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WILLIAM MILIER was born at Pittsfield, Mass., Feb. 15, 1782. When he was four years of age, his father removed to the town of Hampton, Washington County, New York, the present residence of Mr. Miller. The country was then new, and his means of education, till nine years of age, were very small. His mother, however, taught him to read, so that when he was sent to the common school, he could read in the Bible, Psalter, and an old Hymn Book, which at that time constituted the whole of his father's library. After his ninth year, he was sent to school three months in the year, till he was fourteen. During this time, he was noted by his companions as a prodigy for learning, as they called it, particularly in the branches of spelling, reading, and writing. At the age of fourteen, he became anxious to obtain books to read. The first history he obtained was Robinson Crusoe; and the first novel he ever saw was Robert Boyle. He read them with avidity, and being so much interested in them, he read them many times over. He then became still more anxious to obtain books, especially histories and journals of travellers. A number of gentlemen in the vicinity of his father's residence, on being made acquainted with his love of reading, kindly offered him the privilege of their private libraries, which he accepted with much gratitude. From this time till he was twenty-one years of age, he was a most devoted stu
dent of ancient and modern history. The names of his benefactors ought to be given in this place, as they deserve to be honored for their liberality and love of learning. One of them was the Hon. Matthew Lyon, Representative_to Congress from Vermont, from 1794 to 1798. The others were Judge James Witherell, afterwards judge of Michigan Territory; and "Alexander Cruikshanks, Esq., of Whitehall, formerly of ScotlandBy the kindness of these gentle. men, he was enabled to store his mind with a vast collection of historical facts, which have since been of so much service to him in the illustration of the prophecies. Possessing a strong mind and a retentive memory, he appropriated the contents of those gentlemen's libraries to his own use; and even now, after a lapse of more than thirty years, it is astonishing to observe the correctness of his frequent references to these historical facts and dates in his extemporaneous lectures.
At the age of twenty-two, he was married, and settled in Poultney, Vt.' Here, he was still favored with the privilege of pursuing his favorite study; having free access to a large public library. Here also he became acquainted with the deistical writings of Voltaire, Hume, Paine, Ethan Allen, and others. He studied them closely, and at length professedly became a Deist. The principal men in the village were Deists; but, as a class, they were good citizens, and as a general thing were moral, and of serious deportment. With these he was associated about twelve years, in the defence of deistical senti
In the last war with Great Britain, he received a captain's commission in the United States' service, and served in the army until the 25th of June, 1815, after peace was declared. He then moved to his present residence, Low Hampton, where the year following, 1816, he was converted from Deism to the christian faith, and united with the regular Baptist church in that place, of which he is now a member in good standing.
We gather the following facts relating to his past history and experience from his letters to us on this subject. The following connected account is inade out from them, mostly in his own words:
“In my youth, between the years of seven and ten, I was often concerned about the welfare of my soul; particularly in relation to its future destiny. I spent much time in trying to invent some plan, whereby I might please God, when brought into his immediate presence. . Two ways suggested themselves to me, which I tried. One was, to be very good, to do nothing wrong, tell no lies, and obey my parents. But I found my resolutions were weak, and soon broken. The other was to sacrifice; by giving up the most cherished objects I possessed. But this also failed me; so that I was never settled and happy in mind, until I came to Jesus Christ. While I was a Deist, I believed in a God, but I could not, as I thought, believe the Bible was the word of God. The many contradictions, and inconsistencies, which I thought could be shown, made me suppose it to be a work of designing men, whose object was to enslave the mind of man; operate on their hopes and fears, with a view to aggrandize themselves. The history of religion as it had been presented to the world, and particularly by the listorians of the eighteenth cen, iury, was but a history of blood, tyranny, and oppression ; in which the common people were the greatest sufferers. I viewed it as a system of craft, rather than of truth. Besides, the advocates of Christianity admitted that the Bible was so dark and intricate that no man could understand it. This always was to me an inconsistent idea of God; and even niade the Bible appear more like the oracles of the heathen gods, than like the wisdom of the just and righteous God: To give us the Scriptures to teach us the way of eternal life, and at the same time clothe them in a mantle of mysticism, so that no man could under. stand them! 'Reveal his will, which we cannot understand, and then punish us for disobedience ! How can such a being be called either wise or good ? These, and the like, were my arguments against the Bible. In the mean time, I continued my studies, storing my mind with historical knowledge. The more I read, the more dreadfully corrupt did the character of man appear. I could discern no bright spot in the history of the past. Those conquerors of the world, and heroes of history, were apparently but demons in human form. All the sorrow, suffering, and misery in the world, seemed to be increased in proportion to the power they obtained over their fellows. I began to feel very distrustful of all men. In this state of mind I entered the service of my country. I fondly cherished the idea, that I should find one bright spot at least in the human character, as a star of hope: a love of country--PATRIOTISM. But two years in the service was enough to convince me that I was in an error in this thing also. When I left the service I had become completely disgusted with man's public character. I retired from the busy scenes of public life, in which I had been engaged about ten years; and thought to seek for that happiness, which had always eluded my pursuit_in my former occupations, in the domestic circle. For a little space, a care and hurden was taken off from my mind; but after a while I felt the need of some more active employment. My lif: became too monotonous. I had lost all those pleasing, prospects, which in youth I expected to enjoy in riper years. It appeared to me that there was nothing good on earth. Those things in which I expected to find some solid good had deceived me. I began to think man was no more than a brute, and the idea of hereofter was a dream; annihilation was a cold and chilling thought; and accountability was sure desiruction to all. The heavens were as brass over my head, and the earth as iron under my feet. ETERNITY! What was it? And death, why was it? The more I reasoned, the further I was from demonstra. tion. The more I thought, the more scattered were my conclusions. I tried to stop thinking; but my thoughts would not be controlled. I was truly
wretched; but did not understand the cause. I murmured and complained, but knew not of whom. I felt that there was a wrong, but knew not how, or where, to find the right. I mourned, but without hope. I continued in this state of mind for some months; at length, when brought almost to despair, God by his Holy Spirit opened my eyes. I saw Jesus as a friend, and my only help, and the word of God as the perfect rule of duty. Jesus Christ became to me the chiefest among ten thousand, and the Scriptures, which before were dark and contradictory, now became the lamp to my feet and light to my path. My mind became settled and satisfied. I found the Lord God to be a Rock in the midst of the ocean of life. The Bible now became my chief study,; and I can truly say I searched it with great delight. I found the half was never told me. I wondered why I had not seen its beauty and glory before, and marvelled that I could ever have rejected it. I found everything revealed that my heart could desire, and a remedy for every disease of the soul. I lost all taste for other reading, and applied my heart to get wisdom from God.
“I laid by all commentaries, former views and prepossessions, and determined to read and try to understand for myself. I then began the reading of the Bible in a methodical manner; and by comparing scripture with scripture, and taking notice of the manner of prophesying, and how it was fulfilled, (so much as had received its accomplishment,) I found that prophecy had been literally fulfilled, after understanding the figures and metaphors by which God had more clearly illustrated the subjects conveyed in said prophecies. I found, on a close and careful ex. amination of the Scriptures, that God had explained all the figures and metaphors in the Bible, or had given us rules for their explanation. And in so doing, I found, to my joy, and as I trust with everlasting gratitude to God, that the Bible contained a system of revealed truths, so clearly and simply given that the wayfaring man though a fool need not err