A Portrait of William Miller

In September, 1842, Elders Himes, Miller, and others, held a meeting in the mammoth tent in Eastern Maine. In company with one Moses Polly, a Christian minister of my acquaintance, I attended that meeting. I there for the first time saw that great and good man, William Miller. His form and features showed great physical and mental strength. The benevolent, affable, and kind spirit manifested by him in conversation with numerous strangers, who called on him to ask questions, proved him a humble, Christian gentleman. Infidels, Universalists, and some others came to him with opposing questions. He was quick to perceive their designs, and with becoming firmness and dignity promptly met their objections and sent them away in silence. So long had he, even then, been in the field meeting opposition from every quarter, that he was prepared for any emergency.

In his public labors his arguments were clear, and his appeals and exhortations most powerful. The tent in which he spoke was a circle whose diameter was one hundred and twenty feet. On one occasion, when this tent was full, and thousands stood around, he was unfortunate in the use of language, which the baser sort in the crowd turned against him in a general burst of laughter. He left his subject with ease, and in a moment his spirit rose above the mob-like spirit that prevailed, and in language the most scorching he spoke of the corruption of the hearts of those who chose to understand hi to be as vile as they were. In a moment all was quiet and the speaker continued to describe the terrible end of the ungodly in a solemn and impressive manner. He then affectionately exhorted them to repent of their sins, come to Christ, and be ready for His appearing. Many in that vast crowd wept. He then resumed his subject, and spoke with clearness and spirit, as though nothing had happened. In fact, it seemed that nothing could have occurred to fully give him the ears of thousands before him, and to make his subject to impressive as this circumstance.

A Man for His Time

God raised up Paul to do a great work in his time. In order that the Gentiles might be clearly taught the great plan of redemption through Jesus, and that the infidelity of the Jews might be met, a great man was selected.

Martin Luther was the man for his time. He was daring and sometimes rash, yet was a great and good man. The little horn had prevailed and millions of the saints of the Most High had been put to death. To fearlessly expose the vileness of the papal monks and to meet their learning and their rage, and also to win the hearts of the common people with all the tenderness and affection of the gospel, called for just such a man as Martin Luther. He could battle with the lion, or feed and tenderly nurse the lambs of Christ’s fold.

So William Miller, in the hands of God, was the man for his time. True, he was a farmer, had been in the service of his country, and had not the benefits of an early classical education. And it was not till he had passed the noon of life that God called him to search His Word and open the prophecies to the people. He was, however, a historian from his love of history, and had a good practical knowledge of men and things. He had been an infidel. But on receiving the Bible as a revelation from God, he did not also receive the popular, contradictory ideas that many of its prophecies were clad in impenetrable mystery. Said William Miller: “The Bible, if it is what it purports to be, will explain itself.”

He sought for the harmony of Scripture and found it. And in the benevolence of his great and good heart and head, he spent the balance of his life in teaching it to the people in his written and oral lectures, and in warning and exhorting them to prepare for the Second Coming of Christ.

Much of the fruits of his labors are now seen. Much more will be seen hereafter. Heaven will be hung with the fruits of the labors of this truly great and good man. He sleeps. But if it can be said of any who have toiled and worn and suffered amid vile persecutions, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, that they may rest from their labors, and their works to follow them,” it can be said of William Miler. He nobly and faithfully did his duty, and the popular church, united with the world, paid him in persecutions and reproaches. The very name of William Miller was despised everywhere, and Millerism was the jeer of the people from the pulpit to the brothel.