May 12, 2021

The Martyr-Prophet of a World Faith – by William Sears

The blistering July sun glared from the barrels of seven hundred and fifty rifles, awaiting the command to fire and to take His life.

He seemed so young to die, barely thirty, and He was handsome, gentle, confident. Could He possibly be guilty of the shocking crime of which He was accused?

Thousands of eager spectators lined the Public Square. They crowded along the roof-tops overlooking the scene of death. They wanted one last sight of Him for He was either good or evil, and they were not sure which.

It was high noon, July 9, 1850, in a parched corner of Persia, the barracks square of the sundrenched city of Tabriz.

The chain of events leading to this scene began in 1844. It was in an age of religious fervor. Everywhere men were preaching the return of Christ. They urged the world to prepare for it. Wolff in Asia, Sir Edward Irving in England, Leonard H. Kelber in Germany, Mason in Scotland, Davis in South Carolina, and William Miller in Pennsylvania all agreed that their studies of the Scriptures clearly showed that the hour for Christ's return was at hand.

James Russell Lowell's poem "The Crisis" was written in that very hour of Advent enthusiasm:

"Once to every man and nation

comes the moment to decide.

Some great cause, God's new Messiah ... "

The years between 1843 and 1847 were generally accepted as the time for the return of Christ. Careful study of the prophecies had simultaneously led Bible scholars and students in different parts of the world to these fateful years.

Did the years between 1843-1847 pass with no sign of the return of Christ? Or were these years comparable to those which followed the birth and enunciation of Christ's original message? Years which passed with no visible sign to the people of Palestine that the Promised One had come. The crucifixion of a trouble-maker from Nazareth they had dismissed from their minds. Was the story to wait, as it had waited in the time of Jesus, for over one hundred years before it began to reach the consciousness of the people? Was the story of Calvary to be retold at an execution post in the public square of Tabriz?

And during 1844, in Persia, this story had its beginning.

It was the eve of May 23rd in Shiraz, the "city of nightingales and blue tile fountains." Shiraz, in what was once the ancient province of Elam given by Daniel, the Prophet, as the place of vision in the latter days and mentioned in the book of Jeremiah: "And I will set my throne in Elam."

A young man declared that He was the one foretold in all the holy books of the past. He said He had come to usher in a new era, a new springtime in the hearts of men. He was called "The Báb" which means the door or the gate. His teaching was to be the gateway to a new age of unity: The world is one country and mankind its citizens; there is only one religion and all the prophets have taught it.