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1859 – 1947
Beginnings of Healing Ministry
Smith Wigglesworth had a plumbing business in Bradford, England. Every Tuesday he would take people to Leeds to a group who practiced divine healing because they could not persuade Smith that the people could be healed in Bradford. Smith's wife Polly was healed in Leeds.
One day the leaders decided to go to the Keswick Convention and leave Smith in charge of the meetings at Bradford. Reluctantly Smith agreed. He hoped to persuade another to preach but each person he asked insisted that he must do it himself.
In that meeting, as Smith preached, he could not remember what he said but fifteen came out for healing. The first man was instantly healed after prayer. No one was more surprised than Smith himself. This encouraged the others to believe God and they were all healed. Smith said that it was not his faith but God helping in his hour of need. As a result, healing meetings were started in Bradford.
The work grew and they moved to other premises in Bowland Street. The text at the front read, "I am the Lord that healeth thee" and was an inspiration to many. A brother with a healing ministry came and was invited home for tea. Polly asked, "What would you think of a man who preaches divine healing, yet he himself uses medical means every day?" "I should say that man did not fully trust the Lord" was the answer. After the meal Smith told that he had suffered from hemorrhoids since childhood and used salts every day. They agreed to trust God for healing and, from that time forward, his system functioned naturally without any means whatsoever.
After this, Smith and his wife, Polly made a pledge to God, "From henceforth no medicine, no doctors, no drugs of any kind shall come into our house." Not long afterwards, Smith was gripped by a violent pain and was brought home. He and Polly prayed all night but, as he was worse, he thought it was his "home call." Smith reminded her of their agreement that, if one received a "home call," the other would send for the doctor to avoid the embarrassment of an inquest and the condemnation of outsiders.
The doctor diagnosed Smith with appendicitis in an advanced state. The only hope would be an immediate operation but his body was probably too weak. The doctor left, promising to return later. An elderly lady and a young man came and prayed. The young man laid his hands on Smith and cried, "Come out, devil, in the name of Jesus." Smith testified, "To my surprise the devil came out and I felt as well as I had ever been." He went downstairs and told his surprised wife, "I am healed." Answering a lady who left an urgent message in need for a plumber Smith went to help her.
While he was out the doctor returned and pronounced, "They will bring him back a corpse!" That "corpse" preached the gospel in many parts of the world for another 40 years. He was instrumental in bringing thousands of people to salvation, baptism in the Spirit and healing in God. About twenty people were raised from the dead during Smith's ministry. He believed great trials lead to a deeper experience with God. "Only melted gold is minted" was one of his sayings.
His Early Life
Smith was born in 1859 and at the age of seven he was working twelve hours a day with his father to supplement the family finances. As a result he had little education. He was born again at eight and immediately sought to win others to Jesus Christ. His mother was his first convert.
Smith was called by God to, "Come out." First from the Methodist, then the Anglican, Brethren, Salvation Army and so on. He ministered in Elim and Assemblies of God but he remained independent of any denomination.
His wife Polly was a great help, teaching him to read and write. Smith slipped back when his business prospered and God used her to restore him. He had a violent temper but God gave him victory.
In 1907, when he was 48, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in other tongues. His wife was a good preacher and she had tried without much success to help Smith. She, and many others, were surprised at his fluency after the baptism in the Spirit.
Smith read little other than the Bible. He waited for the Spirit to direct him to a particular passage for his ministry. He often gave a short message in tongues which he immediately interpreted.
Frequently he would quote a chorus.
"Only believe" was one of his favorites. Another, which was his testimony, was, "I know the Lord laid His hand on me. Filled! A flowing, quickening, moving flame of God."
Some examples of God's healing power would be related. He believed his sermons should make his hearers either glad or mad! He would say, "If you do not progress every day, you are backsliding."
When he was preaching in Norway, the town hall was full and thousands were outside. He had prayed for something different to happen. God said to him, "If you will ask Me, I will give you every soul." Smith knew it was God but was slow to accept. He did ask and the Spirit swept over the place. He had never seen anything like it. Many cried for mercy and he was convinced that God gave him every soul.
Faith When We Do Not Understand
Although Smith believed all sickness was from the devil and everyone could be healed, there were some difficulties. The untimely death of his wife in 1913 was a real blow. He commanded death to give her up. She said, "Smith - the Lord wants me." "If the Lord wants you, I will not hold you" was his response but he greatly missed her.
His daughter, Alice Salter frequently traveled with him after Polly's death. Alice was deaf and was never healed. His youngest son, George, went to be with the Lord in 1915.
Early in the 1930's an X-ray revealed Smith was suffering from kidney stones. An immediate operation was necessary to avoid a painful illness and eventual death. "Doctor, the God who made this body is the one who can cure it. No knife shall ever cut it as long as I live" was his response. He endured six years of pain before he was delivered. Later he suffered from sciatica which made walking painful and often, he was more sick than the people he prayed for! At seventy eight he ruptured badly and in 1944 he suffered a slight stroke. He was quickened in 1945 and was able to chair the Easter convention at Preston.
Early one morning in 1937 in South Africa, Smith marched into the office of the secretary of the Apostolic Faith mission. He prophesied what we now know as the Charismatic Revival. This man of 31 would play a major part in it if he remained humble and faithful. At that time, there was considerable antagonism between the established denominations and Pentecostals although there were some refreshing exceptions. That man was David du Plessis. Smith also told him, "The day I pass away, then you can begin to think about it."
In 1947 du Plessis went to the World Pentecostal Conference in Zurich. From that point on, his ministry and influence developed.
Smith died on 12 March 1947 at the funeral of Wilf Richardson. His ministry is summed up in his own words, "There are four principles we need to maintain: 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." As George Stormont put it, "He lived so that people would only see Jesus."
Acts 4:13 is true of Smith, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." (NIV) A week earlier, he prophesied a second move of the Spirit. This would bring a revival of emphasis on the Word of God. He added that, when these two moves of the Spirit combine we shall see the greatest move the Church of Jesus Christ has ever seen.