Healing and Revival
"The Higher Christian Life"
William Edwin Boardman was born in Smithboro, New York on October 11, 1810 to Isaac Smith and Abigail Saltmarsh Boardman. The first significant event in his life was a unusual escape from death. His parents were driving in a horse drawn carriage when they came to a tight spot in the road along the edge of the Chemung River, near the borders of New York and Pennsylvania. This was known as "The Narrows". The slate bed of the roadway gave way and the carriage, horse, and occupants rolled down the embankment to the river's edge. William was pierced with a stick, but miraculously no one was seriously hurt.
Boardman had some religious training as a youth and had a basic understanding of the gospel. However, when he was 15, he left home to begin studies for work. He was a highly intellectual and ambitious young man. His roommate was of similar temperament and they spent a long time studying to disprove the gospel and biblical foundations. A sticking point for him was the idea of a "new birth", that people would be changed by coming into relationship with Christ. Several years after he left home he was traveling with his older brother and explaining his ideas. His brother who had experienced conversion several years before, but had not been a practicing Christian, shared his "new birth" experience. It was real, distinct, and powerful. It was not easily refuted, and William came under conviction. The amazing thing was that this occurred in the same place on the Chemung River, "The Narrows", as had been the place of his escape from death as an infant.
When he returned from his trip he held a meeting in his house for young people who were seeking to be saved. The meeting went on several days. On the very last day of the meeting Boardman saw a vision of Christ on the cross and came into a realization of His love for sinners. He was converted, yet did not realize it until the meeting was ended. He immediately began to lead others to Christ. Boardman felt that God was asking him to leave his business and become a minister. He told God that he would do it if someone who was acceptable to his partner would buy him out. Within a week his partner came to him with the name of someone who wanted to buy out his half of the business. He sold it and went to seminary. However, his ambition still had to be dealt with. While he was studying he had a chance to make a great deal of money. He left his studies and went back into business. He got married to his wife Mary Adams in 1837. Everything seemed to be going well.
Boardman's wife Mary, on a trip back to visit family, heard the story of "The Narrows" and began to seek God for herself. Then one financial tragedy after another struck the couple. A building they owned burned down, without insurance. A bank failed with most of their funds. They faced another imminent loss, and they were facing bankruptcy. Mary became convicted that their lives were not right with God. She became so ill that they thought she might die. Finally they both turned their lives over to God and recommitted their finances to His use. They were back on track.
They moved to Potosi, Illinois to work with a partner to sell farming goods around 1838. While there Mary read the Memoir of James Brainerd Taylor, and became immediately seized with a desire to experience God as he had. They were exposed to the "holiness" teaching of the Methodist Movement through a traveling Methodist pastor. They sought God's presence for several months, and then Mary was moved by the revelation of trusting Christ for everything. The revelation of the simplicity seemed too easy for William and he struggled on. During one church service he too came into the revelation that Christ took it all, and everything he could offer was worth nothing to God. Christ and Christ alone sanctifies everyone. They began to preach the message everywhere and revival hit the mining town. People were wading through knee-deep mud to get to the meetings. William Boardman was ordained a minister and began to lead his little church.
After two years Boardman felt called to go to Lane Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio for training to become a Presbyterian Minister. He attended from 1843-1846. The Seminary was known as for progressive social platforms on abolition and temperance. He moved on to work with the American Sunday School Union and then accepted a very small pastorate in Gloucester City, New Jersey. In 1851 and 1852 Boardman worked for the American Sunday School Union in Detroit, Michigan. Mary Boardman felt impressed that William should write a book about the sanctifying presence of God. In 1858 William eventually did write the book called "A Higher Christian Life", and it was a major success in their day. It was published and instantly sold out. It was republished and went all over the world. They made several more moves. The couple moved to Los Angeles where he pastored a Presbyterian church. Then they moved to Philadelphia where Boardman worked with the YMCA and the US Christian Commission. Boardman rallied thousands of volunteer ministers, chaplains, hospital workers, kitchen workers into temporary service over the course of the war. The strain was so intense that at the end of the war William broke down and was bedridden for a month.
In 1866 the Boardmans decided to visit Europe. He wrote his second book "He That Overcomenth: or the Conquering Gospel" in 1869. They then went to England for a year. They were asked to speak everywhere and began to believe that God was calling them to move there for an extended time. They returned once again to America and William wrote his third book "Gladness in Jesus". It was during 1869 that Dr. Charles Cullis created the Williard Street Tract Repository. He republished William's book "The Higher Christian Life". They became friends during this time period.
It is clear that Dr. Cullis had a profound impact on the Boardmans. It was in 1870 that Dr Cullis saw his first healing of Lucy Drake. In 1871 Lucy began working with the Boardman's ministry. In 1873 the Boardmans and the Cullises took a trip to Europe and visited Dorothea Trudel's healing home and Johann Christoph Blumhardt's work in Germany. Divine healing was now a significant part of Boardman's teaching on the "Higher Life". In 1873 William wrote "Faith Work under Dr. Cullis, in Boston". In 1875 he wrote "In the Power of the Spirit, or, Christian Experience in the Light of the Bible". In 1881 he wrote "The Great Physician (Jehovah Rophi)".
1873-1874 were years of religious stirring in England Dwight L. Moody and Ira Sankey had led evangelistic campaigns. Boardman and Robert and Hannah Whithall Smith were speaking throughout England on Holiness and the Higher Life. Boardman was speaking constantly, primarily in London and its surrounding towns. T.D. Harford-Battersby, a vicar in Keswick, made arrangements to hold some meetings the following year at his parish. These would be called a Convention for the Promotion of Practical Holiness These meetings took off and became an international platform for the Holiness doctrine. Boardman, along Elizabeth Baxter, established Bethshan Healing Home in London, similar to Dorothea Trudel's in Switzerland. In 1881 Boardman invited Charles Cullis to speak at the Keswick Convention, and Divine Healing became a regular teaching there. Boardman's ministry continued until his death on February 4, 1886 in London, England.
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