Like the great Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Advent movement appeared in the different countries of Christendom at the same time. In both Europe and America, men of faith and prayer were led to the study of the prophecies, and, tracing down the inspired record, they saw convincing evidence that the end of all things was at hand. In different lands there were isolated bodies of Christians, who, solely by the study of the Scriptures, arrived at the belief that the Saviour's advent was near.   

     In 1821, three years after Miller had arrived at his exposition of the prophecies pointing to the time of the judgment, Dr. Joseph Wolff, “the missionary to the world,” began to proclaim the Lord's soon coming. Wolff was born in Germany, of Hebrew parentage, his father being a Jewish Rabbi. While very young he was convinced of the truth of the Christian religion. Of an active, inquiring mind, he had been an eager listener to the conversations that took place in his father's house, as devout Hebrews daily assembled to recount the hopes and anticipations of their people, the glory of the coming Messiah, and the restoration of Israel. One day hearing Jesus of Nazareth mentioned, the boy inquired who he was. “A man of the greatest talent,” was the answer; “but because he pretended to be the Messiah, the Jewish tribunal sentenced him to death.” “Why, then,” rejoined the questioner, “why is Jerusalem destroyed? and why are we in captivity?” “Alas, alas!” answered his father, “because the Jews murdered the prophets.” The thought that was at once suggested to the child, “Perhaps Jesus of Nazareth was also a prophet, and the Jews killed him when he was innocent.” So strong was this feeling, that though forbidden to enter a Christian church, he would often linger outside to listen to the preaching.   

     When only seven years old, he was boasting to an aged Christian neighbor of the future triumph of Israel at the advent of the Messiah, when the old man said kindly, “Dear boy, I will tell you who the real Messiah was: he was Jesus of Nazareth, whom your ancestors crucified, as they slew the prophets of old. Go home and read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and you will be convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Conviction at once fastened upon him. He went home and read the scripture, wondering to see how perfectly it had been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. Were the words of the Christian true? The boy asked of his father an explanation of the prophecy, but was met with a silence so stern that he never again dared to refer to the subject. This however only increased his desire to know more of the Christian religion.   

     The knowledge he sought was studiously kept from him in his Jewish home; but when only eleven years old, he left his father's house, and went out into the world to gain for himself an education, to choose his religion and his life-work. He found a home for a time with kinsmen, but was soon driven from them as an apostate, and alone and penniless he had to make his own way among strangers. He went from place to place, studying diligently, and maintaining himself by teaching Hebrew. Through the influence of a Catholic instructor, he was led to accept the Romish faith, and formed the purpose of becoming a missionary to his own people. With this object he went, a few years later, to pursue his studies in the College of the Propaganda at Rome. Here his habit of independent thought and candid speech brought upon him the imputation of heresy. He openly attacked the abuses of the church, and urged the necessity of reform. Though at first treated with special favor by the papal dignitaries, he was after a time removed from Rome. Under the surveillance of the church he went from place to place, until it became evident that he could never be brought to submit to the bondage of Romanism. He was declared to be incorrigible, and was left at liberty to go where he pleased. He now made his way to England, and, professing the Protestant faith, united with the English Church. After two years’ study he set out, in 1821, upon his mission.    

     While Wolff accepted the great truth of Christ's first advent as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,” he saw that the prophecies bring to view with equal clearness his second advent with power and glory. And while he sought to lead his people to Jesus of Nazareth as the Promised One, and to point them to his first coming in humiliation as a sacrifice for the sins of men, he taught them also of his second coming as a king and deliverer. 

     “Jesus of Nazareth, the true Messiah,” he said, “whose hands and feet were pierced, who was brought like a lamb to the slaughter, who was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, who after the scepter was taken from Judah, and the legislative power from between his feet, came the first time, shall come the second time in the clouds of heaven, and with the trump of the archangel,” and “shall stand upon the Mount of Olives. And that dominion once consigned to Adam over the creation and forfeited by him (Genesis 1:26; 3:17) shall be given to Jesus. He shall be king over all the earth. The groanings and lamentations of the creation shall cease, but songs of praise and thanksgiving shall be heard.” “When Jesus comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels,” “the dead believers shall rise first. 1 Thessalonians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 15:23. This is what we Christians call the first resurrection. Then the animal kingdom shall change its nature (Isaiah 11:6-9), and shall be subdued unto Jesus. Psalm 8. Universal peace shall prevail.” “The Lord again shall look down upon the earth, and say, ‘Behold, it is very good.’” 

     Wolff believed the coming of the Lord to be at hand, his interpretation of the prophetic periods placing the great consummation within a very few years of the time pointed out by Miller. To those who urged  from the scripture, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man,” that men are to know nothing concerning the nearness of the advent, Wolff replied: “Did our Lord say that the day and hour should never be known? Did he not give us signs of the times, in order that we may know at least the approach of his coming, as one knows the approach of summer by the fig-tree putting forth its leaves? Are we never to know that period, whilst he himself exhorteth not only to read Daniel the prophet but to understand him? And in that very Daniel where it is said that the words were shut up to the time of the end (which was the case in his time), and that ‘many shall run to and fro’ (a Hebrew expression for observing and thinking upon the time), and 'knowledge' (regarding that time) ‘shall be increased.’ Besides this, our Lord does not intend to say by this, that the approach of the time shall not be known, but that the exact ‘day and hour knoweth no man.’ He does say that enough shall be known by the signs of the times, to induce us to prepare for his coming, as Noah prepared the ark.” 

      Concerning the popular system of interpreting, or misinterpreting, the Scriptures,  Wolff wrote: “The greater part of the Christian church have swerved from the plain sense of Scripture, and have turned to the phantomizing system of the Buddhists; they believe that the future happiness of mankind will consist in moving about in the air, and suppose that when they are reading Jews, they must understand Gentiles; and when they read Jerusalem, they must understand the church; and if it said earth, it means sky; and for the coming of the Lord they must understand the progress of the missionary societies; and going up to the mountain of the Lord's house, signifies a grand class-meeting of Methodists.”   

     During the twenty-four years from 1821 to 1845, Wolff traveled extensively: in Africa, visiting Egypt and Abyssinia; in Asia, traversing Palestine, Syria, Persia, Bokhara, and India. He also visited the United States, on the journey thither preaching on the island of St. Helena. He arrived in New York in August, 1837; and after speaking in that city, he preached in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and finally proceeded to Washington. Here, he says, “on a motion brought forward by the ex-President, John Quincy Adams, in one of the houses of Congress, the House unanimously granted me the use of the Congress Hall for a lecture which I delivered on a Saturday, honored with the presence of all the members of Congress, and also of the bishop of Virginia, and the clergy and citizens of Washington. The same honor was granted to me by the members of the Government of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in whose presence I delivered lectures on my researches in Asia, and also on the personal reign of Jesus Christ.”   

     Dr. Wolff traveled in the most barbarous countries, without the protection of any European authority, enduring many hardships, and surrounded with countless perils. He was bastinadoed and starved, sold as a slave, and three times condemned to death. He was beset by robbers, and sometimes nearly perished from thirst. Once he was stripped of all that he possessed, and left to travel hundreds of miles on foot through the mountains, the snow beating in his face, and his naked feet benumbed by contact with the frozen ground.   

     When warned against going unarmed amongst savage and hostile tribes, he declared himself provided with arms, —“prayer, zeal for Christ, and confidence in his help.” “I am also,” he said, “provided with the love of God and my neighbor in my heart, and the Bible is in my hand.” The Bible in Hebrew and English he carried with him wherever he went. Of one of his later journeys he says, “I kept the Bible open in my hand. I felt my power was in the book, and that its might would sustain me.”   

     Thus he persevered in his labors until the message of the Judgment had been carried to a large part of the habitable globe. Among Jews, Turks, Parsees, Hindoos, and many other nationalities and races, he distributed the Word of God in these various tongues, and everywhere heralded the approaching reign of the Messiah.   

     In his travels in Bokhara he found the doctrine of the Lord's soon coming held by a remote and isolated people. The Arabs of Yemen, he says, “are in possession of a book called ‘Seera,’ which gives notice of the coming of Christ and his reign in glory, and they expect great events to take place in the year 1840.” “In Yemen I spent six days with the Rechabites. They drink no wine, plant no vineyards, sow no seed, live in tents, and remember the words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab. With them were the children of Israel of the tribe of Dan, . . . who expect, in common with the children of Rechab, the speedy arrival of the Messiah in the clouds of heaven.”  

     A similar belief was found by another missionary to exist in Tartary. A Tartar priest put the question to the missionary, as to when Christ would come the second time. When the missionary answered that he knew nothing about it, the priest seemed greatly surprised at such ignorance in one who professed to be a Bible teacher, and stated his own belief, founded on prophecy, that Christ would come about 1844.  

     As early as 1826 the Advent message began to be preached in England. The movement here did not take so definite a form as in America, the exact time of the advent was not so generally taught, but the great truth of Christ's soon coming in power and glory was extensively proclaimed. And this not among dissenters and non-conformist only. Mourant Brock, an English writer, states that about seven hundred ministers of the Church of England were engaged in preaching this “gospel of the kingdom.” The message pointing to 1844 as the time of the Lord's coming was also given in Great Britain. Advent publications from the United States were widely circulated. Books and journals were republished in England. And in 1842, Robert Winter, an Englishman by birth, who had received the Advent faith in America, returned to his native country to herald the coming of the Lord. Many united with him in the work, and the message of the Judgement was proclaimed in various parts of England. 

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