The Spirit

 

 

It was the second night--a Friday night--of my all-out effort to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Converted at the age of eleven, baptized a year later, living in the midst of a community of Pentecostals, and no baptism in the Holy Spirit. How could this be? I was determined to pray and fast until I was baptized in the Spirit.

Daylight was fading. I was on my knees in a big, open warehouse containing nothing but coffins. All alone, thirteen years old, I prayed and thought and prayed there in the increasing darkness, with about a hundred coffins stacked up against the walls on every side. It became harder and harder to concentrate; I was afraid. There were no lights to turn on; the only lights we had in all of Ladybrand were paraffin or gas lights. There was no electricity.

"When will the people get back?" I muttered into the darkness. "They've been gone an awfully long time." And I prayed on, opening my eyes every few seconds to see nothing but the blackness and the shadowy, tarpaulin-draped coffins. Absolute Christian believer or not, fully aware of the defeat of death or not, I was troubled by those coffins. I knew they were there.

My prayer activity improved perceptibly when the adults and the other children began to file back into the shed and the gas lights were turned on for another session in our series of evangelistic meetings. This was the summer of 1918--that is, early in the calendar year in South Africa, right around the time of my birthday. Our little band of Christians had invited an evangelist, Charles Heatley, a simple, Bible-teaching Englishman with a reputation for leading people into the baptism in the Holy Spirit, to come to Ladybrand for the meetings.

Our problem was finding a site. In town, we still numbered only twenty to thirty and customarily met in homes. But for such an occasion as this, believers from out in the farmlands swelled our ranks to a size that would not fit in any of the cottages.

During the Boer War of 1899-1902, when the Dutch-populated Boer Republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State challenged the authority of the British Empire, to which they were finally annexed, many farmers were converted to faith in Jesus Christ.

In one of those amazing displays of the sovereignty of God, many South African prisoners of war, including some of the farmers from our area, were sent to a war camp in Bermuda. A revival broke out there, and many were saved. Our farmers came back to South Africa knowing the Lord, and they were among the first to enter into the Pentecostal movement. God had worked through the tragedy of war to bring salvation to the people.

So we needed a sizable hall in which to hold our special meetings. And by that time, no one owning a building large enough would rent it to us. In the past, when we rented meeting places, scoffers from the surrounding neighborhoods gathered and frequently threw stones up onto the roof and through the windows. We couldn't use a place with glass windows, or they would break them. We had a saying then that went something like this: "We don't have panes in the window, but, thank God, we don't have pains in the pews either. " In those days, praying for the sick was a significant part of our ministry and we believed we must pray for them until they either recovered or died. We didn't think dying was so terrible; we only thought suffering was terrible. Today, people have too final a view of death, losing sight of the fact that this life is just the tiniest fraction of our eternal life. But in those days, we prayed, "Lord, if you don't intend to heal them, take them home." And we prayed them well or dead.

In our group was one old English brother, a Methodist, who had a contract with the town to bury the paupers who had no other means to receive a decent burial. At the center of his business was a big shed on the outskirts of town where he kept a stockpile of coffins.

He came to see my father and three other elders of our little church. From an adjoining room I was able to put my developing English to use (in addition to Afrikaans I was learning English in school from my Scottish teachers). I could eavesdrop on the elders' conversation with the old Englishman. I heard him saying, "I can make an arrangement if the people won't mind. I can stack those coffins up against the wall and cover them with a tarpaulin so you won't see them."

I remained quiet, my eyes wide.

He went on, "I don't have carpets. It's a flagstone floor, but I've got a lot of the big bags they bale wool with."

I wasn't thoroughly convinced, but my father and the other elders accepted the offer. We would hold our meetings in the big coffin shed.

 

 

The Lord did mighty things in that shed in the days that followed. Brother Heatley's ministry was successful. Jesus baptized many, young and old, in the Holy Spirit. A number of young people from the farms were saved. But there I was. I had known the Lord for two years, and still He hadn't baptized me. I felt bad.

With all respect, however, it has to be remembered that most of the teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit in those days was poor. For one thing, the teachers told ignorant people like me that if we wanted to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we first had to get empty. Of course, the more I tried to get empty of self, the fuller I seemed to feel. They never told me that there was a well of living water in me, that I had received the Holy Spirit within me when the Lord Jesus saved me. The teaching was that the baptism in the Spirit was the infilling; even if you had been born again, that was only a work of the Spirit--you had not received the Spirit within you. The church had lost sight of the fact that Jesus "breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22) even before they had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which came on the day of Pentecost. The baptism, as we know now, is not into you but on you. Jesus baptizes—immerses--the believer into the Spirit, handing him over to the Spirit and leaving the believer with the Spirit in him and on him at the same time.

So I prayed and prayed, and nothing happened.

That Thursday morning, I walked into the school principal's office and asked to be excused the following day. "Why?" asked the principal, a kindly man.

"I want to pray," I responded soberly.

There was a pause. The only noise was the muffled voice of a secretary outside his office.

"David," he said at last, "I have been asked for days off for the funeral of the grandmother who didn't exist, for sicknesses that never did appear, for every kind of excuse in the book. But nobody has ever asked me for time off to pray."

He continued looking straight into my face. I just sat there.

"Now what is it that you are so serious about that you want to spend a day in prayer?" he asked.

"I want to fast," I said, "and the Bible says to fast and pray. I do want to pray, but really I want to fast, so if you will let me have the day off, I'll begin this evening. And I plan to pray through till the Lord baptizes me in His Holy Spirit."

Again, all became quiet.

"Oh, so that's what you want," he said. A trace of a smile appeared on his lips, then vanished. "You must be very careful, David. You know, there is such a thing as hypnotism or mesmerism. I don't know how these people do it, but be careful, and be sure that you really speak to the Lord." I nodded, and looked back at him. "I will."

He gave me the day off.

 

 

Dad was delighted by my determination. He and a half-dozen of the other men and young people prayed with me all that Thursday night, stopping for only a few hours of sleep. They prayed for me, laying hands on me, calling heartily upon the Lord to meet my need. Then we prayed softly, and then silently. We knelt on the hard flagstone floor, and we stood, and we paced. Like good, old-time Pentecostals, we "prayed through." We continued on through Friday, interrupted only by Brother Heatley's services, and then the few hours between services when I was left alone among the coffins.

We prayed on through Friday night, into sheer exhaustion and exasperation. I was worn out, frayed mentally, spiritually and physically. But nothing happened. My frustration got worse and worse.

Saturday morning, I was sitting forlornly off to the rear and side of the shed by myself. Unexpectedly, one of the farm girls--a fourteen-year-old with dark brown hair, who had received the baptism in the Holy Spirit during the meetings--came quietly up to my side and sat down.

"David?" she said, tentatively. "Can I say something to you? I don't want to interfere, but I know how hard you've been trying."

My silence seemed to give her the go-ahead. I wasn't hostile; I just didn't have anything to say.

"I think the Lord has given me something to say to you." A pause. She was embarrassed, and she blushed. "He has told me that if you will confess the thing that's on your conscience, he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit."

I looked up at her. She looked down. And as quietly as she had come, she walked away.

I knew instantly what the Lord had shown her. My conscience was troubled, at age thirteen, by the first sin in my life that I became aware of, a sin that had led to similar sins. It was a lie that I had told to my parents seven years earlier. They had believed me, and I'd never forgotten it. And, of course, that one lie had produced other lies to cover the original one. I was a liar.

That first lie had occurred very simply, in a little accident as I was tending my only baby sister at that time, who was to die in infancy. Mother was busy in another part of the house. To pass the time, I was playing with a piece of string that had a small metal trinket attached to it, swinging it around and around for no particular reason. Suddenly it slipped, and the metal hit the baby on top of the head, hurting her slightly. When mother and father later noticed a bruise on the baby's head and asked me about it, I told them I didn't know how it had happened. I was immediately aware, for the first time, that I had sinned, and it ate away at me for seven years.

Reflecting on the farm girl's word, I put my head in my hands and bent over until my head was between my knees. Her kindly admonition echoed in my frustrated, exasperated mind, ". . . if you will confess the thing that's on your conscience. . . ." How could she have known that? It had to be from God. No one knew of it, except the Lord and me.

I sat bolt upright and spotted mother sitting about twenty feet away. I went to her and quietly and quickly told her of my lie seven years before. The confession came easily and swiftly. "Oh, child," mother said softly but with deep emotion. "Why did you keep this on your mind for seven years? Why didn't you tell us long ago?" There was no condemnation in the questions, merely compassion.

"Well, I don't know, mother," I said, my head bowed. "I just know that now I must put this straight. The Lord forgave me out there in Basutoland, but this one memory has stayed."

I immediately got up and went to my father, taking him to one side and explaining my sin to him. Before I could finish, he burst out crying, "Oh, Lord! Lord!" He was deeply moved and hardly able to speak. "Dear Lord, my son feels he is such a sinner for telling a lie. I'm such a worse sinner than that." He was under strong conviction and with great tenderness forgave me for the lie.

Strangely, at least from my point of view, I didn't suddenly burst into sunshine and smiles with the confession of my childhood sin. I had expected a surge of relief. Instead, I felt unworthy. I felt different, but I sensed my own unworthiness. When the prayer time came, I went alone to a corner and prayed by myself. I remembered the school principal's warning about hypnotism and mesmerism, and I preferred not to have anyone lay hands on me. I wanted to be alone. "Lord, I see now I'm unworthy. Don't trouble yourself to baptize me in the Holy Spirit; just help me to live a good life like Jesus did, and to get to heaven."

Immediately, I had my first vision. A book appeared in my mind. I looked closely, and it became clearer. There was a book and two hands. One hand held the book; the other paged through it. I strained to be attentive, expecting to see something I could read, but the pages were blank, blistering, pure white. The last page was turned, and then I heard inside myself, "There is nothing recorded against you. The blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God has cleansed you from all unrighteousness."

I fully realized then that everything, even the sin of that first lie, was wiped out by the blood of Jesus. Pure, absolute joy filled my soul, my very being. There was no room for anything else. I couldn't ask for the Holy Spirit, or anything else, to come in. There was no room.

The joy overwhelmed me, and I said, "Hallelujah." But that was no good; it didn't express what I was feeling. "Praise the Lord" was no better. It sounded silly in comparison with the sheer joy surging through me. "How can I express it?" I thought. But before I could go any further, I began to laugh. And I laughed, on and on, "Ha ha ha ha, ho ho ho ho, he he he he, ha ha ha ha.. . ." I felt I couldn't laugh any more. Nobody stopped me. Some of them laughed a bit with me, obviously because I was laughing so hard, harder than anyone I'd ever heard. But no one seemed upset. I held my stomach and said, "Lord, I can't take it any more. Help me . . . help me to release what I'm feeling," and I started to shout hallelujah again. I got as far as "ha-a-a . . . ," but the "lelujah" wouldn't come.

I began to speak in tongues, new sounds that I had never heard before. The "ha-a-a" had opened my mouth, and the Lord had filled it with a new language. It was a very funny language, it seemed to me.

An old sailor was in the meeting, Bob Masser, who had been around the world. He heard me speaking those strange new sounds there in the corner and walked close to me to listen for several moments. He then turned and shouted to the crowd, "David is speaking Chinese! I've heard it many times. He's praising God in pure Chinese!"

And the people began to marvel and praise God themselves.

I quickly stopped speaking, with a frightening thought on my mind. "Oh Lord," I said, "please don't send me to China." I was afraid that was an indication of a missionary assignment.

But, in a few moments, the thought vanished, and I began to speak again, wondering whether I had lost the gift. I was immediately aware that the language had changed. It was distinctly different, obviously not Oriental. I kept on speaking, and my mind was whirring with all kinds of thoughts. "What language is that now?. . . Have I disobeyed the Spirit by changing tongues? . . . Now what have I got? . . . It sounds like babbling.. . . But if it's babbling, why can't I keep up the same kind of babbling?. . . Who changes the babbling? . . . Why can't I do that first language again? . . . I've spoken over six different languages. . . . It's new every time. . . . I guess I'm not doing this. . . . I'm speaking. . . . But I'm not making the sounds.. . . They just keep forming on my lips.. . . And I can't change them.. . . But I can't keep them up either. . . ."

After nearly half an hour of this, I went over to the preacher and said, "Brother Heatley, when the Spirit gives you the gift of tongues, does He give you one language only and then that's your gift and you always speak the same language?"

"No," he replied, "the Bible refers in First Corinthians 12 to `diverse kinds of tongues.' We may have many kinds. What's your problem anyway?"

"Well," I said, "I think I have spoken half a dozen languages in the last half-hour."

"Don't worry about that," he said, chuckling.

"Well, how many do you speak?" I persisted.

With what I later perceived to be extraordinary patience, he opened his Bible to chapter 13 of the First Epistle to the Corinthians. "See what it says, `Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels....' Now, how many tongues of men are there?"

In those days we were taught that there were two thousand languages on earth. "Two thousand?" I answered tentatively.

"Well," he said, "when you've spoken two thousand languages, then you can begin to worry about the angelic languages."

"Oh, I don't think that will ever happen," I responded meekly, and I was satisfied. Furthermore, I've never worried about it since. Every time some agency issues a report on the languages and dialects of the world, the number rises, until now authorities say there are more than four thousand. I've never reached the point where I felt that I'd exhausted all the languages, even though frequently, when I'm praying in tongues, I suddenly hear a language that sounds completely new to me.

 

From: A Man Called Mr. Pentecost by David DuPlessis, pag. 27-36, 1977, Bridge Publishing,  South Plainfield, NJ

 

 

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