“A New England Prophet” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman

This story is based on a religious movement in the 1800s known as the Millerites. Millerite preachers came from the ranks of Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, and other mainstream American churches. Their doctrines were, for the most part, typical—the Second Coming, the Apocalypse, the Millennium, and the Judgment were all common themes for American evangelical preachers in the 1840s. Most Americans had many reasons to identify with this exciting new movement. But one particular teaching brought controversy and criticism upon an otherwise acceptable canon of doctrines: Miller and his disciples taught that the world would end and Christ would return sometime between April 1843 and April 1844. When Christ had still not come by April 1844, Millerites adjusted the prophecy to 22 October 1844. The predicted date came and went silently. Scholars now call this date “The Great Disappointment,” and the Millerite movement dwindled and eventually vanished after the date passed. This humiliating letdown became the subject of ridicule soon thereafter, and for many years Americans associated Millerism with insanity, superstition, and gullibility.

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