A layman (later ordained) of Port Gibson, New York, the pioneer responsible for introducing, among those who became Seventh-day Adventists, the fuller understanding of the sanctuary and its cleansing. Edson was a respected Methodist steward in 1843 (or possibly 1844), when he accepted the message of the imminent Second Advent. As the Millerites? day of expectation approached, he held evening cottage meetings in his home. On Oct. 22 he invited the people to come to the last meeting, and bade goodbye to those who declined, never expecting to meet them again. Concerning this meeting he said, ?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? (Hiram Edson, fragment of a manuscript on his ?Life and Experience,? fol. 8v).
But Edson kept musing in his heart: ?My advent experience has been the richest and brightest of all my Christian experience. . . . Has the Bible proved a failure? Is there no God, no heaven, no golden city, no Paradise?? (ibid., fols. 8v, 9r).
After waiting and weeping until dawn, many of the Advent believers slipped away to their desolate homes. To some of those who remained Edson said, ?Let us go to the barn? (ibid., fol. 9r). They went into the almost-empty granary and prayed until the conviction came that their prayers had been heard and accepted, and that light would be given and their disappointment explained.
Later Edson said to one of his companions, ?Let us go and see, and encourage some of our brethren? (ibid., fol. 9v; according to Loughborough this second man was O.R.L. Crosier). They shunned the road, perhaps to avoid scoffers, and crossed Edson?s field, where the corn was still in the shock and the pumpkins were on the vines. Suddenly Edson stopped. As he stood there 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. That he came to the marriage at that time [an allusion to the parable of the bridegroom in Matt. 25; see ?Midnight Cry?]; in other words, to the Ancient of Days, to receive a kingdom, dominion, and glory; and we must wait for his return from the wedding? (ibid., fol. 9v).
Edson?s mind was also directed to Rev. 10, a chapter presenting the symbol of the sweet, then bitter, book. The Adventists? experience had indeed been as honey in their mouths. Now in the aftermath it had suddenly become as bitter as gall (Rev. 10:9, 10). The prophecy also indicated that they must testify again, and furthermore that when the seventh angel began to sound, the ark of his testament was seen in the temple of heaven (Rev. 11:19). These were the principal thoughts that coursed through Edson?s mind as he stood there in rapt meditation. Meantime his companion?evidently Crosier?who had been accompanying him, likewise deep in study, suddenly noticed that Edson had stopped. He called back, asking why he had paused. And Edson responded, ?The Lord was answering our morning prayer, giving light with regard to our disappointment? (ibid., fol. 10r).
That concept threw a floodlight upon their disappointment. Christ had indeed fulfilled what the type had actually called for. It would be a while before He would complete this cleansing of the sanctuary, and not until then would He come forth as king.
Edson, Crosier, and their mutual friend Dr. Franklin B. Hahn agreed to meet as a study group to search the Bible intensively along these lines. Their study continued for some months. Their joint conclusions were published in articles by Crosier in the Day-Dawn of March 1845 (which appears as part of the Mar. 26, 1945, Ontario Messenger), a number of issues of the Day-Star in late 1845, and the Day-Star Extra of Feb. 7, 1846, published in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Crosier?s presentation came into the hands of Joseph Bates, James White, and various other Eastern Adventists, and many readily accepted the position set forth. Thus was opened up correspondence between the New York trio and this New England group. Later a conference was appointed for Edson?s place to which these Eastern brethren were invited. White was unable to be present, but Bates attended, and converted Edson (and Hahn) to the seventh-day Sabbath. Edson had already caught certain glimpses of the Sabbath through his study of the sanctuary, the ark, and the Ten Commandments and through reading certain lines from T. M. Preble, but he had not yet seen its importance. This was the first public instance of joining in united relationship the sanctuary and Sabbath positions, two distinctive tenets of faith characterizing the slowly forming body of Seventh-day Adventists. A little later, in 1848, one of a series of important conferences was held in Edson?s barn.
Edson was not only a thoughtful Bible student and an earnest evangelistic helper but also a self-sacrificing contributor, putting his possessions into the upbuilding of the growing cause that he loved. He sold his farm in 1850 to help defray evangelistic expenses of the infant Sabbatarian movement. His next farm, in Port Byron, he likewise sold, two years later, and from the proceeds lent James White the money to purchase his printing press at Rochester.
Edson was ordained in 1855. Whether this ordination was understood at the time to be to a local or general ministry is not clear. He was awarded credentials in 1870. It was he who introduced young J. N. Loughborough to the Adventist ministry and traveled with him around the circuit of churches early in Loughborough?s ministry.