WILLIAM BOARDMAN (1810-1886)
Revivalist and Healer
As an American William Boardman has a unique place in this book, but he had a longlasting impact on this nation.
William Boardman was born in Smithfield, New York in 1810. Up to the age of 12 he was not interested in learning, but this changed when he was taught by a gifted teacher. As part of his strategy to encourage him to work, he pointed to an uncultivated field that was cluttered with tree stumps, logs and brushwood and compared it to an adjoining field that was cultivated. It was up to Boardman which field he would resemble as he had plenty of natural ability - the teacher would do his bit, but would Boardman bend his will to the cultivation of his intellect? He decided to bend his will, and from that moment he found study enjoyable.
Boardman was born into a Christian family, but he had little religious teaching, as there was no church where they lived and his parents were traditional believers and not in a hurry for anything more. When he was 13 a dear friend got saved while away and on returning home he told everyone what had happened. Living in the country it was a very close, small community and the excitement of this boys conversion caught hold of most. They had meetings that began in order, but after half an hour everything dissolved into near chaos; mainly because they had no leader.
From what I read it seems that they were in revival but did not really know what to do. They formed circles and invited those wanting to be Christians to come inside them. Those forming the circle would kneel down and pray out loud; some in distress, some joyfully, all making a noise. They were very loud and emotions ran high. One evening, Boardman found himself within the circle with another lad. The other boy leapt up praising God that he had found salvation, so he did the same. He realised immediately that his emotions had got the better of him, and all the way home he wrestled with the consequences. All his community now believed he was saved, so next they would all think he had backslidden when he did not get involved. If he told the truth he would be thought of as a fool, or he could play along and be a hypocrite. He was in agony over this for many days.
Two years later he began a business apprenticeship in a town some distance away. Boardman began to read books, and slowly the idea came to him to give up all ideas of religion so that he could do what he wanted, right or wrong, and not be afraid of eternal damnation. His experience of being carried away with emotion made it easier for him to come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit did not exist and religion was just emotion and imagination. He persuaded himself that Nature was God.
Boardman carried on with these thoughts for the next five years, until he was totally convinced he was right. At that time he and his brother made their annual trip home. On the journey he decided to discuss his theology with his brother, whom he knew had fallen away from conversion seven years earlier. He thought he would hear a resounding agreement that would confirm even more that he was right. After setting out his views, to his consternation his brother was silent, so he had to prod him for a response. The reply was not what he expected. His brother was loath to answer because he was ashamed of the man he had become. He said, 'I thought a conviction of sin would be a deep sense of the guilt of certain acts of my life known to be wrong, and so I tried to make these known, sins as black as possible, but when the Holy Spirit really convinced me of sin, I saw, to my amazement, that my whole life had been one continuous rejection of Jesus, and disregard of God. But my surprise was still greater when conversion came. Seeing my whole life to have been wrong, I gave it up and gave myself up to God. Then my burden left me. I did not know that I was converted and was disheartened that I could not feel miserable anymore, and feared that, for lack of feeling sorrowful, I should fail of repentance and never be converted. This went on for two whole days, and when at last, through the account given by another, of the way in which she had been brought to Christ, I saw that the point of my submission to God had been the turning point of my conversion, it was to me a very great surprise, because it was all so entirely different from my previous imaginings. Then came other surprises, one after the other, in the revelations of God to my soul, filling me with His light and love. His joy and peace, until my joy was so full that I could contain it no more.'
His brother's testimony destroyed all of Boardman's ideas, but he still put the matter to the back of his mind and ignored it. Instead, he buried his head in the business venture he had just started, but later he was invited to a Christian conference which he thought he ought to attend. He was actually quite excited about going as he hoped to learn more about what his brother had spoken about, but he didn't want anyone to know that he was going, and he was a little fearful that he might fail to find what he was looking for - a new heart! The first two days were terrible for him; many around him had beaming faces, he only had despair. He spoke to ministers and Christians, looking for the light of life, but failed. He was told to trust Him, give in to Him, give Him your heart, but these encouragements meant nothing to him. When all intermediaries failed, he finally cried out to Jesus himself. He went to the final meeting feeling distraught.
The sermon was about the two thieves crucified with Jesus, Boardman realised that he was like the one but wanted to be like the one who believed. He understood the love God had for him and that he needed to love God in return. All sorts of 'ifs' and 'if nots' came to his mind, but he finally realised that to love and serve God was right, and not to do it was wrong. The decision was made. As the service ended he felt as if a huge weight had been taken off his shoulders. He realised that his cry had been heard and that he was converted. He was so excited all he wanted to do was tell people of what had happened to him.
Boardman's conversion changed his whole outlook on life. Before he wanted to be wealthy, now his mind turned more towards ministry. He asked the Lord to send him a buyer for the business so that he could study for the ministry. A man quickly arrived who offered him the exact money he was wanting and he spent the next two years studying for the ministry. At that time his cousin approached him to invest his savings in a business scheme, with the promise of making a fortune within a year. The investment performed as promised, but instead of spending the money for Kingdom purposes, Boardman returned to business and drifted away from God.
During this time he met in society his future wife, Mary, who, a few months before they were to be married, contracted a dangerous fever that nearly killed her. On understanding that she might die, she thought about whether she would go to heaven or not. Believing she had done a few good things and was overall an upright person, she figured she was ready for heaven. She recovered from her illness and married Boardman in February 1837.
When visiting a cousin, Mary found out that her new husband had been part of the Presbyterian Church. She was shocked to get this news. ‘Why nothing would have induced me to marry a Presbyterian! Presbyterians think that if a person believes anything different from what they say to be the truth, they will go straight to hell; they think it's a sin to dance, or to go to the theatre, or have any kind of pleasure; to me it seems a dreadful religion.’ She asked her husband if it was true and Boardman related the story of his conversion which excited Mary, and put in her a desire to experience the same.
Boardman had been extremely successful in business, but one day a large new hotel he owned burned down before it was insured, then a bank he part-owned failed and then a man went bankrupt whom he had stood surety for. Boardman saw the hand of God at worl; believing he deserved it for the way he had lived since being converted. Mary was disturbed at this because she was happy with their way of life and did not understand why it should be different. She felt she needed to understand what her husband was saying, so became determined to experience what he had experienced. She shut herself away while her husband was away, to study the Bible and pray, but the more she did this, the more depressed she became, as she felt so burdened by sin. Boardman came home and was worried at the state of his wife and began to pray for her, which was the beginning of a prayer life which remained until he died. After a few weeks of wrestling, Mary came to know Jesus as her Saviour.
Boardman was back with the Lord and wanting to speak to as many people about Jesus as possible, but their financial circumstances would not allow him to concentrate on doing this for the moment. As he only had a little money left after the several financial disasters, he decided to move West to where a small amount of money might start a new business enterprise. They moved in 1840 to prairie country, west of Chicago, to Sterling, Illinois. It had only been settled for six years. Christians in the area, whatever their denomination, would get together for prayer and a Sunday service. A year later a revival came to their area, resulting in many saved.
Boardman began a store and would take produce from the farmers in exchange for goods and then he would have to travel to sell the produce. They moved to Potosi, which was a large lead mining town in the north of Illinois. Their home was an old warehouse and with calico dividing the space they could boast five rooms. On reading the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, Mary read that Christ could be in you as well as with you. She considered that thought to be so beautiful that she hurried to read the passage to her husband. Boardman took hold of that promise and said he would not rest until he felt the Presence of God as was described by Taylor. From that moment all his energies were focused on being filled with Holy Spirit. For months he tried everything to force the issue.
Mary could not understand; she thought he was a good Christian already, then one day she read a book on Holiness that had been left by a visiting minister and there she read about being filled with the Holy Spirit. Here in the pages someone had been released from the same sins she was struggling with, such as anxiety, ambition, pride, fear of man, impatience, and love of the good opinion of others. She realised that she had read specifics of what her husband was chasing after and she wanted it too. She surrendered everything to the Lord and found rest in Him. Boardman did not understand that one had to give up everything and trust in Jesus, as opposed to fasting, praying etc as he had been doing. Six months he struggled, but finally he understood and received what he had been looking for - Sanctification. These six months were not wasted as he was able to use this experience to tell people to go straight to Jesus and not try 'works' to get there.
Soon after a powerful revival came to the whole neighbourhood. Society around the mines was very rough with gambling and drunkenness commonplace, so it was difficult for new Christians to live holy lives. In the past they would rely on their will-power to overcome their desires, but now there was a better way - Sanctification; now they had a Saviour who could take away their sinful desires.
A notable man who lived sixteen miles away invited Boardman to minister. He was extremely distressed, both mentally and physically and had been told that he could die at any moment. He asked his neighbours to join the two meetings Boardman held and several came into complete liberty. His host finally understood that he had to burn all his bridges and trust completely in Jesus. This did it for him and he declared that all his depression had gone. When Boardman visited him again two weeks later he was astonished to see the man sawing wood and looking incredible. He said that although several doctors said he could not be cured, Jesus had healed him! His anxiety and depression had left him, so he believed Jesus would heal his body as well; which He did! This was Boardman's first experience of healing and would be very important in the years ahead.
Two evangelists came to help with the work, and after three weeks of meetings they left, leaving Boardman to fill in the gap. Boardman was therefore forced to preach his first sermon. He then went around the community to collect money to build a church for all the new converts. Several unsaved men gave money towards it and through their inquisitiveness, they visited the finished church and ended up being saved. While the building was going up Boardman divested himself of his business, ending up debt free, so he could now concentrate on the ministry. People urged him to go for ordination as they needed a qualified pastor, so he approached the United Presbyterian and Congregational Churches and was ordained.
He settled down to pastor the church and to evangelise the lost. Several came to the Lord, but there were problems as well. The Mormons would come to the meetings and advertise their meetings and they successfully drew some away. In addition, there were problems from slave owners. The area where they lived was lawless, so although there were laws about owning slaves, many in the area were opposed to them and so the laws were difficult to enforce. A man from the Wisconsin Anti-Slavery Society asked if he could hold a meeting about slavery in the church. A trouble-maker challenged him to a public discussion and there was so much trouble stirred up that the speaker's life was in danger. After the uproar subsided they got him out of the area. After this, the people did not look so favourably towards the church, so Boardman took advantage of this, leaving the church and going off to a Seminary in Ohio so that he could be properly trained.
Boardman was disappointed that the students at the Seminary were more interested in attaining knowledge so that they could shine over other men than getting closer to God. He realised that the best way of influencing the Church and the nation was to influence those in seminary. Here were 66 young men who could take revival across the nation if they were awakened. He alone knew about how Holy Spirit lives in us. However, this was not going to be easy as many problems became apparent, so Boardman went to his knees daily for wisdom as to how to approach these young men and to ask the Lord to remove the problems. Seeing no breakthrough, he went on a Daniel fast for three weeks. Realising that his striving was not bringing the desired results, he decided to leave it in God's hands.
God was already on the move. One of the most gifted students came to Boardman for advice because he was distressed and did not know how to deal with the situation except to work harder. He thought that by working hard in the ministry it would deliver him from his sins. Boardman explained that this could only be done through trusting in Jesus. In a moment the student saw that everything he believed in was found on sand and he saw himself sinking into hell. Next morning, he was at peace and he went on to work in many revivals.
Over the three years they were there, several of the students and even faculty found their way to his rooms to ask his advice on how to find liberty. The fruit from that time must have been great for the benefit of America and indeed the world.
On leaving the seminary Boardman decided he wanted to go to a place where there were many difficulties because he knew the Lord could overcome them. In 1846 they went to a wilderness home in Greenfield, Indiana. People in the area were dispersed widely, and the roads were terrible, so they travelled everywhere by horse. Winters were harsh and travelling at that time of year was dangerous, but that did not stop the Boardmans. People were saved and they set up twenty Sunday schools, but due to their health they were only able to spend one winter there. The doctor told them they must go East, so Boardman decided to do six months training at Yale Theological College.
He was excited about going to Yale because it gave him an opportunity to influence the students as had happened in Ohio; at least that is what he thought. Boardman was invited to speak quite often in churches that had their pastor away for some reason, but people were not interested in hearing about receiving the Holy Spirit. People of the Orthodox Church even thought that it was presumptuous to claim that one knew that one was going to go to heaven. The humble way was to doubt. The fact that the Boardmans believed that they had 'passed from death to life' put a huge question mark over them.
However, there was a revival going on in a church not far away and as the pastor had heard of Boardman he invited him to visit. As he was busy he sent Mary ahead of him. Mary had to teach the pastor and his wife that it was a fact that they were saved and going to go to heaven, so they must speak it out as unbelief was a sin. Once they understood, the pastor taught his congregation the same thing. It caused quite a stir with some of his leading members walking out of the church because of the 'false teaching'. However, the pastor now knew he was 'born 'again' and he would not be deflected.
A few days later Boardman held a series of meetings where the Holy Spirit poured out in power, so much so that people were saved and others set free. Again, people walked out of the church, but numbers also came in so that congregation was bigger than ever. 'Orthodoxy' was the god of the church that Boardman had to negotiate.
Boardman was then asked to start Missionary Sunday Schools in the West, so in 1852 they moved to Detroit, Michigan. Wherever he saw a mill that was attracting settlers he saw an opportunity for a Sunday School. Anywhere, where a man or woman brought others together to read the Bible, was a potential Sunday School. As the populations increased, so did the Sunday Schools and then many turned into churches. Boardman travelled a great deal, either walking or riding, to set up many schools.
During the second year Boardman had the idea of a conference. Many came from all over the state and it helped spread the work further. In the third year he was asked to take over the work of the Student Missions Service by the American Sunday School Union. This was the employment of theological students, during their summer vacation, in opening Sunday Schools in neglected districts, and visiting those already in existence providing the old and the new schools with Sunday School papers and libraries. Boardman increased the work by growing the students used from 30 to 376. More than 5,000 Sunday Schools were set up in this three-year period.
Next, Boardman chose another very difficult area to minister - Gloucester City, near Philadelphia. It was a small congregation with little material support in a very populous area. As so few people were in the church Boardman had to do a lot of house to house visiting. There was some success in that some were saved.
At this time Mary wanted her husband to write a book on Sanctification, but as he didn't she thought she would give it a go. She finished the book but was turned down by a publisher because her writing was not good enough. Eventually, her husband agreed to look it over and correct it, but as he was doing this the Lord showed clearly how to set the book out properly, so he re-wrote it. 'The Higher Christian Life' was an immediate hit, with demand outreaching supply for some months. People even waited outside the stores to get a copy. It was then published in England and beyond. One publisher reported they had sold 60,000 copies. It was an extraordinary success and changed many lives.
Around publication time the Boardmans moved to California in 1859 as Mary's health had broken down, so they did not hear for some time the storm of opposition that came with publication. There were no railway or telegraph lines to connect the East with the West at that time and letters took three weeks. Many urged Boardman to defend what he had written, but he said, ‘The Lord has given the book, and He can take care of His own truth.’
Mary was not happy leaving for California as many were getting converted and she was being used powerfully, however, she eventually realised that the Lord wanted her to 'be' rather than to 'do'. (I can understand how she felt because 1857 was the time of the Jeremiah Lamphier Revival; so ministering in those days must have been wonderful)
On arriving in Los Angeles, they thought the air was 'delicious', but they found ministering very hard. The people were mainly Spanish and Native American and their entertainment was mainly, bull-fighting, cock-fighting, drinking and gambling. People were just not ready to listen, so the Boardmans realised that the Lord brought them there to rest and not minister. He was the only Protestant minister within 400 miles. In 1861 the American Civil War broke out and they found themselves in the middle of those supporting slavery, while they were abolitionists, so they decided to leave the following year.
Boardman wanted to become a chaplain in the army, but the Lord had other ideas. The Young Men's Christian Associaton (YMCA) wanted to minister in the battle area, but they found that the need for their work was vastly more than they had estimated, so they set up the United States Christian Commission to send out Christian workers to all parts of the army and navy on both sides. During the war the organisation had $5.5 million pass through its hands. Its work in the first year of the war was fairly ineffective because needs grew so fast. Consequently, they looked for someone who could organise the USCC - they found Boardman.
The Commission set up Loan Libraries, Diet Kitchens, Flying Hospitals, extra Ambulance Wagons, Store Transports, Office Wagons, etc. It had to meet the needs of four large armies and a navy that stretched the length of the south-eastern coast of the US; it was a question of getting everything together at home and then getting it to those who needed it - a vast undertaking. About five thousand Christians were found to minister without pay to those in need. Some were captured and imprisoned and some died on the battlefield.
The work these brave men did must have horrifying at times, but at others; rewarding. At the end of 1863 there was a revival among the soldiers and thousands came to know Jesus. Although the testimonies from the war are not strictly part of Boardman's life, they are very moving and worth including here: One testimony shows clearly how these men were thought of, ‘After I was wounded I lay all night on the battlefield. I shall never forget that night. O Chaplain, it was so hard to die, when I knew I might live if I could only get somebody to help me. But nobody came near me. After a while I saw a light glimmering on the field; it came nearer. I made out the shadow of a man carrying a lantern in his hand. By and by I saw him stoop down, then get up, move along a little and stoop down in another place. He was lifting up wounded men. Then I began to pray with all my might that he would come near me and give me a mouthful of water. In a moment more he was kneeling by my side, and pouring, what I thought was heaven, down my throat! It was cool lemonade. I exclaimed, 'God bless you!' Who are you, sir?' He lifted my head and flashing in the light of the lantern I saw the badge of the Christian Commission. I could not help crying out, ‘Hurrah, boys! The Christian Commission has come! We are all right now!’ ‘Thank God! Thank God!' the men answered back. Ah, Chaplain, the Christian Commission saved my life that time, and it has saved many and many a life.’
One chaplain’s horse, plunging during a battle, struck him on the kneepan. His leg swelled and stiffened until the pain became unendurable. When he could no longer stand it, he gave his horse to a servant and laid himself down on the ground. He had to take a wounded soldier's place that night. As he lay suffering he heard a voice, ‘O my God!’He thought, ‘Can anybody be swearing in such a place as this?’He hastened again, and a prayer began; it was from a wounded soldier. ‘How can I get at him?’was his first impulse. He tried to draw up his stiffened limbs but could not rise. He put his arm around a sapling, drew up his good foot, and tried to extend the other without bending, so that he could walk; but he fell back in the effort, jarred through as if he had been stabbed. He then thought, ‘I can roll!’and over and over he rolled, in pain, through blood, and by dead bodies, until he fell against the dying man, and there he preached Christ and prayed. Later one of the line officers came up, and said:
‘Where is the chaplain? One of the staff officers is dying.'
‘Here he is; here he is,'cried out the injured man.
‘Can you come and see a dying officer?'
‘I cannot move! to talk to him. I had to roll myself to this man.’
They lifted him gently and carried him. And that long night the two men carried him over the field, and laid him down beside bleeding, dying men, while he preached Christ and prayed.
A final account: ‘Going over the field late in the evening, I stumbled upon a dead body. Removing the blanket that covered it, I found a soldier asleep lying by it. Upon waking him, I found he was a brother of the deceased and had come to lie by him for the last time. As we removed the body, he followed, sobbing, and when we laid it down, again sought its side for the night's rest.’
William Boardman worked incessantly at head-quarters to enable all this good work to happen and sometimes he went to the battle front. However, just as the war was ending his health broke down and he had to spend a month in bed under a doctor's care.
Having taken an eight month trip to Europe for Mary's health in 1868, the Boardmans took a trip to England the following year in connection with a small business venture. Many had read his book 'The Higher Christian Life', so they were in no need of introductions. Boardman had many opportunities to speak on Sanctification, with some success. During this time it became clear that he must be full time in ministering to Christians, to proclaim the Gospel of full rest in our indwelling Saviour. However, to do this he had to rely on God for funds to support them. After a year they returned home to wind up the business.
In 1870 the YMCA held some conferences on holiness, making Boardman the chairman. At this time he wrote another book; 'Gladness in Jesus' and after the YWAM conferences were completed he organised more holiness conferences over the next year.
For a while, the Lord had been speaking to Boardman about giving up all their possessions and relying completely on God for money. Mary came to the same understanding, although she fought the idea for a while as she owned a property in Brooklyn that she loved and wanted to be their home when they retired. She was concerned about what her relations would feel about a so called loving God making her give up the home she loved. She wrestled for three days before giving in. From that day on the Lord supplied all their needs. Mary describes one hiccup though when they owed $200 and were owed $400. They asked the Lord to get the man to pay them, but nothing happened and Boardman was upset because he had never owed anyone money before. So Mary went before the Lord to ask what had gone wrong and He replied that they had not ever asked Him for the money. So she asked and that afternoon someone gave them $200 and later the same day someone else gave them $200.
As they were relying on the Lord for all their money, they were now independently working for Him rather than any organisation. Boardman gave up committees and organisations and waited on the Lord to find out what He wanted them to do each day. To begin with they went to the West as they had many invitations to speak at conferences there. In Cincinnati where Mary was scheduled to speak; the town had hardly ever had a woman speaking before. Then they were invited to many conferences in New England and then back West again, however, they took on too many meetings and Boardman became very ill and had to rest for several months. While resting in Cape Cod he wrote two more books.
In 1873 they were in London where someone organised breakfasts for him to speak about Sanctification. First, they invited Primitive Methodist leaders, then 200 Independent leaders, then Congregational leaders, followed by Baptist ministers, then Methodist ministers and finally 700 London missionaries. Later they met with some vicars from the Church of England and many other breakfasts were organised, followed by a number of conferences. There were at least two meetings a day throughout the winter and spring. During the summer there was a very powerful meeting at Broadlands, Palmerstone's old home, followed by an eight day conference in Oxford, that was the most powerful of any held until then. Invitations came in from all over the country, but Boardman concentrated on London.
Over the coming months Boardman ministered powerfully in different parts of the country. There were quite a number of salvations and many received sanctification. They then boarded a ship back to America. They looked for a place to live; first, they went to Philadelphia, but nothing quite suited them, so they then went to look for a home in New York, but again the same thing happened; they just could not settle on anything. They soon realised this was the Lord stopping their progress because they were looking in the wrong direction. Mary felt they should return to England, although she did not like the idea of crossing the ocean without any firm purpose in mind. They then spent two weeks house hunting in Brooklyn, at the end of which Boardman told his wife that if the final house did not work out then the Lord must want them to return to England – it didn’t.
Although puzzled as to how they got returning to the America so wrong, back across the ocean they came in 1876, full of faith for what God was going to do through them. They arrived in London and walked straight into a house in 3 Rochester Square, Camden, that was ready for them. After going to several conferences around the country, at the start of the year they began a weekly meeting in their home that continued on for the rest of Boardman's life. They wanted to move next door to no 4 as it was bigger, but the landlady who owned both would not allow them to because their lease did not end for 4 months. Mary told her that she did not think number 4 would let as they were meant to have it. Three months later the landlady approached her to say they could have it.
A few months before coming to England Boardman went to see Dr Cullis – ‘Soon after arriving in New York, then my home, I went to Boston, and spent several days with Dr Cullis, speaking twice each day in connection with his work. Meanwhile, Dr Cullis had become convinced that the promise in James v. 14, 15, is for us, at the present time—' Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders ... let them pray . . . and the prayer of faith shall save the sick.' He was quite full of the matter; for it had opened up to him a glorious relation of Christ to His Church, and a precious, permanent heritage of His Church in Him, which he had not seen before. I was quite prepared, through what I had seen and heard in London, to agree with him in this. His faith, however, rested largely on the promise in James with its accompanying instructions; mine took form rather from Psalm103." "the Lord that healeth thee.’
Their time ministering in England was extremely busy; in 1880 they had a successful ministry trip to Sweden for around six months.
The understanding of healing was advancing in England with several articles on 'Faith healing', meetings were held and books were written. In Sweden Boardman had seen several instances of healing. Dr Cullis then visited in the spring of 1881, with many people healed at his meetings. The publication of Boardman's book, 'The Lord that Healeth Thee', put him at the forefront of teaching this subject. Their weekly meetings were mainly about holiness, but now healing became a part of them as well.
Mrs M Baxter began going to the weekly meetings and gives this account of one of them – ‘we heard an unusual clump, clump, clump in the passage, drawing all eyes to the door, when, lo and behold, a foot was seen, followed by a leg, stretched out horizontally at an angle of ten degrees upwards. Then appeared the person of the man to whom the foot and leg belonged, making his way on the other foot with the aid of a crutch and stick. When he sat down amongst the people the same leg and foot were still suspended in the air, resting on the top of his crutch.
This man was Joseph Moody. By his own statement, it appeared that for six years past he had suffered so much in his leg and foot as to be unable for his employment, and he could only obtain a precarious living by selling sweets, etc., in the streets. His case had interested medical men, but they had been unable to help him. His great toe had been amputated, but during his last visit to London, Sir James Paget told him that his foot and his leg itself might be taken off, but the disease remain untouched. A physician, who was in the room with us, examined the leg, and found it only skin and bone.
In response to his request, earnest prayer was offered, and he was anointed when the meeting was over, and to our great joy the leg which had been for six years in a horizontal position, came down, and—though with much pain—he could walk around the room. He remained a fortnight in London, and at the end of the third meeting went down the street literally 'leaping, and walking, and praising God!'
Boardman wrote many letters to people inquiring about healing and a number were healed in their own homes, simply by trusting in the Lord as they had been told. The numbers coming to the weekly meetings grew and many of them were coming from a distance for healing. Mrs Baxter began to think it might be an idea to open a house where they could stay and on mentioning to the Boardmans she found they had been praying about the same thing. In May 1882 she opened 'Bethshan'. Boardman led the Sunday evening meetings there and the Wednesday healing meetings. (I expect that this was the first of its kind in the country)
Announcements in Christian periodicals soon resulted in the house being full. There were several remarkable healings immediately and many of those healed went out to bring in the lost. Mrs Baxter soon expanded the work by buying 10 Drayton Park. The house was altered to cater for meetings, but this was too small almost immediately, so they built Bethshan Hall that seated 600 people. Often those who entered the Hall in despair left with shining faces. The deaf heard and the blind saw.
Elizabeth Baxter gives us an account of the sort of man Boardman was – ‘At Bethshan dear Mr. Boardman was both the father and the pastor of the work. While he never assumed any position of authority, it was very precious to those of us who had any part in this work to have his counsel, which we knew was always sought and obtained from God, and it was such a rest to know that, when we could not get the clue to any difficulty, this loved and revered father, while meeting us in sympathy on our level, would always lead us to God's point of view. The love of God was the very atmosphere which he breathed, and it shone in heaven's light upon his face. Hundreds have said, "I cannot look on Mr. Boardman's face without its doing me good." One dear friend remarked, after a meeting in which our dear father had been attempting to bring out in words something of God which was too big for utterance, 'It is very blessed to see a man who is already in heaven. One cannot pretend to understand all he says, but it is beautiful to be near a man who is in heaven." And yet he was the most approachable man we ever met. It was always a joy to see him; his happy, restful face brought God near, and his knock at the door always meant cheer. He seemed never to have any troubles of his own; he would sometimes wish that the troubles of others were his, that he might cast them all on Him who careth for us.’
Strangely, Mary leaves out of her biography, probably the most important thing her husband ever did. As he died only seven months after the Conference she would not have known the amazing impact it had. Boardman organised the first ever International Healing Conference, that began on June 1st, 1885 at Bethshan Hall.
An excerpt from the Chrisitan Herald states concerning the first morning: 'There was a numerous attendance and some time having been spent in prayer, Rev W E Boardman, who presided, announced that brethren were present from America, Australia, France, Germany, Holland, India, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. For some time it had been earnestly desired by a number of honest enquirers to know more of faith-healing than they had learned from the accounts which had come under their notice. It was hoped that this conference, in which it was intended there should be full inquiry, but no controversy would be found useful to such.'
The numbers were so great that they had to have the rest of the meetings in the Agricultural Hall. Thousands attended and many were healed.
The importance of this conference cannot be exaggerated. It marked a sea change in the Church's view of healing in this nation and the world. I am told that Alexander Dowie, who was to have an extraordinary healing ministry in the USA sent delegates to the conference and acknowledged that the anointing that came from here inspired his ministry and was the beginning of the healing revival that swept America for 60 or 70 years through John G Lake, William Seymour, Branham, Kuhlman etc. Quite a legacy.
On January 27th, 1886 William Boardman had a stroke, however, he never seemed conscious that he was paralysed, or was at all bothered with his physical condition. He never saw his illness, he never saw death, he only saw God and God's faithfulness, and he rested on the certainty that all was for blessing. Those who were with him during his short illness thought they were almost in heaven. Eight days later he died.
Part of the address at his funeral gives us a further idea of who William Boardman was – ‘But our departed friend did more than trust the Lord for victory over sin; he trusted Him also for power for service, and he had that power pre-eminently. Have we not felt how he prayed in the Spirit, and spoke in the Spirit? With what unwearying diligence he pursued his blessed service! In the spirit and demeanour he showed, there shone out the meekness and gentleness of his blessed Master. No godly soul could be in his company without being edified. His very countenance gave expression to the grace that was within him.’
What a remarkable man William Boardman was – a revivalist, a magnificent organiser, a forerunner in sanctification and in healing. A holy man who influenced thousands and who blessed this nation not a little.
From, 'The Life and Labours of Rev W E Boardman' by Mrs Boardman.