William Miller was a farmer, justice of the peace, sheriff, and Baptist preacher, who, from 1831 to 1844, preached the immanent return of Christ. 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.”
Hundreds of ministers and laymen from every denomination joined Miller 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. The date of October 22, 1844, was finally set as the day of Christ’s return.
After their great disappointment on October 22, Miller 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
The Harmon family had embraced Millers teachings on the coming advent of Christ. As a result they were visited by their Methodist minister who informed Mr. Harmon that his family's faith and Methodism could not agree. The minister advised them to withdraw quietly from the church and avoid the publicity of a trial. Harmon answered, "We prefer a regular trial, and demand to know what sin was charged against us, as we were conscious of no wrong in looking for and loving the appearing of the Savior." Soon after at a meeting held in the church vestry, the single charge against them was that they had walked contrary to the rules of the Methodist church. The Harmons expressed their intention to maintain their faith in the soon coming of Jesus, and left the church with free spirits, happy in the consciousness of the approving smile of Jesus. The next Sunday, the presiding elder [Charles Baker] read off their names, seven in number, as discontinued from the Methodist church.
In 1842 Frederick Wheeler, an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, accepted the Millerite preaching of the advent, and became active in preaching the second coming of Christ. While presiding at a communion service at the Washington, New Hampshire, church early in 1844, he stated that only those who kept all of God's commandments should participate. Rachel Oaks (later Preston) was present. She was a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church, and was living with her daughter, Delight, who was teaching school close by. After the service, Rachel reminded Wheeler that he was not keeping all of God's commandments. She then introduced him to the seventh-day Sabbath. After this discussion, Wheeler went to his Bible to study the subject, and became convinced of the truth of the Sabbath. On March 16, 1844, he preached his first sermon on the subject. Several members of his Washington, New Hampshire, congregation also later became Sabbath-keepers.
T. M. Preble was a Free Will Baptist minister in New Hampshire, and a Millerite preacher. After accepting the message of William Miller, Preble began preaching the Second Advent and was soon excommunicated from his church in Nashua, New Hampshire. In September 1842 he was one of the speakers at a camp meeting in eastern Maine attended by James White. Preble accepted the Sabbath in 1844, perhaps from Frederick Wheeler or someone else associated with the Washington, New Hampshire, church.
Preble was the first "Adventist” to advocate the Sabbath in print. His article in the Hope of Israel, February 28, 1845, was reprinted in tract form in March under the title, Tract, Showing That the Seventh Day Should be Observed as the Sabbath. This tract led to the conversion of seven families in Paris, Maine. They included Edward Andrews's family (father of J. N. Andrews), the Stowells, and the Cyprian Stevenses, including the two sisters who afterward became Mrs. J. N. Andrews, and Mrs. Uriah Smith. Preble's article also introduced the Sabbath to Joseph Bates, who later wrote his own tract on the Sabbath. Preble observed the Sabbath only until the middle of 1847.
In later years he wrote against the Sabbath and those who continued to look for the second advent of our Lord. His writing was answered by J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith, and J. H. Waggoner--some of the same persons who were brought to knowledge of the Sabbath by Preble later defended the Sabbath against his opposition. Joseph Bates wrote his own tract in 1846 that would be instrumental in bringing James and Ellen White, formerly Harmon, to accept the Sabbath shortly after their marriage. J. N. Andrews also became a champion of the Sabbath, in his monumental book, History of the Sabbath, and in a series of articles in the Review, a church periodical.
After the great disappointment of October 22nd, 1844, Miller’s group dwindled to a small group of about fifty. These individuals banded together in study and recognized the error of setting a date for the Second Advent of Jesus. They continued to study the scriptures, including the passages in Daniel 8 that led William Miler to his erroneous view. The group soon came to an understanding of this and many other scriptural passages all the while growing in number.
The decade from 1850 to 1860 marked a steady development of church order among Sabbath-keeping Adventists as they had become to be known. Their earlier history did not lend itself naturally to organization. As part of the Millerite movement, many had been put out of the organized churches for their belief in the immanent return of Christ. When James White suggested that they should take the first steps toward organization, immediate controversy erupted. Leaders of the group finally met September 29-October 1, 1860, at Battle Creek, Michigan. On September 30 the Advent Review Publishing Association was formed. The next day, October 1, the name "Seventh-day Adventist" was chosen for the church.
First Local Conference Organized - October 4-6, 1861
At a conference held in Battle Creek, Michigan, with seven ministers present, the first local conference was organized. The resolution read: "Resolved, that we recommend to the churches in the State of Michigan to unite in one Conference, with the name of the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists." Officers were elected, with Joseph Bates as chair, and Uriah Smith as secretary. Another resolution provided for the issuing of ministerial credentials and certificates of ordination. The next year (1862) six other local conferences were organized: Southern Iowa, Northern Iowa, Vermont, Illinois and Wisconsin, Minnesota, and New York, as the Sabbath truth reached throughout the country.
General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Organized -- May 1863
When the delegates met for the first regular session of the Michigan Conference, October 4-6, 1862, they passed a resolution asking to meet with the other six conferences that had been formed, in general conference, at their next annual conference. The General Conference was organized at a meeting, May 20-23, 1863. Delegates were present from New York, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. A constitution was formed, and John Byington was elected the first president. There were approximately 3,500 members in the new church at this time, all living in North America.
Under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit, manifested in the writings of Ellen White, this fundamental Bible-based churches membership, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has grown to almost twenty million worldwide. As a church we continue to proclaim the second advent of Jesus and we continue worshipping Him on the only day that He ever sanctified (the seventh day Sabbath—Saturday). We invite and accept every nation, all races and religions to join us as we humbly wait for the soon coming of King Jesus.
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