Smith Wigglesworth – a book review by Mike Wright
Smith Wigglesworth – A Life Ablaze With The Power Of God, by William Hacking, published by Harrison House, Inc, P.O. Box 35035 Tulsa, Oklahoma, 74153, copyright 1972 (by W. Hacking), 1981, and 1995 by Harrison House.
From the Foreward:
Smith Wigglesworth was a household name in Pentecostal circles for more than a generation. Today, he is still one of the most referred-to names in Pentecostal preaching and writing.
Often called the apostle of faith, he boldly preached divine healing and the Full Gospel message all over the world, when few others (apart from the Bosworth brothers and Maria Woodworth-Etter) were known in this field.
As a personal friend, follower, scribe and advocate of Smith Wigglesworth, William Hacking has written what is effectively a biography – although not so called – that we believe accurately reflects Mr. Wigglesworth’s beliefs, words, and deportment.
The Apostle Paul corrected and instructed the Corinthians, noting that they should be mature enough to consume meat; not just milk, and that they should be walking spiritually; not carnally. But they were immature; and some were carnal. The church and professing church today are much the same – unable to discern doctrinal error, immature, and carnal.
Consequently, the fact that many have read this book and agree with it’s author – that Mr. Wigglesworth was a great man of God – is the reason why we feel it necessary to examine this book in detail.
If the doctrines of Mr. Wigglesworth are in opposition to the teachings of God’s word, then the church is in danger by following this man, his teachings, and any movement that promotes them. Mr. Wigglesworth is not necessarily the originator of these doctrines. Most were evident in the earliest days of the modern Pentecostal movement and perhaps can be traced to the first century Corinthian church. The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthian church of many who corrupt the word of God, and he rebuked them for many and diverse abuses of spiritual gifts and unscriptural doctrine.
We believe the best approach to this review is to allow the reader to see Mr. Hacking’s exact quote and then appeal to scripture as our final authority as to whether his words become sound doctrine or not. (Titus 2:1) All of the excerpts are attributable to Smith Wigglesworth, unless the context would indicate they are attributable to Mr. Hacking while reporting on Wigglesworth.
1. Page 15
Repeat in your heart often, “baptized with the Holy Ghost and fire, fire, fire!” All the unction, and weeping, and travailing comes through the baptism of fire, and I say to you and say to myself, purged and cleansed and filled, with renewed spiritual power.
– Smith Wigglesworth
a. Jesus commanded us not to use repetitive prayers (Matt 6:7)
b. Catholics use repetitive prayers, as do many in Eastern religions – mantras and the like.
c. Christians are not baptized with fire, only the ungodly will be baptized with fire. (Baptism Article at Berean Research Institute)
d. He is correct that the weeping (and gnashing of teeth) “comes through the baptism of fire,”
e. God spoke into existence things that had not been. We are not commanded in scripture to speak things into existence, in the sense of changing our character, spirituality or power. The means to achieve those things are to continue in his word (John 8:31), to be washed in his word (Eph 5:26), and to be baptized in his word (Matt 28:19; Rev 19:13).
2. Page 24
Brother Wigglesworth often spoke in tongues during the course of his message. Many times the particular tongue he spoke was sweet and melodious, and led me to think of the words: The tongues of men and of angels (I Cor 13:1)
a. Although this is highly esteemed among Pentecostals/Charismatics (Luke 16:15), it is unscriptural to ‘speak in tongues’ today (I Cor 13: 8) and it is only vain gibberish that is practiced today in such services; it is not known languages.
b. Even when it was a legitimate gift, it was unscriptural to ‘speak in unknown tongues’, without interpretation, in the church. (I Cor 14:13;)
c. Even when tongues was a legitimate gift, Paul wrote that he would rather speak five words with his understanding than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue, so that he could teach others. (I Cor 14:19)
d. Those who speak in an unknown tongue edify themselves; they do not edify the church. Therefore, Mr. Wigglesworth was behaving like a carnal Corinthian, pretending to be spiritual and puffing himself up in their sight. (I Cor 14:4)
e. The legitimate gift of tongues was not an unknown, singing “sweet and melodious” language. It was speech in a known human language. (Acts 2:8)
f. Undoubtedly, Mr. Wigglesworth was speaking to professing Christian believers. Therefore, having “often” ‘spoken in tongues’, Mr. Wigglesworth violated the purpose of the original gift of tongues which was to provide a sign to unbelieving Jews (I Cor 14:22).
g. Scripture records that angels only spoke in tongues known to men. I Cor 13:1 teaches that the tongues of men and of angels are the same tongues/languages.
3. Page 24
He was a prophet rather than a theologian, and many things he said were unforgettable. For instance: “I would rather have a man on my platform, not filled with the Holy Ghost but hungry for God, than a man who has received the Holy Ghost but has become satisfied with his experience.”
a. All biblical prophets were theologians. By setting the terms prophet and theologian in contrast to one another, Mr. Hacking is setting the stage for (false) prophets to teach without conformity to Christian theology, or more pertinently, to teach without conformity to scripture. (II Pet 1:21) (Jer 23:20-22)
b. Close reading of this quote reveals that these men believe a man who has been filled with the Holy Ghost can be satisfied (i.e. complacent, indifferent) and no longer hungry for God. This is untrue, and unscriptural. Only false filling with the Holy Ghost (filling with a false Holy Ghost) can lead to such a condition.
c. If Wigglesworth was a false prophet, then the spirit he calls the Holy Ghost would be a false spirit. (I John 4:1)
d. If a man is NOT filled with the Holy Ghost then he is NOT SAVED. (Rom 8:9) Therefore, Wigglesworth was saying that he would rather have an UNSAVED man on the platform than a SAVED man!!
4. Page 26
“All right,” cried Brother Wigglesworth. “You can deliver yourself. Put your hands on your back where the pain is. Now command the devil to come out. Say it aloud, ‘Come out, you devil, in the name of Jesus.'”
a. What is the scriptural basis for casting devils out of oneself? There is none.
b. If a devil is in a person, then the devil would be casting the devil out, which Jesus said would not occur. (Luke 11:17-20)
5. Page 27
This kind of approach did not satisfy Smith Wigglesworth. He called out from the platform, “Louder, brother! You can’t deal with the devil gently. Now say it aloud: ‘Come out, you devil, in the name of Jesus!'”
a. Neither Jesus, nor Michael the archangel used this approach when opposing the Devil (Matt 4:4-10; Jude 1:9)
b. This is unscriptural.
6. Page 28
“All who want to speak in tongues aloud, put your other hand up. Now everybody speak in tongues.” Nearly everybody did, and the effect was phenomenal.
a. Paul commanded the Corinthians to only allow two, or at most three, to speak in unknown tongues. (I Cor 14:27)
b. On those occasions, they were only to do so ONE AT A TIME (same verse)
c. On those occasions, they were only to do so with an interpreter (same verse)
d. Raising hands, or performing any other act is not a scriptural triggering mechanism to begin speaking in tongues. In fact, Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:9) sought similar power (Acts 8:18-20) to bestow spiritual gifts/power and he was rebuked by Peter.
e. The effect may have been phenomenal, but it was not scriptural. These people were seeking an experience; not the truth.
7. Page 28
There were times while convening a meeting that Brother Wigglesworth would have the whole congregation stand and with hands uplifted repeat the name of Jesus over and over again in faith: “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”
As he said: “All the power of heaven and earth is vested in the name of Jesus, and there is no name God loves to hear us repeat so much as the name of His dear Son, Jesus. Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!”
a. As mentioned, Jesus commanded us not to use repetitive prayers (i.e. prayer beads, chants, or mantras) (Matt 6:7)
b. Coordinated participation of the crowd in this manner – standing, arms uplifted, chanting in unison – are effective mind-control/hypnosis techniques, but are not scripturally based.
c. No where in the bible are we commanded to repeat the name of Jesus, or any other name, over and over again.
d. No where in the bible are we taught that God loves to hear us repeat the name of Jesus.
e. The bible teaches us that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, not stand up and raise uplifted arms. (Phil 2:10)
8. Page 29
Brother Wigglesworth was a 100% Pentecostal.
To critics, he would say, “Put down your umbrellas of prejudice and come right out into the latter rain..”
a. It is unclear what “100% Pentecostal” is supposed to convey to the reader, except perhaps that he engaged in extra-biblical practices
b. In the 1950’s, even Pentecostal denominations recognized the heresy of “Latter Rain teachings” and banned its preachers from their pulpits. These preachers predominantly became quiet for a time, but the movement has returned to influence Pentecostal churches everywhere. See detailed research at Cross Word.
9. Page 41
Brother Wigglesworth, like Charles Finney, believed that the presence of a man filled with God could bring conviction to sinners without even a word being spoken.
As he sat opposite a man in a railway carriage, the man suddenly jumped up, exclaimed, “You convict me of sin!” and went out into another carriage.
a. It might be useful to know who first reported this story.
b. The men of Jerusalem were pricked in their hearts by the preaching of Peter on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:37).
c. God has chosen the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe (I Cor 1:21). He hasn’t chosen a wordless gospel as is promoted by this and other similar stories.
d. It is unlikely that an unsaved man would use that terminology, and even more unlikely that he would make his conviction known to others, if he chose to remain unsaved and to remove himself from someone’s presence.
e. The only biblical account of conviction came by hearing (John 8:9)
10. Page 45
“You can’t deal with the devil gently.”
a. There is no scriptural basis for this assertion.
11. Page 45
To one dear woman who came to him in the healing line for prayer, he said, “What’s the matter with you?”
“It’s my heart,” she replied.
“Weren’t you here for prayer yesterday?”
“Well, what’s the matter now?”
Giving her a gentle push, he said, “Go away with you, woman, and believe God. There’s nothing the matter with your heart. It’s your faith.”
a. Everyone that Jesus and/or the Apostles healed were healed totally, immediately (except for the purpose of illustration once by Jesus) and permanently of their illnesses or disease. If Wigglesworth had effected a healing in this woman’s body the previous day, she would not have needed to return.
b. In typical Pentecostal/Charismatic/Faith-Healer fashion, Wigglesworth laid the blame for no healing on the woman’s lack of faith. In contrast, Jesus never proclaimed a healing except where faith existed, never failed to execute the healing, and consequently, never blamed a failed healing on a lack of faith of the individual.
12. Page 46
A rather amusing incident was related to me in this connection.
Two young ministers, who had been dining out together during one of the Conventions, were both suffering from pain in the stomach, so they came forward for healing. As they took their place in the healing line, there was a woman standing between them.
Wigglesworth came to the first young man and asked the familiar question, “Well, brother, what’s the matter with you?”
Wigglesworth said, “Close your eyes.” Then he commanded, “In the name of Jesus come out of him!” He struck the man in the stomach, sending him halfway across the front of the hall.
Then he steeped over to the woman who was next in line. Amazingly, he prayed with her quite simply and gently.
As Wigglesworth approached the other young minister, who had watched as his friend was struck so forcefully, he asked, “What’s the matter with you, brother?”
The young man replied, sheepishly, “Headache.”
a. The second young minister lied.
b. It is revealing that Mr. Hacking considers a lie to be “amusing”. (Rev 21:8)
c. Having an ill man close his eyes and then striking him in the stomach does not demonstrate the gentleness nor compassion with which Jesus healed the sick. Mr. Wigglesworth’s approach and/or techniques were unbiblical.
d. These unpredictable responses (alternatively striking a person, or quietly praying with them) make for good stage theatrics, but do not manifest authentic biblical gifts.
13. Page 52
One of them said, “Can I ask you, Mr Wigglesworth, how one can come to possess great faith?”
Replied Wigglesworth: “Now, listen, here is the answer to that: First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. Faith must grow by soil, moisture, and exercise.”
Those young men, on fire for God and souls, never forgot his unique answer.
a. Wigglesworth did not give a scriptural answer.
b. The bible teaches that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:17)
c. The phrase “on fire for God” is a common Pentecostal/Charismatic phrase, but it has no scriptural justification, and is more aptly applicable to the lost. (See article on Baptism with Fire)
14. Page 59
For example, he said, “Some like to read their Bible in Hebrew. Some like to read their Bible in Greek. I prefer to read mine in the Holy Ghost.” …
The whole secret was that these were words from the lips of a man who was in close touch with God – a man on fire for God.
a. Given the lack of direct parallel construction, it is difficult to determine what is meant by reading “in the Holy Ghost”.
b. As in common with most uniquely Pentecostal/Charismatic phraseology, this comment is likely intended to move the hearer from reliance on the scriptures to reliance on esoteric teachings – ultimately, those of Wigglesworth.
c. Again the phrase “on fire for God” is used, presumably to exalt the credibility of the man (Wigglesworth) in the mind of the hearer/reader.
15. Page 64
Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Did you ever think why, with so many loving husbands and wives about, and many who would have just loved to have had Him, Jesus was not invited?
Is not the simple answer: He would see too much?
Those burning eyes of His would see everything! So the people were afraid to have Him.
a. There is no scriptural evidence to suggest that Jesus wasn’t invited; we shouldn’t read into the scriptures what isn’t there.
b. Building on this supposition, Wigglesworth goes the next step and presumes that the reason (for this lack of invitation) is because the people fear him. If true, it is unlikely so many would follow him, given that he could have singled any one of them out for public humiliation at any time.
c. Wigglesworth is engaging in extra-biblical fabrication, contrary to God’s word (Prov 30:6)
16. Page 66
It is an insult to ask God for power after you have received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.. You have power! You have to act!
Tongues and interpretation: “Power from on high … It is God inserting into you divine activity with mightiness.”
I am always on my merit. Every time I preach, I preach my best. Every time I pray, I pray my best.
Jesus began His ministry everywhere by His miraculous Manifestation; then they all pressed upon Him to hear. He was the Firstfruits.
a. Baptism in the Holy Ghost is salvation.
b. The bible never commands us to seek power.
c. Tongues and Interpretation are gifts that were for the edification of the early church; not for power to exploit or to show off.
d. The biblical pattern appears to be “signs following” the teaching of God’s word. (Mark 16:17, 20)
e. The meaning of “His miraculous Manifestation” is unknown.
17. Page 67
I am all Pentecost.
a. The meaning of this is unknown, and it has no biblical precedent.
b. If the statement is meant to imply that Mr. Wigglesworth was completely led by the Spirit, then it is simply another statement designed to reinforce the faith of those who followed Wigglesworth.
18. Page 71
How is faith received? By acting on that which you have. If you act with what you have, your faith will be increased. You can never increase faith until you act.
a. Similar to a previous statement, Wigglesworth is in error on how faith is acquired. The bible teaches that faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:17)
b. He is confusing this fact with the fact that faith is proven by works. Faith without works is dead. (James 2:17,18)
19. Page 71
If you want to increase in the life of God, then you must settle it in your heart that you will not at any time resist the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Ghost and fire – the fire burning up everything that would impoverish and destroy you.
Oh, to be so laid hold of by the Holy Ghost that you have no choice. You have your choice, but you won’t choose. God must choose for you.
a. It is true that we should not resist the Holy Spirit. The problem with this quote, however, is that it implies that Wigglesworth and Pentecostals have the Holy Spirit, and it implies that it is THAT Holy Spirit that we must not resist. We are commanded to try the spirits whether they are of God. (I John 4:1)
b. Again the illustration of fire is improperly applied in association with the Holy Ghost, as if it applies to the believer, when it does not. It applies only to the unsaved, being baptized with fire in the lake of fire.
c. Once again, confusion is evident in Wigglesworth’s statement. What is it that the individual has no choice about, after having been “laid hold” by the Holy Ghost? Does the individual have a choice or not? What is the individual not choosing?
d. God does not force his will upon any one.
20. Page 72
When Jesus contested the Devil in the wilderness, all the demon powers, the wild beasts, and all that was in the wilderness had the vision of the most beautiful Man who ever lived.
a. The bible never mentions the existence of demons or “demon powers”. (It does use the words “devil” and “devils”.
b. The bible never mentions that any but Jesus and the devil were in the wilderness during the forty days of tempting. (Matt 4:1-11)
c. The bible never explicitly mentions a vision; nor mentions that any saw the kingdoms of the world but Jesus and the devil.
d. The bible never states that Jesus was a “beautiful Man”.
e. In fact, the bible states the opposite – that there is no beauty that we should desire him. (Is 53:2)
21. Page 72
Shout, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” and you will have the best time on earth. Whisper it, and you won’t.
a. The fact that Jesus used these words doesn’t entitle believers to use them. We may not be able to cope with having Satan behind us.
b. The bible does not teach that Jesus shouted at Satan, nor that whispering would have been ineffective. It simply reports that God said, God spoke, Jesus said, Jesus spoke, etc.
c. Jesus did not have “the best time on earth” subsequent to his telling Satan to get behind him. In fact, he was on his way to Jerusalem to be crucified at the time this was spoken.
22. Page 73
In regard to reading the Scriptures: When you read a scripture that doesn’t fit into the atmosphere and you don’t understand it, pass it on to others that are there, that are in accord with the atmosphere that you find yourself in.
a. Once again – Wigglesworth uses ambiguous language (“doesn’t fit into the atmosphere”) which only serves to instil confusion.
b. This garble-talk is suited to garner support for the most ‘spirit-led’ (i.e. “imaginative”) person and/or doctrinal idea promoted in a study group.
23. Page 74
Exactly as Christ was created in Mary, so in us. The seed has to produce the manifestation of the sons of God.
a. Christ was not “created” in Mary. Jesus was created in Mary by the Holy Ghost overshadowing her. This is not how Christ is “Exactly” created in us.
b. The doctrine of Manifest Sons of God is a heretical doctrine that seeks delivery of the promise of the Manifestation of the Sons of God (Rom 8:19) prior to the Coming of the Lord. Specifically it teaches that some of the body will incarnate Christ prior to his Coming.
c. In conjunction with many related dominion-type doctrines, this doctrine establishes an earthly hierarchy of believers. The Manifestation of the sons of God is believed to occur “When the Church realizes its full sonship, its bodily redemption will cause a redemptive chain reaction throughout all of creation” (Bill Hamon, The Eternal Church).
24. Page 79
I never seek what to say on the platform because when the Holy Ghost has come, we have to be prophetic. I believe in being absorbed by the power of the Holy Ghost. I am on the plan of daring, acting in the Holy Ghost.
a. Wigglesworth is claiming here to speak from the platform under the power of the Holy Ghost (“channelling” perhaps?) prophetically. (Is this like the Pope speaking Ex-Cathedra? It appears so.) Although we are to be filled with the Spirit, we rarely – if ever – are empowered to speak prophetically on his behalf.
b. The implication is that Wigglesworth always and only spoke under the power of the Holy Ghost. (As William Branham and others in the Pentecostal movement have claimed.) One consequence of this claim is that, doctrinal error and false prophecies are attributable to the Holy Ghost.
25. Page 81
Every child of God, when he receives the Holy Ghost, gets a revelation of the majesty of that which in the New Birth is already within his nature: Christ in you.
a. Wigglesworth is confused here.
b. He presupposes that receiving the Holy Ghost is an experience subsequent to salvation. He also is teaching that the experience reveals the Christ that has already indwelt you. This is very close to New Age teaching that the Christ is already in you.
26. Page 81
All the gifts are to be operative in every one of us, …
a. This is not scriptural (I Cor 12:8, 29, 30)
27. Page 81
There are nine gifts, nine kinds of fruits, and nine beatitudes; so there is a beautiful clothing for the people of God.
a. This is unscriptural. These are not for clothing
b. Further, the saints are to be clothed in robes of righteousness, not gifts of the spirit or otherwise. (Rev 19:8)
28. Page 81
When is prophecy spoiled? When you go on speaking after you are finished.
a. This is interesting. If a person is prophesying then he is speaking for God. Why would a person truly speaking for God continue speaking after he has said what God commanded him to say?
b. If “you” go on speaking after “you” are finished then maybe it was “you” that was speaking all along.
c. The bible doesn’t teach “spoiled” prophecy, only true prophecy and false prophecy.
29. Page 85
Baptize each one with fire, most Blessed Lord.
a. Finally, once more, baptism with the Holy Ghost is salvation.
b. Baptism with fire is a future event only for the unsaved – in the Lake of Fire.
c. For more detail see Baptism article.