Saturday, May 21, 2011

Today’s Rapture and the Millerites

For quite some time, there has been considerable press given to today’s reported rapture. However, this is not unique tparticularly Vermont's history

Similar to Harold Camping, the 89 year-old retired civil engineer who has built a multi-million-dollar nonprofit ministry based on his apocalyptic prediction for today, Baptist preacher William Miller predicted Jesus was going to return to earth on Oct. 22, 1884. In Miller’s Lecture XIX he writes "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Will God's word fail of being accomplished? Can you show a single instance? Why not listen, then, to the warnings and admonitions, to the calls and invitations, to the examples and precepts contained therein? "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?" Will God cut off the unbelieving Pharisee for not discerning the signs of the times, and let you, with twofold more light, go free? No; how can ye escape, if you neglect this great salvation? Watch, then, "the signs of the times." I say, Watch.

Estimates very, but between 50,100 and 500,000 people were convinced that on this date, the “saints,” those who believed in the rapture, would be taken into the New Jerusalem while fire destroyed the world. The newspapers covered stories of the Millerites prior to the day of rapture and after. An article in the New York Herald, March 24 1843, made the link between Millerism and insanity: We lately published a statement that a Mr. Shortridge, of New Hampshire, had run mad with Millerism, and attempted to ascend to Heaven from an apple-tree, but found the attraction of gravitation too strong for his celestial aspirations, and came to the ground with such momentum as to cause his death. We have just seen two letters of late date from different sources in Portsmouth, N. H., stating that letters had been received there from this same Mr. Shortridge, making no mention of his 'ground and lofty tumbling' or death-circumstances so remarkable that they could hardly have escaped his notice had they actually occurred. We have heard from another source that this same Mr. S. was crazy ten years ago. So in the case of the woman who poisoned her children and attempted to commit suicide some weeks since—her insanity was attributed to Millerism, but entirely without reason. Doubtless the like has been the case in many other instances. Those who know any thing of Insanity are aware that it very commonly takes its hue from the most exciting topic of the hour, so that hundreds of persons have been reported as victims of 'religious mania,' when in fact their insanity was caused by functional disorders, often having its seat in the digestive organs and only by sympathy affecting the brain. Of those who are currently reported as rendered insane by 'Revivals' or 'Millerism,' a great portion would be found, on due inquiry, to have been constitutionally disposed to insanity, and often to have inherited that malady. In other cases, physical derangement consequent on personal excesses, such as intemperance, gluttony, and other forms of sensuality, was the true cause.—We cannot exclude from our columns accounts of remarkable casualties, but our readers will know how to make due allowance for the causes to which they are often mistakenly attributed.

Like today, many Millerites gave up jobs, sold their property and divested themselves of all things worldly. Gathering at the highest peaks where they lived, wearing white ascension robes and some sitting in metal wash tubes, they believed that when the great triumph from heaven sounded, they would be a good position to ascend.

The Millerites were most common in the Northeast. The Akron Historical Society in Ohio writes the following about what happened to the Millerites when the day of rapture came and went. For the faithful, heavy depression set in. This day was perhaps the greatest disappointment to befall the church in the history of the New Dispensation. Fifty thousand of Miller’s followers had found it impossible to stay in fellowship with their former congregations. These fifty thousand now had to face the truth. They hadn’t been taken into glory. The wicked still weren’t destroyed by fire. One by one, they retreated back into their lives.

Humiliated by what has been called "The Great Disappointment," some Millerites shucked their faith completely. Led by Miller, others formed the Adventists. The majority returned to more traditional churches.

Shortly afterward, Miller wrote a letter to his followers: “Brethren hold fast; let no man take your crown. I have fixed my mind on another time, and here I mean to stand until God gives me more light, and that is today, today, and today, until he comes.” (Bliss, Memoirs, p. 278)

Many of those, that didn't learn the first two times, resorted to believing that Jesus Christ had returned to earth on October 22, 1844, and that he is invisible. This particular theory was that it would take an additional three and a half years after Christ’s invisible return before his kingdom would be thoroughly established, which led to setting another date in 1848. What happened in 1848? You guessed it.

For more than five years, William Miller went back to the book of Daniel and Revelation, he went back to his prophetic chart and his numbers, still pondering why he had missed the truth about Christ's Second Advent.

Washington Morse of Northfield, Vermont wrote about the Great Disappointment as follows:
“The day came and passed, and the darkness of another night closed in upon the world. But with that darkness came a pang of disappointment to the advent believers that can find a parallel only in the sorrow of the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord. . . to turn again to the cares, perplexities, and dangers of life, in full view of jeering and reviling unbelievers, who scoffed as never before, was a terrible trial of faith and patience. When Elder Himes visited Waterbury, Vt., a short time after the passing of the time and stated that the brethren should prepare for another cold winter, my feelings were almost uncontrollable. I left the place of meeting and wept like a child.”

While Miller died not long after the failed rapture, two groups continue based on his teachings the Jehovah Witness and the Seventh Day Adventists.

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