William Miller Steps Off The Train

Timothy Cole eyed the throng of passengers disembarking from the train that had just pulled into the depot. The old iron beast lay calmly on the tracks belching out plumes of smoke into the crisp spring air. The platform was alive with the cheerful shouts and whistles of passengers meeting and greeting loved ones and friends who had come to meet them.

Timothy Cole shut out the buzz around him and focused very carefully on the faces of those who continued to disembark.

He was a man on a mission.

He was here to meet a rather distinguished preacher. A preacher whose work had yielded some phenomenal results. A preacher who was surely, without doubt, an eminent theologian and scholar, judging by the contents of his sermons and articles. Timothy Cole had written to the preacher a few weeks before inviting him to speak at the church where he served as minister.

His flock needed revival and reformation.

Badly.

Pastor Cole continued to scan the faces of the alighting travellers. “Now which one is William Miller” he muttered to himself. He had been told that Father Miller wore a camel cloak and a white hat and so he kept his eyes peeled for any sign of that particular fashion combination.

He could picture him now in his mind’s eye; tall and distinguished looking with a well-buffed coat and an impeccably clean white hat. He would present himself to Cole with a dignified air that fully suited a man of his calibre and spiritual authority. Yes. William Miller would be just the man his congregation needed.

His flock needed revival and reformation.

Badly.  

Suddenly his eyes honed in on the last passenger disembarking the train. He was slightly round, decidedly plain and of medium height. He wore a white hat that revealed darkening auburn hair beneath its brim and a well worn, somewhat dusty camel coat. The man was standing in the middle of the platform taking in his surroundings while other passengers busily and somewhat impatiently jostled around him. He didn’t seem to mind the jostling at all. Timothy Cole’s mind clamped shut around the image of the man in front of him like a steel trap.

The Unfortunate Predicament Of Timothy Cole

No, he thought almost in a daze, as he took in the white hat and camel coat. No, it couldn’t be!

The man in front of him was nothing but an old farmer and most definitely not the spiritual spartan of Cole’s mental meanderings.  Cole stood frozen as he stared at the man in numb shock.

No, no, no he thought in almost hysterical desperation, this cannot be William Miller.

The elderly man continued to stand there looking lost and perhaps even a little confused while Timothy Cole continued to stand there staring rigidly at him looking like a man who had just walked into a glass wall. It would have been comical had it not been slightly tragic.

The shrill whistle of the train and the low hiss of the engine steaming to life jolted Cole out of his reverie and he forced himself to approach the man.

“Are you Miller” he whispered somewhat roughly as soon as he was within earshot. William Miller’s head turned to take in the visibly shaken and somewhat scornful Timothy Cole.

“Yes,” he said with a smile as he juggled his bags and held out his hand in greeting. His warm blue eyes lighted on Cole’s face with a genuine kindness that was totally lost on the man.

Cole clenched his teeth together.

He would have to make do with the unfortunate predicament he found himself in.

His flock needed revival and reformation.

Badly.

“This way” Cole snapped curtly before turning on his heel and striding off at full gait leaving poor William Miller, shaking and exhausted from his long train journey to scramble after him with his bags in tow.

They rode to Cole’s home in icy silence. Cole offered no introduction and no pleasantries. He was writhing in embarrassment at the sight of this pedestrian farmer, kicking himself for ever having invited him and wondering how he would face his congregation after the man had fumbled through his first sermon.

William Miller absorbed Cole’s rudeness with unprecedented grace and kindness. He was polite, answered courteously when he was spoken to and ate the meal he was begrudgingly offered with gratitude. When they finally made their way to the church Cole led William Miller up to the platform and promptly abandoned him, choosing to sit in the congregation rather than associate himself with Miller in any way.

For his part, William Miller handled the situation with dignity. After bravely leading the congregation in singing two hymns, Father Miller read his favourite Bible verse;

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; (2 Timothy 2:13)

He then plunged right into his sermon with a passionate eloquence that belied his humble appearance. The congregation sat listening to him with rapt attention in an atmosphere that crackled with electricity.

Timothy Cole sat gaping at the spiritual spartan wrapped in the swaddling clothes of a poor New England farmer.

He realised that he found himself in a terribly unfortunate predicament.

His congregation didn’t need revival and reformation.

He did.

Badly.

With the dawning of that realisation, he stood up and meekly took his place on the platform in the empty seat behind Father Miller.

Citations and Further Reading

 

  • Collins, N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers: Book One