Immediately after the great disappointment in October of 1844, Millerites found themselves in an excruciating position. Many believed that they had gotten the date wrong and so they continued to look eagerly for the imminent second coming of Jesus in the following weeks and months. Others abandoned their faith altogether while still others went through an intense shaking of their faith in God and the Bible.
Tucked in the quiet rural landscape of upstate New York, Port Gibson was the home of a small group of Adventists, among whom was Hiram Edson. Edson was a farmer who had accepted the Millerite message in 1843. His reaction to the disappointment was one of deep-seated grief and disbelief. Writing about the incident later he said “our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted, and such a spirit of weeping came over us as I never experienced before. It seemed that the loss of all earthly friends could have been no comparison. We wept and wept, till the day dawn”
So greatly was Edson affected by the event that he questioned the authenticity his entire Christian experience up to that point, including the existence of God and the authenticity of the Bible. But God placed his hand over his faithful servant and reminded Edson of His love and watchare in the past. Recalling how God had always been willing to answer prayer whenever he had faced difficulties in the past, Hiram Edson decided to pray. The morning after the disappointment he gathered a group of friends and led the way to the barn.
Here they all knelt down and begged God to send them answers. Recalling the events of that day Edson writes “we prayed earnestly; for we felt out necessity. We continued in earnest prayer until the witness of the Spirit was given that our prayer was accepted, and that light should be given, our disappointment be explained and made clear and satisfactory”
It was a significant turning point in the spiritual lives of those present and a significant moment in Millerite Adventism, for it presented the first glimmer of a new movement to come. That morning after their prayer meeting and breakfast Edson suggested to his little group that they should go out an encourage some of their other brethren. As they were making their way across a large field Edson stopped dead in his tracks, staring intently ahead of him.
Edson was presented with a vision of the heavenly sanctuary where he was shown Jesus entering the Most Holy place for the first time on October 22nd, 1844. Instead of the 2300 day prophecy pointing to Jesus second coming, it was presented to him, that Jesus had entered the Most Holy place of the heavenly sanctuary because he had work to do there.
Over the next few months, Edson along with O.R.L Crosier and Dr. F.B. Hahn spent hours poring over their Bibles studying about the Sanctuary and its services. The more they studied the more they were convinced that the key to understanding what had happened on October 22nd, 1844 lay there. They revived the defunct Millerite Paper they had formerly published and tasked Crosier, the younger and better educated one of the trio, with writing what they had studied for publication. By March or April of 1845, they published a paper detailing their findings regarding the 2300 day prophecy, the heavenly sanctuary and the judgment hour message.
Joseph Bates soon came into contact with Crosier’s article and after careful, independent study was led to agree with its conclusions. Bates began to correspond with Edson and accepted an invitation to visit him in Port Gibson. For his part, Edson had heard of Preble’s tract about the Sabbath but wasn’t convinced of the need to keep it. Both Edson and Bates were keen to exchange views and study further together. As it turned out after visiting the Edson farm Bates accepted the Sanctuary truth and Edson accepted the truth about the Sabbath.
As the story goes Edson was in his barn in late 1846 with Bates when he exclaimed “Brother Bates, this is light and truth. The Seventh-Day is the Sabbath and I am with you to keep it”. And so it was that in many ways Hiram Edson’s barn became the theological birthplace of Sabbatarian Adventism. The launching pad from which the three angels message would be taken across the globe.