In Hebrews chapter three the apostle speaks of the saints as “partakers of the heavenly calling” and exhorts them to consider the Apostle and High Priest of their confession, Christ Jesus. It is truly a deep well, and saints down the ages have drunk deeply at this life-sustaining fountain. Our calling is heavenly; therefore, our walk in the world should correspond with such a position while we are daily sustained by the ministry of our Great High Priest, the One who has passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.
The young man whose life and labors we are seeking to trace was a living example of this high calling. Not only separated by the cross of Christ from the deception of this age, but as a heavenly man, Christ was magnified in his body. He sought the fellowship of a little company who were gathering in the Name of our Lord Jesus. He was coming in and out among them in harmony with what was believed and taught.
True conversion is always tested and this young believer whose heart was aglow for Christ was soon to find himself in the devil’s sieve. His conversion, baptism, and gathering in the Name of the Lord in assembly testimony drew forth bitter opposition in his home. His parents felt that they were disgraced.
He was a tailor like his father and had opened a business of his own in Dromore. Failure seemed to mark this effort and he found himself in deep waters. Unable to pay his debts, he felt the terrible strain as he was well known by all in the town. He became afraid to tell anyone he was saved. Taking down the sign, he left town but he cried nightly unto God, and worked day and night until every penny of his debt was paid in full.
The heart of brother McEwen was filled with joy and praise to God. His first bit of service then was to hang a Scripture text outside his landlady’s door which was read by passers-by. He then sent for a bundle of stirring gospel tracts and went from door to door for two days until every house in town had received a silent messenger.
The following Christmas morning, while out walking with a friend, he met a Presbyterian elder and felt a desire to give him a tract but was rather timid. However, he gave the gentleman a tract who thanked him heartily and this gave him much encouragement. He said afterwards that from that time on he looked upon it as a special service for the Lord to distribute tracts.
Soon after this brother McEwen went to Belfast to take up a special course that would make him more proficient in his calling. He desired then to go to London for the same purpose. In speaking with an aged disciple, he told him what he had before him. The aged brother merely asked, “Did you ever read Jeremiah 45:5?” Looking up the Scripture he found, “And seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not.” These words together with a hymn sung by a colored man from St. Helena, “Go work today in my vineyard,” changed the whole course of our brother’s life. The Lord’s vineyard became his only concern. Sometimes all alone and again with others, he would take his stand in the market square or on the village green and sing a gospel hymn that seldom failed to gather a crowd, and then preach the glorious gospel of Christ.
His first attempt to take a meeting alone indoors was in a barn owned by a widow and it was situated next to a saloon. Our brother described these meetings and two things that marked them from the very first night—first, the presence of God, and second, the fierce opposition of the devil. But God was with him and there were triumphs for Christ.
He then rented a kitchen on the main road and it was crowded every night. He preached with a co-laborer and God gave them the joy of seeing not a few souls saved. One Lord’s Day morning in the open air he baptized thirteen believers and an assembly was formed.
The baptisms were the climax and the fury of the religious element was very manifest. Orangemen and Romanists for the time being sunk their differences in order to oppose what they looked upon as heresy. Some of the more vile members stormed the meeting one Saturday night, ordered Mr. McEwen to put on his coat for the last time and come out. Two friends carried him safely into another room. The only window in the room where the saints remembered the Lord was pulled out that night and, as described by brother McEwen, “We celebrated the glorious triumphs of Christ without a window and there were few dry eyes at the table.” Amid much persecution the little assembly grew in grace. A fervent spirit with wholehearted devotion to Christ was seen among them.
Another barn was secured and once more a great interest was seen and the hand of God was stretched out in saving power. Precious souls were saved so that as of old, “the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”