Oliver Smith Biography, Iowa Preacher - Soul Trouble

Soul Trouble

In 1911, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Herman moved to Waterloo from Manchester. This couple had been saved through the preaching of Charles Hoehler, a German immigrant who had come down to Iowa from North Dakota. They moved into a house on a small farm next to Oliver's. Mr. Herman was a plain and simple man with a godly testimony. He quickly became known by neighbors as the man with the "funny religion." Oliver heard these stories and initially paid little attention to them. To him, each person had a right to his own belief. Sincerity was the key. As long as one was sincere in what he believed, he would come out all right in the end.

However, in observing Mr. Herman closer, Oliver began to notice that there was a definite difference in him. His actions were different. His words were different. When he said something, it carried weight. "For nearly two years I didn't know what Mr. Herman had," said Oliver, "but I knew he had something that I didn't have. He let his light shine."

Some puzzling discoveries about Mr. Herman came to light as the two men became better acquainted. One was that his neighbor spoke with confidence about going to heaven. Mr. Herman said he knew that he had eternal life. Another was that Mr. Herman based his certainty upon the Word of God, not upon personal merit or good works. He opened his Bible and pointed to verses like I John 5:12; 'He that hath the Son hath life; he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." "I discovered," said Oliver, "that he had Christ and I didn't."

Oliver G. Smith, Charles Herman, Ed Osthoff

These discoveries soon became a burden to Oliver. Could it be, that he had been baptized twice, dunked under four times, and that all of it was of no avail? He inquired of others, but few seemed to understand. He visited Pearl's Uncle Eli, who was a preacher and asked him if it were possible for a person to know that he was going to heaven. His uncle dismissed the idea, saying that only after death could one be sure. Somewhat satisfied, he told this to Mr. Herman who simply responded, "We'll see what the Bible says about it."

"I was out of balance for a few days," Oliver declared, 'until someone gave me a tract that directed me to the third chapter of Romans, where we read, 'Let God be true but every man a liar"' (v. 4). Immediately he realized the error of his uncle and conviction of sin laid hold upon him. In heaviness of soul he sought for peace. "I went to my father-in-law, and I told him I was lost. I told my mother I was lost. I told my father I was lost.., no one could help me." He even visited his own preacher, revealing to him the misery of his soul, but "he kind of laughed - he made light of it." But to Oliver it was real. Years after he said, "All of the demons on earth it seemed, couldn't have silenced my soul trouble."

One day, while deeply troubled in soul, he stopped to visit his brother Elmer, whose mind was severely impaired from service he had rendered in the army. Pausing at his parent's place on the way home, his mother asked how Elmer was doing. "Oh, he's about the same," said Oliver, "but I'm in a worse fix than he is."

"Mother, I've found out that if I die as I am I'll be in hell!" His words were a shock to this religious woman. "She thought that I was losing my mind," Oliver said later. "And the joy of it now, is to see that I was. I was getting God's mind. There's a lot of difference between God's thoughts and our thoughts."

On the evening of January 30, 1913, Oliver left the task of milking to his hired men and set out for the straw pile. Kneeling down on the cold ground, he prayed earnestly that God would save him. "I didn't care about the cows. I didn't care about my business. I was going to hell," he said. "I remained behind that straw pile until my teeth chattered."

Entering the barn afterwards, he encountered Mr. Herman who was milking a cow he kept there. Oliver's soul trouble was very evident, and Mr. Herman told him that he was praying for him. Then he pulled out a tract entitled, "Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment" by George Cutting and gave it to him. Oliver tucked it carefully into his pocket and headed for the house.

He began reading the tract and pondering the illustrations contained inside but soon fell asleep exhausted. A few hours later he awoke suddenly, with the horrors of hell looming before him. "I turned my face to the wall and tried to forget it," he said. However a verse of Scripture continued to haunt him. "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Heb 9:27). "I felt as though I were already standing before a Holy God, and the books were opened, and there was my record. If only I could get the issue settled out of court. I didn't want to wait until the judgment and meet God in my sins."

Anxious for a way of escape, he picked up "Safety, Certainty, and Enjoyment" again. He read only one line ... "Dost thou believe on the Son of God?" For the first time in his life, he realized that he did not believe God, otherwise he would be saved. He felt that he was lost forever. "I found that I was helpless, hopeless, blind and lost."

Forgetting himself for a moment, he turned his thinking to the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. "All at once God revealed to me that my guilt, my shame, my sins, were all laid upon Him and He had put them away." Instantly, peace and joy filled his heart. Rushing to his bedroom, he awakened his wife, and at about 3 a.m. on the 31st of January, 1913, Oliver Smith preached his first sermon. "Pearl, Pearl," he said, "I'm saved through Jesus' blood."
A short time later as he leafed through a hymn book, he came across words which added to his assurance and joy:

"The blood has always precious been, 'Tis precious now to me; Through it alone my soul has rest, From fear and doubt set free.

"Oh, wondrous is the crimson tide Which from my Saviour flowed And still in heaven my song shall be, The precious, precious blood."