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An Incident of the Early Days

“By the ‘early days’ I mean the early days of the outpouring of the latter rain. I got my information from the widow of the man concerning whom I write. She was living in Los Angeles, and I called at her home one day. God manifested His presence and power in a mighty way in those early days, and if all that God did were written down for our learning and edification it is doubtless true that the books would occupy many shelves, and every one of them would be interesting. Some would be well nigh as interesting as the Acts of the Apostles, for if miracles, real miracles, were wrought in the days of Peter and Paul, real miracles were wrought in those early days when God in answer to prayer poured out His Holy Spirit in plenitude and power.

“He was a Free Methodist, one of the leading members of the church to which he belonged. For years he had been a member of the official board, and was regarded as the financial backbone of the church. His pastor had the utmost confidence in him and consulted him often concerning matters that related to the welfare of the work.

“Down at the Azusa Street Mission the Lord had been working; sinners had been saved, and large numbers had received the Baptism in the Holy Ghost. But the pastor of the Free Methodist Church and nearly all the people who belonged to it had been criticizing what was going on. They were sure, or thought they were sure, it was not of God; it was just wild fire; it was fanaticism of the rankest and wildest kind. The pastor did not hesitate to denounce it as occasion offered itself, and he warned his people to stay away from the place; he even intimated that it was dangerous to go; they who went, he unhesitatingly affirmed, merited the displeasure of God and were often turned over to Satan who was allowed to deceive them.

“One day he and this leading official member of his church were engaged in conversation concerning what was going on at the Mission, and the official member who was not altogether sure that his pastor was right said, ‘I have made up my mind that I will find out for myself just what this is. I am going down to the Mission tonight. If this is fanaticism I want to be in a position to warn our people; I want to be able to tell them that I know for I have been there; all I know now is what people tell me, and some say one thing and some another.’ His pastor tried to persuade him not to carry out his plan. ‘It is unsafe to go there; others have been deceived, and you may be deceived too. Be satisfied with what you’ve got. We know that what we have is the Baptism, and it must be that this that is going on down there is wild fire. Why, if God had wanted to do anything new here in Los Angeles He would certainly have chosen our church in which to do it, for you know that we have never compromised, and we have always laid emphasis upon separation from the world and upright living. If God had been going to pour out His Spirit as He poured out the Holy Ghost in the days of the apostles, He would have done it in our church.’

“But the man was not quite convinced ‘I am going down tonight,’ he said, ‘and you can come over tomorrow morning, and I will tell you what my impressions were. I know God, and I am sure that if this is just wild fire I shall be able to detect the fact very soon. You need not worry about me, Pastor. I am God’s child, and God will take care of His own. He knows why I am going and that my heart is honest. I am not afraid, and you need not fear.’ The pastor saw that the man’s mind was fully made up. So he simply said, ‘Well, I shall pray that God will not let you be deceived, and that He will show you just what He would have you see.’

‘Down to the Azusa Street Mission that night the man went. God was there in mighty power. Sinners were seeking and finding the Lord. Believers were being filled with the Holy Ghost. There was a shout of victory in the camp. The dear Free Methodist brother had been in many meetings where the glory of the Lord was in evidence, but he had never seen anything like this. He knew God, and God spoke to his heart. God said, “This is the real thing; this is what you have longed to see and have never seen before; this is what took place in the days when Peter and John lived; what these people are seeking and receiving is the real Baptism in the Spirit.’

“Our Free Methodist brother forgot all about the fact that he had believed for many years that he had the Baptism. His heart was hungry for God’s best, and up to the altar he went, and down he got on his face before God. He was seeking the Baptism. All around him the power was falling, and it soon fell upon him and he was gloriously baptized in the Holy Ghost, speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance.

“He went home at a late hour, or rather, at an early hour the next morning, and told his wife what the Lord had done for his soul.

“It was about nine o’clock, and family prayers were being said. It was customary in those days for Free Methodists to have family worship. Would that there were a family altar today in every Pentecostal home! If we want the old time fire to fall let us do what Elijah did before he called upon God to send the fire from heaven — let us repair the altar of the Lord. The pastor had come over to find out what conclusion his official member had come to as a result of his visit to the Mission the previous evening. When he came to the door he heard the voice of the man in prayer. He waited outside and listened. Suddenly the Pentecostal fire that had been kindled in the man’s heart the night before flamed up anew and he began to pray in tongues as the Holy Ghost interceded through him for his pastor and his church. ‘Just as I feared!’ exclaimed the pastor in the first night.

“It was not long until the man’s wife received the Baptism. And then the children were brought in one by one. A few years passed by, and God took that dear man home to be with Himself. And his widow who told me the story as we sat together in her home said that such a large number of the members of that Free Methodist Church received the Baptism in the Holy Ghost after her husband had received it that it almost broke the church up. And I said, “If members receiving the Baptism in the Spirit can break a church up it appears to me that it ought to be broken up.’ And she said, ‘You are right.’ ”

J. Narver Gortner, reprinted from The Pentecostal Evangel, 28 April 1934.

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