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A Pentecostal Season: The Methodists in England and America, Part 2

Jacob Albright

Jacob Albright, the founder of the German speaking Evangelical Association, gathered his flock in 1802 for the first of many Great Meetings. Converts expressed their joy in a variety of ways. Outbreaks of shouting, stamping in rhythm, or fainting, often accompanied his passionate and persuasive preaching. To Albright, the emotional outbursts of the frontier camp meeting implied the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and of true religion. To the Lutheran and Reformed church people this display of emotion was offensive and Albright’s followers were regularly mocked as ‘Bush Meeting Dutch”, “holy jumpers”, knee sliders and foot stampers.[22]

Early Albright meetings were consistently called “Pentecost meetings.” The theme of Pentecost appears in other areas of early Evangelical and United Brethren doctrine and theology. For example, the Evangelicals’ Book of Doctrine and Discipline (1809) described sanctification as experienced in their early “Pentecostal” meetings as a “Baptism of fire,” which produced a “Powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” Although the journal of John Seybert, the Francis Asbury of the Evangelicals, makes reference to different modes of baptism the emphasis clearly falls on the “Baptism in the Spirit.”[23]

John Seybert always considered it as a mark of success when emotions were aroused and people wept or shouted. Evangelicals agreed that “a child of God needs no further argument that Christ is God than that he feels him in his soul as the living power of God. Jacob Vogelbach, a promising young minister who formed the first missionary society in 1838 and frequently contributed to the church’s German periodical, left the church because of his opposition to boisterous worship.[24]

Jason Vickers notes that “in contrast with the Methodist Articles of Religion …the Evangelical United Brethren appear incapable of writing a single statement in their Confession of Faith without at least some reference to the Holy Spirit.”[25] Eight out of sixteen articles in the Confession of Faith include references to the Holy Spirit. By contrast, only three out of the twenty-five Articles of Religion do so. The weight given to the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Confession of Faith by comparison with the Articles of Religion is truly stunning.[26]

 

Methodist Local Pastors and Lay Preachers

Manifestations of the Spirit were witnessed as part of the ministries of Wesley, Whitefield and Asbury, Boehm and Albright, some of Methodism’s “big guns.” But understand that a belief in and openness toward the supernatural manifestation of the power of God was a characteristic of American Methodism as it spread in our country. Such manifestations were common among the lesser-known American Methodist preachers as well.

While itinerating near Wilmington, DE in the early 1780’s, Benjamin Abbott discovered that some feared to sit too near him having been informed that people on the circuit fell like dead men when he preached. He presided over some of the most explosive Methodist meetings on record. People fainting during his sermons was the hallmark of his career. On one occasion a “young man was struck to the floor, and many said that he was dead.” After three hours even Abbott became alarmed. Eventually the man revived, “praising God for what he had done for his soul.”[27]

James P. Horton was a sometime shoemaker, sometime preacher, and all-time enthusiast known as “Crazy Horton.” Following his conversion, Horton spent the next 30 years dividing his time between making shoes to support his wife and 13 children and preaching wherever he felt led to go. His meetings were filled with shouting, falling and fervent prayers and his life with supernatural impressions and prophetic dreams. He was a proponent of divine healing, believing that he himself had been miraculously cured on at least two occasions. One woman went so far as to lock herself in her room when she heard that “Crazy Horton” would be attending a meeting in her house.[28]

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Category: Church History, Fall 2018

About the Author: Frank H. Billman, B.A. (Houghton College), M.Div. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), Th.M. (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School), D.Min. (Eastern Baptist [now Palmer] Theological Seminary), is an educator, pastor, author, and international speaker. He is currently leading the doctor of ministry program in supernatural ministry at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. While on the staff of Aldersgate Renewal Ministries for 12 years, he led workshops, local and regional renewal events, was supervisor for International Ministries, Methodist School of Supernatural Ministries, and Supernatural Ministry Intensives, and was a general session speaker at the national conferences. In addition to numerous articles, he is the author of Shepherding Renewal (Aldersgate Renewal Ministries, 2011), and The Supernatural Thread in Methodism: Signs and Wonders Among Methodists Then and Now (Creation House, 2013).

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