The “Shut Door” Documents

Chapter 1—October 22, 1844

After the Great Disappointment the Belief was Widespread That Probation had Closed on October 22, 1844.

In 1868 James White wrote: SDD 3.1

And a general impression remained upon the minds of believers for some time after the disappointment, that the seventh-month movement was in the direct providence of God, and that those who had been engaged in this work had done his will.

And according to the best light they then had, there was a general agreement that the seventh-month movement was the last great test, that the harvest of the earth was ripe for the sickle of the Son of man, and that the door was shut. That the salvation of the soul, or perdition, hung upon the manner in which those who heard treated that solemn message, I doubt not. And this is especially clear in the case of the disappointed believers after the time passed. In holding fast and believing, there was salvation; in drawing back, the result would be perdition. The view, however, that the harvest of the earth was ripe, and that the door was shut, was soon abandoned. But although all, long since, gave up this position as incorrect, I fail to see why they should be censured for taking it upon the passing of the time. In fact, the conclusion seems very natural, and I hardly see how they could have come to any other. I will here mention some of the reasons why such conclusion was reasonable, if not unavoidable.

1. William Miller and others had taught that the door would be shut, and that probation would close a short time before the second advent. In a letter to Elder J. V. Himes, October 6, 1844, he said: “I am strong in the opinion that the next will be the last Lord’s day sinners will ever have in probation. And within ten or fifteen days from thence, they will see Him whom they have hated and despised, to their shame and everlasting contempt.”

2. And, certainly, that probation will close prior to the second advent is plainly taught in the following emphatic testimony from Revelation 22:11, 12: “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still; and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he that is holy, let him be holy still. And behold I come quickly.” I will only add, that the order of events here given is, first, the final decision of all men living at the close of probation, and, second, then follows the advent of Him who says, “And behold I come quickly.”

3. All true believers expected that probation would close as soon as the tenth day of the seventh month. And as the time of expectation drew near, their burdened spirits felt more and still more heavily the weight and responsibility of doing every duty to others. But as the point of expectation was finally reached, all this burden at once fell off. This was as true of the isolated brother or sister, in some distant part of the country, as with those in the crowded city mingling with hundreds of like faith. It was true of all. All felt that their work in warning sinners was done. No one can have a just idea of this great change, only those who participated in the movement, and came up to the time of expectation with the burden of the solemn work upon them. Jesus had not come as they expected, and why this great change had come over all was a matter of proper inquiry. And how natural the conclusion, to say the least, that probation was ended.

4. The change that had suddenly come over the ungodly seemed to strengthen the conviction that the door was shut. Although the passing of the time, removing their fears, may now be regarded as a sufficient cause for the change in them, yet at that time the fiend-like conduct of many after the tenth day passed, who but a few hours or days before had appeared penitent, gave the idea that the restraining influence of the Spirit of God had forever left them.

In view of these things it should not be a matter of surprise to any, that Adventists were agreed that the midnight cry was the last great test, that the work for the world was finished, and that the door was shut. (Emphasis supplied.)—Life Incidents (1868), pp. 184-186. See also E. G. White, The Spirit of Prophecy 4:268; The Great Controversy, 429.