The prolific Methodist evangelist E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973) was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963. As a missionary in India, he became a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi. Jones even wrote a biography of Gandhi – one that inspired Martin Luther King, Jr. and his message of “non-violence” during the Civil Rights Movement. Time Magazine called Jones “the world’s greatest Christian missionary.”
Before graduating in 1906 from Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, Jones experienced a remarkable event.
“Four or five of us students were in the room of another student, Jim Ballinger, having a prayer meeting about ten o’clock at night,” recalled Jones in his autobiography A Song of Ascents. “I remember I was almost asleep with my head against the bedclothes where I was kneeling, when we were all swept off our feet by a visitation of the Holy Spirit. We were all filled, flooded by the Spirit. Everything that happened to the disciples on the original Pentecost happened to us.”
Jones admits that he was “tempted to tone down what really happened, or to dress it up in garments of respectability by using noncommittal descriptive terms. In either case it would be dishonest and perhaps worse – a betrayal of one of the most sacred and formative gifts of my life, a gift of God. To some who have looked upon me as an ‘intellectual’ it will come as a shock. But shock or no shock, here goes.”
Being willing to be misunderstood, Jones wrote, “For three or four days it could be said of us as was said of those at the original Pentecost. ‘They are drunk.’ I was drunk with God. I say ‘for three or four days,’ for time seemed to have lost its significance” (page 68).
[“The first night I could only walk the floor and praise him. About two o’clock L. L. Pickett, the father of Bishop J. Waskom Pickett, came upstairs and said: ‘Stanley, he giveth his beloved sleep.’ But sleep was out of the question. By morning the effects of this sudden and unexpected ‘outpouring’ had begun to go through the college and town. That morning there was no chapel service, in the ordinary sense; people were in prayer, some prostrate in prayer. No one led it, and yet it was led – led by the Spirit. For three days there were no college classes. Every class room was a prayer meeting where students and faculty were seeking and finding and witnessing. It spread to the countryside. People flocked in, and, before they could even get into the assembly hall, would be stricken with conviction and would fall on their knees on the campus crying for God – and pardon and release. I was praying with seekers on the inside of the hall when some- one came to me and said: ‘Come outside. There are people kneeling on the campus who need your help.’
[“And then a strange thing happened: I was taken possession of by an infinite quiet. I found myself tiptoeing as I walked through that auditorium of seeking and rejoicing people. I found myself talking in whispers, the outer expression of this holy calm within. And yet it was a dynamic calm, something akin to the calm at the center of a cyclone – the calm where the dynamic forces of the cyclone reside. It was easy to help people through to victory and release. From then on till this movement of the Spirit subsided there was nothing but a holy calm within me.”] …
What was the fruit of the experience? “I was released from the fear of emotion. I had tasted three days of ecstasy – drunk with God,” testified Jones. “And yet they were the clearest-headed, soberest moments I have ever known. I saw into the heart of reality, and the heart of reality was joy, joy, joy. And the heart of reality was love, love, love.” (page 69).
(Adapted from “The Unpredictability of Encountering a Holy God” by Steve Beard in Power, Holiness, and Evangelism, [1999 Destiny Image Publishers] compiled by Randy Clark.)