III.A.1 Topeka – The Re-Advent of Tangible Experience

  Part III  –  Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A   –    The Pentecostal Renewal


a.  Tangible Experience

b.  Early Years of Charles Parham’s Ministry

c.  Confirmation of “Initial Evidence”

d.  Burning of Stone’s Folly


a.  Tangible Experience

The Azusa Street revivals substantially reintroduced Pentecost to the world after its relative absence since apostolic days.  Given the scarcity of Pentecostal experience in the historic denominations, there was a tremendous scarcity of doctrine on the subject.  The reformers of the sixteenth-century did not address Pentecost as a universal principle even though the prophecies of Joel clearly present the pouring forth of God’s Spirit in those terms.[1]  While the centuries following the Reformation contain many examples of God’s Spirit working among men in spiritual awakenings and revivals of faith, there is scarce record of occurrences of Pentecost since the first-century.[2]  As such, we find little or no development of Pentecostal doctrine until a twenty-year period commencing upon the arrival of the twentieth-century.

There was one notable exception to this absence of Pentecostal teaching between the Reformation and twentieth-century; this was when preaching within Scotch Presbyterianism in the 1820’s began to render distinction between the principle of initial regeneration and the baptism of the Holy Spirit; a teaching which caused the issue of tongues as the initial evidence of Spirit baptism to rise to the fore.  While that movement appears to have been cut short by the heretical teachings of Edward Irving, the beginnings of a conventionally apostolic Pentecost which returned the gifts and ministries to operation in the Church, did manifest in the wake of the teaching of tongues as constituting the sign of Spirit-baptism.  Irving’s biographer, Jean Christie Root writes:

So much misunderstanding has always existed in regard to the Gift of the Tongues” , supposed by Irving and his people to be the manifestation of the baptism by the Holy Ghost.[3]

Therefore the doctrine that was originally preached with signs following (but cut short by heresy) in Scotland and England was allowed restoration exactly seventy years later in Topeka.  The doctrine of Initial Evidence came into nearly universal acceptance within the Pentecostal Movement and was zealously preached in the earlier days of Pentecost.  This doctrine maintains that to be baptized in the Holy Spirit is to receive the Holy Spirit, and that (further) the universal sign that one has received the Holy Spirit is that he/she will; “speak in other tongues as the Spirit [gives] utterance”.  While Initial Evidence is not so zealously preached within the Pentecostal denominations today, the doctrine does remain a part of the statements of faith of practically every significant Pentecostal denomination.[4]

If nineteenth-century holiness seemed a vague concept, there was a dynamic tangibility that was added to the movement in 1901.  Primitive Methodism, followed by its progeny in the Holiness Movement had made profession of an inward work they called “sanctification.”  This was the Wesleyan doctrine that pervaded Revivalistic-Christianity for the period of more than a hundred years leading up to the events in Topeka, Kansas.  Being an inward work made the experience a difficult matter for discussion or for firm teaching.  The experience was difficult to identify, difficult to communicate, and difficult to understand; particularly when the men and women who described it, each seemed to have their own peculiar sense of the experience, their own personal impressions, and unique circumstances in advance of its coming.[5]  Furthermore, those who described a dramatic and profound experience, did not always bear the same good fruit as those that could not claim to such an experience.   It is therefore understandable that many were confused on the subject even within Methodism, and that Methodism would divide on the issue of whether Wesley’s crisis event sanctification really existed as credible work of the Spirit.

A major step toward clarification occurred on January 1, 1901 when the touch of God became so concrete as to be perceived by the senses.  The re-advent of Pentecost was the re-advent of the baptism of the Holy Ghost; not as taught within Methodism or the Holiness Movement, but as taught by a new movement whose members were called Pentecostals, and as confirmed to many through the outpourings in Topeka in 1901, at Azusa Street between 1906 and 1913, and in the many thousands of occasions throughout the world over the past hundred years where the experience is taught and sought for.  This peculiar Pentecostal doctrine of Initial Evidence was  asserted by Charles Parham in 1901,[6] brought to Los Angeles in 1906 by William Seymour, and developed over the succeeding decade by many of its anointed ministries.

The re-advent of Pentecost removed the ambiguity over whether one had been brought into Christ.   Men were told to “seek”, and to “pray”, and to “tarry”, until they were positively “sealed” by the Holy Ghost coming upon them in so tangible a manner that they themselves would show it forth with their own mouth; they would speak in tongues and sometimes they would prophesy.  The baptism was often accompanied by other physical phenomenon as well, such as acute physical sensations or bodily healing.  This is not to minimize the non-physical phenomenon that often surrounded the baptism, such as: visions, impressions, internal words, dreams, divine knowledge, etc.  However, the Pentecostal doctrine that was universally proclaimed was very specific as well as adamant that in all cases, there would exist the evidence of Acts 2:4, ie. that the recipient would “speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

We now follow the restoration of the apostolic doctrine into the twentieth-century, where we find the particular redemptive principle of restoration to be that of Pentecost.   In entering upon this review, we might notice a pattern suggesting a new movement of truth occurring within each of the last five centuries for which the twentieth was certainly no exception.  While the twentieth-century restoration of Pentecost involved many outpourings and revivals throughout the world, and was received by persons and groups of a variety of denominational persuasions, the initial event came upon a small group associated with the “Come Outers” of Methodism, and is generally regarded as having been received in two particularly marked events.   These two events were the initial outpouring in Topeka in 1901, followed by the factually-related and phenomenal outpourings at Azusa Street in Los Angeles running from 1906 to 1913 which served to substantially spread Pentecost abroad in the succeeding decades.

b.   Early Years of Charles Parham’s Ministry

In the initial outpouring, we find that a remarkable event occurred in a remarkable place, on a remarkable date, and under remarkable circumstances.  Topeka’s Bethel Bible College was run by Methodist “come-outer”, Charles Parham, who published the Apostolic Faith, a Holiness journal  asserting that the gifts of the Holy Spirit should characterize the church of the last days.

Parham began training for the Methodist ministry in 1890 during which time he became disenchanted with the church and denominationalism generally.  However, in 1891 he experienced a miraculous healing that caused him to rededicate himself to God’s purposes and to pursue ministerial credentials.   In 1893 he was licensed to preach and was appointed as a supply pastor for the Methodist Episcopal Church in Eudora, Kansas.[7]   Parham held to the Wesleyan teaching on sanctification and “Christian perfection;” beliefs that had fallen out of favor within the Methodist  church.  While attending the annual conference in March of 1895 shortly after the Methodist denomination formally rejected Wesleyan teaching on sanctification and upon listening to his bishop speak, he described himself as “horror stricken” that the church no longer permitted its ministers to preach under direct inspiration of the Spirit of God, and with that, resigned his license to preach and severed his association with the Methodist Episcopal Church.[8]

Parham’s decision to become one of the “Come Outers” from Methodism led him into a time of  independence, but also into a time of wandering and searching for answers.  The thrust of his ministry during the 1890’s turned to healing as a benefit of the atonement, [9] and he began to have success, as healings were occurring under his preaching.  In 1898 he opened a healing home in Topeka, Kansas as a place to concentrate upon the doctrines of holiness and to refine his understanding of the doctrinal principles behind physical healing.    This is when he began publishing his magazine, the Apostolic Faith which served to advertise his successes and to communicate his teachings on the issue of holiness and healing.   A little more than a year after opening the healing home, Parham suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to defer much of his responsibilities to others at the home.  He shortly thereafter undertook a cross country tour of other healing ministries of reputation in his search for an answer on what was the genuine apostolic faith.

During the time of his breakdown, his magazine began to carry less of his own articles and to borrow heavily from other ministries, such as the Chicago-work of the flamboyant faith healer, Alexander Dowie, and articles by the evangelistic-premillenialist Dwight Moody, who had recently-deceased.  Likewise, the “fire baptism” that was being preached by Benjamin Irwin and which was steadily growing in influence was accepted by Parham’s Apostolic Faith magazine during this period, and in May of 1899 Parham’s newspaper published the testimony of a Charles Croft who described his experience of a “fire baptism” that occurred following an experience of conversion, and second experience of sanctification, and was on this basis construed as a third blessing.

Parham undertook his cross-country tour of healing ministries during the summer of 1900, visiting several organizations that seemed to be having success and that had been making claims to be attended by the Spirit of God.  His ultimate destination was Frank Sandford’s Christian commune in the state of Maine, known as Shiloh.  His intention was to enroll in Sandford’s Bible School.  He made a stop in Chicago to visit the ministries of both Dowie and Moody.  He also visited the work of A.B. Simpson in Nyack, New York.

By this time, the ministry of Benjamin Irwin had fallen into disrepute after Irwin’s sudden resignation that Spring upon the revelation he had been leading a “double life” of sin. This revelation (along with some doctrinal excesses leading up thereto) served to prejudice many against the concept of a “baptism of fire” and served to harm the reputations of those endorsing the concept, and to harm the faith of many within the movement itself.   Likewise, the next few years would see the ministries of Dowie and Sandford enter into flagrant presumption and into great public disrepute.[10]    Irwin’s disgrace seems to have had a discouraging effect upon Parham, who began to have substantial concerns relating to what it meant to “receive the Holy Spirit”, and what was that true baptism preached by the apostles.

After this tour (which included an evangelistic-mission to Canada with Sandford) he returned to Topeka with a new sense of purpose and a new zeal, only to find that he was no longer welcome by the ministers he had left in charge of his healing home.  Upon this rejection, he and his wife opened Bethel Bible College in Topeka which soon consisted of about three dozen students.

c.  Confirmation of “Initial Evidence”

Near the end of 1900, Parham began challenging his students to look for the true Scriptural way of determining whether someone had received the Holy Spirit.  After Christmas he left the school for three days having propounded to them the question.  He writes:

. . . I went to Kansas City for three days services [and returned] to the school on the morning preceding Watch night services in the year 1900.  At about 10 o’clock in the morning I rang the bell calling the students into the chapel to get their report on the matter in hand.  To my astonishment they all had the same story, that while there were different things [which] occurred when the Pentecostal blessing fell, that the indisputable proof on each occasion was, that they spake with other tongues. [11]

After describing how consensus had been achieved to the effect that the Scriptural evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit was the phenomenon of speaking in tongues, a most remarkable event occurred.  Parham continues:

About 75 people beside the school, which consisted of 40 students had gathered for the watch night service.  A mighty spiritual power filled the entire school.  At 10:30 P.M. sister Agnes N. Ozman, (now La Berge) asked that hands might be laid upon her to receive the Holy Spirit as she hoped to go to foreign fields.  At first I refused, not having the experience myself.  Then being further pressed to do it humbly in the name of Jesus, I laid my hands upon her head and prayed.  I had scarcely repeated three dozen sentences when a glory fell upon her, a halo seemed to surround her head and face, and she began speaking in the Chinese language, and was unable to speak English for three days.

Unable to speak English for three days, Ms. Ozman began to write automatically, believing herself controlled by the Holy Ghost.[12]  She later explains:

God poured out His Spirit on me so mightily and so wonderfully and when I began to talk I spoke in tongues.  I motioned for paper and pencil and when I started to write I did not write in English, but made characters in another language.

The newspapers soon began to report upon the events at Bethel, and Parham displayed Ms. Ozman’s sketch, which was to be published in various newspapers.  There was no explanation for its meaning.  Lilian Thistlewaite (Parham’s sister-in-law) was present at the school, and followed Ms. Ozman in receiving the baptism.  In her account of the Topeka outpouring she writes:

On Mr. Parham’s return to the school with his friends, he asked the students whether they had found any Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  The answer was unanimous, “speaking in tongues.”

She describes those days as characterized by a sense of expectancy:

The service on New Year’s night was especially spiritual and each heart was filled with the hunger for the will of God to be done in them.  One of the students, a lady who had been in several other Bible schools, asked Mr. Parham to lay hands upon her that she might receive the Holy Spirit.  As he prayed, her face lighted up with the glory of God and she began to speak with “other tongues”.  She afterward told us she had received a few words while in the prayer tower, but now her English was taken from her and with floods of joy and laughter she praised God in other languages.  There was very little sleeping among any of us that night.  The next day still being unable to speak English, she wrote on a piece of paper, “Pray that may interpret.” 

In the days that followed, Parham and his students began to “tarry” for the same experience.  On  the night of January 3rd he preached “Pentecost” at the Methodist Church in nearby Kansas City, stating that he expected to receive the experience himself.  He writes that after preaching of this expectancy:

On returning to the school with one of the students, we ascended to the second floor, and passing down along the corridor in the upper room, heard most wonderful sounds.  The door was slightly ajar, the room was lit with only coal oil lamps.  As I pushed open the door I found the room was filled with a sheen of white light above the brightness of the lamps.  Twelve ministers of different denominations, who were in the school were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with other tongues.  Some were sitting, some still kneeling, others standing with hands upraised.  There was no violent physical manifestation, though some trembled under the power of the glory that filled them.  Sister Stanley, an elderly lady, came across the room as I entered, telling me that just before I entered, tongues of fire were sitting above their heads.

He continues:

When I beheld the evidence of the restoration of Pentecostal power, my heart was melted in gratitude to God for what my eyes had seen.  For years I had suffered terrible persecutions for preaching holiness and healing and the soon coming of the Lord.

Parham then kneeled behind a table to ask God for the baptism.  He relates:[13]

After praising God for some time, I asked Him for the same blessing.   He distinctly made it clear to me that He raised me up and trained me to declare this mighty truth to the world, and if I was willing to stand for it, with all the persecutions, hardships, trials, slander, scandal that it would entail, He would give me the blessing.  And I said, “Lord, I will, if you will just give me this blessing.”  Right then there came a slight twist in my throat, a glory fell over me and I began to worship God in the Swedish tongue, which later changed to other languages and continued so until the morning.

Approximately half of the student body would receive the Pentecostal baptism along with many from outside the school.  The next few years of Parham’s ministry were spent preaching the experience of Pentecost in the lower midwestern states with many hundreds receiving the Pentecostal experience as a result.  As a Wesleyan “Come-Outer” from Methodism, Parham was also a stern advocate of Wesley’s “Second Work” doctrine of sanctification.

The Topeka outpouring represented an evangelistic return of the miracle of the Holy Spirit’s baptism.  As such, the circumstances of its return suggested a new era of restoration for the Church as the outpouring occurred:  on the very first day of the century, in the near-geographic center of the country, upon those recently severed from a Methodism in rejection of Wesleyan (Holiness) teaching, and at such time when tongues was accepted by consensus as the sign God had established for the Spirit’s reception.

d.  Burning of Stone’s Folly

That outpouring of the Holy Spirit regarded as the seminal event heralding Pentecost to the twentieth-century occurred in Topeka, Kansas on January 1, 1901, within a large mansion known colloquially as “Stone’s Folly.”

One of the participants of the outpouring was Lilian Thistlethwaite, the sister of Charles Parham’s wife.  She received the baptism in the Holy Spirit some days after the the first recipient, Agnes Ozman.  She writes that; “an upper room was set apart for tarrying before the Lord.”[14]  It was here Ms. Thistlethwaite received the Spirit’s baptism and spoke in tongues.  She describes the inside of the building as follows:

The building procured for this school was known by the people of Topeka, Kansas as the “StoneMansion” or “Stone’s Folly” because it had been patterned after an English castle, and he, having failed to “count the cost,” was unable to finish in the style planned.  The beautiful carved staircase and finished woodwork of cedar of Lebanon, spotted pine, cherry wood and bird’s eye maple, ended on the third-floor with plain wood and common paint. [15]

In the upper room of this mansion, she became one of the first persons  in the twentieth-century to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  She describes her experience as follows:

Still I was not looking for “tongues” but some evidence from God (I didn’t know of what nature) that would convince me I had the baptism.  We prayed for ourselves, we prayed for one another.  I never felt so little and utterly nothing before.  A scrap of paper charred by a fire is the best description I can give of my feelings.  Then through the Spirit this message came to my soul, “Praise Him for the baptism for He does come in by faith through the laying on of hands.”  Then a great joy came into my soul and I began to say, “I praise Thee.”  My tongue began to get thick and great floods of laughter came into my heart.  I could no longer think of words of praise, for my mind was sealed, but my mouth was filled with a rush of words I didn’t understand.  I tried not to laugh for I feared to grieve the Spirit.  I tried to praise Him in English but could not, so I just let the praise come as it would in the new language given, with floodgates of glory wide open.  He had come to me, even to me to speak not of Himself but to magnify the Christ, and oh, what a wonderful, wonderful Christ was revealed.  Then I realized I was not alone for all around me I heard great rejoicing while others spoke in tongues and magnified God.  I think Mrs. Parham’s language was the most perfect.  Immediately following came the interpretation, a beautiful poem of praise and worship to Christ, proving the word of the Savior, “When the Comforter is come . .He shall testify of Me . . . shall not speak of Himself . . . shall teach you all things and bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you.   Then, as with a simultaneous move we began to sing together each one singing in his own new language in perfect harmony.  As we sang, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name”, and other familiar tunes, it would be impossible to describe the hallowed glory of His presence in our midst. [16]

During the summer following the Topeka outpouring, the building known as “Stone’s Mansion” or “Stone’s Folly” was sold to a Mr. Croft who turned it into a pleasure resort (known then as a “road house”).  Concerning this circumstance, Sarah Parham writes:

We had dreamed that the building had been bought and that it burned to the ground.  Mr. Parham told the men, and warned them that if they used the building (that God had honored with His presence) for ungodly purposes, they would not prosper.  They may have thought we told them this with a selfish motive but this was not so. [17]

As it turned out the mansion did burn to the ground on December 5, 1901.   Returning to Ms. Thistlethwaite’s testimony, she writes of that event:

While living in Kansas City we heard that the building where Pentecost first fell was burned.  This was not a surprise to us, as it had been turned into a road house and the rooms that once had heard only the voice of supplication and praise to God, had been desecrated by worldly revelry.  Warning was given that such actions would not go unpunished, for the house was dedicated to the Lord from its highest place of observation to the cellar. [18]

Thus the mansion where Pentecost first fell in the course of its restoration to the world, and from whence the Azusa Street outpourings would occur, burned to the ground shortly after its remarkable role in history.  Having been termed; “Stone’s Folly” after its builder that did not “count the cost,” its “beautiful carved-staircase and finished woodwork of cedar of Lebanon” was set ablaze within six months after it was made a place of revelry for sinners.

[1] Joel 2:28  “. . . and it will come about after this that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind.”

[2] “Pentecost” meaning the return of the sign-gifts of the Spirit, the Pentecostal baptism and anointing, etc.

[3] Edward Irving; Man, Preacher, Prophet, by Jean Christie Root, originally published in 1912.  Republished © 2010 by Wipf & Stock, Eugene, OR, pg. 95

[4] As to the largest Pentecostal denomination in the U.S., the Assemblies of God, this doctrine appears at Article V at item 8 entitled; The Initial Physical Evidence of the Baptism in the Holy Ghost.   The ag.org website states their belief concisely as; “The baptism of believers in the Holy Spirit is witnessed by the initial physical sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit of God gives them utterance.”

A few other examples of doctrinal statements on the issue of initial evidence are:

Church of God, Cleveland Tennessee believes; “. . in speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance and that it is the initial evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.”

Foursquare; “We believe that those who experience Holy Spirit baptism today will experience it in the same manner that believers experienced it in the early church; in other words, we believe that they will speak in tongues-languages that are not known to them.”

Open Bible Standard Churches“. . . believers should anticipate Spirit-baptism to be accompanied by speaking in tongues and other biblical manifestations.”

[5] A case in point is the Methodist series of publications; How They Entered Canaan describing hundreds of different experiences by various individuals (most of which were) prominent within Methodism.

[6] Parham preached the doctrine throughout the Midwest in the first decade of the twentieth-century.

[7] Fields White Unto Harvest;Charles F. Parham and the Missionary Origins of Pentecostalism, by James R. Goff, Jr. © 1988, The Univ of Arkansas Press, pg. 31.

[8] Ibid. pg. 36

[9] Ibid. pg. 43

[10] Dowie would open a panacea-community called Zion City wherein he demonstrated an extremely-autocratic style, overtly-uncharitable behaviors, and self-motivated decisions that bankrupted the community and led to his ouster as leader.  In 1902 he proclaimed himself an apostle, and Elijah the Restorer.   Sandford made the same claim to being the prophesied Elijah and began to demonstrate maniacal-behaviors for which he earned the public’s reprehension.  He led his school into substantial doctrinal-error and spiritual bondage before finally being sentenced to prison over the deaths of some of his membership.  For Sandford’s story, see the book; Fair, Clear, & Terrible, by Shirley Nelson © 1989 British American Publishing.

[11] The Topeka Outpouring, by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, P.O. Box 2152, Joplin, MO64083, at pages 36-37.

[12] The Topeka Outpouring, by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, P.O. Box 2152, Joplin, MO 64083, at page 85.

[13] The Topeka Outpouring, by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, P.O. Box 2152, Joplin, MO 64083, at page 38.

[14] The Topeka Outpouring of 1901, compiled and edited by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, at pg. 60.

[15] The Topeka Outpouring of 1901, compiled and edited by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, at pg. 57.

[16] The Topeka Outpouring of 1901, compiled and edited by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, at pg. 61.

[17] The Topeka Outpouring of 1901, compiled and edited by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, at pg. 117.

[18] The Topeka Outpouring of 1901, compiled and edited by Larry E. Martin © 1997 Christian Life Books, at pg. 62.


About Lamp-Stand

I was converted to the faith of Jesus Christ in 1982 at which time I received water baptism and Spirit baptism. In the Spring of 2008 I was led of the Spirit through a process of repentance upon which I had an encounter with Christ that worked a profound change upon my inner being. I became aware that I had been forgiven a great debt of sin. I soon felt the Lord's direction that I close my office that my energies not be divided from the study of doctrine.
This entry was posted in 3A. PENTECOSTAL RENEWAL (Application to Pentecostal Theology) and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s