more responsible for it than Luther and Wesley were for similar manifestations in their day.
(1) From personal acquaintance with Mr. Miller, and a thorough knowledge of his teachings, we are happy to state that during his entire public life he had no sympathy whatever with those teachings and influences which lead to fanaticism; and that his broad and liberal feelings of Christian fellowship are expressed in the following address. J. W.
(2) While it may now appear very evident that the stand taken by Mr. Miller, relative to the character, and the final results, of the fanaticism of which he speaks, was a proper and right one, it is not so clear that he disposed of the question of the gifts and manifestations of the Spirit of God, in harmony with the general scope of Scripture testimony upon the subject. The reader will observe that he does not produce the proof, in his accustomed style of proving his points, that the great commission, with its duties, and its blessings, was given to the ministry for only a limited portion of the Christian age. Mr. Miller, Mr. Himes, and other leading Adventists, failed to show the time when, and by whom, the gifts were removed from the church of God. This gave the fanatics great advantage and as they maintained the scriptural position upon the perpetuity of spiritual gifts they gained very large numbers to their ranks. The false positions of those who opposed them added fuel to the flame of fanaticism already kindled, and resulted in the breaking up of the once united and happy body of believers.
Seventh-day Adventists have held the scriptural position upon the perpetuity of the gifts from their first existence. They have taken heed to the admonition of Paul to "Despise not prophesyings;" but to "Prove all things;" and "Hold fast that which is good." 2 Thess. 5:20, 21. They have with their Bibles in their hands applied the rule of John by which to test the spirits. "Believe not every spirit; but try the spirits, whether they are of God." 1 John 4:1. With this position those who have held it have been prepared to meet every form of fanaticism that has sought a place among us, and now our people are reaping the good fruits of their patient, firm, and energetic efforts upon this point, in the unparalleled union and order throughout the ranks. We would not encourage a disposition to blame those who acted according to the best light they had under the pressure of the trials of the past; but we here express our solemn conviction that very much of the past fanaticism and confusion among the Adventists who could not adopt an unscriptural position, is chargeable to those leaders who took a false position relative to the perpetuity of spiritual gifts. J. W.