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moon, no object was discernible, but by the help of some artificial light, which when seen from the neighboring houses and other places at a distance, appeared through a kind of Egyptian darkness, which seemed almost impervious to the rays.
“This unusual phenomenon excited the fears and apprehensions of many people. Some considered it as a portentous omen of the wrath of Heaven in vengeance denounced against the land, others as the iinmediate harbinger of the last day, when 'the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light:'
Not only over the land, but out at sea also, the unnatural darkness of the day and night of May 19, 1780, was observed. In the Independent Chronicle of June 15, 1780, a correspondent, telling of interviews with various observers, said:
“I have also seen a very sensible captain of a vessel, who was that morning about forty leagues southeast of Boston. He says the cloud which appeared at the west was the blackest he ever saw. About eleven o'clock there was a little rain, and it grew dark. Between one and two he was obliged to light a large candle to steer by. . . . Between nine and ten at night, he ordered his men to take in some of the sails, but it was so dark that they could not find the way from one mast to the other.”
Thoughts Turned to the Judgment This writer commented as follows concerning the feelings awakened by the event:
“Various have been the sentiments of people concerning the designs of Providence in spreading the unusual darkness over us. Some suppose it portentous of the last scene. I wish it may have some good effect on the minds of the wicked, and that they may be excited to prepare for that solemn day.”
The Independent Chronicle of June 22, 1780, printed a letter from Dr. Samuel Stearns, who had been appealed to because of his knowledge "in philosophy and astronomy." First, he disposed of one suggestion that had been made:
“That the darkness was not caused by an eclipse is manifest by the various positions of the planets of our system at that time; for the moon was more than one hundred and fifty degrees from the sun all that day.”
Then, in the rather heavy language of the science of that period, this writer told how the action of the sun's heat was continually projecting into the atmosphere particles of earthy
matter; and in his opinion it was some "vast collection of such particles that caused the late uncommon darkness.” But as to the real accounting for the phenomenon he wrote:
“The primary cause must be puted to Him that walketh through the circuit of heaven, who stretcheth out the heaven like a curtain, who maketh the clouds His chariot, who walketh upon the wings of the wind. It was He, at whose voice the stormy winds are obedient, that commanded these exhalations to be collected and condensed together, that with them He might darken both the day and the night; which darkness was, perhaps, not only a token of His indignation against the crying iniquities and abominations of the people, but an omen of some future destruction.”
Thus men's minds were exercised by this sign "in the sun, and in the moon.”
The early records of New York City tell of the interest excited there, though evidently the darkness was not so marked as it was farther north.
In the Connecticut Legislature
President Timothy Dwight, of Yale College, a contemporary, left the following account of one of the historic incidents of the day:
“The legislature of Connecticut was then in session at Hartford. A very general opinion prevailed that the day of judgment was at hand. The house of representatives, being unable to transact their business, adjourned. A proposal to adjourn the council (a second legislative body called the Governor's Council] was under consideration. When the opinion of Colonel Davenport was asked, he answered, 'I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought." Barber, “Connecticut Historical Collections,” p. 403.
It was this striking incident that Whittier described with the poet's pen:
“Meanwhile in the old Statehouse, dim as ghosts,
Some said; and then, as with one accord,
Bring in the candles. Thus, in a manner that arrested the attention of men and put awe and solemnity into their hearts, with thoughts of the coming of the great day of God, the first of the predicted signs in the heavens was revealed.
At a later time, when students of the Bible seemed moved upon simultaneously, in both Europe and America, to give attention to the doctrine of Christ's second coming, it was more generally understood that these signs had come in fulfilment of prophecy.
As we look to the past, we see how truly the tokens of the coming King began to appear as the church of Christ emerged fully from the long, dark period of tribulation. A new era was dawning, in which the Lord was to fill the earth with light before His second appearing, according to His word to Daniel the prophet:
“Thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Dan. 12:4.
At last the time of the end was at hand, and the signs of the latter days had begun to appear in the earth and in the heavens. The Lord was preparing to send to all the world the closing gospel message of Christ's soon coming in glory.
THE GREAT METEORIC SHOWER “The stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even NOVEMBER 13, 1833
as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when sbe is shaken of a mighty wind.” Rev. 6:13.
A GREAT impetus was given to the study of divine prophecy by the events of the closing years of the eighteenth century. Observers had seen the papal power receive a "deadly wound" in the events and effects of the French Revolution; and it was understood that the world was entering a new era of enlightenment and liberty.
Bible students began to see more clearly the lesson of the great outlines of historic prophecy, and hearts were stirred with the evidences that the coming of the Lord was drawing near. In Europe and America, in the early decades of the nineteenth century, there was the beginning of a revival of the study and preaching of the advent idea.
Another Sign in the Heavens
Just here appeared another great sign in the heavens, foretold by the word of prophecy. Of the sign that was to