On the banks of the old Erie Canal was situated the town of Port Gibson, New York. A mile south of town lay the farm of Hiram Edson. He was the leader of the advent believers in that community and they often met in his house when the district schoolhouse was not available.
Dr. Franklin B. Hahn, a physician living nearby, was another prominent member of the Adventist company in that area. A third influential member was Owen R. L. Crosier, an orphan youth that had become a keen Bible student and promising writer. Edson and Hahn had befriended him and provided him with a home.
These three men joined together and published a paper called the Day-Dawn. It was one of a number of Adventist journals that were published following the Disappointment. Crosier served as editor of the paper.
Like thousands of other Adventist groups scattered over the land, those in Port Gibson met on October 22, 1844, to wait for the expected return of Christ. Edson invited the people to come to that last meeting, and said good-by to those who refused, expecting to never see them again.
The believers “reviewed the evidences, and lived in hope as the hours passed slowly away. Spalding phrases it impressively: ‘Would it be in the morning? The frost of the dawn melted under the rising sun. Might it be at noon? The meridian was reached and the sun began to decline. Surely the evening! But the shades of night fell lowering. Still there was hope:’ ‘For ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning.’
“The neighborhood company of believers expected to meet their Lord at any moment. Says Edson: ‘We looked for our coming Lord until the clock tolled twelve at midnight. The day had then passed, and our disappointment became a certainty. Our fondest hopes and expectations were blasted.’” The Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, 878, 879.
At the dawning of October 23 many of the believers returned to their homes. Edson suggested, to those that remained, that they go into the barn and pray. There they poured out their souls to God in earnest prayer that He would not desert them and would shed light as to what to do next. Finally the conviction came that their prayers had been heard and accepted and that light would be given explaining the Disappointment. Edson was reassured that there is a God and that His word is sure. God had blessed them abundantly in their advent experience, and He would make known to them the nature of their mistake and reveal His plan. Edson said that the cause of their perplexity would be made plain as day. He further encouraged the believers to have faith in God.
After breakfast, Edson suggested to Crosier that they should go and reassure the other believers of God’s promise to guide them through this crisis. To avoid meeting people on the way Edson thought it would be wise to not travel on the roads but to go cross-country instead.
As they walked along silently, suddenly Edson stopped and in deep meditation he looked to the skies overhead and prayed for light. He pondered the Biblical evidence of Christ’s ministration, in the sanctuary in heaven, on the anti-typical Day of Atonement. Suddenly he realized that there were two phases to Christ’s ministry in heaven as there had been in the earthly sanctuary of Old Testament times. “In his own words, an overwhelming conviction came over him—
‘That instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days, He for the first time entered on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary and that He had a work to perform in the Most Holy before coming to this earth.’” Ibid., 881.
Thus the light shown on the confusion over the Disappointment and revealed that the sanctuary to be cleansed was that in heaven and not the earth. This came to Edson as a new idea and a wondrous discovery. It was the answer to the prayer he and Crosier had made that morning. He saw how Christ, the Bridegroom, went at that time to the Ancient of days to receive dominion, glory and a kingdom; and that we are to wait for Him to return from the wedding.
Edson stated, “My mind was directed to the tenth chapter of Revelation where I could see the vision had spoken and did not lie.” Ibid., 883. This chapter reveals the symbol of the sweet followed by the bitter book. The experience of the advent believers had surely been sweet in the beginning but had become as gall following the day of disappointment. The prophecy indicated that they were to testify again. But how was that to be? After October 22, when Christ did not come as proclaimed, who would listen?
Edson and Crosier walked quickly from home to home telling the brethren the good news that Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven was fulfilling another Mosaic type, that He had just entered into, instead of coming out of, the Most Holy as they had formerly believed. This meant that this was the beginning, not the ending, of the anti-typical Day of Atonement. Christ had fulfilled the prophecy. It would be some time before He completed His work, and not until then would He come out as King.
Edson and Crosier invited Dr. Hahn to join them in continuing Bible study of the prophecies regarding Christ’s work in the sanctuary as revealed in the book of Hebrews, especially chapters 8 and 9, until it should be made clear. They focused upon the whole Mosaic system of types and ceremonies and their meaning for the end time. They also studied diligently the prophecies as outlined in the books of Daniel and Revelation concerning the latter times. This study time went on for many months and confirmed their understanding of how and why Christ had entered the Most Holy place to cleanse it.
“But there was yet another angle demanding study, an inkling of which had also been caught by Edson as he walked through the cornfield that epochal October day in 1844. With Crosier and Hahn he also saw that the bitterness of the Disappointment—and in fact of the whole advent experience—was itself a matter of inspired prediction, portrayed through the apostle John in Revelation 10. This they also studied. Here a message, that ‘there should be time no longer,’ is represented as proclaimed on land and sea by a ‘mighty angel come down from heaven.’ And the heavenly messenger ‘clothed with a cloud’ seemingly indicated something that at the time was obscured, or not clearly understood. And with the message that prophetic ‘time shall be no longer,’ there was opened a ‘little book’—apparently the book of Daniel, a portion of which had been sealed. The eating of this bittersweet book obviously symbolized the joy of expectation and the bitterness of disappointment, after which came the declaration, ‘Thou must prophesy again.’ Apparently God still had a work to be done by those who had passed through the disappointment. Another message was obviously to go forth, after the first and second angel’s message had spent their initial force. But how—with all the bitter, unreasoning prejudice from without and the factional disputes within already beginning to grow out of the Disappointment—could they meet the people? And what would be their message?” Ibid., 900.
By the spring of 1845 the studies of the sanctuary and its services were sufficiently solidified in their minds to the point that they understood more clearly the whole question of the Disappointment as well as the justification for the existence of the Advent Movement. It gave meaning to their past experience and direction for their present and future course of action.
Edson, Crosier and Hahn decided to publish another issue of the Day-Dawn to spread the truth regarding the cleansing of the sanctuary and the work of Christ therein. The paper came into the hands of Joseph Bates and James White, both of whom received it gladly. Edson and Hahn submitted an expanded article that was published in the Day- Star Extra (another Adventist journal published following the Disappointment). Bates and White were especially pleased with this enlarged treatise. Bates said it was the best produced so far on the subject bringing light and hope to many people.
A conference was convened at Edson’s place and Bates was invited to attend. “Bates’ burden was the relation of the seventh-day Sabbath to the sanctuary position. During his presentation Edson became so interested and delighted that he could hardly keep his seat. And upon its conclusion he was on his feet with the declaration: ‘That is light and truth!’ He had already caught certain glimpses of the Sabbath through his study of the sanctuary, the ark, and the Ten Commandments, and through reading ‘a few lines from T. M. Preble,’ but he had not yet seen its importance. This was the first public instance of joining the sanctuary and the Sabbath position in united relationship, these constituting two of the three distinctive tenets of faith characterizing this slowly forming body of believers, which had their inception in widely separated spots.” Ibid., 904.
The Port Gibson group was the first to take a stand on the two phases of Christ’s work in the sanctuary. This group made contact with those in New Hampshire that had begun keeping the Seventh-day Sabbath. These two groups were the nucleus of Sabbatarian Adventism that developed into the Seventh-day Adventist Church.