Smith Wigglesworth (1859-1947) was one of the most prominent healing evangelists of the early Pentecostal movement. He was, however, largely unknown outside his town in northern England until he was 48 years old. That was when, in 1907, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit under the ministry of a Pentecostal Anglican vicar, A.
Biography of Smith Wigglesworth His ministry was based on four principles ” First, read the Word of God. Second, consume the Word of God until it consumes you. Third believe the Word of God. Smith Wigglesworth’s ministry centered on salvation for the unconverted, healing for the sick, and a call to believers to be baptized in the Holy Ghost. He was filled with God’s love, compassion, and faith. Wigglesworth said, “To hunger and thirst after righteousness is when nothing in the world can fascinate us so much as being near to.
Smith Wigglesworth 1859 – 1947
British evangelist Smith Wigglesworth had one of the most extraordinary ministries of the 20th century that was important in the early history of Pentecostalism. He continues to be a great inspiration to evangelists and believers around the world who believe the Lord still heals and delivers.
Born into poverty in Yorkshire, England, Wigglesworth worked in the fields and factories as a youth. Ultimately, he became a plumber. Illiterate until he married Polly Featherstone in 1882, his wife used the Bible to teach him to read. They resolved it would be the only book they would read and did not permit newspapers in his home, preferring the Bible to be their only reading material.
While not considered a man of great learning, Wigglesworth touched the world with an uncommon faith. He had a rich and varied spiritual background. Born again at eight years old, he was taught by Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists, the Plymouth Brethren, and the Salvation Army.
Wigglesworth and his wife worked together to evangelize the lost. They opened a small church in a poor part of town. Polly would preach and Smith would make the altar calls. For a season, however, Smith became so busy with his plumbing work that his evangelistic fervor began to wane. Polly continued on, bringing Smith to conviction. One day while Smith was working in the town of Leeds he heard of a divine healing meeting. He shared with Polly about it. She needed healing and so they went to a meeting, and Polly was healed.
Smith struggled with the reality of healing, while being ill himself. He decided to give up the medicine that he was taking and trust God. He was healed. They had five children, a girl and four boys. One morning two of the boys were sick. The power of God came and they prayed for the boys and they were instantly healed. Smith struggled with the idea that God would use him to heal the sick in general. He would gather up a group of people and drive them to get prayer in Leeds. The leaders of the meeting were going to a convention and left Smith in charge. He was horrified. How could he lead a meeting about divine healing? He tried to pass it off to someone else but could not. Finally he led the meeting and several people were healed. That was it. From then on Smith began to pray for people for healing.
When Wigglesworth began to preach, he became popular fast and eventually left his job as a plumber. In 1907, during the Sunderland Revival, he received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. The Pentecostals quickly adopted him. He spoke at the Assemblies of God events in England, and later received credentials through the Assemblies of God in America.
Wigglesworth believed that healing came through faith, and he was flexible in his approach. 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.
Some of his sermons were transcribed for Pentecostal magazines, and these were collected into two books: Ever Increasing Faithand Faith that Prevails.
Wigglesworth taught that God healed by simple faith, but he also considered many sicknesses as demonic. He called cancer “a living evil spirit.” His controversial methods sometimes involved hitting, slapping, or punching the afflicted part of the body. Wigglesworth often punched those suffering from complaints in the stomach with such force that the person was knocked across the room. When challenged, he said that he did not hit the person, but rather the devil he saw behind the sickness.
Without question, Wigglesworth had a rough and challenging style. He considered it unbelief to pray for someone more than once, and he removed people “full of unbelief” from the platform if he recognized they had already been prayed for. Even so, it was hard to argue with the results. Word of remarkable miracles spread through newspaper and magazine accounts, including reports of people being raised from the dead. His wife, Polly, was one of those brought back to life.
He said God had healed him of appendicitis. Despite suffering from kidney stones which passed naturally in his later years, Wigglesworth refused any medical treatment, stating that no knife would ever touch his body either in life or death.
Smith would pray and the blind would see, and the deaf were healed, people came out of wheelchairs, and cancers were destroyed. One remarkable story is when He prayed for a woman in a hospital. While he and a friend were praying she died. He took her out of the bed stood her against the wall and said “in the name of Jesus I rebuke this death”. Her whole body began to tremble. The he said “in the name of Jesus walk”, and she walked. Everywhere he would go he would teach and then show the power of God.
Wigglesworth’s ministry took him to a number of European countries, as well as India, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, several Pacific Islands, and America. In every place, he became a sensation and attracted large crowds. Like any noteworthy ministry, he had detractors and was often vilified. This only seemed to grow the crowds. The hope of God moving again in power was greater than the fear the cynics sought to spread.
Over Smith’s ministry it was confirmed that 14 people were raised from the dead. Thousands were saved and healed and he impacted whole continents for Christ. Smith died on March 12, 1947 at the funeral of his dear friend Wilf Richardson. His ministry was based on four principles ” First, read the Word of God. Second, consume the Word of God until it consumes you. Third believe the Word of God. Fourth, act on the Word.”
Wigglesworth never wrote a book, but some of his sermons were published. His life prompted others to write inspiring books about him. His simple but powerful faith inspired multitudes, touching them by the power of God flowing through him. Some credit the great Healing Revival that broke out in 1948, the year after his death, to the seeds he had sown.
No doubt this simple but extraordinary soul compelled a generation to believe that the Lord is the same as when He walked the earth. He still loves people and heals them. Smith Wigglesworth rightly earned the title by which he became known— “The Apostle of Faith.”
Smith had to respond to the many calls that came in and gave up his business for the ministry. Polly unexpectedly died in 1913, and this was a real blow to Smith. He prayed for her and commanded that death release her. She did arise but said “Smith – the Lord wants me.” His heartbroken response was “If the Lord wants you, I will not hold you”. She had been his light and joy for all the years of their marriage, and he grieved deeply over the loss. After his wife was buried he went to her grave, feeling like he wanted to die. When God told him to get up and go Smith told him only if you “give to me a double portion of the Spirit – my wife’s and my own – I would go and preach the Gospel. God was gracious to me and answered my request.” His daughter Alice and son-in-law James Salter began to travel with him to handle his affairs.
He continued to minister up until the time of his death on 12 March 1947.
This article has a two-fold purpose. First of all, we write to honor the legacy of Smith Wigglesworth, a very famous Christian healing minister and prophet of the late 1800’s all the way through the late 1940’s. Notably, he did extraordinary feats and exploits in the Name of Jesus Christ, including mighty miracles and even the raising of the dead. The second reason for this publication is to acknowledge the amazing way Wigglesworth’s great granddaughter, Lil de Fin, carries his anointing and is able to impart that very fiery unction to others for the sake of the Kingdom of God works of Jesus.
Smith Wigglesworth praying for a sick woman.
Image: Wikimedia Commons
In 1888, Wigglesworth established the Bowland Street Mission in Bradford, England. It was there he and his wife Polly fed the poor and ministered the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to all who would come. He was a chief forerunner of what came to be known as the Pentecostal Latter Rain Revival. In 1913, he left the Bowland Street Mission with a call to the nations of the world, including the United States. In 1947, Wigglesworth met with his friend Lester Sumrall (another mighty man of God), and essentially prophesied the last four great moves of God in the earth. He saw the healing revival of the 1950’s in the US. He also saw the Charismatic Renewal of all the denominations in the 1960’s – 1970’s. Then he saw people going to church with a Bible in one hand and a notepad in the other, this was the Word and Faith movement of the 1980’s into the 90’s. Finally, Smith saw hospitals being emptied out, and hospitals working with the Church that knows how to move with the Holy Spirit. On a separate occasion he said churches would wane [gradual reduction] in attendance and then take a steep decline. It would cause a great hunger to rise in many of the unchurched people who would see a marriage between the Spirit and the Word. He said that from that spiritual place the greatest harvest the earth had ever seen would spread to the nations.
Smith Wigglesworth Bio
We are right now in a prophetic timeline of fulfillment of these words from Wigglesworth. I know of a hospital setting in Haiti filled with Cholera patients that was emptied out by Dr. Chauncey Crandall and his tax accountant. Chauncey said, “It was the best of God, and the best of medicine.” A significant number of hospitals are now partnering with those of us who know how to flow in the Holy Spirit. Amazing healing is happening in a beautiful partnership. Christ Healing Center and other affiliates here in the San Antonio area are in relationship to 7 hospitals. A number of these partnerships are popping up in Houston, TX with our dear friend Jan de Chambrier.
Recently, Lil de Fin, great granddaughter to Wigglesworth, was invited by Pastor Vincent Mann to reopen the Bowland Street Mission in Bradford. It had been closed for 97 years. The British Broadcasting Company Radio group covered this very significant event. What happened there was very powerful in terms of prophetic impact and an impartation of the Wigglesworth anointing.
Someone asked me what it was like to reopen Smith Wigglesworth’s Bowland Street Mission in Bradford England. It was a packed house with fabulous worship with the Spirit and Word fused together like Wigglesworth said would launch us to the nations! It was like a war zone. People were lying all over the floors during ministry time, having been overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Healing and more healings broke out spontaneously with fresh Baptisms in the Spirit as well. Several people had prophetic utterances that rang true and authentic, reinforcing the impact of the moment. There was raucous dancing, high praises, and singing in the Spirit. Holy laughter broke out!! There was also weeping, brokenness and fire from heaven burning up diseases! It was wild. When the smoke cleared, the consensus in the sanctuary was this: We all want these manifestations and empowerments for the United Kingdom for a launch into Europe.
I believe a prophetic door is opening now for Great Britain, Europe, and even the United States for the Harvest of the Ages. In essence, The Bride of Christ is waking up. It is a door of destiny. Many are saying this is the Year of the Door in the Hebrew calendar. We must, for Jesus’ sake, go through that door.
The Rev. Dr. Jack Sheffield with the Rev. Anna Marie Sheffield
November 4, 2017
San Antonio, Texas
Smith Wigglesworth Life And Ministry
Category: Church History, Fall 2017