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3 Notable Dates 1755, 1780 & 1833


The Great Controversy (1888)
Chapter XVII – Heralds of the Morning
One of the most solemn and yet most glorious truths revealed in the Bible is that of Christ’s second coming, to complete the great work of redemption. To God’s pilgrim people, so long left to sojourn in the “region and shadow of death,” a precious, joy-inspiring hope is given in the promise of His appearing, who is “the resurrection and the life,” to “bring home again his banished.” The doctrine of the second advent is the very key-note of the sacred Scriptures. From the day when the first pair turned their sorrowing steps from Eden, the children of faith have waited the coming of the Promised One to break the destroyer’s power and bring them again to the lost Paradise. Holy men of old looked forward to the advent of the Messiah in glory, as the consummation of their hope. Enoch, only the seventh in descent from them that dwelt in Eden, he who for three centuries on earth walked with his God, was permitted to behold from afar the coming of the Deliverer. “Behold,” he declared, “the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all.” [Jude 14, 15.] The patriarch Job in the night of his affliction exclaimed with unshaken trust: “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; . . . in my flesh shall I see God, whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another.” [Job 19:25-27.] {GC88 299.1} (1888)
The coming of Christ to usher in the reign of righteousness, has inspired the most sublime and impassioned utterances of the sacred writers. The poets and prophets of the Bible have dwelt upon it in words glowing with celestial fire. The psalmist sung of the power and majesty of Israel’s King: “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. . . . He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people.” [Psalm 50:2-4.] “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad” “before the Lord; for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” [Psalm 96:11, 13.] {GC88 299.2} (1888)
Said the prophet Isaiah: “Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.” “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.” “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” [Isaiah 26:19; 25:8, 9.] {GC88 300.1} (1888)
And Habakkuk, rapt in holy vision, beheld His appearing. “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light.” “He stood, and measured the earth; he beheld, and drove asunder the nations; and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow; his ways are everlasting.” “Thou didst ride upon thine horses and thy chariots of salvation.” “The mountains saw thee, and they trembled. . . The deep uttered his voice, and lifted up his hands on high. The sun and moon stood still in their habitation; at the light of thine arrows they went, and at the shining of thy glittering spear.” “Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine anointed.” [Habakkuk 3:3, 4, 6, 8, 10, 11, 13.] {GC88 300.2} (1888)
When the Saviour was about to be separated from his disciples, he comforted them in their sorrow with the assurance that he would come again: “Let not your heart be troubled.” “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” [John 14:1-3.] “The Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him. Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory, and before him shall be gathered all nations.” [Matthew 25:31, 32.] {GC88 301.1} (1888)
The angels who lingered upon Olivet after Christ’s ascension, repeated to the disciples the promise of his return: “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:11.] And the apostle Paul, speaking by the Spirit of inspiration, testified: “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16.] Says the prophet of Patmos: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” [Revelation 1:7.] {GC88 301.2} (1888)
About his coming cluster the glories of that “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” [Acts 3:21.] Then the long-continued rule of evil shall be broken; “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign forever and ever.” [Revelation 11:15.] “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” “The Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” He shall be “for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of his people.” [Isaiah 40:5; 61:11; 28:5.] {GC88 301.3} (1888)
It is then that the peaceful and long-desired kingdom of the Messiah shall be established under the whole heaven. “The Lord shall comfort Zion; he will comfort all her waste places, and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord.” “The glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon.” “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate; but thou shalt be called My Delight, and thy land Beulah.” “As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” [Isaiah 51:3; 35:2; 62:4, 5 (MARGIN).] {GC88 301.4} (1888)
The coming of the Lord has been in all ages the hope of his true followers. The Saviour’s parting promise upon Olivet, that he would come again, lighted up the future for his disciples, filling their hearts with joy and hope, that sorrow could not quench, nor trials dim. Amid suffering and persecution, “the appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” was the “blessed hope.” When the Thessalonian Christians were filled with grief as they buried their loved ones, who had hoped to live to witness the coming of the Lord, Paul, their teacher, pointed them to the resurrection, to take place at the Saviour’s advent. Then the dead in Christ should rise, and together with the living be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. “And so,” he said, “shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.] {GC88 302.1} (1888)
On rocky Patmos the beloved disciple hears the promise, “Surely, I come quickly,” and his longing response voices the prayer of the church in all her pilgrimage, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” [Revelation 22:20.] {GC88 302.2} (1888)
From the dungeon, the stake, the scaffold, where saints and martyrs witnessed for the truth, comes down the centuries the utterance of their faith and hope. “Being assured of Christ’s personal resurrection, and consequently of their own at his coming, for this cause,” says one of these Christians, “they despised death, and were found to be above it.” They were willing to go down to the grave, that they “might rise free.” They looked for the “Lord to come from Heaven in the clouds with the glory of his Father,” “bringing to the just the times of the kingdom.” The Waldenses cherished the same faith. Wycliffe looked forward to the Redeemer’s appearing as the hope of the church. {GC88 302.3} (1888)
Luther declared: “I persuade myself verily, that the day of Judgment will not be absent full three hundred years. God will not, cannot, suffer this wicked world much longer.” “The great day is drawing near in which the kingdom of abominations shall be overthrown.” {GC88 303.1} (1888)
“This aged world is not far from its end,” said Melancthon. Calvin bids Christians “not to hesitate, ardently desiring the day of Christ’s coming as of all events most auspicious;” and declares that “the whole family of the faithful will keep in view that day.” “We must hunger after Christ, we must seek, contemplate,” he says, “till the dawning of that great day, when our Lord will fully manifest the glory of his kingdom.” {GC88 303.2} (1888)
“Has not our Lord Jesus carried up our flesh into Heaven?” said Knox, the Scotch reformer, “and shall he not return? We know that he shall return, and that with expedition.” Ridley and Latimer, who laid down their lives for the truth, looked in faith for the Lord’s coming. Ridley wrote: “The world without doubt—this I do believe, and therefore I say it—draws to an end. Let us with John, the servant of God, cry in our hearts unto our Saviour Christ, Come, Lord Jesus, come.” {GC88 303.3} (1888)
“The thoughts of the coming of the Lord,” said Baxter, “are most sweet and joyful to me.” “It is the work of faith and the character of his saints to love his appearing and to look for that blessed hope.” “If death be the last enemy to be destroyed at the resurrection, we may learn how earnestly believers should long and pray for the second coming of Christ, when this full and final conquest shall be made.” “This is the day that all believers should long, and hope, and wait for, as being the accomplishment of all the work of their redemption, and all the desires and endeavors of their souls.” “Hasten, O Lord, this blessed day!” Such was the hope of the apostolic church, of the “church in the wilderness,” and of the reformers. {GC88 303.4} (1888)
Prophecy not only foretells the manner and object of Christ’s coming, but presents tokens by which men are to know when it is near. Said Jesus: “There shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars.” [Luke 21:25.] “The sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” [Mark 13:24-26.] The Revelator thus describes the first of the signs to precede the second advent: “There was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon become as blood.” [Revelation 6:12.] {GC88 304.1} (1888)
These signs were witnessed before the opening of the present century. In fulfillment of this prophecy there occurred, in the year 1755 [1st November] , the most terrible earthquake that has ever been recorded. Though commonly known as the earthquake of Lisbon, it extended to the greater part of Europe, Africa, and America. It was felt in Greenland, in the West Indies, in the island of Madeira, in Norway and Sweden, Great Britain and Ireland. It pervaded an extent of not less than four million square miles. In Africa the shock was almost as severe as in Europe. A great part of Algiers was destroyed; and a short distance from Morocco, a village containing eight or ten thousand inhabitants was swallowed up. A vast wave swept over the coast of Spain and Africa, engulfing cities, and causing great destruction. {GC88 304.2} (1888)
It was in Spain and Portugal that the shock manifested its extreme violence. At Cadiz the inflowing wave was said to be sixty feet high. Mountains—some of the largest in Portugal—“were impetuously shaken, as it were from the very foundation; and some of them opened at their summits, which were split and rent in a wonderful manner, huge masses of them being thrown down into the subjacent valleys. Flames are related to have issued from these mountains.” {GC88 304.3} (1888)
At Lisbon “a sound of thunder was heard underground, and immediately afterward a violent shock threw down the greater part of that city. In the course of about six minutes sixty thousand persons perished. The sea first retired, and laid the bar dry, it then rolled in, rising fifty feet above its ordinary level.” “The most extraordinary circumstance which occurred at Lisbon during the catastrophe, was the subsidence of the new quay, built entirely of marble, at an immense expense. A great concourse of people had collected there for safety, as a spot where they might be beyond the reach of falling ruins; but suddenly the quay sunk down with all the people on it, and not one of the dead bodies ever floated to the surface.” {GC88 305.1} (1888)
The shock of the earthquake “was instantly followed by the fall of every church and convent, almost all the large and public buildings, and one-fourth of the houses. In about two hours afterward, fires broke out in different quarters, and raged with such violence for the space of nearly three days that the city was completely desolated. The earthquake happened on a holy day, when the churches and convents were full of people, very few of whom escaped.” “The terror of the people was beyond description. Nobody wept; it was beyond tears. They ran hither and thither, delirious with horror and astonishment, beating their faces and breasts, crying, ‘Misericordia! the world’s at an end!’ Mothers forgot their children, and ran loaded with crucifixed images. Unfortunately, many ran to the churches for protection; but in vain was the sacrament exposed; in vain did the poor creatures embrace the altars; images, priests, and people were buried in one common ruin.” “Ninety thousand persons are supposed to have been lost on that fatal day.” {GC88 305.2} (1888)
Twenty-five years later appeared the next sign mentioned in the prophecy,—the darkening of the sun and moon. What rendered this more striking was the fact that the time of its fulfillment had been definitely pointed out. In the Saviour’s conversation with his disciples upon Olivet, after describing the long period of trial for the church—the 1260 years of papal persecution, concerning which he had promised that the tribulation should be shortened—he thus mentioned certain events to precede his coming, and fixed the time when the first of these should be witnessed: “In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light.” [Mark 13:24.] The 1260 days, or years, terminated in 1798. A quarter of a century earlier, persecution had almost wholly ceased. Between these two dates, according to the words of Christ, the sun was to be darkened. On the 19th of May, 1780, this prophecy was fulfilled. {GC88 305.3} (1888)
“Almost if not altogether alone as the most mysterious and as yet unexplained phenomenon of its kind, . . . stands the dark day of May 19, 1780,—a most unaccountable darkening of the whole visible heavens and atmosphere in New England.” That the darkness was not due to an eclipse is evident from the fact that the moon was then nearly full. It was not caused by clouds, or the thickness of the atmosphere, for in some localities where the darkness extended, the sky was so clear that the stars could be seen. Concerning the inability of science to assign a satisfactory cause for this manifestation, Herschel the astronomer declares: “The dark day in North America was one of those wonderful phenomena of nature which philosophy is at a loss to explain.” {GC88 306.1} (1888)
“The extent of the darkness was also very remarkable. It was observed at the most easterly regions of New England; westward, to the farthest part of Connecticut, and at Albany, N. Y.; to the southward, it was observed all along the sea coast; and to the north, as far as the American settlements extended. It probably far exceeded those boundaries, but the exact limits were never positively known. With regard to its duration, it continued in the neighborhood of Boston for at least fourteen or fifteen hours.” {GC88 306.2} (1888)
“The morning was clear and pleasant, but about eight o’clock there was observed an uncommon appearance in the sun. There were no clouds, but the air was thick, having a smoky appearance, and the sun shone with a pale, yellowish hue, but kept growing darker and darker, until it was hid from sight.” There was “midnight darkness at noonday.” {GC88 307.1} (1888)
“The occurrence brought intense alarm and distress to multitudes of minds, as well as dismay to the whole brute creation, the fowls fleeing bewildered to their roosts, and the birds to their nests, and the cattle returning to their stalls.” Frogs and night hawks began their notes. The cocks crew as at daybreak. Farmers were forced to leave their work in the fields. Business was generally suspended, and candles were lighted in the dwellings. “The Legislature of Connecticut was in session at Hartford, but being unable to transact business adjourned. Everything bore the appearance and gloom of night.” {GC88 307.2} (1888)
The intense darkness of the day was succeeded, an hour or two before evening, by a partially clear sky, and the sun appeared, though it was still obscured by the black, heavy mist. But “this interval was followed by a return of the obscuration with greater density, that rendered the first half of the night hideously dark beyond all former experience of the probable million of people who saw it. From soon after sunset until midnight, no ray of light from moon or star penetrated the vault above. It was pronounced ‘the blackness of darkness!’” Said an eye-witness of the scene: “I could not help conceiving, at the time, that if every luminous body in the universe had been shrouded in impenetrable darkness, or struck out of existence, the darkness could not have been more complete.” Though the moon that night rose to the full, “it had not the least effect to dispel the death-like shadows.” After midnight the darkness disappeared, and the moon, when first visible, had the appearance of blood. {GC88 307.3} (1888)
The poet Whittier thus speaks of this memorable day:—
“‘Twas on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the spring,
Over the fresh earth, and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness.”
“Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky.” {GC88 308.1} (1888)
May 19, 1780, stands in history as “The Dark Day.” Since the time of Moses, no period of darkness of equal density, extent, and duration has ever been recorded. The description of this event, as given by the poet and the historian, is but an echo of the words of the Lord, recorded by the prophet Joel, twenty-five hundred years previous to their fulfillment: “The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” [Joel 2:31.] {GC88 308.2} (1888)
Christ had bidden his people watch for the signs of his advent, and rejoice as they should behold the tokens of their coming King. “When these things begin to come to pass,” he said, “then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” He pointed his followers to the budding trees of spring, and said: “When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” [Luke 21:28, 30, 31.] {GC88 308.3} (1888)
But as the spirit of humility and devotion in the church had given place to pride and formalism, love for Christ and faith in his coming had grown cold. Absorbed in worldliness and pleasure-seeking, the professed people of God were blinded to the Saviour’s instructions concerning the signs of his appearing. The doctrine of the second advent had been neglected; the scriptures relating to it were obscured by misinterpretation, until it was, to a great extent, ignored and forgotten. Especially was this the case in the churches of America. The freedom and comfort enjoyed by all classes of society, the ambitious desire for wealth and luxury, begetting an absorbing devotion to money-making, the eager rush for popularity and power, which seemed to be within the reach of all, led men to center their interests and hopes on the things of this life, and to put far in the future that solemn day when the present order of things should pass away. {GC88 308.4} (1888)
When the Saviour pointed out to his followers the signs of his return, he foretold the state of backsliding that would exist just prior to his second advent. There would be, as in the days of Noah, the activity and stir of worldly business and pleasure-seeking—buying, selling, planting, building, marrying, and giving in marriage—with forgetfulness of God and the future life. For those living at this time, Christ’s admonition is: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.” “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” [Luke 21:34, 36.] {GC88 309.1} (1888)
The condition of the church at this time is pointed out in the Saviour’s words in the Revelation: “Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.” [Revelation 3:1, 3.] And to those who refuse to arouse from their careless security, the solemn warning is addressed: “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” [Revelation 3:1, 3.] {GC88 309.2} (1888)
It was needful that men should be awakened to their danger; that they should be roused to prepare for the solemn events connected with the close of probation. The prophet of God declares: “The day of the Lord is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?” [Joel 2:11.] Who shall stand when He appeareth who is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity?” [Habakkuk 1:13.] To them that cry, “My God, we know thee,” yet have transgressed his covenant, and hastened after another god, [Hosea 8:2, 1; Psalm 16:4.] hiding iniquity in their hearts, and loving the paths of unrighteousness, to these, the day of the Lord is “darkness, and not light, even very dark, and no brightness in it.” [Amos 5:20.] “It shall come to pass at that time,” saith the Lord, “that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees; that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil.” [Zephaniah 1:12.] “I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” [Isaiah 13:11.] “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them;” “their goods shall become a booty, and their houses a desolation.” [Zephaniah 1:18, 13.] {GC88 309.3} (1888)
The prophet Jeremiah, looking forward to this fearful time, exclaimed: “I am pained at my very heart.” “I cannot hold my peace, because thou hast heard, O my soul, the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Destruction upon destruction is cried.” [Jeremiah 4:19, 20.] {GC88 310.1} (1888)
“That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm.” [Zephaniah 1:15, 16.] “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, . . . to lay the land desolate, and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it.” [Isaiah 13:9.] {GC88 310.2} (1888)
In view of that great day the Word of God, in the most solemn and impressive language, calls upon his people to arouse from their spiritual lethargy, and to seek his face with repentance and humiliation: “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain. Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord cometh, for it is nigh at hand.” “Sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly. Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children. . . . Let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar.” “Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness.” [Joel 2:1, 15-18, 12, 13.] {GC88 310.3} (1888)
To prepare a people to stand in the day of God, a great work of reform was to be accomplished. God saw that many of his professed people were not building for eternity, and in his mercy he was about to send a message of warning to arouse them from their stupor, and lead them to make ready for the coming of their Lord. {GC88 311.1} (1888)
This warning is brought to view in Revelation 14. Here is a threefold message represented as proclaimed by heavenly beings, and immediately followed by the coming of the Son of man “to reap the harvest of the earth.” The first of these warnings announces the approaching Judgment. The prophet beheld an angel flying “in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his Judgment is come; and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” [Revelation 14:6, 7.] {GC88 311.2} (1888)
This message is declared to be a part of the “everlasting gospel.” The work of preaching the gospel has not been committed to angels, but has been intrusted to men. Holy angels have been employed in directing this work, they have in charge the great movements for the salvation of men; but the actual proclamation of the gospel is performed by the servants of Christ upon the earth. {GC88 311.3} (1888)
Faithful men, who were obedient to the promptings of God’s Spirit and the teachings of his Word, were to proclaim this warning to the world. They were those who had taken heed to the “sure word of prophecy,” the “light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise.” [2 Peter 1:19.] They had been seeking the knowledge of God more than all hid treasures, counting it “better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” [Proverbs 3:14.] And the Lord revealed to them the great things of the kingdom. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” [Psalm 25:14.] {GC88 311.4} (1888)
It was not the leaders in the church who had an understanding of this truth, and engaged in its proclamation. Had these been faithful watchmen, diligently and prayerfully searching the Scriptures, they would have known the time of night; the prophecies would have opened to them the events about to take place. But they did not occupy this position, and the message was given by another class. Said Jesus, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.” [John 12:35.] Those who turn away from the light which God has given, or who neglect to seek it when it is within their reach, are left in darkness. But the Saviour declares, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [John 8:12.] Whoever is with singleness of purpose seeking to do God’s will, earnestly heeding the light already given, will receive greater light; to that soul some star of heavenly radiance will be sent, to guide him into all truth. {GC88 312.1} (1888)
At the time of Christ’s first advent, the priests and scribes of the holy city, to whom were intrusted the oracles of God, might have discerned the signs of the times, and proclaimed the coming of the Promised One. The prophecy of Micah designated his birthplace; [Micah 5:2.] Daniel specified the time of his advent. [Daniel 9:25.] God had committed these prophecies to the Jewish leaders; they were without excuse if they did not know and declare to the people that the Messiah’s coming was at hand. Their ignorance was the result of sinful neglect. The Jews were building monuments for the slain prophets of God, while by their deference to the great men of earth they were paying homage to the servants of Satan. Absorbed in their ambitious strife for place and power among men, they lost sight of the divine honors proffered them by the King of Heaven. {GC88 312.2} (1888)
With profound and reverent interest the elders of Israel should have been studying the place, the time, the circumstances, of the greatest event in the world’s history,—the coming of the Son of God to accomplish the redemption of man. All the people should have been watching and waiting that they might be among the first to welcome the world’s Redeemer. But lo, at Bethlehem two weary travelers from the hills of Nazareth traverse the whole length of the narrow street to the eastern extremity of the town, vainly seeking a place of rest and shelter for the night. No doors are open to receive them. In a wretched hovel prepared for cattle, they at last find refuge, and there the Saviour of the world is born. {GC88 313.1} (1888)
Heavenly angels had seen the glory which the Son of God shared with the Father before the world was, and they had looked forward with intense interest to his appearing on earth as an event fraught with the greatest joy to all people. Angels were appointed to carry the glad tidings to those who were prepared to receive it, and who would joyfully make it known to the inhabitants of the earth. Christ had stooped to take upon himself man’s nature; he was to bear an infinite weight of woe as he should make his soul an offering for sin; yet angels desired that even in his humiliation, the Son of the Highest might appear before men with a dignity and glory befitting his character. Would the great men of earth assemble at Israel’s capital to greet his coming? Would legions of angels present him to the expectant company? {GC88 313.2} (1888)
An angel visits the earth to see who are prepared to welcome Jesus. But he can discern no tokens of expectancy. He hears no voice of praise and triumph that the period of Messiah’s coming is at hand. The angel hovers for a time over the chosen city and the temple where the divine presence was manifested for ages; but even here is the same indifference. The priests, in their pomp and pride, are offering polluted sacrifices in the temple. The Pharisees are with loud voices addressing the people, or making boastful prayers at the corners of the streets. In the palaces of kings, in the assemblies of philosophers, in the schools of the rabbis, all are alike unmindful of the wondrous fact which has filled all Heaven with joy and praise, that the Redeemer of men is about to appear upon the earth. {GC88 313.3} (1888)
There is no evidence that Christ is expected, and no preparation for the Prince of life. In amazement the celestial messenger is about to return to Heaven with the shameful tidings, when he discovers a group of shepherds who are watching their flocks by night, and, as they gaze into the starry heavens, are contemplating the prophecy of a Messiah to come to earth, and longing for the advent of the world’s Redeemer. Here is a company that are prepared to receive the heavenly message. And suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared, declaring the good tidings of great joy. Celestial glory flooded all the plain, an innumerable company of angels was revealed, and as if the joy were too great for one messenger to bring from Heaven, a multitude of voices broke forth in the anthem which all the nations of the saved shall one day sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will toward men.” [Luke 2:14.] {GC88 314.1} (1888)
Oh, what a lesson is this wonderful story of Bethlehem! How it rebukes our unbelief, our pride, and a self-sufficiency. How it warns us to beware, lest by our criminal indifference we also fail to discern the signs of the times, and therefore know not the day of our visitation. {GC88 314.2} (1888)
It was not alone upon the hills of Judea, not among the lowly shepherds only, that angels found the watchers for Messiah’s coming. In the land of the heathen also were those that looked for him; they were wise men, rich and noble, the philosophers of the East. Students of nature, the magi had seen God in his handiwork. From the Hebrew Scriptures they had learned of the Star to arise out of Jacob, and with eager desire they waited His coming, who should be not only the “Consolation of Israel,” but a “Light to lighten the Gentiles,” and “for salvation unto the ends of the earth.” [Luke 2:25, 32; Acts 13:47.] They were seekers for light, and light from the throne of God illumined the path for their feet. While the priests and rabbis of Jerusalem, the appointed guardians and expounders of the truth, were shrouded in darkness, the Heaven-sent star guided these Gentile strangers to the birthplace of the new-born King. {GC88 314.3} (1888)
It is “unto them that look for him” that Christ is to “appear the second time, without sin unto salvation.” [Hebrews 9:28.] Like the tidings of the Saviour’s birth, the message of the second advent was not committed to the religious leaders of the people. They had failed to preserve their connection with God, and had refused light from Heaven; therefore they were not of the number described by the apostle Paul: “But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness.” [1 Thessalonians 5:4, 5.] {GC88 315.1} (1888)
The watchmen upon the walls of Zion should have been the first to catch the tidings of the Saviour’s advent, the first to lift their voices to proclaim him near, the first to warn the people to prepare for his coming. But they were at ease, dreaming of peace and safety, while the people were asleep in their sins. Jesus saw his church, like the barren fig-tree, covered with pretentious leaves, yet destitute of precious fruit. There was a boastful observance of the forms of religion, while the spirit of true humility, penitence, and faith—which alone could render the service acceptable to God—was lacking. Instead of the graces of the Spirit, there were manifested pride, formalism, vainglory, selfishness, oppression. A backsliding church closed their eyes to the signs of the times. God did not forsake them, or suffer his faithfulness to fail; but they departed from him, and separated themselves from his love. As they refused to comply with the conditions, his promises were not fulfilled to them. {GC88 315.2} (1888)
Such is the sure result of neglect to appreciate and improve the light and privileges which God bestows. Unless the church will follow on in his opening providence, accepting every ray of light, performing every duty which may be revealed, religion will inevitably degenerate into the observance of forms, and the spirit of vital godliness will disappear. This truth has been repeatedly illustrated in the history of the church. God requires of his people works of faith and obedience corresponding to the blessings and privileges bestowed. Obedience requires a sacrifice and involves a cross; and this is why so many of the professed followers of Christ refused to receive the light from Heaven, and, like the Jews of old, knew not the time of their visitation. [Luke 19:44.] Because of their pride and unbelief, the Lord passed them by and revealed his truth to those who, like the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Eastern magi, had given heed to all the light they had received. {GC88 316.1} (1888)
Chapter XVIII – An American Reformer
An upright, honest-hearted farmer, who had been led to doubt the divine authority of the Scriptures, yet who sincerely desired to know the truth, was the man specially chosen of God to lead out in the proclamation of Christ’s second coming. Like many other reformers, William Miller had in early life battled with poverty, and had thus learned the great lessons of energy and self-denial. The members of the family from which he sprung were characterized by an independent, liberty-loving spirit, by capability of endurance, and ardent patriotism; traits which were also prominent in his character. His father was a captain in the army of the Revolution, and to the sacrifices which he made in the struggles and sufferings of that stormy period, may be traced the straitened circumstances of Miller’s early life. {GC88 317.1} (1888)
He had a sound physical constitution, and even in childhood gave evidence of more than ordinary intellectual strength. As he grew older, this became more marked. His mind was active and well-developed, and he had a keen thirst for knowledge. Though he did not enjoy the advantages of a collegiate education, his love of study and a habit of careful thought and close criticism rendered him a man of sound judgment and comprehensive views. He possessed an irreproachable moral character and an enviable reputation, being generally esteemed for integrity, thrift, and benevolence. By dint of energy and application he early acquired a competence, though his habits of study were still maintained. He filled various civil and military offices with credit, and the avenues to wealth and honor seemed wide open to him. {GC88 317.2} (1888)
His mother was a woman of sterling piety, and in childhood he had been subject to religious impressions. In early manhood, however, he was thrown into the society of deists, whose influence was the stronger from the fact that they were mostly good citizens, and men of humane and benevolent disposition. Living, as they did, in the midst of Christian institutions, their characters had been to some extent moulded by their surroundings. For the excellencies which won them respect and confidence they were indebted to the Bible; and yet these good gifts were so perverted as to exert an influence against the Word of God. By association with these men, Miller was led to adopt their sentiments. The current interpretations of Scripture presented difficulties which seemed to him insurmountable; yet his new belief, while setting aside the Bible, offered nothing better to take its place, and he remained far from satisfied. He continued to hold these views, however, for about twelve years. But 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 belief no assurance of happiness beyond the grave. The future was dark and gloomy. Referring afterward to his feelings at this time, he said:— {GC88 318.1} (1888)
“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 where or how to find the right. I mourned, but without hope.” {GC88 318.2} (1888)
In this state he continued for some months. “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, 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.” {GC88 318.3} (1888)
“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 a lamp to my feet and a 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 ever have 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.” {GC88 319.1} (1888)
He now publicly professed his faith in the religion which he had despised. But his infidel associates were not slow to bring forward all those arguments which he himself had often urged against the divine authority of the Scriptures. He was not then prepared to answer them; but he reasoned, that if the Bible is a revelation from God, it must be consistent with itself; and that as it was given for man’s instruction, it must be adapted to his understanding. He determined to study the Scriptures for himself, and ascertain if every apparent contradiction could not be harmonized. {GC88 319.2} (1888)
Endeavoring to lay aside all preconceived opinions, and dispensing with commentaries, he compared scripture with scripture by the aid of the marginal references and the concordance. He pursued his study in a regular and methodical manner; beginning with Genesis, and reading verse by verse, he proceeded no faster than the meaning of the several passages so unfolded as to leave him free from all embarrassment. When he found anything obscure, it was his custom to compare it with every other text which seemed to have any reference to the matter under consideration. Every word was permitted to have its proper bearing upon the subject of the text, and if his view of it harmonized with every collateral passage, it ceased to be a difficulty. Thus whenever he met with a passage hard to be understood, he found an explanation in some other portion of the Scriptures. As he studied with earnest prayer for divine enlightenment, that which had before appeared dark to his understanding was made clear. He experienced the truth of the psalmist’s words, “The entrance of Thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” [Psalm 119:130.] {GC88 320.1} (1888)
With intense interest he studied the book of Daniel and the Revelation, employing the same principles of interpretation as in the other scriptures, and found, to his great joy, that the prophetic symbols could be understood. He saw that the prophecies, so far as they had been fulfilled, had been fulfilled literally; that all the various figures, metaphors, parables, similitudes, etc., were either explained in their immediate connection, or the terms in which they were expressed were defined in other scriptures; and when thus explained were to be literally understood. “Thus I was satisfied,” he says, “that the Bible was a system of revealed truth so clearly and simply given that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.” Link after link of the chain of truth rewarded his efforts, as step by step he traced down the great lines of prophecy. Angels of Heaven were guiding his mind and opening the Scriptures to his understanding. {GC88 320.2} (1888)
Taking the manner in which the prophecies had been fulfilled in the past, as a criterion by which to judge of the fulfillment of those which were still future, he became satisfied that the popular view of the spiritual reign of Christ—a temporal millennium before the end of the world—was not sustained by the Word of God. This doctrine, pointing to a thousand years of righteousness and peace before the personal coming of the Lord, put far off the terrors of the day of God. But, pleasing though it may be, it is contrary to the teachings of Christ and his apostles, who declared that the wheat and the tares are to grow together until the harvest, the end of the world; [Matthew 13:30, 38-41.] that “evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse;” [2 Timothy 3:13, 1.] that “in the last days perilous times shall come;” [2 Timothy 3:13, 1.] and that the kingdom of darkness shall continue until the advent of the Lord, and shall be consumed with the spirit of his mouth, and be destroyed with the brightness of his coming. [2 Thessalonians 2:8.] The doctrine of the world’s conversion and the spiritual reign of Christ was not held by the apostolic church. It was not generally accepted by Christians until about the beginning of the eighteenth century. Like every other error, its results were evil. It taught men to look far in the future for the coming of the Lord, and prevented them from giving heed to the signs heralding his approach. It induced a feeling of confidence and security that was not well founded, and led many to neglect the preparation necessary in order to meet their Lord. {GC88 321.1} (1888)
Miller found the literal, personal coming of Christ to be plainly taught in the Scriptures. Says Paul, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16.] And the Saviour declares: “They shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” [Matthew 24:30, 27.] He is to be accompanied by all the hosts of Heaven. “The Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him.” “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect.” [Matthew 25:31; 24:31.] {GC88 321.2} (1888)
At his coming the righteous dead will be raised, and the righteous living will be changed. “We shall not all sleep,” says Paul, “but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” [1 Corinthians 15:51-53.] And in his letter to the Thessalonians, after describing the coming of the Lord, he says: “The dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” [1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17.] {GC88 322.1} (1888)
Not until the personal advent of Christ can his people receive the kingdom. The Saviour said: “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” [Matthew 25:31-34.] We have seen by the scriptures just given that when the Son of man comes, the dead are raised incorruptible, and the living are changed. By this great change they are prepared to receive the kingdom; for Paul says, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” [1 Corinthians 15:50.] Man in his present state is mortal, corruptible; but the kingdom of God will be incorruptible, enduring forever. Therefore man in his present state cannot enter into the kingdom of God. But when Jesus comes, he confers immortality upon his people; and then he calls them to inherit the kingdom, of which they have hitherto been only heirs. {GC88 322.2} (1888)
These and other scriptures clearly proved to Miller’s mind, that the events which were generally expected to take place before the coming of Christ, such as the universal reign of peace, and the setting up of the kingdom of God upon the earth, were to be subsequent to the second advent. Furthermore, all the signs of the times and the condition of the world corresponded to the prophetic description of the last days. He was forced to the conclusion, from the study of Scripture alone, that the period allotted for the continuance of the earth in its present state was about to close. {GC88 323.1} (1888)
“Another evidence that vitally affected my mind,” he says, “was the chronology of the Scriptures. I found that predicted events, which had been fulfilled in the past, often occurred within a given time. The one hundred and twenty years to the flood, Genesis 6:3; the seven days that were to precede it, with forty days of predicted rain, Genesis 7:4; the four hundred years of the sojourn of Abraham’s seed, Genesis 15:13; the three days of the butler’s and baker’s dreams, Genesis 40:12-20; the seven years of Pharaoh’s, Genesis 41:28-54; the forty years in the wilderness, Numbers 14:34; the three and a half years of famine, 1 Kings 17:1; [See Luke 4:25.] the seventy years’ captivity, Jeremiah 25:11; Nebuchadnezzar’s seven times, Daniel 4:13-16; and the seven weeks, threescore and two weeks, and the one week, making seventy weeks, determined upon the Jews, Daniel 9:24-27; the events limited by these times were all once only a matter of prophecy, and were fulfilled in accordance with the predictions.” {GC88 323.2} (1888)
When, therefore, he found in his study of the Bible, various chronological periods that, according to his understanding of them, extended to the second coming of Christ, he could not but regard them as the “times before appointed,” which God had revealed unto his servants. “The secret things,” says Moses, “belong unto the Lord our God; but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever,” [Deuteronomy 29:29.] and the Lord declares by the prophet Amos, that he “will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” [Amos 3:7.] The students of God’s Word may then confidently expect to find the most stupendous event to take place in human history clearly pointed out in the Scriptures of truth. {GC88 323.3} (1888)
“As I was fully convinced,” says Miller, “that all Scripture given by inspiration of God is profitable; [2 Timothy 3:16.] that it came not at any time by the will of man, but was written as holy men were moved by the Holy Ghost, [2 Peter 1:21.] and was written ‘for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope, [Romans 15:4.] I could not but regard the chronological portions of the Bible as being as much entitled to our serious consideration as any other portion of the Scriptures. I felt therefore that in endeavoring to comprehend what God in his mercy had seen fit to reveal to us, I had no right to pass over the prophetic periods.” {GC88 324.1} (1888)
The prophecy which seemed most clearly to reveal the time of the second advent was that of Daniel 8:14: “Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” Following his rule of making Scripture its own interpreter, Miller learned that a day in symbolic prophecy represents a year; [Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6.] he saw that the period of 2300 prophetic days, or literal years, would extend far beyond the close of the Jewish dispensation, hence it could not refer to the sanctuary of that dispensation. Miller accepted the generally received view, that in the Christian age the earth is the sanctuary, and he therefore understood that the cleansing of the sanctuary foretold in Daniel 8:14,represented the purification of the earth by fire at the second coming of Christ. If, then, the correct starting-point could be found for the 2300 days, he concluded that the time of the second advent could be readily ascertained. Thus would be revealed the time of that great consummation, “the time when the present state, with all its pride and power, its pomp and vanity, wickedness and oppression, would come to an end; . . . when the curse would be removed from off the earth, when death would be destroyed, reward be given to the servants of God, to the prophets and saints, and all them that fear his name, and those be destroyed who destroy the earth.” {GC88 324.2} (1888)
With a new and deeper earnestness, Miller continued the examination of the prophecies, whole nights as well as days being devoted to the study of what now appeared of such stupendous importance and all-absorbing interest. In the eighth chapter of Daniel he could find no clue to the starting-point of the 2300 days; the angel Gabriel, though commanded to make Daniel understand the vision, gave him only a partial explanation. As the terrible persecution to befall the church was unfolded to the prophet’s vision, physical strength gave way. He could endure no more, and the angel left him for the time. Daniel “fainted, and was sick certain days.” “And I was astonished at the vision,” he says, “but none understood it.” {GC88 325.1} (1888)
Yet God had bidden his messenger, “Make this man to understand the vision.” That commission must be fulfilled. In obedience to it, the angel, some time afterward, returned to Daniel, saying, “I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding;” “therefore understand the matter, and consider the vision.” [Daniel 9:22, 23, 25-27.] There was only one point in the vision of chapter eight which had been left unexplained, namely, that relating to time,—the period of the 2300 days; therefore, the angel, in resuming his explanation, dwells exclusively upon the subject of time:— {GC88 325.2} (1888)
“Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city. . . . Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself. . . . And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week; and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” {GC88 325.3} (1888)
The angel had been sent to Daniel for the express purpose of explaining to him the point which he had failed to understand in the vision of the eighth chapter, the statement relative to time,—“Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” After bidding Daniel “understand the matter, and consider the vision,” the very first words of the angel are, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city.” The word here translated “determined,” literally signifies “cut off.” Seventy weeks, representing 490 years, are declared by the angel to be cut off, as specially pertaining to the Jews. But from what were they cut off? As the 2300 days was the only period of time mentioned in chapter eight, it must be the period from which the seventy weeks were cut off; the seventy weeks must therefore be a part of the 2300 days, and the two periods must begin together. The seventy weeks were declared by the angel to date from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem. If the date of this commandment could be found, then the starting-point for the great period of the 2300 days would be ascertained. {GC88 326.1} (1888)
In the seventh chapter of Ezra the decree is found. [Ezra 7:12-26.] In its completest form it was issued by Artaxerxes, king of Persia, B. C. 457. But in Ezra 6:14 the house of the Lord at Jerusalem is said to have been built “according to the commandment [margin, decree] of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia.” These three kings, in originating, re-affirming, and completing the decree, brought it to the perfection required by the prophecy to mark the beginning of the 2300 years. Taking B. C. 457, the time when the decree was completed, as the date of the commandment, every specification of the prophecy concerning the seventy weeks was seen to have been fulfilled. {GC88 326.2} (1888)
“From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks,”—namely, sixty-nine weeks, or 483 years. The decree of Artaxerxes went into effect in the autumn of B. C. 457. From this date, 483 years extend to the autumn of A. D. 27. [SEE APPENDIX, NOTE 3; ALSO DIAGRAM OPPOSITE P. 328.] At that time this prophecy was fulfilled. The word “Messiah” signifies “the Anointed One.” In the autumn of A. D. 27, Christ was baptized by John, and received the anointing of the Spirit. The apostle Peter testifies that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power.” [Acts 10:38.] And the Saviour himself declared, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor.” [Luke 4:18.] After his baptism he came into Galilee, “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled.” [Mark 1:14, 15.] {GC88 327.1} (1888)
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week.” The “week” here brought to view is the last one of the seventy; it is the last seven years of the period allotted especially to the Jews. During this time, extending from A. D. 27 to A. D. 34, Christ, at first in person, and afterward by his disciples, extended the gospel invitation especially to the Jews. As the apostles went forth with the good tidings of the kingdom, the Saviour’s direction was, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. [Matthew 10:5, 6.] {GC88 327.2} (1888)
“And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” In A. D. 31, three and a half years after his baptism, our Lord was crucified. With the great sacrifice offered upon Calvary, ended that system of offerings which for four thousand years had pointed forward to the Lamb of God. Type had met antitype, and all the sacrifices and oblations of the ceremonial system were there to cease. {GC88 327.3} (1888)
The seventy weeks, or 490 years, especially allotted to the Jews, ended, as we have seen, in A. D. 34. At that time, through the action of the Jewish Sanhedrim, the nation sealed its rejection of the gospel, by the martyrdom of Stephen and the persecution of the followers of Christ. Then the message of salvation, no longer restricted to the chosen people, was given to the world. The disciples, forced by persecution to flee from Jerusalem, “went everywhere preaching the Word.” “Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” [Acts 8:4, 5; 22:21.] Peter, divinely guided, opened the gospel to the centurion of Cesarea, the God-fearing Cornelius; and the ardent Paul, won to the faith of Christ, was commissioned to carry the glad tidings “far hence unto the Gentiles.” [Acts 8:4, 5; 22:21.] {GC88 328.1} (1888)
Thus far every specification of the prophecy is strikingly fulfilled, and the beginning of the seventy weeks is fixed beyond question at B. C. 457, and their expiration in A. D. 34. From this data there is no difficulty in finding the termination of the 2300 days. The seventy weeks—490 days—having been cut off from the 2300, there were 1810 days remaining. After the end of 490 days, the 1810 days were still to be fulfilled. From A. D. 34, 1810 years extend to 1844. Consequently the 2300 days of Daniel 8:14 terminate in 1844. At the expiration of this great prophetic period, upon the testimony of the angel of God, “the sanctuary shall be cleansed.” Thus the time of the cleansing of the sanctuary —which was almost universally believed to take place at the second advent—was definitely pointed out. {GC88 328.2} (1888)
Miller and his associates at first believed that the 2300 days would terminate in the spring of 1844, whereas the prophecy points to the autumn of that year. [SEE DIAGRAM, NEXT PAGE; ALSO APPENDIX, NOTE 3.] The misapprehension of this point brought disappointment and perplexity to those who had fixed upon the earlier date as the time of the Lord’s coming. But this did not in the least affect the strength of the argument showing that the 2300 days terminated in the year 1844, and that the great event represented by the cleansing of the sanctuary must then take place. {GC88 328.3} (1888)
Entering upon the study of the Scriptures as he had done, in order to prove that they were a revelation from God, Miller had not, at the outset, the slightest expectation of reaching the conclusion at which he had now arrived. He himself could hardly credit the results of his investigation. But the Scripture evidence was too clear and forcible to be set aside. {GC88 329.1} (1888)
He had devoted two years to the study of the Bible, when, in 1818, he reached the solemn conviction that in about twenty-five years Christ would appear for the redemption of his people. “I need not speak,” says Miller, “of the joy that filled my heart in view of the delightful prospect, nor of the ardent longings of my soul for a participation in the joys of the redeemed. The Bible was now to me a new book. It was indeed a feast of reason; all that was dark, mystical, or obscure, to me, in its teachings, had been dissipated from my mind before the clear light that now dawned from its sacred pages; and oh, how bright and glorious the truth appeared! All the contradictions and inconsistencies I had before found in the Word were gone; and, although there were many portions of which I was not satisfied that I had a full understanding, yet so much light had emanated from it to the illumination of my before darkened mind, that I felt a delight in studying the Scriptures which I had not before supposed could be derived from its teachings.” {GC88 329.2} (1888)
“With the solemn conviction that such momentous events were predicted in the Scriptures to be fulfilled in so short a space of time, the question came home to me with mighty power regarding my duty to the world in view of the evidence that had affected my own mind.” He could not but feel that it was his duty to impart to others the light which he had received. He expected to encounter opposition from the ungodly, but was confident that all Christians would rejoice in the hope of meeting the Saviour whom they professed to love. His only fear was, that in their great joy at the prospect of glorious deliverance, so soon to be consummated, many would receive the doctrine without sufficiently examining the Scriptures in demonstration of its truth. He therefore hesitated to present it, lest he should be in error, and be the means of misleading others. He was thus led to review the evidences in support of the conclusions at which he had arrived, and to consider carefully every difficulty which presented itself to his mind. He found that objections vanished before the light of God’s Word, as mist before the rays of the sun. Five years spent thus, left him fully convinced of the correctness of his position. {GC88 329.3} (1888)
And now the duty of making known to others what he believed to be so clearly taught in the Scriptures, urged itself with new force upon him. “When I was about my business,” he said, “it was continually ringing in my ears, Go and tell the world of their danger. This text was constantly occurring to me: ‘When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it; if he do not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.’ [Ezekiel 33:8, 9.] I felt that if the wicked could be effectually warned, multitudes of them would repent; and that if they were not warned, their blood might be required at my hand.” {GC88 330.1} (1888)
He began to present his views in private as he had opportunity, praying that some minister might feel their force and devote himself to their promulgation. But he could not banish the conviction that he had a personal duty to perform in giving the warning. The words were ever recurring to his mind, “Go and tell it to the world; their blood will I require at thy hand.” For nine years he waited, the burden still pressing upon his soul, until in 1831 he for the first time publicly gave the reasons of his faith. {GC88 330.2} (1888)
As Elisha was called from following his oxen in the field, to receive the mantle of consecration to the prophetic office, so was William Miller called to leave his plow, and open to the people the mysteries of the kingdom of God. With trembling he entered upon his work, leading his hearers down, step by step, through the prophetic periods to the second appearing of Christ. With every effort he gained strength and courage as he saw the widespread interest excited by his words. {GC88 331.1} (1888)
It was only at the solicitation of his brethren, in whose words he heard the call of God, that Miller consented to present his views in public. He was now fifty years of age, unaccustomed to public speaking, and burdened with a sense of unfitness for the work before him. But from the first his labors were blessed in a remarkable manner to the salvation of souls. His first lecture was followed by a religious awakening, in which thirty entire families, with the exception of two persons, were converted. He was immediately urged to speak in other places, and in nearly every place his labor resulted in a revival of the work of God. Sinners were converted, Christians were roused to greater consecration, and deists and infidels were led to acknowledge the truth of the Bible and the Christian religion. The testimony of those among whom he labored was: “A class of minds are reached by him that are not within the influence of other men.” “His preaching is calculated to arouse the public mind to the great things of religion, and to check the growing worldliness and sensuality of the age.” {GC88 331.2} (1888)
In nearly every town there were scores, in some, hundreds, converted as the result of his preaching. In many places Protestant churches of nearly all denominations were thrown open to him; and the invitations to labor usually came from the ministers of the several congregations. It was his invariable rule not to labor in any place to which he had not been invited, yet he soon found himself unable to comply with half the requests that poured in upon him. {GC88 331.3} (1888)
Many who did not accept his views as to the exact time of the second advent, were convinced of the certainty and nearness of Christ’s coming and their need of preparation. In some of the large cities his work produced a marked impression. Liquor-dealers abandoned the traffic, and turned their shops into meeting-rooms; gambling dens were broken up, infidels, deists, Universalists, and the most abandoned profligates were reformed—some of whom had not entered a house of worship of years. Prayer-meetings were established by the various denominations, in different quarters, at almost every hour, business men assembling at midday for prayer and praise. There was no extravagant excitement, but an almost universal solemnity on the minds of the people. His work, like that of the early reformers, tended rather to convince the understanding and arouse the conscience than merely to excite the emotions. {GC88 332.1} (1888)
In 1833 Miller received a license to preach, from the Baptist Church, of which he was a member. A large number of the ministers of his denomination also approved his work, and it was with their formal sanction that he continued his labors. {GC88 332.2} (1888)
He traveled and preached unceasingly, though his personal labors were confined principally to the New England and Middle States. For several years his expenses were met wholly from his own private purse, and he never afterward received enough to meet the expense of travel to the places where he was invited. Thus his public labors, so far from being a pecuniary benefit, were a heavy tax upon his property, which gradually diminished during this period of his life. He was the father of a large family, but as they were all frugal and industrious, his farm sufficed for their maintenance as well as his own. {GC88 332.3} (1888)
In 1833, two years after Miller began to present in public the evidences of Christ’s soon coming, the last of the signs appeared which were promised by the Saviour as tokens of his second advent. Said Jesus, “The stars shall fall from heaven.” [Matthew 24:29.] And John in the Revelation declared, as he beheld in vision the scenes that herald the day of God: “The stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig-tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind.” [Revelation 6:13.] This prophecy received a striking and impressive fulfillment in the great meteoric shower of November 13, 1833. That was the most extensive and wonderful display of falling stars which has ever been recorded; “the whole firmament, over all the United States, being then, for hours, in fiery commotion. No celestial phenomenon has ever occurred in this country, since its first settlement, which was viewed with such intense admiration by one class in the community, or such dread and alarm by another.” “Its sublimity and awful beauty still linger in many minds. . . . Never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell toward the earth; east, west, north, and south, it was the same. In a word, the whole heavens seemed in motion. . . . The display, as described in Professor Silliman’s journal, was seen all over North America. . . . From two o’clock until broad daylight, the sky being perfectly serene and cloudless, an incessant play of dazzlingly brilliant luminosities was kept up in the whole heavens.” {GC88 332.4} (1888)
“No language indeed can come up to the splendor of that magnificent display; no one who did not witness it can form an adequate conception of its glory. It seemed as if the whole starry heavens had congregated at one point near the zenith, and were simultaneously shooting forth, with the velocity of lightning, to every part of the horizon; and yet they were not exhausted—thousands swiftly followed in the track of thousands, as if created for the occasion.” “A more correct picture of a fig-tree casting its figs when blown by a mighty wind, it is not possible to behold.” {GC88 333.1} (1888)
On the day following its appearance, Henry Dana Ward wrote thus of the wonderful phenomenon: “No philosopher or scholar has told or recorded an event, I suppose, like that of yesterday morning. A prophet eighteen hundred years ago foretold it exactly, if we will be at the trouble of understanding stars falling to mean falling stars, in the only sense in which it is possible to be literally true.” {GC88 334.1} (1888)
Thus was displayed the last of those signs of his coming, concerning which Jesus bade his disciples, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” [Matthew 24:33.] After these signs, John beheld, as the great event next impending, the heavens departing as a scroll, while the earth quaked, mountains and islands removed out of their places, and the wicked in terror sought to flee from the presence of the Son of man. {GC88 334.2} (1888)
Many who witnessed the falling of the stars, looked upon it as a herald of the coming Judgment,—“an awful type, a sure forerunner, a merciful sign, of that great and dreadful day.” Thus the attention of the people was directed to the fulfillment of prophecy, and many were led to give heed to the warning of the second advent. {GC88 334.3} (1888)
In the year 1840, another remarkable fulfillment of prophecy excited widespread interest. Two years before, Josiah Litch, one of the leading ministers preaching the second advent, published an exposition of Revelation 9, predicting the fall of the Ottoman empire, and specifying not only the year but the very day on which this would take place. According to this exposition, which was purely a matter of calculation on the prophetic periods of Scripture, the Turkish government would surrender its independence on the eleventh day of August, 1840. The prediction was widely published, and thousands watched the course of events with eager interest. {GC88 334.4} (1888)
At the very time specified, Turkey, through her ambassadors, accepted the protection of the allied powers of Europe, and thus placed herself under the control of Christian nations. The event exactly fulfilled the prediction. When it became known, multitudes were convinced of the correctness of the principles of prophetic interpretation adopted by Miller and his associates, and a wonderful impetus was given to the Advent movement. Men of learning and position united with Miller, both in preaching and publishing his views, and from 1840 to 1844 the work rapidly extended. {GC88 334.5} (1888)
William Miller possessed strong mental powers, disciplined by thought and study; and he added to these the wisdom of Heaven, by connecting himself with the Source of wisdom. He was a man of sterling worth, who could not but command respect and esteem wherever integrity of character and moral excellence were valued. Uniting true kindness of heart with Christian humility and the power of self-control, he was attentive and affable to all, ready to listen to the opinions of others, and to weigh their arguments. Without passion or excitement, he tested all theories and doctrines by the Word of God; and his sound reasoning, and thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, enabled him to refute error and expose falsehood. {GC88 335.1} (1888)
Yet he did not prosecute his work without bitter opposition. As with earlier reformers, the truths which he presented were not received with favor by popular religious teachers. As these could not maintain their position by the Scriptures, they were driven to resort to the sayings and doctrines of men, to the traditions of the Fathers. But the Word of God was the only testimony accepted by the preachers of the Advent truth. “The Bible, and the Bible only,” was their watchword. The lack of Scripture argument on the part of their opponents was supplied by ridicule and scoffing. Time, means, and talents were employed in maligning those whose only offense was that they looked with joy for the return of their Lord, and were striving to live holy lives, and to exhort others to prepare for his appearing. {GC88 335.2} (1888)
Earnest were the efforts put forth to draw away the minds of the people from the subject of the second advent. It was made to appear a sin, something of which men should be ashamed, to study the prophecies which relate to the coming of Christ and the end of the world. Thus the popular ministry undermined faith in the Word of God. Their teaching made men infidels, and many took license to walk after their own ungodly lusts. Then the authors of the evil charged it all upon Adventists. {GC88 335.3} (1888)
While drawing crowded houses of intelligent and attentive hearers, Miller’s name was seldom mentioned by the religious press except by way of ridicule or denunciation. The careless and ungodly, emboldened by the position of religious teachers, resorted to opprobrious epithets, to base and blasphemous witticisms, in their efforts to heap contumely upon him and his work. The gray-headed man who had left a comfortable home to travel at his own expense from city to city, from town to town, toiling unceasingly to bear to the world the solemn warning of the Judgment near, was sneeringly denounced as a fanatic, a liar, a speculating knave. {GC88 336.1} (1888)
The ridicule, falsehood, and abuse heaped upon him called forth indignant remonstrance, even from the secular press. To treat a subject of such overwhelming majesty and fearful consequences, with lightness and ribaldry, was declared by worldly men to be not merely to sport with the feelings of its advocates, but “to make a jest of the day of Judgment, to scoff at God himself, and to mock the terrors of his Judgment-bar.” {GC88 336.2} (1888)
The instigator of all evil sought not only to counteract the effect of the Advent message, but to destroy the messenger himself. Miller made a practical application of Scripture truth to the hearts of his hearers, reproving their sins, and disturbing their self-satisfaction, and his plain and cutting words aroused their enmity. The opposition manifested by church-members toward his message, emboldened the baser classes to go to greater lengths; and enemies plotted to take his life as he should leave the place of meeting. But holy angels were in the throng, and one of these, in the form of a man, took the arm of this servant of the Lord, and led him in safety from the angry mob. His work was not yet done, and Satan and his emissaries were disappointed in their purpose. {GC88 336.3} (1888)
Despite all opposition, the interest in the Advent movement had continued to increase. From scores and hundreds, the congregations had grown to as many thousands. Large accessions had been made to the various churches, but after a time the spirit of opposition was manifested even against these converts, and the churches began to take disciplinary steps with those who had embraced Miller’s views. This action called forth a response from his pen, in an address to Christians of all denominations, urging that if his doctrines were false he should be shown his error from the Scriptures. {GC88 337.1} (1888)
“What have we believed,” he said, “that we have not been commanded to believe by the Word of God, which you yourselves allow is the rule, and the only rule, of our faith and practice? What have we done that should call down such virulent denunciations against us from pulpit and press, and give you just cause to exclude us [Adventists] from your church and fellowship?” “If we are wrong, pray show us wherein consists our wrong. Show us from the Word of God that we are in error; we have had ridicule enough; that can never convince us that we are in the wrong; the Word of God alone can change our views. Our conclusions have been formed deliberately and prayerfully, as we have seen the evidence in the Scriptures.” {GC88 337.2} (1888)
From age to age the warnings which God has sent to the world by his servants have been received with like incredulity and unbelief. When the iniquity of the antediluvians moved him to bring a flood of waters upon the earth, he first made known to them his purpose, that they might have opportunity to turn from their evil ways. For a hundred and twenty years was sounded in their ears the warning to repent, lest the wrath of God be manifested in their destruction. But the message seemed to them an idle tale, and they believed it not. Emboldened in their wickedness, they mocked the messenger of God, made light of his entreaties, and even accused him of presumption. How dare one man stand up against all the great men of the earth? If Noah’s message were true, why did not all the world see it and believe it? One man’s assertion against the wisdom of thousands! They would not credit the warning, nor would they seek shelter in the ark. {GC88 337.3} (1888)
Scoffers pointed to the things of nature,—to the unvarying succession of the seasons, to the blue skies that had never poured out rain, to the green fields refreshed by the soft dews of night,—and they cried out, “Doth he not speak parables?” In contempt they declared the preacher of righteousness to be a wild enthusiast; and they went on, more eager in their pursuit of pleasure, more intent upon their evil ways, than ever before. But their unbelief did not hinder the predicted event. God bore long with their wickedness, giving them ample opportunity for repentance; but at the appointed time his judgments were visited upon the rejecters of his mercy. {GC88 338.1} (1888)
Christ declares that there will exist similar unbelief concerning his second coming. As the people of Noah’s day “knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so,” in the words of our Saviour, “shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” [Matthew 24:39.] When the professed people of God are uniting with the world, living as they live, and joining with them in forbidden pleasure; when the luxury of the world becomes the luxury of the church; when the marriage bells are chiming, and all are looking forward to many years of worldly prosperity,—then, suddenly as the lightning flashes from the heavens, will come the end of their bright visions and delusive hopes. {GC88 338.2} (1888)
As God sent his servant to warn the world of the coming flood, so he sent chosen messengers to make known the nearness of the final Judgment. And as Noah’s contemporaries laughed to scorn the predictions of the preacher of righteousness, so in Miller’s day many, even of the professed people of God, scoffed at the words of warning. {GC88 338.3} (1888)
And why were the doctrine and preaching of Christ’s second coming so unwelcome to the churches? While to the wicked the advent of the Lord brings woe and desolation, to the righteous it is fraught with joy and hope. This great truth had been the consolation of God’s faithful ones through all the ages; why had it become, like its Author, “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” to his professed people? It was our Lord himself who promised his disciples, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself.” [John 14:3.] It was the compassionate Saviour, who, anticipating the loneliness and sorrow of his followers, commissioned angels to comfort them with the assurance that he would come again in person, even as he went into heaven. As the disciples stood gazing intently upward to catch the last glimpse of him whom they loved, their attention was arrested by the words, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” [Acts 1:11.] Hope was kindled afresh by the angels’ message. The disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.” [Luke 24:52, 53.] They were not rejoicing because Jesus had been separated from them and they were left to struggle with the trials and temptations of the world, but because of the angels’ assurance that he would come again. {GC88 339.1} (1888)
The proclamation of Christ’s coming should now be, as when made by the angels to the shepherds of Bethlehem, good tidings of great joy. Those who really love the Saviour cannot but hail with gladness the announcement founded upon the Word of God, that he in whom their hopes of eternal life are centered, is coming again, not to be insulted, despised, and rejected, as at his first advent, but in power and glory, to redeem his people. It is those who do not love the Saviour, that desire him to remain away; and there can be no more conclusive evidence that the churches have departed from God than the irritation and animosity excited by this Heaven-sent message. {GC88 339.2} (1888)
Those who accepted the Advent doctrine were roused to the necessity of repentance and humiliation before God. Many had long been halting between Christ and the world; “now they felt that 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. Christians were quickened to new spiritual life. They were made to feel that time was short, that what they had to do for their fellow-men must be done quickly. Earth receded, eternity seemed to open before them, and the soul, with all that pertains to its immortal weal or woe, was felt to eclipse every temporal object.” The Spirit of God rested upon them, and gave power to their earnest appeals to their brethren, as well as to sinners, to prepare for the day of God. The silent testimony of their daily life was a constant rebuke to formal and unconsecrated church-members. These did not wish to be disturbed in their pursuit of pleasure, their devotion to money-making, and their ambition for worldly honor. Hence the enmity and opposition excited against the Advent faith and those who proclaimed it. {GC88 340.1} (1888)
As the arguments from the prophetic periods were found to be impregnable, opposers endeavored to discourage investigation of the subject, by teaching that the prophecies were sealed. Thus Protestants followed in the steps of Romanists. While the papal church withholds the Bible from the people, Protestant churches claimed that an important part of the sacred Word—and that the part which brings to view truths specially applicable to our time—could not be understood. {GC88 340.2} (1888)
Ministers and people declared that the prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation were incomprehensible mysteries. But Christ directed his disciples to the words of the prophet Daniel concerning events to take place in their time, and said, “Whoso readeth, let him understand.” [Matthew 24:15.] And the assertion that the Revelation is a mystery, not to be understood, is contradicted by the very title of the book: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass. . . . Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein; for the time is at hand.” [Revelation 1:1-3.] {GC88 340.3} (1888)
Says the prophet: “Blessed is he that readeth”—there are those who will not read; the blessing is not for them. “And they that hear”—there are some, also, who refuse to hear anything concerning the prophecies; the blessing is not for this class. “And keep those things which are written therein” —many refuse to heed the warnings and instructions contained in the Revelation. None of these can claim the blessing promised. All who ridicule the subjects of the prophecy, and mock at the symbols here solemnly given, all who refuse to reform their lives, and prepare for the coming of the Son of man, will be unblest. {GC88 341.1} (1888)
In view of the testimony of Inspiration, how dare men teach that the Revelation is a mystery, beyond the reach of human understanding? It is a mystery revealed, a book opened. The study of the Revelation directs the mind to the prophecies of Daniel, and both present most important instruction, given of God to men, concerning events to take place at the close of this world’s history. {GC88 341.2} (1888)
To John were opened scenes of deep and thrilling interest in the experience of the church. He saw the position, dangers, conflicts, and final deliverance of the people of God. He records the closing messages which are to ripen the harvest of the earth, either as sheaves for the heavenly garner or as fagots for the fires of destruction. Subjects of vast importance were revealed to him, especially for the last church, that those who should turn from error to truth might be instructed concerning the perils and conflicts before them. None need be in darkness in regard to what is coming upon the earth. {GC88 341.3} (1888)
Why, then, this widespread ignorance concerning an important part of Holy Writ? Why this general reluctance to investigate its teachings? It is the result of a studied effort of the prince of darkness to conceal from men that which reveals his deceptions. For this reason, Christ the Revelator, foreseeing the warfare that would be waged against the study of the Revelation, pronounced a blessing upon all who should read, hear, and observe the words of the prophecy. {GC88 342.1} (1888)