Healing and Revival
"The Gifts of the Spirit are for Today"
Asa Mahan was born to Samuel and Anna Mahan on November 9, 1799, in Vernon, New York. He was named after his maternal grandfather Asa Dana, a New York pioneer. He spent most of his younger years in Orangeville, New York. He was raised by Christian parents and had a basic understanding of Christ as Savior, but nothing beyond that. When he was eighteen he came into a conversion experience. Over several weeks he came to an "assurance" that he "loved God and had eternal life." There was never a question for him again of his salvation. Mahan taught school, beginning when he was 17, while also attending Hamilton College where he graduated from in1824. He moved to Andover Theological Seminary in Massachusetts, and graduated from there in 1827. He married Mary Hartwell Dix in 1828. He was ordained in 1829, took a pastorate in the Second Congregational Church in Rochester, NY from Nov 1829-March 1831. He then became pastor of the Sixth Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1831. His abolitionist views were considered so controversial that a "heresy hunter" attempted to have him removed from the church.
While in Cincinnati he was put of the Board of Trustees of Lane Seminary. While Mahan was on the Board an uprising arose among the students because of strong abolitionist views. The seminary lost most of its students and fired a professor. The staff and students were approached to attend Oberlin College, another seminary in financial distress. The college founder, John Jay Shiperd, and Mahan then went seeking financial support. They approached two wealthy brothers, Arthur and Lewis Tappan, about financing their venture. They agreed upon one condition, that the school also hire Charles Grandison Finney to the staff. Finney was the country's best known evangelist. When he was approached he agreed on his own condition, that the Board give control of the school's internal affairs to the staff. This was agreed to and Oberlin was in business. 43 students from Lane University moved to Oberlin. The college was committed to accept students "regardless of color" and also accepted female students. Oberlin was the first co-educational college in the United States.
Mahan was appointed President of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute on January 1, 1835. Things did not go smoothly, however. He was a passionate man with strong views, and a stronger personality. His views on "perfectionism" and abolition opened the college to criticism. He thought his colleagues lukewarm, and they thought him excessive. His fellow staff tried to remove him in the 1840's but did not succeed until 1850. Finney took over the presidency of the College and remained as President until 1861.
Mahan left and took over National University, near Cleveland, which ultimately failed. He took a couple of pastorates and then was asked to be a staff member of Adrian College in 1861, where he became President and stayed there until 1871. His beloved wife Mary died in 1863. He remarried in 1866 to another Mary, 15 years his junior. It was during these years he wrote his classic work "Baptism of the Holy Ghost". His views on holiness became popular. He had an ongoing relationship with Dr. Palmer and his wife Phoebe Palmer, and asked that they would publish his book on the Holy Spirit. For a short time he was on the temperance political ticket in 1872 for "Superintendent of Public Instruction", but the temperance party was not a major influence and nothing came of it. He traveled to Europe where he became a frequent speaker at conventions that included Dr. Charles Cullis and William E. Boardman in the "Higher Life" movement. Feeling there was support for his teaching he moved to England, in 1874, where he lived for the rest of his life.
In 1876 Mahan's wife was healed of lung cancer. He wrote an article on "Faith Healing" in the "Earnest Christian" for the September 1884 issue. Mahan used Matthew 8:16-17 to defend that healing was still a valid gift. He says "If the fact that Jesus bore our sins in his own body on the tree, is a valid reason why we should trust Him now to pardon our sins, the fact that He 'bare our sicknesses' is an equally valid reason why we should now trust Him to heal our diseases. We have the same revealed basis for the trust in the one case as in the other." Mahan had merged his understanding that the gifts were for today with revelation that healing was explicitly an expected gift. The last fifteen years of Mahan's life were prolific. He wrote seven books, edited "The Divine Light" Holiness journal, and was a regular speaker at Holiness meetings. Mahan died on April 4, 1889 still doing the work of the Kingdom.
Why was Mahan critical to the Divine Healing Movement? Although he did not write or teach on the subject until his later years, he paved the way for the demolition of cessationist theology. His teaching was read and promoted by another theologian A.J. Gordon. Much of the Divine Healing Movement was centered in Methodist circles, but Mahan opened the way within reformed churches such as the Presbyterians and Congregationalists. His works were weighty and destroyed the criticism that the experiential focus of Holiness and Healing teachers did not have a sound theological basis for their beliefs. He was a forerunner in declaring that the "Gifts are still for today".
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