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Pentecostal History

Pentecostal History

by Robert Jones on June 15, 2018

Smith Wigglesworth was born on June 8, 1859 in Menston, Yorkshire, England, to an impoverished family.  As a small child, he worked in the fields pulling turnips alongside his mother and he became a born again Christian at age eight.  Wigglesworth married Polly Featherstone in 1882. At the time of their marriage, she was a preacher with the Salvation Army, and taught Wigglesworth how to read by using the Bible as a textbook, which he often stated was the only book he ever read.  Wigglesworth worked as a plumber, but he abandoned this trade because he was too busy for it after he started preaching. In 1907 Wigglesworth received the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. He spoke at some the Assemblies of God events, though he never joined the denomination.  Wigglesworth believed that healing came through faith, and he was flexible about the methods he employed, such as laying on of hands, anointing oil and prayer cloths. Wigglesworth made a commitment to God that he would not sleep at night before he had won a soul for Christ every day. He claimed that on one occasion he could not sleep because he had not met this commitment, and that he went out into the night and met an alcoholic to whom he spoke and persuaded to become a believer.  Wigglesworth is considered one of the most influential evangelists in the early history of Pentecostalism and is also credited with helping give the movement a large religious audience. Wigglesworth continued to minister up until the time of his death on March 12, 1947.

In 1905, William J. Seymour, the one-eyed 34 year old son of former slaves.  Seymour arrived in Los Angeles and his first sermon was the biblical evidence of tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  On the following Sunday, he returned to the church and found the door padlocked. Seymour and his small group of new followers soon relocated to the home of Richard and Ruth Asberry.  News of the events quickly circulated among the residents of the city, and for several nights, various speakers would preach to the crowds of curious onlookers from the front porch. It was Easter season.  The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.  The group eventually discovered an available building at 312 Azusa Street, which had originally been constructed as an African Methodist Episcopal Church in what was then a black ghetto part of town. The rent was $8.00 per month. A newspaper referred to the downtown Los Angeles building as a "tumble down shack".  The Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission became the birthplace of Pentecostalism. By mid-May 1906, anywhere from 300 to 1,500 people would attempt to fit into the building. Since horses had very recently been the residents of the building, flies constantly bothered the attendees. People from a diversity of backgrounds came together to worship: men, women, children, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, rich, poor, illiterate, and educated.  Worship at Azusa Street was frequent and spontaneous with services going almost around the clock.

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