In the vicinity of the village of Washington, New Hampshire, a small company of earnest believers in the second advent met every Sunday, a little over a century ago, in a little white church. Here they 'prayed and preached on the hope of the soon-coming Saviour. In their midst was a visitor, Rachel Oakes (later Preston), a Seventh Day Baptist, who insisted that in keeping Sunday they were breaking one. of God's commandments, and that He would not save those who knowingly broke His commandments. In exchange for her undeniable arguments on the Sabbath truth she was given, by members of the church, equally convincing proof of the second coming of Christ. The Word of God is as a two-edged sword. Surely it worked in both directions at this time and place.
In the fall of the year 1844, during a meeting in the little white church, William Farnsworth stood up, acknowledged the truth of the seventh-day Sabbath, and determined to keep it. He was followed by several others, including his brother Cyrus. With a heart full of gratitude to God, Rachel Oakes sat weeping for joy as she witnessed the work of the Spirit upon their hearts. She later accepted the second advent truth. Thus in this church three miles from Washington, New Hampshire, there came into existence the first little company of Sabbathkeeping Adventists.
A hundred years later, the Sabbath of August 26, 5944, was set aside by the New England Conference for a special service to be held in the Washington, New Hampshire, church, commemorating the 1844 advent movement. A large number of visitors from the Atlantic Union and other fields were in attendance at the church on this beautiful Sabbath morning. J. L. McElhany, president of the General Conference, was the guest speaker. It was my privilege to be assigned by the Review and Herald to record the occasion photographically.
The services began with Sabbath school. ' The church, which seats a little over 200, was crowded to the doors, with a large number outside listening to the service through amplifying equipment. A unique feature during Sabbath school was a musical trio by three members of the church—Carroll and Waldo Farnsworth, grandsons of Cyrus Farnsworth, and Mrs. Lessie White, great-granddaughter of Rachel Preston.
At the church service Elder McElhanST preached a sermon that will be long remembered. Moved by the solemnity of the occasion in this historic place, he recited the story of the great advent movement, its humble origin, its divinely nurtured growth, and its present world-wide scope. In solemn, respectful quiet we listened, feeling a sense of reassurance and confidence in the certainty of the movement of which we are a part. Would that this memorable service in so historical a spot could have been shared by every Seventh-day Adventist in North America!
In the afternoon an interesting symposium service was held, and the services were brought to a close by the song "God Be With You Till We Meet Again." Reluctantly we drove away from this hallowed place, out over the narrow, rough road which leads from the seclusion of the little white church, onto the open highway.
The following day we visited Low Hampton, New York, just across the Vermont border. Here is William Miller's home, the Adventist chapel, and his grave. As we drove up to the neglected rural cemetery that beautiful Sunday morning and were quietly walking to the grave of William Miller, the radio in one of the cars was turned on, and with startling significance there rang out over the air the theme song of the Voice of PropheCy, "Lift up the trumpet, and loud let it ring : Jesus is coming again !" What a uniqbe synchronizing of events! What a thrill came to us while we reverently looked down upon the grave of the one whO a hundred years ago so mightily gave voice to the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, heralding the first angel's message.
As we heard the Voice of Prophecy proclaiming the mighty third angel's message, our hearts were again made to realize, by this unique occasion, that the message of the soon-coming Saviour was not to die with William Miller, but we today are to continue the work with a louder cry and a greater magnitude as heralds of that grand event. His message has decreased, but the third angel's must increase. He died in disappointment; we live to see a glorious triumph and the realization of our hopes. We must finish what he began.
The grave of William Miller is unique. The tombstone stands about six feet high and bears the inscription—"At the time appointed the end shall be"
Died Dec. 20th, 1849, in the 68th Year of his Age
"But go thou thy way till the end be, for thou shalt
rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days."
The enemy, death, how long will he,
In triumph o'er God's people reign?
When Christ shall come they will be free;
From the enemy's land return again.
Some letters are almost illegible from years of exposure to the elements. Lucy, the faithful wife of William Miller, is buried beside him, a smaller stone marking her grave. Other members of the Miller family are also buried there. We felt a sense of loss to leave such a hallowed spot without contributing something to the much-needed upkeep of the cemetery. The grass was long, and many of the gravestones were tilted one way or another. The whole cemetery had a neglected appearance. But we had to hurry on to the next place, to make our schedule for the day.
Not far from the cemetery is the William Miller chapel. Because of stressing the prophecies concerning the second advent, William Miller, with others, had been ejected from the little Baptist church he used to attend, and from which he received his license to preach in 1833. Not far from the Baptist church, which was later destroyed by fire, William Miller built his chapel in 1848. This plain little white frame building looked pathetically lonesome, even on this bright Sunday morning. It is not used regularly for services. The door was locked. We waited until the caretaker could be found to open the chapel, that we might spend a few minutes inside. The chapel seats from fifty to seventy persons, and is furnished simply. On the wall above the rostrum is inscribed, "For At the Time Appointed The End Shall Be."
The property adjoining the church is the farm homestead of William Miller. The home is on a slight rise of ground about one hundred yards from the road. It is a white frame, two-story building of simple design. To the right, and at the rear, are the barns and the woods to which, in 1831, William Miller retreated to pray, struggling with a strong conviction that he must tell the world of his Scriptural findings and conclusions on the second coming of Christ. The inner conflict was so great that his little daughter, Lucy, who had accompanied him to the woods that Saturday in August, ran back in distress to her mother, saying, "Something's the matter with daddy." Upon his return to the house where awaited the messenger from Dresden whose invitation had sent him to the woods, he agreed to speak in that town on the second coming of Christ the next day, in the absence of their minister. After dinner he accompanied the lad to Dresden, sixteen miles away. That Sunday morning Miller gave his first public discourse on the second advent of Christ. Thus began, in America, the great second advent movement.
William Miller's home is now occupied by a private owner. We sought admittance to the home but were at first refused, not through prejudice, but simply because of the inconvenience of frequent requests from visitors. However, since we had the president of the General Conference with us, and visitors from the West Coast, the kindly owner permitted seven of our company to enter.
It was a privilege indeed to stand in the very room in the northeast corner of the house in which William Miller studied. It was here that this great American reformer, with his Bible and concordance, diligently searched the Scriptures. It was here that the Lord enlightened his mind on the prophecies and their significant fulfillment, and brought him an irresistible conviction to make known to others the truths opened to his mind.
True to his convictions, Miller preached fearlessly and effectively till, weary and broken in health, he waited for the Lord's return in 1844. We thanked our gracious host and with solemnized hearts departed.
This had been a blessed experience to all of us. We had walked through the quiet of the little wooded area near the barn where William Miller struggled with God in prayer over his responsibility to the world. We had entered his house and stood in that spot where the Word of God was so diligently studied by him. We had sat in the pews of his little chapel and wandered through the unkept cemetery where "angels watch the precious dust."—Early Writings, p. 258.
No written description or pictured representation could compare with the experience of actually seeing with one's own eyes the very place where this remarkable movement was born. It brought a sense of renewed loyalty and deeper consecration to the great work that God started with so humble an instrument.
Our one regret is that these memorable spots are owned by individuals indifferent to their historical and educational value. They are places every Seventh-day Adventist should visit and know as a part of his education in Seventh-day Adventist history. It would strengthen his faith in the movement that has grown out of those humble early beginnings. This, of course, could not be possible under existing conditions. Would that these properties might be purchased by the denomination and used as centers of propagating the truth to the thousands of tourists and others that frequent that historical country. This would be a very practical and successful way to correct the flagrant errors extant as to the beginnings of Seventh-day Adventism.
Continuing our interesting trip, we visited the Belden home, where the Review and Herald was first published in 1849, at Paris, Maine. The place is now being used as an antique shop. The next stop was at Gorham, Maine, at the little farmhouse where Mrs. E. G. White was born. Some later additions have been made to the house, so that it is now much larger than originally.
We concluded our tour by visiting the places of early advent historical interest in the city of Portland, Maine. Here was the quaint old stone schoolhouse wjlich Mrs. White attended as a girl until she received a serious injury to her nose. There was also the Chestnut Street Methodist church which the Harmon family attended, and from which they were later cast out because of their faith in the second advent of Christ and their sympathies with William Miller. Then, finally, we visited the house where Mrs. White, while still in her teens, knelt in prayer with a few friends and while praying was taken off into vision—her first vision--late in 1844. The house is now used as a store.
What a trip! What an inspiration ! What a blessing to have been privileged to make this most interesting and educational tour!