LOSS OF SIGHT--HEALTH DECLINES--EXPRESSION OF SYMPATHY--HIS REPLY--HIS LAST SICKNESS AND DEATH--FUNERAL--LETTER OF CONDOLENCE TO SURVIVING FRIENDS.
"ON the 15th of September, 1847, he was present at a tent-meeting at Basin Harbor, in Ferrisburg, Vt., which continued four days. In a letter written on the 27th of the same month, he makes the following reference to it:--
"'DEAR BROTHER HIMES: I cannot refrain from writing a few words to you, to let you know how my soul and body prosper since our tent-meeting at Basin Harbor.
"'That was to me a profitable time. It seemed like former times, when the truth cut to the heart all who heard. The preaching was plain, powerful, and convincing. The prayer-meetings were humble, devotional, and penitent, and very properly conducted. No uproar, confusion, or fanaticism, which disturb the mind, and leave a bad savor upon the hearts of the fastidious. The Conferences were perfect love-feasts, and the songs such as the poet describes:--
"'My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this;
And sit and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss.'
I never expect to enjoy another such a feast of tabernacles in the flesh. God was with us. Praise his holy name.' . . . . . . . .
"Toward the last of January, 1848, Mr. Miller was attacked with a dimness of sight, which deprived him of his usual privilege of reading and writing, which, through life, had been to him a source of great enjoyment. His health, otherwise, continued as good as could be expected, in his gradually declining age.
"With the loss of his sight, he had to depend on others to read to him, and to write the letters which he dictated. He desired the continuance of letters from his correspondents, but requested them to excuse him from replying.
"The hope of soon meeting them where the lame man shall leap as an hart, the tongue of the dumb sing, the blind receive their sight, and the deaf hear, and the belief in the nearness of that day, was a great consolation to him under his accumulating infirmities. His loss of sight was communicated by his son, Wm. S. Miller, Esq., in a letter dated February 10, about two weeks after his attack.
"On the 7th of March, a letter, from a daughter-in-law of Mr. Miller, stated that his general health was then better, but that he had been unable to read a word for seven weeks anterior to the preceding Sabbath. On that day, his son Robbins took the glass from the spy-glass, and held it to his eye, so that he read a few words. She added:--
"'His eyes are not sore: the physician whom he has consulted says the retina is affected. Father bears his affliction well. I have never heard him murmur, nor say that it was hard. I think that he feels somewhat "cast down, but not forsaken."'
"Appended to the above letter, Mr. Miller wrote, without being able to see a word:--
"'God bless you, bless you all, and save you, is my prayer. WM. MILLER.'
"After this, his general health was some improved, so that he was able to be about and to busy himself with light work. He was able to distinguish one object from another, and could often recognize his friends and acquaintances; but, with the best glasses he could get, he could not so distinguish letters as to read words. He sometimes attempted to write without seeing the letters that he traced.
"On the 14th of September, 1848, he wrote to Mr. Himes:--
"'Permit me to write a few words, although you may not be able to read them. Yet it may fill up a lonesome hour or two of many a wearisome day to think I have indited some of my thoughts to my old brother traveler. It would, indeed, be a sad and melancholy time with me were it not for the "blessed hope," of soon seeing Jesus. In this I flatter myself that I cannot be mistaken. And although my natural vision is dark, yet my mind's vision is lit up with a bright and glorious prospect of the future. . . . . .
"About the last of April, 1849, his health began to decline more rapidly. This being communicated by Mr. Miller's son to Mr. Himes, and received by him at New York during the session of the annual Conference there on the 10th of May, 1849, he stated to the Conference the intelligence, and moved that they convey to Mr. M. an expression of sympathy. The following resolution was immediately drawn up by the president, and unanimously adopted by a rising vote:--
"'ADVENT CONFERENCE, NEW YORK, MAY 10, 1849.
"'Whereas, Our beloved Brother William Miller has been called to endure a great fight of afflictions; and as God has been pleased, after employing him in advancing the cause of truth, to lay his hand on him, and suspend his labors; therefore,
"'Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with our brother in his sorrows, and assure him that our love to him is steadfast, and that he has our earnest prayers that "these light afflictions, which are but for a moment, may work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;" and that we hope, ere long, we may meet with him and all the saints in the new heavens and earth, where there will be no more sighing, sorrow, or death.
"'(Signed,) NATHAN N. WHITING, Pres.
"'SYLVESTER BLISS, >
"'O. R. FASSETT, >Sec's.'
"Mr. Miller received the above on the 12th of May, by the hand of his biographer. On entering his room, he was reclining on a lounge. At the mention of his name, he immediately arose, and recognized the messenger. He was much affected with the expression of sympathy sent by the Conference, and returned the following reply, which was received by the Conference at Boston, to which place it had adjourned, where it was entered on its minutes, May 29, 1849.
"'LOW HAMPTON, MAY 12, 1849.
"'To my beloved brethren in Christ, assembled in Conference, and to the saints scattered abroad. Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:--
"'I give thanks to God for your kind remembrance of me, as expressed in the resolution of the 10th of May inst., in your late meeting at New York city, and forwarded to me by the hand of Bro. Bliss. I have not ceased to make mention of you alway in my prayers, that you might walk together worthy of your high calling in Christ Jesus, that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God. I feel myself greatly revived by your expression of sympathy, and trust that you will never have occasion to feel that it has been misplaced.
"'My multiplied and increasing infirmities admonish me that the time of my departure is drawing nigh. My earthly labors have ceased, and I now await the Master's call, to be ready at his appearing, or, if it so please him, for the little while his coming may be delayed, to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than to abide in the flesh. I feel that I have but little choice, whether I shall be continued in life till that event, or my spirit be gathered to the spirits of just men made perfect. However God may be pleased to deal with me, I am sustained by the blessed assurance that, whether I wake or sleep, I shall be present with the Lord.
"'I daily have you all in grateful remembrance; and rejoice that so many of you continue steadfast in the faith once delivered to the saints, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ. I pray God that your faith may fail not, and that you may continue working together in harmony, building up one another in the most holy faith, and, by your blameless lives and godly conversation, commending this gospel of Christ to the hearts and consciences of dying men.
"'I have but little hope, in my present weakness and infirmities, of seeing the faces of many of you in the flesh. Permit me, therefore, to exhort you not to be ashamed of the doctrine of the kingdom of Christ, nor of acknowledging on all proper occasions your confidence in the nearness of his coming.
"'My belief is unshaken in the correctness of the conclusions I have arrived at and maintained during the last twenty years. I see no reason to question the evidence on which rest the fundamental principles of our faith. I cannot avoid the belief that this earth is to be restored to its Eden state, and become the eternal residence of the saints; that Christ is to come personally, to reign on the earth; that he will redeem us from death, and ransom us from the power of the grave; that he will change our vile bodies into the likeness of his glorified body, and destroy those who destroy the earth; and that at his coming will be the restoration of all things, spoken of by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began, the establishment of the new heavens and new earth, the resurrection of the righteous, and the change of the living wicked from the earth,--whose resurrection will not transpire till after one thousand years.
"'The evidences of Christ's coming are continually thickening; it hasteth greatly; and should this earthly house of my tabernacle be dissolved, my hope is still strong that I shall shortly meet him in the air. The political clouds in the Eastern horizon indicate to me the near approach of the battle of the Lord God Almighty, the destruction of the kingdoms of the earth, and the establishment of the kingdom of God. We may not know the precise time, but I entreat of you all to be prepared for the approaching crisis.
"'Grudge not one against another, brethren. Be patient, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. Be not many masters, but let each one do the work which God has fitted him for. Avoid vain janglings and questions which gender strife. Keep constantly in view the great question of the coming of the Lord,--the hope which purifieth the heart, and tends to the unity of the whole body of believers. If you do this, you will do well, and will each seek the other's good in preference to his own, and thus become living epistles, known and read of all men.
"'In unity of effort will be your only strength. Therefore I recommend your meeting often in conference, as you have done, to consult with and encourage each other, in these times of trial and temptation. Be not turned away from your great work by friends or foes; but let each one occupy the talent intrusted to him--each working in his appropriate field of labor. Be charitable to all, and not indulge in harsh and bitter denunciations against those who are not enabled to see with you. Cultivate that spirit of good will toward all men, which shall fit you to be instrumental, in the hands of God, of saving some; and be less interested to advance the prosperity of party or sect than to extend the cause of truth. Above all, keep close to the word of God. And finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good cheer, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.
"He was at this time somewhat disposed to melancholy, but while the writer was with him, which was two days, he partook of his food with the family, and ate with considerable relish--which was, they stated, what he had not done before for several weeks. He never doubted his acceptance through the blood of Jesus, but rather shrank from the expected sufferings attending the dissolution of the body. Still he was willing to endure all that for the sake of the prospect beyond. In a letter written at this date, he said:--
"'If the meeting of one kindred spirit is so cheering to a sick man here, what must be the joy of our greeting in the other world! The thought of death is a chilling one; but a meeting with the kindred spirits who are with Christ waiting for the consummation of his kingdom reconciles me to the idea of passing through the dark valley.'
"In November, 1849, Elder L. Kimball, who had had the charge of the church in Low Hampton, took his leave of that people. He writes:--
"'Agreeably to Bro. Miller's urgent request, we held the evening meeting (of the first Sunday in Nov.) at his house. He said he wanted to hear me preach once more. He also desired the singers to attend. After assembling, he called me to his room, and gave me for a text, "And when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them and departed." Acts 16:40. He was drawn, in his easy chair, from his room to the kitchen, where he remained till the close of the services. He was unable to take any part, but expressed himself gratified, and wished that he could have said a few words to the brethren and friends present. It was to me a solemn season.'
"About the first of December, Elder D. I. Robinson visited him. He writes:--
"'Such was the state of the roads that I did not arrive there till sunset. His house stood in sight of the stage-road to Rutland, so that it was a subject for observation to all the passengers in the stage. It was pointed out to me by one of them, who lived in an adjoining village. It was to me a fruitful subject, as I beheld, for the first time, both beauty and sublimity in the cultivated vale and snow-capped, venerable mountains in the vicinity. I thought how appropriate--how like the hills and vales of Judea, where Amos and other shepherds and former servants of the Most High lived, were called, and sent to warn mankind!
"'As I approached across the farm, I passed the grove where he had meditated, wept, and prayed, and entered the house of the aged, worn-out, sick and dying servant of God, who had been so scorned by the world. I felt favored of God. I was welcomed in the simple, hearty, easy style of a Vermont Christian farmer's family. That pleasant, beaming countenance of his wife, and the hearty shake of the hand, told me I was at home; and the kettle of hominy, just taken from the fire, was at once prophetic of my supper. And all the members of the family, intelligent, modest, and cordial, made me feel how really glad they were of the call, and to hear from those abroad.
"'I was quickly invited into the "east room," where "Father Miller" greeted me, though he could not see so as to know me; but, when told, recollected distinctly. He was much changed, and yet so changed as to leave all the good outlines of former acquaintance behind. His sufferings through the summer and fall had been very great. He was much swollen by dropsy. His strength and sight were much diminished. His venerable white locks were few and thin, and his flesh was like that of a child. But his voice was full, his memory good, his intellect strikingly strong and clear, and his patience and resignation were remarkable. He asked of my welfare, and of the friends; and said he was never so strong in his mind that we were right as now. He was sure it could not be long before the coming of the Lord. He wished him to come soon; but, if not, to be taken himself to the Lord.
"He was drawn to the table in his chair, and ate supper with the family, probably for the last time. Elder R. left the next morning between four and five o'clock; but Mr. Miller was awake, and arose to take an affectionate leave of him.
"For several months he had been confined mostly to his room. During a part of the time he had been confined to his bed, lounge, or easy chair; and he suffered excruciating pain, which he endured with Christian patience. During his greatest sufferings, he solaced himself by quotations of numerous passages of Scripture, and favorite hymns of Watts and others, expressive of the hope and joy of the redeemed.
"He had watched all the occurrences in Europe with great interest; but, giving up the idea of seeing the Saviour before his death, he had arranged all his business, and waited for the summons when he might 'depart and be with Christ.'*
"On the 13th of December he had one of the most severe attacks of pain which he was called to endure. It was then thought he would not survive till the next morning, and Elder Himes was immediately telegraphed for, at the request of Mr. M. Mr. Himes wrote:--
"'On my arrival, early in the morning of the 17th, he had obtained some relief, and was quite comfortable. On entering his room, he immediately recognized my voice, and, on approaching his bed-side, he was able to distinguish my features, though his eyes were dim.
"'Then you do know me, Father Miller, do you?'
"'Oh! yes; I understand,--I know what is passing.'
"'He was then silent for a few moments, apparently in a deep study. Presently he introduced the subject of my connection with the Advent cause, and spoke of my responsibility; expressed much anxiety about the cause, and alluded to his own departure. I assured him that he had faithfully discharged his duty, was clear from the blood of all men, and could now leave this matter in the hands of God; and, so far as I was concerned, I hoped for grace to enable me to be faithful in the ministry I had received. He seemed to assent, and fell into a doze,--being weak, and unable to converse longer than a few moments at a time.
"'He then spoke on the subject of the "spirit of adoption," which we have now, and of the final adoption for which we look at the second coming of the blessed Saviour. Last evening he said to Bro. Bosworth:--
"'Tell them [the brethren] we are right. The coming of the Lord draweth nigh; but they must be patient, and wait for him.'
"'His mind is still clear and strong on the subject of the conscious intermediate state. He believes that when he shall be absent from the body he will be present with the Lord. He expects that his flesh will slumber in the ground till Jesus comes and bids it rise, when he will be perfected. He never looked for the crown at death, but at the time when Jesus should come in his glory. The intermediate state is not that for which he longs most (though, with the apostle, he thinks it is "better" than this state of toil and sorrow), but the final, the glorified state, when the body shall be redeemed, and made like unto the glorious body of Christ, is the subject of this hope.
"'For some weeks past, his mind dwelt much on the subjects of the Judgment, the "adoption," and the new heavens and earth.
"'Such views of the future glory tended to mitigate the pains of his body, which, at times, were violent.
"'Happy the spirit released from its clay.'
was one of the hymns in which he was deeply interested during the last four weeks of his life. It was sung by his children, and those who visited him, repeatedly, at his request. It enraptured his soul during his last hours, when he seemed to be absent, conversing with God and Heaven. He often repeated:--
"'Victory! victory! shouting in death!'
"'The closing scene finally came. On the 20th of December, in the morning, it was manifest to all that he must soon depart. During the morning he made no particular conversation, but would break forth in expressions like the following:--
"'Mighty to save!' 'Oh, I long to be there!' 'Victory! victory!' 'Shouting in death!' &c.
"'He finally sunk down into an easy sleeping or dozing state. Occasionally he roused up and opened his eyes, but was not able to speak, though perfectly rational, and knew us all. He continued to breathe shorter, and shorter, till five minutes past three o'clock, P. M., when he calmly and sweetly gave his last breath. The silver cord was loosed, the golden bowl was broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern; the dust was left to return to the dust as it was, and the spirit returned to God who gave it. Peacefully and happily he died, with his wife, children, and friends, about his bed! I closed his eyes, while all other eyes were filled with tears. It was a solemn scene. While the wife and children and friends were weeping the loss of a beloved relative, I was there to weep the loss of a father in Israel.
"'The funeral service was attended on Sunday, December 23. The Advent chapel in Low Hampton being too small to accommodate the family, friends, and citizens, who were desirous of attending, Mr. Shaw, pastor of the Congregational church in Fairhaven, kindly offered the use of his large and commodious house. It had been Mr. Miller's request that the funeral service should be held in the Advent chapel; but this being found impossible, the family decided to have a short service at their residence, to bury the body, and then to proceed to the Congregational house, for the performance of the more public service.
"'The relatives of the deceased, and a large number of his neighbors and others, assembled at the house at 10 A. M. I read the following portions of Scripture, namely, 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Phil. 3:20, 21; Col. 3:1-3. The choir from the Fairhaven church then sung the hymn commencing with--
"'Unveil thy bosom, faithful tomb.'
After a prayer, those present took leave of the corpse, and the procession--formed under the direction of Dr. Smith, of Castleton--proceeded to the old family burying-ground, about half a mile distant. The body being lowered into the tomb, the following hymn was sung by the choir:--
"'Happy the spirit released from its clay,' &c.
"'With a last, lingering look, we turned from the tomb, and proceeded with the numerous friends to the meeting-house, to attend the more public service. About one hundred sleighs followed in the procession.
"'On arriving at the house, I found it densely filled with people, with the exception of seats reserved for the family, and those who had formed the procession. The service was commenced by singing the hymn in the "Harp,'' beginning with--
"'How blest the righteous when he dies.'
Mr. Shaw, pastor of the church, read the 90th psalm, and addressed the throne of grace; after which the hymn--
"'Why do we mourn departed friends?'
was sung. I gave a discourse from Acts 26:6-8: "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?" With a narration of the prominent events in the history of the deceased, and a brief synopsis of his views, the speaker presented the hope of the promise of God to the fathers, to be consummated at the coming of the Lord. The services lasted three hours, and were concluded with the hymn--
"'They sleep in Jesus, and are blessed.'
The audience were attentive and interested to the close. J. V. HIMES.'
"Mr. Miller left a wife, six sons, and two daughters.
"At the annual Conference, held in New York, in May following, by a unanimous vote, the following letter of condolence, prepared by a committee appointed for that purpose, was addressed to the relatives of the deceased:--
"'IN CONFERENCE, NEW YORK, MAY 8, 1850.
"'To Mrs. Lucy Miller, her children, and other relatives--
"'AFFLICTED FRIENDS: Since our last meeting, you have been called to mourn the death of a beloved husband, a tender parent, and an affectionate friend. In your bereavement we truly sympathize. In your loss we also have lost a friend and brother. But we mourn our loss in view of higher considerations. We regard him as a man called of God to a most important work; and as a man greatly blessed in the successful performance of that work. The unsullied integrity of his life was crowned by a peaceful and hopeful death. The deep sense of gratitude we feel to God for the benefits conferred on us through his instrumentality, we trust will find a response in many Christian hearts. Through the divine blessing on his teaching, our attention has been directed to a more faithful study of the Scriptures, to clearer, more harmonious and correct views of divine truth. We have thus been led to rejoice in hope of the glory to be revealed at the appearing of Christ. We fondly hoped that he might have been spared till our expectations were realized. He has passed away. May we remember that our obligations are increased by the truth which he taught. May we be prepared for a reunion with him and all the redeemed in that day. Our sincere and united prayer is, that the grace which sustained him under his severe trials, and in the closing scene, may support you in your bereavement, and in all the afflictions of the present state, and secure to you the enjoyment of the glorious future. Tendering to your acceptance this expression of our sympathy and condolence, we remain your affectionate brethren in the faith once delivered to the saints.
"'(Signed,) N. N. WHITING, Pres.
"'O. R. FASSETT, >
"'S. BLISS, >Sec's.'
"The death of Mr. Miller was very generally noticed by the religious and secular press, many of whom spoke in just terms of his honesty and ability. Other papers connected with his memory extravagances with which he had no sympathy and never participated in."
* Mr. Bliss, Mr. Miller's biographer, served a party who held the popular views of consciousness in death. This is also true of Eld. Himes, who professed faith in the same views of man in death at that time. This accounts for the decided efforts of both these friends of Mr. Miller to use his last experience on the side of natural immortality. It is proper, however, here to state that Eld. Himes, when differently related to the Advent people, was suddenly and unexpectedly found on the other side of the immortality question, and has since given his pen and voice in support of unconsciousness in death and immortality alone through Christ. The effort to use the honest convictions of this aged and wornout pilgrim before and at his last sickness on the side of popular error shows a want of plain Bible testimony to sustain a sinking cause.
The state between the cessation of the mortal life and the resurrection to immortal life being unconsciousness, hence no apparent lapse of time to those who sleep in Jesus, it seems most reasonable that the Holy Spirit should impress the dying Christian with the scenes of glory which he is next to witness at the resurrection of the just, whether the time of that resurrection to consciousness be near or distant. And how very natural for those who die in the faith of consciousness in death to suppose that they immediately enter upon the glories of the heavenly
world. J. W.
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