D. Willia Caffray: Called Unto Holiness

“Thou hast pardoned my transgressions.” April 18, 1897.

 

“The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth me from all sin.” March 12, 1898.

 

“I am, O Lord, wholly and forever Thine.”

 

“The Holy Spirit abides.”

 

“The prince of this world shall have no part nor lot in me.”

 

“The government of this world is upon Thy shoulders—including my life and my service for Thee.”

 

“I trust Thee to keep me from all sin today and to guard me from stumbling, for Thy glory.”

 

“Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth.”

 

The above is Dr. D. Willia Caffray’s biography in a nutshell.

 

One of the most cherished words in all of Christian experience is the word definiteness. It was high in Dr. Caffray’s vocabulary. She insisted on definiteness in conversion, definiteness in the “second definite” work of grace subsequent to conversion. This writer has known no other minister or evangelist or missionary who was so thorough in the “praying through” ministry at altars of prayer. There is a subordinate clause in that marvelous John 15:16 verse that was a veritable part of Dr. Caffray’s life and ministry. I shall underscore it, and we would do well to keep it daily in our thoughts and service:

 

“Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, AND THAT YOUR FRUIT SHOULD REMAIN: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in My name, He may give it you.”

 

She never forgot anniversaries, and a beautiful example of this is given in a letter she wrote on March 12, 1951 to Dr. George Warner: “I should like to begin this letter with a word of testimony since this is the anniversary of my personal Pentecost. How I praise God for His precious cleansing, sanctifying power in my heart and life.”

 

Her ministry was many-fold, if I may coin such a word. But her call was to be an evangelist; and, after talking long hours with her Lord, she finally said and she wrote it down: “Lord, if You want me to preach, I will preach. The question was settled at last and my call to be an evangelist has never wavered.”

 

Actually, she was evangelist, preacher, missionary and educator; and every part of her ministry was dominated by “Wesleyan Holiness.” She believed, preached and practiced scriptural holiness as a second definite work of grace subsequent to conversion.

 

Her evangelistic work was taken seriously as in a warfare against Satan for souls. She wrote in the same vein to the pastors of churches where she was called to hold meetings. As an example, she wrote to one pastor as follows: “Please urge your people to clear this time from all social engagements within or without the church and from all auxiliary work and engagements where possible. Two weeks of intensive pulling together and praying together will accomplish more for the church and the Kingdom than several weeks of half-hearted endeavor.”

 

As a pastor, I can testify to the seriousness of her endeavors, and during a two-week meeting very little time was left for leisure. She was thorough in her preaching, her praying, her personal work at the altar, and in all her dealings in the battle for trophies to lay at the Master’s feet. That is why she became known around the world—thousands prayed through under her ministry. And to pray through, to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and to really mean business with God is what keeps the Christian running the race with the face set seriously toward the Heavenly Goal. That is why Dr. Caffray was serious and thorough in her Spirit-filled preaching ministry.

 

She said one time, “I don’t preach Holiness to defend Mr. Wesley. He stood up before I was born. I don’t preach Holiness to defend the Methodist Church. It was established before I was born, and I’ve never apologized for preaching Holiness in any Methodist Church. I preach Holiness to get souls sanctified.

 

Incidentally, Dr. Caffray never removed her membership from the Methodist Church. To the above quotation she added, “Oh, how essential it is to have Spirit-filled leadership! If there were not Bible teachings on the Doctrine of Holiness, a few leaders with holy hearts would soon establish a doctrine, entirely scriptural! There is such a radical difference in their lives and ministry.”

 

As a missionary, Dr. Caffray seemed bound to take the gospel to the whole world. Her first foreign missionary journey took her to South America. She was hardly home long enough to properly evaluate that work until she was making plans for a world tour that took her to the Orient, India and Africa. Add Mexico, England and Canada to her itineraries and you would just begin. So all through these missionary journeys and exploits done, it might be added to the great 11th chapter of Hebrews: “By faith, D. Willia Caffray went around the world and preached the gospel in fifty-nine countries, thereby leading multitudes to the Lord Jesus.” Many letters have been written by missionaries themselves—servants of the King, some downhearted and discouraged, telling of the blessings received, some being filled with the Spirit, some hearing the message of Holiness for the first time.

 

As an educator, Dr. Caffray served for many years on the board of Vennard College, as well as on the board of the World Gospel Mission. She delivered her series of missionary lectures annually at the Chicago Evangelistic Institute and continued them long after that institution moved to Iowa and became Vennard College. Either revival campaigns or missionary conventions were also held in Asbury, Seattle Pacific, Wheaton, Azusa, Taylor, Bethel, Greenville and Butler University. She was instrumental in helping over 200 young people to attend college and distributed hundreds of books and thousands of tracts among the young people of the country. She was known to sit up long hours into the night after strenuous evangelistic meetings, writings letters and notes to friends far and near. She wrote as many as ninety letters in one day and would never send a greeting card without some personal message included.

 

The influence of this godly preacher of Scriptural Holiness can never be measured not correctly evaluated in this world. Protracted meetings such as she believed in and held are seldom heard of in this generation, except in the annual camps. Two- and three-week revival meetings have given way to three-day conferences and “learning seminars” in today’s churches.

 

Dr. Caffrey kept box after box filled with letters from around the world testifying to the glory of God and the power of the infilling Spirit. Dr. E. Stanley Jones, Bishop Oldham, Commissioner Brengle and others too numerous to mention all profited by the ministry of this woman singularly called and blessed of God to preach the gospel around the world. Educators in many colleges found victory through her ministry. Space permits only one testimonial here and that is from Dr. Hildreth Cross, whom many today will remember for her expertise in the classroom. Dr. Cross wrote in a letter to Dr. Caffray: “First of all, let me report victory. The blessed abiding Holy Spirit who came into my heart during your meetings is still blessing and filling with His joy and peace.”

 

How fitting that the little body that traveled around the world with such a big heart, should be laid to rest in a little cemetery next to the Iowa Holiness Campgrounds and adjacent to Vennard College. Nearby are other warriors of the Cross such as the Troxels and several Vennard faculty. Every summer, the holy sounds of the singing of those still in the Church Militant float across the little graveyard where other saints lie awaiting the Resurrection of the Redeemed!

 

Robinson, K. L. (Fall, 1989). D. Willia Caffray: Called Unto Holiness. Holiness Digest

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