Who was Smith Wigglesworth?
Smith Wigglesworth (1859 – 1947) was a British evangelist who was important in the early history of Pentecostalism. 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, were not practicing Christians although they 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. 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. 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). He spoke at some of the Assemblies of God events, though he never joined the denomination.
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.
Wigglesworth ministered at many churches throughout Yorkshire, often at Bethesda Church on the outskirts of Sheffield, where he 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 and Faith that Prevails.
Wigglesworth said he had 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. Wigglesworth is considered one of the most influential evangelists in the early history of Pentecostalism and 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.
Wigglesworth claimed that God had healed him of appendicitis and much of his ministry was focused on faith healing. There were many miracles attributed to him, some reported in the popular press and in Pentecostal magazines such as 'Confidence' which had been founded by Boddy. Wigglesworth avoided all medical treatment, despite suffering from kidney stones in his later years. These eventually passed naturally.
He refused any surgical procedure, and stated that no knife would ever touch his body either in life or death. Wigglesworth was said to have raised several persons from the dead - including his wife Polly, a man called Mitchell, and a Baptist Pastor's wife, a Mrs. Clarke.
His friend and biographer Walter Hibbert adds the claim of a man raised from the dead who had been embalmed and was in a funeral parlour, and Wilson in his biography tells of a woman who, brought into a meeting in a coffin, slapped Wigglesworth's face after being raised up, stating that she had had a far better time in the hereafter. Wigglesworth was said to have raised between three and twenty-three persons from the dead.
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