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Supernatural Physical Manifestations in the Evangelical and Holiness Revival Movements, by Paul King

With the phenomena associated with the “Toronto Blessing,” the Pensacola/Brownsville revival, and the ministry of Rodney Howard‑Browne, such as falling under the power of the Spirit, trembling, holy laughter, etc., people have tended to either completely accept or completely reject all such phenomena. However, when we study the history of the church, in particular the evangelical and holiness movements of the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries, we see that many of these manifestations have occurred in these movements, but such phenomena were neither accepted out of hand, nor dismissed summarily. As an ordained minister with the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) who also serves on the faculty of Oral Roberts University, through this study I desire to provide a bridge and a buffer between the evangelical/holiness and the Pentecostal/charismatic camps. This study explores the experiences of evangelical and holiness revivals, and how such manifestations were viewed.

Falling Under the Power of the Spirit

The phenomenon of falling under the power of the Spirit occurred in the revivals of Jonathan Edwards. His assessment was that a person may “fail bodily strength” due to fear of hell and the conviction by the Holy Spirit or due to a “foretaste of heaven.”[1] John Wesley recognized falling to the ground as a manifestation from God, and records many such instances in his ministry. In fact, George Whitefield criticized Wesley for permitting the phenomena until it began happening in his own meetings.[2] The Kentucky revivals of 1800-1801, which involved Baptists, Methodists and Presbyterians, was replete with similar demonstrations.[3] In the early 1800s, the revivals led by Methodist circuit riding preacher Peter Cartwright (who was converted in the Kentucky revivals) were often accompanied by people falling under God’s power, including some Baptists.[4] Finney’s ministry also frequently manifested fainting or swooning, what he called “falling under the power of God.”[5] The Welsh revival of 1859 was accompanied by swooning as “waves of power often overwhelmed” people.[6] In the 1860s, Andrew Murray’s church started to speak out against people who began to shout and cry and swoon in a revival in his church, until a visitor from America told him about similar manifestations in American revivals.[7] Decades before holiness evangelist Maria Woodworth-Etter’s involvement in the Pentecostal revival, many people in her meetings fell under the power of the Spirit, including Carrie Judd (Montgomery), an early leader in the C&MA.[8] Moody’s associate R.A. Torrey testified of people falling under the power of God due to conviction of sin.[9] Torrey himself fell under power of the Spirit when baptized with the Holy Spirit.[10] Presbyterian missionary Jonathan Goforth makes reference in his book By My Spirit to the phenomenon occurring in his revivals.[11]

Instances of falling under the power of the Spirit also occurred periodically at C&MA meetings for two decades before Azusa Street. In 1885 A.B. Simpson, the founder of the C&MA, received what we would call today a “word of knowledge” that someone was resisting the Lord. A woman responded, saying it was her. She came forward, and as Simpson anointed her for healing, she was overcome, falling under the power of the Spirit seemingly unconscious for about half an hour, and she received a healing.[12] In 1897 at a joint C&MA/Mennonite camp meeting in Allentown, Pennsylvania, C&MA General Field Supt. Dean Peck preached six services in three days and described: “At service after service . . . I saw people fall as dead under the power of God.” He said it was a genuine revival from God and talked about such things happening among the Methodists 50-60 years ago, but are not frequent now because many revivals are of human manufacture.[13] Manifestations of falling also occurred during the 1907 revival at Simpson’s Gospel Tabernacle, apparently with his approval.[14] Presbyterian Greek professor T. J. McCrossan, who joined C&MA in 1923, while serving as interim president of Simpson Bible Institute, wrote in his book Bodily Healing and the Atonement: “Hundreds are healed, who do not fall under this power, because they simply trust God’s promises; and it is the prayer of faith that heals. Going under this power seems, however, to bring an extra spiritual blessing. . . . This power is not hypnotism. . . . This is not devil power.[15] McCrossan spoke out of the experience of his own life, for not only did he frequently assist Charles Price in laying hands on the sick with people falling, but he himself fell under God’s power and was enraptured with visions when he was baptized in the Spirit in 1921 through Price’s ministry.[16]

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About the Author: Paul L. King holds a D.Min from Oral Roberts University and a D.Th. from the University of South Africa. He served for 16 years on the faculty of Oral Roberts University as Coordinator of Bible Institute programs and Adjunct Professor in the College of Theology and Ministry. Author of 10 books and more than 50 articles, he was ORU 2006 Scholar of the Year and also served as Scholar-at-Large for the D.Min. program at Alliance Theological Seminary. He is currently Doctor of Ministry Mentor for the Randy Clark Scholars program at United Theological Seminary, Leadership and Church Ministry Consultant and Trainer, an ordained pastor with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and Interim Consulting Pastor for the Plano (Texas) Chinese Alliance Church. www.higherlifeministries.com

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