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

There was a one-time itinerant preacher and later physician named John A. Granade who was known as the “wild man” during his preaching days. His brief career was so spectacular that crowds began to follow him from place to place. Some claimed that Granade had a secret “powder” that he threw over the people to enchant them, and other believed he worked “some secret trick by which he threw them down.” At one meeting so many people fainted and lay in such heaps that it was feared they would suffocate.[29]

On New Year’s Day, 1801 on the Delmarva Peninsula, a preacher named Thomas Smith was preaching at the home of Thomas Burton and Burton described what happened by saying, “At the very commencement of the meeting the Spirit of the Lord came as a rushing mighty wind—the people fell before it, and lay in heaps all over the floor. The work continued all night, nor did it stop in the morning, but continued for 13 days and nights without interruption.”[30]

Itinerant preacher William Jessop writes about a prayer meeting he was a part of: “At the end of the meeting the blessed Samaritan passed us by and paid us a glorious visit. The Holy Ghost descended upon us in a mighty rushing wind, and the glory of God filled the house where we were. The shout of a king was in the midst, and many souls rejoiced in the Lord.”[31]

There were times when Methodists would pray in one place and the power of God would fall in another place, often miles away.

William Keith wrote: Once they all joined in prayer for a revival of religion in the neighborhood, and at the very same hour the people in their own houses and fields were slain by the power of God. I then began to conclude that this could not be the work of imagination for these people a mile off, who knew nothing of the meeting were slain as they were about their work on the very time when those persons prayed for them.[32]

Another example of this can be found in the testimony of Austin Taft in Appendix 2 [Editor’s note: See the full version of The Supernatural Thread in Methodism: Signs and Wonders Among Methodists Then and Now].

In a 1787 Methodist revival, the preachers could not quiet down the congregation enough to speak, amid all the praises and shouting, until finally they gave up. At the height of the noise, eleven rafters broke in the roof, without anyone noticing it amid the commotion.[33]

John Wigger writes about the extent to which a belief in the supernatural power and activity of God permeated early Methodism: “Perhaps no group had a more enduring attachment to militant Methodist supernaturalism than African-American women. …Since most Methodists believed in the reality of divinely inspired impressions, dreams, and visions, it was not so easy to protest when women, be they white or African-American, manifested such experiences in acceptable and apparently authentic forms. Zilpha Elaw, a black female Methodist, testified of an experience where Jesus appeared to her in a barn. She writes: “At the time when this occurrence took place, I was milking in the cow stall. And the manifestation of his presence was so clearly apparent that even the beast of the stall turned her head and bowed herself upon the ground.” Jarena Lee records numerous instances of supernatural impressions, dreams and visions. She believed that God gave her these “uncommon impressions” to make up for her lack of formal education. She not only had frequent prophetic dreams and visions but also claimed to have an extraordinary gift of healing along with other supernatural powers.”[34]

Valentine Cook, Noah Fidler, Philip Gatch, and Joshua Thomas gained reputations as healers whose prayers sometimes brought miraculous results. James, P Horton’s, Sampson Maynard’s, and Billy Hibbard’s autobiographies are filled with stories of dreams, impressions, shouting and divine healing. Hibbard even includes an account of a woman apparently raised from the dead.[35]

Wigger summarizes: “It may not be an exaggeration to say that this quest for the supernatural in everyday life was the most distinctive characteristic of early American Methodism.”[36] [That idea was never mentioned in the seminary course in Methodism that I took!]

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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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