After learning from the Scriptures the blessed truth of the eternal security of the believer through God’s great salvation, William J. McClure had much exercise of heart as to what denomination he should join. Having been brought up as an Episcopalian, he was still associated with that body, but he felt the need of spiritual food, and began to visit the different churches. As a result he eventually joined the Baptist Church, became quite energetic in Christian work and set himself to prepare for the ministry. With this object before him, he began to attend night school for the purpose of improving his education, and in this he made good progress. Still he was not satisfied with his ecclesiastical position and passed through times of heart exercise. The truth he had learned through brethren Campbell and Smith kept coming before him. About this time with another young believer, John Greer, afterwards of Long Island City, New York, he went to hear Mr. David Rea, who had left the Irish Evangelical Society going forth to serve the Lord, looking to Him alone for guidance and support. The truth presented by the fiery Irishman took great hold of the young man who was preparing for the ministry and this led to the next important event in his life.
At that time, there was an assembly of Christians gathering alone in the Name of the Lord in Old Lodge Road Gospel Hall. He was attracted by the simplicity of the order he there observed and was convinced when he saw what was preached in that gathering of Christians, that they were carrying out what the Lord had commanded. One Lord’s Day morning, William J. McClure was received into fellowship in Old Lodge Road assembly, taking his place at the Lord’s table. This step led him to take special interest in the study of the Scriptures, which now opened up to him with new light, unlocking the precious storehouse of truth. He became much interested in the notes of C. H. Mackintosh, on the first five books of Moses, and like many other young Christians of that day he found much food for his soul in those very helpful volumes. The types given in the Pentateuch, along with the light thrown upon them by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, so richly brought out by C.H.M., presented a great field for the fertile mind of W. J. McClure. He was a deep digger and followed each new line of truth with the greatest care until it became part of himself. Consequently in after years he excelled in that line of teaching, and few were able to exalt as he did the person of Christ and His high priestly ministry as revealed through the types in the books of Moses.
The truth he then learned of gathering in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, was a stay and strength to him all through life. He never faltered, but lived in the power of it himself and taught it to others. Like Saul of Tarsus, who found a spiritual home with the saints at Jerusalem, in his early Christian life, it was true of W. J. McClure that “he was with them coming in and going out.” He was with them wholeheartedly in the truths they taught and practiced and of these saints, he could say, as he often did, “They were in Christ before me.”
For a few years, W. J. McClure was in fellowship with the assembly in Old Lodge Road, and there he found ample room for serving the Lord, and exercising the gift God had given him. Having a passion to win souls for Christ, he developed ability to preach the Gospel, such as the brethren already mentioned, who had led him on in the ways of God, so manifestly possessed.
There was in those days, a band of energetic young men connected with the assemblies in and around Belfast, some of whom had been saved through Smith and Campbell, but all of them had come under their godly influence, and in turn were all used of God as preachers of the Gospel. William J. Matthews was a medical student in the Queen’s University, and graduated, taking his M.D. degree, with high honors in 1880, but he went forth to preach Christ, as did Thomas Lough, James Meharg, David Oliver, William Matthews and J. K. McEwen. All these were earnest workers in and around Belfast, and W. J. McClure shared with them in their happy service. Every one of that band is now with the Lord, with the exception of J. K. McEwen, who at an advanced age is still active in the work of the Lord.
During the years W. J. McClure lived in Belfast, he had both joy and sorrow, so that he had by experience, a course of training that, in turn, was useful to him in his future labors for the Lord. He had the joy of seeing his father, mother and members of the family saved and this token of the Lord’s seal upon his testimony, gave him great encouragement and strengthened his hands in God. But he was also to see the grim reaper, Death, enter the family circle, for his father, mother, two brothers Joseph and Richard, all passed away ere he left for America. One of his nearest relatives, writing recently, said, “It could be said of them, these all died in faith.” To God be all the glory. His brother Simpson, and sister Elizabeth, had preceded him to the West, both going to California, but our present object is to trace the path of this eldest son in the McClure family, whose name was destined to become a household word in many lands.