A Visit in York

Some Details on Smith Wigglesworth's Life

Hello everybody!

During our time down at the GV in York, a group of us had the chance to go through to Bradford, which is the town in central England where Smith Wigglesworth used to live.

When the overseer had heard that we wanted to go to York for our GV, he suggested that we try and find out some of the history of 'Smithy' and we made contact with a number of people before speaking to Desmond Cartwright, the official historian of the Elim Pentecostal Church. He regularly works with Roberts Liardon and has treasures of knowledge on the Pentecostal movement. He was willing to meet us and take us round Bradford to show us some of Smithy's history (where he used to live (70 Victor Road), his gravestone and where he preached (The Bowland Street Mission), etc.).

First of all we met at a church in Bradford where he gave a short talk on the Pentecostal movement and Smithy. We also saw a video which will be ordered for the assembly. The day went really well and it was incredible to see all the evidence behind Smith Wigglesworth's ministry.


"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" HEBREWS 11:1.

Mr. Cartwright began his talk by telling us some of the background to the speaking in tongues of this century.

In the late 1800's/early 1900's there were many "Holiness" movements in Britain, amongst which was the "Pentecostal League" who were very strict and believed in the baptism of the Holy Spirit. One of their founders was Reader Harris who was one of Queen Victoria's counsellors. In 1905, they had their own magazine called "Tongues of Fire" (which Mr. Cartwright showed us). At this time there was no 'official' Pentecostal movement in Britain, but in the magazine the list of meetings going on was extensive (10 groups in Sunderland, etc.). Most meetings were small missions or house-groups and amongst those listed was the "Bowland Street Mission" run by a Mr. Smith Wigglesworth, who had healing meetings! (At this time he was not yet spirit-filled).

In 1900, Charles Parham set up a Bible school at "Stone's Folly" in Topeka, and asked his students, "What is the Biblical evidence for receiving the Holy Spirit?" They were permitted to use only the Bible (unusual for a Bible school!) and no theology books. Of course - they discovered that the answer was speaking in tongues. Then at 7pm on 31st December 1900, Agnes N. Ozman, was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. This is often pointed to as the start of the Pentecostal movement. (The place was actually destroyed by fire a few months later and it has been said the early Pentecostals sung "let the Fire Fall" a few times too many as many of the early places were burned!!!)

Parham then kept preaching this 'full gospel' message, in the face of much hostility until opening a second Bible school, in Houston, Texas, almost 5 years later. In his class was an ordained negro minister, named William J. Seymour. Due to his colour he was by law not allowed to be in the class, but this was overcome by him sitting in the doorway, from where he lapped up everything.

Seymour was invited back to Los Angeles to pastor a small negro church there, but upon preaching ACTS 2:4, he found himself locked out the next day. Like many, they were not keen on the idea of 'speaking in tongues' as it brought an unpredictability into the meeting. However, he was invited to preach at a meeting in the house of a lady who had heard him. So the group got smaller and smaller and on April 9th, 1906, Seymour laid hands on a bank worker named Ed Lee to pray for healing for him. The man was healed, and then asked if Seymour would lay hands on him so he could receive the gift of tongues and he received the Holy Spirit. Seymour had not actually received himself at this point, but when they met for a prayer meeting after this event, where Lee tried to tell them what had happened, he could only speak in tongues and the Holy Spirit fell on the meeting - everyone there received. "The Revival exploded" and they had to move to bigger premises at 312 Azusa Street, which Mr. Cartwright emphasised was in a middle-class area and not in a ghetto as some believe.

The story appeared on the whole front page of Part 2 of the LA Times with the usual slander, but during the meeting the newspaper reporter had heard a prophesy of a vision a woman had seen. He reported that the woman had seen the ground opening up and swallowing people up as a judgment from God. It was thought that this was meant for the city of LA, but the day that the story was printed was the very day of the great San Francisco earthquake in which 10,000 people died!! This was the first recorded prophecy in a Pentecostal meeting and had a huge impact on the Christian community. Workers from all over the world who knew that God would pour out his spirit in the last days came to see and experience the Revival at Azusa Street.

One of these workers was Thomas Ball Barratt (a methodist from Cornwall) who was in America to raise money and who received the Holy Spirit in his room in New York after reading the Azusa Street magazine "Apostolic Faith". He returned to his church in Norway and Revival broke out. Then in August 1907 Alexander Boddy, from Sunderland, England, invited Ball Barratt to come and preach at his meetings. The Holy Spirit was poured out and 17 people received.

Smith Wigglesworth, with Polly, his wife, ran the Bowland Street Mission in Bradford and he was known as a real character. He called "a spade - a spade", and was a man of passion and deep convictions. Although uneducated, he was pushed forward by his wife and she taught him to read and write. Although a member of the Salvation Army, he was so hungry for the things of God that when he heard of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Sunderland, he paid the church in Sunderland a visit. In the vicarage, Mrs. Boddy laid hands upon him to receive the Holy Spirit, and he was baptised powerfully with the evidence of speaking in tongues. This was the 29th October 1907.

Mr. Cartwright showed us a hand-written letter from Mrs. Boddy where she tells of Smith Wigglesworth's powerful baptism in the Holy Spirit. We will get a copy of this.

The "goings on" in Sunderland were widely reported in the national newspapers in Great Britain with headlines like, "Victor's daughter spoke in tongues!"

Smith Wigglesworth was now empowered with the Holy Ghost and it launched him out on a "new career" in evangelism. He went out praying for the sick and expecting mighty miracles.

The fact that he was working class, in comparison to most of the other early leaders of the Pentecostal movement, who were solicitors, shop keepers, estate agents, business owners - all quite professional men - also brought him to prominence.

Between 1908 and 1914 a conference was held annually in Sunderland. It was during one of these that Smith began to baptise people in the sea at Roker, by full immersion. The Daily Mirror (a major newspaper in Britain) reported on this with the front-page headline, "Baptised in Pale Blue Pyjamas!" Smith's methods were always that little bit unconventional!

Mr. Cartwright told us that Smith Wigglesworth was not the uncouth, rugged character that many think him to be and he was certainly not illiterate as we saw copies of many letters which he had written with extremely neat writing. We were told of how his wife, Polly had taught him to read using the Bible. Wigglesworth never read any other books. He said that if he read a newspaper or something similar, he would come out feeling dirtier than when he went in, but with the Bible he would come out cleaner. Wigglesworth always had a word from the Bible, and in the video his grandson told us that he would always have a word for them at breakfast, lunch and dinner time. He would open up the Word saying, "Lets see what the father has to say."

Unfortunately, Smithy's wife, Polly died in 1913 followed by their son George in 1916, which left Smith's daughter Alice Salter or Halice as he called her, to take care of him. Later on he only had a housekeeper and was very much alone. Mr. Cartwright was asked by somebody in the audience if this was true of all the great men of God, and he explained that some had prevented this from happening by surrounding themselves with a group of friends.

Halice accompanied Smith on most of his missions, and it is interesting to note that she was stone deaf. Wigglesworth himself was short-sighted, but he refused to wear spectacles! He often had battles wondering why his daughter wasn't healed, but he said that "He who understands healing completely would understand God and that would make him equal to God". He was a very humble man and he walked with God.

Smith went through many trials himself.... He vowed that a doctor's knife would never touch his body - although he never enforced this on anybody else. Mr. Cartwright read out a personal testimony from Smithy which has never been published.

During the years 1930-32, Smith was virtually forced to stay at home, due to his ill health. He had stones in his kidneys, and the doctors told him that they would need to operate. He said his God would operate. The doctors told him his God would need a steam hammer to break these stones up. He said my God is more powerful than any steam hammer.... It took him 3 years to pass these stones. He often passed gallons of blood. He had to refuse appointments. He could only get up of his sick-bed and minister to the people and then confess to the people that he himself needed healing. (We will get a copy of his personal testimony on the exact date he came through this trial).

The problem is choosing which story to tell, but there are many books which give lots of testimonies and which are still having a huge impact. Two mentioned were "Baptised by Fire" and "The Wigglesworth Standard". Nevertheless here are some of his major works:

  • Smithy was largely responsible for the start of the Pentecostal movement in New Zealand.
  • In the USA he often took over Aimee McPherson's church of 5,000 in Los Angeles.
  • In Sweden, he was forbidden to lay hands on the sick. However, he received a personal note from the King asking him to stay and minister to his people. Smith prayed for an answer and "Wholesale" healings occurred as he told all the people in the meeting to lay hands on themselves while he prayed.

Video: "The Smith Wigglesworth Legacy" (Nelson Word Publishing)

Here are some of his favourite sayings:

  • "ONLY BELIEVE" - "FAITH IS AN ACT!"
  • "I'M NOT MOVED BY WHAT I SEE, I'M ONLY MOVED BY WHAT I BELIEVE"
  • "GOD GIVES THE MORE TO US, THE MORE WE BELIEVE IN HIM"
  • Smith's secret was simple FAITH and TRUST and OBEDIENCE to the Lord.
  • "IF YOU HAVE TO SPEAK TO THE DEVIL TWICE, THEN HE KNOWS YOU DIDN'T MEAN IT THE FIRST TIME!"
  • He had confidence against the devil, he hated death, sickness and the devil. He liked the scripture which says "the violent  take heaven by force". When he hit people he was smiting their sickness, not them. He had the required force!
  • "Don't pray for the sick, HEAL THE SICK!"
  • He would say "Be healed" Speak the Word and it will happen. He believed that his words were WEIGHTED by the Holy Spirit - which is according to YOUR faith. Most of us don't believe that when we go out and speak the Word, God will anoint it. (Giving the COMMAND in the NAME OF JESUS CHRIST is the most effective way to heal).
  • "If the Holy Spirit does not move me, I move the Holy Spirit." - "I don't wait until I feel anointed" - "I act on faith" - "If I do this then God will move towards me." Stir up the gift that is within YOU.
  • "FAITH ACTED ON LEADS TO MORE FAITH." "HAVE THE FAITH OF GOD" MARK 11:22.
  • "HAVE THE FAITH OF CHRIST" (Imparted faith) (GALATIANS 2:20).
  • He nourished his faith on the Word of God (ROMANS 10:17).
  • "Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."
  • He had an amazing sense of God's presence with him. The example often used was that Jesus spent MUCH time with God and all he did was SPEAK THE WORD and DO what he saw God do. Smith spent much time with God (in heavenly places) and did what he saw God do.
  • "GOD SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT - THAT SETTLES IT!"

MOST PEOPLE LOOK ON SMITH WIGGLESWORTH'S HEALING MINISTRY AND FORGET THAT ABOVE ALL HE WAS A SOUL WINNER. He never missed an opportunity to preach. The key to the miraculous was his compassion. He was often broken and weeping because of the needs of the people (e.g. when he saw the sick lined up). Jesus was moved and his ministry fulfilled a need.

The key to soul-winning was his compassion.

He believed in replacing his old self with Jesus, and he would spend much time with God over issues such as his bad temper in the early days (especially towards his wife). Often he would come in and look at the meal and say to his wife "The Father's not pleased!"

BUT even at the end of his life he often said, "I believe I'm overcoming."

There were many testimonies on the video.

Smith Wigglesworth's Gravestone

We were taken to the Nab Wood Cemetery where Smith is buried. On his gravestone is the scripture "Whose faith follow" (HEBREWS 3:7). He obviously knew what it was about. The scripture 2 TIMOTHY 4:7 is also there.

He died on March 12, 1947, while attending a funeral, he died praising the Lord. Smith had always said that no knife would ever cut his body and despite the fact that he really should have had an autopsy, his wish was fulfilled. The winter had been so severe that they were so busy trying to bury the dead that they didn't have time to open him up!

Even until the end of his ministry Smith was being mightily used. One testimony which we can also get is of a boy who was dying but was healed through a handkerchief from Smith (The letter dated 3.3.47 tells of his healing!).


No. 70 Victor Road

Smith was based here for almost 50 years of his life, and from here he would often go for walks down to the nearby bowling greens, or to the parks and find a seat where he could read the Word. Invariably somebody would come along and sit down where he would preach to them and they would get saved. He understood his position in Christ and had the anointing.

He also loved tennis and cricket and often while going to watch the cricket matches he would preach to the people sitting next to him. In one place there is a seat situated at the top of a hill, with 150 steps. Smith would sit there and watch the people walk up and as they struggled to the top he would say "Ready to die yet?"

NOW - This whole area is now completely Asian!! (of the 300,000 people living in Bradford, 100,000 are Asian). As we walked up the street it was filthy, there were no curtains on many buildings, faces stared out at us, and there were no gardens, mainly just filth and rubble and car parts and oil and dog dirt. Britain is cursed. Satan has attacked all these areas where great men of God lived. Outside Smith's house is an advert for the meetings at the local mosque. On his house is a placard with an alcohol advertisement! Next door lives Mr. S. Hussein!

Imagine - only 50 years ago, people came from all over the world to this house in need of healing and salvation. Now - the people who live there don't even speak English!


The Bowland Street Mission

This is near Victor Road, and is where Smith started his healing ministry which you can read about in virtually all the books (i.e. When he was left to lead the meeting alone as the others went away to the Keswick Convention, etc. and then the big Scotsman on crutches came forward!)

The people used to be crammed into this small mission by the 100's (like sardines!) and must have been the scene of many a powerful meeting. We could join in a little by singing "Give me oil in my lamp" in the street outside!!

Unfortunately, Smith himself suffered persecution even here and in 1922 was forced out as some of the old Holiness movement elders were still opposed to speaking in tongues.

One powerful testimony from before he was spirit-filled and before his international ministry started was in 1904, when a man named James Berry, sat at Bradford Railway Station depressed and contemplating suicide. But somebody came to him and spoke to him and brought him back to the Mission. As he arrived the people had been praying and gave God the glory for this soul's salvation. Sitting in the meeting, somebody else came and spoke to him. He gave his life to Christ. He had been the public hangman of England responsible for the hanging of 130 men, women and boys. He immediately invited the others back to his house for a prayer meeting where his wife went through the exact same experience.


Summary

Many people want to be like Smith Wigglesworth, but like him we have to go through the trials, we have to go from step to step, faith to faith... and live like him - always clean, always punctual, walk by principal not by feelings, emotions, situations, etc.

What does this mean? - EVER INCREASING FAITH - MARK 4:28 - EACH ONE OF US HAS TO GROW DAILY! (IN FAITH, IN VISION ...) WHICH ONLY COMES BY WAITING BEFORE HIM.

The day went really well, and Desmond Cartwright was very happy with the day. He is going to send us as much information as we want basically and he has treasures of information on many other people, like John Wesley, Donald Gee (all the books, etc.). He also knew about the "Berlin Declaration" which forbade speaking in tongues in Germany, and also the "Anti-declaration" which was published in London.

Life's exciting!

by Ian and Nicola

Dunfermline, January 4th, 1996