"That awful day will surely come,
Th' appointed hour makes haste."
From 'The Millennial Harp' (published by Joshua V. Himes, 1843)
It happened this way: The Reverend
Joshua V. Himes was pastor of the Chardon Street Baptist Chapel
in Boston. It had been said that he had been a Unitarian minister
before he became a Baptist. However that may be, he was a very
complex character, and whether it was a fortunate or unfortunate
day for William Miller when the two met is hard to say. But at
least it may be said that it was fortunate for succeeding generations
- for had it not been for the influence he exerted over him and
the publicity he gave him and his prophecy, William Miller in
all probability would have remained in the rural districts; the
big centres of activity would have known him only by rumor, and
one of the strangest episodes in the religious history of our
country would have passed by more or less unnoticed and unrecorded.
It was on this day, November 12, 1840,
that Mr. Himes invited William Miller to come to Boston and lecture
in the Chardon Street Chapel, and the invitation was accepted.
From the 8th to the 16th
of December, Miller lectured there for the first time - Mr. Himes
taking care to advertise his coming very freely. It was a good
deal of a tax upon the farmer-prophet's self-possession to face
the critical audiences that now sat in front of him. Throughout
the country districts he had looked down from the lecture platform
at faces upon which were engraved wonder, fear, and credulity;
but now, as he watched the expressions of those before him, he
realized that all his powers of imagery, persuasion, and lucid
explanation must be brought to bear upon hostile sentiments which
he was fully aware were percolating through the city people who
were now his listeners.
On December 12th he wrote
to his son: "I am now in this place lecturing twice a day
to large audiences - many, very many, go away unable to gain admittance.
Many, I am informed, are under serious convictions. I hope God
will work in this city."
Mr. Himes had invited Mr. Miller to
stay at his house while delivering these lectures, and he was
one of his most eager listeners. It gave him an opportunity to
hold many intimate conversations alone with this man who believed
with such certainty that the Day of Doom was at hand, and though
of a quiet and sedate exterior, Mr. Himes nursed within his breast
a love of emotional crowds and religious excitement - of revivals
and camp-meetings full of exhilarating shouts of "Glory!
Glory!" interspersed with frequent "Hallelujahs!"
He was not one to thrive on monotony in any sense of the word.
Action and authority and stirring up the public were as breath
to his nostrils. A belief in eternal damnation and hell fires,
and in the wrath of an avenging Creator, appealed to him. He
always longed to see the "sinner's bench" and the "anxious
sets" full to overflowing, but he wanted the reins of control
to be in his own hands.
When he heard William Miller's lectures.
They filled for him a long-felt want; he was profoundly impressed
by them, and at once accepted many of his interpretations of the
Scriptural prophecies as correct, though in the depths of his
mind he was not wholly convinced that the world would be destroyed
in 1843. But that made no difference - he saw a great opportunity
to stir sluggard Christians into a ferment of religious enthusiasm
- he believed in awaking fear in the hearts of sinners, and thus
bringing them to repentance. He believed also that the end justified
the means, and undoubtedly believed himself to be in the right
when he fanned the flames of hysterical agitation which William
Miller's prophecy had ignited, and spread his doctrine far and
wide. He was undoubtedly under the spell of the times, but in
character he was a strange mixture of calculation and emotion
- of astuteness and lack of foresight. He followed the injunction
to let the future take care of itself too literally.
"When Mr. Miller had closed his lectures," he wrote, "I found myself in a new position. I could not believe or preach as I had done. Light on this subject was blazing on my conscience night and day. A long conversation with Mr. Miller then took place on our duties and responsibilities." Then came the following conversation:
"I said to Brother Miller, 'Do you really believe this doctrine?'
"He replied, 'Certainly I do, or I would not preach it.'
"'What are you doing to spread or diffuse it through the world?'
"'I have done and am still doing all I can.'
"'Well, the whole thing is kept in a corner yet. There is but little knowledge on the subject, after all you have done. If Christ is to come in a few years, as you believe, no time should be lost in giving the church and world warning in thunder-tones, to arouse to prepare.'
"'I know, I know it, Brother Himes,' he said, 'but what can an old farmer do? I was never used to public speaking; I stand alone, and though I have labored much, and seen many converted to God and the truth, yet no one as yet seems to enter into the object and spirit of my mission, so as to render me much aid. They like to have me preach and build up their churches; and there it ends with most of the ministers as yet. I have been looking for help - I want help.'
"It was at this time I laid myself, family, society, reputation, all, upon the alter of God to help him to the extent of my power, to the end. I then inquired of him what parts of the country he had visited, and whether he had visited any of our principal cities.
"He informed me of his labors, etc. 'But why,' I said, 'have you not been into the large cities?'
"He replied that his rule was to visit those places where invited, and that he had not been invited into any of the large cities.
"'Well,' I said, 'will you go with me where doors are opened?'
"'Yes - I am ready to go anywhere, and labor to the extent of my ability to the end.'
"Then I told him he might prepare for the campaign; for doors should be opened in every city in the Union, and the warning should go to the ends of the earth.
"Here I began to help Father
This was the starting-point of the new era in William Miller's career as a prophet and a preacher. Imbued with fresh enthusiasm, he infused into his lectures a more compelling appeal than ever before to those rudderless souls that become magnetized under the spell of a powerfully directed delusion. As a demonstration of this, after a course of lectures which he delivered in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in January, 1840, the Baptist minister, Elder David Millard, wrote in the "Christian Herald" regarding it:
" During the nine days he remained, crowds
flocked to hear him. Such an intense feeling as now pervaded
our congregation we never witnessed before in any place. Such
an awful spirit of solemnity seemed to settle down on the place
that hard must be the sinner's heart that could withstand it.
Yet, during the whole, not an appearance of confusion occurred;
all was order and solemnity. Generally as souls found deliverance
they were ready to proclaim it, and exhort their friends in moving
language to come to the fountain of Life. Probably about one
hundred and fifty souls have been converted in our meetings, ...
the blessed work soon spread into every congregation in town favorable
to revivals. It would be difficult at present to ascertain the
exact number of conversions in town - probably from five to seven
hundred. For weeks together the ringing of bells for daily meetings
rendered our town like a continual Sabbath. Indeed, such a season
of revival was never witnessed before in Portsmouth by the oldest
inhabitant. Never while we linger on the shores of mortality
do we expect to enjoy more of heaven than we have in some of our
late meetings and our baptism occasions. At the waterside thousands
would gather to witness this solemn institution in Zion, and many
would return from the place weeping." [Sylvester
Bliss, Life of William Miller.]
The news of the revival at Portsmouth spread
like wildfire and set all the towns agog. The Baptist churches
were especially insistent that Prophet Miller should favor them
by arousing their dormant congregations, but other denominations
invited him also, and calls came to him from every direction.
The little hill-town of Westford, near Groton, Massachusetts,
secured him next, but there he was destined to receive a severe
rebuff. Those who had invited him to come planned to have the
lectures given in the Congregational Church, that being able to
seat more persons than any other place available, but when the
time came the minister refused to allow the church to be used
for that purpose, which caused a tremendous excitement in the
place and much protest, but he held his ground and the lectures
were delivered elsewhere. This was the first rebuff of the kind
that was given to Miller, and revealed the anxiety and disapproval
which his opponents were beginning to feel regarding the growing
excitement due to the spread of his doctrine.
Prior to this he had been looked upon by the
clergy as a more or less harmless enthusiast, possessing a certain
gift of appeal. The year 1843 had appeared to them like a distant
speck on the horizon which lacked reality, and they did not regard
his prophecy seriously. But now it was different - the time was
slipping by, bringing that year, which he held to be doomed nearer
and nearer; and the prophecy was taking on the form of an actual
reality. Moreover, a change had come over William Miller. When
he had been alone in spreading his gospel, he had felt the lack
of friends and the lack of any sustaining background, and his
powers were kept somewhat in check. But the situation had suddenly
changed. Behind him now stood the Reverend Joshua V. Himes -
no mere shadow for opponents to contend with, but equal in his
spare person to a whole congregation of any size, and in this
feeling of security and this sense of receiving encouragement,
all his native gift of argument and originality and his somewhat
uncouth powers of oratory, combined with a sincere conviction
of the truth of his premises, were let loose to the confusion
of many of the Orthodox clergy.
The effect of this was electrical. In October
he had lectured for ten days in the near-by village of Groton,
and the Congregational minister, the Reverend Silas Hawley, had
written down some comments in regard to him. "Mr. Miller,"
he says, "has lectured in this and adjoining towns with marked
success. His lectures have been succeeded by precious revivals
of religion in all these places. A class of minds are reached
by him not within the influence of other men. His lectures are
well adapted, so far as I have learned, for shaking the supremacy
of the various forms of error that are rife in the community."
And now from Littleton, close by, where the lectures were given
from the 19th to the 26th of December, the Baptist minister, the
Reverend Oliver Ayer states: "I baptized twelve at our last
Communion. I shall probably baptize from fifteen to twenty next
time. There have been from thirty-five to forty hopeful conversions.
There is also quite a work in Westford - ten or twelve conversions
and twenty or thirty inquiries. The work is still going on."
The truth was that Prophet Miller's long and
intensive study of the Bible, however erroneously he interpreted
many parts of it, gave him a tremendous advantage over the general
run of country clergymen, whose knowledge left much to be desired.
Elder D. J. Robinson, pastor of the Methodist Church in Portsmouth,
New Hampshire, had felt his personal lack of it when Miller had
lectured in that place, and wrote in regard to his own position:
"I heard him all I could the first week, and thought I could
stop his wheels and confound him; but as the revival had commenced
in the congregation assembled to hear him, I would not do it publicly,
lest evil should follow. I therefore visited him at his room,
with a formidable list of objections. To my surprise scarcely
any of them were new to him, and he could answer them as fast
as I could present them. And he presented objections and questions
which confounded me and the commentaries on which I had
relied. I went home used up, convicted, humbled, and resolved
to examine the questions."
The result of this was that Prophet Miller
had added another convert to his list. Elder Robinson became
convinced that his interpretations and calculations of time were
correct and he "began to preach accordingly." [Sylvester
Bliss, Life of William Miller.]
Now this last statement in regard to Elder Robinson is the keynote to half of the fanaticism that wrecked so many lives and caused so much distress of mind in 1843 and 1844. With only a limited understanding of many points in Miller's doctrine, this good man and a host of others like him took upon themselves the task of aiding the latter to spread it, and went about in every direction preaching his prophecy of the approaching destruction of the world and his religious doctrine with the addition of many theories of their own, thus increasing the confusion of thought that was beginning to be viewed with serious apprehension by the more level-headed of the public.
The Reverend Charles Fitch, pastor of the Marlborough Street Chapel in Boston, took upon himself the duty of warning the public of the coming end. By so doing he lost all connection with his church and, as he expressed it in a pamphlet he wrote in 1841, giving his reasons for believing in Miller's prophecy and which was published by Joshua V. Himes: "I became in part an ecclesiastical outcast. But I gained deliverance, in this process from the fear of man, and learned the blessedness of fearing God."
It may be instructive to insert here as a specimen
a few lines of the kind of warning Brother Fitch took upon himself to give out. The following extract from a poem, entitled "The Warning," was written by him at this time and it had a wide circulation:
"Toil on, ye groveling worms of earth,Is it any wonder that the "sinner's bench" and the "anxious seats" were becoming overcrowded at the lectures? This appalling poem hot from the pen of Brother Fitch was published after he had listened to a course of lectures given by Prophet Miller at the Chardon Street Chapel in Boston at the end of January, 1841, which place, according to his
Scorn and forget your heavenly birth;
Gather your heaps of shining dust,
And die - as soon, right soon, ye must!
Or if your spirit thirsts for fame
Make haste, nor rest, until your name
Stands among those accounted great
From battle-fields, or halls of state;
Put on your laurels for a day -
You'll soon be swept from earth away.
If all you ask is pleasure's cup,
Haste, fill it, drink its contents up;
Fill it if life is spared, again,
And from the brim to bottom drain,
Then drop it from your palsied hand,
And in your Maker's presence stand!
Receive your doom, and haste accursed
To dwell where your tormenting thirst
No drop of water can allay
While endless ages pass away!
No prayers, nor tears, will then avail;
Your lost and suffering spirit's wail
Forever o'er hell's burning sea
Must break in tones of agony!
Biographer, "was crowded almost to suffocation,
and thousands were obliged to retire for want of room."
The doors which Elder Joshua V. Himes (as he was now called) had promised would be opened to him were opening wide now. More than that, the indefatigable Elder was publishing a paper, called "Signs of the Times," in which Miller's doctrine, and full and complete explanations of his calculations regarding the end of the world, appeared, and copies of it were sent out broadcast, regardless of cost. In reference to this afterwards William Miller wrote as follows:
"With this commenced an entire new era
in the spread of information on the peculiar points of my belief.
Mr. Murray gave up to him [Elder Himes] 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 Brother
Himes." [Apology and
Defense, p. 21.]
More than that, Elder Himes published a "Memoir of William Miller," in which volume other writings of his were included, and this also was given a wide circulation. But considering the energy and money expended, and the apparent enthusiasm with which Elder Himes spread far and wide this prophecy of the approaching end of all things according to Miller's calculations, the guarded wording of the preface written by himself is certainly surprising: - in fact, one wonders whether Miller ever read it - occupied as he was in lecturing here there and everywhere; but it could hardly have satisfied him if he did. The wording of it justifies the suspicion which many held regarding Elder Himes, that he approved of stirring up religious excitement at all odds.
"Notwithstanding the fears of many, esteemed wise and good, that the effect of this class of writings on the Community would be deleterious," he states, "we have, on the contrary, witnessed, as we expected, the most happy results. Their moral and religious influence upon all classes who have given them a candid examination has been most salutary. . . . As it respects the general views of Mr. Miller, we consider them in the main to be in accordance with the Word of God. We do not, however, adopt the peculiarities of any man. We call no man Master. Yet we frankly avow that there is much in his theory that we approve and embrace as gospel truth The final destiny of the righteous and the wicked; - on all these points we fully agree with him. "On the question of 'prophetic periods,' and of his laborious and learned chronology, we are not competent, with our limited erudition on the subject, to decide with such positiveness as on the other topics; having never given our attention to the critical study of the subject until the last year. We, however, believe in the definiteness of prophetic periods, and feel satisfied that we live near the end of time. . . . Some have fixed upon the year 1866, some 1847, while Mr. Miller fixes 1843 as 'the time of the end.' We think he has given the more satisfactory demonstration of the correctness of his calculation. The advent is near. It is possible we may be mistaken in the chronology. It may vary a few years, but we are persuaded the end cannot be far distant. . . .
"We are not insensible of the fact that much obloquy will be cast upon us in consequence of our association with the author of this work. This however gives us no pain. We had rather be associated with such a man as William Miller and stand with him in gloom or glory, in the cause of the living God, than be associated with his enemies, and enjoy all the honors of the world."
But in spite of this guarded profession of
faith on the part of Elder Himes, he did his utmost to push William
Miller and his prophecy to the fore. The latter, seemingly all
unconscious of any lack on the part of his friend and coadjutor,
lifted his voice in resounding tones with greater and greater
insistence and greater and greater solemnity.
From Watertown, "where, he lectured for nine days, be wrote a letter to his son:
"I have never seen so great an effect in any one place as there," he states - "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 of 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."
In Portland, Maine, a number of rum shops were
turned into meeting rooms by the proprietors. Some of the gambling
establishments were entirely broken up, and according to Elder
L. D. Fleming, the minister in that place, business men of various
denominations met in offices down in the business quarter and
devoted an hour in the middle of the day to prayer. "In
fact," he wrote, "it would be impossible to give any
adequate idea of the interest now felt in this city. There is
nothing like extravagant excitement, but an almost universal solemnity
on the minds of all the people. One of the principal booksellers
informed me that he had sold more Bibles in one month since Mr.
Miller came here than he had in four months previous."
The Maine "Wesleyan Journal " came out about that time with a description of his person and of his style of preaching, noting details that make the picture realistic, and therefore interesting. The following is an extract from it:
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 preach publicly. He has, we understand, numerous testimonials also from different denominations, favorable to his general character. We should think him a man of but common school education; evidently possessing strong powers of mind, which for about fourteen years have been almost exclusively bent in the investigation of scriptural prophecies. The last eight years of his life have been devoted to lecturing on his 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 claiming 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, 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 events 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." [N.B. The Universalists had come out against eternal damnation.]
The endurance of the man was certainly very remarkable. After his visit to Portland he returned to his home in Low Hampton, having been absent from there nearly six months, and having delivered three hundred and twenty-seven lectures.
The following May found him in New York City lecturing at the corner of Norfolk and Broom Streets from the 16th to the 29th. Later on he wrote to his sons:
" I have more business on hand than any
two men like me should perform. I must lecture twice a 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 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?'"
Yet he loved to feel the press and stress of
this situation which he himself had created. There was an exhilaration
in hearing of a Baptist here and a Methodist there, and others
forming the band of preachers that was now becoming an important
factor in spreading the warning. And all the time his ability
to influence his listeners increased, and his assurance was increasing,
and he felt surer and surer of his facts. The oftener he reiterated
his warning that the end would come between 1843 and 1844, the
more he believed it and the more his deluded followers believed
Elder Columbus Green wrote an account of the impression he made while giving a course of lectures in Colchester, Vermont, in August:
"The audiences were very large; notwithstanding it was a time of general excitement, our place of worship was as still as death. His lectures were delivered in a 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; grey-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?'" [Sylvester Bliss, Life of William Miller.]
By this time the spreading of Miller's prophecy was making great headway and was being disseminated through the country by such large numbers of self-elected preachers that it was deemed wise to hold a convention, and Boston was decided upon as the meeting ground. Great preparations for it were under way when the unexpected happened; - Prophet Miller, the central figure upon whom the eyes of the public were gazing with a strange mixture of curiosity, antagonism, fear admiration and credulity, fell ill with typhoid fever. It was a blow to his followers, but the one who suffered most from the deprivation involved was himself. This stroke of destiny fell upon August 8, 1840. On the 15th he was able to dictate a few lines to be read at the Conference. The poor old man was well-nigh heartbroken.
"Oh I had vainly hoped to see you all,"
he wrote, "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....
My hope is in Him who will soon 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!. . ."
How strange are the inconsistencies of the human mind! Prophet Miller when preaching in health said one thing, but when ill he said another, and became like any other poor
frail mortal and spoke of death with apparently the same sense of its inevitableness. In the grip of fever he seems to have momentarily forgotten that one of the most important tenets of his doctrine which he had been impressing upon the public mind was that he and all who believed as he did would never taste of death, but on some day or night, now swiftly approaching when the sound of the trumpet would ring throughout the Universe, would be caught up into the air, while the earth and the evildoers thereon would burn to ashes.
But it so happened that he recovered
and was in the field again in December, weaker and more shaken,
but as determined as ever to arouse the world to its impending
In the mean time Elder Joshua V. Himes had had it all his own way. He sent preachers north, south, east, and west with charts and diagrams to demonstrate the correctness of Prophet Miller's calculations. He traveled here, there, and everywhere himself spreading the doctrine; - he printed and distributed pamphlets by the thousands announcing the approach of the Day of judgment; - he stirred up revivals and planned a campaign of camp-meetings for the opening of spring; - he left no stone unturned, so that now the atmosphere was charged with a high voltage of expectation that even scoffers were beginning to feel. The fact that in his preface to the Miller "Memoirs" he admits the responsibility of publishing and spreading abroad this doctrine places him in a position which the public felt just
justified in criticizing: He says in this:
"We hold the doctrine of a man's responsibility for the
sentiments which he publishes, whether they are his own or another's.
He is accountable to the community at the Great Tribunal for
the good or bad the produce."
Such a statement as this leads to the assumption
that he must have finally accepted the whole doctrine root and
branch; otherwise his actions are unexplainable.
Trouble was looming up before them now in a
number of ways which they had not foreseen. A spirit of aggressive
opposition was showing itself. There were many who resented Miller's
prophecy. In many cases a sort of superstitious fear was at the
root of the resentment which led to acts of violence on the part
of the city hoodlums, but the first real outbreak occurred in
the quiet town of Newburyport. Essex County has always had its
own unequivocal methods of showing disapproval, as history can
tell, and this time was no exception to the rule.
Prophet Miller had promised to deliver his
course of lectures there, and a great crowd gathered to hear them.
At the first one, just as he was starting to speak, an egg was
flung at him. Fortunately, it did not hit him, but fell on the
desk close to his elbow. It was an ominous warning of what was
to come, but he stood his ground and continued his lecture. Outside
a mob was gathering in the street, and the noise of scuffling
feet and the hum of excited voices could be distinctly heard,
causing great concern to those inside. Just as the lecture was
drawing to a close, an avalanche of stones came whizzing through
the windows. The sound of smashing glass and the appearance of
these dangerous missiles caused a panic in the audience. Men
and women pushed and elbowed each other in a frantic attempt to
leave the hall while more stones came scattering in among them.
Soon the place was empty, and Miller also had to make a hasty
retreat. But the doughty old Prophet was not to be discouraged
by such demonstrations, nor was he to be prevented from delivering
his lectures. The next evening saw him facing an even larger
audience than the first one, only this time it was in the chapel
in Hale's Court where they were safe from a repetition of the
It was a great strain on him to meet the controversies and the criticism now awakened by his lectures. The newspapers were full of letters from protesting patrons, demanding answers to innumerable questions, which he could not ignore. One anonymous letter especially touched him on a sore point, and he read it out to his audience at one of his lectures.
"Mr. Miller," it read, "how dare you assert your theory with so much confidence without a knowledge of the Hebrew or Greek languages?"
The writer followed up this question with one or two Biblical quotations, the wording of which was not absolutely correct, which gave Prophet Miller an opportunity to make one of his ready retorts with true Yankee tartness.
"If I am not acquainted with Hebrew and Greek, I know enough to quote the English texts of the Scriptures rightly," was his reply, much to the approbation of his audience.
But to meet the arguments of the clergy of various denominations required a vast amount of thought and assurance, and besides lectures he wrote a number of books replying to their criticisms, published by Elder Joshua V. Himes, and this made inroads upon his powers of physical endurance, especially as he was suffering from painful abscesses upon his leg which spread to the other leg, making locomotion difficult in the extreme. In this direful condition, and upon hearing of the death of his mother, he wrote to Elder Himes on December 7, 1842, as follows:
" The fatigue of body and mind has almost unnerved this old frame, and unfitted me to endure the burdens which Providence calls upon me to bear. I find as I grow old I grow more peevish and cannot bear so much contradiction, therefore I am called uncharitable and severe. No matter - this frail life will soon be over. My Master will soon call me home, and soon the scoffer and I shall be in another world to render our account before a righteous tribunal. I will therefore appeal to the Supreme Court of the Universe for the redress of grievances, and the rendering of judgment in my favor, by a revocation of the judgment of the Court below.
"The World and Clergy vs. Miller
- I remain looking for the blessed hope.
He was pretty well tired out - the poor old
But now the great year - the year of all years was about to dawn - the year in which his prophecy was to come true - according to his belief - 1843! - the point of time toward which thousands were now turning - some in curiosity - some in scorn; but others with glowing hearts and beating pulses, making ready to watch for the coming of the Lord, stood looking for further signs in the heavens, and for the signs of the times - for distress of nations and for famine and pestilence; some ran hither and thither; and there were rumors, and rumors upon rumors, and strange sights, and strange sounds; - even the scoffers grew uneasy!
As the agitation and nervousness spread, Elder Joshua V. Himes, ever ready, published and distributed broadcast a pamphlet, called "Letter to Everybody," on the cover of which were the following terrifying words of warning:
"My friend! - the Day of the Lord is at hand! - and when it cometh you and I shall pass into another state of being - a being of eternal glory or eternal torment! Believe it! believe it! It cometh suddenly, in an instant of time, all things continuing as they were up to the very instant of the bursting in of the Lord upon the world. You are gazing along the sky - you see a lightning light along it - it is the Lord! You are speaking to your wife or your child by your fireside - an awful thunder breaks upon you - it is the Lord! You are sleeping in your bed - you hear a fearful crash - it is the Lord! You are awake in an hour of midnight darkness - you behold a fearful stream of brightness blaze in upon you - it is the Lord! You are riding in the cars, or upon your horse, or buying in the market, or working in the field, or busied in your garden, or looking over your accounts, or getting bread for your family, or eating it with them, or reading a book - you feel the earth tremble with a fearful shaking under your feet - it is the Lord! You go to the door to meet a mother, a brother, or a friend - you meet the Lord! Awful day! Awful coming! - 'Prepare to meet your God!' Prepare to meet His day! Prepare to meet His judgment! Prepare! Prepare!"
Thus entered the crucial year of 1843!
"We are living, we are dwelling
In a grand and awful time;
In an age on ages telling
To be living is sublime.
"Hark the waking up of nations,
Gog and Magog to the fray;
Hark! what soundeth? Is Creation
Groaning for its latter day?
"Hark the onset! Will you fold your
Faith-clad, arms in lazy lock?
Up, 0, up! thou drowsy soldier
Worlds are charging to the shock!
From 'The Millennial Harp' (published by Joshua V. Himes, 1843)