Azusa Street Testimonies
William H. Durham
I desire to give my testimony for the glory of God, and in the hope that it will prove a blessing to many that read it.
Nine years ago I was deeply convicted of sin, through the Bible and the Spirit moving upon me, which He continued to do till I truly repented of my sins, and earnestly sought the Lord, finally yielding all to Him, and pleading His mercy. He revealed to my heart Christ dying on the cross, and His voice whispered to me, “Christ died for your sins.” Instantly my heart believed, and His peace flooded my soul, and the joy of His salvation was wonderful to me. Later I saw and grasped by faith the truth of sanctification, and the Spirit witnessed to my heart that the work was done, and the Holy Ghost wonderfully wrought in my life.
Five years ago I was called into the ministry, and all these years the Spirit has been with me in a wonderful way. Sometimes I would be overcome by His power. In brief, I honestly believed I was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and testified to it. God had done so much for me, that it was hard for me to believe that there was more for me, except of course, development as I went on with God. And still there was a longing in my heart for something. I traveled as an evangelist from coast to coast, and preached the gospel in almost every large city in the United States, speaking to as high as 1,000 people at a time, often seeing from twenty-five to one hundred in the altar in a single service. And many were saved, sanctified and many healed. But some way all this did not satisfy me, and for a year the heart hunger has increased. Like all Holiness people I have met, I kept praying for love, power, etc.
Finally I heard of the work of God in Azusa Street Mission, Los Angeles, and said to my people, “That is the work of God.” Later I heard some one preach that the speaking in tongues was the Bible evidence that we had received the baptism in the Holy Ghost, and not understanding it I rejected it. But I saw those who were speaking in tongues had something that I did not have, and I finally became a seeker. And the Lord impressed me to go to Los Angeles, and attend the meetings, and seek the baptism in the Holy Ghost. Finally on February 8, I arrived there, and Sunday February 10, I attended my first all-day meeting. The first man I met on entering the building was Bro. H. L. Blake of Ruthton, Minnesota, who still believed he had received the baptism with the Holy Ghost in sanctification, and the anointings and fillings that followed; but I told him, I was convinced that what I had was not the baptism.
The first thing that impressed me was the love and unity that prevailed in the meeting, and the heavenly sweetness that filled the very air that I breathed. I want to say right here, that I have attended many large Holiness camp meetings and conventions, but I never felt the power and glory that I felt in Azusa Street Mission, and when about twenty persons joined in singing the “Heavenly Chorus,” it was the most ravishing and unearthly music that ever fell on mortal ears. It seemed and still seems to me, I could not sing in that chorus. I know it came direct from heaven. I at once became an earnest seeker, and day after day, I went down before the Lord and He was true to me. He showed me myself as He saw me. I can never forget the state of utter helplessness to which He reduced me. He even took away the spirit of prayer, my testimony was removed from me, I saw myself apart from Christ as it were, and it made me desperate. I can never forget the faithfulness of Sister Good, and others, in dealing with me. Next to God, I am indebted to them, dear faithful souls, laying down their lives for others; and all the reward they receive so far as I can see, was the plain clothing they wear and food they eat.
After I had been there a little over two weeks, devoting the entire time to seeking my Pentecost, on a Tuesday afternoon, when very much disheartened, suddenly the power of God descended upon me, and I went down under it. I have no language to describe what took place, but it was wonderful. It seemed to me that my body had suddenly become porous, and that a current of electricity was being turned on me from all sides; and for two hours I lay under His mighty power, and yet I knew I was not baptized yet, though I literally felt transparent, and a wonderful glory had come into my soul. Again on Thursday evening following, His power came over me, and I was prostrate on the floor for two hours, and still I knew I was not baptized, though I received a great spiritual uplift.
But on Friday evening, March 1, His mighty power came over me, until I jerked and quaked under it for about three hours. It was strange and wonderful and yet glorious. He worked my whole body, one section at a time, first my arms, then my limbs, then my body, then my head, then my face, then my chin, and finally at 1 A.M., Saturday, March 2, after being under the power for three hours, He finished the work on my vocal organs, and spoke through me in unknown tongues.* I arose, perfectly conscious outwardly and inwardly that I was fully baptized in the Holy Ghost, and the devil can never tempt me to doubt it. First I was conscious that a living Person had come into me, and that He possessed even my physical being, in a literal sense, in so much that He could at His will take hold of my vocal organs, and speak any language He chose through me. Then I had such power on me and in me as I never had before. And last but not least, I had a depth of love and sweetness in my soul that I had never even dreamed of before, and a holy calm possessed me, and a holy joy and peace, that is deep and sweet beyond any thing I ever experienced before, even in the sanctified life. And Oh, such victory as He gives me all the time.
Almost three weeks have passed, and all this is with me, and is deepening all the time. My soul is melted over and over again, and many times I feel as if there were, and I believe that is, a dynamo of power in me; there is nothing selfish about this, but it is fathomless, real, literal, blessed, grand. Oh, that all the world could seek and find this wonderful gift of God! It is something that speaks for itself. I have not had to witness to the saints I have met for when they hear me speaking in tongues and praising the Lord, they just exclaim, “Brother Durham has got his Pentecost.” Glory to God!
After receiving the baptism, I remained a few days in the home of Bro. and Sister Osterberg, to whom I am deeply indebted for their great kindness to me, and left for Colorado Springs on March 6. Sunday the 10th, preached three times in the G.A.R. Hall to a crowded house, and the power of God was on the people. About fifty came to the altar, and several came through and spoke in tongues. I also spent two nights in Denver, preaching to large audiences, and full altars, and a number came through and spoke in tongues. From there I came to Des Moines, Iowa, and preached twice in Mrs. Judge Ladd's mission, which was crowded, and the altar was so full I could not get to all of the seekers to deal with them.
Saturday, March 16, I reached home, and found that the Lord had taken good care of my dear wife and baby during my absence, and Sunday, March 17, we had the largest attendance in the history of the mission, and again the altar was so full, that it was hard to deal with the people. And so the work goes on, the Spirit falls like rain wherever I preach His Word, and it seems there is no effort on my part. I will close my testimony by saying to all who read it: This work is of God, there is no doubt of that. And I would advise all my friends to seek the baptism in the Holy Ghost, till they get the evidence in tongues, for it always follows; I know of no exception.
Now, just a word concerning Bro. Seymour, who is the leader of the movement under God: He is the meekest man I have ever met. He walks and talks with God. His power is in his weakness. He seems to maintain a helpless dependence on God and is as simple-hearted as a little child, and at the same time is so filled with God that you feel the love and power every time you get near him.
This testimony appeared in The Apostolic Faith in the February-March, 1907 issue.
William H. Durham pastored the North Avenue Mission in Chicago where many early leaders of the Pentecostal movement attended. He spread the message of Pentecost through a monthly periodical, The Pentecostal Testimony. Perhaps, he is best known for developing the doctrine of the “finished work” of Christ. This was a direct contradiction of the second work of sanctification preached by Charles F. Parham, William Seymour and other early Pentecostals. Although Durham's views were very controversial at the time, today, they have been adopted by a majority of Pentecostals and Charismatics.
When Durham preached the “finished work” message at the Azusa Street Mission, Seymour had him locked out of the building. Durham opened another mission in Los Angeles and took many of the Azusa faithful. This was one of the factors that led to the decline of the Azusa Street revival.
Charles F. Parham was so offended by Durham's doctrine that he publicly challenged him that the one who was wrong would die and the other live. Unfortunately, Durham (who suffered from tuberculosis) caught a head-cold in Chicago that developed into pneumonia and complications from the illnesses led to his premature death in 1912. His death did not end the controversy that continues until today.
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