Healing and Revival


"Evangelism, Revival, and Healing"


Reuben Archer Torrey was born on January 28, 1856 in Hoboken, New Jersey to Reuben and Elizabeth. His parents were Christian and his mother was a woman of prayer. His family was affluent for the first part of his life; his father was a successful banker and lawyer. Torrey was extremely shy and never spoke up in front of visitors. Although he grew up in a Christian home Torrey did not make a personal commitment to Christ. Once he read a book on becoming a Christian and was convicted that God might be calling him to become a preacher. That did not appeal to him and he decided to become a lawyer. He went to Yale University at 15 years old and started to lead a worldly life.

Torrey's conversion came in a very dramatic way. One night in 1875, while still at Yale, he had a dream in which his mother came to him as an angel and asked him to preach the gospel. The fight was on! Immediately he was overcome with a desire to kill himself. His mother, miles away, was awakened by God to pray for him. Torrey came to his senses and knew that he must pray. He knelt and said "Oh, God, deliver me from this burden. I'll even preach!" Immediately he was overcome with a sense of peace. He graduated in the summer of 1875 and went on to Yale Divinity School. He also began to evangelize. He still found it difficult to speak in front of an audience and had to hold onto a chair to even give a talk in front of a class.

In 1878 Torrey first heard D. L. Moody. Moody was an amazing evangelist. He had no educational background, but was wholly devoted to God and saving the lost. Torrey was impressed and convicted. Torrey began to evangelize with greater fervor than before. Torrey also read the works of Charles Finney. Finney and Moody had one thing in common. They believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit for the "enduement of power" for service. (Luke 24:49) Both men had had significant experiences in which they felt they had received the Baptism of Spirit in a tangible way.

Torrey graduated in 1878 and was ordained a Congregational minister. He pastored a church in Garretsville, Ohio, from 1878 to 1882. It was while he was at Garretsville that Torrey met and married his wife Clara Smith. Torrey studied at the German universities of Leipzig and Erlangen in 1882-83. It is here that he became an ardent opponent of a theology known as "higher criticism" or the idea that scripture was not divinely inspired. When he returned to the United States he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota where he pastored the Open Door Church (1883-1886) and the People's Church (1887-1889) and took on the responsibilities of the Congregational Missionary Society (1886-1889). It was during these years that he read George Mueller's "Life of Trust". Prayer became central to Torrey's relationship with God. He also saw his first person healed in answer to his prayer around 1884. Torrey became involved in the Christian and Missionary Alliance. At the First National Convention of Christian Workers in June of 1886 Torrey is listed as the Chairman of the Meeting. Although the focus of the meeting was evangelism, there were talks given on Divine Healing. A. J. Gordon was one of the delegates. Torrey was beginning to see people regularly healed in answer to prayer.

Torrey was crying out for God to baptize him with the Holy Spirit. He knew he needed God to have more of him, rather than he needed more of God. "I recall the exact spot where I was kneeling in prayer in my study... It was a very quiet moment, one of the quietest moments I ever knew... Then God simply said to me, not in any audible voice, but in my heart, Its yours. Now go and preach.' He had already said it to me in His Word in 1 John 5:14,15; but I did not then know my Bible as I know it now, and God had pity on my ignorance and said it directly to my soul... I went and preached, and I have been a new minister from that day to this... Sometime after this experience (I do not recall just how long after), while sitting in my room one day...suddenly...I found myself shouting (I was not brought up to shout and I am not of a shouting temperament, but I shouted like the loudest shouting Methodist), Glory to God, glory to God, glory to God,' and I could not stop... But that was not when I was baptized with the Holy Spirit. I was baptized with the Holy Spirit when I took Him by simple faith in the Word of God." Torrey had his church hold meetings where they were asking for the Holy Spirit to bring revival across the world.

In 1889 D. L. Moody was opening a new Bible School. He was looking for someone who could run it and was told about R. A. Torrey. Moody met with Torrey and offered him the position. He agreed to take it and stayed as School Superintendent from 1889 to 1908. Moody and Torrey became the closest of friends and associates. Torrey continued to have a relationship with the Alliance and spoke at the Ninth General Conference for Bible Study in July 1891. A. J. Gordon was also a speaker there. Torrey was reported as a new member of the Missionary Board of the Alliance in 1892. The 1893 Alliance World's Fair Convention was held in Moody's Church and both Torrey and Elizabeth V. Baker were on the committee. Torrey spoke at other Conventions on the need for "What is the Baptism of the Spirit", "How to Receive His Baptism", and "Power for Service".

Then something occurred which would forever affect Torrey's view of Divine Healing. John Alexander Dowie moved to Chicago in 1893. Dowie was already a controversial figure in that he publicly, and aggressively, attacked churches that didn't agree with his theology. Dowie was the antithesis of Moody. Moody's life was one of deep humility, service to others, and altruism. Dowie was loud, brash, antagonistic, self-aggrandizing, and materialistic. There was a struggle of cultures. Divine Healing in Chicago became very controversial and Torrey no longer worked with the Alliance, although the Alliance continued to support him by promoting missionary meetings he was running. In 1894 Torrey took over the Chicago Avenue Church from Moody and stayed away from the topic of Divine Healing, possibly at Moody's specific request. Although there appears to have been few open disagreements between Moody and Dowie within the first few years after Dowie moved to Chicago, it later became an open and vicious battle. Moody attacked Dowie's methods and character. Dowie attacked Moody's work. In October 1898 Moody declared that he would fight Dowie, his church, and Divine Healing. Dowie responded by printing a letter purportedly from Torrey from April 1898 asking prayer for his daughter's healing and then professing his belief in Divine Healing. Dowie also claimed that if Moody did not stop his attack against him that Moody would die. When Moody died in December 1899 Dowie had the audacity to declare it was God's judgment for Moody standing against him.

Torrey must have been extremely angry. He took up the argument and in January 1900 preached against Dowie in his Chicago Avenue Church. Dowie responded by calling him an apostate and a coward in print. He also claimed that if Torrey did not repent that, like Moody, he would also come under God's judgment and die. Surely any positive feelings that Torrey had about Divine Healing were being ground to dust under Dowie's audacious claims and behavior. Dowie printed the handwritten note from April, which Torrey claimed was a forgery. Fortunately for Torrey, and Chicago, Dowie had purchased land north of Chicago and moved his headquarters to Zion City in 1901. Although Dowie occasionally printed continued renunciations of Torrey, his focus was on building his community.

In 1902 Torrey felt God was calling him to a worldwide evangelistic tour. It must have been a relief to finally have Dowie and the Divine Healing controversy behind him but he had been emotionally burned by it. Torrey and a former student, Charles M. Alexander, went to Australia and were part of a massive evangelistic campaign that included meetings at fifty different centers. A fire broke out in Australia as thousands were led to Christ. He spent the next six months traveling throughout Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand. They received a call to go to England, so they decided to go stopping in India for six weeks on the way. From England they went to Scotland, France and Germany. Then they returned to England and went on to Ireland and Wales. It is believed that much of the prayer and ministry that Torrey did in Wales led to the breakout of the Welsh Revival later in 1904. They returned to London once more and held Two months of meetings at the Royal Albert Hall from February to June in 1905. It was announced at the end of the meetings that over 1,000,000 people attended and there were over 17,000 conversions. He returned home to America in December of 1905. He decided God was calling him to continue his evangelistic revivals across the United States and Canada.

Torrey rested for a while and began the Montrose Bible Conference in 1908. He returned to England, Scotland and Ireland in 1911 for another round of meetings. He moved to the West Coast in 1912 and became Dean of the Los Angeles Bible Institute and started the Church of the Open Door, which he pastored until 1924. Still Torrey wasn't done with Divine Healing. In 1919 Aimee Semple McPherson had become a prominent healing evangelist and settled in Los Angeles. Did Torrey see similarities to John Alexander Dowie in McPherson? She was bold, aggressive, theatrical, and self-promoting. Her ministry helped launch another Divine Healing wave across the country.

In 1923 Torrey felt the need to respond to what he was seeing. He wrote a small book called "Divine Healing." He clearly defined his belief that God still healed and that he had seen many healings under his own ministry. He said that he could "talk for hours" about the healings he had seen when he had prayed for people. On the other hand he had come to believe a set of requirements for true healing. He used James 5:14-15 to say only church elders should be allowed to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil and they were to pray for healing if given the prayer of faith. He believed elders referred to men only and therefore only male church leaders could be called upon to pray for the sick. He particularly made a point to say not to call a woman with a magnetic or hypnotic personality (McPherson?). Secondly he took 2 Kings 13; 14 and 2 Timothy 4:20 to prove that sometimes it was not God's will to heal. Elisha, who was close to God, took sick and died. Paul, who was a man of great prayer, had to leave Trophimus at Miletus sick. He believed that public meetings were improper as related to James 5:14-15, as it was only the elders' job to pray for the sick. Next he outlined that individuals could pray for themselves or others, if they did not anoint with oil. Finally Torrey said that the "use of means" or medicine was not wrong based on Paul's admonition to Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach. On the other hand he thought many prescriptions given by doctors were probably quackery.

Torrey was first and foremost an evangelist. Still he said "Does God heal in answer to prayer today? Does He really heal people who are beyond the skill of the physician and beyond all human help? Does he work miracles today? To all these questions I reply, He does. Not only does the Bible teach it, but experience demonstrates it." Would Torrey have seen things in a different light if he had not encountered Dowie? Only God knows the answer to that question. Torrey died on October 26, 1928. His remarkable evangelistic campaigns remain, like those of his friend Moody, a hallmark of effective and memorable Christian movements.


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