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 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.
From: Stanley Howard Frodsham, Smith Wigglesworth: apostle of faith, Assemblies of God Publishing House, Nottingham, 1974, pages 1-3
Smith Wigglesworth was an English preacher who was born in 1859 and died in 1947