III.A.7.e The Witness of Durham’s Personal Testimony

PART  III – Application to Pentecostal Theology

Subpart A – The Pentecostal Renewal

Article 7 – The Finished Work as Incomplete Pentecostal Theology

Section (e) – The Witness of Durham’s Personal Testimony

By Daniel Irving

i.    Significant Role of the Pentecostal Testimony

ii.   Durham’s Personal Testimony as Paralleling Wesleyan Concept of Sanctification

iii.  Durham’s Personal Testimony of Receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

iv.  The Wesleyan Testimony of an Anti-Wesleyan?

v.   The Unanswered Pentecostal Question

Durham 01

This article may be viewed in video format via the Youtube link below:

Section (d)


i.   Significant Role of the Pentecostal Testimony

The Pentecostal renewal may represent the most profound advance in the restoration of apostolic doctrine since light began to dawn at the time of the Reformation.   Thus the original pioneers who received the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Topeka and at Azusa Street present a vital witnesses to the work of God in the progress of His kingdom.  Apostolic Faith Group 1910Their ministries, their testimonies, and their lives stand testament for us today and serve as guideposts for our discernment of the work of God in the earth.  January 1, 1901 marked a significant advancement of the Gospel when the experience and doctrine of Pentecost was restored to humanity.  But at the same time, there seemed to have been a turning back of a significant portion of the light that had been previously restored through the ministry and witness of John Wesley, early Methodism, and the nineteenth-century Holiness movement.

As related in Section (b) of this article, the ministry of William Durham following his baptism at Azusa Street was characterized by remarkable Pentecostal power, and his teachings quickly assumed a central role in the formation and promulgation of the doctrines of classical Pentecostalism.  In addition to the evangelistic doctrines of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, deliverance from sin, and holiness of life, Durham zealously preached the Pentecostal doctrine of Initial Evidence that had been restored at the Topeka outpouring of 1901.[1]  His unique contribution to the direction of the Pentecostal movement was his doctrine of the Finished Work of Calvary which effectually dissuaded Pentecostalism from the stance assumed by the original (Wesleyan) Pentecostals that the baptism of the Holy Spirit must sequentially follow the Second Work of Sanctification taught by John Wesley.  Wesley - John 02However, as also related in Section (b), Durham’s attacks upon the Pentecostal Second Work struck deeper than the Pentecostal form of the doctrine, implicating as well the central doctrine that had been the strength of the Holiness movement and early Methodism and which had represented the chief vehicle for religious revivalism over the previous 150 years.

Given his central role in the restoration of the Pentecostal witness, as well as his central role in Pentecostalism’s rejection of the Wesleyan-Holiness testimony, Durham’s ministry, life, and testimony become for us a matter of great pertinence in our effort to study and to discern the work of God in our own day.  Much of his testimony and ministry has been preserved for us today through the publication of his periodical entitled The Pentecostal Testimony.

ii.  Durham’s Personal Testimony as Paralleling Wesleyan Concept of Sanctification

Durham tells of his initial coming to Christ as constituting little more than a change of mind.  He writes:Durham 01

I was born and raised in the State of Kentucky, where I united with the Baptist Church about the year 1891.  I was sincere at the time, but I was not converted.  Therefore my experience was a great disappointment to me, for I knew that, as a member of the church, I ought to have an experience; but I had no joy or peace, or knowledge of salvation.[2]

Through a mental assent to the truth, Durham entered upon a mouth’s profession of Jesus Christ.  Yet he acknowledges that during this period he did not know salvation.  Therefore by his own testimony Durham existed for a time in a disappointing condition of wanting to know Christ, but absent the equipping of faith.  But Durham entered upon yet another phase.  He writes:

In the year 1898 . . . the Holy Spirit deeply convicted me of sin.  This came about through reading the Word of God; and being convinced of its truth, I was made to see that I was a guilty sinner.  The Spirit was so faithful in dealing with me, that I could find no rest or peace, until I resolved to yield myself to God the best I knew how, and call upon Him for mercy.  Crucifixion FeetThe moment I did so, the Holy Spirit revealed Jesus Christ to me hanging on the Cross, and said to me, “Christ died for your sins.”  Faith instantly sprung up in my heart to accept Him as my full Savior, and the moment I did so, I felt the quickening power of the Spirit, was made a new creature in Christ, and unutterable joy filled my soul.  The Spirit bore faithful witness to me that I was a child of God.  I knew beyond doubt, that I was washed in the Blood of Jesus, and the peace that passes all understanding filled my soul.  I would have soon met God as my dearest friend.[3]

Durham describes an awakening of faith that occurred for him in 1898.  This was the year he came under conviction for sin and the truth of his forgiveness became a vital reality.  Having made the mental assent and the mouth’s profession to the truth of the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God was able to awaken him from the dead in order to speak to his heart and to reveal the truth on a much deeper level; the truth that Jesus Christ bore the penalty for his sin.  With this knowledge, he was able to truly believe what before he could only make mental assent to and an outward profess of.

But apparently Durham continued to have trouble.  He acknowledges that somehow he was not entirely in a place he would have hoped to be, and his life was continually marked by stumbling, for he continues:

I had no one to tell me that the next step was to be buried with Him, in Whom I had died and had been made alive.  Had I been taught the truth, as the Apostles taught it, had I been baptized and had hands laid on me, I would have at once received the Holy Ghost.  I should then have been taught to reckon that I was “dead indeed,” and that I was to live and walk only in the Holy Spirit; but I could not walk in Him Whom I had not yet received.  Like thousands of others I drifted. [4]

Although Durham had experienced an awakened condition which allowed him to close with God in terms of belief and to accept the forgiveness of his sins, the period that followed was not a period of stability.  Even now, Durham does not yet consider himself truly established.  He does not consider that he has found the experience of sanctification.  But he continues:Heaven 01

After two years of investigating the theories of men and struggling in every way known to me to obtain the experience of sanctification, and failing in all, I finally had grace given me from God to yield myself to Him, and trust the merits of the Blood alone, just as I had done three years before, when as a trembling sinner, I stood before the Cross and had a glimpse of the glorious Son of God, who died thereon, given me.  [5]

Durham brings us up to the year 1901 as the time wherein he experienced an event of Grace being imparted to him for the purpose of his establishment in sanctification.  He describes this event as so profound, he originally believed it to be the moment he received the Holy Spirit.  He writes:

To my unutterable joy this step brought me back into the same state of entire sanctification and heavenly rest, peace and joy, which I had the first time I stood in the same  place.  As in the case of all who remain under the Blood, the Spirit dealt wondrously with me.  The influence of His presence with me was so real and precious, that I really thought I had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Nonetheless, having been powerfully established, he nonetheless realizes what he has experienced was not the same experience recorded in the book of Acts.  He writes:

My greatest difficulty was in harmonizing my experience with that in the Acts of the Apostles.   Paul before Ruler 01My difficulty was, that I mistook soul rest and peace, and the sweet holy joy of salvation, and the witness, and influence of the Spirit, for the gift of the Spirit.  O, how many are making this sad mistake!  I knew my experience did not measure up to the standard of the Acts of the Apostles, but like all holiness teachers and people that I have met, I either kept out of the book of Acts, or confounded the wonderful outpourings of the Holy Spirit recorded there, with sanctification.  What a sad mistake.  What could be more ridiculous than the teaching, that it was sanctification, or any other work of grace, the Apostles received on the day of Pentecost.[6]

It would be nearly six years thereafter (1907) that Durham would go on to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  His testimony relating to the process of his sanctification is quite remarkable in that while Durham stood in rejection of the Wesleyan theology of a graduated process of redemption marked by a definite event of “sanctification,” his own experience ran consistent with the experience professed by the Wesleyans.  The difference is Durham did not interpret his experience the same as did the Wesleyans due to his roots in Baptistic theology which oriented him toward a non-graduated view of redemption.  Neither does Durham come out and identify his experience as “sanctification” as would have Wesleyans.  Such disinclination to place a label upon experience is understandable given the Baptistic tradition oriented toward redemption as a singular principle focused upon the Cross of Jesus Christ. Durham writes concerning the tendency of Christians to misidentify spiritual-experience:

The fact that someone had an experience, has little weight with us, if that experience is not according to the word of God.  We do not doubt, generally speaking, that a person has had an experience, nor that it was a good experience, but we do believe that in very many cases people call their experiences by the wrong names.  In fact the mistake of the age is misnaming experiences.  This has resulted in many of us being compelled to acknowledge, with shame, that we had professed, in all honesty, that we had some particular experience, and when God opened our eyes to see His Word on the subject, we saw that we had had an experience, and called it by a very much larger name than we had any Scriptural warrant for calling it.[7]

Indeed, Durham would likely have rejected anyone attempting to place the label of “sanctification” upon any one of his experiences given that for Durham, sanctification was not limited to a moment-in-time event but was a life’s process of perpetually turning toward that singular truth that is the Cross of Jesus Christ. Therefore he adamantly rejected that men should look to anything other than the Cross of Jesus Christ.  For to do so, as he maintained, invited stumbling.  He writes:

. . . young and even old converts have been told that what they needed was a second work of grace, when they should have been told that what they needed was to get back under the Blood and reckon themselves dead, and live the overcoming life.  Instead of telling folks that there is an experience that removes the necessity for bearing the daily cross, they should have been taught that the Christian life is a battle from conversion to glorification.

He continues:

This is the reason there are so many up and down experiences.  People are saved, and the glory and power of God fills their souls, but they grow careless and lose the joy of their salvation, and often get into darkness and confusion.  They are often told while in this state, that they should seek to be sanctified.  This is of course true.  They need to be sanctified, but reclamation would be a much better name for it.

Durham pointed to the bad fruit of the Second Work doctrine as evidence of its error:

It is a sad thing that so many, who never had any experience that they could call a “definite second work of grace” have been rejected and refused fellowship or started to seeking for an experience that is not to be found in the word of God.  Many have gotten into awful confusion on account of this very thing, and it is high time the truth was taught and the people undeceived. [8]

Therefore the thrust of his teaching, as related by The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements was as follows:

Sanctification for Durham was a gradual process of appropriating the benefits of the finished work of Christ, not a second instantaneous work of grace subsequent to conversion.  Durham therefore did not restrict the time of sanctification either to the moment of regeneration or to any other particular subsequent moment in the Christian experience.  He objected to the doctrine of entire sanctification because he felt it circumvented the need for an ongoing sanctification process in the life of the Christian.[9]

Durham maintained that it was not a second work, but rather the original work of grace that would be provided us upon repentance:

God will restore us over and over, if we truly repent when we fail, but it must be an insult to Him for us to teach that it takes more than one work for Him to save us from all sin if we meet His conditions faithfully. [10]

iii.  Durham’s Personal Testimony of Receiving the Baptism of the Holy Spirit

In 1906 Durham’s home church in Chicago was beginning to feel the effects of Pentecost.  Several persons in his congregation had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and he too became convinced the experience was of God.  He also heard reports of the amazing events transpiring in Los Angeles relating to the outpouring of God’s Spirit at Azusa Street.  However, he did not at that time accept the doctrine of Initial Evidence that was being proclaimed at Azusa.  He writes:

But when I heard the teaching, that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Ghost, it stirred me to the depths.  I fearlessly denounced this point of doctrine as false; but when I saw the people who were filled with the Spirit and speaking in tongues, I knew that their experience was genuine.  I simply thought they were wrong on this point.  If this teaching were true, I had not the baptism.  This would mean that I would have to come down and take the place of a seeker.  It is easy to see how hard it would be for me to do this, as I had preached the Gospel for about five years, and all the time professed to have the Holy Ghost, and tried to lead others into the same experience.  So I said, “no man can ever convince me, that I have not received the Holy Ghost.”  No man ever could have done it; but God did it.” [11]

Durham relates that in the fall of 1906 the Spirit began to fall upon people in his city of Chicago.  When he observed the joy, the glory, and the power that came upon their lives and when he heard the speaking in tongues with God’s glory upon them he knew he must seek the experience for himself.  Durham decided to lay aside his pastoral duties and travel to Los Angeles for this purpose.  He writes:Azusa Building

I shall never forget my first day in Azusa Street Mission.  As soon as I entered the place, I saw that God was there.  There were hundreds of people present, yet no man seemed to have anything to do with what was happening.  The Holy Ghost seemed to have perfect control.  My soul was melted down before the Lord.  After a few hymns had been sung, a wave of power and glory seemed to sweep over the place, and a song broke forth in the Spirit, known in this movement as the Heavenly Anthem.  It was the sweetest music that ever fell on my ears.  It was the Spirit of God Himself, and I knew it.  I could not sing in that choir, though I would have given much to do so.  I had not received Him, who was doing the singing.  I saw clearly, for the first time, the difference between having the influence and presence of the Spirit with us, and having Him dwell within us in person. [12]

Durham commenced upon a regimen of tarrying at the Azusa Street Mission for the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  He writes:

I simply waited, claiming God’s promise, trusting in the merits of the Blood of Christ alone.  On the 26th day of February, 1907, I went to the afternoon service.  I was at the end of everything; and the Lord knew it.  There were 30 or more people present in the prayer room.  Three of God’s dear children came to me, and as they stood over me, one of them said, “Just cease trying to do anything, and surrender all to God.”  I did so; when, O, joy, a thrill of power went through me, followed by another.  Instantly it appeared as if everyone of my pores were suddenly opened and a mighty current of power turned into me from every side; and so grat was the infilling, that it seemed as if the physical life would be crowded out of my body.  I literally grasped for breath, and fell in a heap on the floor.  My strength was gone, but I was perfectly conscious of everything; so kept lifting my heart to God and earnestly entreating Him to finish the work.  So intense was my longing to have the work finished, that I was reaching Heavenward with one hand all the time.  God knows best how to do His work.  I am glad He did not finish the work the first time the power came upon me.  My experience has been much more valuable as He gave it to me.  No tongue can tell what passed between God and my soul these first two hours I was under His power.  It was glorious and wonderful.  It was heaven.  Such love, such sweetness, such a revelation of the Blood as the only remedy for sin, such a revelation of Christ as the only Savior, and many things that it is impossible for me to tell.  After two hours He withdrew, leaving me the great benefit I had received from is visit, but with a consciousness that He Who had so wondrously wrought, had departed from me.  I was disappointed, but knew He would return and finish His work. . . . He made me to know that this was simply my own spirits being brought into a state of rapture, and that the baptism was not yet completed. [13]

And he continues:

The Lord permitted me to walk in this state for two days and nights.  Then, as I knelt before Him, the Spirit again fell on me.  Again, I fell to the floor, and for two hours His mighty power was upon me.  This time there were more manifestations, shakings, etc.  Still I did not get the baptism.  In spite of my earnest pleadings, He again left me, and I was conscious that the work was not finished.  I had come to believe that speaking in tongues was the evidence of the baptism; and besides this my own heart told me there was more. [14]

It seems noteworthy that Durham did not receive the baptism until after coming to accept the doctrine of Initial Evidence that had stood precedent since the events in Topeka of January 1, 1901.  After many days of tarrying at Azusa, he would eventually receive the seal that included the sign of speaking in tongues.  He describes his experience as follows:

The next night, I knelt at the altar again, holding before God the words of Christ, that if they ask for bread He will not give them a stone, etc.  Again the Spirit fell on me, and again I went down under His mighty power.  For three hours He wrought wondrously with me.  I have never witnessed anything just like it.  My body was worked in sections, a section at a time.  Even the skin on my face was jerked and shaken; and finally I felt my lower jaw begin to quiver in a strange way.  This continued for some time, when finally my throat began to enlarge and I felt my vocal organs being, as it were, drawn into a different shape. . . . Last of all I felt my tongue begin to move and my lips begin to produce strange sounds, which did not originate in my mind. Seymour - William In a few moments He was speaking clearly through me in other tongues, and then I heard Brother Seymour, the Pastor, say, “He is through now,” etc.  He said that he had retired to rest early in the evening, and that the Spirit had spoken to him and said “Brother Durham will get the baptism tonight,” and that he had arisen and come down.  Then he lifted up his hand and prophesied that where I should preach the Holy Spirit would fall on the people.  The Lord them permitted me to rise to my feet, and He, for Whom my soul had longed, did not leave me this time, but remained, and for a long time I could not help speaking in tongues. [15]

His experience at Azusa Street convinced him of the certainty of the doctrine of Initial Evidence, ie. that the speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives utterance marks the completed work of the believer being sealed of God.  He continues:

I have emphasized the Spirit’s dealing with me before he remained in me, to make it plain that one can have wonderful experiences and yet not receive the personal Holy Ghost. Fire Sky 07 In fact, up to the time I saw the Spirit’s work in the Pentecostal movement, I had never seen anything so wonderful, as the operation of the Spirit upon me, in the two experiences I have described, before He finished His work and took up His abode within me; yet in neither one of them did I receive the Holy Spirit. . . .  It is now nearly four years since I received the Holy Ghost, as he took up His abode within me, March 2nd, 1907.  And every day of this time I have been perfectly conscious of His indwelling presence.  The baptism is only the entrance into the Spirit-filled life, as after receiving Him, He teaches us all things, bringing to our remembrance the words of Jesus, bears His fruits in our lives, imparts His gifts unto us, searches and reveals the deep things of God, and guides us into all truth. . . . Dear reader, the Spirit may not deal with you just as He did with me; but when He comes within you, to take up His abode, He will speak in tongues and magnify God. [16]

iv.  The Wesleyan Testimony of an Anti-Wesleyan?

As the chief agent of the unsettling of Wesleyan theology among Pentecostals, it is remarkable that Durham’s testimony in fact runs perfectly parallel to the Wesleyan model of sanctification as a graduated (ie. phased) process.  This seems to make a case on some level for the validity of Wesleyan teaching.  While it would be understandable for Wesleyans themselves to interpret their experiences with God through the lens of their own doctrinal preconceptions, this was not the case for Durham.  As a staunch Baptist he was virtually immune to the Wesleyan preconceptions of redemption as a graduated process.  And yet, his experience was remarkably similar to that described by the Wesleyans.

Durham’s willingness to travel to Los Angeles to seek an experience in addition to that experience he knew upon his awakening to faith and coming to know something of the power of the Cross is quite remarkable.  His willingness to accept that God does hold forth an event available for those that will ask for it, and who will seek for the experience under the auspices of the Cross of Jesus Christ, ran against the grain of his Baptistic orientation.  Any redemptive event in addition to saving faith was not intuitive to the Baptistic line of thought.  Thus Durham had been given the insight to lay down some of the doctrinal obstacles which might have stood in the way of his receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This willingness to change his mind upon Scriptural evidence also allowed him to change his mind on the doctrine of Initial Evidence so as to truly receive both the experience as well as the doctrine of Pentecost.

v.  The Unanswered Pentecostal Question

Durham describes a day of Grace he experienced in 1898 which was followed by a yet more intensive day of Grace near the year 1901.  In fact, he describes his 1901 experience as so profound, he originally believed it to be the moment he received the Holy Spirit.  He writes:Heaven 01

To my unutterable joy this step brought me back into the same state of entire sanctification and heavenly rest, peace and joy, which I had the first time I stood in the same  place.  As in the case of all who remain under the Blood, the Spirit dealt wondrously with me.  The influence of His presence with me was so real and precious, that I really thought I had received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Yet this was apparently not the common experience of many who were receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit in those days, as indicated in the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements:

One of the reasons for the success of Durham’s viewpoint was that many people seemed to be receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit without first having experienced entire sanctification, despite the belief by second work of grace advocates that entire sanctification was a necessary prerequisite.[17]

This was a point which Durham himself acknowledged in his periodical:

It is a sad thing that so many, who never had any experience that they could call a “definite second work of grace” have been rejected and refused fellowship or started to seeking for an experience that is not to be found in the word of God.  Many have gotten into awful confusion on account of this very thing, and it is high time the truth was taught and the people undeceived. [18]

However, this calls for thoughtful observation.  If it was so that Durham’s preaching fell upon the ears of those who did not necessarily share his precursor experience of a powerful day of Grace, exactly when were his listeners to experience their own Day of Grace?  And if they had not experienced their own revelation of Calvary, to what were they (in Durham’s words) to “return to?”  The only logical answer was that those receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit must also have their own profound experience at the Cross.  Heaven 01Further, if these Spirit-baptized were destined for their own day at the Cross wherein God would reveal the glory of Jesus Christ, this would certainly have constituted for them a second definite work of Grace as that eloquently taught by Wesley (see his Plain Account of Christian Perfection) and that zealously held forth by the Holiness ministers of the nineteenth-century.

[1] See Part 1, Subpart G, Article 1 Topeka and the Re-advent of Tangible Experience for the account of the 1901 outpouring and its meaning in terms of Pentecostal doctrine.

[2] From article in The Pentecostal Testimony entitled; Personal Testimony of Pastor Durham, by William Durham. (published posthumously in 1912) Vol. II, No. 3, pg. 3.

[3] Ibid. pg. 3

[4] Ibid. pg. 3

[5] Ibid. pg. 3

[6] Ibid. pg. 3

[7] The Pentecostal Testimony Vol. I, No. 8 (circa. 1911) , pg. 7 – The article is; The Second Work of Grace People Answered, by William H. Durham.

[8] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

[9] Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements © 1988 Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, pg. 308.

[10] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.

[11] Ibid. pg. 3

[12] Ibid. pg. 3

[13] Ibid. pg. 4

[14] Ibid. pg. 4

[15] Ibid. pg. 4

[16] Ibid. pg. 4

[17]Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements © 1988 Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, pg. 308.

[18] Ibid. Sanctification, by William Durham.


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.
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