HIS APOLOGY AND DEFENSE--DEFINITENESS OF PROPHETIC TIME--ERRONEOUS VIEWS CONNECTED WITH THE DOCTRINE, ETC.
"AFTER the Boston Conference, Mr. Miller accompanied Mr. Himes to Portland, Me., where he gave discourses in the afternoon and evening of Sunday, June 1, to crowded audiences. Many of those present, doubtless, were drawn to hear him by motives of curiosity, because of the disappointment in time. The necessity of patience and of watchfulness were subjects on which he discoursed.
"He returned to Boston, and from thence went to a camp-meeting at Champlain, N. Y., on the 10th of June. After this, he returned home, in the enjoyment of good general health, but somewhat afflicted by boils.
"As the author of a movement which had resulted in disappointment, and, in some respects, disaster, Mr. Miller deemed it proper that he should make a personal statement to the Christian public, show the motives that had actuated him, and disavow any sympathy with the extremes into which some had gone, contrary to his earnest remonstrances. His growing infirmities made him shrink from the labor of writing, and caused him to desire an amanuensis. For this purpose, the writer of this visited him in the month of July, 1845, and Mr. Miller dictated his 'Apology and Defense,' a tract of thirty-six pages, which was published by Mr. Himes, in Boston. It was addressed 'To all who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity,' and commenced with:--
"'As all men are responsible to the community for the sentiments they may promulgate, the public have a right to expect from me a candid statement in reference to my disappointment in not realizing the advent of Christ in A. D. 1843-4, which I had confidently believed. I have, therefore, considered it not presumptuous in me to lay before the Christian public a retrospective view of the whole question, the motives that actuated me, and the reasons by which I was guided.'
"He then proceeded to narrate his early history, and gave an account of his 'deistical opinions,' his 'first religious impressions,' his 'connection with the army,' his 'removal to Low Hampton,' his 'determination to understand the Scriptures,' his 'manner of studying the Bible,' the 'results arrived at,' and his subsequent labors; all of which have been noticed at greater length in the foregoing pages. He then summed up his labors as follows:--
"'From the commencement of that publication, I was overwhelmed with invitations to labor in various places, with which I complied as far as my health and time would allow. I labored extensively in all the New England and Middle States, in Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, the District of Columbia, and in Canada East and West, giving about four thousand lectures in something like five hundred different towns.
"'I should think that about two hundred ministers embraced my views, in all the different parts of the United States and Canada; and that there have been about five hundred public lecturers. In all the sections of country where I Iabored,--not only in the towns I visited, but in those in their vicinity,--there were more or less that embraced the doctrine of the advent. In some places only a very few, and in other places there have been a large number.
"'In nearly a thousand places, Advent congregations have been raised up, numbering, as nearly as I can estimate, some fifty thousand believers. On recalling to mind the several places of my labors, I can reckon up about six thousand instances of conversion from nature's darkness to God's marvelous light, the result of my personal labors alone; and I should judge the number to be much greater. Of this number I can recall to mind about seven hundred, who were, previously to their attending my lectures, infidels; and their number may have been twice as great. Happy results have also followed from the labors of my brethren, many of whom I would like to mention here, if my limits would permit.
"'In all my labors I never had the desire or thought to establish any separate interest from that of existing denominations, or to benefit one at the expense of another. I thought to benefit all. Supposing that all Christians would rejoice in the prospect of Christ's coming, and that those who could not see as I did would not love any the less those who should embrace this doctrine, I did not conceive there would ever be any necessity for separate meetings. My whole object was a desire to convert souls to God, to notify the world of a coming judgment, and to induce my fellow-men to make that preparation of heart which will enable them to meet their God in peace. The great majority of those who were converted under my labors united with the various existing churches. When individuals came to me to inquire respecting their duty, I always told them to go where they would feel at home; and I never favored any one denomination in my advice to such.
"'But my brethren began to complain that they were not fed by their ministers, and wanted expository preaching. I told them it was their duty to interest their ministers in the prophecies; but, if they could not receive the teachings under which they sat, they must act in accordance with their own sense of duty. They then began to complain that they had not liberty in the churches to present their views freely, or to exhort their brethren to prepare for the Judgment. Those in the neighborhood of advent preaching felt that, when they could listen to these glorious truths, it was their privilege so to do. For this, many of them were treated coldly. Some came out of their churches, and some were expelled. Where the blame lay it is not necessary here to inquire; there was, doubtless, wrong on both sides. The result was, that a feeling of opposition arose, on the part of many of the ministers and churches that did not embrace these views, against those who were looking for the blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.'
"He then spoke of various points as follows:--
"'DEFINITENESS OF PROPHETIC TIME.
"'I had never been positive as to any particular day for the Lord's appearing, believing that no man could know the day and hour. In all my published lectures will be seen, on the title-page, "about the year 1843." In all my oral lectures I invariably told my audiences that the periods would terminate in 1843 if there were no mistakes in my calculation; but that I could not say the end might not come even before that time, and they should be continually prepared. In 1842, some of my brethren preached, with great positiveness, the exact year, and censured me for putting in an IF. The public press had also published that I had fixed upon a definite day, the 23d of April, for the Lord's advent. Therefore, in December of that year, as I could see no error in my reckoning, I published my belief that some time between March 21, 1843, and March 21, 1844, the Lord would come. Some had their minds fixed on particular days; but I could see no evidence for such, unless the types of the Mosaic law pointed to the feast of tabernacles.
"'During the year 1843, the most violent denunciations were heaped upon me, and those associated with me, by the press and some pulpits. Our motives were assailed, our principles misrepresented, and our characters traduced. Time passed on, and the 21st of March, 1844, went by without our witnessing the appearing of the Lord. Our disappointment was great, and many walked no more with us.
"'Previously to this, in the fall of 1843, some of my brethren began to call the churches Babylon, and to urge that it was the duty of Adventists to come out of them. With this I was much grieved, as not only the effect was very bad, but I regarded it as a perversion of the word of God, a wresting of Scripture.(1) But the practice spread extensively; and, from that time, the churches, as might have been expected, were closed against us. It prejudiced many against us, and created a deep feeling of hostility between Adventists and those who did not embrace the doctrine; so that most of the Adventists were separated from their respective churches. This was a result which I never desired nor expected; but it was brought about by unforeseen circumstances. We could, then, only act in accordance with the position in which we were thus placed.
"'On the passing of my published time, I frankly acknowledged my disappointment in reference to the exact period; but my faith was unchanged in any essential feature. I therefore continued my labors, principally at the West, during the summer of 1844, until "the seventh-month movement," as it is called. I had no participation in this, only as I wrote a letter, eighteen months previously, presenting the observances under the Mosaic law which pointed to that month as a probable time when the advent might be expected. This was written because some were looking to definite days in the spring. I had, however, no expectation that so unwarranted a use would be made of those types that any should regard a belief in such mere inferential evidence a test of salvation. I therefore had no fellowship with that movement until about two or three weeks previous to the 22d of October, when, seeing it had obtained such prevalence, and considering it was at a probable point of time, I was persuaded that it was a work of God, and felt that, if it should pass by, I should be more disappointed than I was in my first published time.
"'But that time passed, and I was again disappointed. The movement was of such a character that, for a time, it was very mysterious to me; and the results following it were so unaccountable that I supposed our work might be completed, and that a few weeks only might elapse between that time and the appearing of Christ. However that might be, I regarded my own work completed, and that what was to be done for the extension of these views must be done by younger brethren, except an occasional discourse from myself.
"'As time has progressed, I have been pained too see many errors which have been embraced, in different sections of the country, by some who have labored in connection with myself; errors which I cannot countenance, and of which I wish to speak freely, although I may lose the fellowship of some for faithfully doing my duty.
"'I have been pained to see a spirit of sectarianism and bigotry, in some sections, which disfellowships everything that does not square with the narrow prejudices of individual minds. There is a tendency to exalt individual opinions as a standard for all to submit to; a disposition to place the results of individual investigation upon a level with solemn conclusions to which the great body of brethren have arrived. This is very wrong; for, while we are in this world, we are so short-sighted that we should never regard our conclusions as infallible, should bear with the imperfections of others, and receive those that are weak in the faith, but not to doubtful disputations.
"'Some have an inclination to indulge in harsh and denunciatory remarks against all who do not agree with them. We are all liable to err; but we should avoid thus giving occasion of offense. We should instruct with meekness those who oppose themselves, and avoid foolish and unlearned questions, that gender strifes.
"'There may be causes operating on the minds of others, of which we know nothing, that influence them contrary to the truth as we have received it. We should, therefore, in all our intercourse with those we deem in error, treat them with kindness and affection, and show them that we would do them good, and not evil, if God, peradventure, will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth, and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.
"'Some are prone to indulge in a spirit of uneasiness and disorder, and looseness with regard to church government and doctrine. In all the essential doctrines of the Bible, as they have been held by the pious of the church in all ages, were given to the saints, and for which we are commanded earnestly to contend, I have never seen any reason to change my faith. Jesus I regard as my all-sufficient Saviour, by whose merits alone I can be saved. No being but him, "whose goings forth were of old from everlasting," who should take upon himself our nature, and bear our sins in his own body, could make an atonement, on the efficacy of which I should dare to rely. The Bible speaks as plainly of my Saviour's divinity as it does of his humanity. He is, therefore, Immanuel, God with us. The Bible tells us plainly what the Saviour is. That should satisfy us, without venturing beyond the Bible to say what he is not.
"'It is in the use of terms not found in the Scriptures that disputations arise. For instance, the difference between the Calvinist and Armenian I often thus explain: Both are in the same dilemma. They are like a company of men in the lower story of a house when the tide is entering, and from which there is no escape only by a rope by which they may be drawn up. All endeavor to lay hold of the rope. The one is continually afraid he has not hold of the right rope; if he was sure he had the right rope he would have no fears. The other has no fear but he has hold of the right rope; he is continually afraid his rope will break. Now both are equally fearful they may perchance not escape. Their fears arise from different causes. How foolish it is, then, for them to begin to quarrel with each other, because the one supposes the rope may break, and the other that it is the wrong rope!
"'Now I have found Christians among those who believed that they were born again, but might fall away; and among those that believe that, if they were ever born again, they should certainly persevere. The difference between them I regard as a mere matter of education; both have their fears, and both believe that those only who persevere unto the end will be saved. I, therefore, look on men as bigots who quarrel with others and deny that those are Christians who cannot see just as they do. . . . . .
"'I have thus given a plain and simple statement of the manner of my arriving at the views I have inculcated, with a history of my course up to the present time. That I have been mistaken in the time, I freely confess; and I have no desire to defend my course any further than I have been actuated by pure motives, and it has resulted to God's glory. My mistakes and errors God, I trust, will forgive. I cannot, however, reproach myself for having preached definite time; for, as I believe that whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, the prophetic periods are as much a subject of investigation as any other portion of the word.(2)
"'I, therefore, still feel that it was my duty to present all the evidence that was apparent to my mind; and were I now in the same circumstances, I should be compelled to act as I have done. I should not, however, have so done, had I seen that the time would pass by; but not knowing that it would, I feel even now more satisfaction in having warned my fellow-men than I should feel, were I conscious that I had believed them in danger and had not raised my voice. How keen would have been my regret, had I refrained to present what in my soul I believed to be truth, and the result had proved that souls must perish through my neglect! I cannot, therefore, censure myself for having conscientiously performed what I believed to be my duty.
"'But while I frankly acknowledge my disappointment in the exact time, I wish to inquire whether my teachings have been thereby materially affected. My view of exact time depended entirely upon the accuracy of chronology; of this I had no absolute demonstration; but as no evidence was presented to invalidate it, I deemed it my duty to rely on it as certain, until it should be disproved. Besides, I not only rested on received chronology, but I selected the earliest dates in the circle of a few years on which chronologers have relied for the date of the events from which to reckon, because I believed them to be best sustained, and because I wished to have my eye on the earliest time at which the Lord might be expected. Other chronologers had assigned later dates for the events from which I reckoned; and if they are correct we are only brought into the circle of a few years, during which we may rationally look for the Lord's appearing. As the prophetic periods, counting from the dates from which I have reckoned, have not brought us to the end, and as I cannot tell the exact time that chronology may vary from my calculations, I can only live in continual expectation of the event. I am persuaded that I cannot be far out of the way, and I believe that God will still justify my preaching to the world.(3)
"'With respect to other features of my views, I can see no reason to change my belief. We are living under the last form of the divided fourth kingdom, which brings us to the end. The prophecies which were to be fulfilled previous to the end have been so far fulfilled that I find nothing in them to delay the Lord's coming. The signs of the times thicken on every hand; and the prophetic periods must certainly, I think, have brought us into the neighborhood of the event.
"'There is not a point in my belief in which I am not sustained by some one of the numerous writers who have opposed my views. Prof. Bush, the most gentlemanly of my opponents, admits that I am correct in the time, with the exception of the precise day or year; and this is all for which I contend. That the 70 weeks are 490 years, and the 1260 and 2300 days are so many years, are admitted by Messers. Bush, Hinton, and Jarvis. That the 2300 days and 70 weeks commence at the same time, Prof. Bush does not deny. And Dr. Jarvis admits that the former carry us to the resurrection and Judgment. Prof. Bush, Dr. Jarvis, Mr. Hinton, and Mr. Morris, admit that the legs of iron and fourth beast are Rome, and that the little horn of Dan. 7 is papacy, while Dr. Jarvis and Mr. Hinton admit that the exceeding great horn of Daniel 8 is Rome. The literal resurrection of the body, the end of the world, and a personal coming of Christ, have not been questioned by several who have written against me.
"'Thus there is not a point for which I have contended that has not been admitted by some of those who have written to disprove my opinions. I have candidly weighed the objections advanced against these views; but I have seen no arguments that were sustained by the Scriptures that, in my opinion, invalidated my position. I cannot, therefore, conscientiously refrain from looking for my Lord, or from exhorting my fellow-men, as I have opportunity, to be in readiness for that great event. For my indiscretions and errors I ask pardon; and all who have spoken evil of me without cause I freely forgive. My labors are principally ended. I shall leave to my younger brethren the task of contending for the truth. Many years I toiled alone; God has now raised up those who will fill my place. I shall not cease to pray for the spread of truth.
"'In conclusion, suffer a word of exhortation. You, my brethren, who are called by the name of Christ, will you not examine the Scriptures respecting the nearness of the advent? The great and good of all ages have had their minds directed to about this period of time, and a multitude are impressed with the solemn conviction that these are emphatically the last days. Is not a question of such moment worthy of your consideration? I do not ask you to embrace an opinion of mine; but I ask you to weigh well the evidence contained in the Bible. If I am in any error, I desire to see it, and I should certainly renounce it; but look at the question in the light of the inspired word, and decide for eternity.
"'What shall I say to my unconverted friends? I have faithfully exhorted you these many years to believe in Christ. You have excused yourselves. What can I say more? Will not all the considerations that are presented in the Scriptures of truth move your hearts to lay down the weapons of your rebellion? You have no lease of your lives, and, if the Lord should not come, your eyes may be soon closed in death. Why will you not improve the present moment, and flee from the wrath to come? Go to Christ, I beseech you; lay hold on the promise of God, trust in his grace, and he will cleanse you by his blood.
"'I would exhort my Advent brethren to study the word diligently. Let no man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. Avoid everything that shall cause offense. Let your lives be models of goodness and propriety. Let the adversary get no advantage over you. We have been disappointed; but disappointments will work for our good, if we make the right use of them. Be faithful. Be vigilant. Exhort with all long-suffering and patience. Let your conversation be in Heaven, from whence you look for the blessed hope. Avoid unnecessary controversy and questions that gender strifes. Be not many masters; all are not competent to advise and direct. God will raise up those to whom he will commit the direction of his cause. Be humble, be watchful, be patient, be persevering. And may the God of peace sanctify you wholly, and preserve you blameless unto the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ! WILLIAM MILLER.'
"'Low Hampton, Aug. 1, 1845.'
(1) With Mr. Miller, there were very many who deplored the spirit in which the Babylon question was handled by rash spirits, and a very few, including Mr. Miller, never accepted the view that the term applied to all corrupted Christianity, Protestant as well as Papal. But we do not regard the error of these a tithe as injurious to the cause of truth and religion as the conduct of selfish and rash ones who held the truth in unrighteousness.
(2) The reader may now understand the real position of the man whom God had led in the great movement which occurred in fulfillment of the first message of Rev. 14. We believe that the third message, now being proclaimed, and the preparatory work for the coming of the Son of man now in progress with those who embrace it, is by the direct providence of God, in fulfillment of certain portions of his word. And this position makes the conclusions that the first and second messages of the same series were given under the same providence, and that God raised up William Miller to bring out the great truths of the first message, appear very reasonable. Hence we are the more willing to let him speak for himself, that the candid reader may correctly view this representative and providential servant of Jesus Christ, whose name is associated in the public mind with Adventism everywhere.
But few public men "grow old gracefully." Mr. Miller entered upon his public labors as a lecturer upon the prophecies in the strength of manhood, after acquiring habits of self-reliance, firmness, and undaunted courage, as an army and civil officer. And this stamp of character, sanctified by the grace of God, constituted one of the important qualifications necessary to meet the different forms of determined opposition and persecution which he met. And then, after nerving himself to the battle for thirteen years, forming the strongest combative habits at that period of his life when he was about sixty years of age, when strong men's habits generally become very strongly established, to see him calmly and gently laying off the armor, and under his bitter disappointment, to witness his resignation to the will of God, and his affectionate appeals and warnings to his younger brethren to be holy men of God, ready for the coming of the Son of man, carries the strongest conviction to candid minds that God had raised him up to do the very work which he did do. As he thus laid his armor off, he said to his brethren that his work was done. In this we can see the hand of God. He had spent the strength of his ripe manhood in giving the first message. His burden fell off, which he interpreted, for a short time, to mean that the work of warning sinners was done. But the great work of the third message was then in the future, and had God designed to use him in giving it, he would have given him a new lease of life, and opened the subject to his mind. But he did not see this work nor feel its importance; and why should he? He had done his work faithfully and well, and was soon to sleep in Jesus.
It is proper here to state that Mr. Miller did not view the second message as we do. Neither did he change his views upon the immortality and Sabbath questions. Having finished his mission in giving the first message, and having reached the point in respect to age and debility, from his extremely arduous labors as a lecturer for thirteen years, with no periods of cessation, only when compelled by sickness, the candid reader can see the love and wisdom of God in not impressing his mind with those subjects which he could not investigate and vindicate before the people.
Having done, and well done, the great work given him to do, the probation of public labor with him successfully past according to the will of God, he could say in the language of Paul, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." 2 Tim. 4:7, 8.
It is just what might be expected, that those who understandingly embrace the principles of the third message, would first inquire relative to the second and first messages, and would feel the deepest interest in the man whom God raised up to lead off in the opening work of giving the great threefold warning to the world.
Those who have been continually publishing a new time upon the heels of a failure, have been, not only disgusting the public, but, at each effort, have been virtually condemning the position of Mr. Miller on the time question, and losing regard for his valuable labors. These can have but little, if any, interest in his life and views.
And on the other hand, those who stood with him on the time question in 1844, and have confessed to the world that they were in error, and have given up their past second-advent experience, virtually condemn his position and work, and can take, comparatively, but little interest in the history of his life, views, and labors. Both of these classes have departed from the position of Mr. Miller, and have denied, or, at least, hold very lightly their past second-advent experience, and have left the field to Seventh-day Adventists, who stand upon the "original advent faith." And while occupying the position we do relative to the past movement, the public have reason to expect that, while we hold that Mr. Miller moved in the providence of God in his work, we should publish the facts as they existed in his life, views, and labors, in explanation and defense, so far as such facts constitute a defense, of our position.
We still love the advent name, and hold it very dear. And while we hold the name, consistency would lead us to cherish and also hold dear the very means that made us Adventists. To still hold the advent name, and turn round and curse, or deny, or even hold lightly, the means God employed to make us what we are, seems the very climax of inconsistency. When Seventh-day Adventists can no longer honor the great second-advent movement, but feel called upon to confess to the world that the pioneers of the cause were mistaken on the very calculation that shook the world, and which resulted in making Adventists a separate people, then they will drop "Adventists" from their denominational name, and pass for simply Sabbatarian Christians.
(3) God in his providence is justifying the preaching of time by the light of the heavenly sanctuary, in connection with the third angel's message. J. W.
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