Ambrose J. Tomlinson (1865-1943)
Whereas Simpson, Dowie, and Moody's ministries had a clear and documented influence on
Frank Sandford's movement, less clear are the influences, of Charles Parham and A. J.
Tomlinson on Sandford. Both of these men were students who sojourned at Shiloh at
least as far back as 1897 with regard to Tomlinson, and Parham during the summer of 1900.
Tomlinson was an itinerant preacher from Quaker stock, and
following his conversion in 1892 he sought out locations where special visitations of the
Holy Spirit were occurring. He goal was to find the true "Church of God" where
the preaching of the word was being confirmed by miracles, signs, and wonders, together
with gifts of the Holy Spirit according to the pattern of Acts. "A. B. Simpson
and the Pentecostal Movement" by Charles W. Nienkirchen p.32
Tomlinson's diary reveals he was not only present in October
of 1901 when Sandford announced his doctrine of "restored baptism", but was
re-baptized for the third time in his life by Sandford. (His second excursion into
baptismal waters took place on Oct 30, 1897 in Lisbon Falls, Me. with Ralph Gleason
officiating) He also remarked in a journal entry of that period that he had
"received the Holy Ghost" on March 1896, and described a Sandfordian experience
on October 30, 1897, which would encourage the view that one yet insisted on
tongues-speech as the invariable expression of Spirit baptism. Beniah at the Apostolic Crossroads: Little Noticed
Crosscurrents of Irwin,Parham,Sandford, and Tomlinson by Harold Hunter, Phd.
International Pentecostal Holiness Church
"...Among the students is an evangelist (referring to Tomlinson, Ed.) from Indiana who has just arrived
from work in Tennessee and No. Carolina...." Tongues of Fire p172 11/1/1897
Both Tomlinson and Parham left Shiloh and formed their own
Pentecostal higher lines Christian ministries; Parham at Topeka in 1901, and Tomlinson in
Tennessee in 1903, where he led a congregation named the Holiness Church at Camp Creek.
"In June of that year he claimed to have a vision that the true church of Jesus
Christ was restored in his Holiness Church. Tomlinson believed the true church was lost in
A.D. 325 and that it was restored in layers, beginning with the 16th-century Protestant
Reformation and culminating with the founding of the Church of God in 1903. "To
Tomlinson the group he was associated with was the only true and valid Christian communion
'this side of the Dark Ages'" (Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition,
from David Cloud's website, http://www.whidbey.net/~dcloud/fbns/strange2.htm
Later on, Tomlinson became affiliated with holiness
group in Western North Carolina, which ultimately became the Church of God (Cleveland,
Tenn.); the group had originally formed in 1886 as the Christian Union. Like many of the
Holiness independents, the Christian Union's founder, Richard G. Spurling, sought a
restoration of primitive Christianity. Spurling, a licensed minister of the Baptist
Church, soon died after the Union's formation, but his son, R. G. Spurling Jr., carried on
the work for ten apparently unfruitful years. " (from Logos website entitled "The Holiness
In 1922 Tomlinson wrote:
"Many of the Pentecostal people know the Bible School
at Mount Blessings. They are sanctified people. Many who now have the baptism
were once connected with Mount of Blessings. And about two months ago one of the
Church of God preachers stopped over to talk with the leader at that place and that leader
said to him, 'After all, I think we all ought to seek the baptism like you have it' "
Beniah at the Apostolic Crossroads: Little Noticed Crosscurrents of
Irwin,Parham,Sandford, and Tomlinson, by Harold Hunter, Phd. International
Pentecostal Holiness Church
We have been unable to produce evidence of Tomlinson at
Shiloh after the early years of this century. He evidently became affiliated
with B.H. Irwin, who initiated several "Fire-Baptized" organizations in
Tennessee, and recorded his schedule in The Way of Faith. We are aware of
the early Irwin/Parham connection, but are uncertain at this time of any Irwin/Sandford
"As a subscriber, Tomlinson would have kept current
with the ministries of both Dowie and Irwin. In 1906 Tomlinson describes his role at
the First Church of God Assembly as "ruling elder," the term formally used by
Irwin since 1898." Beniah at the Apostolic Crossroads: Little Noticed
Crosscurrents of Irwin,Parham,Sandford, and Tomlinson by Harold Hunter, Phd.
International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
A brief history of Tomlinson and his affiliation with the
Church of God at Camp Creek is reproduced here from the Cyberjournal for
Charismatic Pentecostal Research. It does not mention, however, his
earliest affiliation with Sandford at Tomlinson's second baptism at the hands of Ralph
Gleason in 1897.
four men influenced by Irwins movement began a revival in the Shearer Schoolhouse
near Camp Creek in Cherokee County, North Carolina. William
Martin, a Methodist, along with Baptists Joe M. Tipton, Elias Milton McNabb and William
Hamby, preached a ten day meeting that attracted a great deal of attention in the area. According to Tomlinson, They preached a
clean gospel, and urged the people to seek and obtain sanctification subsequent to
justification. They prayed, fasted and wept
before the Lord until a great revival was the result.
Bryant (1963-1949), a Baptist deacon, became part of the Holiness movement and began
holding Sunday school and prayer meetings. Not
all appreciated this new doctrine of living free from sin, and soon the worshippers were
barred from the schoolhouse and limited to meetings in nearby homes. When they constructed a simple log church across
the road from the schoolhouse, the antagonism was so great the structure was dismantled
and burned. In succeeding years, persecutions
continued and many, including Bryant, were turned out of their churches for this new
doctrine of holiness.
leadership and in the midst of on-going persecution, many people experienced changed lives
and extraordinary spiritual manifestations such as speaking in tongues and divine
healings. The earliest history suggests that
over one hundred persons spoke in tongues during this period of persecution and revival.
Despite their Spirit baptism, they had no clear understanding of the Holy Spirit
and likely considered speaking in tongues one of many manifestations that might accompany
sanctification. Empowered by the Spirit, they
preached the message of holiness with conviction and fervor. A lack of organization along with the fanatical
elements of the Fire-Baptized movement prevented much growth among those at Camp Creek,
R. G. Spurling
often worshipped with the little flock meeting in Bryants home and encouraged them
to organize a local church, but Bryant and others were slow to see the need. It was not until May 15, 1902, under the
leadership of Spurling, that a local church was organized among the Camp Creek believers. Although previous churches Spurling organized had
called themselves Christian Union, this group was deeply shaped by the Holiness movement. They identified themselves as the Holiness Church
at Camp Creek. About sixteen or seventeen
members covenanted together as a local church, and the fledgling group selected Spurling
as pastor and ordained Bryant as a minister of the Gospel.
There was no growth among the congregation, however, until the following
June when A. J. Tomlinson (1865-1943) and four others joined the small flock.
be characterized as a missionary and a seeker. Born
into a Quaker farm family in Westfield, Indiana, he was converted shortly after his
marriage in 1889 and soon became convinced of the doctrine of entire sanctification.
Following his sanctification experience, Tomlinson began to minister wherever he saw a
needfirst in his local congregation as a Sunday school teacher and later as a
preacher of the Gospel. Seeing great needs
among the mission field in the mountains of western North Carolina, eastern
Tennessee, and northern Georgia, Tomlinson traveled to that region as a Bible salesman for
the American Bible Society and the American Tract Society in 1896.
His early ministry included travel with J.
B. Mitchell, a convert of Charles G. Finney. Along
the way he met many leading ministers such as D. L. Moody and A. B. Simpson, and he
studied for a while at Gods Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio. Then in 1901, he visited Frank W. Sandfords
Shiloh near Durham, Maine. There he studied
at Sandfords Holy Ghost and Us Bible school, was baptized in water for
the third time, and joined Sandfords organization, which saw itself as the
restoration of Gods church at the end of the Gentile age.
Tomlinson met W. F. Bryant after selling
five-cent New Testaments to Bryants young boys.
The boys suggested that he meet their powerful religious father,
and Tomlinson became acquainted with the holiness work at Camp Creek. During the next seven years Tomlinson developed
deep spiritual friendships with Bryant, Spurling and others in and around the Camp Creek
community, but he too resisted the idea of organization. As
late as 1908 Tomlinson sent out a letter to supporters around the country identifying
himself as a Missionary Evangelist to the poor and unreached in the region.
In 1899 Tomlinson settled with his family
in nearby Culberson, North Carolina, to establish a ministry base. Soon he founded a school for children, a Sunday
school, a clothing distribution center and an orphanage.
As a means of appealing for financial support, Tomlinson published a
four-page periodical called Samsons Foxes. He envisioned the children to whom he ministered
as potential firebrands of the gospel among the Appalachian people. The periodical featured news from the Diving
Healing and Holiness movements as well as appeals for help for the mountain
After years of searching and seeking God,
this man of vision, passion and ability found a home among the Holiness Church at Camp
Creekconvinced that they were the Church of God of the Bible. He later wrote about his early experiences, I
had already searched and investigated many movements until my faith in them had completely
exhausted. I seemed to be like a ship at sea
with no rudder by which it should be controlled.
In R. G. Spurling, Tomlinson found a spiritual father and mentor. In W. F. Bryant, he found a brother and companion
in ministry, and in the people of the Holiness Church at Camp Creek, he found a home and a
congregation that deeply wanted to please God and restore the New Testament church of God.
When Tomlinson covenanted with the
Holiness Church at Camp Creek, the small congregation already knew and loved Tomlinson. They immediately selected him as their pastor,
freeing Bryant and Spurling for evangelistic ministry.
According to the records, fourteen new members were won during Tomlinsons
first year as pastor, including M. S. Lemons, a minister and schoolteacher from Bradley
Tomlinsons vision reached beyond
Camp Creek, however, and he sought to establish other congregations. In December 1904, he purchased a home about fifty
miles from Camp Creek in Cleveland, Tennessee, because of its location on the railroad. Along with travel by foot and by horseback, the
railroad gave Tomlinson additional means to spread the gospel. Soon he had established new congregations in Union
Grove and Drygo, Tennessee as well as Jones, Georgia.
Growth, of course, brought both new
possibilities and new challenges. According
to Tomlinson, there was a need for a general meeting to consider questions of
importance and to search the Bible for additional light and knowledge. This reflected Tomlinsons characteristic of
continual seeking and the great desire of the people to restore New Testament
from the Cyberjournal for Charismatic
Pentecostal Research at http://www.fullnet.net/np/archives/cyber/roebuck.html
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