Having described my experience in intercession previous to and portending the present outpouring of the Spirit, I now write of my further experience, in connection with the San Francisco Earthquake, at that time. Both heaven and earth were shaken (Heb. 12:26) to the same end.
The Spirit was poured forth early in April, 1906, in Los Angeles. God covered the fire for a little time, protected it, until He had worked another work; also in preparation, for wide-spread outpouring. Then the fire ran rapidly, with mighty impetus. In fifteen months of previous soul-travail, the necessity of judgment had not occurred to me in this immediate connection. But further events convinced me fully of its necessity and purpose. It was an answer in part to our prayers, such as we had not expected. I had believed such things would follow the world-wide call, to mercy the Lord had been showing me He was going to give. The Word declares it for the “Tribulation.” But unbelief and denial largely shut this Peter also outside: the prayer gate.
“When Thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness,” Isa. 26:9. Later, the “cities of the nations” are to fall, Rev. 16:19. The shadows or droppings of this are being realized now. We near the end. The San Francisco earthquake was a forerunner. God used it to awaken to this fact. Men seek God in times of adversity and trouble, feel their need. Better earthquakes for rebuke and warning than the indifference of God. God knocks at men’s consciences loudly today. These warnings are following thick and fast. He also started the milk of human kindness flowing through San Francisco’s distress. Hearts were opened and His Spirit entered. Selfishness was broken up. Christianity also had a chance to prove herself. An example was made of sin, but mercy tempered the stroke. Few, if any Christians were lost. Obedient ones escaped. Many were warned of God, and fled the city. Others were miraculously delivered. But at least ten thousand people, by official estimate, were destroyed. Los Angeles, the American Jerusalem, realized “Pentecost” largely through this. She received a warning of intended judgment also, but escaped through prayer. Many had come to us from other States and other lands, workers and missionaries even from heathendom, during the months previous, sent of the Lord. They had come up for “Pentecost,” but knew it not. They were to go back to the “regions beyond” and spread the holy fire. God had revealed it to us.
In the final outpouring, barriers were burned away. A heterogeneous body was thrown together, “baptized in one Spirit.” And so the present work began. A miracle in itself.
But to the Earthquake. Sunday, April 15, a few days after the Spirit was received by the little company in cottage prayer meeting, God spoke to me and said, “Tarry ten days.” I inquired why, for I had been shut up before for fifteen months. No explanation came, but He promised me strength. I obeyed. Monday and Tuesday I was shut up with Him, but no further directions came. Wednesday, April 18, I was again in my closet, when the first news was received of the earthquake. San Francisco was shaken down and burning up. I began to understand. It was in some way a strange answer to our prayers. God would reveal something to me in this connection. It was His hand.
It was a terrible time. Los Angeles was spell-bound. Nervous tension was high. Apprehension filled every breast. Friends, loved ones, money were all involved. Business stood still. Thursday we also realized a slight shock. We felt it a solemn warning. Soon the refugees began to pour in. Our concern now, however, was for Los Angeles. What would God say to us? I listened for His voice. “Did God do that?” was the question plainly written over the whole city, expressed or unexpressed. I waited closely on Him. The preachers became a mighty instrument in the hands of Satan to drown His voice, as they labored to convince the people that the quake was not a direct agency of God. Only earthquake ground. (Well, God knows how to trap the wicked into such places, anyway.) The schools also were used to declare the same. The children were studiously instructed to that effect. But while men labored so strenuously to rule God out of it, they secretly cursed Him in their hearts for it. A short time later they were actually blasphemously thanking God for tearing down the old city and saving them the trouble, that they might build a new San Francisco, earthquake and fire-proof (and God-proof). They are insanely attempting it. But they will never strike “the foundations, whose builder and maker is God,” Heb. 11:10. Let them beware of Mal. 1:4. “Whereas, Edom saith, We are beaten down, but we will return and build the waste places; thus saith the Lord. They shall build, but I will throw down; and men shall call them the border of wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord hath indignation forever.” A brother in the Lord received the following Scripture from God a few days before the quake, and escaped the city before the judgment came. “For this city hath been to Me a provocation of Mine anger and of My fury from the day that they built it even unto this day; that I should remove it from before My face,” Jer. 32:31.
But while hell worked for defeat night and day to blot out the fact of direct agency of God in this, the Lord would offset it by another means. Saturday eve He at last spoke to me. He bade me write. I had been given “The Last Call” a month before. He now showed me all hell was being moved to drown His voice in the earthquake as He sought to awaken the consciences of men. I could realize this, for I had been in close touch with the battle through prayer for a long time. Heaven and hell had been very near and real to me for months. I sensed the battle, and it was awful. Heaven and hell seemed both to have come to town. Men’s nerves were strung to the breaking point. A touch would undo them. I seemed at times to realize the very disposition of the forces of good and evil and their relative strength for battle. The armies of heaven would march forth at the command of the saints, through intercessory prayer, and engage in deadly conflict with the hordes of hell.
The message God was giving me now would be used to beat back the powers of hell from their fell purpose and save His voice of warning to the people. They must hear Him. If they refused, it would fare much worse with them, after San Francisco’s example. It was a critical time. The Spirit’s operations were intense. An awful call to duty was being given me. Multitudes of souls were involved. God had promised me these. I must help save them. The message must not be lost. He gave me the Word on earthquakes.
John Wesley’s sermon on Earthquakes was cited, with other Scriptures the Spirit added. “Of all the judgments God inflicts on the ungodly for sin (John Wesley says) the earthquake is the most awful.” The Word described San Francisco’s condition exactly. The message ceased for the time, but was not finished. Sunday passed. Monday eve He spoke again. The rest was given. It was exhortation, invitation, warning. At 12:30 it was finished. The Spirit was mightily upon me. I had the most solemn apprehension concerning the mind of God for us. The situation was most grave. From 12.30 to 4 o’clock a. m. I was in the very presence of God. The Spirit witnessed most powerfully again to the divine origin of the message, at my further request. Intercession surged through me like a mighty wind. Mother Wheaton was sleeping in the next room. I rocked and trembled under the Spirit’s sway. God made me to feel most terribly His indignation at the people. I cried to Him to shake the nation while I pleaded for them. I sought to restrain the spirit of indignation, feeling it could not be of God, but could not. He was making me to realize His wrath for sin. There seemed more wrath than mercy for the time. But mercy was remembered. My pleadings drove back the wrath clouds that rolled in black from Him. It was marvelous. I cannot describe it. But He finally put forth omnipotence of grace on the behalf of souls. Mercy had conquered, largely at least. I pleaded for the message given. He assured me it should go forth. But what should finally follow, whether judgment, or triumph in salvation, was not shown me. His anger was at least deferred for the time, punishment witheld, the people put on trial. My burden was mainly for Los Angeles now. Volumes of power now shot forth from His presence to convict and convert, and I knew He had heard and answered my pleadings. He was working mightily and would work. Apprehension was not fully removed, but a respite had been gained. What should follow would doubtless depend on how we received the message. I was commanded to argue the question with no man. Deliver the message quickly, were His orders. It was His Word on earthquakes. The people would settle with Him. They must know it.
I went to sleep at 4 and arose at 7 a. m. The message was soon set in type. I ordered thousands printed as fast as they could. Seventy-five thousand were published and circulated in three weeks time. Fifty thousand more were printed in Oakland at my request, and circulated in the earthquake cities in about the same length of time. All the important towns in northern and southern California were canvassed with them. Possibly forty thousand were distributed in Los Angeles alone. I warned the printers to watch the work, but the devil smashed a part of the type. God warned me he would try. But no time was lost. There was enough ahead. The pressure was terrific. All hell was surging around me. I seemed to work like lightning. My feet were like “hinds’ feet.” God overshadowed me. He raised up a small army of men to assist me in the distribution. Everything seemed to have been planned for this. Of course it was planned of Him. I was in touch with workers everywhere. Los Angeles was canvassed, the State, and hundreds sent to other States, some even to foreign lands. God’s children heard His voice and promptly obeyed. Offered themselves “willingly, in the day of His power.” I canvassed the business section of Los Angeles myself. Hell raged to destroy and hinder me. My life was in danger, but it was committed to God. A business man followed me half a block into another office and sought to quarrel with me. Failing in this he walked to the curb and deliberately tore the tract to pieces in his rage in the midst of a crowded thoroughfare. God’s Word convicted him. It burned like fire. “Is not My Word as fire?”
God gave me the soul of politeness all through. But I was true to Him. The messenger was not responsible for the message. The burden and consciousness of responsibility that rested upon me cannot be described. No one could possibly appreciate it fully except they had been in my place. I saw and felt things no one else not in a similar position could see. My face bore an expression under this that seemed to convict at a glance. There was not a tremor of fear in my soul. He sustained me. I distributed the tracts in the street cars, and they literally created consternation. Everyone eagerly caught up all earthquake news. When they discovered its import they were simply appalled. Many were terrified. They knew not that God had spoken of earthquakes, especially in such explicit terms, as punishment for sin. People would frequently get off the cars before reaching their destination, or go beyond, in confusion. My very presence seemed to bring conviction at times. God was mightily upon me. Wicked men threw down the message the moment they caught God’s Word, but in most every case they stooped and picked it up again, often with a sigh or groan and look of helplessness. They either read it or folded away carefully in their pocket. Very few were destroyed. It was a miracle. God held them to it. They must read and then decide. Proud, wicked men, ashamed for it, still were really curious to know what God had to say. They were frightened. Many were directly converted or reclaimed through it. How many God only knows. It was the one theme. How much it was used in the providence of God possibly will never be fully known. I knew the place He had given it with me, and trembled under it. I canvassed the saloons and dives on a big Saturday tight, and thousands were warned by it. A dear brother stood outside each saloon and held on to God for my life while I worked within. In several cases the bartenders attempted to intercept me to do me violence, but God delivered me out of the mouth of the lion. My life seemed charmed. A merchant in San Diego picked up one of the tracts from the street, sunburned and one corner gone, but was so convicted by it he wrote me a letter. By this time thousands were inquiring after me, many of them for evil. The police were put after me. The people were being so disturbed. But God helped me to work quickly, kept me hid. I was most conscious of this and of my danger. His hand o’ershadowed me. I lived several lifetimes during those weeks. God’s children were greatly exercised. It was not a madman’s freak. The responsibility became more awful. The police were seeking me one night, but the Spirit warned me. I escaped as by the skin of my teeth. The devil would have cut the work short by casting me into prison. I was but half done.
The first consignment of tracts had been received the tenth day of my tarrying. I had forgotten that, but as I sought to wait before the Lord He reminded me of it and pressed me out to service. The King’s business required haste. Heaven and hell were in terrible conflict over the souls of men. Earth and heaven were both shaking. Men’s souls must regard God in a spiritual upheaval.
As a climax, Sunday, May 6, as I arose from bed the Spirit spoke to me. I had seemed to hear a voice the previous week, “This week and next.” A curtain dropped before my life at May 13. All was blank beyond as though life ceased. I could see no further. God was hurrying me to finish the distribution of the message, but did not tell me so. He hastened it that way. I threw myself into it as though time would cease that day. The words He now spoke were these, “Los Angeles is in My balances, being weighed.” I requested it again. Again it came. I said, “Lord, if this is of Thee speak but once more, and if not bid it cease.” It came again more distinctly than before, “Warn the people.” I arose, and we met for family prayer. The Bible fell open in my hands in answer to prayer. I looked for the message in answer given. My eyes fell on the account of Belshazzar’s feast. “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” There was no possible collusion. It was enough. The Spirit and the Word agreed. I said, “Where, Lord?” And He showed me. I spoke to three congregations that day, and the message was generally received as from God. I exhorted the saints to pray that judgment might be averted, the hand of God stayed. They responded and sent up a mighty volume of prayer with redoubled interest. No judgment was prophesied, only the message delivered. We felt prayer might avert it. God’s wrath was kindled against sin. But as in Nineveh’s case faithful warning might prevail. False prophets were on my track, seeking reputation, and the devil sought to bring the cause into disrepute.
God even sets the date sometimes for destruction, however, as in Jonah’s case, but the judgment may be averted. He stirred us up to pray, with threatenings. Three more congregations were visited that week with the message, with similar results. Wednesday a letter was written to the Mayor, under direction of the Spirit. Thursday eve I gave the message last. Waiting upon God He gave me a black frown, and I understood He was not yet appeased. I asked for directions and went trembling once more to speak for Him. The people went down and pleaded with Him for mercy. It seemed to be enough. No more instructions came. The saints were now praying mightily under the greatest apprehension. It had the desired effect.
Saturday eve I got the last tracts out, before May 13. Then the burden rolled away. I had thought to watch in prayer all night until the break of day, but the Spirit said, “You have done your part; now leave the rest with Me.” I had had no instructions to flee the city, so stayed. I went to bed at 8 o’clock and slept like a babe. Sunday, May 13, dawned bright and clear, and instead of judgment the Spirit was poured out in a marvelous way. The crisis was past. Still God had not forgotten, but only passed by. The work bounded forward mightily, with a fresh impetus, from that very time. And still it bounds, world-wide. Few doubted the significance of this. I never have. The call to mercy is world-wide now. Judgment must follow soon on a corresponding scale. It is delayed but a little, while we do our part. Lee Spangler prophesied months before of the California earthquake, and the attendant spiritual awakening. The two go hand in hand; through history and the Word. Now, while it is mercy’s call, oh, heed His voice. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon, harbinger of God’s great day of wrath. The “cities” are falling. San Francisco, Valparaiso, Kingston, etc. See that thou fall not.
Published in Way of Faith, Nov., 1907.