California Revival by Bartleman

A Sketch of a Revival in California, which afterwards “touched” many lands – Frank Bartleman

(First Printed in Confidence, Sunderland England, April 1916)

California Revival

Frank Bartleman 23 years old

The Holy Spirit sometimes for a season manifests Himself more especially in one place, sometimes more in another.

But the “Comforter” comes from Heaven, and not from Los Angeles, or Sunderland. God, for Christ’s sake and because of his shed blood, will give the fullness of the Holy Spirit to them that thus seek. They may expect Him to manifest himself with signs following, and to speak through us with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.


Brother Bartleman writes: – I have been requested to write briefly what I know about the present Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit that has swept around the globe in the last nine years. In doing so, I shall write from personal knowledge only. I reached California in the spring of 1903, with my little family. We located in Sacramento.

Shortly before Christmas, 1904, we came to Los Angeles. Just after that first of the new year our oldest daughter died. It was a terrible blow, I had been preaching the gospel since 1895. Had been converted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

In my sorrow at the loss of our oldest child, I threw myself on God and consecrated myself to His service anew. Beside the coffin of my dear one God definitely entered into a new contract with me. He began to reveal to me a deeper, wider service than I had ever known before. The burden of “soul travail” came upon me. I felt I could only live by being used of Him for lost souls, and He showed me that he would grant my desire. He promised that it should not seem long to me until my work was over and I should meet my darling child again.

Then He began to open up to me a wonderful “forward” vision in faith and prayer. He showed me it was in His purpose again, as of old, to pour out His Spirit amongst us mightily. We had gotten quite pessimistic before this. Few people seem to be expecting anything better for the last days.

The Spirit of prophecy came upon me. I began to prophesy of mighty things from the hand of God. I seems to receive a “gift of faith.” And the travail of soul was wonderful. It consumed me. This began in January, 1905. I began meetings in a little mission in Pasadena, California, at once, after the funeral of our little child. I felt I must be at work for God.

The Travail of Soul

The Lord wonderfully poured out his spirit. A number of workers were dug out in those meetings that later received the Pentecostal baptism and are Pentecostal preachers in the field today they caught the vision and the faith also. We began to cry “Pasadena for God!” Meetings were started in a Methodist church which these workers were members. They got under the burden. About 200 souls knelt at the altar in two weeks’ time. The Lord began to stir up his people in different churches in the city. The results were directly traced to the prayers of these young men. They were on fire. Our cry was for a “Pentecost.” The Lord was clearly directing.

About April I first heard of the wonderful revival in Wales. It stirred my soul to its very depths. I laid my life in God’s hands and asked Him to use me if He could to help further the same wonderful spirit in America. A few weeks later, while reading S. B. Shaw’s book on the “Great Revival in Wales,” God spoke to me and asked me to contract definitely with him that I would never go back to the plow again, but that I would spend all my remaining years in His service only. I have never turned back since that time. I dare not. We have been tempted, but God has proved faithful.

The California Revival drew inspiration from the Welsh Revival

In June, 1905, Pastor Smale, of First Baptist Church in Los Angeles, returned from England, where he had been attending the revival in Wales. He started prayer meetings in his church to wait on God for an outpouring of the Spirit similar to that they were having in Wales. God wonderfully anointed him to exhort the people. He was full of faith for mighty things. I immediately began to attend his services and found them exactly in line with my own vision and aspirations for God.

These prayer meetings ran for a number of weeks, and there was much spontaneous worship, also some very wonderful healings. But the burden that gathered volume daily, and the cry was for a “Pentecost” for Los Angeles and for the world. “Pentecost” is the very word we all had on our lips, given by the Holy Ghost. Spiritual workers began to gather to this little company from all over the city. They came from many different denominations and missions. It was a gathering together of those to whom the Lord had spoken. Faith increased rapidly for extraordinary things. God made Pastor Smale a regular Moses to lead us toward the “promised land.”

But soon the church and dignitaries could tolerate the new, spontaneous order no longer. They ordered it to cease, or the Pastor to resign. The consequence was the Pastor wisely resigned to go on with God, and the Lord and the people went with him. The “cloud” moved. A “New Testament Church” was formed. Here God wonderfully led and blessed, up to the spring of 1906.

All this year the travail of soul was heavily upon the. In fact, for at least 15 months, day and night, almost without intermission, the hand of the Lord was upon me to “bring forth.” I had no rest day or night from these “groanings that could not be uttered.” My precious wife believed that I would die. Days and nights I rolled on my bed in an agony of prayer for a lost world. I seemed as separate from my family almost as though I had been in a distant country for a year. But God spared my life to “eat of the fruit” of my groans and tears. I wrote many tracts during this time and a number of articles for the papers. God shut me off from preaching much. I could only prophesy of the “things to come.” I was tired of my own preaching and that of others. We needed a reviving. We needed the “anointing.”

Encouragements to Faith

I had a number of most wonderful visions during this year also, mostly while in travail of soul. One night, after a specially heavy burden in prayer that seems to almost take my life, the Lord Jesus himself appeared to me and strengthened me. I lost all sense of time and space. When I came to I had to pinch myself to see if I was flesh and blood. For days I walked with an invisible presence at my side. Human voices sounded harsh and grating human contact pained me. I had been with the Lord.

Gradually the stream was rising, ready to overflow all banks as He had promised. The clouds of blessing for gathering overhead, accumulated by the prayers of many. There was great expectation. But still the situation seems to wait for something. It would be a great mistake to attempt to attribute the Pentecostal beginning in the Los Angeles to any one man, either in prayer or in preaching. Personally, for months the matter seems to be accumulating within me. The tide of the Spirit was rising, but it could not yet burst forth. I was not abandoned for it. None of us understood fully what we were seeking or just what to expect. We wanted God to come forth; but just in what way we did not know. We never do. He could not come the same as in Wales, for conditions were very different in Los Angeles.

They did not break through at Pastor Smale’s assembly. There was too much reserve there. God had taken them as far as he could. We had marvelous meetings both there and in private prayer meetings, however, all through the year. More than once we saw and felt God’s glory. At time the “cloud” was visible to the naked eye. “Pentecost” did not drop down suddenly out of heaven. God was with us in large measure for a long time before the final outpouring. It was not a mushroom of a night by any means.

Prayed for Signs Following

Much that would be of interest in this connection must be omitted for lack of space. Finally in February, 1906, seven of us met after a prayer service at the New Testament Assembly, and, joining hands, agreed that God should be petitioned to pour out His Spirit speedily “with signs following.” I don’t think we, any of us, knew what we meant by that. But we felt something out of the ordinary was needed to awaken the people. God gave us that prayer.

Bro. Seymour

Somewhere about this time, perhaps a little earlier, Bro. Seymour came to Los Angeles from Texas. He was a quiet, coloured man, very unassuming. He had been invited by some saints in Los Angeles, who supposed he had already received his Pentecost in Texas. They began to hold quiet meetings in cottages, waiting on God for the outpouring with signs following. Bro. Seymour felt the Lord had sent him to Los Angeles for a special purpose at that time. He was in the closest sympathy with the burden that was on all of our hearts. He himself had never spoken in “tongues,” but he believed in it and had met the Apostolic Faith saints in Houston, Texas, who were already so speaking and had the teaching from them. He believed that “tongues” should accompany a real Pentecostal baptism, according to Acts ii., 4. This he asserted not at all in a dogmatic way. He himself did not speak in “tongues” until weeks after others had begun to in our midst.

Finally he began to meet with a little company of white and coloured people in an humble cottage in Bonnie Brae Street. They decided to wait on God in a ten-days’ special petitioning of God and in yielding themselves to Him. The time had come. God had found the right company at last. The most spiritual of the saints were among this company. Suddenly, one night in these meetings, the Spirit of God was poured out and some began to “speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” The news spread like fire naturally, the expectant saints began to gather. They opened public meetings in Old Azusa Street, in an old Methodist Church that had been for a long time in disuse, except as a receptacle for old lumber, plaster, etc. It was very dirty. A space was cleared large enough to seat a score or two of persons. We sat on planks resting on old nail kegs, if I remember correctly. But God was there. The work began in earnest. The fire had fallen.

The San Francisco Earthquake

It was on the 9th of April, 1906, that the Spirit was first poured out in Bonnie Brae. On April 18th we had the terrible San Francisco earthquake. It had a very close connection with the Pentecostal outpouring. God covered the fire at old “Azusa Mission” and protected it during the first few days of its existence until there was no danger of its being stamped out by the enemy. Then He let loose His judgments in California. This shook the whole state, as well as the nation. Men began to fear God. California was very wicked. Their consciences needed to be knocked at. This paved the way for the revival. Otherwise they would have mocked us. There was “no fear of God before them.”

Workers began to gather from all parts of the city, from throughout the state, and in fact from all over the nation, to old “Azusa Mission.” Bro. Cashwell came from North Carolina, got his “baptism,” and carried the fire back and spread it all over the Southland, especially the South Atlantic States. Sister Ivy Campbell went back to her home in Ohio and spread the flame throughout that whole eastern country. Others came in from different sections and carried the news and the blessing everywhere. Missionaries returned from many parts of the heathen world, sent directly and impressively by God to tarry for their “baptism.” It was a time of wonderful gathering. God alone had ordered it. “Gather My saints together unto Me.” Ps. 50:5. Thousands were. saved and baptized with the Spirit, all speaking in other tongues.

Azusa MIssion

God suddenly shut up many little Holiness Missions, Tent Meetings, etc., that had been striving with one another a long time for the pre-eminence. It would not work anymore. They had to come together. God only could tame them. There was little going on anywhere else but at Azusa Street. All the people were coming. Even Pastor Smale finally came to “Azusa Mission” to hunt his people up. Then he invited them back to let God have His way. The fire broke out at his own Assembly also. When God dries a place up it is dry. This many churches who opposed the Azusa work soon found out to their sorrow. And many are yet sorrowing over it. They would not take God’s way. They were “also among the prophets,” but when the Lord came He did not come through them. This killed them. They would not go to “Azusa,” nor let “Azusa” come to them. “Azusa” was despised in their eyes.

Travelled aroundd the World

But “Joseph” has got the corn. The “seven years of plenty” have now swept round the world. Missionaries returned, by faith for bread, and for the healing of their bodies in sickness, to all parts of the world. They carried the Pentecostal message and power with them. Almost every country on the globe has been visited by them. The work is almost stronger in some other countries than it is even in America. It has been my personal privilege to “see the mighty works of God” in Pentecostal power in England, Scotland, Wales, France, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Egypt, Palestine, Ceylon, India, China, and in the Islands of the Sea, outside of the United States and Canada, The Pentecostal power burst forth in the Christian and Missionary Alliance in New York State. Bro. Barratt came from far off Norway and received the “baptism” there. He carried it back and spread the fire in the whole of Scandinavia, and even into Russia. Vicar A. A. Boddy, of Sunderland, England, went, to Norway and caught the inspiration. Returning home the fire fell at Sunderland and spread to different parts of the British Isles from his testimony. Even in wicked Paris the “Promise of the Father” has been given. In fact, in every part of the work, from the frozen north to the torrid south the good news and the Pentecostal missionaries have gone. In every one of the five Continents the Pentecostal message has become familiar. There is possibly not one of the Seven Seas but what has been voyaged by these missionaries. Some have circled the globe many times in the last few brief years “since the fire fell.” The writer himself has been privileged to circle it once with the Pentecostal message. It is simply wonderful how the truth has spread. And who could have done it but God?

Every part of the Continent of “dark Africa” has its Pentecostal witnesses. South America is also represented. Central America is not left out in the message. Alaska, Persia, Siberia, Japan, base all been visited graciously, China has been visited by many Pentecostal missionaries. The borders of Tibet have not been forgotten. Even old Jerusalem has heard again the sound of “speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance.” Some have already laid down their lives in these foreign countries for the Pentecostal gospel. Among them Bro. Brelsford in Egypt, the land of the ancient Pharaohs and the birthplace of Moses. Oh, hallelujah!

The “seven years of famine” seem to have already set in. “Wars, and rumours of wars.” The “last days” are upon us. Soon the opportunity be gone. I am so glad I got the “Pentecostal baptism” nine years ago in the first outpouring of the Spirit in Los Angeles. It set me going For God in the “Last Call,” the last great battle. “Get oil within your vessels. ‘Tis the Midnight Cry!”

For further research:
Azusa Street Revival Wikepedia
Azusa Street Revival Edith Blumhofer