One of the most amazing things about studying early Pentecostal literature is the testimonies. I love to read the ways in which those believers experienced God and the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Testimonies of people traveling great distances to places where people were being baptized in the Holy Spirit fill the pages of the periodicals. Many of them testify to the old time practice of “tarrying”. Early Pentecostals believed a person needed to wait upon the Lord at the altar for God to pour out his Spirit. Many of them waited days, weeks or even months to receive.
One of the founding members of the Assemblies of God gave his testimony in 1910 in The Pentecostal Testimony. E. N. Bell was a Southern Baptist Pastor who heard about the Pentecostal movement. He went to Chicago in 1907 to seek out the experience of Baptism in the Spirit from the ministry of William Durham. Durham had received the Holy Spirit at Azusa Street through William Seymour. Bell arrived in Chicago in August 1907. For weeks he attended meetings and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, but he never received the fulness and spoke in tongues. Many time the power of God was on him even to the point of being ‘drunk’ in the Spirit, yet still did not receive the fullness. But he even had times of feeling nothing. At one point he even testifies as to going ‘cold as sinner’ yet God used that to bring Bell to a place of helplessness. Yet he continued to believe that the promise was for him. He also believe that when God did fill him that he would speak in tongues.
Finally, nearly a year later in July 1908, he received the baptism in the Spirit. He says, “On July 18, 1908 God baptized me in His Spirit. Wave after wave fell on me from heaven, striking me in the forehead like electric currents and passing over my my being…He began to speak in though me in a tongue I had never heard before and continued for two hours.” He had many experiences up to that point, but this one was different. He says, “That was when I received the Holy Spirit as a person, not merely His presence, not merely His blessing, not merely His gracious influence.” It took nearly a year, but he finally received the promise of the Father.
E. N. Bell, the founder of one of the largest Pentecostal bodies in world, had to wait and seek for nearly a year before he received the Spirit. And his testimony is not uncommon. Durham sought for the Baptism for three weeks at Azusa Street before he received. Countless others, despite being part of the greatest Pentecostal revivals in history, had to wait for days, weeks or months to receive the baptism in the Spirit.
As a minister today who seeks to lead people into Spirit-baptism, I am often discouraged when I pray for people to receive the baptism in the Spirit and they don’t receive right away. I want people to receive instantaniously. Many times I question myself or my ministry because they don’t receive right away. Reading these testimonies is an encouragement to me. The early Pentecostal experience is no different than today. Most of the people I know have had to seek for a period of time before they received the fullness of the Spirit. In fact, I also had to seek for over a year before I received. Maybe I get discouraged because I forget that ‘tarrying’ is part of the process. It aways has been. As Jesus said, “Wait in Jerusalem until you have been given power from on high.” The waiting is part of God’s process of preparing us. They had to wait in 1906. We still have to wait today. But his promise is true. If we wait, he will pour out his Spirit.
To read E. N. Bell’s testimony, you can read it here. See page 8 for article.
Thanks to the Pentecostal Archives for making these resources available for research. https://pentecostalarchives.org