Dr. David G. Roebuck
I am compiling this entry on the anniversary of A.J. Tomlinson receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit in 1908. At the Church of God Intercessor’s Conference this weekend, General Oversee G. Dennis McGuire highlighted the significance of this event that occurred one hundred years ago. The inclusion of Church of God of Prophecy General Overseer Randy Howard was an important meaningful addition to the recognition of this extraordinary anniversary. Much of the following comes from my article in The Azusa Street Revival and Its Legacy (Pathway, 2006) edited by Harold D. Hunter and Cecil M. Robeck.
We do not know when Tomlinson first heard of the Pentecostal doctrine of Spirit Baptism as an experience subsequent to sanctification and with the evidence of speaking in tongues. In his 1913 book The Last Great Conflict, Tomlinson credited William J. Seymour with uncovering the Pentecostal doctrine and described his personal hunger for the experience. Tomlinson wrote, “In January, 1907, I became more fully awakened on the subject of receiving the Holy Ghost as He was poured out on the day of Pentecost. That whole year I ceased not to preach that it was our privilege to receive the Holy Ghost and speak in tongues as they did on the day of Pentecost. I did not have the experience, so I was almost always among the seekers at the altar. . . . By the close of the year I was so hungry for the Holy Ghost that I scarcely cared for food, friendship or anything else. I wanted the one thingthe Baptism with the Holy Ghost. I wrote to G.B. Cashwell∧ asked him to come to our place for a few days.” Cashwell had attended the famous revival at the Azusa Street Mission in Los Angeles and was sharing his experience throughout the southeastern United States. When the program for the third (1908) General Assembly of the Churches of God was printed, plans for Saturday and Sunday revealed an expectancy regarding the new Pentecostal message. “Saturday, January 11th. 7:00 p.m. Service on Pentecostal lines. We expect Brother G.B. Cashwell, of Dunn, N.C.” &. “Sunday, January 12th. 10:40 a.m. Preaching or Pentecostal Service ” &.“7:00 p.m. Service on Pentecostal lines.”
Cashwell arrived in Cleveland on Friday and preached at least the Saturday evening and Sunday morning services. His report of the Sunday morning service was brief, “I gave only a few minutes talk, and asked all those who wanted the baptism of the Holy Ghost to come to the altar. The altar was full in a minute and many knelt in the aisle. We are expecting great things here if everybody will stay out of the way of the Holy Ghost.” Four received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit that morning including Tomlinson.
Tomlinson’s testimony incorporated many of the spiritual manifestations that were common occurrences in the early Pentecostal movement. According to Tomlinson, while Cashwell was concluding his message, “The Spirit came on me and down I went on the floor, right by the side of the stand on the rostrum.” Tomlinson continued, “My mind was clear, but a peculiar power so enveloped and thrilled my whole being that I concluded to yield myself up to God and await results.” Those results for Tomlinson were dramatic. They included shaking, rolling, tossing, and a sense of levitation. He recorded, “As I lay there great joy flooded my soul. The happiest moments I had ever known up to that time. Oh, such floods and billows of glory ran through my whole being.”
These waves of joy were then followed by a vision in which Tomlinson traveled to many areas of the world including all the inhabited continents. In his vision, Tomlinson believed that his tongues speech was in fact the languages of the native peoples of the countries he was visiting. This was a common belief among many early Pentecostals who were convinced that the purpose of the latter day rain was to provide the church with supernatural tools to win the lost in the last days. Also in Tomlinson’s vision, devils were cast out, people were saved, and he was reminded of Mark 16 and signs following believers. In his journal Tomlinson concluded, “This was really the baptism of the Holy Ghost as they received Him on the day of Pentecost, for they all spake with tongues. With all I have written it is not yet told, but judging from the countries I visited I spoke in ten different languages.”