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Cornelius knew that Polly was
sinking fast. He sat beside her
bed all night and Monday she
died. When told of her death,
Gipsy said, “I remember
falling on my face in the lane
as though I had been shot and
weeping my heart out and
saying to myself, ‘I shall never
It was obvious to Cornelius that Polly was dying. be like other boys, for I have no mother,’ and somehow
Cornelius sat beside her bed and asked her if she that feeling has never quite left me, and even now in my
6 thought about God. She replied that she did think about man’s life, there are moments that mother is longed for.”
Him, but when she tried to pray, she thought about all Before Polly died, she asked Cornelius to promise her
that she had done and felt that there was no mercy for that he would be a good father to the children. He made
her. Her husband assured her that Christ had died for that promise, but soon realized that he did not know
her sins and that God would forgive her.
how to be good. He prayed every morning and night
Cornelius had been in prison for a short time and while that God would help him to be good. He earned money
he was there, he heard a chaplain speak about Christ by playing his fiddle in beer halls. While he was playing,
and how He died to save sinners. Since Cornelius could Gipsy was passing the hat for the collection. Being in
not read or write and had no Bible, his knowledge was the beer halls did not help him to be good because he
limited to what he could remember of the chaplain’s was tempted to drink and he yielded to that temptation
sermon. Cornelius, overcome with sorrow, went outside quite often.
sad news that Polly also had
small pox. Cornelius now had
three patients and realized that
he could no longer keep the
family separated, so he brought
them all into the wagon. Within
a few days, Polly delivered a
little baby. The baby only lived
a short time.
the wagon to weep. While there, he heard Polly singing,
I have a father in the Promised Land,
My God calls me I must go,
To meet Him in the Promised Land.
When Cornelius asked her where
she learned the song, she replied,
“Cornelius, I heard it when I
was a little girl. One Sunday, my
father’s tents were pitched on
a village green and seeing the
young people and others going
into a little school or church or
chapel—I do not know which it
was—I followed them in and they
sang those words.” 5
G ipsy’s mother sang the song
repeatedly, and then she
told Cornelius that she was not
afraid to die. She said she felt
assured that God would take care
of her children. On Sunday night,
C ornelius was in great sorrow, but he was also under
great conviction by the Holy Spirit. After a woman
innkeeper read a portion of Pilgrim’s Progress to him
and his two brothers, they decided they wanted what
Pilgrim had. Cornelius met a road worker who was a
Christian and asked him where
he could find a Gospel meeting.
The worker invited him to
Latimer Road Mission. While the
congregation was singing “There
is a Fountain Filled with Blood,”
Cornelius, under great conviction,
fell to the floor unconscious.
Within a few minutes, he jumped
up and shouted, “I am converted;
God has made a new man of
me.” 7 His brother Bartholomew
was converted the same night
as Cornelius and his brother
Woodlock was converted soon
after Cornelius and Bartholomew
were. Ibid., 31-32.
The Smith brothers were all musical, and after becoming Christians, they
formed an evangelistic team and sang and preached all over the country.
William Booth, founder of The Christian Movement that later became The
Salvation Army, was a great encouragement to the Smith Evangelistic Team.
Cornelius’s five children saw the change that salvation had brought
to their father’s life and they all accepted Christ as their Savior. Gipsy
was converted at the age of 16. He could not read or write, but after his
conversion, he had a great desire to learn. His first books were the Bible, an
English dictionary, and Professor Eadie’s Biblical Dictionary. His brothers
and sisters laughed at him because he did not know how to read them, but
he carried them under his arm everywhere he went. It did not bother him
that they laughed. He just said, “I am going to read them someday, and I
am going to preach too.” 8
G ipsy taught himself to read and write, and he did preach. He preached
his first sermons to the turnips in the turnip fields. While he was out
selling his wares, he looked for opportunities to share the Gospel. He was
on good terms with the women in the village. Sometimes quite a number of
them would gather in a neighbor’s kitchen, and he would sing and preach
to them. Soon, he was known as the “singing Gypsy boy.” As his reading
skills improved, he memorized great portions of the Scripture.
When he was only 17 years old, William Booth invited him to be an
evangelist with his Christian Mission and he joyfully accepted the
invitation. Gipsy looked at his Gypsy clothes and decided that since he was
going to be a preacher, he should look like one. He went out and bought
a frock coat, a vest, and a pair of striped trousers. He commented, “I will
not say that I felt comfortable in these clothes because, the reverse was the
truth. I felt as if I had been dipped in starch and hung up to dry by the
hair of my head.” 9 Gipsy traveled to the mission headquarters in London
and one of the missionaries met him and took him to the Langston home
where Mr. Booth had arranged for him to stay. He arrived in time for the
evening meal and for the first time in his life, he had to sit at the table and
use a knife and fork, but he was humble enough to admit his limitations
to his hosts and asked for their help in learning. Gipsy Smith was the 36th
missionary with the Christian Mission.
There are five Gospels:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
and the Christian. Most people
will never read the first four.
- Rodney “Gipsey” Smith
The Christian Mission was reorganized
as the Salvation Army. Although Gipsy
did not feel comfortable with the Army,
he remained a part of it until he was
dismissed after five years of service. In
recognition of their ministry among
them, in a public gathering, some
kind-hearted friends presented Gipsy
with a gold watch and Annie with a
five-pound gift of money.
ipsy and Annie accepted the gifts,
and for this, they were dismissed
because the Salvation Army had rules
against accepting gifts. Gipsy felt that
he was treated unfairly, but still he had
words of praise and thankfulness for
Mr. Booth who had given him his first
opportunity to serve as an evangelist.
Gipsy married Annie Pennock, who was one of his converts, on December
17, 1879. Gipsy described Annie as a beautiful, unselfish Christian to
whom he owed much of his success in the ministry. Annie died at the age
of 79 while Gipsy was preaching in America.
Gipsy Smith became one of the greatest
evangelists of all times. He traveled
around the world, singing and preaching
the Gospel. He preached to hundreds of
thousands of people during his lifetime.
He never preached a Gospel meeting
e took part in meetings and did visitation. His reading abilities were
limited and if he had any leisure time, he used it to improve his
reading. He spoke in outdoor meetings and sometimes in indoor meetings.
Promoted as “Rodney Smith the Converted Gypsy Boy,” he spoke to large
congregations and never had a meeting without conversions.