Jump to content

William Miller's Masonic connection

Recommended Posts

It was here [Poultney, Vermont] that Mr. Miller became a member of the Masonic fraternity, in which his perseverance, if nothing else, was manifested; for he advanced to the highest degree which the lodges then in the country, or in that region, could confer. 
Sylvester Bliss, Apollos Hale. Memoirs of William Miller: Generally Known as a Lecturer on the Prophecies and the Second Coming of Christ. — pp. 21-22. — Publisher: Joshua V. Himes. — 1853. 

The following list of those who have been prominent in the Order in this county are given by Mr. CLARK: (...) Rev. William MILL 

William Miller in many respects typified the Yankee Yorkers of his generation. Four years after his birth in 1782, his family left Pittsfield, Massachussetts, to settle in Hampton, just over the Vermont line in Washington County, New York. His parents, neither impoverished nor ignorant, afforded for him a common-school education, which he improved by wide-reading in the libraries of several neighboring gentlemen. He became a Royal Arch Mason and a good Democrat and advanced from constable and justice to sheriff of Poultney, Vermont. Having been commissioned a militia lieutenant in 1810, he naturally went to war two years later, participating in the battles about Lake Champlain
Whitney R. Cross. The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800–1850. — P. 306.— Cornell University Press. — 2015. — ISBN 080147700X / 9780801477003 

Fitting in with his newfound brothers and sisters, Miller continued to resists settings himself apart from them so radically by preaching the approaching destructions of the world. At the end of the decadem though, a combination of event and circumstance shook him from his lethargy. The event was a wholesale attach on an institution that had figured greatly in his spiritual wrestling: the Masons. At first Freemasonry attracted rationalists, like Miller, who found in it a vehicle for fellowship and developing and demonstrating civic virtue without requiring belief in illogical doctrines or belonging to exclusive sects. But in the years that Miller joined and belonged to the lodge it developed a decidedly Christian ethos, emphasizing the same fraternal and benevolent qualities evangelicals were promoting. At the same time, evangelicalism was adopting the rational rhetoric of republicanism. The rapprochement made Masonry a meeting place where people of all faiths and sects could gather and unite in the cause of charity, leading at least one Mason to forecase "[a] happy Masonic millenial period" that wood soon commence "to the inexpressible joy of all inhabitants of the eart." Mille undoubtely gained experience in benevolent work through hislodge long before he applied those lessons in the Baptist church, and the followship he found there would have please his primitive dislike for sectarianism and yearning for common ground where rational men could built righteous community based on virtue. 
After his conversion, Masonry offered something more personal, a rational piety that allowed him to move slowly toward a more affective spirituality that required a level of trust in God he had not yet achieved. It was, in short, a safe place where God and angels could mingle with Wisdom and Virtue. As Steven G. Bullock puts it, 'For cosmopolitan Americans eager to avoid both a narrow and parochial sectarianism on one hand and an equally dangerous nonbiblical rationalism, Masonry seemed to reinforce an enlightened middle way." This was the moode of a song Miller composed entitle "A Masonic Dream," and allegory that, in safety of dream, mixed surviviing rationalism and biblicism. A converstion with pious friend had turned to freemasonry, "that woundrous art,/a secret had been kept so long." But they condemned it as diabolical. "They said that Satan had a part/In making of a league so strong." Hurt and confused by their comments, he went to bed. "When [M]orpheus closed my eyes to sleep/A form Divine so bright did shine/And since it has no harm to dream,/With libery I'll tell you mine." 
Like Bunyan's Pilgrim, Miller now followed his guide to a "gloriuous Temple" where, reflecting Masonic ritual, he knelt at the west gate and received a name, donned a head band and apron, and learned lessons in virtuos living from his guides. "Their implements being led aside/In vocal concert all combine/The heavens reverberate the song/To praise the architect divine." Then the imagery shifts from masonic to biblical, reflecting Masonry's claims to Moses as their founder. "_I am_, _I am_ not strengthned me/With vigour to my course pursue/And when my rod a serpent see/The leprous flesh appeard as new... My shoes I put from off my feet/While on the holy ground I stood/The burning bush did not consume/Being p[r]eserved by Israels God. Here mystic characters I read/_Jehovahs_ praise was all my theme./ The _rod_ I saw and _manna_ bread/I woke and lo, I'd dreamed a dream." It was both a Mason and a Baptist that he could "praise the architect divine." 
pp. 91-92 

<...> Masonry proved one of the most divisive issues amoung Christians since the War of 1812, sporadically flaring for ten years from 1826 to 1836. Rancor in Miller's Washington Association became so descrutive that in 1829 it called a special council to seek a remedy, in meantime urging churched to "excercise Christian moderation and forbearance, and endeavour to diminish and not to widen the unhappy breached already too visible among them." To no avail; two years later the Bottskil [Anti-Masonic] Association seceded, taking with them six congregations (Hampton not among them). "No church who refuse to apply the laws of Christ," it said, "or who do not apply them for the entire removal of Speculative Freemasonry from their fellowship, shall be numbered in the Association." It survived a scant three years but temporarily stopped Baptist growth in the region. 
Miller's Masonic connection could not have gone unnoticed. As a longtime Mason and onetime Grand Master, he found himself on the defensive in the church and community. For fifteen years after becoming a baptist he head reimaind a Mason, but in September 1831 he wrote a grudging letter of resignation from the local lodge, not because belonging to the Masons was wrong but "to consilliate the feelings of my Brethren in Christ" and to avoid "fellowship with any practice that may be incompatible with the Word of God amoung masons." Controversy continued. Two years later he complained that the Hampton church granted letters of dismission to three anti-Masons even though they proclaimed "the could not and would not walk with the Ch[urch]." Apparently Miller's Masonic past was still a lightning rod, for he swore, "I never said nor practiced, anything knowingly to injure my country, the Ch. of Christ — or my fellow creatures." At least he could attend the 1833 annual meeting of the Association in goode conssience as the delegates advised churches to treat Freeemasonry "as they would any other evil." 
Even so, Masonic imagery continued to suffuse Miller's writing According to his memoir, another dream, very similar to hist first, inspired him to begin preaching. Once again, celestial guides led him to an upper room filled with light and pilgrims singing "Hallelujah to the Lamb!" Odd references occur throughout the tale, but he interpreted the dream as God's confirming his faith and course of action. Bliss denied twice that dreams held any particular significance to Miller, but he also remembered Miller's referring to the dream frequently over the year. Seemingly inconsequential events would remind him of details in the dream, as though they had been portents. Caveats notwithstanding, this was not the last time Miller would use dreams to convey messages obliquely. More significant, as we shall see, was his latter description of the dream's impact that would signal his drift toward a more romantic, affective spirituality. 
It cannot be coincidental that Miller resigned from the Masons less than a month after his first public lecture on the end of the world. Revealed religion now required him to make a choice, and revival sounded that clarion call. 
pp. 93-94 
David L. Rowe. God's Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World. — Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. — 2008. — ISBN 0802803806/9780802803801

  • Upvote 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...