Ern Baxter - An Autobiographical Sketch 3.
I am really enjoying the conversation that has been stirred from my post yesterday on Ern's reflections on the concept of "Word and Spirit". There's a lot there to chew over. I started a transcript that I hope will help this conversation - just before Ern Baxter died, he spoke at New Covenant Church in Dunstable (my home church) on precisely this subject, "The Spirit and the Word" - and obviously had the freedom to go into it in more detail. I will post this as soon as possible. While I don't want the discussion to stop - this next section of Ern's autobiography could add something to the discussion. It is a reflection of his involvement in the Healing Movement with William Branham and then the Latter Rain Movement. Potential for controversy warning here!
The Healing Movement.
"I received a call from a church in Vancouver, B.C which was the fruit of a Methodist minister. I arrived to find a congregation of about 60 people who met in a rented facility that included 100 straight backed chairs. I began to preach the whole counsel of God and the people and the church began to grow. Soon by God's grace the place was packed so we relocated to a rollerskaing rink which we refurbished. Subsequent growth required larger facilities and we finally purchased a former Presbyterian building.
Almost from the beginning of my stay in Vancouver, I began to receive invitations to travel; and it was during these travels in 1947, that I picked up a magazine while on a plane and read about a man named William Branham. He had a unique supernatural gift of healing and was attracting large audiences throughout the USA and Canada (and eventually abroad). He was to become the focal point of a the great Healing Movement of that time and it was at his meetings, that many would receive the call into the healing ministry. As it turned out, Mr Branham happened to be ministering in the city to which I was flying. As I got off the plane, I was immediately asked by my friends if I would be interested in hearing him.
We went that evening. We could approach no closer than half a block from the church because the building was filled to capacity and the overflow had gathered outside around loudspeakers that were relaying the service. My host asked if I wanted to meet with Mr Branham. I declined. I felt God impressed me that if such a meeting were His will, He would arrrange it with no striving from me. I later left for Vancouver.
Upon my arrival in Vancouver, I discovered that Mr Branham's fame had preceded me. My congregation was excited. Some planned to travel over the mountains to Calgary where he was to minister next, and I decided to accompany them. The meeting was dynamic and we returned home excited. Later a group of Vancouver ministers decided to bring him to the city. It was during his visit that I met him and we became friends.
Not long after he had returned home to Jeffersonville, Indiana, he phoned me to say that while he was at his prayer place down by the Ohio River, an angel of the Lord had spoken to him, telling him that he should invite Ern Baxter to be his travelling companion in ministry.
The Latter Rain.
At that time another significant move of the Spirit called the Latter Rain was occuring. It had begun in my home town of Saskatoon, in Saskatchewan, Canada, among men who had seen the Pentecostal Movement lose much of its power and who were hungry anew for God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As they had fasted and prayed, God had sovereignly visited them. I attended their second convention in Edmonton Canada and witnessed a concentration of the power of God such as I had not seen before. During my involvement with this movement and with the Branham ministry, I saw not only a tremendous manifestation of God's power but also unbelievably huge crowds of as many as 200, 000 people responding to God. What a remarkable time it was!".
There are a number of key points that I see here:
1. Wait for the Timing of the Lord.
I am impressed that when offered a chance to meet William Branham, Ern Baxter turned it down. His reason? He felt that if such was of the Lord, then the Lord would see it happen - which of course He did. I read that C H Spurgeon urged his pastoral students to resist marriage and the ministry for as long as they could. If they ended up in it - then it was obviously of God's will. Yet I do think this attitude is very rare. I have seen many men desperate for position and recognition in the church get up to the most nauseous antics so that they may get some chance to be given recognition in the church. Mostly they achieved their goal and were given offices as elders, home group leaders, worship leaders. But I wonder - how did it fit in with the timing of the Lord? It's very tempting to resort to worldly methods when you feel that God has passed you by (i.e Abraham going into Hagar). How many of us have the patience to wait on God for HIS timing?
2. The Latter Rain blossomed out of Hunger.
The Latter Rain is more infamous now because of the doctrinal error that evolved from it, yet it is interesting to read that Ern Baxter saw it happen through people who were tired of the Pentecostal Movement dying and losing it's power. What did they do? They met and they prayed and they fasted and God visited them! I realise we only have Ern's testimony to go on - but this sounds to me like the Latter Rain Movement started off as a genuine move of the Spirit of God. But as Dave said so rightly in the comment section of the last post, it isn't the Holy Spirit who requires stewarding - it is us. Quite how the Latter Rain and the Healing Movement fell into error and lost the anointing of God is something for tomorrow. Yes ... I WILL be writing again tomorrow - but for the sake of our angry anonymous visitor I WILL also be going to church - and I cannot WAIT! ;)
3. We have much to go in our experience of God.
I read such calm words in this book, "An angel of the Lord told him that Ern Baxter should be his companion ... I witnessed a concentration of the Spirit like never seen before" and I realise again that I am so SO hungry and so SO unsatisfied. We haven't even begun in our experience of what could be in God. I realise that we are not to seek after these things soley - because of the danger of error, but I question why God is so quiet in His divine intervention today. Do we need to follow the example of those in Canada - to meet and pray and fast and call on God till He come? I long to see angels again! My dad never grows tired to telling me of the angelic manifestations that happened at the Dales Bible Week 1976. These things happened! Even Ern himself wrote that non-Christians in neighbouring villages in Harrowgate complained at the sound of singing coming from the cowsheds at dead of night! I think we can be permitted to allow ourselves a degree of hungering after more of heaven's life intervening on earth.