William Miller realized on March 21st, the Spring Equinox, that the Son of God had not returned. This was the last day of the year 1843-44, the time he had predicted the return. He wrote:
“I am now seated at my old desk in my east room.…I am still looking for the Dear Savior…”
Miller, though a simple farmer, had made an exhaustive personal study of the Bible and had written a detailed chart of biblical prophecy for use in his preaching indicating the end times. 1843 had begun with great anticipation for the Adventists for the fulfillment of Miller’s prophecy. The Adventist newsletter had changed its subscription schedule to every three months to accommodate the possibility of a sudden Return. Miller’s sermons drew thousands of people in Washington DC and Philadelphia. The Adventist movement spread rapidly West in the Spring and reached Britain and Norway by the summer
The growth of the movement brought a backlash. William Lloyd Garrison, the great abolitionist, concluded that the “delusion has not long to run…let us rejoice.” The Tribune of New York, the most influential paper in the country, devoted a whole issue to refuting the claims of Miller. The great evangelist Charles Finney, and Joseph Smith, the prophet of Mormonism, spoke out against it. Millerites were described as weak like “weathercocks” in a “popular tempest.” A leading Biblical scholar suggested that April 1st was a day better suited to Miller’s predictions.
Miller was mocked in print. One cartoon showed Miller so busy preaching that he had forgotten to prepare himself for the end, and he is saying, “I had no idea it would be so hot.”
With every passing day of 1843, the Adventist message became more strident in its challenge to Christians. Established churches called Ministers who didn’t renounce Adventism, “the few recalcitrant offenders…[who]…went on from bad to worse, till, like wandering stars, they disappeared in darkness.”
The mockery, the attacks and criticisms, and, most of all, the condemnation from churches hurt Miller deeply. He had always seen himself as a Bible-centered Christian who wanted Christian fellowship for all and did not see his teaching as a new movement or the cause of separation and disunity. He grew increasingly ill. He was sixty-one, his body shook with palsy and swelled with fluid, while rashes and boils burst out on his skin.
Looking up at the empty sky on March 21st, 1844, William Miller still held on to his faith:
“I now am looking every day and hour for Christ to come, my time is full, the end of days are come, and at the end the vision shall speak and will not lie.”
To learn more about the Millerites, click the video link below for an excellent documentary on this powerful movement