Mr. Smith tells us in his own words about his birth: "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."
In his book, His Life and Work, Rodney Smith mentions that he would go with his father to taverns and bars where his father would play the fiddle while Rodney would dance. Then, when his father would give the signal, Rodney would go around with a hat to collect money. He later marveled at the protection that God put over him so that he could not understand the vulgar talk and actions.
When at the age of sixteen, Rodney attended a Methodist meeting and got saved, the date being November 17, 1876. He acquired a Bible, and began to carry it with an English Dictionary, and a Bible Dictionary, trying to learn to read them. People would laugh at him when they saw him, but he would reply, "Never you mind. One day I’ll be able to read them, and I’m going to preach too. God has called me to preach." His efforts were brought to the attention of General William Booth of the Salvation Army.
On June 25, 1877, Rodney attended a Salvation Army meeting. The general recognized him, and said, "The next speaker will be the gipsy boy." Rodney Smith says: "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 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."
After meeting General Booth, Rodney became an officer in the Salvation Army.
Rodney Smith became a well-known English Evangelist. A man once asked him how to have revival. Mr. Smith asked, "Do you have a place where you can pray?"
"Yes," was the reply.
"Tell you what to do! You go to that place and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk draw a complete circle all around you—and pray for God to send revival on everything inside of the circle. Stay there until He answers—and you will have revival."
"Save a man, and you save a unit. Save a boy, and you save a multiplication table," is another saying of Rodney Smith’s.
Rodney Smith told of a man who said he had received no inspiration from the Bible though he had "gone through it several times."
"Let it go through you once," replied Smith, "then you will tell a different story."
He died on August 4, 1947 at the age of 79.
Douglas, J., J. Douglas, & R. Clouse, G. Biographical Entries from New 20th-Century Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. Electronic ed. Baker reference library; Logos Library System. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1997, c1991
Morgan, R. J. On This Day. Electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997
Morgan, R. J. Nelson’s complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes. Electronic ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000.
Green, M. P. Illustrations for Biblical Preaching. Revised Edition of : The Expositor’s Illustration File. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989