by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Text: I Corinthians 14:6-12
I. As we continue our tracing of how various denominations came to be,
A. We examined how the Pietiest influenced the beliefs of John Wesley and the Methodist societies that he established.
1. In particular was an emphasis on the need for a personal experience to become sanctified, which is seen as a life-long process
B. The fracturing of the Methodist societies led to the formation the Holiness movement
1. The personal experience is mislabeled and called a baptism of the Holy Spirit and being born again
2. Salvation is split into a two-step process where you are baptized but then are later sanctified by a personal experience. Only then are you considered by these groups to be truly saved
3. Instead of a life-long growth into sanctification, it is seen as an instantaneous change
C. From the Holiness movement arose the Charismatics
II. Revivals or Camp Meetings
A. During the days of the American frontier, people were moving by droves into unsettled territory
B. The lack of established church and ministers caused many denominations to send out preachers to travel and hold a meeting in an area. These meetings often lasted weeks
C. To illustrate, in August of 1801, Barton Stone, a Presbyterian preacher, invited fellow Presbyterians and Methodists to come for a “sacramental communion” as it was called back then. Colonel Robert Paterson wrote to a friend about it:
"On the first Sabbath of August, was the Sacrament of Kainridge, the congregation of Mr. Stone. - This was the largest meeting of any that I have ever seen: It continued from Friday till Wednesday. About 12,000 persons, 125 waggons, 8 carriages, 900 communicants, 300 were struck. . . "
Patterson tried, "as well as I am able," to describe the emotion. "Of all ages, from 8 years and upwards; male and female; rich and poor; the blacks; and of every denomination; those in favour of it, as well as those, at the instant in opposition to it, and railing against it, have instantaneously laid motionless on the ground. Some feel the approaching symptoms by being under deep convictions; their heart swells, their nerves relax, and in an instant they become motionless and speechless, but generally retain their senses. . . He went on to describe other manifestations which continued from "one hour to 24".
"In order to give you a more just conception of it," Patterson continued, "suppose so large a congregation assembled in the woods, ministers preaching day and night; the camp illuminated with candles, on trees, at wagons, and at the tent; persons falling down, and carried out of the crowd, by those next to them, and taken to some convenient place, where prayer is made for them, some Psalm or Hymn, suitable to the occasion, sung. If they speak, what they say is attended to, being very solemn and affecting - many are struck under such exhortations. . . Now suppose 20 of those groups around; some rejoicing, and great solemnity on every countenance, and you will form some imperfect idea of the extraordinary work!” [“The Great Revival,” Cane Ridge Meeting House].
D. This was common among the meetings. They would generally start out
“A typical meeting began in a low-key, almost solemn way. A preacher gave a sermon of welcome and led a prayer for peace and community. This was followed by the singing of several hymns. Then there would be more sermons. . . .
The next day, and the day following, the sermons grew increasingly sensational and impassioned, and the excited response of the crowd grew more prolonged. By the second or third day, people were crying out during the sermons, and shouting prayers, and bursting into loud lamentations; they began grabbing at their neighbors and desperately pleading with them to repent; they sobbed uncontrollably and ran in terror through the crowd, shoving aside everybody in their path
As the preachers ranted without letup, the crowd was driven into a kind of collective ecstasy. In the night, as the torches and bonfires flared around the meeting ground and the darkness of the trackless forests closed in, people behaved as if possessed by something new and unfathomable. As Finley wrote: "A strange supernatural power seemed to pervade the entire mass of mind there collected." “ [Lee Sandlin, “Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Ran Wild.” Pantheon Books, 2010, p. 92-93].
E. Paul warned about “empty chatter” or “babbling” and how it will cause people to stray - I Timothy 6:20-21
F. Charles Finney (1792-1876), a Presbyterian minister in New York, became an active revivalist during the years of 1825 to 1835.
1. He purposely sought emotionalism as a means to gain converts. “that God has found it necessary to take advantage of the excitability there is in mankind to produce powerful excitements among them before he can lead them to obey. Men are so sluggish, there are so many things to lead their minds off from religion and to oppose the influence of the gospel that it is necessary to raise an excitement among them till the tide rises so high as to sweep away the opposing obstacles" (Charles Finney, “Lectures on Revivals”, p. 9).
2. He had an “anxious seat” where people considering becoming a Christian would sit up front to receive prayers and be lectured about their sins. (i.e. peer pressure)
III. By the late 1800's there was a shift in the Holiness Movement churches
A. The idea of a second work of grace that the Methodists saw as an indication of being cleansed from sin shifted into being viewed as a gift of power for ministry.
B. There continued to be an emphasis on a spiritual crisis experience that came some time after a person’s initial conversion, which they called the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But this led people to believe that speaking in tongues was a part of that experience.
IV. Azusa Street Revival
A. In 1903, William Seymour was a student in a Houston, Texas, Bible school taught by Charles Fox Parham.
1. He became convinced that people needed to received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that such baptism would be evident by speaking in tongues
B. Seymour was invited to work with a small holiness group in Los Angles, California.
1. On the way, he stopped in Denver, Colorado and visited Alma White’s Pillar of Fire movement.
2. Alma was not impressed with Seymour. She later said, "I had met all kinds of religious fakers and tramps, but I felt he excelled them all."
3. Upon arriving in Los Angeles, William Seymour preached only one sermon at the church who had invited him. The group then rejected him. Seymour continued his meeting though, preaching about Holy Spirit baptism in a warehouse on Azusa Street.
C. There is difficulty in commenting about what happened on Azusa Street
1. It is had to locate reliable witnesses. You would expect those who accept the events as real to be biased in favor of what happened. Those who reject the events would be biased against them.
2. There is a problem of terminology.
a. For example, the Bible defines speaking in tongues as speaking in another language
b. But Pentecostal writers will include speaking in no language (gibberish) as tongue speaking by claiming that it is a heavenly language.
c. Actions which would be rejected by many are glossed over in Pentecostal writings because they are seen as normal events. Yet writers from non-Pentecostal denominations will focus on these same actions.
D. There is a book titled From Holy Laughter to Holy Fire by Michael L. Brown which quotes five respected Bible scholars from that era who witness the events that occurred on Azusa Street.
1. Mr. Brown quoted them to say they were wrong, but these men were contemporaries of the events and Mr. Brown, an Assemblies of God minister, is not.
a. Since his denomination evolved from the events of Azusa Street, he also has strong motivation to put its origins in the best light that he can.
b. I do appreciate the fact that he was willing to quote his detractors.
2. G. Campbell Morgan described the activities on Azusa Street as "the last vomit of Satan."
3. R. A. Torrey declared that this movement was "emphatically not of God, and founded by a Sodomite."
4. H. A. Ironside said in 1912 that the movement was "disgusting ... delusions and insanities ... pandemonium's were exhibitions worthy of a madhouse or a collection of howling dervishes," causing a "heavy toll of lunacy and infidelity."
5. W. B. Godbey saw the movement as a result of spiritualism and that the participants were "Satan's preachers, jugglers, necromancers, enchanters, magicians, and all sorts of mendicants."
6. Clarence Larkin said, "But the conduct of those possessed, in which they fall to the ground and disgraceful scenes, is more a characteristic of demon possession, than a work of the Holy Spirit. From what has been said we see that we are living in 'Perilous Times,' and that all about us are 'Seducing Spirits,' and that they will become more active as the Dispensation draws to its close, and that we must exert the greatest care lest we be led astray."
7. It is clear that these biblical scholars were not pleased with the events at Azusa Street.
8. It reminds me of another warning by Paul - II Timothy 2:16-17
9. Christians were commanded to pray for a life of (semnotes) gravity, levelheadedness, or an evenly controlled emotional state - I Timothy 2:2
E. Seymour's teacher, Charles Parham, visited the revival in October of 1906.
1. David McCloud, in his book The Strange History of Pentecostalism, said of this visit that "even he was shocked by the confusion of the services. He was dismayed by the 'awful fits and spasms' of the 'holy rollers and hypnotists.' He described the Azusa 'tongues' as 'chattering, jabbering and sputtering, speaking no language at all' (Synan, p. 102).
2. The Azusa Street meetings were so wild that Parham condemned them with the term 'sensational Holy Rollers.' He testified that the Azusa Street meetings were largely characterized by manifestations of the flesh, spiritualistic controls, and the practice of hypnotism (Sarah Parham, The Life of Charles F. Parham, Joplin, MO: Tri-State Printing, 1930, p. 163).
3. According to Parham, two-thirds of the people professing Pentecostalism in his day 'are either hypnotized or spook driven' (Parham, Life of Charles F. Parham, p. 164).
4. In his writings about Azusa Street, Parham described men and women falling on one another in a morally compromising manner."
5. It should be noted that the following year, 1907, Parham was arrested and charged with sodomy in Texas; so, he is not necessarily a highly credible witness.
F. The revival on Azusa Street lasted seven years, during which time thousands of missionaries went forth to spread Pentecostalism.
1. Many believed that with their gift of tongues they could teach in foreign fields.
2. It wasn't long before they realized that they were unable to speak in other languages and so the movement changed to state that the Holy Spirit required interpreters for the tongue speakers. This continues to this day.
3. I know of no first-hand accounts of people speaking in languages they had not learned. Yet, most in the Pentecostal movement will claim to speak in a heavenly language (though to everyone listening it sounds like gibberish).
G. The events at Azusa Street match none of the events in the Bible.
1. The conduct of the participants, even when saying the "nay-sayers" are stretching the truth, appears to be completely opposite to the conduct required of Christians in the New Testament. - II Peter 3:11-14
2. Jesus told us there would be false teachers - Matthew 7:15-23
H. Since those who speak glowingly of the events of Azusa Street teach doctrines contrary to those found in the New Testament, such as the continuance of miraculous gifts or that Jesus is the only person of God, I must conclude that the events at Azusa Street were deceptions - II Thessalonians 2:9-12
V. Groups founded
A. Four denominations which were founded in the late 1890's: the Church of God in Christ, the Pentecostal Holiness Church, the United Holiness Church, and the Church of God, took on Pentecostal beliefs as a result of what happened on Azusa Street.
B. From these groups came further divisions, the largest being the Assemblies of God, which divided from the Church of God in Christ in 1914