God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World

God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World

God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World

God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World


The fascinating story of an intriguing -- and little understood -- religious figure in nineteenth-century America

Calvinist Baptist preacher William Miller (1782-1849) was the first prominent American popularizer of using biblical prophecy to determine a specific and imminent time for Christ's return to earth. On October 22, 1844 -- a day known as the Great Disappointment - he and his followers gave away their possessions, abandoned their work, donned white robes, and ascended to rooftops and hilltops to await a Second Coming that never actually came.

Or so the story goes.

The truth -- revealed here -- is far less titillating but just as captivating. In fact, David Rowe argues, Miller was in many ways a mainstream, even typical figure of his time.

Reflecting Rowe's meticulous research throughout, God's Strange Work does more than tell one man's remarkable story. It encapsulates the broader history of American Christianity in the time period and sets the stage for many significant later developments: the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the tenets of various well-known new religious movements, and even the enduring American fascination with end-times prophecy. Rowe rescues Miller from the fringes and places him where he rightly belongs -- in the center of American religious history.


In the early 1840s the ground was shifting under many parts of the Christian world. in Scotland, tensions over the influence of lay patrons were moving inexorably toward the breakaway of a “Free Church” from the nation’s established Presbyterian Kirk. in Berlin the young Karl Marx was aligning himself with the atheistic wing of Hegel’s followers and coming to the conclusion that churches were important mostly for how they obscured the class struggles that were the key to all of history. in the Netherlands, an archivist and political pamphleteer, Groen van Prinsterer, was brooding over the corrosive effects of the French Revolution on church, state, and society; soon he would issue an anti-Revolutionary manifesto that continues to influence Calvinists in many parts of the world. in England, Charles Darwin continued to make public reports on the strange creatures he had encountered on his recently completed round-the-world voyage while in private he worked on a grander theory to explain how this profusion of species had come about. in the islands of the South Seas, in China, in India, and on the coast of South Africa, intrepid missionaries were just beginning the momentous process that would one day transform Christianity from a mostly Western religion into humankind’s first truly global religion. and in Low Hampton, New York, a Baptist farmer by the name of William Miller had convinced thousands of his fellow Americans that the End of the World was at hand.

In a recently published general account of American history during the years 1815–1848, Daniel Walker Howe has explained in ex-

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