Smith Wigglesworth Biography
Smith Wigglesworth was an evangelist whose childlike faith in Jesus led to the performance of many lasting miracles of great worth and a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church during his lifetime (8 June 1859 – 12 March 1947).
The Compassionate heart of a Child
Smith Wigglesworth was an evangelist who was drawn to the Light of Jesus Christ ever since he was a boy. Born in 1859, the year of his birth saw the Dickensian character ‘Oliver Twist’ at the heights of popularity in England. Smith was born into abject poverty but, unlike Oliver Twist, he had a caring mother and father and a Christian grandmother who moulded his mind and spirit. Though his parents were unsaved Smith respected and obeyed them. His grandmother, a Wesleyan, encouraged him to serve God. One day in Church while singing about Jesus he felt drawn closer to God and this changed his life forever. His mother became his first convert for Christ.
Early Influence on his attitude to work
Even though he had to begin work with his father at age 6 in the fields, his attitude towards work was always positive. The young Smith was influenced by his father, who on one occasion recounted to him that while he had been working on a cold winter’s morning trying to dig a trench, a bird flew down and harvested a worm from the ground that the elder Smith had just broken. The bird chirped merrily and flew off. He was encouraged by this and concluded that if the bird could rejoice over that one worm how much more should he then glory in the opportunity to work hard to feed his four wonderful children.
Smith’s Youth Ministry in Liverpool
Liverpool attracted Smith’s attention and at age 20 he moved there putting his skill of plumbing to work. He spent his salary to feed and clothe the poor children with whom he empathised. This was his first ministry and he brought hundreds of them to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. Throughout this time he remained grounded and became more deeply rooted in his faith through prayer and fasting.
Love, Marriage and Ministry
Not being able to read was a limitation that Smith overcame with the help of Mary Featherstone, whom he married in 1882. The two met in the Salvation Army when Smith moved to Bradford. Together he and Mary had five children; four boys and one girl who all entered Ministry when they grew up.
He and Mary also opened a Mission. In the early days Mary preached because Smith was only just learning to read and was constraint by a slight stuttering problem. When he was baptised in the Holy Spirit he was delivered and anointed to preach. Mary could not believe that it was ‘her husband’ preaching when he first ministered. Up until then, his role in ministry had been intercession for his wife and meeting their financial needs. Smith devoted himself to reading the Bible and carried a new testament wherever he went. His sermons were full of God’s words and merely punctuated with Smith’s explanations.
He had a good sense of humour which shined through in his delivery style. This was evident in a story which he recounted about a time when, due to his booming plumbing business, he had backslidden. Mary, however, remained in faithful attendance at Church and one night came home late. Smith was incensed and angrily confronted her, pushed her through the back door and locked her out. She, however, re-entered the house through the front door which he had forgotten to lock. Being gregarious and good natured, Mary found the situation amusing and burst out in contagious laughter. Smith was soon laughing at his behaviour which he realised had been ridiculous. He then spent two weeks praying and fasting to rededicate himself to getting his priorities re-ordered and went on to strike an exemplary balance between family and Ministry.
Smith Wiggleworth’s Prayer Ministry
Smith believed in the power of the name of Jesus. He prayed and fasted frequently and surrounded himself with people that he knew loved to pray. He made this his only criteria for inviting persons to accompany him when he was called to minister privately to the critically ill or demon possessed. There were times, however, that he wished that the intercessors would pray differently as when they expected people to die they often petitioned God to comfort surviving relatives. Smith, however wanted people to petition God to deliver and extend life and so would quietly pray for God to shut them up! On many occasions he encouraged his prayer team to say only the name of Jesus. Repeating the name of Jesus bore much fruit and Smith confessed to actually seeing Jesus on many occasions. It was at this point that breakthrough often came and the sick were healed or the demon possessed set free.
Smith believed in the use of anointing oil and many were healed instantly when anointed. One miraculous case was that of Mrs Clark, who was on her death bed when Smith met her. He anointed her with oil and prayed but nothing happened until Jesus came into the room. Both she and Wigglesworth saw Jesus and it was at that point that she was healed. Mrs Clark gave her life to Jesus and went on to become a Minister of the Gospel.
Smith Wigglesworth; the preaching corpse
A private interview with Roberts Liardon, creator of the God’s General series, revealed that Smith Wigglesworth was often criticized by other preachers due to his unyielding faith in God and God alone. These criticisms, however never fazed him and he believed it was important to depend completely on God. He and Mary had a pact where they did not allow any medicine in their house as they preferred to trust in God for their healing needs. This faith was tested when Smith fell ill and, despite much prayer and intercession, healing seemed illusive. He left it up to Mary to decide what to do and so, fearing for the life of her husband and what the authorities may say if no doctor was called for, she called for the doctor. The doctor declared Smith as “good as a corpse” and said that he could not do anything to help heal him. A praying woman and another young man, however, came along and fervently prayed for him. Smith was healed in that moment and rose up, dressed and went out to work! Later recounting the incident, Smith said, “Well, the “corpse” has been going up and down the world preaching the Gospel these many years since that time!”
Smith Wigglesworth’s Legacy
By his faith this man who is known as the “Apostle of Faith’ laid the foundation for the growth of the Holy Spirit in the Modern Church. Yet he understood his vulnerabilities and poked fun at himself along the way. The miracles that he performed were long lasting, as evidenced by the testimonies of numerous persons whose lives he touched. Thousands of healing miracles are documented and many were raised from the dead. Among those healed were many persons who had not confessed Jesus as Lord. For this Smith was happy but he said he would have been happier if they had received their Salvation. Salvation to him was the greatest miracle of all.