Azusa Street Testimonies
Ernest S. Williams
As this is the 60th year since the Spirit fell at Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles, I have been asked to recount some of the events of those days. I wish my powers of description were such that I could relate the events with the vividness of which they are worthy.
Although my home was in Los Angeles, in the early summer of 1906 I was employed in Colorado, where I was deprived of the fellowship of other believers. About that time my mother's letters began telling of the blessing of God that was falling in a simple mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Copies of The Apostolic Faith published by the mission, were also sent to me.
My father had come under the blessing of the new experience and my mother wrote of the wonderful change it had made in him, although he had been a Holiness man since before I was born. Convinced that this could be none other than a work of God, I returned to Los Angeles in September, 1907. I was filled with the Holy Spirit on October 2 of that same year.
My first contact with Pentecost was on a Sunday morning at a former Holiness church, located at Eighth and Maple Streets. The service was good, but not unusual. From there I walked to Azusa Street Mission, arriving when the altar service was at its height.
I wish I could describe what I saw. Prayer and worship were everywhere. The altar area was filled with seekers; some were kneeling; others were prone on the floor; some were speaking in tongues. Everyone was doing something; all seemingly lost in God. I simply stood and looked, for I had never seen anything like it.
Before I began seeking the experience I spent a short time studying my Bible, seeking Scripture which might teach an experience subsequent to the experience of sanctification. I did not wish to be led into anything unscriptural, however much the Azusa Street worshipers might seem divinely blessed. The Lord prompted me and I felt I must see, as my heart was extremely hungry.
I did not hurry into this experience. I remember the first time I went to the altar. I was there to ask God to search my heart. The next day I continued seeking God, hoping to get His assurance that all was well. When I obtained this assurance I began to seek that I might be filled.
I have enjoyed several unusual experiences with God, but none has excelled an experience I received one week before I spoke in other tongues. I was praying at the altar when the Spirit of God came over me, dealing with my very flesh. It seemed like my soul was encased in a body which God was taking for Himself.Then came a rest I cannot describe. I felt I could remain there forever, resting in the love and greatness of God.
Azusa Street Mission was a very humble place. There was no raised platform for the speaker; no musical instrument strengthened the singing. The benches were poor and not sufficient to fill the building; the preaching was so simple it could hardly be called preaching, but God was there. Some from cultured backgrounds affirmed that they had never heard in an opera such exquisite music as when the Spirit of God would sweep over the congregation in what became known as heavenly song.
Healing for the body was fervently taught, but it was not put in first place. Demons were cast out. But worship was the principal thing. As the doings of God were noised abroad, people came from all over the continent, among them leaders and ministers. These were filled with the Spirit during their stay after which they carried back to their fields of labor the story that Pentecost had come again as it came to the church in the beginning.
All over the country spiritual fires were kindled and believers were filled. Some went to the ends of the earth testifying that Pentecost had come and Jesus would soon return.
Soon it will be 59 years since I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I still have my seasons of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, speaking in other tongues and at times shaking under the influence of the Holy Spirit. What a privilege to be filled with God, the holy God, devoted completely to His will! This is the humanfoundation to a Spirit-filled life, as Jesus our Lord and Saviour is the Foundation Divine.
We are living in days of apostasy. The spirit of the world in these last days would grip even the people of the Lord. But the scripture bids us to “ask of the Lord rain in the time of latter rain.” God wishes to cover us with shining clouds and refresh us with a new spiritual downpour. May He humble our hearts, make us hungry again as at the beginning, and fill us anew with the richness of the Spirit which He has promised to pour out on all flesh.
Ernest S. Williams served as General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God from 1929 to 1949. He also wrote several books and taught at Central Bible Institute in Springfield, Missouri. This testimony was published in the Pentecostal Evangel on April 4, 1966. It is used in The True Believers with the permission of the Assemblies of God.
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