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Memoirs of the Azusa Revival1

“I went to Burbank Hall, Sunday morning, April 15, 1906. A colored sister was there and spoke in tongues. This created quite a stir. The people gathered in little companies on the sidewalk after the service, inquiring what this might mean. We learned that the Holy Spirit had fallen a few nights before on April 9 at a little cottage on Bonnie Brae Street. They had been tarrying very earnestly for some time for an outpouring of the Holy Ghost.

“For some reason I was not privileged to be present in that particular meeting. I went to the Bonnie Brae meeting in the afternoon and found God working mightily. We had been praying for many months for victory; the pioneers had broken through and the multitudes were to follow.

“There was a general spirit of humility manifested in the meeting. They were taken up with God. Evidently the Lord had found the little company at last through whom He could have right of way. Others were in the hands of men, and the Holy Spirit could not work. Others far more pretentious had failed. That which man esteems had been passed by once more, the Holy Spirit choosing a humble ‘stable’ outside ecclesiastical establishments.

“The meeting was moved to 312 Azusa Street. They had cleared enough space to lay some planks on top of empty nail kegs, with seats enough for possibly 30 people. These were arranged in a square, facing one another. On my first visit to Azusa, I found about a dozen saints there. Brother Seymour was in charge. The ‘ark of God’ moved off slowly but surely. It was carried on ‘the shoulders’ of His own appointed priests at the beginning. The ‘priests’ were alive unto God through much preparation and prayer. It was not all blessing. In fact the fight was terrific. But the fire could not be smothered. Strong saints gathered together in prayer and gradually the tide rose in victory. A small beginning, and a very small flame.

“I gave a message at my first meeting at Azusa. Two of the saints spoke in tongues. It was soon noised abroad that God was working at Azusa. All classes began to flock to the meetings. Many were curious and unbelieving, but others were hungry for God. The newspapers began to ridicule and abuse the meetings, thus giving us much free advertising, and bringing crowds. The devil overdid himself. Outside persecution never hurt the work; we had the most to fear from the working of evil spirits within. Even spiritualists and hypnotists came to investigate and try their influence. Religious crooks and cranks came seeking a place in the work. This is always a danger to every new work. This condition threw a fear over many that was hard to overcome.

“We found early in the Azusa work that when we attempted to steady the ark, the Lord stopped working. We dared not call attention of the people too much to the working of the devil. Fear would follow, but God gave the victory. Through prayer, the presence of the Lord was with us. The leaders had limited experience, and the wonder is that the work survived at against its powerful adversaries. But it was of God; that was the secret.

“The San Francisco earthquake was surely the voice of God to the people of the Pacific Coast. It was used mightily in conviction for the gracious after-revival. In the early Azusa days both heaven and hell seemed to have come down. Men were at the breaking point. Conviction was upon the people. When men came within two or three blocks of the place, they were seized with conviction.

“The work was getting clearer and stronger at Azusa. God was working and it seemed that everyone had to go there. Missionaries were gathered there from Africa, India, and the islands of the sea. Preachers and workers crossed the continent and came from distant islands with an irresistible drawing to Los Angeles. It was God’s call. Holiness meetings, tents, and missions began to close up for lack of attendance. Their people were at Azusa.

“There was much persecution, especially from the press. They wrote us up shamefully, but this only drew the crowds. Some gave the work six months to live. Soon the meetings were running day and night. The place was packed out nightly. The whole building upstairs and down had now been cleared and put to use. Great emphasis was placed on the blood for cleansing. A high standard was held up for a clean life. ‘When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him’ (Isaiah 59:19).

“Divine love was wonderfully manifest in the meetings. They would not even allow an unkind word said against their opposers in the churches. The message was the love of God. It was a return to the ‘first love’ of the church. The Holy Spirit baptism as we received it in the beginning did not allow us to think, speak, or hear evil of any man. The Spirit was very sensitive, tender as a dove. The Holy Spirit is symbolized as a dove, and we knew the moment we had grieved the Holy Spirit by an unkind thought or deed. We seemed to live in a sea of pure divine love. The Lord fought our battles for us in those days. We committed ourselves to His judgments fully in all matters, never seeking to defend the work or ourselves. We lived in His wonderful immediate presence. And nothing contrary to His pure Spirit was allowed there.

“The false was sifted out from the real by the Spirit of God. The word of God itself decided absolutely all issues.

“We had no pope or hierarchy. We were brethren. We had not even a platform or pulpit in the beginning. All were on a level. The ministers were servants according to the true meaning of the Word. We did not honor men from their advantage in means or education but rather for their God-given gifts. He set members in one body.

“God broke strong men and women to pieces and put them together again for His glory. It was a tremendous overhauling process. Pride, self-assertion, self-importance, and self-esteem could not survive there.

“No subjects or sermons were announced ahead of time, and there were no special speakers for such an hour. No one knew what might be coming or what God would do. We wanted to hear from God through whomever He might speak. The rich and the educated were the same as the poor and ignorant, but they found a much harder death to die. We only recognized God. No flesh might glory in His presence. They were Holy Ghost meetings led of the Lord. It had to start in poor surroundings to keep out the selfish human element. All came down in humility together at His feet. There was no pride there. The services ran almost continuously. Seeking souls could be found under the power almost any hour night and day. The place was never closed or empty. God was always there.

“When we first reached the meeting, we avoided as much as possible human contact and greeting. We wanted to meet God first. The meetings started themselves spontaneously in testimony and worship. We had no prearranged programs to be jammed through on time. Our time was the Lord’s. We had real testimonies from fresh heart-experiences. A dozen people might be on their feet at one time trembling under the mighty power of God.

“Presumptuous men would sometimes come among us. Especially preachers with their self-opinions. But their efforts were short-lived. They generally bit the dust in humility going through the process we had all gone through. In other words, they died out, came to see themselves in all their weakness, then in childlike humility and confession were taken up of God and transformed through the mighty baptism of the Holy Spirit.

“We saw some wonderful things in those days. … As I wrote in Way of Faith, August 1, 1906:

“Pentecost has come to Los Angeles, the American Jerusalem. Every sect, creed, and doctrine under Heaven is found in Los Angeles, as well as every nation represented. Many times I have been tempted to wonder if my strength would hold out to see it (the Pentecostal revival). The burden of prayer has been very great. But since the spring of 1905, when I first received this vision and burden, I have never doubted the final outcome of it. … A cleansing stream is flowing through the city. The Word of God prevails.”

Frank Bartleman (1871-1936)

 

Endnote

1. Wayne E. Warner, ed., Touched By the Fire (Plainfield, New Jersey: Logos International, 1978), 65–69.

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