Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Gipsy Smith

I TRUST that what I have written will interest my readers.
I have had a life very different, I think, from that of
most of my fellows, but a life which God has greatly
blessed, and I think I may add, with all reverence, greatly
used. It has been full of trials and difficulties. I have
been often troubled, but never distressed; often perplexed,
but never in despair; often cast down, but never destroyed.
Any afflictions that have visited me have been but for a
moment, and have worked a far more exceeding weight of
glory. I have sought to keep the eyes of my heart open to
the things which are not seen, for the things which are
seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are

Postscript to the autobiography of Gipsy Rodney Smith Evangelist.


I CONDUCTED a great mission campaign in Glasgow from
September, 1893, to the end of January, 1894. The mission
was arranged by a committee of twelve free church
ministers, and the work was carried on in almost as many
churches. The campaign was interrupted for a short time by
the Christmas holidays, and by a short vacation that I
took. During this visit to Glasgow I met the late Professor
Henry Drummond, who was very kind to me. When he and I
first conversed together I had been working for seven weeks
in seven churches, and I told him in reply to a question,
that I had not given the same address twice. This statement
seemed to impress him greatly. He asked me some questions
about my life, and how I prepared my discourses. I was
attracted at once by the sweetness of his spirit and the
graciousness of his manner and disposition. Henry Drummond
at once appealed to the best in you. I have met many great
ministers and preachers in my life, but never one in whose
company I felt more at ease than Henry Drummond's. There
was no subduing awe about him. One would laugh at oneself
for being afraid of him, yet he conveyed to one's mind an
unmistakable impression of greatness.

The late Dr. Bruce attended my mission services, and took
part in one of them. I was told that never had he done such
a thing before. Dr. Bruce was well known for his frankness
of speech, and, addressing his students, he described the
inquiry-room work as tomfoolery. "But," said he, "you must
all go and hear the gipsy. That man preaches the gospel."
Perhaps the most memorable part of my campaign was that in
the Free College Church, of which Dr. George Reith was the
pastor. Dr. Reith wrote an account of the mission for his
church magazine. He said: ''We have seen nothing like it
since the visit of Messrs. Moody and Sankey in 1874. The
speaking was remarkable. We have seldom, if ever, listened
to a long series of addresses of the kind so admirable in
every respect; effective, pointed, and free from
sensational appeals. . . .Our friend, Gipsy Smith, has left
memories of a singularly pleasant kind, and what is of more
importance, his presentation of the gospel of our Lord will
not soon be forgotten by those who heard it." People of all
kinds attended the services--old, young, and middle-aged--
the fashionable inhabitant of the West-end, the middle-
class citizen, the artisan, the domestic servant, the
school-boy, school-girl, and soldier. A member of Dr.
Reith's congregation wrote in the magazine that "the
gypsy's illustrations are usually well chosen and apposite.
One evening we observed a fashionable young lady sitting
perfectly unmoved through the service, until a touching
little story at the close did its work--unlocked at least a
spring of emotion. . . . Judicious management of the
inquiry-room is admittedly one of the most difficult and
delicate departments of evangelistic work, but we are sure
no one who remained to confer with Gipsy Smith would ever
regret having done so.

It took a long time to break down the caution and reserve
of the Scots character, but once it was broken down it
broke down completely. Three thousand people passed through
the inquiry-room. A large proportion of these were men.
Some of them, indeed, were remarkable triumphs of God's
grace. The history of the conversion of some of these men
was curious. At first they would be merrily interested in
the services. Then they would be impressed, and perhaps
convicted of sin, and so they were led to follow me from
church to church, until, in some cases, they had been
listening to me for quite seven weeks before they fully
resolved to give their lives to God. At one service, and
that the most fruitful, there was no sermon, because the
people began to go into the inquiry-room immediately after
the hymn. I have no doubt that many of them had already
made up their minds, and really came to the meeting with
the intention of taking their stand publicly. We spent that
whole evening in simply saying to the people, "Come, come!"
I think that God taught us a great lesson that night. We
are so apt to think that this must be done, and that that
must be done, and that a certain fixed course of procedure
must be followed, or else we must not look for results. Too
often I fear our rules and regulations and orders of
service simply intrude between men's souls and their God.
We all need to be taught when to stand aside.

The figures do not indicate with anything like completeness
the total results. When the ministers of the city came to
visit the individual inquirers, they often found that in
the same house there were three or four other persons who
had been brought to God during the mission. When a Scotsman
is once set on fire, he blazes away at white heat. And so
it came about that among the best workers during the
closing week of the mission were the converts of the early
weeks. I have never met people in my life who could sing
Sankey's hymns better than the folks of Edinburgh and

The farewell meeting of the mission was held in the City
Hall, one of the largest public buildings in Glasgow. It
was crammed to suffocation. The North British Daily Mail
gave a good account of the services, heading its article,
"A Glasgow Pentecost." The platform was crowded with
Glasgow ministers, many of whom made very cordial speeches
of thanksgiving and congratulation. The Rev. David Low said
that he had seen nothing approaching the mission since
1873, when Mr. Moody first came to this country. I was
greatly cheered by the statement of my friend, Rev. J. J.
Mackay, now of Hull, that never had he a worker more
delightful to co-operate with than Mr. Gipsy Smith. He was
as simple and natural as a gipsy boy. My heart was full of
gratitude to God for the great things He had done for us in
Glasgow, and to my warm-hearted Scots friends for their
exceeding great kindness. I think it was that night that I
enjoyed a little rub at them for their comical and absurd
attitude--for so it seemed to me--towards instrumental
music. They would not let me have an instrument at the
morning service nor at the afternoon service, but I might
have one for the evening service. The idea was, I believe,
that the morning and afternoon services were attended by
staid, sober, decorous Presbyterians, who regarded
instrumental music as a desecration of the regular services
in the sanctuary. The evening services in Scotland are
always more of an evangelistic character, and are intended
more particularly to reach the outsiders and the non-
churchgoers. I suppose it was thought that instrumental
music would please these people, and would not offend their
less sensitive, less decorous consciences. Since 1894,
however, things have greatly changed, even in Scotland, and
most of the Presbyterian Churches, I am told, have now
organs or harmoniums. I do not believe for a moment that
the result has been a diminution in the solidity and
gravity of the Scots character.

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