c.1870 - 1966
|Robert Edward Smith was a child of destiny. In his early childhood a nurse accidentally dropped him into an open fire and had it not been for the knowledge and skill of his doctor father and the patient love and devotion of a dedicated mother, he might not have survived. In a very real sense, like Wesley, he was snatched from the burning.
When a man passes from the stage of action, certain qualifies of char-acter emerge and we weave them into a symphony of appreciation. First, he set a high standard of excellence for himself and for others he knew and served. For him, character is the diamond that scratches all other stones. He lived in the light of this belief. He eschewed laziness and sham. The class-bluffer was soon unmasked before his worshippers.
Dr. Smith was a scholar. His interest covered a wide range of subjects and he eagerly resolved to master as many of them as possible. To the very end he was ever the student learner. The day following his death, his reading glass was on his desk; among other things there was a copy of the Christian Advocate, a copy of the U. S. News and World Report, Upton Sinclair’s, Autobiography, and his well-worn Holy Bible. This is indicative of his interest in life.
Second, Dr Smith was a great teacher. This was especially true in his interpretation of the Bible and biblical literature. The Bible to him was the Word of God. Its characters were real and under his magic touch they lived and moved and spoke. For thirty years he poured this message of love and power into his classes. At times, there were as many as 800-1000 men in the Four Square Bible Class, which he guided and inspired on Sundays.
Third, Dr. Smith had a great sense of humor. This added zest to his teachings. Students never went to sleep in his classes for fear they would miss something. He never lost that sense of humor even to the last days of his life.
Fourth, he had a great faith and an unfailing devotion to Christ and his church. God was very real to him and his prayers seemed to get to Him. His humility was humbling to stuffed shirts.
Dr. Smith never sought honors for himself nor did he politic for votes to any conference. The honor he preferred above all others, was a fuller measure of God’s love and truth as revealed in Christ Jesus. Even in his 90th year he could say with Browning in his “Rabbi Ben Ezra,” “Grow old along with me, the best of life is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was planned.. .youth shows but half.. .trust God. . .see all nor be afraid.”
Man slips, slides, struggles, but he moves on with bated breath to the end of the way. When the twilight of transition began to envelop our great friend he began to preach and quote the Bible, then he broke out into singing some of the great hymns and then quietly went to sleep! He could say with Browning’s Saul as he crossed the “great divide”, “It shall be a face like thy face that receives thee; a man like me thou shalt love and be loved by forever; a hand like this hand shall throw open the gates of new life to thee. See the Christ stand.”
|Source: Journal of the Louisiana Conference of the Methodist Church, Pages 237-238, 1966 by B. C. Taylor.|