“He was meek and plain spoken and no orator. He spoke the common language of the uneducated class. He might preach for three-quarters of an hour with no more emotionalism than that post. He was no arm-waving thunderer, by any stretch of the imagination. The only way to explain the results is this: that his teachings were so simple that people who were opposed to organized religion fell for it. It was the simplicity that attracted them.”
Arthur G. Osterberg
The Los Angeles Times
September 9, 19561
At Azusa Street Mission, William J. Seymour taught four basic truths concerning the atonement through Jesus Christ. These truths are benefits available to all who will accept them. These benefits are 1) justification by faith 2) sanctification 3) healing 4) Holy Ghost baptism.2 Other topics included the “office work” of the Holy Ghost,3 Church unity and slavery.
Concerning justification by faith, Seymour taught persons who repent of their sins and turn in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ, receive forgiveness of sins. He taught regeneration and justification are simultaneous. Through justification, pardoned sinners become children of God.4
Concerning sanctification, Seymour taught through it Christians are thoroughly purged and cleansed “from all original and Adamic sin”.5 He distinguished original or “Adamic” sin from actual sins committed by an individual. He stated, actual sins are “cleansed away through the blood of Jesus at the cross” [as a result of repenting and turning in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ]. However, original or “Adamic” sin, also cleansed at the cross, is “a real death to the old man”. Christ then becomes sanctified in the Christian. Seymour further taught, sanctification makes a Christian holy and “destroys the breed of sin, the love of sin and carnality”. The results of sanctification are 1) a pure heart6 2) being made “every whit whole”7 3) Christ is “crowned and enthroned” in one’s heart8 4) obtaining “power over the world, the flesh and the devil"
5) sitting in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.9
Seymour referred to sanctification as “the second work of grace” and stated it is accomplished by “the power of the blood and the Holy Ghost” working in a Christian’s heart.10 It is performed on the total man – spirit, soul and body. Through sanctification, Christians “live a holy life free from sin”. 11 Scriptural bases for Seymour’s teaching on sanctification include Matthew 5:8; John 17:15-17; Romans 6:6,7; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 4:3; 5:23; 2 Timothy 2:21; Hebrews 2:11; 10:14,15; 12:14; 13:12. Also see Isaiah 26:3.12
Seymour admonished men and women to “remain before God until His all cleansing blood [made them] holy” – spirit, soul and body. He stated God calls men and women who will “live a holy life free from sin”. He also warned, “it is holiness or hell”.13
Concerning healing, Seymour taught “sickness and disease are destroyed through the precious atonement of Jesus”. Through the atonement man’s physical body is sanctified “from inherited disease”. Jesus Christ will heal every case of disease. God the Father sent Jesus into the world, sanctified Him – spirit, soul and body – and gave Him for the imperfect bodies of men. Men ought to honor Jesus’ stripes, because “with his stripes we are healed”. “Every sickness is of the devil.” Jesus “was manifested to destroy the works of the devil”. [Isaiah 53:4,5; 1 John 3:8]
Seymour also taught before the Fall of Man [Genesis 3:6], man, “pure and happy…knew no sickness”. After “that unholy visitor came into the garden” man’s “system was poisoned”. That poison “has been flowing in the blood of all the human family down the ages until God spoke to His people and said, ‘I am the Lord that healeth thee’”.
Seymour further taught, “the children of Israel practiced divine healing”. David was healed of rheumatism. Seymour told of David’s healing saying,
“’Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name, who forgives all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases’….Healing continued with God’s people til Solomon’s heart was turned away [from God] by strange women, and he brought in the black arts and mediums and they went whoring, after familiar spirits.”
“He hath born our griefs.” The meaning of the word griefs is sicknesses. Since Jesus bore men’s sicknesses, they should not have to bear them. Therefore, full salvation [deliverance form anything an individual needs to be delivered from – including sickness and disease] is available through Jesus’ atonement.14
Seymour defined Holy Ghost baptism as an “enduement of power for service and work and for sealing unto the day of redemption”.15 He stated it comes “upon the sanctified life”16 and is evidenced by speaking in tongues. However, concerning tongues he admonished,
“We are not seeking for tongues, but we are seeking the baptism with the Holy Ghost and fire. And when we receive it we shall be so filled with the Holy Ghost, that He Himself will speak in the power of the Spirit.”17
Holy Ghost baptism “gives us [Christians] power to testify to a risen, resurrected Savior”18 and enables [Christians] to “lift up Christ…in His power to speak all the languages of the world”.19
Seymour believed the same commission given to Jesus’ disciples to “Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high” is also given to the Church.20 When a Christian is Holy Ghost baptized, he or she has their own Pentecost experience just as the disciples did on the Day of Pentecost.21 Experiencing Holy Ghost baptism is accepting Jesus “in all of His fullness”.22
Seymour also taught Holy Ghost baptism is a requirement for inclusion in the “,marriage supper of the Lamb”. He stated, “Those that will be permitted to enter in are those who are justified, sanctified and baptized with the Holy Ghost – sealed unto the day of redemption.” He compared Holy Ghost baptized Christians to the five wise virgins and non-Holy Ghost baptized Christians to the five foolish virgins. Seymour’s teaching on this subject is an exegesis on Matthew 25:1-13.23
Concerning the “office work” of the Holy Ghost, Seymour stated it is “to preside over the entire work of God on earth (John 10:3)”. Jesus sent the Holy Ghost to be the Bishop of the Church. The Holy Ghost infuses with divine power and invests with heavenly authority. “No religious assembly is legal without His presence and His transaction.”24 Seymour further stated,
“The church had the right idea that we need bishops and elders, but they must be given authority by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and their qualifications for these offices must be the enduement of the power of the Holy Ghost.”25
Azusa Street Mission’s “book of church polity and doctrine”26 did not contain specific teachings by Seymour on racism. However, included in this book is a statement on Christian unity and a statement on slavery.27 These statements are particularly poignant because Azusa Street Mission was an integrated church.
Concerning Christian unity, Seymour wrote,
“Let us be deeply sensible (from what we have known) of the evil of a division in principle, spirit or practice, and the dreadful consequences to ourselves and others. If we are united, what can stand before us? If we divide, we shall destroy ourselves, and the work of God, and the souls of our people (Gal. 5:15-17). In order to have a closer union with each other: 1) Let us be deeply convinced of the absolute necessity of it. 2) Pray earnestly for and speak freely to each other. 3) When we meet let us never part without prayer. 4) Take great care not to despise each other’s gifts. 5) Never speak lightly of each other. 6) Let us defend each other’s character in everything so far as is consistent with truth. 7) Labor in honor each to prefer the other before himself. We recommend a serious perusal of the causes, evils and cures of heart and church divisions.”28
Concerning the institution of slavery Seymour wrote,
“We declare that we are as much as ever convinced of the great evil of slavery. We believe that the buying, selling, or holding of human beings, to be used as chattels, is contrary to the laws of God and nature, and inconsistent with the golden rule, and with that rule in our discipline which requires all who desire to continue among us to ‘do no harm,’ and to ‘avoid evil of every kind.’ We therefore affectionately admonish all our ministers and people to keep themselves pure from this great evil, and to seek its extirpation by all lawful and Christian means.”29
“Now, just a word concerning Bro. Seymour, who is the leader of the movement under God: He is the meekest man I have ever met. He walks and talks with God. His power is in his weakness. He seems to maintain a helpless dependence on God and is as simple-hearted as a little child, and at the same time is so filled with God that you feel the love and power every time you get near him.”
William H. Durham
The Apostolic Faith
“....The son of slaves, Seymour was uneducated and read only the Bible. Yet this simple man’s words changed the world. If Seymour were not a black man, his rise from poverty to become pastor of one of America’s greatest revivals would be remarkable. Because he was a black man in an era charged with racial hatred his accomplishments go beyond remarkable; they are supernatural….”