C. Mervyn Maxwell

"Daddy, could I be baptized tonight? Please?"

"It's already late, you know, Ophelia, and we have twelve long miles (19.2 kilometers) to ride in an open sleigh before you can get to bed!"

"I know, Daddy, but I really would like to be baptized before we go home!"

"Do you realize that the lake is probably frozen around the edges, and that we would have to travel two or three cold miles (5.2 or 4.8 kilometers) there and back?"

"Yes, but that's all right," the girl responded. "I can take it."

Twelve-year-old Ophelia and other members of her family had been attending a series of revival meetings. As the ministers preached Ophelia knew she loved Jesus and wanted to be a true Christian as long as she lived.

Seeing her resolution, a minister in the group turned to a friend and asked, "Elder, would you mind going out to the lake with Ophelia and her father and baptizing her?"

"I'll be glad to do it," the good man replied. Thereupon Ophelia's Daddy accompanied her to the icy water and witnessed her baptism in the dark. They arrived home at a very late hour chilled through, no doubt, but very happy in the Lord.

Let me tell you a little bit more about Ophelia and her Daddy. Her Daddy was Hiram Edson. He became quite famous among Seventh-day Adventists in the early days. Mr. Edson was a hardworking farmer and fine layman preacher. Back in 1844, Hiram Edson had been one of the people who expected Jesus to come to earth on October 22, 1844.

The Bible said that Jesus in 1844 would "come" to a special wedding and to the judgment, and almost all Christians in those days believed that the wedding and the judgment would happen down here on the earth. So when the Adventists came to understand that Jesus would come to the marriage and the judgment in 1844 which was right! they supposed that He would come to the earth in 1844. And oh, how they looked forward to His coming.

Ophelia was only a baby in 1844. But as she grew, she heard her parents tell the story often. She heard them tell how friends had come to their house to wait together for Jesus to come to the earth on October 22, 1844. Her Mother and Daddy had been especially eager for Jesus to come because they wanted Him to resurrect Ophelia's older brother and sister who had died.

The older boys in the group doubtless wanted Jesus to come before another winter appeared because like most boys they didn't like to feed and milk cows on cold winter mornings.

Ophelia's parents and friends expected Jesus to come back to earth some time during the day, maybe first thing in the morning, or at noon, or anytime before the sun went down. But Jesus didn't come and they got worried. They told themselves that Jesus surely would come by midnight. The littlest children got too sleepy to stay awake. Ophelia herself, as I told you, was only a baby. But the grownups stayed awake. Ten o'clock came and went. Eleven o'clock. Still Jesus didn't come. But they believed He would surely come by midnight. The clock began to strike midnight. "Jesus surely will come before it stops counting twelve..." they thought. One, two, three, ... nine, ten. "Oh. He has to come!" But the clock finished striking twelve, and Jesus didn't come. He didn't come.

The grownups cried out loud. They were so very disappointed. Probably some of the children woke up and cried too.

In the morning, Ophelia's Daddy took some of his friends out to the barn to pray. While they prayed, he began to feel much better. He became sure that one of these days God would explain their disappointment and would show them what Jesus really did on October 22, 1844.

Ophelia's Daddy felt so much better after praying that he said to his friend Mr. Owen Crosier, who was staying at their house at the time, "Owen, let's go and cheer up the other disappointed people."

And that's what they did.

About the very time they started taking a short cut across the farm, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, explained the disappointment to Ophelia's Daddy. Suddenly he understood that the Bible doesn't say Jesus was to come to earth for the special marriage and the judgment, but He was to go to the Most Holy Place in heaven and have the special marriage and the judgment there and only after He had "come" to heaven's Most Holy Place would He then "come" to the earth.

That's the story about Ophelia Edson, who was a baby during the Great Disappointment and who learned to love Jesus so much that when she was twelve she was willing to be baptized in an icy lake in the winter.


C. Mervyn Maxwell was professor of Church History at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. Since his retirement he has been very active preaching and lecturing to ministers and elders around the world. He is the author of God Cares and other books. This article is adapted from his book, Tell It to the World, pp. 46-50.