This dissertation is looking at the development of the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit in nineteenth century America. It will be confined to looking at the change of emphasis from purity to power during the course of the century. Consequently, the subject of whether the baptism of the Spirit is subsequent to salvation or not will not be examined. However, it is important to state that all those involved in the development of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit believed that it was an experience subsequent to salvation. Furthermore, the issue of subsequence has been debated widely by such scholars as James D.G. Dunn, J. Rodman Williams, John Stott and Max Turner[i]; this is not the place to pursue this vital issue. Another issue that will not be discussed is the debate about the initial evidence of speaking in tongues as expounded in Pentecostal circles; this is an ongoing debate with contributions from such writers as Gary McGee, Roger Stronstad and Gordon Fee[ii]. Although this is a vital issue for Pentecostal theology, it does not in any way contribute to an understanding of the doctrine in terms of purity and power.
Having briefly said what is not going to be discussed in this dissertation it is now necessary explain the purpose of this paper more fully. It will reflect an interest that has been maintained for many years in the debate surrounding the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit; for the last three years the focus of this interest has been the connection between purity and power. No one to my knowledge has looked at the development of the doctrine to see the changes that have come about. This paper then is only a beginning in an attempt to fill the gap, the attempt is being made but it is only a beginning.. Authors have been selected who had a great impact on the development of the doctrine. It has therefore been necessary to show both the continuing streams of Holiness teaching and the developments that led to the Pentecostal formulation.
H.I.Lederle has said,
The emphasis that Spirit-baptism was not an eradication of sin from the heart but power to live victoriously brought a parting of the ways in Holiness circles. Over against the Wesleyan-Holiness approach, several prominent leaders began to propagate the Keswick version of the second blessing: D.L .Moody, R.A. Torrey, A.J .Gordon, A.B Simpson, and Alexander Dowie. The focus of the Keswick teaching seemed to shift somewhat in America. More and more it was the enduement with power, the anointing for ministry that was underlined rather than the somewhat uncomfortable teaching of a sinless existence via exercising “resting” faith. The dynamics of this shift have to my knowledge not yet been researched. That it occurred in this manner is merely an assumption which the different reports have led me to make.[iii]
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that what for Lederele was an assumption is in fact rooted in the developments of the Nineteenth Century. It will therefore attempt to show something of that development on the following pages. It must be noted at the outset that although this development took place and led to Pentecostalism, there was also the continuing development of the Holiness model. In this paper, Daniel Steele has been used as an example of this. The writing of A.M. Hills has been an influence on the discussion that follows, his book, Holiness and Power[iv], has been helpful as an overview of the debate then taking place.
This paper will therefore look briefly at the historical context and then proceed to examining individual contributions to this development,it will also include a chapter on early Pentecostalism.
Historical Overview: This section will try to briefly set the doctrinal development in its social setting. The nineteenth century was one of immense change, in America and the country was developing at an astounding rate in many ways. New areas were being populated and the pioneers were pushing into the west. The industrial society was developing with its belief in unlimited progress. All this had an effect on the religious life of the country. The greatest impact of all were the political developments leading up to the Civil War; these divided both the church and the nation. The War challenged the idea of unlimited progress and the church began to dwell on the sinful nature of mankind. Somewhere around 1857 there was a marked transition from the postmillenial view of prophecy (with its optimistic outlook) to a premillenial view ( with its more pessimistic outlook). At the same time there was a shift in emphasis concerning the possibility of evangelising the whole World, it was no longer considered possible to conquer the whole world for Christ, but rather to proclaim the Gospel to the whole World with little hope of a great harvest. Both D. William Faupel and Donald Dayton have shown the influence of these developments upon early Pentecostalism[v].
Religious thinking was also linked to the predominance of individualism in society and this can be clearly seen in the writings of this period. There was a great emphasis on religious experience either in the area of conversion or sanctification. In the early part of the century this had been closely linked to a social awareness which can be seen in the Oberlin Movement’s commitment to the abolition of slavery. After 1857 this became muted although both the Holiness and Pentecostal Movements were greatly concerned to reach the poor and needy with the Gospel. Having said this the emphasis was on conversion not on the social problems.
It is also necessary to look briefly at some of the developments within the church regarding the development of the doctrine of the baptism with the Holy Spirit. The first formulation of this doctrine was amongst the Methodists, the American Methodists were greatly influenced by John Fletcher at this point. Early texts point to a knowledge of John Fletcher’s Last Check to Antinomianism[vi]. It is hard to trace the very early developments of this doctrine, indeed it has been suggested by Peters that the doctrine of Christian Perfection was neglected at the beginning of the nineteenth century[vii]. This view has been contested by Allan Coppedgee in his article “ Entire Sanctification in Early American Methodism 1812-1835”[viii]. Coppedge demonstrates that there is evidence for the teaching of Christian perfection in this time of alleged neglect. However, what is certain is that there was a greater emphasis from 1835 onwards; from this time Phoebe Palmer was developing her Tuesday meeting, Charles Finney and Asa Mahan were also wrestling with the doctrine of entire sanctification at this time. Soon camp meetings for the promotion of holiness were being held and out of this thrust were to grow both the Wesleyan-Holiness stream and the Keswick higher life stream. In the following pages, the teaching of the following people will be examined(1)John Wesley and John Fletcher, (2) Charles Finney, (3) Asa Mahan, (4) Phoebe Palmer, (5) Daniel Steele, (6) R.A. Torrey and (7) Early Pentecostalism.
My main concern in the pages that follow is the development of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the transition from the main emphasis being on purity to that of its being power. My conclusion will summarise the arguments and try to show their relevance for today.
John Wesley and John Fletcher, through their involvement in the Great Awakening were influential not only in Britain but also in America. Methodism soon took root in America and it was to be the teachings of Wesley and Fletcher that dominated its development. This is particularly seen in the discussion of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is through the Wesleyan influence that we first encounter clear teaching about a second work of grace subsequent to conversion. As we shall see below Wesley and Fletcher differed to some extent in their presentation of this; it was Fletcher who first used the terminology of baptism of the Holy Spirit.[ix] Wesley did not accept this terminology. The aim of both men was to promote holiness and they were united in their teaching of entire sanctification. Entire sanctification was to become the distinguishing mark of Wesleyan theology as opposed to the belief in only progressive sanctification held by the rest of the evangelical movement.
John Wesley and his colleagues stressed the need for a radical cleansing of the heart subsequent to conversion, this would result in the believer being able to love God with his whole being. Fletcher and Wesley were united at this point, it is only in the articulation of the doctrine of entire sanctification that we begin to detect the difference between the two. It is necessary to look at the difference between these two great founding fathers of Methodism but it is important at the outset to stress the overriding unity of these two men who worked together for years.
When Fletcher began to use baptism of the Holy Ghost language he did so in a very different way than it is used today. It is important to understand Fletcher on his own terms and not read back later conceptions into his thinking whether these be Wesleyan or Pentecostal. Since the eighteenth century this language has been developed and indeed radically changed, as this dissertation will seek to demonstrate.
Fletcher’s Last Check[x], is for the most part a classic statement of the Wesleyan theology of entire sanctification. It is only a small amount of this work that sets forth Fletcher’s views about the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Although this is a clear break from Wesley’s terminology, Fletcher could never have imagined how significant this statement would be for the development of the doctrine of the work of the Holy Spirit in subsequent generations and perhaps even more significantly the experiential impact this would have. It is no exaggeration to say that the present development of the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit has its roots in the writings of Fletcher.
It is now necessary to outline both Wesley’s and Fletcher’s teachings. .The examination of Wesley will concentrate on his argument as outlined in his, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection[xi]. Fletcher’s teaching will then be looked at, relying mainly upon, The Last Check to Antinomianism[xii] .
JOHN WESLEY; John Wesley wrote his A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, to demonstrate that he had held to the same teaching for many years. Mildred Bangs Wynkoop has described Wesley’s theology as “A Theology of Love”[xiii]. This can be seen in the following words of John Wesley,
A Methodist is one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind and with all his strength. God is the joy of his heart and the desire of his soul, which is continually crying “Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none upon earth whom I desire besides Thee.” My God and my all! “Thou art the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” He is therefore happy in God; yea always happy, as having in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life, and overflowing his soul with peace and joy. Perfect love having now cast out fear, he rejoices ever More[xiv]
Having stated this Wesley is only too aware of the fact of man’s sinfulness by nature and he asks what God promise’s to do. His answer is that God will so cleanse the hearts of his people as they receive his promise, then sin is removed from the person, Wesley expressed it in these words,
But whom then, do you mean by “one that is perfect”? We mean one in whom is “the mind of Christ,” and who so walketh as Christ also walked; a man that hath clean hands and a pure heart, or that is cleaned from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; one in whom is “no occasion of stumbling” and who, accordingly “does not commit sin.”[xv]
Wesley is speaking of what he called, “sin properly so called”, not the results of the fall that lead to mistakes and wrong judgements but the wilful violation of God’s law. Unless we understand Wesley at this point we are likely to misrepresent his views. Wesley never taught sinless perfection. He insisted that at all stages of the Christian life the believer would need to honestly pray the Lord’s prayer with its cry for forgiveness.
Wesley believed that entire sanctification is a second work of grace, many believers do not receive this blessing until just prior to death. However, Wesley believed that both the Old and New Testaments in their teaching, prayers and promises, lead to an expectation that entire sanctification is available to all believers and therefore should be prayerfully sought at once.
JOHN FLETCHER; John Fletcher’s influence on the Methodist revival was very significant, John.A.Knight said,
Fletcher’s writings gave the Methodist Revival an intellectual and theological foundation which today is almost universally accepted as a matter of course. After he finished what he had to say on predestination, election, free will, good works, and Christian perfection, there was little left to be said-save for the perennial task of adapting to continuously changing cultural conditions.[xvi]
It is therefore important to look at Fletcher’s contribution to the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. His teaching gave a fresh impetus to preach, study and receive the baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is important to understand what Fletcher actually taught rather than viewing him through the lenses of later developments. This is of vital importance when looking at his phraseology, for instance he uses the term ‘dispensations’ in a very different way to modern dispensationalist writers. For Fletcher there were three dispensations which marked a Trinitarian pattern in history. According to Fletcher the present age is the Age of the Holy Spirit, an age in which we can receive the rich blessings of assurance, and entire sanctification, the latter through the baptism with the Holy Spirit. To understand John Fletcher rightly it is important to examine a rather long quotation from The Last Check.
Upon the whole, it is, I think, undeniable, from the first four chapters of the Acts, that a peculiar power of the Spirit is bestowed upon believers under the Gospel of Christ; that this power, through faith on our part, can operate the most sudden and surprising change in our souls; and that when faith shall fully embrace the promise of full sanctification, or of a complete “circumcision of the heart in the Spirit,” The Holy Ghost, who kindled so much love on the day of Pentecost, that all the primitive believers loved or seemed to love one another without sinful self seeking; and as soon as we do so “God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us,” 1John iv,12; John xiv, 23.
Should you ask, how many baptisms, or effusions of the sanctifying Spirit are necessary to cleanse a believer from all sin, and to kindle his soul into perfect love; I reply, that the effect of a sanctifying truth depending upon the ardour of the faith which that truth is embraced, and upon the power of the Spirit with which it is applied, I should betray a want of modesty if I brought the operations of the Holy Ghost, and the energy of faith, under a rule which is not expressly laid down in the Scriptures….. If one powerful baptism of the Spirit “seal you unto the day of redemption, and cleanse you from all [moral] filthiness,” so much the better. If two or more be necessary, the Lord can repeat them: “His arm is not shortened that it cannot save;” nor is the promise of the Spirit stinted: he says, in general “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely. If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your heavenly Father[ who is goodness itself] give his Holy [ sanctifying] Spirit to them that ask him!” I may, however, venture to say, in general, that before we can rank among perfect Christians, we must receive so much of the truth and Spirit of Christ by faith, as to have the pure love of God and man shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost given unto us, and to be filled with the meek and lowly mind which was in Christ. And if one outpouring of the Spirit, one bright manifestation of the sanctifying truth, so empties us of self, as to fill us with the mind of Christ, we are undoubtedly Christians in the full sense of the word.[xvii]
The above quotation shows clearly that Fletcher equated the baptism of the Spirit with entire sanctification. The emphasis for Fletcher is thus upon purity not power. This passage also demonstrates the continuities and discontinuities between Fletcher and Wesley. The emphasis on holiness and entire sanctification is a direct continuation of Wesley’s thinking. The distinction comes through describing the experience as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
This passage also shows a difference between Fletcher and most subsequent teaching on the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Fletcher perceives that there may be a need for more than one baptism with the Spirit, subsequent teaching has stressed the uniqueness of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as one unrepeatable experience. It can be seen from the above that Fletcher had a greater fluidity to his teaching than later formulations. The later Holiness and Pentecostal formulations do not have the same regard to the relationship between God and the believer as is found in Fletcher.
Fletcher’s great passion was to see holiness in the lives of believers. His teaching on the baptism with the Spirit was subservient to this, as he saw this as a means to an end. Because of this Fletcher emphasised not only the crisis but also progressive growth in grace. Fletcher urged people to seek instant deliverance from their sins while at the same time realising that God may not grant the blessing according to the expectation of the believer. Fletcher’s strong belief in what the Holy Spirit can do, gave him high expectations but it never tied him to a neat formula. Although Fletcher in his setting forth of the doctrine of sanctification is clearly synergystic, he gives the primacy to divine grace but the role of the individual in responding to that grace is presented forcefully.
CONCLUSION; Wesley and Fletcher are very close in their thinking, their unity needs to be stressed more than their diversity. While this is true, one needs to recognise their individual contributions to the doctrine of holiness. John Wesley seems to have first articulated the idea of a second work of grace but it was John Fletcher who identified that work with the baptism of the Spirit. Dayton says,
Wesley and Fletcher shared much, but their differences were more than semantic and terminological. These hints of conflict reveal some fundamental divergence’s that underlay their commonality. In other times and other circumstances these subtle nuances could become accentuated and reveal more clearly a basic ambiguity inherited from the era of classical Methodism.[xviii]
In the following chapters we will see how some of these nuances became accentuated in the American Holiness Revival.
[i] J.D.G.Dunn Baptism in the Holy Spirit. ( London, SCM. 1970.); J R.W. Stott,. The Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit ( London, IVP 1964 .); D. Pawson The Normal Christian Birth (London, Hodder and Stoughton.1989,); Max Turner The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts Then and Now. (Carlisle, Paternoster Press 1996 .); J. Rodman Williams,Renewal Theology Vol 2 (Grand Rapids, Zondervan Publishing House, 1990.).
[ii] 2G. W. McGee (Ed), Initial Evidence, (Peabody, Mass, Hendrickson 1991.); Roger Stronstad, The Charismatic Theology of St. Luke (Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson 1984); Fee, Gospel and Spirit. ( Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson, 1991).
[iii] H. I. Lederle, Treasures Old and New (Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson, 1988), 14.
[iv] A.M.Hills. Holiness and Power (Salem, Ohio. Schmul Publishing 1988
[v] D. William Faupel. The Everlasting Gospel ( Sheffield, Sheffield Academic Press 1996). Donald Dayton Theological Roots of Pentecostalism (Peabody, Mass. Hendrickson 1987).
[vi] John Fletcher The Last Check to Antinomianism, The Works of John Fletcher volume 2 (Salem.Ohio, Schmul Publishers 1974)
[vii] 7John L Peters Christian Perfection and American Methodism, see chapter 4. (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1985)
[viii] Allan Coppedge ‘Entire sanctification in Early American Methodism 1812-1835’ Wesleyan Theological Journal 13, 1978
[ix] 9See Herbert McGonigle ‘Pneumatological Nomenclature in Early Methodism’ Wesleyan Theological Journal 8 and Randy L. Maddox Responsible Grace. (Nashville TN, Abingdon Press, 1994, 136 and 177)
[x] John Fletcher’s Works vol. 2.
[xi] John Wesley A Plain Account of Christian Perfection (Kansas City, Miss. 1966)
[xii] John Fletcher The Last Check to Antinomianism. Works of John Fletcher volume 2, (Salem Ohio. Schmul Publishers 1974).
[xiii] Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, A Theology of Love, (Kansas City, Beacon Hill Press, 1972.)
[xiv] John Wesley A Plain Account of Christian Perfection ( Kansas City. Beacon Hill Press. 1966)
[xv] John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection. 36.
[xvi] John. A. Knight. ‘John Fletcher’s influence on the development of Wesleyan Theology in America’ Wesleyan Theological Journal 13.
[xvii] John Fletcher The Last Check against Antinomianism, Works of John Fletcher vol.2 (Salem, Ohio, Schmul Publishers, 1974), 632-3.
[xviii] 18 Donald Dayton Theological roots of Pentecostalism (Peabody,Hendrickson Publishers 1987), 50-51