The Dark Day

"About eleven o'clock the darkness was such as to demand our attention, and put us upon making observations. At half past eleven, in a room with three windows, 24 panes each, all open towards the south-east and south, large print could not be read by persons of good eyes. About twelve o'clock the windows being still open, a candle cast a shade so well defined on the wall, as that profiles were taken with as much ease as they could have been in the night. About one o'clock a glin of light which had continued 'till this time in the east, shut in, and the darkness was greater than it had been for any time before, Between one and two o'clock, the wind from the west freshened a little, and a glin appeared in that quarter. We dined about two the windows all open, and two candles burning on the table. In the time of the greatest darkness some of the dunghill fowls went to their roost: Cocks crowed in answer to one another as they commonly do in the night: Woodcocks, which are night birds, whistled as they do only in the dark: Frogs peeped In short, there was the appearance of midnight at noonday." --The Boston Gazette and the Country Journal, May 29, 1780, p. 4.

"People were unable to read common print determine the time of day by their clocks or watches dine or manage their domestic business, without the light of candles. In some places, the darkness was so great, that persons could not see to read common print in the open air, for several hours together." --Samuel Williams (a Harvard professor), Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences: to the End of the Year 1783 (Boston: Adams and Nourse, 1785), Vol. 1. pp. 234, 235.

"The 19th of May, 1780, was a remarkable dark day. Candles were lighted in many houses; the birds were silent and disappeared, and the fouls retired to roost. 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 was under consideration. When the opinion of Colonel [Abraham] 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." --Timothy Dwight, quoted in Connecticut Historical Collections, compiled by John Warner Barber (2d ed.; New Haven: Durrie & Peck and J. W. Barber, 1836), p. 403.

"'Twas on a May-day of the far old year
Seventeen hundred eighty, that there fell
Over the bloom and sweet life of the Spring,
Over the fresh earth and the heaven of noon,
A horror of great darkness.

"Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp
To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter
The black sky, that the dreadful face of Christ
Might look from the rent clouds, not as he looked
A loving guest at Bethany, but stern
As Justice and inexorable Law.

"Meanwhile in the old State House, dim as ghosts,
Sat the lawgivers of Connecticut,
Trembling beneath their legislative robes.
'It is the Lord's Great Day! Let us adjourn,'
Some said; and then, as if with one accord,
All eyes were turned to Abraham Davenport.
He rose, slow cleaving with his steady voice
The intolerable hush. 'This well may be
The Day of Judgment which the world awaits;
But be it so or not, I only know
My present duty, and my Lord's command
To occupy till He come. So at the post
Where He hath set me in His providence,
I choose, for one, to meet Him face to face,
No faithless servant frightened from my task,
But ready when the Lord of the harvest calls;
And therefore, with all reverence, I would say,
Let God do His work, we will see to ours.
Bring in the candles.'"
--John Greenleaf Whittier, "Abraham Davenport," in his Complete Poetical Works (Cambridge ed.; Boston: Houghton, 1894), p. 260.

"Perhaps some, by assigning a natural cause of this, ascribing it to the thick vapor in the air, will endeavor to evade the force of its being a sign, but, the same objection will lie against earthquakes being signs which our Lord expressly mentions as such. For my part, I really consider the darkness as one of the prodigies foretold in the text; designed for our admonition, and warning." --Discourse by eyewitness Elam Potter, delivered May 28, 1780, in Enfield, Conn., quoted in The Advent Herald, March 13, 1844, p. 46.

[Note: Any suggestion of a natural cause can in no wise militate against the significance of the event as a prophetic fulfillment. The time-honored explanation is that seventeen and a half centuries before it occurred, the Saviour had definitely foretold this twofold sign saying, "In those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light" (Mark 13:24); and these signs occurred exactly as predicted and at the time indicated so long before their occurrence. It has long been pointed out that it is the fact, and not the cause, of the darkness that is significant in this connection; as also in the case of earthquakes, falling stars, and other events seen as signs of the times. When the Lord would open a path for his people through the sea, he did it by "a strong east wind." Ex. 14:21. Was it for this reason any less miraculous? In like manner, to account for the remarkable darkening of the sun and moon or of the falling of the stars as events in nature is not to discredit them as merciful signs of the approaching end of probationary time.]