PUBLICATION OF THE "SIGNS OF THE TIMES"--VISIT TO WATERTOWN, PORTLAND, NEW YORK CITY, AND OTHER PLACES--LETTERS OF ELDERS MEDBURY, FLEMING, AND GREEN--HIS SICKNESS, RESIGNATION, ETC.
"FROM the 8th to the 29th of February, Mr. M. gave his third course of lectures in Boston, in the Marlboro' Chapel and other places, as the doors opened. It was during this series of meetings that the publication of a journal, devoted to the doctrine of the advent, was effected. Mr. Miller (in 1845) thus narrates its origin:--
"For a long time previous to this, the papers had been filled with abusive stories respecting my labors, and they had refused to publish anything from me in reply. I had greatly felt the need of some medium of communication to the public. Efforts had been frequently made to commence the publication of a paper which should be devoted to the advocacy of the doctrine, and the communication of information on the fulfillment of prophecy. We had, however, never been able to find a man who was willing to run the risk of his reputation and the pecuniary expense in such a publication.
"On my visit to Boston in the winter of 1840, I mentioned to Bro. Himes my wishes respecting a paper, and the difficulties I had experienced in the establishment of one. He promptly offered to commence a paper which should be devoted to this question, if I thought the cause of truth would be thereby advanced. The next week, without a subscriber or any promise of assistance, he issued the first number of the Signs of the Times, on the 28th of February, 1840--a publication [now, 1875, Messiah's Herald,] which has been continued to the present time.
"With this commenced an entire new era in the spread of information on the peculiar points of my belief. Mr. Mussey gave up to him the publication of my lectures, and he published them in connection with other works on the prophecies, which, aided by devoted friends, he scattered broadcast everywhere to the extent of his means. I cannot here withhold my testimony to the efficiency and integrity of my Bro. Himes. He has stood by me at all times, periled his reputation, and, by the position in which he has been placed, has been more instrumental in the spread of these views than any other ten men who have embarked in the cause. His course, both in laboring as a lecturer and in the manner that he has managed his publications, meets my full approval.--Apology and Defense, p. 21.
"After the issue of the first number, its printers, Messrs. Dow & Jackson, proposed to Elder Himes to issue the paper semi-monthly for one year, he to furnish the editorial matter gratuitously, and they to have all the proceeds of it. These terms being accepted, they re-issued the first number on the 20th of March, and continued it, as per agreement, for one year, when it reverted to Eld. Himes, its projector, by whom it has been continued to the present time .
"On the 1st of March, 1840, Mr. M. visited Watertown, Mass., and commenced his first course of lectures in that place. These continued nine days, and were attended by a crowded audience. Mr. M. was much pleased with his reception there, and, after leaving, wrote to his son:--
"'I have never seen so great an effect in any one place as there. I preached last from Gen. 19:17. There were from a thousand to fifteen hundred present, and more than one hundred under conviction. One-half the congregation wept like children when I parted from them. Mr. Medbury, the Baptist minister, a good man, wept as though his heart would break, when he took me by the hand, and, for himself and people, bade me farewell. He and many others fell upon my neck, and wept and kissed me, and sorrowed most of all that they should see my face no more. We could not get away for more than an hour, and finally we had to break away. About twenty were converted while I was there.'
"Rev. R. B. Medbury afterward gave the following account of the result of Mr. Miller's lectures there, through the Signs of the Times:--
"'For several months past we have enjoyed, and are still enjoying, a pleasing work of grace among us. This revival, as stated in the account published in the Christian Watchman of the 8th instant, was in progress when Mr. Miller commenced lecturing here. In speaking of the results of his labors, however, it is but just to say that his influence here preceded him. It will be recollected that, some time in January, he lectured at Cambridgeport, about four miles from us. Many, both of our church and congregation, attended one or more of those lectures. The first two subjects of the present work among us, as well as some others, who have since been hopefully converted, regarded those lectures as instrumental of fastening permanent conviction upon their mind. Several Christians, too, were awakened to a new sense of their duty.
"'There had, however, been rather more feeling than usual in several of our meetings previous to that time. And in the interval which elapsed between this time and the commencement of Mr. Miller's lectures here, the blessing of God had accompanied the means of grace at home to the hopeful conversion of about twenty. The work evidently received a new impulse while Mr. Miller was here. His lectures were attended by crowds, who listened with profound attention, and, we have reason to believe, in not a few cases with profit. Many persons from neighboring villages shared the benefit of his labors in common with us, and, in several cases, returned to their homes rejoicing. Other means of grace were, however, mingled with his labors, which were, no doubt, in a great degree owned and blessed of God.
"'Among those who have since united with our church, many have mentioned Mr. Miller's lectures as the means, under God, of bringing them to repentance. They have generally stated that, for months or years, they had thought more or less on the subject; but that on hearing him they felt it was time to take a stand. The things of eternity assumed to them an unwonted reality. Heaven was brought near, and they felt themselves guilty before God. It was not so much the belief that Christ might come in 1843 as it was the certainty of that event, with the conviction that they were not prepared to hail his coming with joy. Many, however, who listened to his whole course of lectures with a heart unmoved, have since been melted into contrition, and become the hopeful subjects of renewing grace.
"'Many Christians who attended Mr. Miller's lectures here have regarded them as the means of quickening them to new spiritual life. I know not that any one has embraced all his peculiar views; but many have been made to feel that time is short, that the coming of Christ is at hand, and that what they do for their fellow-men must be done quickly. They have felt that hitherto the doctrine of the second coming of Christ has had little or no practical effect upon them, and that, while they could suppose at least one thousand years between that event and the present time, its influence must be less than if it were a matter of constant expectation. They think that the contemplation of this subject has awakened feelings which the anticipation of death never kindled in their breasts. Earth has receded, and their attachment to all sublunary objects has been loosened. Eternity has seemed to open near before them, and its scenes have become more distinct objects of vision; while the soul, with all that pertains to its immortal weal or woe, has been felt to eclipse every other object of earth. In a word, they profess to have consecrated themselves unto the service of God, and to labor to be found watching whenever the Master of the house shall come, "whether at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning, lest, coming suddenly, he should find them sleeping."
"'Watertown, May 21, 1840.'
"In compliance with the wishes of Elder L. D. Fleming, pastor of the Christian church in Portland, Me., Mr. Miller visited and gave his first course of lectures in that city, from the 11th to the 23d of March. The result of these was thus stated by Elder Fleming, in April following:--
"'There has probably never been so much religious interest among the inhabitants of this place, generally, as at present; and Mr. Miller must be regarded, directly or indirectly, as the instrument, although many, no doubt, will deny it, as some are very unwilling to admit that a good work of God can follow his labors; and yet we have the most indubitable evidence that this is the work of the Lord. It is worthy of note that in the present interest there has been, comparatively, nothing like mechanical effort. There has been nothing like passionate excitement. If there has been excitement, it has been out of doors, among such as did not attend Bro. Miller's lectures.
"'At some of our meetings, since Bro. M. left, as many as two hundred and fifty, it has been estimated, have expressed a desire for religion, by coming forward for prayers; and probably between one and two hundred have professed conversion at our meetings; and now the fire is being kindled through this whole city and all the adjacent country. A number of rumsellers have turned their shops into meeting-rooms, and those places that were once devoted to intemperance and revelry are now devoted to prayer and praise. Others have abandoned the traffic entirely, and are become converted to God. One or two gambling establishments, I am informed, are entirely broken up. Infidels, deists, Universalists, and the most abandoned profligates, have been converted--some who had not been to the house of worship for years. Prayer-meetings have been established in every part of the city, by the different denominations, or by individuals, and at almost every hour. Being down in the business part of our city, on the 4th inst., I was conducted into a room over one of the banks, where I found about thirty or forty men, of different denominations, engaged, with one accord, in prayer, at about eleven o'clock in the daytime! In short, it would be almost impossible to give an adequate idea of the interest now felt in the city. There is nothing like extravagant excitement, but an almost universal solemnity on the minds of all the people. One of the principal book-sellers informed me that he had sold more Bibles in one month, since Mr. Miller came here, than he had in any four months previous.'
"An article in the Maine Wesleyan Journal gave the following account of his person and style of preaching:--
"'Mr. Miller has been in Portland, lecturing to crowded congregations in Casco-street Church, on his favorite theme, the end of the world, or literal reign of Christ for one thousand years. As faithful chroniclers of passing events, it will be expected of us that we should say something of the man and his peculiar views. Mr. Miller is about sixty years of age, a plain farmer, from Hampton, in the State of New York. He is a member of the Baptist church in that place, from which he brings satisfactory testimonials of good standing, and a license to improve publicly. He has, we understand, numerous testimonials, also, from clergymen of different denominations, favorable to his general character. We should think him a man but of common-school education; evidently possessing strong powers of mind, which, for about fourteen years, have been almost exclusively bent to the investigation of Scripture prophecies. The last eight years of his life have been devoted to lecturing on this favorite subject.
"'In his public discourse, he is self-possessed and ready; distinct in his utterance, and frequently quaint in his expressions. He succeeds in chaining the attention of his auditory from an hour and a half to two hours; and in the management of his subject discovers much tact, holding frequent colloquies with the objector and inquirer, supplying the questions and answers himself in a very natural manner, and, although grave himself, sometimes producing a smile from a portion of his auditors.
. . . . .
"'Mr. Miller is a great stickler for literal interpretations; never admitting the figurative, unless absolutely required to make correct sense, or meet the event which is intended to be pointed out. He doubtless believes, most unwaveringly, all he teaches to others. His lectures are interspersed with powerful admonitions to the wicked, and he handles Universalism with gloves of steel.'
"In connection with the foregoing was appended a statement of Mr. M.'s opinions, which elicited from him the following comment:--
"'In all the cities which I have visited, the editors of religious newspapers have almost invariably misstated and ridiculed my views, doctrines, and motives; but in Portland I found, as I honestly believe, an honest editor. He gave a candid, honest, and impartial account.'
"Mr. Miller was strongly urged by 'the wardens of the First Baptist Society, worshiping in Pleasant street,' where he lectured a portion of the time, to give them 'another course of lectures,' but he was obliged to decline the invitation; and, on the last Tuesday in March, left Portland, and by stage and railroad reached his home in Low Hampton on Friday night following, 'being absent from home nearly six months, and having delivered three hundred and twenty-seven lectures.'
"On his way home, a young man, dressed in black, who, Mr. M. afterward learned, was a clergyman in a neighboring town, became his companion for a short distance in the stage. The young man was very talkative respecting the ministers of his acquaintance,--remarking what a smooth preacher A was, how learned B was, and how popular C was, &c. When the stage stopped for the passengers to dine, the young man proved to be an acquaintance of the landlord, and they commenced conversation respecting 'the prophet Miller.' The landlord inquired of the gentleman in black if he had read Mr. Miller's lectures, which the former had loaned him a few days previous. 'No,' the clergyman said; he read the introduction, and found that Mr. M. was not a learned man, and therefore he had no confidence in the work. This reply struck Mr. M. with much force, as evidence of the manner in which many let those reputed to be learned do their thinking for them.
"From the 5th to the 29th of April, he lectured in Hampton, N. Y., to full houses, and a good work followed. On the 2d of May he commenced a course of lectures in the Baptist church in Benson, Vt., and lectured there and in the church of the Rev. Mr. Francis (orthodox) nine days. On leaving this place, Mr. Miller wrote to his son: 'The several clergymen in the town met with us. The Lord came down in his power and by his Spirit; a gracious influence was felt, and many a stout heart yielded to the gospel of Christ. About thirty had obtained a hope, and about one hundred more were anxious, when I left.'
"Mr. Miller next visited New York city, and commenced his first course of lectures there, from the 16th to the 29th of May, at the corner of Norfolk and Broome streets, to good assemblies. On the 19th, he wrote: 'Last night we had a solemn time. An anxious and deep attention was given by the whole congregation.' Considerable interest was excited by this course, and the ground was prepared for subsequent labors. At the close of these lectures, Mr. Miller returned home, where he remained a few days, and then made another visit to Canada East. He lectured at Hatly on the 21st of June, and at Bolton on the 24th. On the 28th he commenced a course of lectures in Georgeville, which closed on the 5th of July. Writing from this place, on the 29th of June, he speaks of 'large congregations,' 'serious attention,' and of the prospect 'that much good would be done there.' He then returned to Low Hampton, where he lectured on the 12th of July.
"He remained at home about four weeks, when he visited Dresden, N. Y., and lectured from the 9th to the 12th of August. Of that place he writes, under date of August 13: 'We had a good time; the Lord was there.' He then adds: 'I do not know what to say about coming to Massachusetts again. Day after to-morrow I begin a course of lectures at Fort Ann. The next week I go north, where I have three places, which will take three weeks at least. I have more business on hand than any two men like me should perform. I must lecture twice every day. I must converse with many--answer a host of questions--write answers to letters from all parts of the compass, from Canada to Florida, from Maine to Missouri. I must read all the candid arguments (which I confess are not many) which are urged against me. I must read all the slang of the drunken and sober. . . The polar star must be kept in view; the chart consulted, the compass watched; the reckoning kept; the sails set; the rudder managed; the ship cleared; the sailors fed; the voyage prosecuted; the port of rest, to which we are destined, understood; and to the watchman call, "Watchman, what of the night?"'
"On the 15th of August, 1840, he commenced his anticipated lectures at South Bay, in the town of Fort Ann, N. Y., and continued to the 20th.
"On the 2d, in compliance with a previous invitation, he commenced a second course of lectures in Colchester, Vt., which terminated on the 29th. Of these meetings Elder Columbus Green thus writes:--
"'The audiences were very large, notwithstanding it was a time of great excitement, and our place of worship was as still as death. His lectures were delivered in the most kind and affectionate manner, convincing every mind that he believed the sentiments he uttered. He made the most powerful exhortations that I ever heard fall from the lips of any one. A deep solemnity pervaded the minds of the community. Young men and maidens, amid the pleasures of early years; men in the meridian of life, hurrying on with locomotive speed in pursuit of the treasures of earth; gray-haired sires, and matrons whose hoary locks gave evidence that many winters had passed over them, all paused and pondered on the things they heard, inquiring, "Am I ready?" Many came to the conclusion that they were unprepared to meet their Saviour, repented of their sins, and, through the merits of Jesus, obtained pardon full and free. For two years after this, there was a constant state of revival in that place; and many were the souls that dated their convictions of sin at that time, when the faithful old man warned them of the world's approaching doom. No man was more highly esteemed than he was; and it was not uncommon for impenitent men to vindicate his character when his motives were impeached.
"'Many there regarded him as "a chosen vessel of the Lord," who had been instrumental in building them up "in the most holy faith;" who had taken them, as it were, to Pisgah's top, and shown them the promised land, that better country for which patriarchs and prophets sighed. Among the public servants of the Most High, to them most dear, our departed brother held a conspicuous place. Years have passed since I enjoyed those happy seasons with them, and swift-rolling rivers and snow-capped hill-tops now lie between us. But, in whatever light they may now regard the efforts of him who sleeps in death, they then appreciated them. For one, I have never since seen the time when I was not thankful to God that I was counted worthy to see the light, and rejoice in it. And my prayer is that the torch of truth may illume our path through time, and that we may at last have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
"'Montgomery, Vt., March 14, 1850.'
"Mr. Miller next lectured in Burlington, Vt., from the 30th of August to the 5th of September; in Salisbury, Vt., from the 12th to the 20th of September; and from the 26th of the same month to the 1st of October, in Sudbury, Vt., after which he returned to Low Hampton.
"In anticipation of attending the first General Conference of believers in the second coming of Christ, which was to assemble on the 14th of October, 1840, in Boston, Mr. Miller left home on the 8th, and proceeded as far as Fairhaven, Vt., about two miles from home, where he was taken with a severe attack of typhoid fever. In the afternoon of the same day he was carried back to Low Hampton. He was thus deprived of the long-desired privilege of meeting fellow-laborers in the work in which he was engaged. On the 15th of October he was able to dictate a few lines to those assembled in conference, as follows:--
. . . . "'Why was I deprived of meeting those congenial minds in this good, this glorious, cause of light and truth? Why am I to bear this last affliction, and not enjoy this one pleasure of meeting fellow-laborers in a cause so big with prospects, so glorious in its results, so honoring to God, and so safe to man? Why are the providences of God so mysterious? I have often inquired. Am I never to have my will? No, never, until my will shall harmonize with thine, O Father! Yes, God is right; his providence is right; his ways are just and true; and I am foolish to murmur or complain.
. . . . "'Oh, I had vainly hoped to see you all, to breathe and feel that sacred flame of love, of heavenly fire; to hear and speak of that dear, blessed Saviour's near approach! . . . But here I am, a weak, feeble, toil-worn old man, upon a bed of sickness, with feeble nerves, and, worse than all, a heart, I fear, in part unreconciled to God. But bless the Lord, O my soul! I have great blessings yet, more than I can number. I was not taken sick far from home. I am in the bosom of my family. I have my reason; I can think, believe, and love. I have the Bible--O blessed book! If I cannot read, I have a daughter who loves that book, and she can read for me. How pleasant it is to hear those infant voices read that holy book! How soft the couch of sickness may be made by dutiful children and the book of God! I have a hope,--yes, yes, "a blessed hope,"--founded on that Word that never fails. My hope is in Him who soon will come, and will not tarry. I love the thought; it makes my bed in sickness; I hope it will in death. I wait for him. My soul, wait thou on God. I have the Spirit; O blessed Holy Spirit! He whispers in my heart, "Fear not, I am with thee; be not dismayed, I will sustain thee." I have a promise from the great I AM: "Though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." I have many friends, and I am persuaded they will last forever. I am confident that I have daily prayers from many hearts.' . .
"When sufficiently restored, he returned to Fort Ann, and lectured from the 26th to the 30th of December, 1840, in compliance with the 'unanimous invitation' of the Baptist church there, Rev. J. O. Mason, pastor, who had dispatched a messenger for him. From the 2d to the 8th of January, 1841, he lectured at Ballston Spa, N. Y.; and again, from the 9th to the 12th, at Fort Ann.