Saturday, April 19, 2008

End of the World Rescheduled for April 19, 1875

On September 27, 1868 a small group of Brethren climbed a haystack to be closer to heaven as they waited for their Lord to descend from the clouds. Despite their fervent prayers, and their belief in the biblical calculations of William C. Thurman (c. 1830-1906), nothing happened. Eventually some local rowdies set fire to the hay, forcing the Brethren to come down, severely disappointed.

It wouldn't be the last time.

Thurman was a Virginia Baptist who joined the Brethren in 1862. That same year he wrote a book on biblical nonresistance that helped many Brethren in the south win exemption from the military draft. However, he was eventually expelled from the Brethren because of his contrary stance on the subject of feetwashing.

But he was best known for his views on the end of the world. In Sealed Book of Daniel Opened he set the date for the return of Christ on September 27, 1868. Many Christians, Adventist, Brethren, and others, were attracted to his ideas. Undeterred by the failure of his calculations he rescheduled the end of the world for a month later on October 28. Then October 17, 1869. Then April 19, 1875.

Even though his recalculations proved to be just as flawed, over a hundred Brethren left the church and joined him. Some of these Thurmanites, as they came to be known, later rejoined the Church of the Brethren and the Brethren Church in the 1880's.

It is said that when one Brethren elder was offered one of Thurman's books he declined, wryly noting that he already had enough kindling. Thurman continued to predict the end of the world until he died, penniless, in 1906, by which time he had recalculated the end of the world for 1917.

Sources: Frank Ramirez Tercentennial Minutes and The Brethren Encyclopedia