The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 4


IX. Stockman-Forfeiture of Benefits Threatened

One more case. LEVI F. STOCKMAN, 37 likewise an able and devoted Methodist minister in the Maine Conference, began to preach in 1836. He continued in effective itinerant service until 1843, when he became superannuated because of failing health. Around 1842 he and some thirty other Methodist ministers, as mentioned, embraced and began to preach the second advent of Christ, to take place probably in “1843.” Then came the prohibitory “Bath Resolutions” of July 19, 1843. Stockman at this time was stationed in Portland, where he was preaching in 1843, when his health failed—he fell a victim to pulmonary tuberculosis. This dread illness ended his ministerial labors. But a few weeks before the close of the Jewish year “1843,” 38 while he was in this prostrate condition, confined to his home and frequently to his bed, he was tried for heresy. PFF4 780.1

At the close of the trial he was entreated to confess and retract his heresy. But this he could not and would not do. He was then approached by the presiding elder with a threat of expulsion from the church, and of dying out of the fold of the church if he did not recant—and with the further contingent that his widow and orphaned children would then be deprived of the reserve or pension funds of the conference, which would be withheld from the family. But even this threat did not deter him. He would not yield-the experience only affording him opportunity to exhibit his fidelity to deep conviction. He was accordingly expelled, and within a few months died triumphant in the advent faith, in the hope of soon being raised in the likeness of Christ’s glorious body. Zion’s Herald 39 gave his obituary. PFF4 780.2

This example of pressure had its intended result with some. A few stopped preaching on the subject after the trial, while others of the group gave up preaching altogether, and turned to secular business. Those who persisted in preaching the imminent advent were compelled to leave the conference and church, and to go where there was freedom to preach the full gospel. PFF4 780.3

This ecclesiastical trial of Stockman in Portland, Maine, under the provisions of the “Bath Resolutions” exemplifies the seriousness of the crisis and exhibits the heavy hand laid by the church in Maine upon adherents of Millerism. A letter from Stockman to Sylvester Bliss, editor of the Signs of the Times, paints the picture in detail. Stockman was not so much concerned over his personal interests as in the issue of justice involved, which affected all Methodists. He contended that they had been “unconstitutionally and unjustly deprived of their rights and privileges” for no other offense than “believing and advocating the coming of Christ in a few months.” 40 PFF4 781.1

Stockman was, of course, a minister under the jurisdiction of the Maine annual conference, and he together with others at the last session had, “passed under the ban of the above anomalous [Bath] resolutions, put forth by that body.” He contended further that the disciplinary measures provided by the resolution, and actually administered, were contrary to all equity—they were made without any attempt to prove those ministers guilty of any wrong. In his own case, Stockman declared he was preaching “as a matter of duty to God and the world, ‘Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him,’ until a few weeks since, when I was summoned before a council of preachers,” by the presiding elder of the Portland district on the following charge and specifications: PFF4 781.2

“Charge.-Disseminating doctrines contrary to our articles of religion, is explained by our standard authors. PFF4 781.3

“First Specification.—Teaching the doctrine of a spiritual millennium [or a millennium commencing at the personal appearing of Christ], in opposition to a temporal millennium, so called. PFF4 781.4

“Second.—Teaching that the time of this millennium is revealed in the Bible. PFF4 781.5

“Third.—Teaching that time to be 1843, of what you call Jewish time—ending March next. PFF4 781.6

“Fourth.—Teaching two resurrections, one thousand more or less years apart.” 41 PFF4 782.1

Expelled from the ministry, Stockman died within a few months, during the ecclesiastical tension of the time. PFF4 782.2