Smith Wigglesworth

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Smith Wigglesworth
Smith Wigglesworth preaching.jpg
Born (1859-06-08)June 8, 1859
Menston, Yorkshire, England
Died March 12, 1947(1947-03-12)
Glad Tidings Hall, Wakefield, Yorkshire, England
Occupation Plumber, Evangelist
Spouse(s) Mary Jane Featherstone (Polly), 1860-1913 (widowed)
Children Alice, Seth, Harold, Ernest & George

Smith Wigglesworth (June 8, 1859 – March 12, 1947), was a British evangelist who was important in the early history of Pentecostalism.

Early life[edit]

Smith Wigglesworth was born on June 8, 1859 in Menston, Yorkshire, England, to an impoverished family. As a small child, he worked in the fields pulling turnips alongside his mother; he also worked in factories. During his childhood he was illiterate.

Nominally a Methodist, he became a born again Christian at the age of eight. His grandmother was a devout Methodist; his parents, John and Martha took young Smith to Methodist and Anglican churches on regular occasions. He was confirmed by a Bishop in the Church of England, baptized by immersion in the Baptist Church and had the grounding in Bible teaching in the Plymouth Brethren while learning the plumbing trade as an apprentice from a man in the Brethren movement.[1]

Wigglesworth married Polly Featherstone on May 2, 1882. At the time of their marriage, she was a preacher with the Salvation Army, and had come to the attention of General William Booth. They had one daughter, Alice, and four sons, Seth, Harold, Ernest and George. Polly died in 1913.[2] His Grandson, Leslie Wigglesworth, after over 20 years as a missionary in the Congo served as the President of the Elim Pentecostal Church.

Wigglesworth learned to read after he married Polly; she taught him to read the Bible. He often stated that it was the only book he ever read, and did not permit newspapers in his home, preferring the Bible to be their only reading material.

Wigglesworth worked as a plumber, but he abandoned this trade because he was too busy for it after he started preaching. In 1907 Wigglesworth visited Alexander Boddy during the Sunderland Revival, and following a laying-on of hands from Alexander's wife, Mary Boddy, he experienced speaking in tongues (glossolalia).[3] He spoke at some of the Assemblies of God events in Great Britain. He also received ministerial credentials with the Assemblies of God in the United States, where he evangelized during the 1920s and later.[4]

Ministry[edit]

Wigglesworth believed that healing came through faith, and he was flexible about the methods he employed. When he was forbidden to lay hands on audience members by the authorities in Sweden, he preached for a "corporate healing", by which people laid hands on themselves. He also practiced anointing with oil, and the distribution of "prayer handkerchiefs" (one of which was sent to King George V). Wigglesworth sometimes attributed ill-health to demons.[5]

Ministering at many churches throughout Yorkshire, often at Bethesda Church on the outskirts of Sheffield, Wigglesworth claimed to have had many prophecies. He also had an international ministry: as well as Sweden, he ministered in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Pacific Islands, India, Ceylon, and several countries in Europe. Some of his sermons were transcribed for Pentecostal magazines, and these were collected into two books: Ever Increasing Faith[6][7] and Faith that Prevails.[8]

Wigglesworth was said to have made a commitment to God that he would not sleep at night before he had won a soul for Christ every day. He claimed that on one occasion he could not sleep because he had not met this commitment, and that he went out into the night and met an alcoholic to whom he spoke and persuaded to become a believer.

Considered one of the most influential evangelists in the early history of Pentecostalism Wigglesworth is also credited with helping give the movement a large religious audience.

David du Plessis recounted that Wigglesworth prophesied over him that God would pour out his Spirit on the established churches, and that David du Plessis would be greatly involved in it. Later du Plessis was very much involved in the Charismatic movement.

He continued to minister up until the time of his death on March 12, 1947.

Healing[edit]

Smith Wigglesworth praying for a sick woman

Much of Wigglesworth's ministry was focused on faith healing. He said that God had healed him of appendicitis. Despite suffering from kidney stones which passed naturally in his later years, Smith refused any medical treatment, stating that no knife would ever touch his body either in life or death.

Supporters of Smith said that they were miraculously healed. Anecdotal accounts were described in the popular press and in Pentecostal magazines. There were reports that people were raised from the dead, including his wife Polly.[9] Another popular story involved a man who had no feet, telling of how Wigglesworth made them grow:

I heard a story about Smith praying for a man that had no feet. He told the man to go to the shoe store. The man did not think it was a good idea but he went anyway. When he arrived, they said they did not think that they could help him. In response he said, 'Well if I could wear shoes, what size do you think I could wear?" They looked at him moment and went and got a size they supposed would fit him. The man stuck the nub of his leg down into the shoe, and a foot grew out into it! Next, he placed his other nub in the other shoe, and that foot grew out too! Oh my holy awesomeness! Yes it happened. This is the supernatural God we serve.[10]

It is said that many people were healed of cancer, which he described as 'a living evil spirit', during Wigglesworth's ministy,. He believed that ninety percent of diseases were 'satanic in origin'.[11] His methods often involved hitting, slapping or punching the afflicted part of the body. On a number of occasions his approach to persons suffering from stomach complaints was to punch them in the stomach, sometimes with such force that it propelled them across the room. When challenged on this, his response was "I don't hit them, I hit the devil".[12] Responding to criticism over his harsh method of praying for the sick, Wigglesworth stated: "You might think by the way I went about praying for the sick that I was sometimes unloving and rough, but oh, friends, you have no idea what I see behind the sickness and the one who is afflicted. I am not dealing with the person; I am dealing with the satanic forces that are binding the afflicted". On one occasion Wigglesworth declared to the sick "I'll only pray for you once, to pray twice is unbelief." The second night, a man approached the altar to receive prayer again and Wigglesworth, recognizing him, said "Didn't I pray for you last night? You are full of unbelief, get off this platform!".[12]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ A. Hibbert, Smith Wigglesworth The Secret of His Power, page 109, ISBN 1-85240-004-8
  2. ^ Bickle, Michael, Smith Wigglesworth Biography at the Wayback Machine (archived May 18, 2006).
  3. ^ Frodsham, Stanley Howard. Smith Wigglesworth pp. 44-45.
  4. ^ Smith Wigglesworth, ministerial file. Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
  5. ^ Frodsham, Stanley Howard. Smith Wigglesworth
  6. ^ Wigglesworth, Smith. Ever Increasing Faith.
  7. ^ Ever Increasing Faith, (PDF) 1924. Zao Ministries International
  8. ^ Faith That Prevails (pdf) 1938. Biblioteca di eVangelo.
  9. ^ Cartwright, Des. Life of Smith Wigglesworth.
  10. ^ David Edwards, The Call for Revivalists: Raising Up a Supernatural Generation (WestBow Press, 2012), page 54.
  11. ^ Julian Wilson, Wigglesworth: The Complete Story (Biblica, 2004) page 120.
  12. ^ a b Julian Wilson, Wigglesworth The Complete Story: A New Biography Of The 'Apostle Of Faith' Smith Wigglesworth (Biblica, 2004) page 82-3.

References[edit]

  • Bickle, Michael. "Smith Wigglesworth Biography". Archived from the original on 2006-05-18. Retrieved 2006-05-18. 
  • Frodsham, Stanley Howard (1948). Smith Wigglesworth: Apostle of Faith. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House. 
  • Wigglesworth, Smith (1924). Ever Increasing Faith. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House. Retrieved 2006-12-13. 
  • Cartwright, Des. "Life of Smith Wigglesworth". Retrieved 2009-11-21. 
  • Hibbert, Albert. (1982) Smith Wigglesworth: The Secret of His Power. Harrison House: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

External links[edit]