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

Holy Laughter

Holy laughter also occurred in early evangelical and holiness circles. Jonathan Edwards describes the reaction of some who were converted in the Great Awakening revival: “Their joyful surprise has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tearing often at the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping.”[17] E. M. Bounds records Wesley saying, “The power of God came mightily upon us, so that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.”[18] Charles Finney wrote that after he testified about his experience of being baptized in the Spirit, a usually serious elder of his church “fell into a most spasmodic laughter. It seemed as if it was impossible for him to keep from laughing from the very bottom of his heart.”[19]

Jessie Penn-Lewis recounts manifestations of holy laughter and being drunk in the Spirit taking place during the Australian Keswick Convention of 1891:

The Convention was marked by clean‑cut surrender to God for all His will to be done at all costs, and by an overflowing joy which followed in hundreds of hearts, so that, as Mr. George Soltau wrote, “Literally ‘our mouths were filled with laughter and our tongues with singing’. . . . It was impossible to restrain one’s heart, the Lord giving us such a foretaste of heaven. Talk of “fleshly excitement,” I wish to bear my testimony that it was nothing less than the fulness of the Spirit. We were verily drunk with the joy of the Lord, and with the vistas of the possibilities of faith opening up to the fully surrendered life of the believer. But it was equally manifest to us all that this joy and blessing is only to be received and retained and increased by the death to self and of self and the most painful crucifixion of self.[20]

In 1897 A.B. Simpson wrote that one of the effects of being filled with the Spirit is “fullness of Joy so that the heart is constantly radiant. This does not depend on circumstances, but fills the spirit with holy laughter in the midst of the most trying surroundings.”[21] Simpson himself records in his diary on September 12, 1907, that he experienced holy laughter for more than an hour.[22]

Oswald Chambers also recorded in his diary on April 19, 1907: “Last night we had a blessed time. I was called down by the teachers to pray and anoint a lady who wanted healing, and as we were doing it God came so near that upon my word we were laughing as well as praying! How utterly stilted we are in our approach to God. Oh that we lived more up to the light of all our glorious privileges.”[23] Chambers evidently believed that laughter could be a sign of revival and, like Simpson, a result of the baptism in the Spirit.[24]

Praying John Hyde, the great intercessor and missionary to China also experienced holy laughter in the summer of the same year. His companion relates of a low caste Punjabi intercessor:

How often has G_____, after most awful crying seemed to break through the hosts of evil and soar up into the presence of the Father! You could see the smile of God reflected in his face. Then he would laugh aloud in the midst of his prayer. It was the joy of a son reveling in the delight of his father’s smile. God has been teaching John [Hyde] and me that his name is the God of Isaac—laughter. . . . Rejoicing, laughing, the same word as Isaac. This holy laughter seemed to relieve the tension and give Heaven’s own refreshment to wrestling spirits.”[25]

Even C&MA leader A. W. Tozer also spoke positively of holy laughter:

Now I say that worship is subject to degrees of perfection and intensity. There have been those who worshiped God to the place where they were in ecstasies of worship. I once saw a man kneel at an altar, taking Communion. Suddenly he broke into holy laughter. This man laughed until he wrapped his arms around himself as if he was afraid he would bust just out of sheer delight in the presence of Almighty God. . . . So worship is capable of running from the very simple to the most intense and sublime.[26]

Spontaneously Dancing for Joy      

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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. Twitter: @PaulLKing. www.higherlifeministries.com

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