John Bradshaw - Tell It to the World
Thanks for joining me. I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written, and this is 500, our look at the Reformation. We're looking back in time on the impact of the Reformation 500 years ago, and we're looking into the future. What is there left to be done in bringing the Reformation to a conclusion? In a few moments, our program, entitled "Tell It To The World". The Reformation has shifted to the United States, and truth is marching on. My special guest in this program is Dr. Jud Lake. He's a professor of preaching and Adventist studies at Southern Adventist University. Dr. Lake, thanks for joining me.
Dr. Jud Lake: My pleasure.
John Bradshaw: We're gonna look at a fascinating figure in this program, "Tell It To The World". His name, William Miller. What kind of man was William Miller?
Dr. Jud Lake: The answer to that, of course, depends on what period of his life you're talking about. Uh, as a young child, he was very religious and, uh, very, um, obedient to his parents. Then as he grew into the teenage years, he became very rebellious. Then into adulthood, he was a very patriotic, um, very committed to whatever cause he involved himself. And then as he grew into adulthood, he, he went through a period of, of nonbelief, ugh, uh, secular years, and then he was converted to Christ. And during those years he was very earnest. He tended to be moody. Once he realized the truth that Jesus was coming in his lifetime, that thrilled his soul, so he was full of joy over the second coming of Christ. But as he presented his message to the multitudes and he got criticized, he tended to be somewhat moody about that, and there were times where he was up and down. But in general, William Miller was a happy person to be around. In fact, audiences called him Father Miller because he showed compassion for his audiences.
John Bradshaw: It sounds like a human sort of a person.
Dr. Jud Lake: Very much so.
John Bradshaw: And certainly one of the most significant figures, a very significant figure in American religious history. William Miller. You can visit his home, his adult home, the William Miller Farm. It's in Low Hampton, New York, about this far from the border with Vermont. It's a beautiful place, a heritage site now, for it was at that farm, the William Miller Farm in New York State, that some significant things took place. William Miller was a man who heralded the second coming of Jesus Christ. Now, as we'll find out in some depth in a moment when we, together, travel to upstate New York and other places, William Miller wasn't always right about everything. You'll learn some things about William Miller.
This was a man who believed that the Bible was the Word of God. He believed the Bible should be studied, to the extent that he studied the Bible expecting to be able to understand the message of the Bible for him. To a great degree, he does, but he's not right about everything, and he makes a couple of crucial mistakes which ultimately prove to be our blessing. So the William Miller story talks about a man who was a Bible student, wasn't right about everything, and it shows us that even when you make mistakes, God can bring great things out of your own personal misfortune or, uh, inaccuracy. The William Miller Farm is a beautiful spot today, and were you to visit it, you'd find some fascinating things. The house is preserved much as it was in William Miller's day. You enter into the very room in which William Miller stood and prayed and watched and waited on October the 22nd in 1844 as he anticipated the return of Jesus Christ. He stood looking towards the eastern sky, wondering if in just a moment he might see his Lord a-coming.
Now, prior to this, long before 1844, William Miller burrowed into the Bible with an earnest desire to understand God's message, uh, for him. He felt a burning almost compulsion that he ought to share the message that he felt God had placed upon his heart. And he did a sort of a deal with God. He said to God, "I'll preach the message should somebody ask me to. I'll share my insights should an invitation come". Moments after he had prayed that prayer, there was a knock at the door. And of course, the young man was there to ask William Miller to come to his family's church and share his insights, indicating that even before Miller had prayed the prayer, the messenger was on his way from his home about 16 or so miles away. What Miller did then was, he left the young man standing, walked out of his house to a nearby grove of trees. We'll take you to that grove of trees in just a moment. For me, that grove of trees is enormously significant. That's where William Miller prayed.
Now, it's not thought that any of the actual trees there today were there in 1844. They've been replaced. The forest has been, well the grove has been replenished. But it's there, among those silent watchers, those silent witnesses, that William Miller, a humble man, a simple man, poured out his heart to God. "Must I go? Shall I go? Lord, release me from this burden. I don't want to preach". They say, "Into the trees went a farmer, and out came a preacher". And William Miller's preaching was significant and influential. Had a dramatic effect on the world. Right near the William Miller Farm homestead is Ascension Rock. We'll take you to Ascension Rock in this program. And a literal stone throw from Ascension Rock is the William Miller Chapel, which became and Advent Movement church.
Miller never did give up his hope in the second coming of Jesus, even though Jesus did not return in 1843, when he first thought Jesus would return, in 1844, the date calculated later, October 22, the date presented by a man named Samuel Snow. There's a lot to cover. This is important. Look at it in the overall stream of the Reformation. God gave truth to the world. The truth was obscured. Out of the darkness the light shone. The in Europe, the Reformation burned bright. The Counter-Reformation blanketed the Reformation, but that truth made its way from Europe to North America, to what would become these United States, where here God's message would be proclaimed. It would prosper. And ultimately from these shores, it would be taken to the world. In just a moment, we go to the William Miller Farm on 500. We'll be right back.
With the arrival of the pilgrims here on the shores of what would become known as the United States of America, the focus of the Protestant Reformation and its call for a return to the Bible as the Christian's supreme authority began to shift from the Old World to the New. Thousands braved the often treacherous journey across the Atlantic Ocean during the 17th and 18th centuries in search of a refuge for freedom. In Europe, even in England, the pendulum of power swung back and forth for decades between those who wanted to protect religious freedom and those who wanted to curtail it. More and more, it was recognized that a new country with a new philosophy of government would be needed as a haven for those wishing to hold and share their faith in accord with the dictates of conscience.
With America's achievement of independence from Great Britain in 1783, a series of events opened the way for an even clearer understanding of the Bible, and in particular Bible prophecy. The French Revolution, which began in 1789, saw the people of France rise up against not only the monarchy, but also the Church. There was an attempt to overthrow the Bible and Christianity altogether. The cry of the revolutionaries was, "Crush the wretch". And the wretch that they were referring to was Jesus. The Bible had been rejected, neglected, ignored so long. The principles of the Protestant Reformation had been rejected by a church that was unwilling to be reformed. France's brief experiment with atheism, instead of getting rid of the Bible or the message of Christianity, led more people than ever before to be interested in God's Word.
In the early years of the 19th century, Bible societies sprang up around the world. Interest spread in the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation. The way would be open for yet another reformer, this one from the United States, to call the attention of the world to the Word of God. That man was William Miller. He was born in 1782, the same year as Martin Van Buren, who would become the eighth President of the United States. When Miller was born in Pittsfield in western Massachusetts, the Revolutionary War was in full swing. George Washington became the nation's first President, just days before William Miller's seventh birthday. Like so many other reformers, poverty and hardship shaped his character. His father had served as a captain in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Many of his father's struggles and trials made a big impression on young William. His mother was a woman of integrity with deep religious convictions.
Miller was a strong young man, and he was intelligent. He wasn't able to attend college, pretty typical for people of his era, but he did enjoy books and he learned a lot from his own studies. He was raised a Baptist, but in his early 20s he began to read the writings of Thomas Paine and Voltaire and Ethan Allen, and he became a deist. He believed in God, but he didn't believe that God intervened directly in the lives of human beings. But that view would be challenged. While serving in the military, a bomb exploded just two feet from where he was standing. Three of his men were injured. One was killed. But Miller miraculously escaped unscathed. After that, the improbable victory over the British, and Miller began to wonder whether or not God had something to do with that.
After his time in the military, William Miller moved here to this farm near the Adirondack Mountains, just outside of Whitehall in eastern New York, close to the border with Vermont. Farm life wasn't easy in the early 1800s. There was no mechanized farm equipment, no central heat in the home. William and his wife Lucy and their five children would have to survive off what the farm produced. And back at home, Miller opened the Bible for the first time in his life to learn for himself what the Scriptures actually taught. It wasn't long before he met Jesus. Later, he wrote of this experience, "I saw that the Bible did bring to view such a Savior 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. I lost all taste for other reading and applied my heart to get wisdom from God".
The more he read and studied the Bible, the more fascinating it became to him. Now, he was an independent thinker, William Miller, and he rejected a number of the commonly held beliefs of his day. He didn't believe that the whole world would be converted to Christ, nor did he believe there'd be 1,000 years of peace on earth. Miller believed that the return of Jesus would be personal and literal, and that God would not set up his kingdom on Earth until after Christ's return. He came to the conclusion that all of Scripture should be considered before reaching a conclusion about any Bible teaching. As the Apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2 Timothy 3:16. He believed the Bible to be truly the Word of God, not just a collection of personal religious opinions.
"Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit". Miller believed that the Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, comparing one passage of the Bible with another would lead you to a correct understanding. It was these principles for interpreting the Bible that led William Miller to shake up the world, especially when it came to Bible prophecy. Miller believed that by carefully studying the prophetic symbols in the Bible, he could arrive at a correct understanding of what those symbols represented. I'll be right back with more.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. William Miller was a Baptist farmer who studied his Bible, and he arrived at conclusions that shook up the United States of America. As he read the Bible, he was tempted to ignore the time periods found in Bible prophecy. But the more he read, the more convicted he became that these were periods that he really needed to understand. And the one to which his mind kept returning was Daniel 8, verse 14, which says, "Unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed".
As he tried to understand this verse, Miller followed the principle that the Bible is to be its own interpreter. He'd discovered from a reading elsewhere in the Bible that a day in Bible prophecy represents a year. He found that in Numbers 14, verse 34, Ezekiel 4:6, and other places. And when he went over to Daniel chapter 9 and he read the 70 weeks prophecy that references Jesus' first coming, Miller was amazed by what he found. Here's that prophecy.
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy. Know, therefore, and understand that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem, unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks. The streets 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 the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary, and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. 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, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate".
Now, that's quite a passage, and Miller was determined to get to the bottom of it. Consider what the passage contains: a time period allotted to Israel, 70 weeks, a commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem, the coming of Messiah the Prince. That's Jesus, his first coming. Messiah being cut off or executed, a covenant being confirmed for a week, the end of sacrifice and offering, and more. The popular theory in Miller's day was that the sanctuary referenced in Daniel 8:14 represented the Earth, so Miller decided that the cleansing of the sanctuary would be when the earth was cleansed by fire when Jesus returned. And then there was this time period, 2,300 days.
Using the principle of prophetic interpretation that taught that a day represents a year in prophecy, Miller considered these 2,300 days to be 2,300 years. The decree that provided the starting point for this prophecy Miller found in Ezra chapter 7, the decree issued by the Medo-Persian king Artaxerxes, permitting Israel to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and reorder society there. Knowing this, it wouldn't be hard for Miller to work out the particulars of this prophecy. So here's what Miller discovered. The decree was issued in the year 457 BC. Add 2,300 years to that, and you get to the year 1843. Miller was thrilled. He'd figured out that Jesus was going to return to the Earth in just 25 years.
Miller wrote, "I was thus brought to the solemn conclusion that in about 25 years from that time, 1818, all the affairs of our present state would be wound up". The farmer, the former military man, had made an astonishing discovery. Jesus was coming back to the earth, and he knew when. He described the experience in these words. "I need not speak 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 in my mind before the clear light that now dawned from its sacred pages, and oh, how bright and glorious the truth appeared".
And then came the conviction that he should tell others what he'd learned. An inner voice seemed to drive him to go and tell it to the world. He shared his views in private studies and in conversations with others, but he wasn't in any hurry at all to make them known publicly. After all, he was no public speaker. He was 50 years old and had no formal theological training. For nine years, he resisted the commission that God was pressing upon his heart. Finally, he put God to the test. He told God in prayer that if he received an invitation to speak, he would take this as Heaven's sign that he was to share his findings. As it happened, an invitation was on its way to him at that very moment.
A young man had traveled 16 miles to the Miller farm with a message from his father in Dresden, New York. There wouldn't be any preaching in their church the next day. Instead, they wanted William Miller to talk to the people on the subject of the second coming of Jesus. Miller was shocked and angry that he'd made that promise to God, but he didn't give the boy an answer. Instead, he left his house and he came here to this very grove of trees, where he spent about an hour talking with God, trying to get out of the commitment that he just made. But Miller couldn't break his covenant. Instead, he went back to the house, where the boy was still waiting. And they later journeyed together to Dresden, a journey which took them about an hour, which means the boy had left his home to come and invite Miller to speak before Miller had made his pledge to God.
It was later said that Miller came into the woods a farmer, and he went out a preacher. That presentation was so well received, he was asked to stay in Dresden and preach throughout the week. When he returned home, there was a letter inviting him to speak in Poultney, Vermont. And so it went. Over the next 13 years, William Miller would average almost 270 speaking appointments a year. While the common people received Miller's message enthusiastically, the popular religious leaders weren't impressed at all. Most of what they wrote, preached, or published about Miller's message was negative. In fact, the time came when many who accepted the teachings of Miller and his associates would be thrown out of many of the mainline churches.
But like Martin Luther and other reformers, William Miller simply challenged his critics to show him his error from the Bible. The thing was, when people listened to what Miller said and they looked into the Bible, everything seemed to add up. It appeared that Miller was right. The 2,300 days were definitely 2,300 years. Miller had made that clear. The decree, Ezra chapter 7 made that clear, 457 BC. After that, simply a question of math. Daniel 8:14 had said, "Unto 2,300 days, then shall the sanctuary be cleansed". What else could it mean? Jesus was coming back, and he was coming back in 1843. Except for one small thing. I'll be right back with more.
Abbott and Costello, Jordan and Pippen, Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, Simon and Garfunkel. Now, pardon my somewhat trivial examples here, but the point is one that you know well. Often, someone is prominent or achieves in large part because of the help of another person. The Protestant Reformation was the most significant religious and you could say political event of the last thousand years. And while we think of Martin Luther as the architect of the Reformation, Luther likely wouldn't have been Luther without Philipp Melanchthon. Melanchthon was a giant intellect, a theologian, and he collaborated with Luther. He made Luther better, like Aaron and Hur holding up Moses' hands.
Exodus 17, verse 12 says, "And Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, the other on the other side". Whose hands can you hold up today? God might be looking to you to bring out the best in someone else. I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written. Let's live today by every word. Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. William Miller, a Baptist farmer from a small town in New York State, had discovered an amazing message in the Bible. His careful study of God's Word had proven that Jesus was coming back to the earth in 1843. But as you know, Jesus didn't come back in 1843. Well, after that massive disappointment, somebody figured out why. You see, they'd forgotten that there was no year zero. If you start at minus-five and you count to plus-five, that's a difference of 10. But if you start at 5 BC and you go to 5 AD, that's a difference of nine because there's no year zero. You go from 1 BC to 1 AD. Of course! Jesus wasn't coming back in 1843. He was coming back in 1844.
Miller's followers were called Millerites and Adventists because of their belief in the imminent advent of Jesus. By the summer of 1844, this Advent movement built to its climax. In August, a man by the name of Samuel Snow addressed a Millerite gathering and showed from his study of Scripture and the ancient Jewish Day of Atonement that the 10th day of the seventh month, the annual Day of Atonement, would fall in 1844 on the 22nd of October. This prediction gave even stronger momentum to the movement. The preachers continued to preach, and literature explaining the prophecies of the Bible and the time periods in question were circulated far and wide. One of the prominent leaders of the movement, Charles Fitch, died of pneumonia after baptizing believers in the Ohio River.
Even though the weather was severely cold, he refused to turn anyone away. He died just 10 days before Jesus was expected to return, but his family didn't mourn. They believed that they'd be seeing him again, that his body would come up out of the grave in just a few more days. At last, the appointed day arrived. Some believers left their crops unharvested. One shop owner in Philadelphia left a sign in his window that said, "This shop is closed in honor of the King of Kings, who will appear the 22nd of October. Get ready, friends, to crown Him Lord of all". But as the day got longer, these faithful believers realized that Jesus might not return. When midnight arrived, the disappointment of the Millerites was intense.
he prophecy found in Revelation chapter 10 was fulfilled. "And I went to the angel and said to him, 'Give me the little book.' And he said to me, 'Take and eat it, and it will make your stomach bitter, but it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth.' And I took the little book out of the angel's hand and ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it, my stomach became bitter," Revelation 10:9 and 10. Descendants of people who lived here at the time say that some Millerite believers gathered right here, on what today is known as Ascension Rock, and waited here for Jesus to come. If that's true, their journey home that night would have been very difficult. Imagine believing that you were going to farewell your friends and neighbors. You'd never see them again, many of whom had ridiculed you for believing that Jesus was gonna come back.
Now you'd have to face them. They'd mock you again because you are here on this earth at all. Imagine believing that you are gonna go to heaven, and then discovering that heaven would have to wait. And of course, all of this begs some difficult questions. So how could William Miller, a faithful Baptist preacher, possibly get it so wrong? After all, the Bible says that no one knows the day or the hour of Jesus' return. Well, it's good to remember that William Miller himself never set a date, but one of his followers did circle a day on the calendar. Well, keep this in mind. Even Jesus' followers sometimes made mistakes. Jesus told them as plainly as he could that he was going to die, and they just couldn't understand what he was saying. When Jesus died, their hopes died with them. But out of that brutal disappointment, Jesus brought great things, and he brought good things out of the Millerites' disappointment too.
If Miller could be so wrong about something so basic, didn't that make him a deceiver, a false Messiah? Well, no, no more than the followers of Jesus were false prophets. Miller was just wrong about a key point. Could Miller's error have jeopardized the faith of his followers? Well, that's possible, but this is a reminder to us, that a person's faith must be individual, personal, based on the Bible, and not on the say-so of another human being. God achieved some great things through William Miller. Thousands of people were directed to the study of the Bible, in particular the Bible's teaching about the second coming of Jesus. The second coming was a neglected teaching in Christianity, and Miller shone a spotlight on the Bible's teaching that Jesus was indeed soon to return to this earth.
Today, that teaching is widely believed. Few in Christianity are not Adventists. Most Christians today believe in the advent of Jesus, and many believe it will happen soon. For that, William Miller is largely to credit. Revelation 10, which speaks of the bitter disappointment, goes on to say, "Thou must prophecy again before many peoples and nations and tongues and kings," Revelation 10, verse 11. And since Miller's time, the church has been prophesying again. The news has gone to the world that Jesus is coming back soon, that everybody can be ready for that day through faith in Jesus Christ, and that the Bible is the rule of faith and practice for all believers. William Miller continued to preach, he continued to believe, and he continued to trust in God. He died in 1849 at the age of 67, and he's buried right here. Soon the Protestant Reformation will be completed. Soon the words of Jesus will be fulfilled, those words spoken in Matthew 24, verse 14, when Jesus said, "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations, and then shall the end come".
Welcome back to 500. I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written. We've seen Tell It to the World, the William Miller Story, his contribution to the forward momentum of Bible truth in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ. Someone who knows a little bit about the William Miller story is Dr. Jud Lake. He's a professor of preaching and Adventist studies at Southern Adventist University. Dr. Lake, again, thanks for joining me. Who was William Miller? Introduce us to this man? What was he, was he really like?
Dr. Jud Lake: He's most known as a revivalist in the 19th century before the Civil War, uh, in the, during the Civil, pre-Civil War years, I should say. And, uh, he spawned a major movement called the Millerite movement that focused on the soon return of Jesus, and he's most known for that.
John Bradshaw: What was, what was the world of William Miller like? He was preaching, you know, back there in the 1840s, 1830s. What was life like then?
Dr. Jud Lake: Mm-hmm.
John Bradshaw: Much different to today.
Dr. Jud Lake: That was a period in American history. It was, you could say it was about 30, 40 years from the Revolution, and about another 30 years to the Civil War. And Americans had just finished the War of 1812, and they were now a part of the family of nations. And that set the tone for those, what we call antebellum years, the years before the war. And it was a time where the common man was able to make his own decisions and decide for himself. Uh, Andrew Jackson was the President during the 1830s, and historians call that a Jacksonian period, where the focus was on the common man. And Miller was pretty much a Jacksonian man because his whole focus was on what the individual can do, and that became important in his preaching. So it was a period of great optimism in America.
John Bradshaw: Miller's spiritual journey, it, it didn't really travel in a straight line, and he got into something called deism. So can you unpack that for us a little bit?
Dr. Jud Lake: Yes, and that was pretty much a part of, uh, of, uh, America in that era, that deism is a movement that flourished out of the French Revolution in the 18th century and spilled over into the 19th century into America. And a lot of Americans were getting into deism. And shortly after William Miller got married in 1803, moved to Poultney, New York. And he had a religious upbringing, but he'd been struggling with spiritual issues. And some friends put into his hands the philosophical writings of, of Voltaire and Hume and Thomas Paine, these well-known deists. And these guys were what we would call hard deists, particularly Thomas Paine, that there is a supreme being, but there's, he has no interaction with human beings, and he left the earth to run on its own.
And reason was most important for them, so there was no personal revelation in the Bible. There was no personal Savior. And Miller began to read this material, and it seemed to fit his state of mind, struggling with his Christian upbringing. And he pretty much swallowed it and became a deist, and remained so for about 12 years. And there are different versions of deism. You've got warm deism and cold deism. Thomas Paine, some of the originators then of it, were cold deists. But Miller, he was more of a warm deist. He could not reject the idea that there's an afterlife, whereas cold deists do. And he also believed that God was more involved with human affairs.
John Bradshaw: And he served in the military.
Dr. Jud Lake: Yes, he rose to the rank of captain, uh, in the military. And at the Battle of Plattsburgh, in the concluding battle to the War of 1812, where the British came to the Americans at Lake Champlain in overwhelming force, it did appear, it appeared that the Americans had no chance. And Miller describes that. Let me read to you what he said about that. He's describing, uh, that, that battle. And he says, "At the commencement of the battle, we looked upon our own defeat as almost certain, and yet we were victorious. So surprising a result against such odds did seem to me like the work of a mightier power than man". So again, as I said, he was a warm deist. He's acknowledging that, that God does intervene in the affairs of humans. And Miller even had shells explode right next to him.
John Bradshaw: Almost killed.
Dr. Jud Lake: And his friends die.
Dr. Jud Lake: But not touch him. And he thought, "Is there some providence for my life? Is the divine being actually intervening in this situation"? So his experience in the war caused him to question his deism.
John Bradshaw: Somehow he segues from deism to faith in God. How'd he make that leap?
Dr. Jud Lake: He was already transitioning away from deism. The war finished. He continued to ponder that, that final battle. And he moved to Low Hampton, New York with his family. He had children. And during that period, he continued to wrestle with some of these things. It became a time, uh, when you read his memoirs, of a great personal spiritual struggle. He vacillated between warm Christianity or hot Christianity and warm deism, back and forth. And let me read to you another statement he made that is most interesting. This depicts the struggle in the man's mind. "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 is iron under my feet. Eternity, what was it? And death, why was it"? Now, deists were really into reason and using the mind, and in this next paragraph you can see the struggle in his mind as he's going back and forth with reason regarding Christian faith and deism. "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". Here's a man struggling.
John Bradshaw: Yeah, for sure.
Dr. Jud Lake: "I was truly wretched and did not understand that cause. I murmured and complained, but knew not of whom. I knew that there was a wrong, but knew not how or where to find the right. I mourned, but without hope". Now, during this time he was attending church.
John Bradshaw: Without hope.
Dr. Jud Lake: Without hope.
John Bradshaw: Interesting.
Dr. Jud Lake: He wasn't a Christian, wasn't a full believer, but he was attending, and this made his mother happy. He would sit in church, and he complained to his mother about some of the deacons who read the sermons when the pastor was absent. They murdered the King's English, so to speak. And he was quite articulate, and, uh, he's mentioned, "You know, if I could read the sermon, I could do a good job".
John Bradshaw: And interesting too, the sermon was a read affair.
Dr. Jud Lake: Yes. In this case, the pastors had several churches, and when they traveled away, they had the deacons read printed sermons. And so because of his mother's influence, Miller got trapped into reading sermons, and so he did that for a while. Now, that brings us to 1816. They had a, uh, celebration of the Battle of Plattsburgh, and then that next Sunday, of course, Miller was involved in that as captain. And the next Sunday he was in church, and he was asked to read the sermon. The sermon was about parental duties. "Train up a child in the way that he will go, and when he's old he will not depart from it". It was based on that verse in Proverbs. And Miller had young children, and he was reading through this sermon, and conviction overwhelmed him and he broke down and wept. He wept so hard, he couldn't finish the sermon. Of course, the congregation was sympathetic, and, uh, that was a turning point that did something in his heart.
John Bradshaw: Somehow, the Holy Spirit was speaking to him.
Dr. Jud Lake: As he thought about his children, and he thought about God and his deistic ideas, they didn't seem to work right. And so he writes, and I've got to share this with you in his own words. "Suddenly," he says, "the character of a Savior was vividly impressed upon my mind. It seemed that there might be a being so good and compassionate as to himself atone for our transgressions, and thereby save us from suffering the penalty of sin. I immediately felt how lovely such a being must be, and imagined that I could cast myself into the arms of, and trust in the mercy of, such a one". So he's processing this. He realizes, "There is a Savior. This is wonderful". But then his deistic ideas kick back in. And so he writes, "But the question arose, how can it be proved that such a being does exist? Aside from the Bible, I found I could get no evidence of the existence of such a Savior, or even of a future state. I felt that to believe in such a Savior without evidence would be visionary and extreme".
So again, he's, he's going back and forth with his past deism and the idea of a Savior. And then he says, "I saw that the Bible..". So evidently he's going back and forth, and then he concludes, "I saw that the Bible did bring to view just such a Savior 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". And so he's describing for us that reasoning process after this emotional experience in the sermon. And then finally he comes to the resolution. He says, "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". William Miller became a friend of Jesus Christ.
John Bradshaw: I think that's really important too, because when we think about William Miller's great contribution to theological thought, the 2,300 days, I understand that was God's contribution through Daniel, but Miller really brought that to the forefront. It's possible to think of Miller as a mathematician or as, uh, an academic, but he didn't think about it that way at all. His relationship to God was that as, of a, of a friend with a friend. That's really significant.
Dr. Jud Lake: In fact, um, during his years of preaching, once he began preaching in 1831 and up through the '30s and '40s, Miller was very methodical in going through the prophecies and the calculations, but he always sought to bring people to Jesus. And it's been rightly said, I think, and concluded by researchers that William Miller brought more people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ than he did to a knowledge of his calculations.
John Bradshaw: Uh, that's interesting and very significant. Now, this might be rather difficult for you to answer because I don't think you were there, and neither was I. I don't know anyone who was. But you're a teacher of preaching. So why do, why do you imagine you, you've studied Miller, his messages, the results of his preaching. What kind of preacher was William Miller, do you think? I don't mean was he good or bad. He was obviously very effective. Was he an animated speaker? Did he stand dead still with a solemn look on his face? How did he relate to congregations, as far as you know, and what was his preaching method or his preaching style?
Dr. Jud Lake: Based on testimonies of people who heard him preach, he, he was a, a loud, boisterous type of preacher, but he was straightforward and his sermons convicted people to the core. He gave such overwhelming evidence for his conclusions. His research was evident. He would just have the Bible and expound. But there were times where he got really feisty and powerful. Now, this is a vivid description of the second coming, the heartthrob of William Miller. "Soon, very soon, God will arise in his anger, and the vine of the earth will be reaped. See, see, the angel with his sharp sickle is about to take the field. Se yonder trembling victim fall before his pestilential breath. High and low, rich and poor, trembling and falling before the appalling grave, the dreadful cholera. Hark! Hear those dreadful bellowings of the angry nations. It is the presage or horrid and terrific war. Look! Look again"!
See what he's doing. He's painting the picture. He's alarming his audience and setting them up for the hope. "Look! Look again! See crowns and kings and kingdoms tumbling to the dust. See lords and nobles, captains and mighty men, all arming for the bloody demon fight. See the carnivorous fowls fly screaming through the air. See! See these signs! Behold, the heavens grow black with clouds". See, he's reaching the climax. "The sun has veiled himself. The moon, pale and stricken, hangs in mid-air. The hell descends. The seven thunders utter their loud voice. The lightnings send their vivid gleams of sulfurous flame abroad. And the great city of the nations falls to rise no more forever and ever. At this dread moment, look! Look! Oh, look and see"! And now he comes to the highlight, to the grand consummation of the appearance of Christ. "At this dread moment, look! What means that ray of light? The clouds have burst asunder. The heavens appear. The great white throne is in sight. Amazement fills the universe with awe. He comes! He comes! Behold, the Savior comes! Lift up your heads, ye saints. He comes! He comes! He comes"! So while Miller could be very logical and methodical, he was also emotional.
John Bradshaw: Magnificent. You can imagine how stirring that had to have been. Back with more from 500, the William Miller story, and Dr. Jud Lake in just a moment.
John Bradshaw: Welcome back to 500. I'm John Bradshaw from It Is Written. My guest is Dr. Jud Lake, professor at Southern Adventist University. We've been discussing William Miller, Dr. Lake. He was a reformer, really, wasn't he? Not in the classical sense, like Luther. He wasn't, wasn't fighting the same fights as Zwingli or Calvin or Farel, certainly. But this was a man who took the religious thought of the day, turned it upside down, and urged Christianity forward.
Dr. Jud Lake: Yes. Everybody thought that Christ was coming after the Millennium, so there was no sense of urgency, but Miller turned that around and was counterculture and said, "No, Jesus is coming now. He's coming before the Millennium". But Miller, yes, he was a reformer, countercultural in his ideas. But what I find interesting, John, is that there are some parallels of William Miller's message with the Protestant Reformers.
John Bradshaw: Let's look at that.
Dr. Jud Lake: First of all, I find four connections, four parallels. First of all, Miller taught the Bible. That connects with the battle cry of the Reformation, sola scriptura.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Jud Lake: Secondly, another parallel I see is the, uh, a major theme in the Reformation, the, the Latin sola fide, faith alone, faith alone in Christ. Salvation comes through Jesus alone. Miller, as you remember from his conversion, he said, "In Jesus, I found a friend".
John Bradshaw: I found a friend.
Dr. Jud Lake: He, while he talked about the prophecies, he talked about Jesus, and he believed that salvation came by knowing Christ alone. You have this parallel with the, uh, the Reformation emphasis on Scripture and the emphasis on Christ. But also, there's something else very interesting. You remember the priesthood of believers?
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Jud Lake: In the Reformation.
Dr. Jud Lake: Well, Miller believed his message was for the common man. He said, "I have no vision". This is not coming from a vision. He says everybody can decide for themselves. So he presented a clear message, and he told people, "You go and study this out for yourself". That was his belief, and people could come to their own conclusions. That's a reflection of the priesthood of believers.
John Bradshaw: Sure.
Dr. Jud Lake: That you don't have to go to a prophet or to a priest or even trust in the clergy. You can study the Bible for yourself and come to your own conclusions about what God is telling you.
John Bradshaw: Amen.
Dr. Jud Lake: Miller believed that they would come to his conclusions because it was so reasonable, so logical. And finally, a, a, a strong connection with the Reformation is Miller's historicism. You know the Protestant Reformers, namely Luther and Calvin, they approached the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation from, from a perspective of historicism. That's the, the method of interpretation of the historic Christian Church, that the prophetic prophecies began the day of the prophet, and as history unfolded the prophecies were fulfilled. Not all in the future like futurism, or in the past like preterism, but what I like to call present prophecy. It was fulfilled down through history. And Miller taught the same thing. The Reformers, Luther and Calvin, understood the Beast's power of Daniel and Revelation to be fulfilled in the papacy. Well, William Miller taught the same thing. So there you have a clear connection with the method of interpretation in the Reformers. So in these ways, I see, uh, some parallels in William Miller, his message, to the Reformation.
John Bradshaw: He was certainly carrying forward the legacy of the Reformation.
Dr. Jud Lake: Without question.
John Bradshaw: One final question. William Miller's legacy to us today. What, what's the legacy? What does he leave for us Christians down here in the end of time?
Dr. Jud Lake: Well, I think first of all, um, spiritually speaking, he leaves us the legacy of the premillennial return of Christ and urgency. That's what I get from Miller is urgency, that Christ is coming soon. And tangibly speaking, um, the right after the disappointment, you had fragmentation of the Millerites, but there was one particular group that didn't really gain visibility until several years later. And this group eventually adopted ideas such as the Sabbath and sleep in death, and they pulled together a unique doctrinal package. And for a while they, they understood themselves as Sabbatarian Adventists.
In 1848 to 1850, they held a series of conferences on the Sabbath. They called them Sabbath conferences, and that's where they hammered out their doctrinal package. And these were the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And then during the 1850s, they focused on organization, pulling their ideas together, more advanced doctrinal understanding. By the time you get to the Civil War, in fact, right in the middle of the Civil War between the battle, two big battles of Chancellorsville in 1863 and Gettysburg, the Sabbatarian Adventists established the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Well, that group has continued to grow, and now here in 2017, by the time we get to 2020, Seventh-day Adventism will probably surpass the mark of 20 million members. We continue to preach the soon, imminent return of Jesus Christ. Seventh-day Adventists place a lot of emphasis on Miller. We are his legacy.
John Bradshaw: Dr. Jud Lake, thank you so very much. It's been outstanding.
Dr. Jud Lake: My pleasure.
John Bradshaw: I appreciate it greatly. And thank you for joining us. We have one more program in 500. That's program number nine, finishing the Reformation. My guest in that program will be Elder Ted Wilson. I hope you won't miss it. Let's pray together before we conclude. Let's pray now.
Our Father in heaven, we stand on the shoulders of those men and women of great faith who have come before us. We're like relay runners who take the baton from the runner who ran before. And I pray that as we possess the faith once delivered to the saints, that it would burn in our hearts, brightly in our lives, that we'd be so enthusiastic about your word, so in love with your Son, our Savior Jesus, that we would want to see Him shared with everybody. Give us grace to be about your business. And Lord, let us carry forward the torch of the Reformation to Earth's remotest bounds, lifting up the Bible, faith in Jesus Christ, that soon we can see Jesus return to take us home. We thank you, we praise you, and we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.