The Great Disappointment
The Seventh Day Adventist Church formed out of the movement known today as the Millerites. In 1831, a Baptist convert, William Miller (until then a Deist), was asked by a Baptist to preach in their church and began to preach that the Second Advent of Jesus would occur somewhere between 1843 and 1844, based on his interpretation of Daniel 8:14. A following gathered around Miller that included many from the Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Christian Connection churches. After a number of revisions, October 22 was considered the most probable date that the return would occur. By 1844, over 100,000 people were anticipating what Miller had dubbed as the "Blessed Hope". On October 22 many of the believers were up late into the night watching, waiting for Christ to return and found themselves bitterly disappointed when both sunset and midnight passed with their expectations unfulfilled. This event later became known as the Great Disappointment.
After the upset of October 22 many of Miller's followers were left upset and disillusioned. One of the Adventists, Hiriam Edson (1806-1882) wrote "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." However, a few remained in the church. These people gathered together and spent much time in devoted prayer and study of the Bible. On the morning of October 23 , Edson, who lived in Port Gibson, New York was passing through his grain field with a friend where he claimed to have seen a vision. Edson later recounted:
"We started, and while passing through a large field I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed opened to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly 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 [calculated to be October 22, 1844], 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 the earth.
Edson shared what he believed he saw with many of the local Adventists who were greatly encouraged by his account. As a result Edson began studying the bible with two of the other believers in the area, O.R.L. Crosier and Franklin B. Hahn, who published their findings in a paper called Day Dawn. This paper explored the biblical Parable of the Ten Virgins and attempted to explain why the bridegroom had tarried. The article also explored the concept of the day of atonement and what the authors called "our chronology of events".
The findings published by Crosier, Hahn and Edson led to a new understanding about the sanctuary in heaven. Their paper explained how there was a sanctuary in heaven, that Christ, the High Priest, was to cleanse. The believers understood this cleansing to be what the 2300 days in Daniel was referring to.
George Knight wrote, "Although originally the smallest of the post-Millerite groups, it came to see itself as the true successor of the once-powerful Millerite movement." This view was endorsed by Ellen White. However, Seeking a Sanctuary sees it more as an offshoot of the Millerite movement.
Sabbath and Seventh Day Adventist History
A young Seventh Day Baptist layperson named Rachel Oakes Preston living in New Hampshire was responsible for introducing Sabbath to the Millerite Adventists. Due to her influence Frederick Wheeler began keeping the seventh day as Sabbath, probably in the early spring of 1844. Several members of the Washington, New Hampshire church he occasionally ministered to also followed his decision. These included William and Cyrus Farnsworth. T. M. Preble soon accepted it either from Wheeler or directly from Oakes. These events were shortly followed by the Great Disappointment.
Preble promoted Sabbath through the February 28, 1845 issue of the Hope of Israel. In March he published his Sabbath views in tract form. Although he returned to observing Sunday in the next few years, his writing convinced Joseph Bates and J. N. Andrews. These men in turn convinced James and Ellen White, as well as Hiriam Edson and hundreds of others.
Bates proposed that a meeting should be organized between the believers in New Hampshire and Port Gibson. At this meeting, which occurred sometime in 1846 at Edson's farm, Edson and other Port Gibson believers readily accepted Sabbath and at the same time forged an alliance with Bates and two other folk from New Hampshire who later became very influential in the Adventist church, James and Ellen G. White. Between April, 1848, and December of 1850 twenty-two "Sabbath conferences" were held in New York and New England. These meetings were often seen as opportunities for leaders such as James White, Joseph Bates, Stephen Pierce and Hiram Edson to discuss and reach conclusions about doctrinal issues.
While initially it was believed that Sabbath started at 6pm, by 1855 it was generally accepted that Sabbath begins at Friday sunset.
The Present Truth was largely devoted to Sabbath at first. J. N. Andrews was the first Adventist to write a book-length defense of Sabbath, first published in 1861.
First edition of The Present Truth
On November 18, 1848, the young lady Ellen White, had a vision in which God told her that her husband should start a paper. In 1849, James, determined to publish this paper, went to find work as a farm-hand to raise sufficient funds. After Ellen had another one of her visions, she told James that he was to not worry about funds but to set to work on producing the paper to be printed. James readily obeyed, writing from the aid "of a pocket Bible, Cruden's Condensed Concordance, and an abridged dictionary with one of its covers off." Thanks to a generous offer by the printer to delay charges, the group of Advent believers had 1000 copies of the first publication printed. They sent the publication, which was on the topic of Sabbath, to friends and colleagues they believe would find it of interest. In total 11 issues were published, in 1849 and 1850.
In 1860, the fledging movement finally settled on the name, Seventh-day Adventist, representative of the church's distinguishing beliefs. Three years later, on May 21, 1863, the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists was formed and the movement became an official organization.
In 1874 J. N. Andrews became the first official Adventist missionary to travel overseas. Working in Switzerland, he sought to organize the Sabbath-keeping companies under one umbrella.
Today there are more than 16 million Seventh Day Adventists worldwide. There is an average of 2,818 people baptized into the church daily; making it the fastest growing Protestant Christian movement today. More than 1 million people joined The Seventh Day Adventist church in 2009, making it the 6th consecutive year of million member gains.