Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Conversion of a Soldier (Part Three)

Read Part One and Part Two.

God had a plan for the life of Moses Smith. Even his injury was a blessing. It kept him from participating in one of the most shameful military actions in American history – the burning of Atlanta and Sherman’s plundering march to the sea. General Sherman is known for being the “first modern general” for engaging in “complete war against the enemy.”

God had spared Moses’ life, and he was now on the mend.

"But by God's mercy and grace I improved so on the 4th day of January '66 I was married to a Miss Patsy Wheeldon. Tho only 16 years old proved to be the right girl in the right place for surely God gave me one of his best”

Patsy was not a stranger to tragedy. As she wrote later in life,

“I was only 12 when Mother died. I went after Uncle Graten the eve she passed on. After she couldn't talk any more she held up her finger and we understood she wanted the ring my brother Charlie had given her. He was in the army and couldn't get home. I put the ring on her hand. She smiled so sweetly and soon left us for her home in Heaven, in a few days brother Charlie came and it seemed more than he could bear that he couldn’t see mother. To make it worse he had to leave his wife and two small children and go back to the Civil War. So his family came and lived with us until Brother came back safe.

“I was saved soon after my Mother's death. I remember well that Aunt Nancy Sneep was singing the old song "And We'll Cross the River Jordon By & By." It was a
happy time in my life and I am hoping all my loved ones will be ready when Jesus calls for them. I'll continue to pray for all my loved ones while I live. An Evangelist, Lydia Sexton was doing the preaching when I was saved.”

1866 was also the year that 22 year-old Moses Smith joined the Baptist Church at Pulton, Indiana. After telling of his experiences in the war, Moses was baptized by Elder E.J. Delp.

Moses Smith had felt burdened at times to preach the gospel of the God who had so wonderfully saved him, but due to poverty and perceived inability this would be put off for some time.

This changed when Moses and Patsy’s young son Lambert died in October 1870.

Soon after this Moses preached his first sermon to a crowded house. Most of his hearers came out of curiosity, for as he said, “it was a very wicked place.” The Church of Rosedale, Pulaski County, Indiana licensed him to preach, and he was ordained the following year as a pastor.

Moses worked hard to spread the good news. He pastored in 22 churches throughout his life and held 71 protracted meetings with 782 conversions. He organized with others to help 8 churches and helped to ordain 45 ministers and deacons.

Some of his hardest years were spent among the Indians as a missionary. The Smith family spent 8 years with the Miami and Pottawatomie tribes on the Mississinawa reservation.

One of the stories he told relates to a freezing baptism. It was a cold February day with 6 inches of snow on the ground and frost flying in the air. There were 7 to baptize. A white girl named Mary Bolen requested that she be baptized in Jascina Creek. Her parents had refused to help, so it needed to be close to the Bolen home.

When Moses announced the decision to baptize in the creek there was some dissent.

“One of the Indians got up and said, "River." The old white brother got up and said, "Bro. Smith, I would like to be baptized in the river." I knew somebody had to be disappointed and I thought it better to fall on me. So I said "we'll go to the Creek and Baptize sister Mary and then to the river and Baptize the others.”

Moses threw his overcoat over his shoulders, and they all walked a quarter of a mile down to Jascina Creek. After singing and offering the prayer Mary was baptized. Moses then rode two miles in an open rig to the river. His wet clothes froze on him. Prayer was offered again and the other six were baptized.

“When I came out of the water my limbs had no more feeling than if I had had none, but to the dear Lord be all the praise and honor, for that is nothing to compare with what he has endured for me.”

Moses and Patsy Smith had eight children who outlived their parents including one who became my great-great-grandfather Jesse Moses Smith – a son presumably named after the courageous black servant who had borne such a strong witness to the life of young Moses Smith.

I thank God that I have a godly heritage. Moses and Patsy lived out the command to teach their children the blessings and grace of God. Psalms 78:4, 6-7 define the obligation that the Smiths had for their children.


“We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. ...that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”

As Moses wrote in the letter to his children,

“And now with this Brief statement I want to thank God with all my heart for his fatherly care over me and amid deserved wrath. And as I am near approaching my seventhieth year there is no text that more complies with my feelings than Eph. 2:8-9 "For by Grace are you saved thru faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God not of works lest any man should boast."

“And now to my dear children - four boys and four girls, I want to ask you to accept of my thanks of taking counsel and guarding against the evils of the world. That you have been raised to manhood and woomanhood without any stain on your characters, which would have been a reproach to me and to your dear Mother. Glad to believe that you have all accepted Christ, for he all and in all, If it should be God's will to take me and leave your dear Mother, I would want her to have, as I believe she would, your love and sympathy, as she has been a dear companion, true, tried and faithful and Earthly speaking she is all to me and all to you. She, I presume will have sufficient of this world, but there are some things that are very needful that money won't buy.”

In his closing statements Moses Smith referred back to his own godly parents. Jezeriah was born again of the Spirit at age 19 and baptized by Mr. James Black of the Long Lick Baptist Church. J. Q. Smith faithfully attended that church for 66 years. He was a deacon there 47 years.

Moses said of his mother, "I think she was the finest Bible student of any woman I ever saw." Cynthia was saved by grace in her 17th year. She was baptized into the fellowship of the same church that she attended until her death on her 91st birthday.

A relative wrote these words after his death at the age of 86 years,


We shall miss his kindly face, miss him in a thousand ways, miss his tender loving care, miss him always everywhere. He was a man of the old type, the kind that held honor, truth and love, above all his first thought being of his Lord and Savior. He was loved and honored by all who knew him and enjoyed conversing with his friends on the Bible. How much this community owes him and such as he can never be estimated, though it would be a pleasant task to trace his influence through some of the more direct channels to hold him up in these degenerate days in the various roles of husband and father, neighbor and friend, and to speak of the children he has reared to perpetuate his name and emulate his virtues. Suffice it to say he lived nobly and died peacefully at an advanced age. The reaper found him as a shock of corn, fully ripe for the harvest. A short time before his passing he called for the "The Old Time Religion" to be sung, which the daughter played for him on the Victrola. He asked Brother VanZandt to read the 90th Psalm and have prayer. He was conscious to the last and greatly enjoyed these services. Not for him be our tears, rather let us crown his grave with garlands. Few of us will live as long or as well, and fewer yet will the angel of death greet with such a loving touch.

Moses Smith left instructions asking that his precious Bible be put in the coffin with him at his death. It speaks well of the gospel of Christ that God’s message of repentance and salvation can bridge every culture and cross every boundary. The same Bible that ministered to a Confederate follower of Christ departed the field in the possession a Yankee brother in the Lord. God’s Word has the power to teach and uplift regardless of what state or nation you come from. His eternal message remains the same. God is good and worthy to be praised.

1 comment:

Wholesome Works said...

"The same Bible that ministered to a Confederate follower of Christ departed the field in the possession a Yankee brother in the Lord."

This is a good example that God doesn't follow boundaries, and wills that all be saved.

That was an excellent post. I think it is very neat that you have traced your family line back to the Civil War, and that you have a strong Christian heiritage.

Zachary