The Roots (Cont.)

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, p. 76)

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 Connection")

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 linkages.

"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.

"In 1896, four men influenced by Irwin’s 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.”

William F. 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.

Under Bryant’s 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, however.

R. G. Spurling often worshipped with the little flock meeting in Bryant’s 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.

Tomlinson can 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 need—first 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 God’s Bible School in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Then in 1901, he visited Frank W. Sandford’s Shiloh near Durham, Maine.  There he studied at Sandford’s “Holy Ghost and Us” Bible school, was baptized in water for the third time, and joined Sandford’s organization, which saw itself as the restoration of God’s church at the end of the Gentile age.

Tomlinson met W. F. Bryant after selling five-cent New Testaments to Bryant’s 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 Samson’s 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 missionary work.”

After years of searching and seeking God, this man of vision, passion and ability found a home among the Holiness Church at Camp Creek—convinced 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 Tomlinson’s first year as pastor, including M. S. Lemons, a minister and schoolteacher from Bradley County, Tennessee.

Tomlinson’s 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 Tomlinson’s characteristic of continual seeking and the great desire of the people to restore New Testament Christianity. "

from the Cyberjournal for Charismatic Pentecostal Research at  http://www.fullnet.net/np/archives/cyber/roebuck.html

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