Audiences never tired of hearing Rodney Smith tell his story: I was born on the 31st of March, 1860, in a gipsy tent, the son of Cornelius Smith. When I got old enough to ask questions about my birth my mother was dead, but my father told me the place, though not the date. It was only recently that I knew the date. I discovered I was a year younger than I took myself to be.

It was while imprisoned for debts that Cornelius heard the gospel. Later he took his children to Latimer Road Mission where, as worshipers sang There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood, he suddenly fell unconscious to the floor. Soon he jumped up, shouting, “I am converted! Children, God has made a new man of me!” Rodney ran from the church terrified.

But at age 16 Rodney attended a Methodist meeting, went forward, and prayed for Christ to come into his own heart. Someone nearby whispered, “Oh, it’s only a gipsy boy.” But Rodney, undeterred, acquired a Bible, taught himself to read, and began preaching. His efforts came to the attention of General William Booth, and on June 25, 1877, Rodney attended a Salvation Army meeting. The general recognized him and said, “The next speaker will be the gipsy boy.”Trembling, I took my way to the platform, which, luckily, was only five or six steps off. When I reached it I shook in every limb. Mr. Booth saw I was in a predicament and said, “Will you sing us a solo?” I said, “I will try, sir”; and that night I sang my first solo at a big public meeting.

After his solo, Rodney coughed nervously and said, I am only a gipsy boy. I do not know what you know about many things, but I know Jesus. I know that He has saved me. I cannot read as you do; I do not live in a house as you do; I live in a tent. But I have got a great house up yonder, and some day I am going to live in it. My great desire is to live for Christ.

Thus began 70 years of remarkable, world-renowned evangelistic work.

Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him to life. (Philippians 3:8,10a)

Robert J. Morgan, On This Day: 365 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). June 25.


1439 – The Council of Basel proclaims that it has cast down Pope Eugenius, calling him a disturber of the peace, a simoniac, perjurer, incorrigible, schismatic, heretical, and errant in faith.

1580 – Fifty years after the presentation of the Augsburg Confession, the Book of Concord is made available to the public.

1684Robert Leighton, Archbishop of Glasgow died in Warwick Lane, London. One epitaph says, “Here rest the remains of Robert Leighton, Bishop of Dunblane, afterward Archbishop of Glasgow. In an age of religious strife, he adorned the doctrine of God his saviour by a holy life and by the meek and loving spirit which breathes through his writing.” He had said that rather than preach to the age, he preferred to preach Jesus Christ and eternity.

1784 – The Byzantine chapel named Bogdan Saray, used by Christian envoys to the Turkish Porte, is destroyed in a fire.

1865 – English pioneer missionary J. Hudson Taylor, unable to bear the thought of millions perishing in the east, prays for twenty-four willing and skillful workers, and founds the China Inland Mission (later known as OMF—the Overseas Missionary Fellowship International).

1962 – In the ruling Engel v. Vitale, the United States Supreme court bans official prayers in public schools in a case brought from New York, saying that such prayers are unconstitutional as a violation of the separation of church and state.

Accessed 24 June 2022.

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