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Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1)

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    The Great Disappointment of October 22, 1844

    With bated breath the Adventists, no less than fifty thousand and probably nearer one hundred thousand scattered largely across the northeastern portion of North America, arose to greet the eventful day, Tuesday, October 22, 1844.1BIO 53.2

    Some sought vantage points where they could peer into the clear heavens, hoping to catch a first glimpse of the coming of their returning Lord. When would Jesus come? The morning hours slowly passed and noon came, then midafternoon; finally darkness settled upon the earth. But it was still October 22, and it would be till midnight. At last that hour came, but Jesus did not come. The disappointment was almost beyond description. In later years some wrote of the experience. Hiram Edson gave a vivid account of how they looked for the coming of the Lord “until the clock tolled twelve at midnight. Then our disappointment became a certainty.” Of his experience in the depths of sorrow he wrote:1BIO 53.3

    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.1BIO 53.4

    I mused in my own heart, saying, “My advent experience has been the richest and brightest of all my Christian experience. If this had proved a failure, what was the rest of my Christian experience worth? Has the Bible proved a failure? Is there no God, no heaven, no golden home city, no Paradise? Is all this but a cunningly devised fable? Is there no reality to our fondest hope and expectation of these things?” And thus we had something to grieve and weep over, if all our fondest hopes were lost. And as I said, we wept, till the day dawn.—DF 588, Hiram Edson manuscript (see also The Review and Herald, June 23, 1921).1BIO 53.5

    Another Advent believer who passed through the painful experience in Vermont, Washington Morse, recounted: [See F. D. Nichol, The Midnight Cry, pp. 247-250, for other accounts.]1BIO 54.1

    That day came and passed, and the darkness of another night closed in upon the world. But with that darkness came a pang of disappointment to the Advent believers that can find a parallel only in the sorrow of the disciples after the crucifixion of their Lord.1BIO 54.2

    The passing of the time was a bitter disappointment. True believers had given up all for Christ, and had shared His presence as never before. The love of Jesus filled every soul; and with inexpressible desire they prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus, and come quickly”: but He did not come.1BIO 54.3

    And now, to turn again to the cares, perplexities, and dangers of life, in full view of jeering and reviling unbelievers who scoffed as never before, was a terrible trial of faith and patience. When Elder Himes visited Waterbury, Vermont, a short time after the passing of the time, and stated that the brethren should prepare for another cold winter, my feelings were almost uncontrollable. I left the place of meeting and wept like a child.—In Ibid., May 7, 19011BIO 54.4

    We turn again to Ellen White's eyewitness account:1BIO 54.5

    It was hard to take up the vexing cares of life that we thought had been laid down forever. It was a bitter disappointment that fell upon the little flock whose faith had been so strong and whose hope had been so high. But we were surprised that we felt so free in the Lord, and were so strongly sustained by His strength and grace....

    We were disappointed but not disheartened. We resolved to submit patiently to the process of purifying that God deemed needful for us; to refrain from murmuring at the trying ordeal by which the Lord was purging us from the dross and refining us like gold in the furnace. We resolved to wait with patient hope for the Saviour to redeem His tried and faithful ones.1BIO 54.6

    We were firm in the belief that the preaching of the definite time was of God. It was this that led men to search the Bible diligently, discovering truths they had not before perceived....1BIO 55.1

    Our disappointment was not so great as that of the disciples. When the Son of man rode triumphantly into Jerusalem they expected Him to be crowned king.... Yet in a few days these very disciples saw their beloved Master, whom they believed would reign on David's throne, stretched upon the cruel cross above the mocking, taunting Pharisees. Their high hopes were drowned in bitter disappointment, and the darkness of death closed about them. Yet Christ was true to His promises.—Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White (1880), 189-192.1BIO 55.2

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