Miller and Himes: The Unlikely Duo

The subdued clink of cutlery against pristine china punctuated the otherwise quiet room. William Miller was absorbed in cutting up his meal while Joshua Himes slowly chewed his food, watching father Miller like a hawk.

“Do you really believe what you’ve been preaching?” Himes finally asked, dabbing his mouth with a napkin and putting his cutlery down.

Miller looked up briefly before continuing to studiously poke at his food “I do” he mumbled between mouthfuls.

Himes nodded thoughtfully, still eyeing Miller with a sort of patrician astuteness that belied his youth. “What have you done to spread the word?”

Poor father Miller balked just a little bit under the heat of Joshua’s piercing gaze. “Well, I’ve accepted every invitation I’ve received,” he said a little defensively

“And where have you preached?” Himes pressed, persistently

“Well I’ve done quite a bit of preaching in the towns and villages in New England” Miller began but Joshua cut him off with a tiny cry of horror “You mean to tell me that you’ve only been preaching in small villages in New England?” he asked staring at Miller in disbelief.

Miller sighed “What do you expect Joshua? I’m just a farmer. I’ve done the best I could”

But Joshua barely heard the last defeated sentence. His mind was whirring and his eye had taken on a faraway look. At long last he focused his gaze on Miller, latching onto his face with a stern intensity.  

“But what about the big cities? What about Baltimore, Rochester, New York, Philadelphia? Indeed what about the Florida territory and beyond?” Himes was waxing lyrical now “Father Miller have you given no thought to the seventeen million people that make up these United States? Are they not to have the same opportunity as every little hamlet and village that has already heard you preach?”

It was the beginning of a beautiful and fruitful partnership in which Himes was always energetic and Miller at times found his nerves fraying under the intensity of the younger man’s enthusiasm. But in many ways Miller and Himes were the dynamic duo of the Millerite Movement, indeed there may not have been a Millerite Movement had it not been for Himes’ foresight and entrepreneurial genius.

He upped Miller’s preaching schedule to include every major city on the eastern seaboard, published several broadsides, beginning with the Signs of The Times in 1840, published numerous tracts and booklets, had the largest tent to be erected on American soil up to that point made and set up and almost single-handedly launched the Millerite movement.

But Himes’ entrepreneurial panache would not have accomplished one-tenth of what it ultimately did if it had not been for Miller’s message. The simple old New England farmer, who had quietly and methodically scoured scripture in search of the truth had a message that made a seismic impact.

So what do we learn from the collaborative efforts of Joshua Himes and William Miller? I’d like to tease out 3 important talking points, though I am sure there are many more lessons to be drawn.

 

Be Willing To Listen and Learn

 

Miller was an old New England farmer, a veteran who had seen his fair share of action and had come through it somewhat of a hero. Himes was an up and coming Boston intellectual. He pastored the Chardon Street chapel which was a melting pot of different ideologies and causes. Chardon Street was home to a colorful array of Christian protesters and activists and Himes was in the thick of it all.

Point in case? They were both extremely different and extremely well respected in their own circles, so it would have been easy for each of them to want to talk over the other and preen just a little bit.

As it turned out neither of them did that and both of them were better off for it. The thing is, we live in a world where we are surrounded by examples of men and women who are more willing to teach than they are to learn and to voice their opinions in 280 characters than they are to listen to what someone else has to say.

What made the Miller/Himes partnership so powerful was that they were each willing to genuinely listen and learn from the other. Good partnerships are formed when each party is willing to listen and learn, rather than talk and instruct.

Opposites Attract

Perhaps the most significant thing about Himes and Miller was their unlikely partnership. They were in many ways polar opposites and yet they complemented each other really well. On one hand, Miller’s calm, methodical approach to Bible study yielded a rich crop in the form of the 2300 day prophecy. On the other Himes’ ability to see the big picture and his amazing entrepreneurial abilities created an entire movement around Miller’s findings.

Together they were an amazing team. Until Himes came along Miller was a small time circuit-riding preacher confined to New England. He didn’t have the skills or gifts to generate the kind of interest in his messages that was needed. Similarly, in Himes’ own words, Miller presented him with “the cause to end all causes”, something that, in his eyes, was worth laying everything on the altar for.

They were completely different and yet they each brought something unique to the table that not only enriched their own lives but also the lives of those they ministered to.

Partnerships are important. Especially partnerships between people who seem to be polar opposites. Though completely different, once united in a collaborative effort, each party can draw on the strengths of the other to create something that they would otherwise not have been able to create had they worked alone. In the case of Himes and Miller their partnership, which combined their unique strengths spawned a movement that turned America upside down.

Don’t overlook the people in your life who are polar opposites to you. They may offer you the best collaborative partnerships you never had.

Mutual Love and Respect

Sometimes it’s easy to look down on people who are different and to feel that you are somehow better than they are. It would have been easy for Himes to condescend to Miller and treat him like an illiterate country bumpkin as several other people did. Similarly, it would have been easy for Miller to give into the irritation he must inevitably have felt in the face of Joshua’s constant energy and enthusiasm. Being around Joshua Himes would have been exhausting if reading about him is anything to go by.

Yet they treated each other with mutual love and respect and that made all the difference in their relationship. Miller trusted Himes’ judgment and Himes was willing to stake everything he had on Miller’s message.

Partnerships thrive when both parties, value each other and treat each other with love and respect. Where these elements are missing the partnership begins to unravel and in many cases so does the friendship between the two parties.

Partnerships, collaborative collectives, connections; these are all vital to personal and spiritual growth. What partnerships can you form to help you move forward and grow?  And how can you nurture those partnerships so that they thrive?

Citations and Further Reading

  • Maxwell, C.M. (1976) – Tell it to the World: The Story of Seventh-Day Adventists
  • Knight, G.R. (1999) – A Brief History of Seventh-Day Adventists (3rd Edition)
  • Collins, N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book 1)
  • Burt, M.D. (2011) – Adventist Pioneer Places (New York and New England)

Suki Goonatilleke lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and two daughters. She is passionate about winning people for Jesus and has served in full-time ministry at Gateway Adventist Center. Her current ministry endeavors include being a stay-at-home mom by day and writer by night.