The Early Years of the Latter-Day Outpouring
By Fred J. Foster
THE TOPEKA OUTPOURING
A remarkable happening in a small Bible School in Topeka, Kansas on January 1, 1901 is credited to be the lighting of the fire that has swept the world with the Pentecostal experience in this century. This school has been called “the birthplace of the most startling religious phenomenon of modern times.” (1)
Little did Charles F. Parham realize the great significance his desires for the Lord’s work would bring on the twentieth century. Ambitious as he was to further the cause of Christ, his fondest dream could not have enveloped all the glory God would bring on the earth because of the spiritual hunger in his and the students’ hearts.
In 1898, twenty-five-year-old Charles F. Parham and his twenty-one-year-old wife of two years established the Bethel Divine Healing Home in Topeka, Kansas. “The purpose of the Bethel Home was to provide home-like comforts for those who were seeking healing, while we prayed for their spiritual needs, as well as for their bodies. Christian homes for orphan children, and work for the unemployed was also founded. Special studies were given to ministers and evangelists, and many workers were instructed in Bible truths and trained for the gospel work.” (2)
At this time Parham also edited a paper, “The Apostolic Faith,” published twice a month. “At first we had a subscription price; later we announced, ‘For subscription price see Isaiah 55:1,’ and the Lord wonderfully provided. The paper was filled with wonderful testimonies to healing and sermons containing teachings of the Home.” (3)
During this period of church history there was great unrest. The larger denominations had lost much of their spiritual steam, creating a tremendous hunger in the hearts of many desiring spiritual strength that could not be obtained in the more formal worship services. New groups sprang up with various names and doctrines, but most of their founding was predicated on the hunger in their hearts for reality in religious experience.
Parham was one of these, and growing more intent he made a momentous decision: “Our hearts were stirred to deepen our consecration and to search the Word. Deciding to know more fully the latest truths restored by latter-day movements, I left my work in charge of two Holiness preachers and visited various movements…in Chicago…Cleveland…Nyack, New York…Shiloah, Maine and many others.
“I returned home fully convinced that while many had obtained real experiences in sanctification and the anointing that abideth, there still remained a great outpouring of power for the Christians who were to close this age.” (4)
Parham wrote on: “I went to my room to fast and pray, to be alone with God, that I might know His will for my future work. Many of my friends desired me to open a Bible school. By a series of wonderful miracles we were enabled to secure what was then known as Stone’s Folly, a great mansion patterned after an English castle, one mile west of Washburn College in Topeka.” (5)
Stone’s Folly was a beautiful, elaborate building which was never finished as the builder anticipated because of lack of funds. The stairway of beautifully carved cedar, cherry wood and bird’s-eye maple stopped with the second floor, and the third floor had to be finished with much cheaper materials of pine and common maple. The extraordinary two-domed mansion had a cupola at the back, and also an observatory tower, reached by winding stairs. This three-story, thirty-room mansion is where God would signal the latter-day outpouring of the Holy Ghost. (6)
A Topeka newspaper, in an article about Parham’s school, said: “The discovery of a new religion, or perhaps, as its devotees claim, the recovery of that which was lost, has been made in Kansas, of course. The Rev. Charles Parham claims to be the discoverer, and has established a school where the new faith is practiced. It is called Bethel Gospel School and is located at Stone’s Folly near Topeka. Forty enthusiasts are following Parham in his new faith. They pray for what they get, and get what they pray for. They do no work, yet they have plenty to eat and wear. They say the Lord provides. The school was established last September. (Rev. Parham says the school was founded in October). (7) Parham declares that on New Year’s Day one of the students, a Miss Ozman, became suddenly gifted with a strange tongue, spoke in a language unknown to herself or the others and knew not what she said. “The next day,” said Parham, “I went down town, and, upon my return, found all the students sitting on the floor talking in unknown tongues, no two talking the same language, and no one understanding his or her neighbor’s speech. From that time on, the spiritual development was marvelous.” (8)
The account in the paper is very interesting, but the events leading up to this mighty outpouring are very impressive also. After beginning classes in his school, their studies hit a snag. “What about the second chapter of Acts?” (9) This was the problem Parham had wrestled with for sometime. Having to be gone from the school for three days of services, he describes his feelings and what he told the students thus: “I believed our experience should tally exactly with the Bible, and neither sanctification nor the anointing that abideth taught by Stephen Merritt and others tallied with the second chapter of Acts. Having heard so many different religious bodies claim different proofs as the evidence of their having the Pentecostal baptism, I set the students at work studying out diligently what was the Bible evidence of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, that we might go before the world with something that was indisputable because it tallied absolutely with the Word.” (10)
When Parham returned he was anxious to be with the students and hear what they had found concerning the Biblical problem he had left with them. Eagerly he rang the bell about 10:00 o’clock on the morning he arrived, calling the students into the chapel. As he questioned them one by one, to his astonishment they all had the same story: “that while there were different things which occurred when the Pentecostal blessing fell, the indisputable proof on each occasion was that they spoke with other tongues.” (11)
Lilian Thistlethwaite in her account of subsequent events said: “Services were held daily and each night…All felt the influence of a mighty presence in our midst. The service on New Year’s night was especially spiritual and each heart was filled with hunger for the will of God to be done in them. One of the students (Agnes N. Ozman, Later LaBerge). . tasked 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 (this was the observatory tower which was used for a continuous prayer meeting at this time), but now her English was taken from her, and with floods of joy and laughter she praised God in other languages.”
This happened New Year’s Day, 1901, and on the third, Parham and many others likewise received the same experience. Also in the school were twelve ministers of different faiths who were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke with tongues.
“No sooner was this miraculous restoration of Pentecostal power noised abroad than we were besieged with reporters from Topeka papers. Kansas City, St. Louis and many other cities sent reporters, who brought with them professors of languages, foreigners, government and they gave the work the most crucial test. One government interpreter claimed to have heard twenty Chinese dialects distinctly spoken in one night. All agreed that the students were speaking in languages of the world, and that with proper accent and intonation.” (13)
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TOPEKA OUTPOURING
The unusual significance concerning the Topeka outpouring is not that it was the first time in the modem age people had spoken in tongues, but that it was the first known experience of people’s seeking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the expectation of speaking in tongues. “From this time Pentecostal believers were to teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit should be sought, and that it would be received with the evidence of tongues. For this reason the experience of Agnes Ozman is designated as the beginning of the modem Pentecostal revival.” (14)
The practices and teachings of the early church were again being brought into effect by the moving of God’s Spirit. Many believed this was God’s time to again restore to the church all that the New Testament church had, and by the grace of God, they were willing to stake everything on it.
THE FIRE SPREADS
Parham and workers from the school held several revivals in different cities of the area. While this group was away from the school, the ones left prayed long hours for the success of the meetings.
News of this phenomenon spread far and wide and crowds of people would be on hand to hear the evangelist speak.
“The fire quickly spread to Kansas City, Lawrence, Galena, Melrose, Keelville and Baxter Springs. When the fire would reach a city or town, Brother Parham and his workers would hold a revival meeting. Sometimes, as at Galena and Baxter Springs, no building could hold the crowds, and they would pitch a tent in a convenient location and carry on for months. . .
“Soon after the revival in Topeka, ministers from various denominations began to inquire after this new way. Many of the more noble, who searched the Scriptures and found that the experience was Scriptural, became seekers at the altars. Many were filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking with other tongues, and joined Brother Parham in his vigorous crusades.” (15)
1 Ewart, “Phenomenon of Pentecost,” p. 30.
2 Sarah E. Parham, “The Life of Charles F. Parham,” p. 39.
3 Ibid., p. 39.
4 Ibid., p. 48.
5 Ibid., p. 49.
6 “Topeka Mail and Breeze,” Feb. 23, 1901 (Kansas Historical Society).
8 Parham: “Parham,” p. 51.
9 Ibid., p. 51.
10 Ibid., p. 52.
11 Ibid., p. 52.
12 Ibid., p. 59.
13 Ibid.,., p. 54, 55.
14 Kendrick, “The Promise Fulfilled,” p. 53.
15 Ewart “Phenomenon of Pentecost,” p. 32.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM 20TH CENTURY PENTECOSTALS, AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1980, PAGES 41-48. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.