Three Were called - One Refused
The crowds pressed into Beethoven Hall on a late summer evening in 1844; the Harmon family was there, also. They had come to hear a young preacher tell about his messages from God.
William Foy, a Black American with outstanding ability as a preacher, was in his early 20s in 1842, when he received some dramatic visions. One, given on January 18 at a church in Boston, lasted two and one-half hours. There was a physician present in the group, and he reported that he could detect no life “except around the heart.” Foy said later, “My breath left me.” A second vision was given on February 4 and lasted for12 and one-half hours! He related that at that time he was instructed to “reveal those things which thou hast seen, and also warn thy fellow creatures to flee from the wrath to come.”
There was a lot of prejudice against those who claimed to have visions, as well as against people of Color, so it was understandable that Foy hesitated to go public and tell what he had seen. But, God had plans for His message, and a few days later, the pastor of the Bloomfield Baptist church came to Foy’s home and asked him to come to his church and relate what he had seen in vision. Although nervous about how his words would be received, he agreed to go. That evening the church was filled to overflowing, and when Foy stood to speak, his fear suddenly left him, and he spoke with ease about the things God had shown him. The audience was enthralled.
Notice the date, it was 1842. Some people have said that Ellen Harmon later filled the responsibility first given to Foy, but others who have carefully studied the historical facts don’t agree. Delbert Baker, a diligent SDA researcher says this: “William Foy served as a spokesman for God to the Advent movement in the pre-Disappointment period, whereas Ellen White became a post-Disappointment prophet. He brought timely truths to view that would later, if understood, have at least better prepared God’s people for what was to come.
Evidence seems to indicate that William Foy was given a specific message for a specific time, and that he faithfully fulfilled the task given him by God during this period.
William Foy traveled for several months delivering his messages to crowded houses of many denominations. As he graphically described the heavenly world, the New Jerusalem, and the compassionate love of Christ, and pled with the unconverted to seek God, many responded, and gave their hearts to the Lord. However, because his family needed support, Foy left public work temporarily to labor with his hands. But, three months later, he felt impelled to deliver his message again and took up the public ministry, expecting soon to see his Saviour.
There is some confusion here as to why Foy stopped giving his messages again. The pioneer Adventist historian, J. N. Loughborough believed that it was because of another vision Foy had received that he did not understand, and so hesitated to preach it.
He was shown a pathway of the people of God to the heavenly city. He saw a great platform, on which multitudes of people gathered. Occasionally one would drop through this platform out of sight. Then he saw the people rise to a second platform, and some of these also dropped through the platform out of sight, and finally a third platform appeared, which extended to the gates of the Holy City. This vision was shortly before October, 1844, and as he expected the Lord to come in a very short time, he failed to
recognize the fact that a third message was to follow the first and second messages of Revelation 14.
About two months after the hope that Christ would return on October 22, 1844 was shattered, Foy was present in a meeting in Maine where Ellen Harmon was speaking, and telling of her first vision. As she began, Foy became engrossed in what she was saying, he was caught up in the enthusiasm and pathos of her presentation. As she spoke of the heavenly things she had seen, he could hold back no longer. All of a sudden, right in the middle of Ellen’s presentation, Foy let out a shout of joy, rose to his feet, and excitedly ‘jumped right up and down.’ As Ellen remembered, “Oh, he praised the Lord, praised the Lord!” He repeated again and again that her vision was just what he had seen. He knew it was true! Evidently this is the vision found in Early Writings, pp14,15. .
In 1906 Ellen White recalled her conversations with William Foy. She remembered that he had four visions, all before her first vision: She said of Foy’s teachings, “It was remarkable testimonies that he bore.” Ellen White regarded his experience as genuine, and just what she had seen.
Unfortunately, there is some confusion among many Adventist believers about William Foy. Some have said he refused the gift, which is not true. He gave the message, and although Foy did not become a Seventh-day Adventist, he continued as a minister the rest of his life. His grave is located in Birch Tree cemetery in East Sullivan, Maine.
In the meantime, God had called another man to give the message, before He called Ellen Harmon, but no one knew about it when it happened, for he had kept quiet, unwilling to let it be known. This man was Hazen Foss.
Hazen Foss met Ellen Harmon in January, 1845, at a meeting in Poland, Maine, where she had been invited to relate her first vision of about a month earlier. Not long before October 22,1844, Foss had a vision depicting the journey of the Adventists to the city of God. He was told to make known this vision along with specific messages of warning, but he declined.
After October 22, he felt that he had been misled by his earlier vision, but then he had a second vision in which he was warned that if he was not faithful in relating the first vision, the vision and responsibility would be taken from him and given to one with much fewer qualifications. But, he dreaded the ridicule and rejection he felt he would receive from his fellow Millerites. Finally, he thought he heard a voice saying, “You have grieved away the Spirit of the Lord.”
Frightened by this thought, he called a meeting to relate the vision, but after making several unsuccessful attempts to recall it, he declared: “It is gone from me; I can say nothing, the spirit of the Lord has left me. “ Some at the meeting, reported it as “the most terrible meeting they were ever in.”
After this, Foss heard Ellen speak in Poland, Maine. He remained outside the closed door, but close enough to hear the message. The next day, he told Ellen: “The Lord gave me a message to bear to His people..and I refused. I heard you talk last night. I believe the visions are taken from me, and given to you. Do not refuse to obey God, for it will be at the peril of your soul. I am a lost man. You are chosen of God; be faithful in doing your work, and the crown I might have had, you will receive.”
compiled from “Adventist Pioneers,” R&H Publishing, by Dorothy Dunbar
Light Bearers, EW Estate