This letter was written by Rev. W. G. Johnson, a Baptist preacher in Hinesburg, Vermont.
Johnson wrote the letter to Rev. Augustus Beach (1793-1878), the son of Moses Tyler Beach (1763-1851) and Lois Brown. Augustus married Tempa Fowler Post (1804-1868) on 16 May 1820. Beach was a former minister of the Baptist Church at Pittsfield, Massachusetts. His biography states that he was for many years very active in the temperance and anti-slavery movements. What it does not say is that he — like thousands of others — became a follower of William Miller who predicted the Second Advent of Jesus Christ in 1843. Though Miller — an uneducated Baptist lay preacher — first shared his belief as early as 1833, the movement did not gain momentum until the early 1840s as the date approached and publications, such as the Midnight Cry (mentioned in this letter) were disseminated. An obituary for Rev. Beach printed in the Boston Journal states that Beach “became an Adventist and gave up his property to preach Miller’s doctrine regarding the near approach of the end of the world, which was expected in 1843.”
In this letter, Johnson urges Beach to come to Hinesburg to lecture on Millerism in a series of protracted meetings he proposed to conduct in the late summer.
Addressed to Augustus Beach, Pittsfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts
Hinesburgh [Vermont]July 18th 1842 ¹
Dear Brother Beach,
You are certainly entitled to an apology if not a humble confession in view of my almost unpardonable neglect. Mrs. Johnson says I have received three papers from Br. Beach and have made no returns. If this is correct, I am overly guilty. The only reason I have to offer for this neglect is my time or attention has been so entirely devoted to the people where I live that I have found little or no room to devote to absent friends and have served them all very much alike in this respect.
But I know your kind heart will forgive, and therefore I shall occupy no more time by way of apology.
Your last communication which came this morning containing the “Midnight Cry!!” was very thankfully received. I think you have taken a short and day way of coming at the facts in the case. I have for sometime been under conviction on this subject, but have not fully submitted to proclaim publicly the midnight cry, “Behold the Bride groom cometh.” 1843 – “go out to meet Him.” I do endeavor faithfully to urge upon my people the necessity of being ready now for in such an hour as we think not, the Son of man cometh.” Our people are prepared to listen to the truth on this subject and many of them are very anxious to hear some one lecture who fully believes the second advent of Christ was even at the door.
Now Br. Beach, will you not come — say sometime in September or October (set your own time) and talk to us on that subject? I think there is a great chance for doing good here by introducing that subject, if you could have the right person; if you have look at at this subject and prayed over it (as I believe you have). I know of no person I should prefer to Br. Beach. Mother Whitney and sister R. are with us; how glad we should all be to see Br. or Sister Beach. Come my Brother, and spend a few weeks with us and see what the Lord will do. If you conclude to come, let me know when that we may make arrangements accordingly.
I should love to labor with you in another protracted meeting. And if you could work with the prospect of our Savior’s coming so soon, it would afford an additional interest. I have no doubt, my brother, but that you will out in this, as in all other questions of duty, from a conviction that it is the pleasure of the Lord that you should come.
Our best regards to your family. Your unworthy brother in Christ, — W. G. Johnson
¹ Just days before this letter was written, we find that Rev. Beach was already lecturing on Millerism. The 14 July 1842 issue of the Sun, published in Pittsfield, reported that:
Elder Augustus Beach, formerly of this place, is now in this village, urging 1843 as the time of the second advent, when Christ comes to purify the earth by fire, as it was cleansed by water in the days of Noah. He would be happy to meet any, who wish to converse with him on this subject, at the Baptist Meeting-House, at the following hours: — 6 and 9 o’clock, A.M. at noon, 3 and 6 o’clock, P.M. until he sees it duty to make some other disposition of his time. Mr. B. will deliver two public lectures on this subject, one at 3 and the other at 6 o’clock, tomorrow afternoon, at the Baptist Church. Pittsfield,July 13, 1842