The Pioneers Presentation on WILLIAM MILLER
“In reviewing our past history, having traveled over every step of advance to our present standing, I can say, Praise God! As I see what God has wrought, I am filled astonishment, and with confidence in Christ as leader. We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history.” (White, 1922, p. 204)
Early Life: William Miller was born in 1782 in Massachusetts. He was the son of an Army Captain and a pious Godly woman. He grew up in a Christian household, but found himself in the company of deists* and soon accepted their belief system.
He wore many hats: he was a farmer, a Justice of the Peace and a soldier in his earlier years. He also volunteered for the war of 1812 and became a captain of the 30th infantry. During a battle of Plattsburgh, there were 1,500 regular army troops plus 4,000 volunteers against a seasoned British troop of 15,000 regulars. America was outnumbered 3 to 1, but The Lord delivered them. He saw three of his soldiers get wounded within two feet of him by an exploding shell, but he was spared. The victory left a deep impression upon him that a Power mightier than man was very present.
Search For Truth: For twelve years he was a deist* but after the war, his thoughts began to trouble him. At the age of thirty-four, the Holy Spirit impressed his heart with a sense of his condition as a sinner. He found in his former beliefs no assurance of happiness beyond the grave. The future was dark and gloomy. Referring afterward to his feelings at this time, he said:
“Annihilation was a cold and chilling thought, and accountability was sure destruction to all. The heavens were as brass over my head, and the earth as iron under my feet. Eternity—what was it? And death—why was it? The more I reasoned, the further I was from demonstration. The more I thought, the more scattered were my conclusions. I tried to stop thinking, but my thoughts would not be controlled. I was truly wretched, but did not understand the cause. I murmured and complained, but knew not of whom. I knew that there was a wrong, but knew not how or where to find the right. I mourned, but without hope.” (White, 1858, chapter 18)
After the war, he moved back to the farm (with his wife Lucy) where he grew up. He eventually began to attend church again, but not for the sake of conviction, but because “that’s what all respectable men did in those days” they attended church with their families.
Miller got converted in a remarkable way. When his uncle Elihu was away from their church, the deacons would read the sermons during that time. He thought their readings of the sermons were horrible, and said he got no edification from them. He suggested to his mother that perhaps he could do the readings instead. This he did and in time, these readings started to convert him and grip at his heart.
After a couple months in a troublesome religious state –
“Suddenly,” he says, “the character of a Saviour was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a Being so good and compassionate as to himself atone for our transgressions, and thereby save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a Being must be, and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such a One. But the question arose, How can it be proved that such a Being does exist? Aside from the Bible, I found that I could get no evidence of the existence of such a Saviour, or even of a future state….”
“I saw that the Bible did bring to view just such a Saviour as I needed; and I was perplexed to find how an uninspired book should develop principles so perfectly adapted to the wants of a fallen world. I was constrained to admit that the Scriptures must be a revelation from God. They became my delight; and in Jesus I found a friend. The Saviour became to me the chiefest among ten thousand; and the Scriptures, which before were dark and contradictory, now became the lamp to my feet and light to my path. My mind became settled and satisfied. I found the Lord God to be a Rock in the midst of the ocean of life. The Bible now became my chief study, and I can truly say, I searched it with great delight. I found the half was never told me. I wondered why I had not seen its beauty and glory before, and marveled that I could have ever rejected it. I found everything revealed that my heart could desire, and a remedy for every disease of the soul. I lost all taste for other reading, and applied my heart to get wisdom from God.” (White, 1858, chpt 18)
Studies in The Book of Daniel: In 1818 he came to the conclusion (after a two-year Bible study), that according to the accuracy of other time prophecies and especially those in the Book of Daniel, that in about 25 years the world was going to end. It was commonly believed that the earth was the sanctuary so the 2300 Day Prophecy to him pointed to The Second Advent of Christ and the cleansing of the earth by fire.
A Call To Go Tell The World: As these new truths were being revealed to him, eventually there came a deep impression that he should “go tell it to the world”. He tried to brush it off, but the more he studied, the more he would receive the impression. He considered himself to be slow of speech and inadequate to do such a thing, so for over ten years he struggled with rejecting the call of God.
On an afternoon in August 1831, he finally gave in to the Voice which was prompting him to go and tell the world. He covenanted that if he received an invitation to preach, he would share this message. Immediately, the heavy burden was lifted from him and his mental chains were loosed. He felt certain that this would never happen, so he was then at peace. But in minutes, all of this changed. Within half an hour, his nephew from 16 miles away, travelling at the blazing speed of horseback, came with a message from his father. Miller was told that there was to be no preaching at their local church the next day, so they were inviting him to share his studies on the second advent at Dresden Baptist Church. Because of his promise to God, he agreed and went with his nephew.
The church was so excited about the message and was so moved, they invited him to speak again. Eventually a revival began, and when he returned home, he found many written invitations for him to share his findings on the second advent at other places.
Beside his furor for The LORD, William Miller was a very kind man. If an elderly couple entered the church and couldn’t find a seat, while he was preaching, he would come down from the pulpit to help them and return to preaching the sermon. His character must have helped draw even more souls to the message.
By the expected time for Christ’s return, Miller had between 50,000 to 100,000 followers, commonly known as Millerites. Despite all his preaching, he did not set a specific date for the second advent. At first, he said only that it would be about 1843. He finally set an ultimate time for the spring of 1844. Others picked a more precise date of October 22, 1844, which Miller and many of the leaders of the first movement accepted shortly before the date arrived.
The Great Disappointment: Alas, all the anticipation came and bitterly left after that date came and passed. After the disappointment, he wrote:
“Although I have been twice disappointed, I am not yet cast down or discouraged. . . . I have fixed my mind upon another time, and here I mean to stand until God gives me more light,–and that is Today, TODAY, and TODAY, until He comes, and I see Him for whom my soul yearns.”
Contributions To The Faith
The prevailing view at that time that there was a millennium of peace before Christ came, so many individuals took their ease in life, thinking all would be peaceful before Christ came again, but from his study and what was revealed to him, he saw that the millennium would begin after Christ comes.
William Miller died in 1849 at the age of 67.
This paper is just a summarization of Miller’s life and contribution to the faith. May we, like him say “today, today and today, until He comes, and I see Him for whom my soul yearns”
- Deist/ Deism*: Belief in God as not intimately acquainted with the affairs of men but that after creation he left the world to run It’s course. Many of our Founding Fathers of the United States were deists.
- The White Estate Writers. Pathways of The Pioneers: William Miller. Retrieved from http://whiteestate.org/pathways/wmiller.asp
- White, E. G. (1922). Christian Experience and Teachings by Ellen White, pg 204.
- White, E.G. (1858). The Great Controversy, chapter 18. Retrieved from http://www.whiteestate.org/books/gc/gc18.html
- Your Story Hour. (2007). Pathways of The Pioneers MP3 Collection:Volume 1-William Miller. Published by Review and Herald. Retrieved from http://www.whiteestate.org/pathways/pioneers.asp