A Scene of the Last Day
William Miller
Ca. 1843

  "The supposed reflections of a sinner, witnessing the solemn events which immediately precede and follow the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ and the conflagration of the world."

  "'AH! what means that noise? Can that be thunder? Too long, too loud and shrill; more like a thousand trumpets sounding an onset. It shakes the earth . . . See, see, it reels! How dreadful! how strange! . . Another phenomenon to frighten poor, ignorant fanatics. I will not be afraid. Let Nature play her fantastic gambols. My soul's too brave to shake, too big to be afraid. When the stars fell


like hailstones I stood unmoved, and laughed at others' fears. They passed away, and all was calm again. It was one of nature's freaks. So oft of late has nature played her tricks, methinks t is natural. There was a time when superstition reigned. The world would then have said—ah, yes, and believed it too—that these denoted war, bloodshed, and great convulsions among men; but now the world has become more wise; they are not fools and cowards, as our forefathers. . . . Hark! another sound, more long, more loud, more dreadful still! Rock, rock! the world is rocking men, like babes, to sleep. I will not yet be scared. This may be natural. The wind is pent up in the bowels of the earth, and, in seeking vent, makes all this uproar. The noises in the earth and roarings of the sea, which have of late made timid mortals shake, by this philosophy are all accounted for. I am not shaken yet. Nature will work her own cure; and, while these Christian fools are trembling under their vain imaginations of these sights and signs of the last great day, I stand un . . . A third great blast—a shout, a cry! What means this wild roar? I'll go and see. . . .

  " . . . Ah! I thought it so. Aurora borealis!' [Speaking to the multitude.] Ye fools and cowards all! why do you make ado about this so common sight? Have you not often seen, within a few years past, the heavens almost as brilliant as now,—what the vulgar illiterate called "fire, and blood, and pillars of smoke;" and then it passed away, and nothing was left but to ridicule each other's fears? And so now; this will soon pass a——

  " . . . . But it increases. See, see, how brilliant! The very clouds are bright with glory. It rolls and gathers to the zenith. . . . Hark! hark! another sound, more deep; a fourth, more loud and long; a second shout! t is like the human voice; it is the wind, the electric fluid in the air. See, see! the heavens to shake! the clouds, the light, the air, are trembling yet. . . . And yet the light rolls on, the clouds grow brighter, and the rays diverge from yonder point. An eye! an eye! how like the All-seeing Eye! I will not tremble yet. These coward souls shall never see me sha——. What! yet another crack! How deafening to the ear! Another shout! . . . Sure,


that was a shout of men; I hear them still. The mountains shake and tremble on their base; the hills move to and fro; the compass-needle has forsaken the pole, and leaps towards the zenith point. The sea has fled its bounds, and rivers backward in their channels run. What can this mean? Is nature in a fit? . . . The light! the light! it still approaches nearer to the earth—and brighter too; it dazzles my weak sight. is it a comet, or some other orb, that has strayed from its track, and, by the laws of gravitation, is approaching our earth? Now for the laws of nature here's a struggle! and if that other law, repulsion, does not repel its force and drive it back, then surely this poor, dark, sublunary globe must be drowned in a sphere of fire; and where will mortals . . . Another sound! a dreadful blast, a hundred-fold more loud than former trumpets! This shakes my soul; my courage, too, has fled. What but a Gabriel's trump could give such sounds—so loud, so long, so clear? . . . Look! see! the sun has veiled his face; all nature heaves a groan, one deep-drawn sigh, and all is still as death. . . .

  "'The clouds— those vivid clouds, so full of fire, are driven apart by this last blast, and, rolling up themselves, stand back aghast. And, O my soul, what do I see? A great white throne, and One upon it. His garment is whiter than the driven snow, and the hair of his head is like the pure wool. See fiery flames issuing from his throne, rolling down the vault of heaven like wheels of burning fire. Before him are thousands and thousands of thousands of winged seraphim, ready to obey his will. See Gabriel, the great arch-angel, raising the golden trump to his mouth. The last great trumpet sounds,—one heavenly shout,—and in a moment every angel flies, each different ways, in rays of light, to this affrighted globe. The earth now heaves a sob for the last time, and in this great throe her bowels burst, and from her spring a thousand thousand, and ten thousand times ten thousand immortal beings into active life. And then those few who had looked on the scene with patient hope, were suddenly transformed, from age to youth, from mortal to immortal; and thus they stood, a bright and shining band, all clothed in white, like the great throne which yet appeared in heaven.


  "'While I stood gazing on this heavenly band, I saw the winged seraphs, who had come from the great white throne when the seventh trumpet sounded, standing among them. "All hail!" they cried, "ye blood-washed throng—arise, and meet your Saviour in the middle air." They clapped their wings, and in the next moment all the air was full of the bright seraphs and their train of immortals whom I late had seen spring from the earth. I saw them pass through the long vista of the parted cloud, and stand before the throne. Then I beheld one, like the sons of men, came on a cloud, whose rays of brightness filled the upper vault with radiant streams of light, more brilliant than a thousand suns. He came before the throne, and then I heard the shout of the celestial host, which filled the upper regions with a sound that echoed down to earth, and made the dark spirits in the pit of woe shriek out in lamentations of dread despair. It was a shout of victory. A thousand harps were tuned, and soon the heavenly choir sang hallelujah to the Lamb of God. Thrice they repeated the grand chorus, and thrice with shouts of these young immortals did the arch of heaven echo back to earth this shout of victory; when suddenly the cloud, which late had parted to give this view to earth, rolled up the vault of heaven its dark and sable mass from the horizon, until it closed from view the great white throne, and Him that sat upon it, and wrapt this globe in darkness, such as covered Egypt when Moses stretched his rod over the land of Pharaoh.

  "'The air now became stagnated with heat; while the dismal howlings of those human beings who were left upon the earth, and the horrid yells of the damned spirits, who seemed to have been driven from the middle air by the cloud which shut down its impenetrable veil upon the world, filled my soul with horror not easily described. I thought myself in the dark pit of hell, which I had often made a ridicule of in former days. But soon a flash of lightning showed me that I was still on earth, and then a peal of thunder, which shook the globe to its very centre, and made this earth to tremble like a poplar leaf; while flash after flash of vivid lightning made darkness visible, and roar after roar of the approaching thunder made horror still more horrible. The air, if air it could be called, became impregnated with a sulphureous flame, that


choked the lungs of man and beast, and seemed to hush in silence those dismal yells and moans of wretched mortals in this wreck of matter. I asked death to rid my suffering frame from torture; but, ah! death now denied me aid. I now remembered all the warnings of my former days, and these enhanced my pain. I remembered, too, the Scriptures, which spoke of this great burning day, which I had treated as a fiction to frighten weak and silly mortals. I saw, and now believed—but O, too late!—that all that God had promised had been, was now, and would be, literally fulfilled. My conscience now spoke terror to my soul. I now began to repent; but O, it came too late! I cried for mercy; but where was mercy now? When last the heaven was open, and I had seen the Judge upon his throne, Mercy had veiled herself; and when the immortal band had left the earth, I saw her leave the globe, and wing her way up to the throne of God; and, as she left the world, I heard her voice proclaim, "It is finished." I knew her work was done; and yet my tongue cried mercy! I saw, when the flash of lightnings gave me chance to see, a thousand damned forms of demons, grinning out horrible delight. I heard, between each roar of thunder, their tauntings and horrible imprecations.

  "'The heat became severe; combustibles began to burn; when suddenly the heavens began to rain a shower of hail-stones. I fled for shelter to a shelving rock, and there secure I lay. The air became more clear and cool. I now could see the inhabitants left on earth flying for shelter in every direction; some wounded by the hail, and with their horrid oaths crying for help to their more fortunate companions. But there was no regard for others' woes—each one sought shelter for himself. The hail increased, until nothing but rocks and caverns of the earth could stand before it. The buildings, temples, and proud palaces of kings were all demolished, and lay a heap of ruins. The forest trees and groves were scattered upon the plain; and nothing stood the storm, of all the works of man. The face of the earth was covered over with ice, as though a hundred winters had reigned predominant. The eye could rest on nothing but one wide waste of frozen heaps of hail, with now and then a solitary human being wandering among the ruins of the once


inhabited cities, half chilled to death, seeking for shelter, or to satisfy a craving appetite, cursing and blaspheming the God of heaven for the plague of hail.

  "'The storm had ceased. The sun had appeared behind the broken clouds, far in the west, with now and then a faint and sickly ray, that made the desolation still more desolate. The beasts that were upon the face of the earth were all slain, except a few who had burrowed in the earth. The fowls of the heavens were scattered over the earth among the slain; and of all the feathered tribe there was nothing left but scattered carcasses. Bodies of human beings were underneath the ruins in every place, some dashed in pieces, some without heads, and some whose limbs were severed from their trunks, and in every form that death could prey upon the human frame. Some, still in life, though wounded, filled up the dismal scene with moans, and groans, and shrieks of wild despair.

  "'The cloud, which but recently had covered the earth with darkness, and had discharged its contents of massy balls of ice upon the world, now rolled its broken columns to the east. The sun was sinking in the western horizon, as if it hid itself from this vast desolation. And when the cloud rolled half way down the eastern sky, there opened to the view another sight,—more grand there could not be,—a city! Its walls were great and high. The foundation appeared to be the great white cloud, on which the throne was placed when first I saw the light. This city lay four square upon the cloud. The height, the length, the breadth appeared equal. The walls were made of jasper, more pure than gold that is seven times purified. It shone more brilliant than crystal. Twelve manner of precious stones garnished the wall. Each several stone outshone his fellow; and yet the polish of the stone was such that each reflected back the rays his fellow gave, and, thus commingled, formed one general mass of rays of light and glory, increasing with every reflection twelve-fold, and thus increasing, for aught that I can tell, to infinity. Twelve gates I saw—three on every side. These gates were made of pearls; each pearl a gate, and every gate a pearl more brilliant than a sun. All the streets were gold, so highly polished that they shone as it were transparent glass. I saw no temple there; but I beheld such glory as


my eyes never saw before. It was the Great I Am, Lord God Almighty, and the Lamb of God, that filled the city with such rays of light, that if the sun, and moon, and stars had all combined, they would not have compared with it, any more than the small glow-worm could with the sun in his meridian glory. I wondered how I did behold such rays of glory, and yet they dazzled not. But yet, I now bethink myself, while I stood gazing, this thought was whispered, as I imagined, to my mind—"All this you have lost for your rejection of the Lamb, you see, the light of yonder city!"

  "'At this my soul was filled with horror, and madness seized by brain. I cried to the rocks to hide me from him whom I had thus rejected. But rocks were deaf. I then fled to the mountains, and called on them to fall upon me, and hide me in the bowels of the earth, or crush me into non-existence. But mountains had no pity on a wretch like me. I turned my eyes away, that I might not behold the sight again; but still the view was plain. I shut my eyes, determined to shut out this hateful vision; but, O, the form was printed on my brain in lines of livid fire! Which way I turned, the city lay before me. I saw, or thought I saw, the glory, harmony, and happiness of the citizens; and every view added rancor, enmity, and envy to my soul. I gnashed my teeth with pain; I raved and roared like a wild maniac; and yet my reason told me I was sane,—these things were real. I cursed and swore,—blasphemed the God of heaven; yet every oath returned upon me, and was like a dagger piercing to my heart. I called on death to rid me of my pain; but death obeyed not. I thought of suicide, to rid myself of self; but then eternity—O dreadful thought!—would rush upon my brain, and fill my mind with horror inconceivable. I tried to hope that things would change, or use would reconcile me to my lot; but hope had fled, and this I saw forever! No hope of change for the better; for all that hope of change that I had ever had, I treated with disdain,—yea, worse, with ridicule and contempt. I saw the very nature of the holy law required my banishment forever. And all the time of probation which I had formerly enjoyed, I saw was on this express condition,—to be prepared to meet this very time, when holiness and sin, happiness and misery, would be forever


separated; when he that is filthy would be filthy still, and he that is holy would be holy still. I know that God himself had told us this; but yet I listened not. Filled with my own vain thoughts and vainer lusts, I trampled on the commands, warnings, and invitations of the God of heaven,—and here end all my hopes! Ah! could I hope to be happy, on the condition of being holy too, I would cast it from me; for in my very soul I abhor, I hate the very name of holiness. I should be willing to be happy; but to love others as I do myself,—and then to love that God supreme above all others, and even above myself,—I will not, cannot, shall not, here submit.

  "'While my mind thus passed from bad to worse, and every avenue of the heart was filled with evil passions, I saw the city drew still nearer to the earth; and from its rays had poured such a flood of light and heat upon the earth, that the hail melted, and the streams and fountains of water dried up. The tops of mountains soon began to burn; the rocks began to melt, and, with their lava, filled up the streams and vales below. This was not like the former heat which I had recently experienced before the storm of hail; no sulphureous smell, no suffocating heat, like that. It was a flame more pure,—a searching, cleansing, penetrating flame of fire,—that searched in every nook and corner of the world, and pierced the very bowels of the globe; that penetrated every crevice, crack, and cavern of the earth, and then descended to the bottom of the deep, the sea, and thus destroyed all that had life, and all on which the curse of sin was found. The monuments of man, that long had stood the shocks of ages, now mouldered down to dust. The works of art, the "proud-capt towers and gorgeous palaces," and all the modern pageantry of pride and show, were by this flame to ashes turned. The cities, villages, and towns, which once had filled the world with human beings, and all the seats of science, where man had long been taught the ancient fables and the vain philosophy of the former generations, and also learned the more modern customs and fashions of the day, to lord it over others, who had not thus been blessed, as they supposed, with this great ray of light, this mortal-cast, man-made wisdom,—these all did melt away, and not an eye could see or finger point where once


they stood. The battlements of war,—the pride of kings, defence of nations, and the boast of warriors,—which longer yet had stood the ravages of time, and now, for ages back, had claimed the name and title which mortals give, "impregnable,"—who, from their gaping sides, had poured at times such showers of missiles upon the approaching foe, that many a gallant ship, with all her crew, had found a berth beneath the watery wave, or scattered in fragments into the middle air, and many a brave and fearless hostile band had left their bones to whiten on the plain;—these, too, had sunk beneath this powerful flame, and there was not a fragment left to tell where once they stood.

  "'I saw the cloisters of the Roman monks, and the dark cells of the nuns, which long had kept from view the secret crimes and midnight revels of their murderous, cruel, lustful inmates;—I saw the dark-walled chamber of the Inquisition, filled with its means of torture, that had, in ages past, drenched all its walls in blood, now hung, in solemn mockery, with images of Christ, with likenesses of angels, and pictures of the Virgin Mary, blasphemously called "the mother of God;"—all were consumed by this pervading flame. I then beheld it approaching where I stood. My flesh began to quiver on my bones; my hair rose up on end, and all within me was suddenly turned into corruption. I felt the flame when it first struck my person; it seemed to pierce through all the joints and marrow of my frame, dividing soul and body. I shrieked with pain, and, for a moment, I was all unconscious. The next moment I found myself a spirit, and saw the mass, of which my body lately was composed, a heap of ashes; and, although my spirit yet retained a form like that which I had dropped, yet half the pain was gone, and a moment I seemed to live again for pleasure. But the next moment, turning from the loathsome lump of ashes, I saw the flame, and in it saw the form of the Most Holy. I fled as on the wings of the wind, and skimmed the surface of the earth, if possible to escape the sight of that All-Seeing Eye; as, as I flew, I soon found many thousands more unhappy spirits like myself, seeking for the same object. We fled together, and every moment added to our numbers scores of these unhappy beings; but still the same most holy flame pursued, until we found no


place on earth could hide us from his view. We then launched forth into the lower air, and sunk, and sunk, and sunk, until we came to this dark gulf; and here we found this pit, where light can never enter; and, glad to find a place where holiness will never enter, we plunged in here. And when we left the light, and sunk into this dark and dismal place of wretchedness and woe, we found ourselves enclosed on every side in chains of darkness, that all the demons and spirits of the damned can never break, until He who shut us up will please to let us loose again. And then we know there is another place, which lies far beneath this dark and dismal pit, that, if he conquers then, will be our last abode,—A LAKE OF FIRE AND BRIMSTONE.'"