The Azusa Street Meeting:
Some Highlights of This Outpouring
The picture shown herewith is of a group of people among the first to receive the Holy Ghost baptism of fire, accompanied by speaking in tongues, at the meeting held on Azusa Street, Los Angeles, in the spring of 1906. The plate was made from a very poor print, but answers the purpose, and is in harmony with the standing in this world of those portrayed. It was a company of people who considered themselves strangers and pilgrims, and were seeking a city to come. They surely found the desire of their hearts, and heaven came down in their midst.
The names of those in the picture, from left to right, are: Upper row standing, (1) writer does not remember her name; (2) Bro. Evans, the first man to receive the baptism; (3) Jennie Moon [Moore, ed.], who afterwards married Bro. Seymour; (4) Glenn A. Cook, the writer of this tract; (5) Sister Crawford, who built up a large work in Portland, Oregon; (6) the writer does not remember this brother’s name; (7) Sister Prince, who surely was a mother in Israel; Lower row seated, (1) Sister Evans, the first woman to receive the baptism; (2) Brother Hiram Smith, a great help in the business of the mission; (3) Bro. W.J. Seymour, the meekest man the writer had ever met; (4) Clara Lum, stenographer and wonderful helper in editing the paper, and spreading the good news all over the world. She is now associated with Sister Crawford in Portland, Ore. The little girl is the daughter of Sister Crawford.
The writer of this tract, and No. 4 in the upper row, was made business manager by the laying on of hands by Bro. Seymour and others. The duties of his office made him familiar not only with the work at Azusa Street, but all over the world. He opened all the mail and handled all the correspondence for over a year after the power fell, and the purpose of this tract is to make a record of some impressions received at the beginning of this visitation from God.
It has been published by some who oppose the baptism of the Holy Ghost and speaking in tongues, that you cannot find a community in the United States nor Canada, where this people are not represented. You will find them all over the world. It is true they are divided into sects, but about all continue to speak in tongues.
In the early spring of 1906, William Seymour arrived in Los Angeles, California, from Houston, Texas. He had been a hotel waiter in Indianapolis, Indiana, and on his way to the coast, had stopped in Houston. While there, he attended meetings for some time where the people spoke in tongues.
The Holy Ghost had fallen in Topeka, Kansas, quite awhile before this, and had spread as far as Houston. Seymour did not receive his Baptism at the Houston meeting. The doctrines preached by this people were confusing, and there was a lack of love and power in the meetings. I later learned about this visitation at Topeka. The leader became puffed up, declared himself the progenitor of the Movement, and would strut around with a high silk hat like a dictator. The results that followed could not be other than great confusion in doctrine and the absence of the spirit of love.
When Seymour arrived in Los Angeles, he did not have the Baptism, but surely was meek and humble, and could preach love and a clean life as a preparation for the Baptism.
He received the Baptism a short time after the power fell. He gathered a small group of people, black and white, and started a meeting in the old church building. A few benches and chairs with a packing case for the pulpit was the equipment. Every time he preached he would quote Mark 16 and Acts 2:4, insisting that no one had received the baptism in the Holy Ghost unless he spoke in tongues. This caused a great deal of opposition by the holiness people who began to attend the meetings.
I was preaching in a tent at Seventh and Spring Streets when someone told me about the meeting. I went to the meeting thinking I might be able to straighten the people out in their doctrine, as I had been professing this experience for many years.
I was not alone in this effort, as many more preachers and gospel workers began to gather and contend with Seymour. But the contention was all on our part. I never have met a man who had such control over his spirit. The Scripture: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them,” was literally fulfilled in this man (Psalm 119:165). No amount of confusion and accusation seemed to disturb him. He would sit behind that packing case and smile at us until we were all condemned by our own activities.
Although most of the holiness people who attended continued to reject the preaching, each had a secret reverence and admiration for this man who lived what we had been preaching for years — a sanctified life. It was the wonderful character of this man whom God had chosen that attracted the people and kept them coming to this humble meeting.
The meetings had been running for about a month when the power fell. What a change took place. When I saw Sister Moon’s [Moore, ed.] shining face and heard her sing in the Spirit, I felt as though I had never had any experience. That old building seemed to have been annexed to heaven, and had become the habitation of legions of the heavenly host. People began to pour in from everywhere, representing many religious beliefs.
After asking forgiveness of Seymour and the others for all of my hard sayings, I fell on my face and began to pour out my soul in prayer, but could not receive the Holy Ghost; then followed a period of about 5 weeks of repenting and prayer. My eyes were seldom dry during this time, and although many had spoken in tongues and the building was filled with people, I seemed to get farther and farther away from God. I felt that I was lost, and unless I received the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues, I would miss all. When I had nearly given up hope, the Holy Ghost fell on me as I lay in bed at home. I seemed to be in a trance for about 24 hours, and the next day, in the meeting, began to speak in tongues.
The crowds kept increasing until the people could not get in the building. It was on a little-used side street. Soon the street was filled with people from every walk of life and every nationality. The meetings would start at about 9 a.m. and run continually until far into the night. There was such a drawing power about the place that saint and sinner wanted to be there all the time.
I was working on a daily newspaper at the time, but I had lost all interest in my work. I would weep and cry as I went about my work until my wicked companions said that I was going crazy. About this time, the Lord spoke to me and told me to quit my work, as He had something for me to do. I resigned my position. A few days afterward, Seymour made me his business manager without salary. No one received any pay in the meeting, and no offerings were taken. A box was on the wall by the door. All support came through this box or in the mail, unless individuals handed money to workers.
A few days after I took my new position, a rancher came to me. He said the Lord had spoken to him in the field to come to town immediately and give me $20. I was nearly broke when he met me, and after handing me a $20 gold piece, said that the Lord had told him to give me $20 every month, which he continued to do for more than a year. There was never a lack of funds for any purpose, though money was seldom, if ever, mentioned in the meetings.
One of the great features of the meetings was the singing of heavenly anthems in the Spirit. I was seldom away from that old building for nearly a year, except to go home to sleep. Much of the time I slept in the building in a room adjoining Seymour. We seemed to live in an atmosphere that was separated from the rest of the world. Evil speaking, and even evil thinking, had departed. We were saturated with the spirit of love and prayer and the days passed all too swiftly.
The Apostolic Faith paper was soon published, telling about this wonderful outpouring. The first issue was 5,000 copies, and subsequent printings soon grew to 50,000. People began to pour in from across the United States and Canada, and from different parts of the world. The place was packed from morning until far into the night, with many receiving the Baptism at all hours. We had one Communion and foot washing service that lasted until daybreak. More than 20 different nationalities were present, and they were all in perfect accord and unity of the Spirit.
In recent years I have heard preachers speak lightly of the Azusa Street meetings, saying they had meetings that were just as good under their ministry. The old timers can only feel sorry for such and pity them.
In the meetings, one was not only baptized in the Holy Ghost, but also lived in such a heavenly atmosphere of love that he could never forget it. All else seemed so empty and void. Even as I write these pages, the memory of that meeting comes floating back, my eyes begin to swim with tears, and such a longing and yearning seizes me for a return of such a condition. I can feel that sacred fire still burning, and have the conviction that God will again visit His people in a like manner before the present dispensation ends.
If God’s people would only come together in love — and not allow differences in doctrine to divide them, or leaders whose vision is blurred by building churches (when not directed by the Spirit) to lead them, and those collecting tithes to satisfy their own greed to defraud them, but work toward one objective: to be filled with all the fullness of God — God would answer prayer. Doctrines, teaching, and tithes have their proper place in the gospel plan. But that overpowering, drawing power of the love of God must come first. Our present lukewarm condition is caused by a lack of this love that nothing can offend.