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Chapter 1 Beginnings
I arrived in Los Angeles, California, with my wife and two young daughters, on December 22, 1904. Little Esther, our oldest child, three years old, was seized with convulsions and passed away to be with Jesus on January 7, at 4 a.m. Little "Queen Esther" seemed to have been born "for such a time as this" (Esther 4:14).
Beside that little coffin, with heart bleeding, I pledged my life anew for God's service. In the presence of death, how real eternal issues become. I promised the rest of my life should be spent wholly for Him. He made a fresh covenant with me. I then begged Him to open a door of service quickly, that I might not find time for sorrow.
Just one week after little Esther's departure, I began preaching twice a day at the little Peniel Mission in Pasadena. While souls were saved during the month's meetings in Peniel Mission, the greatest victory gained was the spiritual growth of a company of young men attending there. A number were called out by the Lord for future service.
On April 8, 1 heard F. B. Meyer, from London, preach. He described the great revival then going on in Wales, which he had just visited. He had met Evan Roberts. My soul was stirred to its depths, having read of this revival shortly before. I then and there promised God He should have full right of way with me; if He could use me.
I distributed tracts in the post office, banks and public buildings in Los Angeles and also visited many saloons with tracts. Later I visited about thirty saloons in Los Angeles again. The houses of prostitution were wide open at that time, and I gave out many tracts there.
Little Esther's death had broken my heart, and I felt I could only live while in God's service. I longed to know Him in a more real way and to see the work of God go forth in power. A great burden and cry came in my heart for a mighty revival. He was preparing me for a fresh service for Him. This could only be brought about by the realization of a deeper need in my own heart for God, and a real soul travail for the work of God. This He gave me. Many were being similarly prepared at this time in different parts of the world. The Lord was preparing to visit and deliver His people once more. Intercessors were the need. "He wondered that there was no intercessor" (Isaiah 59:16). "1 sought for a man to stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none" (Ezekiel 22:30).
About the first of May, a powerful revival broke out in the Lake Avenue M.E. Church in Pasadena. Most of the young men who had come forth in the meetings in Peniel Mission attended this church. They had gotten under the burden for a revival there. In fact, we had been praying for a sweeping revival for Pasadena, and God was answering our prayers. I found a wonderful work of the Spirit going on at Lake Avenue. There was no big preacher there; yet the altar was full of seeking souls. One night nearly every unsaved soul in the house was saved. It was a clean sweep for God. Conviction was mightily upon the people. In two weeks' time two hundred souls knelt at the altar seeking the Lord. The Peniel boys were involved and wonderfully used of God. We then began to pray for an outpouring of the Spirit for Los Angeles and the whole of Southern California.
I find the following observations in my diary, written at that time: "Some churches are going to be surprised to find God passing them by. He will work in channels where they will yield to Him. They must humble themselves for Him to come. We are crying, 'Pasadena for God!’ Some people are too well satisfied with their own goodness. They have little faith or interest for the salvation of others. God will humble them by passing them by. The Spirit is breathing prayer through us for a mighty, general outpouring. Great things are coming. We are asking largely, that our joy may be full. God is moving. We are praying for the churches and their pastors. The Lord will visit those willing to yield to Him." And the same is true today. Ultimate failure or success for God will be realized just at this point. We must keep humble and little in our own eyes. Let us get built up by a sense of our own importance and we are gone. History repeats itself in this connection. God has always sought a humble people. He can use no other. Martin Luther, the great reformer, wrote: "When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ says repent, He means that the whole life of believers on earth should be a constant and perpetual repentance. Repentance and sorrow-i.e., true repentance-endure as long as a man is displeased with himself. The desire of self-justification is the cause of all the distresses of the heart." There is always much need of heart preparation, in humility and separation, before God can consistently come. The depth of any revival will be determined exactly by the spirit of repentance that is obtained. In fact, this is the key to every true revival born of God.
On May 12, God dealt with me about giving all my time to Him, turning my back finally and for all time on secular employment. He wanted me now to trust Him fully for myself and my family. I had just received a book, "The Great Revival in Wales," written by S. B. Shaw. Taking a little walk before breakfast, I was reading this. The Lord had been trying for years to bring me to this decision for His service. We entered into a new contract between us. He was to have the rest of my life fully. And I have never dared to break this contract.
My wife kept my breakfast for me. But I did not return until noon. I had lost my appetite for food. The Spirit, through the book, set me on fire. I visited and prayed with three preachers and a number of workers before I returned home at noon. I had received a new commission and anointing. My burden was for revival.
I visited and prayed with people all day long for some time now, distributing G. Campbell Morgan's pamphlet on the "Revival in Wales." It moved the people strongly. The spirit of prayer was increasing upon me, and I determined to be "obedient to the heavenly vision." I prayed the Lord for faith to trust Him fully. "Man shall not live by bread alone."
The Lord blessed me with a further spirit of exhortation to revival among the churches, giving me articles to write for the Holiness press along the same line also. I began to write particularly for the Way of Faith and God's Revivalist. One night I awoke from my sleep shouting the praises of God. He was getting hold of me more and more. I was now going day and night, exhorting to faith in God for mighty things. The spirit of revival consumed me. The spirit of prophecy came upon me strongly also. I seemed to receive a definite "gift of faith" for revival. We were evidently in the beginning of wonderful days to come, and I prophesied continually of a mighty outpouring.
I had a real ministry to the religious press and began to attend prayer meetings at the various churches to exhort them. G. Campbell Morgan's tract on the "Revival in Wales" spread the fire in the churches wonderfully. I did a great deal of visiting among the saints also and began to sell S. B. Shaw's book, "The Great Revival in Wales," among the churches. God wonderfully used it to promote faith for a revival spirit. My tract work was continued among the saloons and business houses.
In May, 1905, 1 wrote in an article: "My soul is on fire as I read of the glorious work of grace in Wales. The 'seven thousand' in the land, who have kept company with the 'spared ones' (Ezekiel 9), and who have been 'crying and sighing' because of the abomination and desolation in the land, the decay of vital piety in the body of Christ, may well be excused for rejoicing at such a time and prospect as this, when God is once more moving in the earth. But where are the men who will 'stir themselves up to take hold of God?' Let our watchword at this time be 'California for Christ.' God is looking for workers, channels, worms of the dust. Remember, He must have worms. Jesus' life was pressed out in prayer at every pore. This kind comes too high for most people. But may not this be our Lord's 'last call?"'
On June 17, 1 went to Los Angeles to attend a meeting at the First Baptist Church. They were waiting on God for an outpouring of the Spirit there. Their pastor, Joseph Smale, had just returned from Wales. He had been in touch with the revival and Evan Roberts, and was on fire to have the same visitation and blessing come to his own church in Los Angeles. I found this meeting in accordance with my own vision, burden, and desire, so I spent two hours in the church in prayer before the evening service. Meetings were being held every day and night there, and God was present.
One afternoon I started the meeting in Los Angeles while they were waiting for Smale to appear. I exhorted them not to wait for man but to expect from God. They were depending on some great one, the same spirit of idolatry that has cursed the church and hindered God in all ages. Like the children of Israel, the people must have "some other god before Him." In state church circles in Europe, the pastor is often known as "the little God." I started the service in the evening on the church steps, outside, while we were waiting for the janitor to arrive with the key. We had a season of prayer for the surrounding community. The evening meeting was a steady sweep of victory.
When God's Church becomes what it should be, in love and unity, the doors will never be closed or locked. Like the temple of old, it will be always open. (We saw this later, at Azusa Mission.) God does not have many churches, all of different names. There is no division in a true "Pentecost," neither in true worship. "God is spirit; and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body; and were all made to drink of one Spirit" (I Corinthians 12:13). Ancient Israel, when right with God, was one; how much more should the Church be. We have priests enough to serve continually. And plenty of seeking, needy people to fill the church at all times. How far have we fallen from the early pattern, and even from the type of the Church, Israel. We are so short we scarcely recognize the real thing. Even the Roman Church, though formal, is ahead of us in this. The difficulty and shame is that we are hopelessly divided.
I went to Lamanda Park and, after preaching, spent the night at the parsonage praying and sleeping alternately. I wanted a fuller revelation of Jesus to my own soul. Like the full moon that draws clearer and nearer to our vision as we continue to steadfastly gaze at it, so Jesus appears more real to our souls as we continue to contemplate Him. We need a closer, personal, vital relationship,, acquaintance, and communion with God. Only the man who lives in fellowship with divine reality can be used to call the people to God.
I went to Smale's church again, and again found them listlessly waiting for the preacher to appear. Many did not seem to have any definite idea of why they had come to the meeting. I began to pray aloud, and the meeting started off with power. It was in full blast when Brother Smale arrived. God wanted the people to look to Him, and not to man. Those not having the glory of God first in view would naturally resent this. But it is God's plan.
I found most Christians did not want to take on a burden of prayer. It was too hard on the flesh. I was carrying this burden now in ever increasing volume, night and day. The ministry was intense. It was "the fellowship of His sufferings," a "travail" of soul, with "groanings that could not be uttered" (Romans 8:26-27). Most believers find it easier to criticize than to pray.
One day I was much burdened in prayer. I went to Brother Manley's tent and fell at the altar, there unburdening my soul. A worker ran in from a side tent and begged me to pray for him. I attended another meeting that night and there found a young brother, Edward Boehmer, who had come forth in the Peniel meetings in the spring, with the same burden of prayer on him. We were wonderfully united in the Spirit from that time on. He was destined to become my prayer helper in the future. We prayed together at the little Peniel Mission until 2 a.m. God wonderfully met and assured us as we wrestled with Him for the outpouring of His Spirit upon the people. My life was by this time literally swallowed up in prayer. I was praying day and night.
I wrote more articles for the religious press, exhorting the saints to prayer, and went to Smale's again in Los Angeles. Here I found the people waiting for the preacher again. I was greatly burdened for the situation and tried to show them they must expect from God. Some resented this, being bound by age-old custom, but others responded to it. They were praying for a revival like they had in Wales. This was one of the outstanding features there. In Wales they expected from God. The meetings went on whether the preacher was present or absent. They came to meet God. He met them.
I had written a letter to Evan Roberts in Wales, asking them to pray for us in California. I now received a reply that they were doing so, which linked us up with the revival there. The letter read as follows: "My dear brother in the faith: Many thanks for your kind letter. I am impressed by your sincerity and honesty of purpose. Congregate the people together who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God's promises. Hold daily meetings. May God bless you, is my earnest prayer. Yours in Christ, Evan Roberts." We were much encouraged to know that they were praying for us in Wales.
I wrote some articles for the Way of Faith, the Christian Harvester, and for God's Revivalist at this time. The following are extracts: A wonderful work of the Spirit has broken out here in Los Angeles, California, preceded by a deep preparatory work of prayer and expectation. Conviction is rapidly spreading among the people, and they are rallying from all over the city to the meetings at Pastor Smale's church. Already these meetings are beginning to 'run themselves.' Souls are being saved all over the house, while the meeting sweeps on unguided by human hands. The tide is rising rapidly, and we are anticipating wonderful things. Soul travail is becoming an important feature of the work, and we are being swept away beyond sectarian barriers. The fear of God is coming upon the people, a very spirit of burning. Sunday night the meeting ran on until the small hours of the next morning. Pastor Smale is prophesying of wonderful things to come. He prophesies the speedy return of the apostolic 'gifts' to the church. Los Angeles is a veritable Jerusalem. Just the place for a mighty work of God to begin. I have been expecting just such a display of divine power for some time. Have felt it might break out at any hour. Also that it was liable to come where least expected, that God might get the glory. Pray for a 'Pentecost.'- F. Bartleman, June, 1905."
One evening, July 3, 1 felt strongly impressed to go to the little Peniel Hall in Pasadena to, pray. There I found Brother Boehmer ahead of me. He had also been led of God to the hall. We prayed for a spirit of revival for Pasadena until the burden became well nigh unbearable. I cried out like a woman in birth-pangs. The Spirit was interceding through us. Finally, the burden left us. After a little time of quiet. waiting, a great calm settled down upon us. Then suddenly, the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to us. He seemed to stand directly between us, so close we could have reached out our hand and touched Him. But we did not dare to move. I could not even look. In fact, I seemed all spirit. His presence seemed more real, if possible, than if I could have seen and touched Him naturally. I forgot I had eyes or ears; my spirit recognized Him. A heaven of divine love filled and thrilled my soul. Burning fire went through me. In fact, my whole being seemed to flow down before Him, like wax before the fire. I lost all consciousness of time or space, being conscious only of His wonderful presence. I worshipped at His feet. It seemed a veritable "Mount of transfiguration." I was lost in the pure Spirit.
For some time He remained with us. Then, slowly, He withdrew His presence. We would have been there yet had He not withdrawn. I could not doubt His reality after that experience. Brother Boehmer experienced largely the same thing. We had lost all consciousness of each other's presence while He remained with us. We were almost afraid to speak or breathe when we came back to our surroundings. The Lord had said nothing to us, but only overwhelmed our spirits by His presence. He had come to strengthen and assure us for His service. We knew now we were workers with Him, fellowshippers of His sufferings, in the ministry of "soul travail." Real soul travail is just as definite in the spirit as natural human birth-pangs. The simile is almost perfect in its sameness. No soul is ever born without this. All true revivals of salvation come this way.
The sun was up the next morning before we left the hall. But the night had seemed but half an hour. The presence of God eliminates all sense of time. With Him all is eternity. It is "eternal life." God knows no time. This element is lost in heaven. This is the secret of time appearing to pass so swiftly in all nights of real prayer. Time is superseded. The element of eternity is there. For days that marvelous presence seemed to walk by my side. The Lord Jesus was so real. I could scarcely take up with human conversation again. It seemed so crude and empty. Human spirits seemed so harsh, earthly fellowship a torment. How far we are naturally from the gentle Spirit of Christ!
I spent the following day in prayer, going to Smale's church in the evening, where I had a ministry in intercession. Heavenly peace and joy filled my soul. -Jesus was so real. Doubts and fears cannot abide in His presence.
I wrote a number of articles to several papers, describing God's operations among us, and exhorting the saints everywhere to faith and prayer for a revival. The Lord used these articles greatly to bring faith and conviction. I was soon receiving quite a large correspondence from many places.
I wrote in my diary at this time the following observations: "We may cut ourselves off from God by our spiritual pride, while He may cause the weakest to repent, and go through to victory. The work in our own hearts must go deeper than we have ever experienced, deep enough to destroy sectarian prejudice, party spirit, etc., on all sides. God can perfect those whom He chooses."
The present world-wide revival was rocked in the cradle of little Wales. It was 'brought up' in India, becoming full grown in Los Angeles later. I received from God early in 1905 the following keynote to revival: "The depth of revival will be determined exactly by the depth of the spirit of repentance. " And this will hold true for all people, at all times.
The revival spirit at Brother Smale's rapidly spread its interest over the whole city, among the spiritual people. Workers were coming in from all parts, from various affiliations, uniting their prayers with us for a general outpouring. The circle of interest widened rapidly. We were now praying for California, for the nation and also for a world-wide revival. The spirit of prophecy began to work among us for mighty things on a large scale. Someone sent me 5,000 pamphlets on "The Revival in Wales." These I distributed among the churches. They had a wonderful quickening influence.
I visited Smale's church again and started the meeting. He had not yet arrived. The meetings were getting wonderful by this time for their spontaneity. Our little Gideon's band was marching on to certain victory, led by the Captain of their salvation, Jesus. I was led to pray at this early date especially for faith discernment of spirits, healing, and prophecy. I felt I needed more wisdom and love, also. I seemed to receive a real "gift of faith" for the revival at this time, with a spirit of prophecy to the same end, and began to prophesy of mighty things to come.
When we began to pray in the spring of 1905, no one seemed to have much faith for anything out of the ordinary. Pessimism in regard to the then present conditions seemed to be felt generally among the saints. But this attitude had changed. God Himself had given us faith for better things. There had been nothing in sight to stimulate us to this. It came from nothing. And can He not do the same today? I wrote an article at this time for the Daily News of Pasadena, describing what I saw in Brother Smale's church. It was published, and the manager himself came to see soon after. He was greatly convicted, came to the altar and sought God earnestly. The article was copied in a number of Holiness papers throughout the country. It was entitled, "What I Saw in a Los Angeles Church." The following are some extracts: "For some weeks special services have been held in the First Baptist Church, Los Angeles. Pastor Smale had returned from Wales, where he was in touch with Evan Roberts and the revival. He registers his conviction that Los Angeles will soon be shaken by the mighty power of God. "The service of which I am writing began in an impromptu and spontaneous way some time before the pastor arrived. A handful of people had gathered early, which seemed to be sufficient for the Spirit's operation. The meeting started. Their expectation was from God. God was there, the people were there, and, by the time the pastor arrived, the meeting was in full swing. Pastor Smale dropped into his, place, but no one seemed to pay any special attention to him. Their minds were on God. No one seemed to get in another's way, although the congregation represented many religious bodies. All seemed to be in perfect harmony. The Spirit was leading.
"The pastor arose, read a portion of the Scripture, made a few well-chosen remarks full of hope and inspiration for the occasion, and the meeting passed again from his hands. The people took it up and went on as before. Testimony, prayer, and praise were intermingled throughout the service. The meeting seemed to run itself as far as human guidance was concerned. The pastor was one of them. If one is at all impressionable religiously, they must feel in such an atmosphere that something wonderful and imminent is about to take place. Some mysterious, mighty upheaval in the spiritual world is evidently at our doors. The meeting gives one a feeling of 'heaven on earth,' with an assurance that the supernatural exists, and that in a very real sense." Frank Bartleman, Daily News, Pasadena. I wrote another article for the Wesleyan Methodist at the same time, of which the following are extracts: "Mercy rejected means judgment, and on a corresponding scale. In all the history of God's world, there has always been first the offer of divine mercy, then judgment following. The prophets ceased not day and night to faithfully warn Israel, but their tears and entreaties for the most part proved in vain. The awful destruction of Jerusalem, in 70 AD, which resulted in the extermination of a million Jews and the captivity of multitudes more, was preceded by the offer of divine mercy at the hands of the Son of God Himself. "In 1859 a great revival wave visited our country, sweeping a half million souls into the fountain of salvation. Immediately the terrible carnage of 1861 followed. And so, as we anticipate the coming revival, which is already assuming rapidly world-wide proportions, we wonder if judgment will follow mercy, as at other times. And judgment in proportion to the mercy extended. "Frank Bartleman, July, 1905.
For God Revivalist I wrote: "Unbelief of every form has come in upon us like a flood. But lo, our God comes also! A standard is being raised against the enemy. The Lord is choosing out His workers. This is a time to realize the vision for service. 'The Lord hath spoken and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence. Gather my saints together unto me, those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice' (Psalms 50)."
I often used to declare during 1905 that I would rather live six months at that time than fifty years of ordinary time. It was a day of the beginning of great things. The grain of corn was willing to "fall into the ground and die," and there was promise of abundant harvest. But for spiritual "flappers," the whole matter was naturally foolishness.
I wrote another letter to Evan Roberts, asking for continued prayer for California. Thus we were kept linked up in prayer with Wales for the revival. In those days, real prayer was little understood. It was hard to find a quiet place where one would not be disturbed. Gethsemane experiences with Jesus were rare among the saints in those days.
At Smale's church one day, I was groaning in prayer at the altar. The spirit of intercession was upon me. A brother rebuked me severely. He did not understand it. The flesh naturally shrinks from such ordeals. The "groans" are no more popular in most churches than is a woman in birth-pangs in the home. Soul-travail does not make pleasant company for selfish worldliness. But we cannot have souls born without it. Childbearing is anything but a popular exercise, and so with a real revival of new born souls in the churches. Modern society has little place for a childbearing mother. They prefer society "flappers." And so with the churches regarding soul travail. There is little burden for souls. Men run from the groans of a woman in travail of birth. And so the church desires no "groans" today. She is too busy enjoying herself.
We were much pressed financially again, but the Lord delivered. We never made our wants known to anyone but God, and we never begged or borrowed, no matter how pressing the need might seem to be. We believed that if the saints were living closely enough to God, He would speak to them. We trusted Him fully, and went without if He did not send help. I wrote my first tract at this time. It was entitled, "Love Never Faileth." This was the beginning of a large faith tract ministry. I had to trust the Lord for the means, but He never failed me.
A friend paid our expenses at a camp meeting in the Arroyo for a few days, so we tented there. It was midsummer, and we enjoyed the change and outing. I spent most of my time on my face in the woods in prayer. In the moonlit evenings, I poured out my soul unto God, and He met me there. There was much "empty wagon" rattle in the camp. Most were seeking selfish blessings. They rushed to meetings, like a big sponge, to get more blessing. They needed stepping on.
I found my soul crying out for God far beyond the seeming aspirations of most of the Holiness people. I wanted to go deeper, beneath the mere emotional realm to something more substantial and lasting that would put a rock in my soul. I was tired of so much froth and foam, so much religious ranting and pretension. And the Lord did not long disappoint me.
The camp meeting committee got me on the carpet because of the tracts I was distributing in the camp. They thought I was attacking the Holiness movement, but I was only exhorting them to a deeper place in God. They needed more humility and love. My tract against sectarianism, "That They All May Be One," stirred the camp. Surely manmade movements need to be stirred. God has but one "movement" that is His "one body." This was the message at Azusa Mission in the beginning.