The small meeting house on May Street in Boston was packed to the rafters with barely a square of space to stand on. William Ellis Foy shifted uncomfortably in his seat and focused on the speaker. It was 1842 and the Millerite movement was just beginning to gain traction across the East coast of the United States. Foy himself was a Freewill Baptist preacher who had embraced Miller’s teachings and was eagerly looking forward to the second coming of Jesus. Eagerly looking forward to Jesus coming. Foy’s mind lingered over the words. He was looking forward to the soon return of Jesus alright but how would he be able to stand before Him and answer for his terrible disobedience? Foy’s eyes restlessly combed through the standing crowd and he spotted one of his friends standing just behind him. The brother had been standing all evening and Foy decided to offer him his seat. Standing up he motioned for the brother to take his place. The man was only too grateful and he as he sat down he shot Foy a grateful smile.
Foy shifted his weight uncomfortably from one foot to another. His mind was dredging up events from two weeks ago and he wasn’t sure that he wanted to think about any of it. He had been in a little congregation on Southack Street, here in Boston when he had been taken off into vision. It had been an excruciating experience and for a long moment, he had really believed that he was dying. He had felt his breath being sucked out of his lungs in one long gust and then he had had a strange out of body experience. He had then seen a man dressed in white who had spoken to him. The vision lasted two and a half hours. When he came to he was informed that a doctor had been called to examine him and that there had been no signs of life in his body except around his heart.
The experience had been overpowering and immediately after he was convicted to share his experience. Foy forced his mind back to the present. How could he speak? For one thing, he was black. A free black he reminded himself, but black nonetheless he added hastily. Who would want to listen to him? How would he travel? How would he be received? Why couldn’t God pick someone more educated? Someone whose skin was a different colour? Why him? The barriers seemed insurmountable. Finally unable to bear the burden of the conviction he had written out a rough sketch of the vision and printed it out for distribution. He had tried to convince himself that that was sufficient to appease his conscience but the persistent voice continued to haunt him. He knew he was being disobedient, shirking his God-given duty but how could God expect him to…suddenly he heard a voice, the same voice he realised with a mental jolt, that he had heard two weeks ago. Again he felt a rush of air being sucked out of his body and he collapsed onto the floor.
Foy was given a second vision that day on May street which lasted twelve and a half hours. Three days after the second vision he shared what he had seen on at the Methodist Church on Broomfield street. This opened the door to many other opportunities and he travelled for three months speaking to packed houses. He then did manual labour to support his family before travelling along the preaching circuit once again. Foy was faithful to his calling, sharing all four of the visions he received in the years leading up to and immediately after the disappointment of 1844.
“Ellen, I want to speak with you” Ellen Harmon looked up at the familiar face of Hazen Foss and smiled. Hazen’s brother Samuel was married to her sister Mary and she frequently saw him when she visited her sister. “What is it Brother Foss?” she asked looking at him expectantly. Foss moved across the room and sat down next to her. “The Lord gave me a message to bear to His people and I refused after being told the consequences” Foss paused struggling to find the right words. “I was proud” he shook his head at the memory “I was unreconciled to the disappointment. I murmured against God and I wished myself dead” he stood up abruptly and began to pace the floor restlessly. “Then I felt a strange feeling come over me and…” he hesitated “and I heard a voice” his voice broke “a voice telling me ‘you have grieved away the Spirit of God” he stared intently at the floor not daring to look up at Ellen to gauge her reaction. I shall henceforth be as one dead to spiritual things” he said quietly.“Brother Foss” Ellen began haltingly as she took in his words “I…”
Foss rushed on cutting her off. “I heard you talk last night. I believe the visions are taken from me and given to you. Do not refuse to obey God” he finally looked up at her and his eyes wore a tortured expression “Do not refuse to obey God” he repeated “for it will be at the peril of your soul…I am a lost man. You are chosen of God” he turned away again and slowly spoke the next few sentences “Be faithful in doing your work, and the crown I might have had, you will receive”
It was a heartbreaking moment but also a fearful one. Hazen Foss never again showed interest in spiritual things. The moral of the story is simple and poignant; be faithful to the calling God has placed on your life. Remember Hazen Foss.
Citations and Further Reading
- White E.G. (1890) – Letter 37 to Mary Foss December 22, 1890
- White, A.L. (1985) – Ellen G. White: Volume 1 – The Early Years: 1827-1862
- Collins, N.J. (2005) – Heartwarming Stories of Adventist Pioneers (Book 1)
- Burt, M.D. (2011) – Adventist Pioneer Places (New York and New England)
- Poirier, T – The Visions of William E. Foy and Hazen L. Foss