Aaron Jacob Smith (1887-1960) was brought up in a Christian home and professed to have been converted in 1907. Five years later he attended college at University Park, Iowa and professed to be sanctified.
He went to China as a missionary under the Church of the Nazarene. While in China he read John Wesley's Plain Account of Christian Perfection and realized he had never been born again. He wrote, "I had come to teach the Chinese the way of Life and how to live holy lives, and found that I was not converted nor sanctified myself." After he experienced the new birth in March of 1927, both Chinese and American church leaders began confessing sin and revival broke out in China.
Smith gave his testimony in Twenty Years in the Dungeon of Doubt and How I Got Out stating, "I am convinced of the fact that there are millions of church members who are living merely on an intellectual presumption.... I believe there are tens of thousands of church members in the Holiness churches who either have never been truly born of God, or have lost out, and are today living merely on past experiences."
However, Smith said when he confessed to his denomination that he was born again in China, "my ecclesiastical head was cut off." He suffered no persecution until he was truly born again, but after his conversion he was a "speckled bird" among the holiness people.
Smith returned to the states and became president of Central Florida Bible Institute in Intercession City. Later he was dean of the People's Bible School and College, now John Wesley College, at Greensboro, NC. Around 1948 he collaborated with Elmer Long to compile a twelve page tract entitled The Holy Spirit and the Born Again Man, which went against the status quo within the holiness movement.
In 1951 Dr. Smith promised before a panel meeting "to refrain from making any further statements about the matter of the Disciples and their spiritual state before and after
Pentecost." However, after studying the Scriptures and the writings of Wesley, Clarke, and Fletcher he retracted that promise and wrote Bible Holiness and the Modern, Popular, Spurious in 1953. Although he died in 1960, the Fundamental Wesleyan Society, to a large extent, is a continuation of his ministry and emphasis.
Just as John Wesley came to America to convert the Indians, only to discover he was not born again, so A. J. Smith went to China only to discover the same need. Here is part of his testimony:
I have had people ask me how I knew that I was not a regenerated man previous to March, 1927. There are a number of facts that witness against me while in my deceived state. All of these, or any one of them for that matter, are proof against me that I was not "born again." I will give these points here.