The Early Years of the Tongues Movement (Part Three)
(An Historical Survey and its Lessons. Written circa 1950 )
By G. Lang
This work, by G.H.Lang (NOT G.D. Lang) is very useful and interesting. Not only does it give priceless first-hand information about the Azuza Street Revival and the early "tongues movement" but it exposes the manifestations and doctrinal errors that were appearing even then. Lang is not opposed to Baptism in the Spirit nor to tongues, and nor am I. Lang makes it plain at the outset that he is not antagonistic to the Movement. However, he does oppose what was of the Devil in this revival. This article demonstrates that "there is nothing new under the sun" for almost all the Toronto/Pensacola manifestations are present here!
As a personal note, I would add that I cannot agree with all of Lang's conclusions. Nevertheless, his remarks are telling. I urge you to read this whole article carefully, noting where in the earlier movement there are doctrinal and practical similarities to the present-day "revival". I think you will be both surprised and shocked at your findings.
CHAPTER VII: TESTING THE SPIRITS
Another feature which early caused me to doubt the Movement was a frequent unreadiness to test the spirits acting and an unwillingness of the spirits to be tested. Occasionally leaders uttered such a warning and exhortation as that of T. B. Barratt quoted in the preceding chapter but I recall no instance in the literature of such a test being made nor did I ever hear of a case.
No one seems to have thought of testing the source of Mr. Barratt's behaviour at the time of his "baptism." It appears to have just been taken for granted that it was of God, which assumption has been too general. I had an early an somewhat painful experience. An intimate personal friends went heart and soul into the Movement. Against the wisdom of her godly husband she went to live near one of the first and most violent centres. Presuming on our friendship I asked her to read a manuscript of mine discussing some aspects of the matter. It was returned unread with the scarecely polite remark, "The Lord will not let me read a thing like that!" What "Lord" moved her to pen such a reply, or thus to shun investigation? Of herself she would have been too courteous to have so written.
Some were afraid to test the spirit because it affirmed itself to be the Holy Spirit of God, and to test it would amount to the unpardonable sin. But the Spirit of God has said expressly:
"Beloved believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (I John 4 :1).
Therefore a spirit that declines to be tested does thereby reveal itself to be an evil spirit, and one can but see its deceiving power in that any believer does not recognize this. Many have beguiled themselves, or been beguiled, by reasoning that they had asked the heavenly Father for bread, and would He give them a stone? Most certainly He would not but a deceiving spirit if untested, would gladly do this, and would delude its victim with the notion that a stone is a loaf! There is no limit to the folly of a spirit-blinded Christian.
Moreover, a beguiling spirit may exert a subtle power to induce its victim to reject even conclusive testimony against itself, of which the following is an instance. In the very first days of the Movement in Sunderland another clergyman was an enthusiastic supporter. He was the Rev. J. M. Pollock, brother to Mrs. A. A. Boddy. He told me the following facts and confirmed them in writing. The small son of a neighbour was sick. Mrs. Boddy received in "tongues" intimation that the child would recover and he well. She requested her brother to take this comforting news to the father. On the way the "power" fell on Mr. Pollock and by "tongues" and interpretation he received confirmation of the message: but on reaching the house he learned that the boy was already dead!
He pressed upon his sister that it was evidently a deceiving spirit that was operating; but she, upon recovering from the first shock, said that she had received the explanation. They had misunderstood the message, the true import of which was that the boy was to be well in the other world, not in this world! As if it needed a special revelation to tell them this about a little child! By accepting this obvious evasion this leading actor in the Movement at its British centre was more deeply blinded and firmly fettered.
[Note: The British centre of the Toronto movement today is, intriguingly, Sunderland! Did the spirit of the first deception hang around to enjoy a resurgence of its signs and wonders in this decade?]
Mr. Pollock abandoned the Movement, but was long fiercely harassed by the evil agents he had repudiated it was some years before they ceased to torment his spirit.
Naturally it is in the light of this fact, early made known to me, that I have been compelled to consider with much care later experiences of this estimable sister in Christ, lest she should have been further beguiled from time to time. And the same caution has been constantly required seeing that testing the spirits has been so generally neglected.
CHAPTER VIII: FALSE DOCTRINE
There was also a doctrinal element that made me at first hesitant as to the Movement and presently decided me against it. It was laid down very definitely that to speak with a "tongue" was the indispensable sign that a person had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This was the general view in the English-speaking world. On the Continent leaders mostly allowed that other signs might prove the anointing. Perhaps no other factor contributed so powerfully to urge earnest souls to seek passionately this one sign. It mattered nothing that most of God's mightiest servants through the centuries had not received it, though their work was manifestly done through the fulness of the power of the Spirit and could not have been done without it. It did not count that the New Testament does not show that the vast majority of the apostolic believers ever spoke in a tongue. Three instances in Acts, spread over twenty five years (Pentecost, ch. 2, Caesarea, ch. 10, and Ephesus, ch. 19), were assumed to be proof that the many thousands of other believers did so speak in a tongue. I could not feel that the Spirit of truth was the author of such dubious exegesis.
It could be urged to the contrary that in 1 Cor. 12 : 29, 30 the apostle asked a series of questions each of which demands a negative answer : "Are all apostles? (No !); are all prophets? (No!); are all teachers? (No!); are all workers of miracles (No!); have all gifts of healings? (No!); do all speak with tongues? (No !) ; do all interpret? (No!)."
To meet this objection it was asserted that in this passage, and in ch. 14, Paul was speaking of the permanent use of tongues, not of the initial baptism. This, however, would involve an impossible contradiction. As to the regular continuous gift, the Lord laid down peremptorily that its use must be marked by self-control, decency, and order; but, according to the manifestations in the Movement, the initial gift was all too often marked by absence of self-control, indecency, and disorder. Such a manner of avoiding a difficulty confirmed me that the Spirit of God was not the Teacher of these teachers, as regards this dogma, which they held as vital.
To support the distinction between the initial and the permanent gifts it has been urged that in 1 Cor. 14 : 27 it is ordered that in the church speaking in tongues was to be "in turn," not two or more together; but that at Pentecost (Acts 2) they all spoke simultaneously. But where does the narrative say this? The saints then gathered were the church of that time and the rule as to order should apply. Moreover, had 120 men and women been all talking at the same time it would have been difficult for the hearers each to pick out his own language.
For long the Movement in general insisted on these doctrines, though some have now wisely abandoned them.
In this connection it ever seemed to me remarkable how very few really capable teachers grew up in the Movement, judging from its extensive literature. Testifiers and exhorters abounded: few showed even natural aptitude for teaching. not to say a spiritual gift for it. In a Movement claiming quite special enduement of the Spirit it should have been the reverse of this, seeing that teachers are one of the distinct gifts of the ascended Lord (Eph. 4 :11), this gift being of far more general value than the use of tongues.
But far more serious doctrinal error developed.
On January 24th, 1918, J. Holland, an earnest Christian. who went to prison for his conscientious objection to military service, told me that he had been a member at a Mission at Caeran, Glamorganshire. In 1910 or 1911, and thus quite early in the Movement, a group of members of the Movement who belongcd to that district, but who had, he believed, been to Sunderland, came to the Mission, and one of them, speaking at the gospel service declared that Christ surrendered His deity on becoming man and only resumed it after His resurrection. The others of his party supported their speaker. The outcome was division in the Mission.
But there was a doctrinal lapse more serious and distressing because it occurred at the chief centre of the Movement in England and was uttered by one of its chief persons. In 1909 there was an International Congress at Sunderland, the proceedings at which were reported in Mr. Boddy's magazine "Confidence" (June 1909, 132, 133). One of the speakers was Mrs. Boddy. It may be remarked that she spoke as a teacher, her address being the expounding of a doctrinal theme. From 1 Cor. 11 : 4, 5, it is clear that women as well as men were used by the Spirit in praying and prophesying in the church: but from 1 Timothy 2:12, it is equally clear that women were not to teach in the church; the reason being that the office of teacher carries authority. and the woman is not to rule over the man. This direction should have prevented the present feature in the Assemblies of God branch of the Movement that they now have women "pastors." In those very early days there were several very prominent women teachers who, with the concurrence of the brethren, simply ignored the injunction in 1 Tim. 2:12.
At the Congress mentioned Mrs. Boddy offered instruction upon the topic "Everything Yielded to Death," and she said:
We must remember that our Lord was the God man. He was human though without sin, but so controlled by the Divine Spirit of God that of Himself "He could no nothing." Everything He did was to fulfil the Scriptures. He was the living Word carrying out the Written Word, and giving the world the pattern of a God-possessed man. Step by step He brought everything human under the power of God. The last thing He did was to commend His own Spirit unto the Father, having proclaimed to Heaven and Hell in "It is Finished" the stupendous fact that on the Cross everything carnal had been brought to an end and there remained only a body born of in-corruptible seed, "begotten out of God," soon to be "raised by the glory of the Father" to be "the firstborn of many brethren.
Obviously this is utterly subversive of the truth as to the human nature and body of the Lord Jesus. It was not His "Spirit" that He gave up to the Father at death, but it was His "spirit," that human spirit with which He had been endowed at birth as is every child of a woman. From His Divine Spirit He was, of course, inseparable in the unity of Deity. Then again, if it was only step by step that He brought everything human under the power of God, then most of His life there was that in Him which was not subordinate to God. If it was not till the cross that everything carnal was brought to an end, then all His days there was the carnal in Him; and, by consequence, not earlier than the cross was He fit to atone for our sins, nor could have been wholly well-pleasing to the Father.
Had the speaker understood and meant what she said, then the painful fact would have been that a person prominent in the Movement uttered fundamental heresy as to the Person of Christ, and taught the error publicly at an international gathering of the Movement. But other utterances of Mrs. Boddy show that this was not so. Indeed, she began here by stating the truth that our Lord was without sin, which, however, she at once contradicted. It is not likely that she was a trained theologian. The alternative is that another spirit than her own used her unconsciously to teach falsehood as to the humanity of the Son of God. This, however, confirms that at the start of the Movement, and at its very heart in England, a lying spirit was operating.
Many statements by Mr. Boddy show that he was wholly true as to the person of our Lord; he appears to have been a sound evangelical clergyman. Now as a clergyman he had been trained in theology: how was it, then, that he did not at once detect this fundamental falsehood, but went on to publish it in his magazine?
Again, Los Angeles, the place of origin of the Movement, had a magazine, "The Upper Room." In the issue for August that year, 1909, the Editor spoke highly of "Confidence" and of the Congress and quoted Mrs. Boddy's utterance. Thus this destructive heresy was spread world-wide by chief leaders in chief magazines of the Movement.
[NOTE: This heresy has, indeed, spread to the Word-of-Faith Movement, whose leaders teach a very similar thing today.]
Seventy-five years earlier than this Congress a movement claiming supernatural gifts had arisen in the Clyde area of Scotland. Delegates from Edward Irving's church in London went north to investigate and carried back to London the power of this movement. Prophets and prophetesses arose in Irving's church. He did not himself receive any "gift" but he fully accredited the "gifted" persons in his congregation, declaring publicly that God spoke through them. The features of the modern Movement developed there: loud speaking, ecstatic emotion, with great emphasis on the speedy return of Christ to the earth, an emphasis not warranted, as events have shown. As far as is known, it was one of the prophetesses there who first announced a secret coming of the Lord for His people. Patently false prophecies were also made.
[Lang is referring here to Margaret MacDonald who, in February 1830, prophesied that the "Sign of the Son of Man" (Matt 24:30) was the invisible coming of the Lord "in the air" for prepared believers only. Her entire prophecy is much maligned and often misunderstood, and it is therefore reprinted on this website so that you may make your own decision about its authenticity.]
It is solemn and striking that in the midst of this spiritual confusion Irving announced publicly precisely the same false doctrine that Mrs. Boddy declared. To one of the chief prophets in his circle, Robert Baxter, he put this in writing, under date April 21st, 1832, as follows:
Concerning the flesh of Christ... I believe it to have been no better than other flesh, as to its passive qualities or properties, as a created thing. But that the power of the Son of God, as son of man, in it, believing in the Father, did for His obedience to become son of man, receive such a measure of the Hloly Ghost as sufficed to resist its own proclivity to the world and to Satan and to make it obedient unto God in all things ...I say not that Christ has the motions of the flesh, but the law of the flesh was there all present ; but that whereas in us it is set on fire by an evil life, in Him it was, by a holy life, put down, and His flesh brought to be a holy altar, whereon the sacrifice and offerings for the sin of the world, and the whole burnt-offerings of sorrow and confession and penitence for might ever be offered up. (Baxter's Narrative of Facts, 41).
Upon this Baxter commented justly that there was in Christ's flesh "a proclivity to the world and to Satan," and that Christ received "such a measure of the Holy Ghost as sufficed to resist" this proclivity, is a doctrine so fearfully erroneous that I cannot conceive anyone who has at all learned Christ, unless he be blinded by delusion, can allow himself for a moment to entertain.
The words "blinded by a delusion" are the true explanation of how godly persons like Edward Irving and others here mentioned allowed and spread this fatal doctrine. For, according to these utterances, the human nature of the Lord had in it the law of the flesh, as in the rest of mankind; but by a holy life this flesh was "brought to be a holy altar" (note "brought to be," that is, progressively; even as Mr. Boddy later said, "Step by step He brought everything human under the power of God"), and so become at last a suitable vehicle to bear the sins of the world. This doctrine was declared by Irving's "gifted" associates to be assuredly true.
In his book, In the Days of the Latter Rain, pp.59, 60, T.B. Barratt left himself open to the charge that, if he did not actually hold this teaching of Irving, of which he showed he had heard, he regarded it as no more serious than sundry controversial questions that divide Denominations, and which therefore could be tolerated. Now no one speaking by the Spirit of Christ would in the least tolerate it but would instantly and earnestly repudiate it.
CHAPTER IX: SPECIAL FEATURES
In earlier years, as at all times, there would appear to have been a simultaneous working of the three well-known powers : (1) the Divine; (2) the Satanic; (3) the Human.
I. A number of godly, earnest persons were seeking the Lord and He met with such and blessed their inner life.
2. Mr. Gee justly points out that "at the beginning there were few leaders with sufficient experience of just this type of movement who could lay their hands on extremists without fear of quenching the Spirit" (19). Bartleman speaks of the fear they felt at Azuza Street as to restraining what was felt to be out of order : "We dared not call the attention of the people too much to the working of the evil. Fear would follow." (49) The difficulty was experienced in an outburst in South India about the same time. Mr F S Bowden gave some account of this at Bristol in 1908. He belonged to the Godaveri Delta district, South India, and had been through the outbreak. He told that a young girl took to accusing by name men in the meeting of their personal and shameful vices. Leaders feared to suppress her lest they might grieve the Spirit of God but the effect was that people became afraid to attend the meeting for fear of being exposed. One would have thought it obvious that the Holy Spirit would not lead a young girl to talk in public about the sins of the opposite sex whereas corrupt demons would readily spread corruption
Another feature was an unwillingness by some to face the danger of Satanic attack. This exposed souls to inroads of evil spirits
3. There was also a strong element that was simply psychological. During an address one broke out in tongues. The interpretation ran:
The Lord hath exalted His people . . . from grace to grace, spirit to spirit until the whole church is one solid block in the Lord without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. To this end as a choice vessel keep thine house in order filled with oil waiting for the consummation ("Confidence" March 1917 21)
What is meant by the whole church being a "solid block "? How could there be "spots or wrinkles" connected with "a solid block "? How can a " vessel " "keep its house in order" ? or a " house" be " filled with oil " ? or could a vessel or a house "be waiting for the consummation? It were irreverent to attribute to the Spirit of God the Creator of the mind and the Author of speech such a jumble of metaphors. It were disrespectful to suppose that a fallen spirit thinks so incoherently or talks English so badly. Surely it was the utterance of an untrained human mind? But if this was so the tongues and interpretation were not inspired.
Other strange features can be thus explained, such as the frequent interjecting of inappropriate words,. as Glory. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! I shall remark on this when telling of a meeting in Egypt. Sometimes the habit leads to absurdity, as when the leader of a local group in the Movement was asked as to the health of his sick mother-in-law and replied : "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! She's gone to heaven!"
The few cases that have been before considered were not exceptional but typical. The ample records in "Confidence" supply very many examples of all the essential features.
(a) Inspired Singing. This seems certainly to have been supernatural. The notes produced were often beyond the compass of the human voice. Persons not musical would join harmoniously in the grand music. Often magnificent strains would be heard, not produced by or through the singer. This was no "gift" conferred on the person, for when the impulses ceased the voice of the singer was as before, and the non-musical remained so. But there were no words, or only in an unknown tongue, which came to the same thing as regards intelligent thought. Therefore this experience cannot have been from the Spirit of God, for He has expressly forbidden the use in public of His own gifts unless there be imparted instruction or spiritual upbuilding (Cor. 14: 27, 28).
The ecstasy and ravishment caused by such music were by no necessity spiritual but only psychological. All sensitive souls are thus affected by fine music. It is a mistake to think that a grand organ, trained choir, stained glass, splendid vestments, soothing incense lift the spirit to God and promote worship in spirit and truth. Such influence is felt equally by devout persons who do not know God savingly and are still spiritually dead, and it is felt by even the vicious sinner.
(b) Noise. Opposed to the perfect "heavenly" singing, violent noise and incoherent ravings were common. Animals and birds express their emotions by their sounds. In mating time birds sing their love songs. The cow lows when calling her calf. The dog barks when excited and growls when angry. The lion roars when springing on his prey. But when members of the Movement were together, and the power so wrought, they fell lower than the beasts for they gave vent to all animal sounds without any meaning. Yelling, screaming, barking, crowing, roaring were a sorry form of temporary induced mania. What power was it that induced it and often rendered otherwise sensible people unconscious of their folly?
(c) Laughter. Narrating their baptism very many told of this quite uncontrollable laughter often continuing for hours at a time, sometimes all night, the paroxysm being beyond restraint. The doctor is always sorry when this condition supervenes in sickness. Manifestly it is not produced by the blessed Spirit who ever strengthens us in self-control, among other excellencies (Gal. 5: 22, "temperance"). Yet one wrote of a Chinese that "the Holy Spirit wanted to laugh through him." (Confidence," March, 1914. 57).
(d) The Altar. In the History of the Church of God (ch. 2,), as in Bartleman and other writings, there is frequent mention of dozens or even scores falling down at one time or rushing simultaneously to the front of the meeting to seek the "baptism." This was regarded as a mighty working of the Spirit of God.
A. A. Boddy gave vivid detail pictures of such scenes which he saw in the United States. This is what he, a sympathetic observer, wrote of a Camp Meeting in Georgia. It is found in "Confidence" (Sept.1914, p.173).
POWER and NOISE. "The preachers here, from my point of view, seem to preach with tremendous vehemence, and to work up the congregatons to unrestrained demonstrations of appreciation. Unfriendly reporters of the Sunderland Convention have once or twice written of "Pandemonium in Prayer," but words would fail an English reporter if he dropped in when the dear Pentecostal people here were really warmed up. "Every one pray; every one talk with God," is the cornmand shouted out by a leader, and some are singing the brightest quick-time tunes; others are with stentorian voices letting themselves go in ecstatic, ear-splitting prayers. Nearly everyone is doing something, and I am beckoned for here and there to minister to anxious ones seeking healing, or the Baptism or sanctification, and can scarcely make myself heard in the religious din and ecstatic turmoil as a leader marches up and down the platform, clapping his hands and shouting at the top of a tremendous voice, ' Glory be to God. Hallelujah! " It seemed to be encouraging and working up the great "wind and the mighty earthquake, until the "STILL SMALL VOICE" rarely gets a little chance. Quietness is treated almost as failure. Well, we must admit that if there is not much in the New Testament, in favour of shouting, there is a good deal in the Old Testament. I must confess I rather like such a scene just now and again, but it should come spontaneously and not be worked up."
And again, of a camp at Cazadero, N. California. Note the opening statement:
"Mrs. Carrie Judd Montgomery's name was a guarantee against fanaticism or wild fire, and the meetings were controlled by the Spirit. The scenes at the evening meetings were sometimes almost amazing. The people in this land are very responsive, and when a stirring address was ended they flung themselves on their knees round the platform. The whole meeting seemed to rush for the altar, general prayer went up all over the gathering, there was strong crying often merging into praise. Then the Heavenly Anthem till all arms went up and nearly every throat was thrilling with melodious notes, and then all were next on their feet raising higher the forest of uplifted arms and the upturned faces radiant under the bright light of the lamps.The singing was hilariously joyful at times. The chorus "On the resurrection morning We shall rise, we shall rise," made the assembly rise to its feet, and made all their arms and their hands rise towards the skies. And dear old ladies and younger ones began to step out in the straw, and in a dignified but joyful way there was rhythmic movement of the limbs till it was almost, if not quite, what we should call stately dancing. ("Confidence," Dec. 1914, 224).
Alexander Boddy, and no doubt thousands more, liked such scenes. but did the Lord like them, who, on entering groups of His people said, "Peace!" ? (John 20 :19, 21). When Jehovah comes forth as Judge then "the God of glory thundereth : " but does He like "religious din," and scenes such as Mr. Boddy pictures, to fill His private spiritual palace,. the church? Was it the case that such excitement was "controlled by the Spirit" ? Was it a Divine, or a human. or perhaps a demonic power that drove the whole meeting to rush for the altar"? Was it of God that one seeking to help souls could scarcely make hiniself heard by a person beside him gainst a leader clapping his hands and shouting with tremondous voice? Are "religious din and ecstatic turmoil" produced by the Spirit of peace? Ought prayer meetings, however fervent, to give the world any pretext to speaking of "pandemonium in prayer"? By quoting this last criticism without remonstrance Mr Boddy gave a hint as to the character of the gatherings at the Sunderland Conventions Christian gatherings are not to give unbelievers warrant for saying that we are mad (I Cor. 14 : 23).
(e) Visions were a frequent feature, as recorded in "Confidence" A Christian maid had a vision of ground some oriental seaport. Another was lying on the ground shaking when "gradually i was caused by the Lord Jesus to turn on to my back;" whereupon there appeared the Lord himself who shewed her "part of heaven. First, I went up to Heaven and knocked at the Golden Gates; they were opened wide and I entered in. The Lord Jesus placed on my head a golden crown. While in the presence of my Saviour I saw my two young sisters and my brother, who had gone home to glory a few years before. One of them said to me "Oh B. isn't it beautiful? " and they took hold of my hands and began to dance for joy." This was followed by a vivid re-enacting of the sufferings of Christ on the cross ("Confidence" Aug.1908, 6.) f
Is it not likely that this was simply a mental visualizing of ideas already in the mind, as in the minds of people in general who are religious? There is no such thing as " knocking at the Golden Gates " for they are never shut ; nor are they of gold, but of pearl (Rev. 21: 25, 21). Nor have departed souls gone at death to heaven, nor are golden crowns given until the day of the Lord. These are mere imaginations fostered by sentimental hymns. In the same way the scene of Calvary can be visualized by an active mind.
In the June 1908 conference at Sunderland a lady pointed to a visitor from Holliand and said that in April she had seen him in a vision and had been burdened in prayer for him. ("Confidence" Aug 1908 17) Whatever may be the explanation of seeing persons in advance and at a distance, it is a feature well known to investigators of psychic phenomena.
A worker in Bombay described a vision of many bees, with wings outstretched about two and a half feet across, and stings five or six inches long. These were stinging the people in the meeting and causing terrible agony. The bees had names on their backs, Fear, Envy, Pride, Unbelief, and the like, which were hindering the work of God. There came smoke, which the Lord explained by opening heaven and showing God on His throne and the smoke being the incense of the prayers of the saints. This smoke killed the bees by dozens, so making room in hearts for the Lord to work. ("Confidence," Aug.1908, 19, 20.)
In south Germany one saw the people of God feasting upon the Lamb in readiness to go forth to meet Hlim in the air. Nearby was the bridechamber, where the Bridegroom was waiting for his bride. There were three bells, and as soon as these should ring the people were to rise and go to the wedding feast. One wished to ring the bells, but it was pointed out that they could not ring for they were upside down. Suddenly three serpents, that were enjoying the sunshine in the bells, were cast down to the earth; the bells swung into position and commenced to ring. It was explained that the bells represented the three realms of man, spirit, soul, and body. Our sins have driven away the Shekinah glory, and our repentance will bring it back. ("Confidence," Oct.1910, 239.)
A sister saw a nest full of birds. A Form put his hand into the nest and stirred up the birds so that they flew away, but each with a slip in its mouth with the words on it, "The Word of God." She noticed another strange thing. There seemed to be hollow pipes leading from the nest up to a cistern. Each bird spoke through one of these pipes, and then a vapour came out of the cistern and ascended to the throne. Then He that was on the throne at once looked down towards the vapour and gave a command. Immediately there was a great stir among all those round about him, and they quickly carried out His commands. Also she heard them say near the throne. "The Bridegroom is making Himself ready."
Surely this is justly called a "strange thing." Birds speaking from a nest through pipes into a cistern, with vapours rising from the cistern to the throne in heaven - very strange indeed ! Where is the mind that hath wisdom to interpret this? In Rev.19 we read of the Bride making herself ready but where is this said of the Bridegroom? Is not He already perfectly ready?
A brother saw a ploughed field and that a dove descended toward it, but fluttered and flew away. Then he saw that the field was moving, and the Lord said : "There is in my church too much of those old opinions and views and such like." A field in motion! yet no mention of an earthquake!
A sister saw a dove descend to a tree in full bloom but without leaves; but the bird flew away. Another part of the tree was without bloom but in full leaf. Again the dove would not alight. Next came a tree which fell dead, where also the dove would not settle. Finally there was a tree loaded with fruit where the dove settled. "The fruit was the product of life in the tree and the life of Christ must develop and mature and bring forth fruit. Then the Holy Spirit can take them up in the power of God and unite them with Christ. ("Confidence," Jan. 1914, 13). The lesson aimed at is good, even the need for the fruit of righteousness to abound in the believer but the doctrine is wrong. We do not become united with Christ because we bear fruit, but we bear fruit as the result of union with Christ (John 15, Vine and branch).
Are these intended lessons anything more than could arise in any active Christian mind without need of a "vision" ? I have already pointed out that a vision could not have been from God in which the Lord Jesus was made to declare forty years ago that His advent would be soon. This is equally true of the same declarations to the same effect by prophetic students, whether by inspired persons (as in Irvingism and elsewhere) or without a claim to inspiration. The leader can form his own opinion as to the source of the visions now mentioned. To me they read like vagaries of minds so excited as to be only too likely to think that to be a "vision" which is only a working of the mind upon themes and ideas already known from the Bible. That true God-given visions are possible I do not in the least question or I must reject Acts 2: 17, "your young men shall see visions; " but I am bound to question the origin of a vision in which a young girl "states that she has seen visions of persons who were dead, and has fervently told of a glimpse of the glorified state and also of perdition." ("Confidence," April to June, 1920). The seeing of dead persons is too much like the spiritistic seance; and as the glorified state and perdition are not yet realities how could one get a glimpse of them? This again seems to have been the imagination working upon things fore-told in Scripture.
One other of the many visions recorded must have special mention. It is related that in 1914 Stephen Jeifreys was preaching at the Island Place Mission Room, Llanelly, South Wales, when there came suddenly a supernatural picture upon the wall above the platform. At first it was the head of a LAMB; then it gradually changed and became the FACE OF THE MAN OF SORROWS. There it remained in the sight of the congregation and of every one who came in to see it. It was there for six hours, and many saw it. ("Confidence." July 1916, 113).
It is further related that while Stephen Jeifreys was speaking at Thornton Heath in 1918, upon the martyr Stephen having the heavens opened to his view, "God opened the heavens to him [Jeffreys] and he saw into the glory, saw the Lord and the whole scene of Stephen being stoned." ("Confidence," Oct. - Dec., 1918, 64). The question arises, if the preacher really saw into the glory where the Lord is, how could he see Stephen being stoned there? for that dreadful event did not take place in the glory.
As several persons saw the Llanelly vision at one time, watching as the vision took shape and changed its form, it would appear that something was actually presented to their view. But by what power? The New Testament gives no warrant to suppose that such a presentation of Christ as He had been at Calvary was ever then made or ever would be. While S. J. Russell was still an ardent advocate of the Group Movement. and far from being an evangelical preacher of the true gospel, a similar representation of Christ was seen on the wall of the chapel in which he was speaking. That also was in South Wales. The account can be read by any who have "For Sinners Only".
One can only seriously doubt whethei such dramatic measures ever have been employed by God to further His search for men and to promote His work in them. He evidently took care that no authentic portrait of the Lord Jesus should be preserved for future generations. It is difficult, if not unreasonable, to suppose that it was by His power that such visible represent ations of Christ should be presented, whether by inward vision or outwardly on a wall.
That the esteemed Editor of "Confidence" published these and other such recitals and in numbers, naturally raises doubt as to his own spiritual competence to estimate these and other startling features of the Movement. When in practice as a solicitor he would have been critical of statements and evidence for things marvellous but being himself under the power animating the Movement, and being deeply convinced it was of God, he would naturally easily accept much that he might otherwise have doubted. And as one is compelled to challenge the Divine Origin of these "visions," it brings under suspicion other events described in the same narrative, as occurring on the same occasions to the same persons.
CHAPTER X: LATER CONDITIONS
It will be observed that the facts here presented have not been collected from the genral history of the Movement, and over a great length of time. Every far extended Movement, even if distinctly of God, would in the course of years, because of the weakness of the flesh in believers, yield items for regret. But those here offered are taken from the opening years of the Movement when it was at the initial white heat, displaying its definite and distinctive characteristics and they concern its chief centres in four countries and its oustanding standing leaders. They may at least suffice to explain why the present writer could not associate with the Movement, and they are put on record because he is perhaps the only survivor of that period who can guarantee some of them. Without such facts a full and true picture of that early time can scarcely be gained.
But is this now necessary? Has not the Movement as a whole sailed into quieter and safer waters, marked by less excess and more sobriety? Outwardly this is happily the case, yet there are indications that the same evil powers are, as might be expected, alert to induce the earlier conditions. A few experiences from later years will justify this statement and enforce the warning.
In 1927 I took a long journey off my main route specially to visit a group of the Movement in the far south of Poland. I saw no demonstrations, for they gathered simply to hear me. My message was from Galatians 5 : 22, "The fruit of the Spirit is self-control." The local leader was a quiet and gracious brother to whom my heart was drawn; but the district leader, supervising this and other groups was of another type. After the meeting he said bluntly, "I thought from the first that your coming was not of the Lord : now I am sure of it." Such was his reaction to a loving exhortation to self-control. It told its own story as to the opposite type of experience and meetings that he fostered.
In 1935 in a town in Upper Egypt, the pastor of the church asked me to address them, to which I consented gladly. They met in a small room in an ordinary house. The walls being of black Nile mud, unplastered, the effect was sombre. One small oil light hanging from the ceiling could not dispel the gloom. Along one wall there ran the customary mastaba, a low mud platform used for sitting and sleeping. The pastor and I sat on this. Some twelve or fifteen Copts gathered, men and women. Their bright eyes gleamed against their dark skin, and their long white robes shone against the dark walls and floor. They formed a circle, hand holding hand, and commenced springing lightly from the floor, chanting ceaselessly the one word "Hallelujah". The daucing became faster and faster a circular whirl set in, getting ever swifter and swifter; the "Hallelujah" became ever louder and louder until it reminded one of the explosion of a motor bike. This useless and violent dance went on for over an hour, becoming more and more frantic, until the pastor at length got them quiet to hear me.
Here also I pressed upon them the same text, "The fruit of the Spirit is self-control." I reminded them of the Moslem zikr, a similar dance, which I had seen. The proceedings were identical, save that in place of "Hallelujah" they used the name "Mohammed" or a short sentence from their sacred book the Koran. Such dances will go on for long hours, until they reach the desired stage of demon possession, and at length the furious excitement ends in exhaustion and collapse. The Christians were working up to a similar desired climax, only they thought it would be possession by the Spirit of God. I told them that their dance was essentially the same as that of the Moslems, and warned them against the same excess and danger.
As soon as I sat down the most excited of the dancers sprang on to the platform in front of me, dancing wildly. ejaculating and gesticulating, swinging his fist in my face. Such was his reaction to a loving call for self-control. I must be forgiven for thinking that the whole display was not Pentecostal. It will be remembered that the leader of the Movement when William Booth-Clibbom was "baptized" was on the way to Egypt. The meeting I attended was the condition to which things had come twenty seven years later.
In October 1943 an Indian Christian, aged twenty-four, attended a convention of the Movement in north India. A well-known English worker in the gospel warmly commended him to me as a pillar in a Christian assembly. He wrote quite lovingly as follows:
It was a very nice convention. Atmosphere of worship, love, and holiness could be found in most of the meetings. The music was very uplifting. But I was very sad to discover how greatly Satan has deceived very devoted saints. In tarry meetlngs I saw people (men and women) behaving unseemly. There was such a noise and shouting as if with paralysed minds. I saw one lady of thirty years old sitting with straight back, teeth joined together with great force, hand going around in the air, hair flowing, dress falling down from head and shoulder. [This would be the sari, the long cloth wound round the body, the end draped over the head, especially in public], sometimes becoming very quiet and sometimes howling very loud, sometimes weeping and sometimes laughing
Then one man who made a noise at the top of his voice laughed with hysteric tone, jumped on feet from floor and fell down straight at his back in the line of ladies. And like this many disorderly, confused, and mad things took place.
The thing that amazed me most was of a case of a South Indian person, who had not spoken in tongues and was seeking tongues, came to the tarry room, bowed down and, like a machine at the most quick speed, he started saying the words "Praise the Lord ;" for full one hour without any full stop he went on saying till his throat was dry his voice became very heavy but he did not stop repeating the words he was bent on having tongues (afterwards he told me that if the Lord had not given him tongues he would have got himself lost in some jungle). Now what happened to him [sic] that he started losing the balance of his tongue :- Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord, Praze the Lod, Praze the Lod, Paze the Lod, Puz the Lod, Pus, Puz, Pus, Piss the Lud, Pay, Pay, Pay, Pa, Pa, P, P, P, P-and now he started shouting and could only say pa, pa, pa, p, p, p here his tongue starting a very intricate stammering, and suddenly he came to a language like this :- chu, chu, chum, chin, chuma, chumy, chemer, chama, chit-chit-chin, chun, chee, chee, etc., etc. After having spoken this for fifteen minutes he broke out into high class Persian and Arabic; then he spoke Sanscript poetry with beautiful metre, and sung Indian classical songs. For all this he took about forty-five minutes. I watched him very carefully.
After this I took him outside alone and asked him as to what actually happened with him. He said he only remembered the time he was stammering; then he went into unconscious state and when he came to consciousness he only heard from people that he had spoken in tongues, and hence he concluded that he had the "Baptism of the Holy Ghost" as they call it. The next day I could see the signs of tiredness and exhaustion on his face, the second day he could not go out properly because he felt much backache. I asked him if he could tell me that it was real experience of Holy Spirit. He was offended and felt angry. He had mental satisfaction that he had spoken in tongues, but I could analyse from his talk and behaviour that he did not have that joy and life at all which comes after the fulness of the Spirit.
He did not know Persian, Sanscrit, and Arabic at all, but he spoke in them. For first few hours in the night it it amazed me very much, but later on I could compare this to the case of [sic] Seance Room where mediums are used by evil spirits. After having spoken in tongues he developed a kind of superiority complex and did show very little humility and undisturbed calm-ness of the Spirit. Mr. M. and Sister H. joined a lot in noise. Sister H. did a lot of clapping, shouting, and singing . . I saw many other very consecrated people there who talked very helpful things, but my heart becomes full of sorrow when I see them mistaken on this point of tongues.
I enjoyed their love and fellowship. They are dear brothers in the Lord, but it is a great pity how we are deceived by evil spirits of Satan These are all signs of times and of these later days when even most of the elect will be deceived. I read that evil spirits would not urge spiritual Christians to open sin, such as murder, drink, gambling, etc. but would plan deception in the form of "teachings" and "doctrines," the believer not knowing that deception and "teachings" and "doctrines" gives admission to evil spirits to "possess" the deceived one as much as through sin.
[NOTE: Please see the articles in the "Demonism" section of this website on "Can A Christian Be Demonised?" for discussions relating to the above statement.]
This account by an acute oriental Christian repays analysis. It reveals close correspondence with earlier manifestations, such as abundant noise and unseemly behaviour. It justifies Mr. Gee's statement that Mr. Barratt's experience has been known by many others and it shows a definite continuity of the Movement as years go by. A man falling to the floor among Eastern women would shock all propriety. A woman allowing her veil to fall away and her hair to stream loose in public, while she aimlessly waived her arm in the air, would be gross impropriety as it would in the West.
The case of the man here narrated is of special interest. The English ("Praise the Lord!") with which he commenced degenerated quickly into mere gibberish. Then he became unconscious and spoke in eloquent Persian, Arabic, and Sanscrit, three very difficult languages to master and of which he knew nothing. It is evident that another spirit to his was operating but found it hard to gain control of his mind and vocal organs and only succeeded when self-control ceased. The earlier literature of the Movement gives many instances of this. It is hard to think that the divine Spirit, our Creator, could be so frustrated and be able only to act on one unconscious. Certainly no such features are given in any of the cases found in the New Testament. And it is in plain opposition to the imperative requirement that one speaking in a tongue must retain complete self-control and be able to speak or not to speak at will.
While this paper is being written opportunity has come to converse with an earnest, experienced Christian, of wide travel, who has attended dozens of meetings of the Movement in different countries. He has no prejudice against it. He is a professional linguist, acquainted with a most unusual number of modern languages. He has never in a meeting heard used anyone of these several languages which he knows, nor has he ever heard one supposed to be speaking in a tongue use what to his highly trained ear sounded like a language at all. The last preceding incident from India confirms other testimonies that sometimes real languages are spoken; the experience just mentioned raises a presumption that a large amount of what passes as tongues may be only sounds.
[In August 1951] I attended a long session of the annual assembly of The Apostolic Church at Penygroes, South Wales. It was a large gathering from many lands. A brother prayed in stentorian tones, but the prayer itself was very ordinary and the style sounded forced. There were no "tongues" but there was a lengthy "prophecy." It differed nothing from any ordinary exhortation to Christian living except that it purported to be spoken by God Himself. I have read many such " prophetic" utterances and can only be amazed that godly people should so often presume to put platitudes into the mouth of Almighty God. The ministry that afternoon was spiritually poor. In many small gatherings, where no claim is made to special enduement of the Spirit, I have felt more of His presence and unction.
From a far distant Island of the sea there came in 1954 a circumstantial report plainly revealing demonic activity in the Movement. The details are not suitable to repeat here, but they are corroborated by an Fnglish evangelist on the spot with much experience of heathendom.
I have a friend with long knowledge of two foreign lands. He is godly, experienced, and, like myself, with no prejudice against the supernatural. He too has personal friends in the Movement. In 1954 with one of these friends he attended a gathering in the south of England. It was led by a veteran, one of the front rank leaders of the early years My friend was distressed by the entire lack of helpful ministry, pained by the general hubbub through everybody making all sorts of sounds at once and grieved by the way the leader strove to work up enthusiasm whenever it flagged.
Thus from widely separated lands there is testimony that the earlier conditions still break forth, if commonly less fiercely. It shows that the spirit foes of God still attack His cause by the same fell tactics as formerly. This calls for ceaseless care, for a watchful mind. I Pet. 5 8-10.
CHAPTER XI: CONCLUSION
It is to be taken seriously to heart by us all that failure of Christinns in the endeavour to obtain God's supernatural gifts and to walk fully in His ways, even though these failures have been extensive and disastrous, does not alter the fact that His gifts are available or lessen the duty to seek them as He exhorts us to do. The Corinthian believers failed much in the exercise of the gifts, but when giving direct ions to correct the failures, the apostle included the call to "Follow after love; yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophecy" (ICor.14:l). Therefore
(a) The heart must first, always, and supremely be set upon love as primary and superior. Considerable reading of the early literature shows that this was too much overlooked. Gifts were given precedence.
(b) There must he preserved a sound judgment as to the relative importance of the several gifts. It is abundantly clear that Scripture places "prophecy" as the chief of them : it is equally clear that in the Movement "tongues" was first given the pre-eminence, and later healings came to the forefront. Sundry speakers and writers did occasionally exhort otherwise, but it is evident that the vast majority sought and valued a "tongue" as the inestimable boon.
(c) So devastating was this misguided determination to speak with a "tongue" that the Spirit of God was in practice denied His divine right to "divide to each one severally as HE will" (1 Cor. 12 :11). This diminished that humbleness of heart before God, that broken and contrite spirit, which certainly secures His favour, and too frequently there was induced a state of self-will which leaves the believer helpless before our watchful spirit foes. For it serves their fell end to foster in us self-will as to a matter in the spiritual life even better than in some carnal thing. Witness the man in India who was so doggedly determined to speak with a tongue that were he denied this he contemplated getting "lost in some jungle," that is, he would court death. Thus one may be seeking a "gift" and at the same time have self-murder in the heart. How treacherous is our poor heart! To such an evil mind an evil spirit could and would minister; indeed, from such a being must have come the very thought of suicide if disappointed.
The problem may be raised how God could give blessing in a Movement while such conditions obtain. The answer is easy to find. Peter had just made that true confession as to the person of Christ which has remained the standard profession of faith: "Thou art the Anointed, the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16 :16). Only a few minutes later this same devoted disciple became, all unconsciously, the tool of Satan to place a trap at the feet of Christ (vs. 22, 23). This the Lord could not but rebuke sharply, yet He did not dismiss Peter from His inner circle but continued to train and to use him. He knew that His servant's heart was right, though his judgment was sadly at fault.
It is not our aberrations and failures, even if in themselves serious and disastrous, that forfeit the blessing of God on what in us is of Him. It is known moral defilement that separates between us and our God, so that He will not hear us (Isa. 59 :1, 2): "If I wash thee not thou hast no part with Me" (John 13:8)
If one is asked what one would wish one's brethren in the Movement to do today the answer is that each should go on serving the Lord where he is rejoicing in any measure of the grace of God upon his service, and so continue until He calls to some other course. Each servant of God should be ever ready for this. Only let each scrutinize closely his own former personal experience, testing each item by Holy Scripture. During the first outbreak of the Movement in India, in 1907, a leader from the original centre at Los Angeles was sent there to fan the flame. At Coonoor he and his supporters were requested to justify from Scripture the then happenings as mentioned earlier. A gathering was held, but when pressed upon details they declined the task of giving proof from Scripture: and small wonder for such doings cannot be justified by Scripture. But this attitude to God's word written opens a door through which evil spirits find easy access. The leader and his friends broke off the gathering, and their closing words as to the other party were not heavenly. This last feature will not surprise one who saw a photo of this leader. He was Mr. A.G. Garr, mentioned earlier, the very type of man not ble to endure persistent challenge and contradiction.
One of his earliest supporters in India has lately written to me as follows:
In the month of June, 1907, there was an open meeting when it was hoped that outsiders would be influenced. This meeting was attended by some of the leading missionaries on the hills at the time - the writer was also present . . . In the meeting referred to the demons seemed to be let loose and I have never witnessed such a scene when Mr G appeared to be demon-possessed. There was no doubt some kind of mesmeric influence in the meetings, and Mrs G. gave the impression of being a kind of medium having an entracing voice, especially when under the influence of the "tongue". This meant the breaking up of the meetings in Coonoor for a time. The party moved to Columbo.
This writer confirms the impression of Mr. Garr from hi~ photo. He writes:
Mr. G. was very autocratic, and perhaps this is the reason why the demons were let loose that day.
Now no one filled with the Spirit of Christ will ever be autocratic, for Jesus was meek and lowly, and His follower Paul, by nature and training, an aristocrat, could say, "I beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I who in your presence am lowly among you " (II Cor. 10 :1).
In his spiritually important treatise, The New Testament Order for Church and Missionary, Mr. A. R. Hay discussed at length the Gifts of the Spirit, including speaking with tongues. He emphasizes their necessity for and permanency in the church, and concludes with a valuable section on their counterfeits (chs. xv and Xvi). These last are of two types: those produced by evil spirits and those of purely soulish origin. Of the latter again there are two types, the intellectual and the emotional. He says (p.204):
The emotions are not wrong; they are God-given. They may be deeply stirred by the Holy Spirit . . . The Holy Spirit, while He will profoundly stir the emotions, will never throw them out of balance . . . The power of that which is of an evil spirit, or which is purely of man's own powers, does not effect this true balance; it introduces confusion and prevents true unity and co-operation with the Spirit of God.
It will be found that emotional religion and sin are not incompatible. This proves that such emotional religion has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. Roman Catholicism is largely an emotional religion. It is possible for a devout Catholic to live on a low ethical and moral plane, having no true sense of sin. Pentecostalism is largely an emotional religion. It also can be tolerant of sin. Such we have found to be the case in many of the Pentecostal congregations with which we are acquainted in South America. Believers from other churches who are led astray by the movement generally lose their keen sense of sin, frequently to a disastrous extent. In Pentecostal congregations where sin is rife, members, themselves in sin, will be active in the use of "gifts" of tongues, prophecy, healing, and in giving revelations. These gifts, of course, are not true gifts of the Holy Spirit. He could not manifest Himself through such instruments. They are false gifts, deceptive emotional counterfeits of which evil spirits not infrequently take advantage.
As to the last point we may note that there was grievous sin in the church at Corinth, yet they "came behind in no gift" (1 Cor. 1: 7), nor in ch. 14 does Paul raise any doubt as to their gifts being from the Holy Spirit. The warning as to sin accompanying gifts should not be resented or ignored, seeing that it is the sober record of a servant of Christ by no means antagonistic and with long experience of the lands of which he speaks. Yet another aspect of the same scene came to me lately from another British worker with equally long experience of that Continent. He speaks of the vast modern evangelistic efforts made in English-speaking lands and notes that they scarcely reach the pagan masses, because they work from within the churches and the audiences are nearly always composed of 95% good church-going Christians. But, adds he,
It seems that the Pentecostalists, with their emphasis on healing, a New Testament emphasis of course, are doing a greater work, for they sometimes get mass meetings in stadiums with perhaps 5% Christians and the rest modern pagans.
The day alone can declare comparative results. My correspondent then considers the feature that in some South American lands mission work scarcely touches the people, from the workers not being in close contact with them, and he adds this testimony:
The other strong point about the Pentecostals in their work in the mission field is their complete identification with the natives and their lack of anything like racial or social barriers.
This bears directly upon the above question of blessing attending the labours of sincere men, who do preach the gospel, but in whose activities there commingle elements not of God. For the God of all grace owns what is of Himself, though this does not justify elements not of Him. For these latter we should watch carefully and remove them directly they are detected, so that the divine blessing may flow the more freely.
1. Let each brother analyze his "baptism," as that of T. B. Barratt was examined in ch. IV, and retain only what conforms to Scripture. But in this process no one should assume that the "tongue" was given by the Holy Spirit, even if it was a genuine language, for demons cause mediums to speak perfectly in languages they do not know. Nor should one rely on ecstatic emotions or other subjective marks, since these also can be counterfeited.
2. Then let each examine carefully his doctrinal beliefs, lest he has been betrayed into error on any point, especially as to the humanity of the Son of God.
3. Let him maintain a sincere and open mind toward God, being ready to go on with Christ according to His directions in the Word. It is happily true that the more startling and shocking manifestations of those early years are not so much seen today. But other subtler dangers have arisen and are general. One of these is a secret satisfaction in things being great and imposing, revealed by great organizations, large churches, huge assemblies, immense wall posters.
Another factor, which contributes to the former, is non-Scriptural organization. This is far advanced in the larger branches of the Movement, and has reached perhaps the utmost possible development in The Apostolic Church. Its Constitution, dated, I believe, in 1937, regulates every conceivable contingency in church order and Christian activity. It gives plenary authority to the" Apostles" and "Prophets" the latter being the really dominant persons to whom even the "Apostles" must defer. After reciting the doctrinal beliefs, it lays down that the "confession of faith as set out herein shall for ever be the doctrinal standard of the Apostolic Church, and shall not be subject to any change in any way whatever." This is made legally binding by the Deed being enrolled in the High Court. Thus no officer, teacher, or member is at liberty to make the slightest progress in the knowledge and practice of truth as revealed in Holy Scripture. If the Spirit of truth shall show him in Scripture something different from or absent from the Constitution he must either stifle the truth or leave the Apostolic Church. In essence the same position results wherever a constitution or creed is adopted. It involves spiritual strangulation, as has been seen in every corporate church system and will duly become apparent in this Movement.
A further example of unscriptural inter-church organization is seen in The Church of God (ch. 2). It began in 1886, twenty years before the outbreak at Los Angeles. Organizing soon commenced. The most influential leader was elected as head of the rapidly growing Society. This spoiled him spiritually and he had to he removed for financial default. See Like a Mighty Army (168 ff.).
The same regrettable development was shortly seen at the Azuza Street Mission Los Angeles. Bartleman stresses the feature that for a time the meetings there went on without human control:
Brother Seymour was recognized as the nominal leader in charge...Brother Seymour generally sat behind two empty shoe boxes, one on top of the other. He usually kept his head inside of the top one during the meeting in prayer. (How Pentecost Came, 58) . . . The truth must be told. "Azuza" began to fail the Lord also, early in her history. God showed me one day they were going to organize (68)... As the movement began to apostatize platforms were built higher, coat tails were worn longer, choirs were organized, and string bands, came into existence to "jazz" the people. The kings came back once more to their thrones restored to sovereignty. We were no longer "brethren." Then the divisions multiplied etc. While brother Seymour kept his head inside the old empty box at Azuza all was well. They later built for him a throne also. (P.88).
A chief evil of organization is that a few men are able to dominate. Mr Gee (p 148) gives a tribute to the part Rev. A. A. Boddy and Mr Cecil Polhill took in the early years of the Movement in England but he does not say why they dropped out of prominence after only a few years. The reason in Mr. Boddy's case was that other leaders pressed him to leave the Church of England. He replied that the Movement in this land had commenced in the Church, why should he leave it. But as as they pressed the point, he dropped out of affairs, and sunderland ceased to be the centre it had been. Mr. Polhill also was a churchman. On retiring from the Movement he became a lay reader in the Church of England, and also resumed his former coperation with the China Inland Mission.
It is easy to see that with the principal leader a clergyman, and the principal centre a church, and the next chief leader also a churchman, it would have been difficult to develop any other form of interchurch organization. But after their withdrawal from leadership high organization went forward. The Assemblies of God exhibits this. "Elim" went the same way, until at length its Founder recognized the evil and left that organization, yet only to found another.
How organization induces deterioration was shown by the Editor of "Redemption Tidings," the organ of The Assemblies of God, in the issue of October 11th, 1957. Speaking of the conditions found in the Movement thirty years previously he spoke of the holy contagious fervour then abounding. and said:
There were no "sermons," they were all messages ... We had no choirs then, we were all choir. A great simplicity characterized our worship. Probably we erred at that time through fear of organization, but we did enjoy a simplicity of worship. Many meetings were "open." While this brought its dangers, it also presented its opportunities. We did not as a rule hold separate youth meetings: we took our first steps in testifying, singing, or speaking in the "open" meeting. When one sees the spiritual stalwarts that these methods produced, it would seem that we were not too far out in our ways. Ministerial status was not magnified, we were all brethren ; and ministerial attire was anathema in most places. Often our services had no plan but the variety was wonderful.
This testimony is simple and weighty. It illustrates that there were at that earlier period features in the Movement which were of God and which He could own in spite of contrary conditions. The "open" meeting gave to the Spirit of God due honour as the actual Leader of worship and Trainer of witnesses, the outcome being spiritual stalwarts. An order of humanly trained and appointed "ministers" is essential clerisy: it restricts the Spirit and induces spiritual lethargy in the members of the assembly. The Editor's remarks and those of Bartleman correspond. It is the history of this whole age of clerics suppressing the laity so that the Spirit of God is denied His rights in the house of God bringing feebleness and poverty, as in Laodicea while the church boasts of its riches.
The New Testament knows nothing of any body corporate of Christians except the local church under its elders not under "prophets" or a single "minister." Nor does it recognize any authority over the Lord's servants except the Lord Himself. Councils, Committees, Conferences, officials, regulating the education of pastors, preventing a godly man exercising his preaching gift unless he has been through the prescribed course, then appointing him a "probationer" - these and any other such measures are all a product of human prudence, a telling the Spirit of God that we know how to train preachers better than He does; and they all involve intervention between the Lord and His bondservant with some suppression of His rights as Head of His church
Let each evangelist and teacher act upon the principles just stated as to the local church and as to service to the Lord remembering the words of the great apostle Paul : "If I were now pleasing men I should not be the bondservant of Christ. For freedom did Christ set us free : stand fast therefore and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage " (Gal: 1:10; S:1).
It demands courage and faith to follow Christ fully, to be a Caleb. As to temporal needs in His service let us remember His own example of faith in His Father and let us in this matter keep in mind Frank Bartleman and his wife. To the trustful the Lord ever imparts His courage and strength, by which He on earth did fully the work and will of His Father and was well pleasing to Him.
Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand beware lest ye fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and for ever, Amen (II Pet. 3 :17, 18).
© 1995-2013 Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries. All rights reserved. Cross+Word Website: http://www.banner.org.uk/ This document is the property of its author and is not to be displayed on other websites, redistributed, sold, reprinted, or reproduced in printed in any other format without permission. Websites may link to this article, if they provide proper title and author information. One copy may be downloaded, stored and/or printed for personal research. All spelling and phraseology is UK English.