JOHN & BONA FLEMING
John and Bona Fleming lived in Willard, Kentucky. Their mother was born in Ireland and
had been brought up in the Catholic church. Their father belonged to a Protestant church, but John said, “I never heard him pray or testify.” One night when John and his mother were in the services, his mother was saved and then invited him to the altar. After a protracted struggle he was soundly converted and saved from the sins of his life, including the use of both liquor and tobacco. God set John Fleming on fire! He was immediately instrumental in getting others saved. It wasn’t long before Bona too was soundly saved.
Soon, the Fleming brothers fiery zeal offended some. When they were told that they would
have to stop having “such a fuss” they said they couldn’t stop. John said, “You cannot put lightning in a goose quill and stop it from shining. We were having the time of our lives shouting and praising God.” When some in their church were offended, John was told, “We will have to take your name off the church book, if you don’t quit shouting and stomping the carpet.” The inevitable result was that his name was erased off of the church book–an act which evidently caused the frown of God to rest upon that church, for eventually their house was left desolate, their building which had seen large crowds stood an empty shell, with no services being held in it any longer.
John Fleming gave the following account of how he and Bona were sanctified wholly:
We did not know anything about the experience of holiness; the preacher preached mostly
on hell, as no one was ready for holiness in our town when they struck it. I was standing on my mother’s porch one night and a traveling salesman came up and talked to me about the coming of Jesus and about getting sanctified. I knew nothing about it. Up until I was saved I had not read one verse in the Bible. This traveling salesman had good common sense. He said, “Well, do you see that stump where that tree has been removed? If that stump is not taken out, next spring there will be sprouts coming up all around it.”
“What does that have to do with me?” I asked.
He said, “John, you have a stump in your heart.”
It scared me. He said, “The stump is there. You have had your sins all taken away, but there
is a stump. You must have it taken out, or sprouts will come up around your life and pull you back into sin.”
We went in Mother’s parlor and prayed, “O God, take the stump out, take the stump out,
take the stump out!”
Do you know what I believe? If people did not know as much they would get through
quicker. They know too much. That was a good prayer, asking God to take the stump out. The man walked in and put his arms around me and said, “John, God will take the stump out.”
I rose to my feet and like a flash the Holy Ghost came and blew that stump out. My father
sat back, reading his paper and chewing tobacco. I said, “Father, I have the stump out!”
He moved his glasses down on his nose, looked over them and said, “Stump out, what are
you talking about?”
“I don’t know,” I told him, “but I have it out.”
I went to the kitchen and said to Mother, “I’ve got it. I have the stump taken out.”
She said, “I believe you have.”…
[John then left the house, in a blaze of glory, to tell others of how God had taken the stump
out. He tells of how “the fat man,” the traveling salesmen, took off after him, and they had a hallelujah time as John went from place to place telling folks that God had taken the stump out and them helping them pray through. Bona, who had been gone when John got sanctified, returned to the Fleming house.]
Bona came home and asked, “Where is John?”
Father said, “I don’t know. He has the stump taken out and has gone.”
Bona said, “I must see John.”
He walked to the kitchen and asked Mother. She said, “He has the stump taken out and is
Bona went upstairs, got down on his knees, laid off a few things and then said, “Amen,”
and “Praise the Lord,” and got up.
He walked out into the room and said, “Father, I’ve got it.”
He was doing his best to believe he had it. Father just moved his glasses down on his nose
and said, “No you haven’t; go see John.”
My father did not believe in holiness, but he knew that Bona did not have what I had. Bona
went into the kitchen and said, “I have the stump taken out.”
Mother said, “I would not discourage you for the world, but you had better hunt John.”
The poor fellow went down the road. He said the hardest job he ever had in this world
was to make himself believe he had something he did not have. He went to the livery stable and said, “Boys, I have it.”
They laughed and said, “You had better hunt John up.”
He tried to make himself believe he had it just like some of you. He went to the preacher’s
home and was going to tell him that he had it but when he opened the door and saw Brother Hankes, he said, “Pray for me!” He lost it when he saw somebody who had it.
He said, “I want to see John.”
We saw him coming. He looked like a hound that had run all night and been out in the rain
all day. This traveling man and I were just shouting and praising God and the people were looking at us. It was pouring down rain, but we did not care. The fire was falling in that home. When Bona came in, I said, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
He said, “John, pray for me!”
He got on his knees and the wisdom I used with Bona was just to pound him on the back
and say, “Pray, old fellow!”
He would get pretty faint sometimes, then I would say, “Get it, Bona; hold on until the fire
Directly he got on his feet with one hand up, and the traveling man shouting him on, but that
girl who had put the bread in the oven was striking him over the head and telling him not to stop until the stump was out. I have never seen such a time from that day to this, as we had there in that room when the fire fell on Bona.
Soon, John and Bona Fleming answered the call to preach and went out into the field of
evangelism and they were widely used of God around the nation — two more Kentuckians who were transformed by the redeeming grace of God and baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire.
Source: “Truth on Fire” by John and Bona Fleming
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HOW THEY ENTERED CANAAN (A Collection of Holiness Experience Accounts) Compiled by Duane V. Maxey
Vol. I — Named Accounts