- Miller, William
- ( 1782-1849 )American religious leader who predicted Christ's returnWilliam Miller, whose teachings on the second coming of Christ prepared the way for the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Jehovah's Witnesses, was born on February 15, 1782, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and grew up in Washington County, New York. He had little formal education but was an avid reader of borrowed books. As a young man he was drawn to deism, which rejected many of the primry tenets of Christianity, but following his return from the War of 1812 he converted, affiliated with the Baptists, and became a lay preacher. The attacks on Christianity by his deist acquaintances drove him to study the Bible in order to reconcile seeming contradictions. His study had an unpredicted consequence, leading him to a belief that Christ would soon return.The keystone was Daniel 8:13-14, "Unto two thousand and three hundred days . . . then shall the sanctuary be cleansed" coupled with Daniel 9:24, "Seventy weeks [490 days] are determined upon thy people . . . to make an end to sins." He understood prophetic "days" as referring to mundane years, an idea based on biblical passages such as Ezekiel 4:6, "I have appointed thee each day for a year." Miller interpreted the second event ("an end to sins") to refer to Christ's resurrection in 33 c.e.; counting back 490 years to get Daniel's date, then adding forward 2,300 years, he arrived at the year 1843 for Christ's return ("the sanctuary be cleansed"). In 1832, he published his conclusions in the Vermont Telegraph, which led to a 64-page booklet the next year, Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843.Miller toured the Northeast, expounding his ideas. While many ridiculed him, others responded favorably, and as the proposed date approached, a large Adventist movement emerged. initially, Miller counseled supporters to remain in their local churches, but as the movement gained steam, and critics became more harsh, in the early 1840s the first Adventist congregations were founded.Anticipation became focused on three specific days, March 21, 1843, March 21, 1844, and October 22, 1844. The failure of all three dates became known as the Great Disappointment. Some supporters responded by trying to find the error and recalculate. Others, notably Ellen G. White, decided that the sanctuary being cleansed was in heaven, and that Jesus would soon appear to his followers. Her belief would become the foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.Miller published his own brief Apology and Defense in 1845. He admitted that he had been mistaken in his calculations, but he continued to travel and preach that Christ would return soon. He died on December 20, 1849. By then, he had lost control of the movement; more than a hundred Adventist denominations have arisen since, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Seventh-day Adven-tists, and the Worldwide Church of God being the most successful.See also Adventism.Further reading:■ Everett N. Dick, William Miller & Advent Crisis (Brushton, N.Y.: TEACH Services, 1994)■ Joshue V Himes, Brief History of William Miller: the Great Pioneer in Adventural Faith (Boston: Advent Christian, 1895)■ William Miller, Apology and Defense (Boston: Joshua Himes, 1845)■ ----, Evidences from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843 (Brandon: Vermont Telegraph Office, 1833)■ Francis David Nichol, The Midnight Cry; A Defense of the Character and Conduct of William Miller and the Millerites (Takoma Park, Md./Washington, D.C.: Review & Herald Publishing, 1944)■ Ronald L. Numbers, The Disappointed: Millerism and Millenarianism in the Nineteenth Century (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1993).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.