Sometimes in church we hear speaking or singing in ‘tongues.’ This is a real language not familiar to the speaker, which is afterwards interpreted. Speaking in tongues is an evidence of being filled (or ‘baptised’) with the Spirit, and it is sometimes easy for us to think that this is a something that has never happened in Shropshire before. This is certainly not true!
In this country, one of the earliest to teach that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an experience separate to conversion was Rev Alexander Boddy (1854-1930), an Anglican Vicar from Sunderland. He had been affected by the Welsh Revival in 1904, and also by those who had experienced the birth of the modern Pentecostal movement in a church in Los Angeles. From 1907 Boddy began a series of almost daily meetings where all who came were encouraged to be prayed for to receive the baptism in the Spirit and the gift of tongues. Often the practice in those days was to encourage the seeker to earnestly pray, sometimes for hours at a time, until they had received this gift. One of the first to be prayed for in this way was Smith Wigglesworth (right)(1859-1947), who was already a church leader, but whose ministry was now transformed. In October 1908, Smith and Polly Wigglesworth came to Pontesbury, a story which is told by George Beady.*
‘I had heard such terrible things about the work going on at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, Pontesbury, and one night myself and some more young fellows went to the chapel to hear what was going on, but did not go inside, being afraid. I heard someone calling, “O Lord, save my brother,” etc, and went away mystified, determined not to go again.
But on January 7th 1908 my sister came and begged me to go with her, and after a great deal of persuasion I went out of curiosity. When I saw first one and then another go down under the Power [the Spirit], and speaking in unknown tongues, I was convinced that it was the work of God, being too wonderful for any human or Satanic agencies. And when the invitation to seek the Lord was given out I was the only one who could not hold his hand up, so God spoke definitely to me, and I went and knelt at the penitent form and he saved me. Since that time (over nine months ago) I have been continuously praying for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with signs following.
The weekend of Saturday October 24th, God graciously brought Smith Wigglesworth and his wife amongst us. On Saturday we had a fellowship and introductory meeting, and afterwards a prayer meeting. God was very near to us, and we had a good time together. Then on Sunday, God filled the chapel with people. And then His Spirit fell and took hold of two sisters and a brother, who praised Him in tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Hallelujah!
About the middle of the previous week God impressed on me that the Holy Spirit was still in the world and all I needed was to be thoroughly cleansed from sin, plead the blood of Jesus and in mighty faith accept God’s promises. So from early morning on the Monday October 26th I claimed God’s promises until about 1pm in the afternoon, when I had a strong inspiration to go upstairs. So, saying nothing to anyone, I went by myself and knelt down by the bedside until suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon me, and I found myself glorifying God in an unknown tongue. I continued speaking in tongues till the clock struck three, when I arose. Then I went to chapel in the evening, where the Spirit of God again came upon me, and I again glorified Jesus in tongues. Mr Wesley Baker (of Merrington Green, [near Bomere Heath]) was there and interpreted it. How long I continued speaking I don’t know, but I should think about an hour at least.
Since then I am continually in the presence of my Saviour. I am now continually realising the truth of His precious Word, where He says, ‘there shall be in them wells of living water, springing up into everlasting life’ (John 7.38).
* This is an edited version of a letter in the Nov 15th 1908 edition of Confidence, a Pentecostal paper for Great Britain. This is available by subscription to www.revival-library.org. I am most grateful to Rev Richard Spencer of Holy Trinity Belle Vue for drawing my attention to this. The story of is also told on p.78 of Baptised by Fire, the story of Smith Wigglesworth, by Jack Hywel-Davies, originally published by Hodder in 1987, but now out of print. Interestingly, it was Polly Wigglesworth who preached on the Sunday when many were baptised in the Spirit.