The Secret of John Smith's Success

Updated: Oct 29, 2018


This extraordinary man died at the early age of thirty-seven. He commenced his labors as a Wesleyan minister in England, in 1816, and closed them nearly simultaneously with his life on the 3rd of November, 1831. The following, which reveals the secret of his success, is from “Sketches of Wesleyan Preachers,” a very interesting work, by Robert A. West:


“Constant communion with God was at the foundation of Mr. Smith’s great usefulness. In this he was surpassed by none of any age. Whole nights were often given up to prayer, and always, when in anything like moderate health - often, too, when wasted by painful disease - he arose at four o’clock in the morning, and throwing himself before the mercy-seat, for three hours wrestled with God in mighty prayer.


The writer has heard, from persons in whose houses he has been temporarily residing, that in the coldest winter morning they have heard him at that hour with suppressed voice pleading with God, while his groans have revealed the intensity of his feelings. Immediately after breakfast and family worship, he would again retire with his Bible into his study, and spend until near noon in the same hallowed employment. Here unquestionably was the great secret of his power in pubic prayer and in preaching -- the Lord, who seeth in secret, rewarding him openly. Every sermon was thus sanctified by prayer.


“On one occasion, when at a country appointment, the time for commencing the service had elapsed, and Mr. Smith did not make his appearance. He had left the house where he was a guest about half an hour before, after being some time in his closet. At length he was found in an adjoining barn, wrestling in prayer for a blessing upon the approaching service; having retired thither, that unobserved he might pour out his full soul before his heavenly Father. He arose, briefly expressed his regret at not having observed the lapse of time, and on the way to the chapel relapsed into silent prayer.


“During the sermon that evening the fervent prayer of the righteous man proved effectual. The Spirit of God descended upon the congregation; the deep, attentive silence observed at the commencement of the discourse was soon interrupted by sobs and moans, and these ere long were followed by loud and piercing cries for mercy, as one after another the hearers were pricked to the heart, and the strongholds of Satan were beaten down; until, so universal was the cry of the broken hearted, that Mr. Smith found it necessary to desist from preaching, and descend into the altar.


As he had continued his discourse for some time after its remarkable effects first showed themselves, there was considerable confusion for want of a leading and controlling spirit, and the disorder was rapidly increasing; but when he descended from the pulpit, and took charge of the meeting, his admirable plans and great influence, aided by a voice almost equal to the roar of thunder, soon wrought a change, and in perfect order, though not in silence, the meeting continued until midnight.


Whatever apparent confusion there might be in these meetings, they were, actually, conducted systematically. Mr. Smith had his method amid the surrounding excitement, and he never delegated control to another, but was the last to retire from the scene of the Redeemer’s triumphs.” -- Anecdotes of the Ministry


Touching Incidents and Remarkable Answers to Prayer - 1893

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