The Finished Work of Calvary

The Finished Work of Calvary
By Fred J. Foster

The pastor of North Avenue Mission in Chicago was wrestling in deep troubled thought. He did not want to give in, but strongly the feeling would rush upon him. Could it be true he had been lacking such a vital ingredient in his Christian life and ministry? Had he been missing the mark and not bringing his converts into the fullness God had intended all along?


This was William H. Durham, a man of earnest and intense convictions. He was suffering over the preaching and testimony of those who claimed the baptism of the Holy Spirit, with the initial sign of speaking in a language never learned. What pained him severely was the fact that Scripture backed them so explicitly. After battling for some time, he confessed he must give in to the hunger in his heart for more of God and a heavier anointing on his preaching. He must go to Los Angeles and visit Azusa Street Mission, seeing for himself what this was all about.

The early part of 1907 found him on his way across the country, this man who was to be beneficially used of God to bring new truth to the hungry in the plan of God for the last days. Days in which God would laboriously bring his church to the fullness of apostolic truth, as was proclaimed and enjoyed in the first century.

After tarrying for many weeks, he received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and his was an overwhelming experience. “He spoke in other languages with marvelous fluency, and received the gift of interpretation. Pastor Seymour, who had already retired after a heavy day, was awakened by the Spirit. He said the Lord had showed him that Durham was to receive the experience that night, so he redressed and came downstairs. When he beheld the wondrous sight of the Chicago pastor filled with the Spirit and speaking in other tongues, the power of prophecy descended upon him, and raising his hands over Durham, he prophesied that wherever this man would preach, the power of God would fall on the people.” (1)


Durham went back to Chicago, but this was not the same preacher. The Holy Ghost baptism makes a difference, and suddenly his church took on new life. People came from far and wide and were brought into this rich spiritual experience. Notables in the days that were to follow, who received this baptism in the Spirit at North Avenue Mission, were E. N. Bell, pastor of a Baptist church in Ft. Worth, Texas, who became the first chairman of the General Council of the Assemblies of God; and A. H. Argue from Winnipeg, Canada, who was to play a prominent part in the distribution of the message in Canada and the United States.

Something else was noticeable about Durham after his receiving the Holy Ghost in March 1907. He said, “From that day to this, I would never preach another sermon on the second work of grace theory. I had held it for years, and continued to do so for some time, but could not preach on it again. I could preach Christ and. . .holiness, as never before, but not as a second work of grace.” (2)

The greater majority in the Pentecostal movement had incorporated the doctrine of two definite and distinct works of grace. At the first work a person received salvation (this was at repentance), and the second work brought sanctification. When people began receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they added a third work. The testimonies would usually begin, “I am saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost.”


Durham made a decision to speak out strongly against this doctrine at a 1910 convention. For some time he had studied deeply into this. What he admonished, he called “The Finished Work of Calvary” i. e., sanctification is a continual process received in our initial experience, with a continued setting apart of the believer by the work of the Holy Spirit.

Durham further stated, “I began to write against the doctrine that it takes two works of grace to save and cleanse a man. I denied, and still deny, that God does not deal with the nature of sin at conversion. I deny that a man who is converted or born again is outwardly washed and cleansed but that his heart is left unclean, with enmity against God in it. This would not be salvation. Salvation is an inward work. It means a change of heart. It means a change of nature. It means that old things pass away and that all things become new. It means that all condemnation and guilt is removed. It means that all the old man, or old nature, which was sinful and depraved, and which was the very thing in us that was condemned, was crucified in Christ.” (3)

Quite a lot of confusion was the first reaction to the teaching. Many held out for the second, definite, instantaneous work of grace, and a bitter battle raged, but Durham ploughed on, knowing he had come upon something which would continue to bless the believer.


He carried his message back to Los Angeles in 1911 and found once friendly churches closed to him, but discouraged he turned to the Old Azusa Street Mission where he found an open door. Suddenly from heaven God used his dynamic personality, his new message and the familiar site of the original outpouring at Azusa to bring believers from all over the area.

Frank Bartleman said, “God had gathered many of the old Azusa workers back to Los Angeles. It was called by many the second shower of the Latter Rain. On Sunday the place was crowded and 500 were turned away. The people would not leave their seats between meetings for fear of losing them. The fire began to fall at Azusa as at the beginning. I attended these meetings with great interest and joy. . .On May 2, I went to Azusa Street, after noon as usual. But to our surprise we found the doors locked, with chain and padlock. Brother Seymour had hastened back from the east and with his trustees decided to lock Brother Durham out. But they locked God and the saints out also. It was Durham’s message they objected to.” (4)

As has been said, (5) “Seymour had learned from experience that locking the door was an effective way to halt the preaching of an objectionable message in one’s mission! He should have learned also that it could not halt the preaching of the message or the fulfillment of his own prophecy concerning Durham.” (6)

“In a few days Brother Durham rented a large building at the corner of Seventh and Los Angeles Streets. A thousand people attended the meetings here on Sundays. We had an ordinary congregation of four
hundred week nights. Here the ‘cloud’ rested. God’s glory filled the place. Azusa became deserted. The Lord was with Brother Durham in great power. God sets his seal especially on present truth to be established.” (7)

The Finished Work of Calvary view spread quickly across the nation and most of the Pentecostal organizations that have formed since, incorporated it in their teaching. The groups in the process of organizing or already organized–the Church of God and the Pentecostal Holiness Church in the Southeastern part of the country and the Apostolic Faith Associations with headquarters in Baxter Springs, Kansas; Los Angeles, California and Portland, Oregon–turned it down. But for the most part and where it really counted, truth had won its battle. Another milestone in the history of the restoration of the church as it was in apostolic days had been gassed.

1 Ewart, “Phenomenon of Pentecost,” p. 71.
2 “The Pentecostal Testimony,” June, 1911.
3 Ibid
4 Frank Bartleman, “How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles,” p. 145, 146.
5 Brumback, “Suddenly From Heaven,” p. 100.
6 Ewart, “Phenomenon of Pentecost,” p. 41.
7 Bartleman, “How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles,” p. 146.