Smith Wigglesworth, often referred to as ‘the Apostle of Faith,’ was one of the pioneers of the Pentecostal revival that occurred a century ago.
Without human refinement and education he was able to tap into the infinite resources of God to bring divine grace to multitudes.
Thousands came to Christian faith in his meetings, hundreds were healed of serious illnesses and diseases as supernatural signs followed his ministry.
This is his amazing story.
A deep intimacy with his heavenly Father and an unquestioning faith in God’s Word brought spectacular results and provided an example for all true believers of the Gospel.
We have included 4 of the 16 chapters.
Theyear 1859 is known as that of the great Irish revival. Two years previously, a mighty awakening had come to U.S.A. Prayer meetings had been held in every large city, and were attended by thousands of people. As men called on God, the Spirit of the Lord mightily worked, and it was estimated that every month fifty thousand souls passed from death unto life. The news of the revival of 1857 in the U.S.A. and of the revival of 1859 in Ireland, set the people of Britain to praying. Soon revival fires began to burn throughout that country. Spurgeon preached to vast throngs in London and at every service many received Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord. In Wales, Christmas Evans was engaged in a wonderful evangelistic ministry. His converts became so exuberantly happy that they would dance for joy in his meetings, and Evans would not restrain them. Because of this, scores of sinners sought Christ in order to receive the same “joy unspeakable.” At the same time, the hearts of many who were attending the Wesleyan Methodist churches throughout Great Britain were “strangely warmed.” One of their evangelists, William Booth, was singularly used. In 1859 he broke with the Wesleyan church to give himself entirely to the work of evangelism and was led to choose the slums of the east end of London as his first place of ministry. The worst of sinners were transformed into the greatest of saints and went preaching the Gospel throughout the land. Booth later founded the Salvation Army.
It was in this revival year of 1859, in a humble shack in Menston, in Yorkshire, England, that Smith Wigglesworth was born. One day when he was holding a meeting in Riverside, California, we said to him: “Tell us your story.” He related to us the following:
“My father was very poor and worked long hours for little pay in order to support mother and us three boys and one girl. I can remember one cold frosty day when my father had been given the job of digging a ditch seven yards long and a yard deep, and filling it up again, for the sum of three shillings and sixpence. My mother said that if he would only wait a bit, it might thaw and his task would be easier. But he needed that money for food, for there was none in the house. So he set to work with a pickaxe. The frost was deep, but underneath the hard ground was some soft wet clay. As he threw up some of this, a robin suddenly appeared, picked up a worm, ate it, flew to a branch of a nearby tree, and from there sent out a song of joyous praise. Up to now, father had been very despondent, but he was so entranced by the robin’s lovely song of thanksgiving that he took fresh courage and began to dig with renewed vigour—saying to himself, “If that robin can sing like that for a worm, surely I can work like a father for my good wife and my four fine children!”
When I was six years of age, I got work in the field, pulling and cleaning turnips, and I can remember how sore my tiny hands became pulling turnips from morning until night.
At seven years of age, my older brother and I went to work in a woollen mill. My father obtained employment in the same mill as a weaver. Things were easier in our house from that time on, and food became more plentiful.
My father was a great lover of birds and at one time he had sixteen song birds in our home. Like my father I had a great love for birds and at every opportunity I would be out looking for their nests. I always knew where there were some eighty or ninety of them. One time I found a nest full of fledglings, and thinking they were abandoned, I adopted them, taking them home and making a place for them in my bedroom. Somehow the parent birds discovered them and would fly in through the open window and feed their young ones. One time I had both a thrush and a lark feeding their young ones in my room. My brothers and I would catch some songbirds by means of birdlime, bring them home, and later sell them in the market.
My mother was very industrious with her needle and made all our clothes, chiefly from old garments that had been given to her. I usually wore an overcoat with sleeves three or four inches too long, which was very comfortable in cold weather. I cannot forget those long winter nights and mornings, having to get out of bed at five o’clock to snatch a quick meal and then walk two miles to be at work by six. We had to work twelve hours each day, and I often said to my father, “It’s a long time from six until six in the mill.” I can remember the tears in his eyes as he said: “ Well, six o’clock will always come.” Sometimes it seemed like a month coming.
I can never recollect a time when I did not long for God. Even though neither father nor mother knew God, I was always seeking Him. I would often kneel down in the field, and ask Him to help me. I would ask Him especially to enable me to find where the birds’ nests were, and after I had prayed I seemed to have an instinct to know exactly where to look.
One time I walked to work in a great thunderstorm. It seemed that for half an hour I was enveloped with fire as the thunders rolled and the lightnings flashed. Young as I was, my heart was crying to God for His preservation, and He wrapped me in His gracious presence. Though all the way I was surrounded with lightning and I was drenched to the skin, I knew no fear—I only sensed that I was being shielded by the power of God.
My grandmother was an old-time Wesleyan Methodist and would take me to the meetings she attended. When I was eight years of age there was a revival meeting held in her church. I can remember one Sunday morning at seven o’clock when all those simple folks were dancing around a big stove in the centre of the church, clapping their hands and singing:
Oh, the Lamb, the bleeding Lamb,
The Lamb of Calvary,
The Lamb that was slain,
That liveth again
To intercede for me.
As I clapped my hands and sang with them, a clear knowledge of the New Birth came into my soul. I looked to the Lamb of Calvary. I believed that He loved me and had died for me. Life came in-eternal life—and I knew that I had received a new life which had come from God. I was born again. I saw that God wants us so badly that He has made the condition as simple as He possibly could— “Only believe.” That experience was real and I have never doubted my salvation since that day.
But I had no words. The longer I lived the more I thought, but the less language I had to express my thoughts. In this respect I resembled my mother. She would begin to tell a story, but what she said was so unintelligible that father would have to interrupt, saying, “Nay, Mother, you’ll have to begin again!” She just could not express herself. I was the same.
But I delighted in going to meetings, especially those in which everyone was giving a testimony. I would arise to give mine, but would have no language to convey what I felt in the depths of my soul. Invariably I would burst out crying. One memorable day three old men, whom I knew very intimately, came across to where I was weeping, unable to speak. They laid their hands on me. The Spirit of the Lord came upon me and I was instantly set free from my bondage. I not only believed, but I could also speak.
From the time of my conversion I became a soul-winner, and the first person I won for Christ was my own dear mother. When I was nine years of age I was tall, and so I got full-time work in the mill. Schooling was not compulsory in those days, and so I was robbed of an education.
Father wanted all of us to go to the Episcopal church. He had no desire to go himself, but he liked the parson, because they met at the same “pub” and drank beer together. My brother and I were in the choir in this church, and although I could not read I soon learned the tunes of the hymns and chants. When most of the boys in the choir were twelve years of age they had to be confirmed by the bishop. I was not twelve, but between nine and ten, when the bishop laid his hands on me, I can remember that as he imposed his hands I had a similar experience to the one I had forty years later when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. My whole body was filled with the consciousness of God’s presence, a consciousness that remained with me for days. After the confirmation service all the other boys were swearing and quarrelling, and I wondered what had made the difference between them and me.
When I was thirteen, we moved to Bradford. There I went to the Wesleyan Methodist church and began to enter into a deeper spiritual life. I was very keen for God. This church was having some special missionary meetings and they chose seven boys to speak. I was one of the seven chosen, and I had three weeks in which to get ready for a fifteen-minute talk. For three weeks I lived in prayer. I remember that as I began there were such loud “Amens” and shoutings. I do not recollect what I said, but I know I was possessed with a mighty zeal, a burning desire to get people to know my Saviour. At that time I was always getting in touch with boys and talking to them about salvation. I had many rebuffs and rebukes. I wanted to share the great joy I had, but so many did not seem too eager to listen to me, and that was a great mystery to me. I suppose I was not very tactful. I always carried a Testament with me even though I was not able to read much.
When I was sixteen years of age the Salvation Army opened up a work in Bradford. I delighted to be with these earnest Salvation Army people. It was laid very deeply upon me to fast and pray for the salvation of souls in those days, and every week we saw scores of sinners yielding their hearts to Christ.
In the mill where I worked there was a godly man belonging to the Plymouth Brethren. He was a steam-fitter. I was given to him as a helper and he taught me how to do plumbing work. He talked to me about water baptism and its meaning. I can remember that he said to me: “If you will obey the Lord in this, you do not know what He may have for you.” I gladly obeyed the Word of the Lord to be buried with Him in baptism unto death and come forth from that symbolic watery grave to a newness of life in God. I was about seventeen at that time.
It was this good man who taught me about the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus. Again and again when I had a sense that I had failed God, I would be troubled with the thought that the Lord would come and I would not be ready to meet Him. From time to time it was a relief to me to go to work and find this godly man there. Then I knew the Lord had not come in the night and left me behind.
I continued with the Salvation Army because it seemed to me they had more power in their ministry than anybody else at that time. We used to have all nights of prayer. Many would be laid out under the power of the Spirit, sometimes for as long as twenty-four hours at a time. We called that the Baptism in the Spirit in those days. Those early Salvationists had great power and it was manifested in their testimony and in their lives. We would join together and claim in faith fifty or a hundred souls every week and know that we would get them. Alas, today many are not laying themselves out for soul-winning but for fleshly manifestations.
I looked to the Lord, and He surely helped me in everything. When I was eighteen years of age, I went to a plumber to ask for employment. I cleaned up my shoes with an extra shine, put on a clean collar, and applied at the home of this man. He said, “No, I don’t need anyone.” I said, “Thank you, Sir. I am sorry.” The man let me walk down to his gate and then called me back, saying:
“There’s something about you that is different. I just can’t let you go.” He sent me to do a job fitting a row of homes with water piping, which I finished in a week. The master was so amazed that he said, “It cannot possibly be done!” but he went and found the work perfect. He said he could not keep me employed at that speed.
When I was twenty years of age, I moved to Liverpool, and the power of God was mightily upon me. I had a great desire to help the young people. Every week I used to gather around me scores of boys and girls, barefooted, ragged, and hungry. I earned good money, but I spent all of it on food for those children. They would congregate in the sheds in the docks, and what meetings we had!
Hundreds of them were saved. A friend of mine and I devoted ourselves to visiting the hospitals and also the ships. God gave me a great heart for the poor. I used to work hard and spend all I had on the poor and have nothing for myself. I fasted all day every Sunday and prayed, and I never remember seeing less than fifty souls saved by the power of God in the meetings with the children, in the hospitals, on the ships, and in the Salvation Army. These were the days of great soul awakening.
At the Salvation Army meetings the officer in charge would constantly ask me to speak. I cannot tell why he should ask me, for my speech was always broken, weeping before the people. I could not hold back the tears. I would have given a world to be able to speak in a more eloquent way; but like Jeremiah I was a man with a fountain of tears. But as I wept before the people, this often would lead to an altar call. I thank God for those days because the Lord kept me in a broken, contrite spirit. The memory of those Liverpool days is very precious to me.
When I was about twenty-three years of age, I was led to go back to Bradford, and I was strongly led to open up a business for myself as a plumber and give my spare time to helping the Salvation Army. It was there I met the best girl in the world!
In the second part of the Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan introduces us to one, Mr. Greatheart, who guided and guarded Christiana and her sons on their way to the Celestial City. The one whose story we are telling was a Mr. Greatheart. He surely had a great heart of love and loyalty to his Master, for so often we have heard him say, “Isn’t He a lovely Jesus!” And he also had a great heart of love for all his fellow pilgrims, especially the poor and needy, the sick and the suffering.
He once said to us, “All that I am today I owe, under God, to my precious wife. Oh, she was lovely!”
Mary Jane Featherstone, whom God chose to be “an helpmeet for him,” came from a good Methodist family. Her father was a temperance lecturer. He was heir to a large inheritance that had been made through liquor selling, but he had a conviction that filthy lucre secured through the damnation of souls would do him no good, and so he refused to touch a single penny of this tainted money. His daughter followed her father’s principles of righteousness and holiness, and was always fearless in speaking her inner convictions.
When about seventeen years of age, Mary Jane, or Polly as she was often called, was placed in a milliner’s store to learn the art of trimming hats and bonnets. This kind of work seemed too petty for her, so after a month of it she decided to run away from her native town and all the restraints of home, to seek fame and fortune in Bradford. But the Lord was watching over this handmaid to preserve her from evil. She secured a place to live in Bradford, but it “hapt” that a travelling man whom she knew was just at, the door of this house at the moment she was moving in. He exclaimed, “Oh, Miss Featherstone, you must not live in this house. It is not a respectable one. Let me take you to a place that is beyond reproach.” He then took her in a cab to a very desirable home.
Polly accepted service in a large family in one of the big homes in Bradford. One night she was in the centre of the city, and was attracted, by the sound of trumpets and the beating of drums, to a meeting held in the open air. The Salvation Army was an entirely new thing in those days, and she looked at these people with great interest. When their open-air meeting was over, they marched down the streets of Bradford, and she thought to herself,” Where are these silly people, who play as they march, going?” She followed them to a dilapidated theatre building. Dare she go into a theatre? At home she had been taught that such a place was unspeakably evil. But she was inquisitive. Looking this way and that way to see if anybody who knew her was watching, she slipped into this terrible place and found a seat at the top of the gallery.
The service began and her interest deepened as she listened to the bright singing and the lively witnessing of recent converts. The evangelist that night was Gipsy Tillie Smith, a sister of the famous Gipsy Rodney Smith, who also was a Salvation Army evangelist in those early days. The evangelist preached Christ with great power. The young girl in the gallery yearned to know Him and the power of His cleansing blood to wash away her sins. When the call was made for sinners to come and seek the Saviour, Polly made her way from the top gallery to the “penitent form.” At first she asked to be left alone, as she called to the Lord to forgive her sins. Later, Tillie Smith knelt by her side and led her to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. When the assurance came that she was forgiven of all her sins, she jumped to her feet, threw her gloves up in the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah, it is done!”
Our Greatheart, then a young man, was in the audience. He watched that young woman pray through to God and he heard her shout “Hallelujah! “ Later he declared, “It seemed as if the inspiration of God was upon her from the very first.” She was a beautiful girl, and as he looked at her in her simple dress and her shapely early Victorian bonnet, he thought she was lovely. He felt the first time he heard her give her testimony that she belonged to him, and soon there began an intimate friendship between Polly Featherstone and this young man. The new convert was very vivacious and soon began to make large and rapid spiritual strides. Her association with Tillie Smith, and her brother Rodney, and Brother Lawley—who later became a commissioner in the Salvation Army— brought her into contact with General Booth, who gave her a commission in his organisation without her having to undergo the usual period of training.
Our young Greatheart had been greatly attracted to the Army because of their splendid soul-saving ministry; so he threw himself wholeheartedly into the work of the Salvationists. In it he found an outlet for the consuming passion for the unsaved, and he had a joyous satisfaction in watching the lives of many men and women change by the power of the Gospel. And then Polly’s presence in the meetings was a great attraction to him! Her alertness and ability in the indoor services as well as in the open-air meetings appealed to him. The officers of the Salvation Army soon recognised that there was coming a “something” between these two. It was contrary to Army rules that an officer, for they had made her such, should associate with just an ordinary “soldier,” as they accounted our Greatheart (although he never actually became a member of the Salvation Army).
One day a major in the Army drove to the home where she was working and asked if she would go with her to Leith in Scotland to help start a new work. She agreed, packed her suitcase, went off to the railway station with the major, and in a few hours she was in Scotland.
In those early days of the Salvation Army the public was very generous in contributions of over-ripe eggs and stale vegetables, and the Salvation Army lassies had to be alert to dodge these missiles. One day Polly received a black eye from an orange that was donated somewhat suddenly. But none of these things moved her. She had a lovely voice and would sing and testify in the open air. Many a window and door in the nearby flats would be flung open to hear the songs and the messages of these fearless young Salvationists. And their labours were not in vain; they were greatly blessed of God in spiritual and social service.
While in Leith, Polly took a special interest in the well being of a recent convert who lived on the sixth floor of a tenement house, and whose husband, who was somewhat of a brute, opposed her attendance at the meetings. Finding Polly praying with his wife one day when he returned from his work, he threatened, if she did not stop praying, to forcibly eject her. She continued to pray, and so he picked her up in his arms and carried her down the five flights of steps. Every step he took, she prayed, “Lord, save this man; save his soul, Lord.” The man swore wildly and fumed terribly, but she had the joy of hearing him cry for mercy when he got to the last flight. Together they knelt, and made a “penitent form” of the bottom step, where she pointed him to the Lamb of God whose blood cleanses from all sin.
One day in Leith, she was brought before her superior officers who put to her certain leading questions relative to her attitude toward the opposite sex, they assuming that she had an interest in a local “soldier.” When they could obtain no satisfaction from her they suggested that they all kneel and she should lead in a word of prayer. She began her prayer, “Lord, you know that these men think that I am interested in a Scotchman! Lord, you know that I am not; for if what these Scotch folk say about each other is true, they are all so stingy that they would nip a currant in two to save the other half. You know I don’t believe that, Lord, about these Scotch folks, for I have found them to be very kind; but you know, Lord, that I do not intend to marry anyone away up here in Scotland.” She continued in this vein and by the time she got through, her examiners were ready to close the interview. Folly knew that there was a young man in Bradford who was desperately in love with her, and she loved him.
She returned to that town, severing her connection with the Salvation Army and associating with a new and, in the estimation of some people, more spiritual group, who were called the Blue Ribbon Army. Mrs. Elizabeth Baxter, a very spiritual woman, was at the head of it. But she remained a true friend of the Salvation Army, often entertaining their officers. At that time evangelistic calls came from many Methodist churches. The Spirit of God moved mightily on her ministry and many souls were won for Christ.
When Folly was twenty-two years of age she was married to our Greatheart who was then twenty-three. In later years he paid her this tribute: “She became a great help to me in my spiritual life. She was always such an inspiration to holiness. She saw how ignorant I was, and immediately began to teach me to read properly and to write; unfortunately she never succeeded in teaching me to spell.”
Speaking concerning his wife, our Greatheart testified: “She was a great soul-winner. I encouraged her to continue her ministry of evangelising, and I continued my business as a plumber. I had a burden for the parts of Bradford that had no church, and we opened up a work in a small building that I rented. As the children came we always prayed through for them before they were born, that they would belong to God. I used to carry the children to meeting and look after them while she preached. I was no preacher myself, but I was always down at the ‘penitent form’ to lead souls to Christ. Her work was to put down the net, mine to land the fish. This latter is just as important as the former.”
We have read some biographies, the writers of which have embalmed their heroes very deeply in honey. We read in Prov. 25: 16, “Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.” We have been so nauseated by this kind of biography that after reading a few chapters we have had no inclination to finish the book. We will endeavour not to serve up, too much honey in this book, for the one of whom we write was just as human as the rest of us.
There came to Bradford a very severe winter and plumbers were in great demand. It was not only through the winter period but for the two years that followed that they were having to repair fallen spouts and other damage done by the storms. Wigglesworth and the two men who were helping him were kept busy from morning till night. In those days of overmuch business and overmuch prosperity, his attendance at religious services declined, and his heart began to grow cold toward God; but the colder he became, the hotter his wife became for God. Her evangelistic zeal never abated, nor her prayer life. Her quiet, consistent Christian life and witness made his laxity all the more apparent, and it irritated him. One night a climax came. She was a little later than usual in getting home from the service and when she entered the house he remarked: “I am the master of this house, and I am not going to have you coming home at so late an hour as this!” Polly quietly replied, “I know that you are my husband, but Christ is my Master.” This annoyed him and he put her out of the back door. But there was one thing he had forgotten to do—to lock the front door. She went around the house and came in at the front door laughing. She laughed so much that he had to laugh with her; and so that episode was finished.
When some husbands backslide, their wives get sour and nag at them from morning till night, but that was not the way of Polly Wigglesworth. She had a merry heart, and while she was on fire for the Lord, she made every mealtime a season of fun and humour. And she wooed her husband back to the Lord and to his old time love and zeal for God. Her fidelity was severely tested during those months when he was spiritually unsettled, but it was her gracious stability that guided him through the dangerous period, saving him from a terrible spiritual shipwreck.
Polly Wigglesworth’s reputation as a winner of souls went far and wide, and not infrequently she would be sent to restore a work that was failing and to follow on in evangelistic services where others had failed. She was a popular preacher for women’s services and quite a favourite with men’s Bible classes. Untiring in zeal, she literally ate up work of all kinds, including the care of a large house. She and her husband were always given to hospitality, and she never complained no matter whom he brought home suddenly for a meal or invited to stay for a few days in their home. At convention times there were always large numbers entertained in her home, but never once did she murmur.
Wigglesworth had to go into Leeds one day each week to purchase plumbing supplies. In this town he found a place where there was a Divine Healing meeting. There was such a note of reality in these Divine Healing meetings and the Lord was so graciously healing people, that he began to hunt up sick people in Bradford and he would pay their fare to Leeds, where the prayer of faith was offered for them. At first he said nothing to Mrs. Wigglesworth about this; for he was not sure of her reaction to this “fanaticism,” as most people dubbed Divine Healing in those days. But she found out what he was doing and since she herself had need of healing she accompanied him one day to Leeds. There the prayer of faith was offered for her and she was healed by the Lord. From that time forward she was as ardent for the truth of the Lord’s healing as he was.
The work in Bradford grew, and so they had to move to larger and yet larger premises, until they settled in quite a large building in Bowland Street. In this Bowland Street Mission they had a huge text painted as a scroll on the wall back of the pulpit that everyone could see, “I am the Lord that healeth thee.” In the course of years many testified to being healed through the inspiration of that word of scripture.
There came to this mission a brother who had a gracious ministry of healing. When the Sunday afternoon service was over he was invited to the Wigglesworth home for tea. During the simple meal, Mrs. Wigglesworth put the question to this minister: “What would you think of a man who preaches Divine Healing to others, yet he himself uses medical means every day in his life?”
I should say that that man did not fully trust the Lord,” was the answer. After the meal Wigglesworth said to this minister: “When my wife was talking about one who preached Divine Healing to others and yet used other means himself, she was referring to me. From childhood I have suffered from haemorrhoids or piles and so I deem it necessary to use salts every day. I have looked upon them as harmless, natural means; for I knew that if I did not have something of this kind, I should have bleeding every day, and infection might result. But if you will stand with me in faith, I am willing to trust God in this matter and give up the salts. Since I have taken them every day for years, my system is so used to them that there will be no natural function from now until Wednesday. Will you stand with me in faith on that day? for in the natural I shall have great pain and much bleeding through not having used the salts.” The brother agreed.
After that Sunday Wigglesworth did not take his daily dose of salts. On Wednesday the crisis came. At a certain hour he went into his bathroom. He anointed himself with oil according to James 5. We have often heard him testify in public, for he was a man of no unwholesome modesty when it came to speaking about perfectly natural things “God undertook. My bowels functioned that day like a baby’s. God had perfectly healed me. From that day forward my bowels have functioned perfectly without the use of any means whatsoever. I have proved the God who is enough.”
Polly Wigglesworth loved her husband enough to reprove him when he was wrong—and this was very often. Most husbands bitterly resent any criticism from their wives, but Wigglesworth always took her rebukes with a smile. His attitude was that of David who said, “Let the righteous smite me in kindness and correct me; oil so choice let not my head refuse” (Psalm 142:5, Masoretic Rendering). Even though at times he did not take full heed of her correction, yet there is no doubt that as a whole her admonitions had a great effect in the training of her husband’s character.
In his plumbing work, Wigglesworth obtained a good deal of profitable business from saloon-keepers, who sent for him to repair the pumps by which they drew up the beer from their cellars. This was an abomination to Polly who in those days kept the books. She knew that the workmen would be given free drinks in the saloons, and she knew it would have a demoralising effect on them. She prevailed in her protests, and after awhile her husband, to protect the men who were labouring for him, refused all work from saloonkeepers. This meant heavy financial losses to him, but he gave it up as a matter of principle.
We read in Psalm 127: “Children are a heritage of the Lord.” The Lord gave to the Wigglesworth home five children; one girl, Alice; and four boys, Seth, Harold, Ernest, and George. George went to be with the Lord in 1915 and, how greatly his loving father missed him.
“My soul followeth hard after Thee” (Psalm 63:8) is the intense expression of the man after God’s own heart. This was ever the attitude of Smith Wigglesworth from the early days of his Christian experience. No wonder the enemy of souls sought so hard to cause the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches to choke the Word in the two years mentioned in the last chapter.
Bunyan’s pilgrim learned many lessons in the house of the Interpreter. He saw a fire burning against the wall, and one standing by it to cast water on it to quench it, but yet the fire burned fiercer than ever. The interpreter told him the meaning: “This fire is the work of grace that is wrought in the heart. He that casts water upon it to extinguish and put it out is the Devil; but in that thou seest the fire notwithstanding burn higher and hotter, thou shalt see the reason of that.” So he took Christian to the other side of the wall, and there was Christ continually pouring in the oil of His grace.
So it was with out Greatheart. Though the Devil had succeeded in quenching his zeal for a short while, the Lord’s oil was poured on the nearly quenched flame, in response to his wife’s prayers, so that he came forth from the trial a flame of fire that for the next sixty years became brighter and more intense every day. But we will let him continue his own story:
God gave me a great zeal in soul-winning. Every day I sought to bring someone to Christ. I was willing to wait an hour any day to have an interview with anyone about his soul’s salvation. At one place I waited an hour and a half, asking God to direct me to the one of His choice. The road was filled with people but I kept saying to the Lord, “I want the right man.” After awhile I was somewhat impatient in my spirit and I said, “Lord, I don’t have much time to waste.” But God did not call it wasted time. After an hour and a half a man came along with a horse and cart, and the Lord spoke to me just as He spoke to Philip when He told him to join himself to the chariot of the Ethiopian. I got up in the cart beside the man and was soon talking with him about his need of salvation. He growled, “Why don’t you go about your own business? Why should you pick me out and talk to me?”
I wondered whether I had made a mistake. I looked up to the Lord and said, “Is this the right man, Lord?” He said to me, “ Yes, this is the right man.” And so I continued to talk to him and plead with him to yield his life to Christ. By and by I saw that he was shedding tears, and I knew that God had softened his heart and the seed of the Word was entering. After I was sure a true work of grace had been wrought, I jumped down from his cart, and he went on his way.
Three weeks later my mother said to me, “Smith, have you been talking to someone about salvation?” “I am always doing that, Mother.” “ Well, I visited a man last night. He was dying; he has been in bed for three weeks. I asked whether he would like someone to come and pray with him. He said, ‘The last time I was out, a young man got into my cart and spoke to me. I was very rough with him but he was very persistent. Anyhow, God convicted me of my sins, and saved me.’” My mother continued, “That was the last time that man was out. He passed away in the night. He described the young man who talked with him and I could tell from his description that you were the one.”
As I walked along, I would be always looking for someone to whom I could talk about the Lord. One time I went with a brother on a bicycle tour. Every day for ten days we had, on an average, three good cases of salvation. My experience in business life led me to a great many people whom I would not have contacted had I been a professional preacher. My whole business life was spent in communion with God. I sought to be His witness everywhere I went.
A man came to reside in Bradford and asked a business man: “Can you introduce me to a good plumber?” The business man replied, “Yes, I can, if you can stand his religion. If you have him as plumber, you have to have his religion as well. He never goes out on a job but what he is preaching all the while he is doing his plumbing work.”
Well,” this man said, “I’ll risk it.” He told me afterwards that he was pleased that he had me as a plumber because of my talks to him about the Lord.
I was very successful in my plumbing work, but I was very poor in collecting the debts on my books. But every Saturday I had to pay my men. One day I was in need of money. I have always believed it was God’s plan for me to be in need, because in the needy hour God opened the door to me and that strengthened my faith. At that particular time I went to the Lord and prayed, “Lord, I have not time to go out and seek money. Please tell me where I can get some.” He said, “Go to Bishop.” I had heard that he was a very bad payer and that everyone had to take him to the courts in order to get their money. But because the Lord had told me to go, I knew He could deal with him, so I went in faith.
As I went into the lodge gate, I met Mrs. Bishop coming out with another lady. I had been somewhat in hopes that I might see her and that she would pay me. So I said to myself, “There’s only one hope and that is to see Bishop.” But I hesitated for a moment because I knew that he paid nobody. Should I go? Well, I knew God had spoken to me, and so I went to the back door. The servant answered and I asked, “Is. Mr. Bishop in?” “No, and he will not be home for three weeks.” “I cannot understand that,” I said. “Why don’t you understand? You seem disturbed.” “Yes, I am very disturbed. I have to have money to pay my men tomorrow, and as I have been praying the Lord directed me to come here; it is quite disturbing to know that Mr. Bishop is away and will not be back for three weeks.” The servant asked, “How much is it that he owes you?” I said to her, “just about twenty pounds.” She said, “Come in.” She went upstairs, brought the money down, and settled the account. I said to her, “Do you do this kind of thing often?” She answered, “No.” Well, I knew the Lord had told me to go to that house at nine o’clock the night previous. She told me that at that very time the mistress had given her her wages and that she felt impressed to pay this, account out of her wages. I said, “What makes you do it?” She answered, “I dare not let you go away without it. That is all I can say.” God showed me how he could make a human impossibility possible. Incidents like that helped in the creation of a living faith in my heart.
One morning the children were all gathered around the breakfast table and my wife said, “Harold and Ernest are very sick this morning. Before we have breakfast we will pray for them.” Immediately the power of God fell upon my wife and me, and as we laid our hands on these children they were both instantly healed. As we saw the miraculous healing wrought before our eyes, we were both filled with intense joy. The Lord was always so good in proving Himself our family Physician.
That day I went out to work, at a house where a great many servants were employed, and I took an apprentice boy to work with me. I could see that the lady of the house was very restless. She came into the room where I was working, looked at me, and then walked out. Soon she came back and said, “Can’t you send your apprentice to your shop for something?” I replied, “I was just going to send him to the shop because I am short of one piece of pipe.” As soon as the boy was out of the door she said, “Tell me, oh, please tell me, what is the cause of your face showing such a wonderful expression of joy?” I replied, “Well, this morning two of my children came to the breakfast table very sick. My wife and I prayed for them and God instantly healed them. I was filled with joy as I saw what He had wrought, and that joy is with me now.” She said, “Please tell me how to get this joy. My house is full of trouble. My husband left me this morning after a big disturbance. Please tell me how I can get this peace and rest and joy that you have.” I said to her, “The Lord has saved my wife and me, and we know what it is to have the power of God in our home, and for Him to meet all our needs and to fill us with His peace and, joy.” She said, “Oh, please, can you help me?” I said, “I can help you now.”
She seemed afraid of the servants coming in, so she locked the door and kept her hand on the key, as if she was afraid she might be disturbed any moment; and while she had her hand on the key, the Lord saved her. She was filled with the joy of the assurance that all her sins were washed away. She said, “Oh, how can I keep this?” I asked, “Do you have an ‘at home’ day when the ladies come to visit you?” She answered, “I have one next Thursday.” I said to her, “Tell all the ladies how the Lord has saved you and ask if you can pray with them.”
That was the ministry that the Lord gave me all through the years that I was in the plumbing business. I had the joy of leading so many men and women, and so many servant girls, to Christ as I worked at my trade and witnessed for my Christ. The Lord had a purpose in keeping me tied up financially. In some respects I had a flourishing business but I was always short of ready money.
I can remember one day I went to prayer as usual and asked the Lord, “Where shall I go for money this week-end?” He said to me: “Go and see the architect and ask him for a certificate.” I was working on a job under a certain architect, and so in obedience to the word of the Lord I went to see him. As soon as I got to the office he said, “What do you want?” I explained I needed a certificate. “On what job?” he asked. “The job you gave me to fix the furnaces in Osletgate.” “Why,” he said, “you have only just got to work.” I replied, “That makes no difference, the work is done.”
The work was on a row of new houses. He said, “You couldn’t have finished the work; I only gave it to you a week ago.” I said, “When you gave it to me, you did so because you knew I would do it quickly.” He asked, “How could you do it?” “I brought all my men from other work and got down to business.” He doubted my word. He picked up his hat and said, “I will go and see.” We went together and when he saw the work he was well satisfied. He said, “This is wonderful; it is just what we wanted.” And so he wrote out a certificate for the money.
It was one thing to get the certificate and another thing to get the money. I started to the office of the mill master to whom the property belonged, and as I went I noticed on a shop window a scripture text, “Trust in the Lord at all times.” I went forward, believing that since I had my trust in the Lord, everything would be all right. When I got to the office of the mill I handed the cashier the certificate. It was Saturday morning and he shouted louder than I could shout, “You’ll get no money here! You’ll get no money here! You’ll get no money here! We never pay out money except on certain days in the month; and I tell you, you’ll get no money here!”
He shouted so loudly that I thought there was something wrong with his mind. Behind him the door opened. The master appeared at the door and demanded, “Whatever is wrong?” I said, “I don’t know, Sir, I have given this man a certificate for payment and I don’t know why he is shouting so.” I gathered that the Lord made the clerk shout so as to bring the master down from another building. The mill master read the certificate and said to the cashier, “Pay this man his money. And if I hear of anything like this again, I’ll fire you.”
I came out of the office with the money and went down the street praising the Lord. When I came to the shop where I had seen that scripture text I went in and said, “How much do you want for that text?” I was told a shilling, so I bought it and it was a great blessing to me to remind me continually to “trust in the Lord at all times.”
Being in business for myself, I was able to devote much of my time to the sick and needy. I used to go to Leeds every week to a place where Divine Healing was taught. But I was very critical in my spirit and would judge people so harshly. I did not know why so many people who taught Divine Healing wore glasses. I questioned, “Why do you wear glasses if you believe in Divine Healing?” This stumbled me somewhat. Later I had to wear glasses to read my Bible, and I was often criticised for this. However, I was very full of compassion towards the sick and needy folk, and being, able to pay the expenses of the needy ones, I used to collect a number of them and take them to Leeds every Tuesday to the service. One day I had nine with me. The leaders of the Leeds Healing Home looked through the window and said, “Here is Wigglesworth coming again and bringing a lot more. If he only knew, he could get these people healed at Bradford just as easily as to get them healed in Leeds.”
These leaders knew that I had a compassion for the sick and needy, and one day they said to me: “We want to go to the Keswick convention and we have been thinking whom we should leave to do the work. We can only think of you.” I said, “I couldn’t conduct a healing service.” They said, “ We have no one else. We trust you to take care of the work while we are away.” A flash came into my mind: “Well, any number of people can talk. All I have to do is to take charge.” The following week when I got there the place was full of people. Of course, the first thing I did was to look for someone who would do the speaking; but all whom I asked said, “No, you have been chosen and you must do it.” And so I had to begin. I do not remember what I said but I do know that when I had finished speaking fifteen people came out for healing. One of these was a man from Scotland who hobbled on a pair of crutches. I prayed for him and he was instantly healed. There was no one so surprised as I was. He was jumping all over the place without his crutches. This encouraged the others to believe God for their healing and all the people were healed. I am sure it was not my faith, but it was God in His compassion coming to help me in that hour of need.
After this the Lord opened the door of faith for me more and more. I announced that I would have a Divine Healing meeting in Bradford on a certain evening. I can remember that there were twelve people who came that night and all of those twelve were miraculously healed. One had a tongue badly bitten in the centre through a fall. This one was perfectly healed. Another was a woman with an ulcer on her ankle joint and a large sore that was constantly discharging. She was healed and there was only a scar the next day. The others were healed the same way.
One day a man asked me, “Does Divine Healing embrace seasickness? “ I answered, “Yes. It is a spirit of fear that causes your seasickness, and I command that spirit to go out of you in Jesus’ name.” He was never seasick again though he had to travel much.
One day a man came to the house. He was a very devoted brother. I said to him, “Mr. Clark, you seem downcast today. What’s up?” He answered, “I left my wife dying. Two doctors have been with her right through the night and they say she cannot live long.” I said to him, “Why don’t you believe God for your wife?” He answered, “Brother Wigglesworth, I cannot believe for her.”
He went out of the house broken-hearted. I went to see a fellow named Howe who was opening a small mission in Bradford. I thought he was the right man to go with me, to assist me. When I said, “Will you go with me?” he answered, “No, indeed I won’t. Please do not ask me again. But I believe if you will go, God will heal.” I realise now that the Lord put those words in his mouth to encourage me.
Well, I knew a man named Nichols who, if he got the opportunity to pray, would pray all around the world three times and then come back. So I went to him and said, “Will you come with me to pray for Sister Clark?” He answered, “Yes, I will be very glad.” We had a mile and a half to walk to that house. I told him when he began to pray not to stop until he was finished. When we got to the house we saw that Mrs. Clark was nearly gone. I said to the one I had brought with me, “You see the dangerous condition of Sister Clark. Now don’t waste time but begin to pray.” Seeing he had an opportunity, he began. I had never suffered so much as I did when he was praying, and I cried to the Lord, “Stop him! Please, Lord, stop this man’s praying.” Why? Because he prayed for the dear husband who was going to be bereaved and for the children who were going to be motherless. He piled it on so thick that I had to cry out, “Stop him, Lord; I cannot stand this.” And thank God, he stopped.
Though I knew that neither Clark nor Nichols believed in Divine Healing, I had concealed a small bottle in my hip pocket that would hold about half a pint of oil. I put a long cork in it so that I could open the bottle easily. I took the bottle out of my pocket and held it behind me, and said: “Now you pray, Mr. Clark.” Brother Clark, being encouraged by Brother Nichols’ prayer, prayed also that he might be sustained in his great bereavement. I could not stand it at all, and I cried, “Lord, stop him.” I was so earnest and so broken that they could hear me outside the house. Thank God, he stopped.
As soon as he stopped, I pulled the cork out of the bottle, and went over to the dying woman who was laid out on the bed. I was a novice at this time and did not know any better, so I poured all the contents of that bottle of oil over Mrs. Clark’s body in the name of Jesus!
I was standing beside her at the top of the bed and looking towards the foot, when suddenly the Lord Jesus appeared. I had my eyes open gazing at Him. There He was at the foot of the bed. He gave me one of those gentle smiles. I see Him just now as I tell this story to you. I have never lost that vision, the vision of that beautiful soft smile. After a few moments He vanished but something happened that day that changed my whole life. Mrs. Clark was raised up and filled with life, and lived to bring up a number of children; she outlived her husband many years.
Everybody has to have testings. If you believe in Divine Healing you will surely be tested on the faith line. God cannot bring anyone into blessing and into full co-operation with Him except through testings and trials.
My wife and I saw that we could not go just half-measures with God. If we believed in Divine Healing we would have to be wholeheartedly in it; so we pledged ourselves to God and then to each other. This consecration to trust God seemed to bring a new order in our lives. We looked into each other’s faces and said, “From henceforth no medicine, no doctors, no drugs of any kind shall come into our house.” It is very easy when in health and strength to make pledges and utter vows, but it is being faithful when the time of testing comes that counts. Little did we know that shortly we were going to have such a test.
We were both very zealous for the Lord and spent a good deal of time in open-air meetings. One Sunday a violent pain gripped me and brought me down to earth. Two men supported me and brought me home. The same thing had happened before but the pain had not been so severe in previous times. We prayed all night. The next morning I said to my wife, “It seems to me that this is my home-call. We have been praying all night, and nothing has happened; I am worse. It does not seem as though anything can be done. You know our arrangement is that when we know we have received a home-call, only then to save each other the embarrassment of having an inquest and the condemnation of outsiders, would we call a physician. To protect yourself you should now call a physician. I leave it with you to do what you think should be done.”
Poor thing, she was in a sad plight, with all the little children around her and there seemed no hope whatever. She broke down and left me and went to see a physician—not for him to help me, for she did not think he could help me, but believing that the end had come.
When the doctor came he examined me, shook his head, and said, “There is no hope whatever. He has had appendicitis for the past six months and the organs are in such shape that he is beyond hope.” He turned to my wife and said, “I have a few calls to make, Mrs. Wigglesworth. I will come and see you again later. The only hope is for him to have an immediate operation, but I am somewhat afraid your husband is too weak for that.”
When he got out of the room, an elderly lady and a young man came in. She was a great woman to pray, and she believed that everything that was not health was of the Devil.
While she prayed, the young man laid his hands on me and cried out, “Come out, Devil, in the name of Jesus.”
To my surprise I felt as well as it had ever been in my life. I was absolutely free from pain. As soon as they had prayed for me they went downstairs, and I got up, believing that no one had a right to remain in bed when healed. When I got downstairs, my wife cried, “Oh!” I said, “I am healed.” She said, “I hope it is true.” I inquired, “Any work in?” “Yes, there is a woman who is in a great hurry to get some plumbing done; if we could not take care of it, she would have to go somewhere else.” She gave me the address and I went out to do this work. While I was working, the doctor returned. He put his silk hat on the table, went upstairs, got as far as the landing, when my wife shouted, “Doctor! Doctor! Doctor!” He asked, “Are you calling me?” “ Oh, Doctor, he’s out. He has gone out to work.” The doctor answered, “They will bring him back a corpse, as sure as you live.” Well, the “corpse” has been going up and down the world preaching the Gospel these many years since that time!
I have, laid hands on people with appendicitis in almost every part of the world and never knew of a case not instantly healed, even when doctors were on the premises.
We continue the story in our Greatheart’s own words:
My wife was a great preacher, and although I had no ability to preach, she made up her mind to train me for the ministry. So she would continually make an announcement that I would be the speaker the next Sunday. She said she was sure I could preach if I only tried. When she announced me to speak, this would give me a week of labour and a good deal of sweating. I used to go into the pulpit on Sunday with great boldness, give out my text, say a few words, and then say to the congregation, “If any of you can preach you can have a chance now, for I am finished.”
She would have me try again, but it always ended the same way. She was the preacher and it encouraged her to do it all. But I found out that when you have a burden for lost souls, and the vision of their need is ever before you, the Lord, as you look to Him, will give you expression to your heart’s compassion and make a preacher out of you. We held open-air services for twenty years in one part of the city of Bradford. It was as I ministered in the open air week by week that the Lord began to give me more liberty.
My wife and I always believed in scriptural holiness but I was conscious of much carnality in myself. A really holy man once came to preach for us and he spoke of what it meant to be entirely sanctified. He called it a very definite work of grace subsequent to the new birth. As I waited on the Lord for ten days in prayer, handing my body over to Him as a living sacrifice according to Romans 12: I, 2, God surely did something for me, for from that time I began to have real liberty in preaching. We counted that as the Baptism in the Spirit. And so, at our Mission on Bowland Street we stood for both Healing and Holiness.
We never believed it was right for us to do all the preaching. And so we gave two or three of our young men and women a chance every week. These young workers developed and the result was that many of them became wonderful preachers.
We thought that we had got all that was coming to us on spiritual lines, but one day we heard that people were being baptised in the Spirit and were speaking in other tongues, and that the gifts of the Spirit were being manifested. I confess that I was much moved by this news.
One day, I saw a man coming to the house, and noticed that he had very great difficulty in getting up the steps to our front door. But he managed to pull himself up some way or other by the railing, and when he had taken a seat he said: “If my people knew that I was coming to your house, they never would have let me come. You have a worse name than any man I ever heard of.” I said, “If that is your opinion of me you had better clear out of my house, for I do not want anyone here that does not believe in me.”
“Oh,” he said, “I believe in you. Please do not put me out. If you knew my terrible condition, you would not send me away. Put your hand on my leg, will you?”
I did, and found it was like a board, not like a leg. I said, “It feels strange. What’s the trouble?”
“It is a cancer. All the leg, from top to bottom, is cancerous. Oh, you will not send me away, will you?”
I replied, “I will not send you away. I will go and see what God says about this.” As I waited before the Lord these words came to me: “Go, tell that man to fast seven days and seven nights, and his flesh shall become like a little child’s.”
I told him what the Lord had given me for him, and he said, “I believe all that God has said to you, and I will go home and do all that God has told me to do.”
Four days later I was looking through the window and here was this same man; but instead of having to take hold of the railing and pull himself up like a sick man, he jumped up those steps and came running around the house like a boy, crying out, “I am perfectly healed!” I asked, “What are you going to do now?” He answered, “I am going back to fast a further three days and three nights, but I thought I would let you know what God has already wrought.”
The next time he came to our house he saw my daughter Alice and heard her say that she was going to Angola in Africa. “I would like to have a share in this,” he told her as he pulled out a handful of gold coins, saying: “That’s my gift towards your going to Africa.” Then he turned to me and remarked, “Have you heard the latest? They are receiving the Holy Spirit at Sunderland and speaking in other tongues. I have decided to go up to Sunderland to see this thing for myself. Would you like to come with me?” I declared that I would be delighted to go. He said, “All right, you come along with me and all expenses will be paid out of my purse.” He was so happy at having been healed, and he surely was glorifying God for the miracle that had been wrought in his life.
I wrote ahead to Sunderland to two people who had been saved in the work in Bradford and who had gone to live in that town. The report had come to them that what was happening was a very dangerous error and that speaking in other tongues was from an evil power. In order to save me from this terrible error they arranged for a very wonderful woman to be on hand to warn me. And so the first things I heard were false reports. When they had said all they had to say, I suggested, “Let us pray.” The Lord gave me real liberty in prayer and after I had prayed they said: “Don’t take any notice of what we have said. Obey your own leadings.”
It was a Saturday night when I went to the meeting, which was held in the vestry of the parish church at Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. What I could not understand was this: I had just come from Bradford, where the Spirit of God was working mightily. Many had been prostrated, slain by the power of God the night before I left for Sunderland. It seemed to me that there was not the power in this meeting that we had in our own assembly in Bradford. I was disappointed. But I was very hungry for God, and He knew my hunger even though nobody seemed to understand me.
I can remember a man giving his testimony that after waiting on the Lord for three weeks, the Lord had baptised him in the Holy Spirit and caused him to speak in other tongues. I cried out, “Let’s hear these tongues. That’s what I came for. Let’s hear it! “ They answered, “When you are baptised you will speak in tongues.”
According to my own opinion I had been baptised in the Spirit. Thinking back to my ten days of waiting on God and the blessing I had received as a result, I had called that the Baptism in the Spirit. So I said to them, “I remember when I was baptised, my tongue was loosed. My testimony was different.” But they answered, “No, that is not it.”
But I was seeking with all my heart after God. On a Sunday morning I went to a Salvation Army prayer meeting at seven o’clock. Three times in that prayer meeting I was smitten to the, floor by the, mighty power of God. Somewhat ashamed of my position, lest I should be misunderstood, I tried to control myself by getting up again and kneeling and praying. At the close of the service the captain said to me, “Where are you from, Brother?” I answered, “I am from Bradford. I came to Sunderland to receive these tongues that people are getting here.” “Oh,” he said, “that’s the Devil they are getting up there.” But anyhow, he invited me to preach for him that afternoon, and we had a very wonderful time. But they were all persuading me not to go near the Pentecostal people and not to seek the speaking in other tongues.
Pastor Boddy, who was vicar of the Episcopal Church where those first Pentecostal meetings were held, gave out a notice that there would be a waiting meeting all night on Tuesday. It was a very precious time and the presence of the Lord was very wonderful, but I did not hear anyone speak in tongues. At 2.30 in the morning Brother Boddy said, “We had better close the meeting.” I was disappointed, for I would have liked to stay there all night. I found I had changed my clothes and left the key to my hotel room in the clothes I had taken off, so a missionary brother from India said to me, “You’ll have to come and sleep with me.” But I did not go to bed; we spent the night in prayer and received great blessing.
For four days I wanted nothing but God. But after that, I felt I should leave for my home, and I went to the Episcopal vicarage to say good-bye. I said to Mrs. Boddy, the vicar’s wife: “I am going away, but I have not received the tongues yet.” She answered, “It is not tongues you need, but the Baptism.” “I have received the Baptism, Sister,” I protested, “but I would like to have you lay hands on me before I leave.” She laid her hands on me and then had to go out of the room. The fire fell. It was a wonderful time as I was there with God alone. He bathed me in power. I was conscious of the cleansing of the precious Blood, and I cried out: “Clean! Clean! Clean!” I was filled with the joy of the consciousness of the cleansing. I was given a vision in which I saw the Lord Jesus Christ. I beheld the empty cross, and If saw Him exalted at the right hand of God the Father. I could speak no longer in English but I began to praise Him in other tongues as the Spirit of God gave me utterance. I knew then, although I might have received anointings previously, that now, at last, I had received the real Baptism in the Holy Spirit as they received on the day of Pentecost.
I. First the Blade
II. An Helpmeet for Him
III. Then the Ear
IV. Endued from on High
V. After Receiving the Baptismm
VI. The Ministry of Healing
VII. In Labours More Abundant
VIII. Miracles in Australia and New Zealand
IX. Visits to Switzerland and Sweden
X. His Secret of Spiritual Strength
XI. The Challenger
XII. Freedom from Covetousness
XIII. A Great Fight of Faith
XIV. A Life of Joy
XV. The Full Corn in the Ear
XVI. Yet Speaking