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A Response to the Video:
Seventh-day Adventism, the Spirit Behind the Church

by Bob Pickle

Answers to Questions Raised by:
Mark Martin, Sydney Cleveland
Dale Ratzlaff, The White Lie
. . . and

Discern Fact from Fiction

The Millerite Movement

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#4: "Her Methodist family [the Harmons] came under the influence of William Miller, a powerful preacher."—David Snyder, the video's first guest speaker.

#4: Miller was a powerful preacher. No, Miller wasn't a local pastor in the Harmon's community. He was a Baptist lecturer living in New York; they lived in Maine.

The Millerite Movement was the American phase of one of the most powerful, the most widespread ecumenical revivals this world has ever seen. Its core message was spread in the U.S. and Canada by at least seven hundred ministers and lecturers from many denominations, and there were more abroad (Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller, p. 327). L. D. Fleming put the count of American lecturers at 1,500 to 2,000 in March 1844 (Leroy Froom, Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4, p. 699). All this the video reduces to a single individual described only as a powerful preacher.

Such an oversimplification is quite understandable. This video is intended to attack Seventh-day Adventists, not Baptists, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians. It would therefore be counterproductive for it to acknowledge that Miller's views were shared by those of all faiths. It would likewise hurt its case to admit that most evangelicals today are more in harmony with Miller than with the views of Miller's opposition.

The core message all these ministers and lecturers were preaching was that Christ would return visibly and literally before the millennium instead of after (see #5). In connection with this, Miller and his associates called for a genuine commitment to the Lord Jesus, so that their hearers would be prepared for His return. This resulted in thousands of conversions. Miller wrote in July 1845:

"On recalling to mind the several places of my labors, I can reckon up about six thousand instances of conversion from nature's darkness to God's marvelous light, the result of my personal labors alone; and I should judge the number to be much greater. Of this number I can recall to mind about seven hundred, who were, previously to their attending my lectures, infidels; and their number may have been twice as great. Happy results have also followed from the labors of my brethren . . . ."—Bliss, p. 327.

At the invitation of Elder L. D. Fleming, pastor of the Christian Church in Portland, Maine, Miller gave a course of lectures in that city in March 1840. One month later, Elder Fleming described the effects of Miller's lectures:

"At some of our meetings since Br. Miller left, as many as 250, it has been estimated, have expressed a desire for religion, by coming forward for prayers; and probably between one and two hundred have professed conversion at our meeting; and now the fire is being kindled through this whole city, and all the adjacent country. A number of rum-sellers have turned their shops into meeting-rooms, and those places that were once devoted to intemperance and revelry, are now devoted to prayer and praise. Others have abandoned the traffic entirely, and are become converted to God. One or two gambling establishments, I am informed, are entirely broken up. Infidels, Deists, Universalists, and the most abandoned profligates, have been converted; some who had not been to the house of worship for years. Prayer-meetings have been established in every part of the city by the different denominations, or by individuals, and at almost every hour. Being down in the business part of our city, I was conducted into a room over one of the banks, where I found about thirty or forty men, of different denominations, engaged with one accord in prayer, at about eleven o'clock in the day-time! In short, it would be almost impossible to give an adequate idea of the interest now felt in this city. There is nothing like extravagant excitement, but an almost universal solemnity on the minds of all the people. One of the principal booksellers informed me that he had sold more Bibles in one month, since Br. Miller came here, than he had in any four months [p. 16] previous. A member of an orthodox church informed me that if Mr. Miller could now return, he could probably be admitted into any of the orthodox houses of worship, and he expressed a strong desire for his return to our city."—William Miller, Miller's Works, vol. 1, pp. 17, 18.

Sounds like we could use another William Miller today, wouldn't you say?

The movement elsewhere in the world, sometimes unconnected to Miller, was similar in its general characteristics, except for Sweden. It was against the law there to preach about Christ's soon coming and the approaching judgment. But prophecy foretold that such a message had to be given (Rev. 14:6, 7, 13-16). To surmount this legal obstacle, the Holy Spirit moved upon children to preach, and the authorities could not get them to stop. Their sermons called upon the people to forsake drunkenness and worldly amusements, like card playing, dancing, and frivolity. It was sobering to those who heard.

The reports of that time give the ages of the large number of children involved as being six, eight, ten, twelve, sixteen, and eighteen. A brief account of this phenomenon can be found in The Great Controversy, pages 366, 367. For a fuller account, complete with references to Swedish sources, most of which were written by opposers to the phenomenon, see Froom, volume 3, pages 670-686.

A Response to the Video

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