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William Seymour | Pt 2

“The thing that makes us know that this ‘Latter Rain’ that is flooding the world with the glory of God is of the Lord, is because the devil is not in such business."  The Apostolic Faith (May 1908)

An Azusa Street Testimony:
The noise of the great outpouring of the Spirit drew me. I had been nothing but a ‘walking drug store’ all my life, with weak lungs and cancer. As they looked at me, they said, ’Child, God will heal you.’ In those days of the great outpouring, when they said God would heal you, you were healed. For thirty-three years, I have never gone back to the doctors, thank God, using not any of that old medicine! The Lord saved me with the Holy Ghost, healed me, and sent me on my way rejoicing.”  Emma Cotton

As we left off last week, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on those gathered at the Asberry’s house was like nothing short of the first Pentecost. For three days and three nights, non-stop, the people celebrated what they called, “early Pentecost restored.” Within hours of the first shout the news spread throughout the community bringing crowds that surrounded the little house at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street. Those that could not get into the house gathered outside the open windows hoping to hear someone speaking in tongues. Many fell “under the power” and lay on the floor. Some would lay there for three to five hours. At times you could hear great shouting. At times it was intensely quiet. Through it all the name of Jesus and the glory of God were magnified. Some from the old religious ilk said that these strange goings-on and speaking in tongues were from the devil. Common sense would tell one that the devil is not in the business of glorifying God in any way, shape or form. Great signs and wonders were common occurrences daily; unusual healings, those who were lost saved, the blind were given sight, the sick healed and the demonized delivered."

It wasn't long before the Asberry home could no longer accommodate the crowds. Everyone knew that they needed another place to meet...and quickly. It was in the industrial business section/slums that Seymour found what was once a Methodist church now used as a storage building and horse stable. The windows were broken and bare electric light bulbs hung from the ceiling. Seymour was offered the building for eight dollars a month. Since this revival had no denominational birthing every member of God's family was taken in by the Spirit. The local full Gospel Church renovated the building, a devout Catholic and owner of the largest lumber company in Los Angeles donated the lumber Members from other churches nailed planks to wooden barrels for use as pews. Two empty shipping crates were nailed on top of each other to act as a pulpit. The address of this skid-row location was 312 Azusa Street. The name Azusa was derived from an Indian word that means "blessed miracle."

The cloud of the Lord followed the people from North Bonnie Brae Street to Azusa Street. Services at the old mission were conducted three times each day at 10 AM, noon and 7 PM. These services often ran together until the entire day became one worship service. This schedule was continued seven days a week for more than three years. Another unique aspect of this revival was that it was interracial. At Azusa Street there were no differences for age, gender, race or class. Frank Bartleman said, "The blood of Jesus washed the color line away." Even the very wealthy came down to the "Ghetto" to hear of God's power. Women dressed in the fanciest apparel could be seen sitting next to a family in rags. Rich and poor lying together in the saw dust on the floor for hours "slain in the Spirit." Proud, well-dressed preachers came to "investigate." Before long their haughtiness was replaced with wonder, then conviction came and in a short time they were wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children. Control was not an issue during the revival. Seymour, like Evan Roberts in Wales, let the Holy Spirit have His way. Bartleman said," Whenever someone tried to straighten the Ark, the Spirit lifted." When presumptuous men would try to take over the meetings, strange things would happen to them. Some would lose their breath so that they could not speak. Others would forget what they wanted to say and sit down. Some even seemed temporarily blinded. There was an atmosphere of awe and wonder at the great things God was doing.

It was April 14 when the group first met at Azusa Street. On April 16th the newspapers descended on the revival. Unlike Wales where the newspapers embraced the Welsh Revival, in Los Angeles the publications reviled what was happening at Azusa Street. By April 17th headlines throughout the city blasted the revival as hogwash:


The Los Angeles Daily Times had a report on the revival that buffoon the meeting and called Seymour "an old exhorter." These critical opinions were expressed throughout, not only Los Angeles but, other newspapers around the state. According to the story in the Daily Times, a bizarre new religious sect had started with people "breathing strange utterances and mouthing a creed which it would seem no mortal could understand." Furthermore, "Devotees of this weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories, and work themselves into a state of mad excitement." The article continued by saying that, "colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made more hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve-wracking attitude of prayer and supplication. To top it all off, they claim to have received the ‘gift of tongues,' and what's more, comprehend the babel." That news story ran in the morning edition on Wednesday April 18, 1906...shortly after it hit the streets, the great San Francisco earthquake shook California with after-shocks that rattled Los Angeles from one end to the other. The next day thousands converged on the Azusa Street Mission. Soon, multitudes gathered at Azusa Street. One attendee said more than a thousand at a time would gather on the property. Hundreds would fill the little building; others would watch from the boardwalk surrounding the mission; and, more would overflow into the street.

Frank Bartleman became the primary chronicler of the revival. He participated in every meeting from 1906 to 1908. Immediately he published a tract about the earthquake. Thousands of the tracts, filled with end-time prophecies, were distributed bringing even more to Azusa desperately seeking salvation and a touch of a God. Bartleman sent his publications and articles about the revival to Holiness publications throughout the country. News of the revival began to raise wide interest, and soon people arrived from far and near to experience it. Though travel in those days was difficult, visitors poured in from across North America and from foreign countries, where word had spread among missionaries. Within two weeks Azusa Street had become an international revival.

As the crowds continued to increase it became more important to make sure the Holy Spirit remained in total control. Although the temptation was great, Seymour and Bartleman did all they could to guide but not touch the movement of God. Bartleman writes:

"...Jesus should not be lost in the temple by the exaltation of the Holy Ghost and the gifts of the Spirit. I endeavored to keep Him as the central theme and figure before the people. The Holy Ghost never draws attention from Christ to Himself, but rather reveals Christ in a fuller way."

When Seymour was asked by a woman to pray for her that she might speak in tongues, he kindly exhorted her, "Now, look here, Sister Sadie, don't you ever go looking for tongues. Seek Jesus for Himself. Seek the Lord. He's the One."

With the Holy Spirit free to move as He pleased, the meetings were spontaneous. No one ever knew what would happen or who the speaker would be. All the music was impromptu without the use of instruments or hymn books. The meetings began with someone singing a song or giving a testimony. There was no program to follow. Under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, someone would finally arise to bring forth the message. Everyone knew it was instigated, anointed, and approved by the Holy Spirit. The speaker could be any race, age, or gender. Everyone felt that God was responsible for the altar calls which would take place at any point during the meetings. The sermons were inspired in English or in tongues with interpretation. The anointing of God was so strong that if anyone got up to speak from their own flesh for glory, the Spirit would move on the believers and they would break out in wailing cries and sobs. Sometimes the services would last continuously for ten to twelve hours. Some for several days and nights! The people never tired because they were so energized by the Holy Spirit. When services ended in the early morning hours many could be seen congregating under the street lights talking about the Lord. Great emphasis was placed on the blood of Jesus. A higher standard of living in Christ was stressed. Divine love began to manifest among the people, allowing no unkind words to be spoken of another. Everyone was so careful that the Spirit of God would not be grieved.

Frank Bartleman wrote:

"Many were curious and unbelieving, but others were hungry for God. Outside persecution never hurt the work. We only had to fear the working of evil spirits from within. Even spiritualists and hypnotists came to investigate, and try to influence. Then all the religious sore-heads and crooks came, seeking a place in the work. But this is always the danger to every new work. They have no place elsewhere...the leaders had limited experience, and the wonder is the work survived at all against its powerful adversaries...there was a presence of God with us, through prayer we could depend...God gave us the victory...There was no pride that old building, with its low rafters and bare floors, God took strong men and women to pieces, and put them together again, for His glory...The religious ego preached its own funeral sermon quickly."

Visitors to the revival had dramatic spiritual experiences unlike anything they had ever known before.

Testimony from a Baptist Minister:
"The Holy Spirit fell on me and filled me literally, as it seemed to lift me up, for indeed, I was in the air in an instant, shouting, ‘Praise God', and instantly I began to speak in another language. I could not have been more surprised if at the same moment someone had handed me a million dollars."

Testimony of Myrtle K. Shidler:
"By the time the chorus ended, the power of God was so heavy upon me. I could scarcely open my mouth, and every fiber of my being was trembling. Yet my feet felt glued to the floor and my knees stiff, so I could not sit down. I only got out a few broken sentences that I remember. I never fainted in my life and was never unconscious, but God certainly took me out of myself. He showed me things which there are not words enough in the English language to express...I was under the power the remainder of the meeting, and for three days was as one drunken...since then, such waves of power roll over me from time to time. I can scarcely keep my feet, and I am sure if my old friends in California could see me, they would think I was indeed insane."

Testimony of a leading Methodist Layman of Los Angeles:
"Scenes transpiring here on Azusa Street are what Los Angeles churches have been praying for years. I have been a Methodist for twenty-five years. I was leader of the praying band for the First Methodist Church. We prayed that Pentecost might come to the city of Los Angeles. We wanted it to start in the First Methodist Church, but God did not start it there. I bless God that it did not start in any church in this city, but in a barn, so that we might all come and take part in it. If it had started in a fine church, the poor colored people and the Spanish people would not have got it, but praise God it started here."

Testimony of Glenn A. Cook:
"I could feel the power going through me like electric needles. The Spirit taught me that I must not resist the power but give way and become limp as a piece of cloth. When I did this, I fell under the power and God began to mold me and teach me what it meant to be really surrendered to Him...I was laid out under the power five times...About thirty hours afterwards, while still in a meeting in Azusa Street, I felt my throat and tongue begin to move, without any effort on my part. Soon I began to stutter and then out came a distinct language which I could hardly restrain..."

Testimony of G.W. Batman:
I received the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire and now I feel the presence of the Holy Ghost, not only in my heart but in my lungs, my arms and all through my body and at times I am shaken like a locomotive steamed up and prepared for a long journey."

Article from the "Apostolic Faith":
"There is no choir, but bands of angels have been heard by some in the spirit and there is a heavenly singing that is inspired by the Holy Ghost. No collections are taken. No bills have been posted to advertise the meetings. No church or organization is back of it. All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader. One brother stated that even before his train entered the city, he felt the power of the revival."

In Bartleman's book, Azusa Street, he tells of one man who said, "I would have rather lived six months at that time than fifty years of ordinary life. I have stopped more than once within two blocks of the place and prayed for strength before I dared to go into the mission. The presence of God was so real." One report described the inside of the mission as sometimes resembling "a forest of fallen trees". The power of God, it is reported, could be felt even outside of the building. Many people were seen dropping into a "prostrate position" in the streets before they ever reached the front door.

James S. Tinney in his book on the Azusa Street Revival, states:
"Every day trains unloaded numbers of visitors who came from all over the continent. News accounts of the meeting spread over the nation in both the secular and religious press."

John G. Lake, the well known "healing evangelist" of that day visited the meetings. In his book, Adventures with God, he would later write of Seymour:

"He had the funniest vocabulary. But I want to tell you, there were doctors, lawyers, and professors, listening to the marvelous things coming from his lips. It was not what he said in words, it was what he said from his spirit to my heart that showed me he had more of God in his life than any man I had ever met up to that time. It was God in him that attracted the people."

Seymour began a publication entitled, The Apostolic Faith. In that publication he announced his intention to restore "the faith once delivered" by old-time preaching, camp meetings, revivals, missions, street and prison work. Within a few months his mailing list stood at twenty thousand names. By the next year, it had more than doubled.

For three years the Azusa Street Revival not only turned around a major U.S. city, it also spread around the world at an incredible pace. Confusion, misunderstanding, and accusations of fleshly manifestations of the Spirit began circulating. Being new in this spiritual understanding, Seymour asked Charles Parham, the "Father of Pentecost", to visit and give his opinion on what was right or wrong. Roberts Liardon now takes up the narrative:

Parham sat in the service while looking on in horror at the manifestations around him. In Parham's services, a certain liberality was allowed, but nothing that bordered on fanaticism. Some of Parham's own Bible school students even felt he was too strict in his definition of "fanaticism." At Azusa Street there were many genuine Spirit-filled expressions along with the false. Seymour knew this and whether it was right or wrong was up to the Holy Spirit and the heart of each individual. Very few leaders at that time knew enough about the moving of the Spirit to lead the people in it. Seymour believed that those faking manifestations were tares sent by the devil to foul the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). He believed that if he uprooted the tares, the wheat would also be uprooted. His response to Parham was that if he stopped that which was not real, he would also quench the work of the Spirit that was genuine. Seymour was determined that the hand of man was not a risk he was willing to take. He was right but the pressure continued not only from Parham but others as well. Seymour, under extreme pressure from the religious "know it alls" finally succumbed and changed his policy. The Great Revival at Azusa Street quickly died. The Glory had departed from the Temple. It was later said that Parham, who objected to racial mixing or mingling at the altar, was appalled by the unusual social and racial integration at Azusa Street.

Seymour kept the mission open even though it became virtually deserted. At the end only about twenty people remained and those were mainly from the original Azusa group. Seymour traveled around the country preaching and also attending many ministry conventions, but was never publicly recognized from the platform. Finally on September 28, 1922, at 5pm that afternoon, Seymour suffered a chest pain, struggled for breath and then stood before his Lord and King. He was fifty-two. Seymour was buried at the Evergreen Cemetery in Los Angeles with the simple words, "Our Pastor" on his tombstone. In 1931, after being offered to a Pentecostal denomination who replied, "We are not interested in relics," the Azusa Street Mission was demolished by the city. Today, where the power of God fell so mightily and changed generation upon generation, there stands a street sign over a vacant lot.

Some say the revival never ended especially every time a sister or brother in the Lord receives the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Without question, the Azusa Street Revival was one of the greatest movements in all of church history. Today the Pentecostal movement that sprang from that small prayer meeting at Azusa Street counts over 600 million followers worldwide and is growing steadily. According to a 1998 Newsweek poll, nearly half of all Christians in the United States say they have "personally experienced the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17..."Now when the apostles...heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them...that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit."

JJ (Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church