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Dr. Charles S. Price
Testimony - "From out of the
The greatest evangelistic and healing meetings to ever shake Canada.
Is the Age of Miracles Past? by Thomas W. Miller
FROM OUT OF THE PAST
Charles S Price had been a preacher for some 30 years when he posed the question, "Is the Age of Miracles Past?" Of course Price intended this to he a rhetorical question, for his preaching and his remarkable healing ministry attested to the fact that miracles were possible in the 20th century
Conversion - Modernism - Baptism
But Price's personal spiritual pilgrimage was a tortuous one, from childhood belief in Christian doctrine, through a period of modernist unbelief, to eventual conversion and baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Price was horn into a godly Christian family in Sheffield, England, in 1887 and showed early promise as a gifted public speaker. His youthful religious impressions were forgotten by the time he completed law studies at Wesley College and Oxford University. He emigrated to Canada in search of employment with a law firm, hut was obliged to take a job as a laborer on the railroad.
In a moment of despair, he left Canada for greener pastures in Spokane, Washington. Instead of work, he found a small Gospel Mission in which he went to the altar and came hack to Christ. He assisted in the Mission and his abilities were recognized by his ordination to the Methodist ministry.
Price was now a committed, but inexperienced pastor and he soon fell under the influence of then popular modernist theology. Early 20th century modernism discounted much of the Bible as unhistorical and rejected any supernatural phenomena in religion. Charles' response was a whole-hearted rejection of orthodox Christianity. He left Methodism and joined the Congregational Convention. His sermons were replaced with lectures, and his fluent speech brought him in recognition.
He took his family to Alaska, and then conducted a series of lectures throughout America promoting that northern land through his talks and his photographs. So successful was he in this effort that he received a personal citation from the President of the United States. And it opened the door to Price's installment as the pastor of a fashionable church in Lodi, California.
In later years, as he reviewed his life, he recalled with regret that he had been a preacher for 12 years without ever once giving an invitation to sinners to accept Jesus as Saviour. And no wonder, for Charles S Price himself was far from Chris! Though trained in law and theology, fluent in speech and renowned as a lecturer and popular as a pastor in Lodi, he had no genuinely spiritual relationship with the Lord.
Aimee Semple McPherson's Influence
It was s Aimee Semple McPherson's ministry in San Jose, California which brought Charles Price into a right relationship with the Saviour. Many of his congregants flocked to hear Aimee, and Price attended her services to see for himself what the attraction was. He was sitting among other clergymen onthe platform when an altar call was given and he was drawn to the place of prayer. A fellow-minister put out a hand to restrain him, and said the "call was for sinners."
But Price was unconcerned with public appearances, and that night, in 1921, lie was soundly converted. Soon afterwards, he received a glorious infilling of the Spirit, while on his back, and praised the Lord in "other tongues." When he told his parishioners in Lodi of his recent experiences, a number sought the Lord for salvation, and about 1,000 began "tarrying meetings" seeking the Baptism. Another 1,000 newly-revived believers formed the "Lodi Gospel Team." Their aim was to hold street meetings, give testimonies and carry out personal evangelism.
It was in this environment that Charles S Price discovered that God would heal bodies in answer to prayer. He had witnessed divine healing in the McPherson meetings, and began to experience similar successes in his own services. In August of 1922 he severed his pastoral connections and launched out into evangelistic ministry. For the next quarter-century, until his death in 1947, Price's name was indivisibly connected with the doctrine and practice of divine healing.
Price was well-educated for his time, and had a sound grasp of the biblical principles espoused by evangelicalism in the 1920's. But he was not a theologian and his sermons were not models of exegetical expertise. Most of his sermons were topical in nature, such as the message of Psalm 23 entitled, Still Waters! Green Pastures! Price also made much use of stories full of pathos and sentiment to convey his gospel themes.
Not Eloquent, But Earnest
A description of his sermonic style from the published history of the Victoria, B.C., Pentecostal Church, seems to capture the essence of Price's pulpit ministry. He was "a fluent but not particularly eloquent man whose manner denoted tremendous earnestness and confidence in the beliefs which he held. His message emphasized sanctification, the gift of tongues, faith healing and the imminent return of Jesus Christ, 1 Charles Price himself would have rejected the term "faith healing," for he constantly asserted that "it was Jesus who was the healer." In all his services, he urged people: "to forget, as much as possible, the instrument who anointed them with oil. He told them to look away to Christ, in whom alone they could find deliverance out of all their sufferings."
Price began evangelistic meetings in Ashland, Oregon, then went on to Albany, Roseburg and Eugene, where his unusual meetings attracted the attention of prominent Methodists in Victoria. It was in Ashland that Charles prayed for the sick as they lined up before him. Multitudes were healed when anointed with oil and prayed for, with hands laid on them. In addition scores were "slain" under the power of God, and fell to the floor.
At Albany, Oregon, one woman was healed of a large goitre. Without an invitation, people flocked to the altar for salvation, and some aged preachers present said the meetings reminded them of the last great days of Charles Finney.
Confounded the Skeptics
But the greatest miracles of healing took place in the Price campaign in Victoria, B.C., in April of 1923. Dr. Price was thoroughly investigated by Rev. W.J. Sipprell, D.D., the pastor of the large Metropolitan Methodist Church. Dr. Sipprell secured the co-operation of most clergymen in the city, and Price began meetings there on April 8. The church was packed out, and services were moved to the newly-built hockey rink owned by the Patrick brothers.
This ice arena seated 10,000 people: by the time the campaign ended on April 29, it was estimated by Frank Patrick that over a quarter-million had attended the services. In that period, more than 5,000 people were prayed for by the evangelist. Meetings were held three times a day and there often were a thousand or more at the altar seeking the Lord.
Two notable healings took place in a manner which no one could dispute as spurious, or the product of hypnosis or suggestion. Rev. W.J. Knott was seated on the platform on April 17 when anointed with oil and prayed for by Dr. Price. Rev. Knott had had a huge goitre for 10 years, which was visible to the entire audience. He also suffered from palpitations of the heart, and intense headaches resulting from severe eye problems. There on the platform the large goitre began to shrink before the watchful multitude, until it disappeared! At the same time, the heart palpitations and eye problems were cured.
One month later, Rev. Knott reported that he could eat any kind of food, slept like a baby, and could read fine print without glasses. This miracle of healing took place as thousands watched. One eyewitness was E. Hazel Mussen, now of Abbotsford, B.C. Mrs. Mussen was a young girl when she witnessed this healing. She also was present at an even more extraordinary event - the healing of Ruby Dimmick.
Ruby was the 21-year-old daughter of J.F. Dimmick, pastor of the Wesley Methodist Church in Victoria. At the age of 13, her spine began to curve until it drew up her right leg by 1 1/2 inches. Surgeons in Toronto operated, but were unable to lengthen the leg. For eight years she wore a special built-up shoe and used a cane. Ruby was sitting beside her father in the pew, far distant from the evangelist, when she was touched by the healing power of God!
Hazel Mussen's account of this extraordinary event captured the poignancy of that moment:
"I clearly remember being in the Metropolitan Methodist Church at Pandora and Quadra Streets in Victoria, B C, with my mother in April 1923. One service stands out clearly in my mind. Suddenly, during the meeting, we heard excited cries of a young girl by the name of Ruby Dimmick. One of her legs was much shorter than the other, causing her to have to wear a boot with a three-inch heel. But the Lord's power had suddenly touched the short leg. causing it to lengthen right there as she sat in the pew - and no wonder she cried out in joy and amazement!
Then she got up and excitedly ran down the aisle, hobbling unevenly because the "short" leg was then longer than the normal one, due to the three-inch boot. In another service the same week, my attention was centred on a huge goitre on the neck of Rev Knott Suddenly, Knott's goitre began to shrink! As he was seated on the platform, all of us who had a good view of him saw that huge goitre disappear right before our eyes."2
Charles S. Price moved on to evangelistic meetings in Vancouver from May 6 to the 27 where similar extraordinary healings took place. And hundreds of conversions were counted by local clergymen. The press in both cities reported very favourably on both campaigns, but some criticism began to emerge respecting the genuineness of the healings. There also was disagreement from some fundamentalists who objected to the doctrines of Holy Spirit Baptism and the Second Coming. Clergymen in both communities provided glowing "testimonials" to the biblical nature of Price's preaching and the undoubted healings of members of their churches.
Rev. J. Smith Patterson of Victoria noted that all ministers in Victoria were united behind the Price meetings. Six weeks after their conclusion, attendance at his prayer meetings had reached 1,200, and more healings had occurred as he anointed and prayed for his people. At the Metropolitan Methodist Church, said Rev. Knott, another 1,200 gathered weekdays for prayer and praise. Rev. D. Webster of the Presbyterian Church was praying for the sick and some had "gone down under the power of God." Other healings included deliverance from deafness, blindness, goitre. breast cancer, crippling rheumatism, and syphilis.
Chinese Population Moved
Dr. Price held special meetings in Victoria and Vancouver for Chinese people and many notable healings resulted, plus hundreds of conversions. Rev. S. Osterhout, Ph.D., and Superintendent of Methodist Oriental Missions in Canada, confirmed the validity of many healings of Chinese personally known to him. Both the Victoria and the Vancouver Ministerial Associations issued "Resolutions" of overwhelming support for the ministry of Charles S. Price.
Wenonah Barnes of Flin Flon, Manitoba, was still rejoicing in 1938 over her healing from goitre and eye trouble in 1924. Pastor W. Irwin Lang of Carberry, Manitoba, was healed in 1923 of a solidified leg-hip condition that had deformed his body. In 1938 he was still gloriously free of trouble, W.M Geddes had been dying of cirrhosis of the liver when Price prayed for him in 1924. Like many others, he was still completely healed many years later.
Canadian Pentecostals Impacted
One of the best-known of those healed was Lorne F. Fox, healed in the Price meetings in Edmonton in 1923. Fox's father was healed of gallstones and a hernia, and lived to be 92. His sister was healed of tuberculosis in both lungs and near-blindness. Lorne himself had had 19 heart attacks and was 90 per cent helpless. Nine doctors had dismissed his case as hopeless, but God touched him. For many years thereafter, Fox assisted Dr Price and conducted his own healing ministry worldwide. In his opinion, Charles S. Price was "a man sent from God."
What was the "secret of success" of this extraordinary evangelist? Why was supernatural healing so prominent among evangelicals in the twenties and thirties, but almost neglected in later decades? Dr. Price's ministry made a profound impression upon early Pentecostals in Canada. Many PAOC clergymen, like Rev J.G. McElhoes, were converted in Price meetings - McElhoes in Victoria in 1923. He served as a Pentecostal minister from 1927 till his retirement in 1981. Rev. P.S. Jones, first full-time B.C. District Superintendent, also was converted in Price's 1923 Victoria meetings. Dr. Price's impact on PAOC churches cannot easily be estimated. He gave a great boost to the Vancouver assembly, for numerous converts joined it following the campaign in that city.
In Winnipeg, in at least three fruitful campaigns, multitudes were added to Pentecostal ranks. It was Dr. Price who suggested the name "Calvary Temple" as a designation for the Winnipeg church, a title since used for scores of other PAOC assemblies. As a young PAOC pastor, this writer frequently met believers who gave glowing reports of the Price ministry in Canada. They naturally emphasized the supernatural character of his many campaigns, but they also mentioned the man's spirit and his doctrinal emphases.
Lorne Fox considered Dr. Price a very humble man, and quoted the evangelist as saying that "humility is so fragile that if it but looks upon itself it has vanished." Historian James H. Gray, in The Roar of the Twenties, paid tribute to Price's uncompromising preaching. For Price, noted Gray, heaven and hell were real places. and the evangelist had "no time for the ethereal claptrap of the modernists." So it is evident that Dr. Price, though best-known for his healing ministry, did not neglect other doctrines considered important among Canadian evangelicals.
Return of Supernatural Phenomena
The 25-year ministry of Charles S. Price was influential in establishing divine healing as both biblical and relevant for modern man. From its inception in 1919, the PAOC had adopted the doctrine, but Price's numerous campaigns across Canada gave it unquestioned acceptance. Though other healing evangelists have arisen since Price's death, none have acquired the same degree of prominence, and divine healing has received less attention than formerly. Perhaps Price foresaw this trend, though he never changed his own ministerial emphases until the day he died.
Near the end, he expressed a hope that the days just prior to the Second Coming of Christ would be characterized by a return of supernatural phenomena. His own ministry he felt, in spite of its extraordinary success, to have been feeble and ineffective.
1. Dennis R. Lindoff, compiler, 60th - Anniversary, 1923-1983, Glad Tidings - Pentecostal Church, Victoria, B C , 1983
2. E Hazel Mussen. Letter to Thomas - Wm. Miller, Abbotsford, B.C., Nov. 27, 1990.
Other sources included numerous early editions of Golden Grain, Charles S Price,
The Great Physician, Winnipeg De Montfort Press, 1924; Charles S Price, The Story of My Life, Pasadena for the author,
1935, Lorne F Fox, The Charles S Price Story, World Pentecost, no 3, 1973, Charles S Price, The Potter and The Clay, Napa,
CA Charles S Price Publishing, 1926, and James H Gray, The Roar of the Twenties, Toronto Macmillan, 1975
Dr Thomas W Miller is a PAOC theologian and historian now living in Abbotsford. B.C.
July 1991/THE PENTECOSTAL TESTIMONY
That's excellent material. For what it's worth, a minor historical quibble: the article refers to the "10,000-seat Arena" in Victoria. The Victoria Arena only seated 5,000, and 6,000 crammed into it for the meetings (presumably, another thousand were on the floor). The 10,000-seat arena where Price held his meetings was the Denman Arena in Vancouver, and in fact, that arena was packed, with another 5,000 lined up outside. Both arenas were built by Frank and Lester Patrick (Lester would later be GM and coach of the New York Rangers), which may have caused the confusion about which arena was which. Cheers! Drew