1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Miller, William (Second Adventist)

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21887841911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 18 — Miller, William (Second Adventist)

MILLER, WILLIAM (1782–1849), leader of the Second Adventists in America, was born on the 5th of February 1782 at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. He was a recruiting officer at the beginning of the War of 1812, and after Plattsburg he was promoted captain, retiring from the army in 1815. About 1816 he settled in Low Hampton, Washington county, New York. He now joined the Baptist Church at Low Hampton, and, after two years of minute study of the Bible, about 1818 became a Second Adventist. In 1831 he began to lecture, arguing that the “two thousand three hundred days” of Daniel viii. 14 meant 2300 years, and that these years began with Ezra’s going up to Jerusalem in 457 B.C., and therefore came to an end in 1843, and urging his hearers to make ready for the final coming of Christ in that year. To his many followers, after the year 1843 had passed, he proclaimed that 1844 was the year, that his error was due to following Hebrew instead of Roman chronology, and that the 22nd of October was to be the day. There was renewed excitement among Miller’s followers; many of them left their business, and in white muslin robes, on house tops and hills, awaited the epiphany. In spite of disappointment, many still believed with him that the time was near. He returned to Low Hampton and died there on the 20th of December 1849. The Adventists or Millerites, who were formed into a single body in a convention called by him in April 1845, have since separated into several sects: the Evangelical Adventists (1147 in the United States in 1908), who believe in everlasting punishment; the Seventh Day Adventists (64,332), who observe the seventh day, and practise the sacrament of foot-washing; the Advent Christians (26,500), the Churches of God in Jesus Christ (2872), and the Life and Advent Union (3800). Their total number in the United States in 1908 was about 99,300. Miller published in 1833 a pamphlet which was the basis of his lectures; these were published in 1842 as Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the Year 1843.

See Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller (Boston, 1853); James White, Sketches of the Christian Life and Public Labors of William Miller (Battle Creek, 1875); and Edward Eggleston’s novel, End of the World (1872).