Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mr. Twain Tells of the End of the World in Smyrna

mark-twainThe Millerites, now called the Seventh-Day Adventists, were among the sects that Sam Clemens ( Mark Twain) put in the absurd category. On Oct. 22, 1844, the (final) day forecast by famer William Miller on the basis of an alleged biblical timetable, members of the sect in the Hannibal, Missouri  area gathered at Lover's Leap to await the Second Coming of Christ and the end of the world.... Clemens later remarked, "A multitude of lunatics in America put on their ascension sheets, took a leave of their friends and got ready to fly up to heaven at the first toot of the trumpet." When Clemens visited Turkey, he found some Millerites who had come there after the failure of the predicted "resurrection day."
Twenty-five years ago, a multitude of people in America put on their ascension robes, took a tearful leave of their friends, and made ready to fly up into heaven at the first blast of the trumpet. But the angel did not blow it. Miller's resurrection day was a failure. The Millerites were disgusted. I did not suspect that there were Millers in Asia Minor, but a gentleman tells me that they had it all set for the world to come to an end in Smyrna one day about three years ago.

There was much buzzing and preparation for a long time previously, and it culminated in a wild excitement at the appointed time. A vast number of the populace ascended the citadel hill early in the morning, to get out of the way of the general destruction, and many of the infatuated closed up their shops and retired from all earthly business. But the strange part of it was that about three in the afternoon, while this gentleman and his friends were at dinner in the hotel, a terrific storm of rain, accompanied by thunder and lightning, broke forth and continued with dire fury for two or three hours. It was a thing unprecedented in Smyrna at that time of the year, and scared some of the most skeptical. The streets ran rivers and the hotel floor was flooded with water. The dinner had to be suspended. When the storm finished and left every body drenched through and through, and melancholy and half-drowned, the ascensionists came down from the mountain as dry as so many charity-sermons! They had been looking down upon the fearful storm going on below, and really believed that their proposed destruction of the world was proving a grand success.
From Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain 1869
In describing this millennial mania, Clemens interjected a serious comment about those who attempt to "twist prophecy," "Thick-headed commentators upon the Bible, and stupid preachers and teachers, work more damage to religion than sensible, cool-brained clergy can fight away."
Excerpts above and below are from Mark Twain's Religion, by William E. Phipps
Incidentally, April 21, 2010 marks the centennial of Mr. Twain's death. Here's to you, Sam. American's Grandfather figure.

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