Healing and Revival


"Mother of the Holiness Movement"


Phoebe Palmer was born in New York City on December 18, 1807. Her parents were passionate in their faith. Her father had been converted in Yorkshire, England during the revival under John Wesley, even receiving his membership papers from Wesley's own hand. The family held devotions twice a day in their home. The also regularly attended church and local Methodist revivals. Based on Wesleyan theology, she believed that entire sanctification was not only possible, but critical. She married Walter C. Palmer, a physician, in 1827. The couple's first two children died in infancy, causing Phoebe to struggle with God's love, and the reasons for their loss. She came to believe that her children had become idols to her. Two more children were born to the couple. The fourth child died when a servant accidentally set the bed netting on fire. The loss of that fourth child caused Phoebe to her turn to God, rather than away from Him. She vowed “to trust God’s goodness and love” from that moment on.

In 1835 Sarah Lankford, Phoebe's sister, combined the women's prayer meetings of two churches to form the Tuesday Meetings For The Promotion of Holiness. On July 26, 1837 Phoebe came to an understanding of sanctification based on faith in the promises of the Word alone. This answered the cry of her heart, and many others, to know whether they were sanctified. She used a portion of Mark 23:19 "the altar that sanctifies the offering" (NASB) She began to teach an "altar theology" which said that if you laid your life down in complete consecration to God that you would receive sanctification, because He would sanctify what was offered on the altar.

By 1839 the Tuesday Meetings had become so popular that men were requesting to be a part of them. The group opened to all and many people from all walks of life, including clergy, began to attend. These meetings became a fulcrum for revival of Methodism in the United States. This was also the year that Walter Palmer retired from his physician's practice and joined Phoebe in the ministry. In the 1840s, Phoebe and Walter Palmer began an itinerant ministry where they spoke at churches, camp meetings, conventions, and conferences throughout the northeast United States and Canada. Both were speakers at these meetings, although Phoebe was the better known of the two. Her fame spread as she wrote several books over the years. These included "The Way of Holiness" (1843), "Faith and Its Effects" (1848), "Incidental Illustrations", "Pioneer Experiences", "Promise of the Father" (1859) and "Four Years in the Old World". She also wrote articles in major Methodist journals. The book "Faith and It's Effects" shows a shift in her thinking from spiritual sanctification alone, to health for the physical body as well. Healings began to occur in their meetings.

1857 proved to be a significant year for the Palmers. Prayer movements were taking hold in Ontario, Canada and the Palmers went to speak in Hamilton, Ontario in October. People attending committed to pray for an "outpouring of the Holy Spirit." The first day there were twenty-one conversions, one hundred on a Sunday, and more than three hundred total. New York Christians heard about the Canadian revival just a week before the bank collapse of 1857. Prayer meetings were opened throughout New York and many business people took their lunch hours to pray and seek God's move in their midst. The revival in Hamilton soon swept into New York, and a large part of the nation. This became known as the Third Great Awakening or the Businessman's Revival.

In 1859, the couple went to the British Isles for the next four years, often speaking to crowds of thousands. In 1863 they returned to the United States and purchased the Guide to Holiness Journal to communicate their views. At one point they had forty thousand subscribers. Phoebe was its editor from 1864 until her death on November 2, 1874. It became one of the most popular religious journals in the United States. The journal promoted holiness, healing, and in later years an experience of the Holy Spirit.

Palmer was a tremendous influence on several people and organizations. Her teaching touched Charles Cullis, A.J. Gordon, A.B Simpson, and Jennie Smith. She profoundly impacted the Salvation Army when Catherine Booth read her teachings and incorporated them into the Army's foundations. Churches in the Holiness and Wesleyan Holiness movement trace their roots back to her. Palmer also worked with a group who started missions, opened an orphanage, and fed the poor. She was highly evangelistic, and it is estimated that she brought over 25,000 people to faith in Christ. Her sister wrote about the Tuesday Morning meetings in the book "Fragrant Memories" on their 50th anniversary. The book was published in 1896 as a memorial volume.

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