1782 - 1849
was a farmer, justice of the peace, sheriff, and
Baptist preacher, who, from 1831 to 1844, preached
the immanent return of Christ. He was born in
Pittsfield, Massachusetts. His mother was a deeply
religious person, and his father a soldier. Probably
as a result, there was tension in his early life
between patriotism and religious belief. He was
largely self-educated, attending school only for
three months each winter between ages 9 and 14.
As a young man, Miller was influenced by reading
and association to become a deist. This is a belief
that God made the world and then abandoned it
to run according to certain natural laws. Miller
volunteered for service in the War of 1812, and
while in service saw evidences that there was
a God, after all, who intervenes in human affairs.
After the war he was converted and began a systematic
study of the Bible to find answers to his former
questions. In the process he discovered the prophecies
of Daniel and Revelation, especially Daniel 8,
which seemed to predict that Christ would soon
return to earth. He finally established through
the process of applying the Bible principle of
a day for a year in prophecy, that Jesus would
come a second time "about the year 1843."
began preaching in small towns at first, and then,
with the help of Joshua Himes, moved to the larger
cities, bringing his second advent message to
many thousands. Hundreds of ministers and laymen
joined in preaching the message. By the expected
time for Christ's return, Miller had between 50,000
to 100,000 followers, commonly known as Millerites.
He did not set a specific date for the second
advent. At first he said only that it would be
"about 1843." He finally set an ultimate
time in the spring of 1844. Others picked the
more precise date of October 22, 1844, which Miller
and many of the leaders of the first movement
accepted shortly before the date arrived.
Many clergymen joined Miller in his preaching.
At the same time, he was greatly opposed by others.
So much so, that in the final months, most churches
were closed to the second advent preaching, and
many of those who accepted the message were put
out of their churches.
Ellen White has written positively about Miller
in The Great Controversy and elsewhere. She heard
him preach, and accepted his teachings, going
through the disappointment at age 16. She believed
that his preaching fulfilled the prophecies of
Scripture, and saw him being guided by the Lord.
never accepted advancing understanding of the
disappointment. Ellen White wrote: "I saw
that William Miller erred as he was soon to enter
the heavenly Canaan, in suffering his influence
to go against the truth. Others led him to this;
others must account for it. But angels watch the
precious dust of this servant of God, and he will
come forth at the sound of the last trump."--Early
Writings, p. 258.
After the disappointment of October 22, he wrote:
"Although I have been twice disappointed,
I am not yet cast down or discouraged. . . . I
have fixed my mind upon another time, and here
I mean to stand until God gives me more light,--and
that is Today, TODAY, and TODAY, until He comes,
and I see Him for whom my soul yearns."--The
Midnight Cry, Dec. 5, 1844, pp. 179, 180.