Mr. McEwen began meetings in Port Howe school house and the work took a real hold as the place was packed nightly. The community was divided. Many said as of old, “He is a good man.” “Nay,” others said, “but he deceiveth the people.” The presence of God was so felt that hard and prejudiced sinners were broken down under the power of the gospel and they trusted Christ.
Mr. McEwen left Port Howe, but returned later on. Dan Kennedy was growing in grace but could find no christian fellowship in the church and he sat at home on Lord’s Days reading the Word. He was much helped through Mr. McEwen and he went to Oxford with his horse and buggy to meet him when he returned. On the way Mr. McEwen enquired about his mother who was then bitterly opposed, as were other members of the family. Dan said, “My sister, Mary (Mrs. Marshall), is home on a visit from Boston, but,” he added, “she is too proud to be converted.” Mr. McEwen exclaimed, “God has sent her here that she may get saved,” and taking off his hat he prayed to God for this soul especially.
When they arrived at Kennedy’s, Mrs. Marshall was introduced to the preacher whom she had heard so much about, and was prejudiced against him. He looked at her and said, “Mrs. Marshall, if you were to die today, are you sure you would be in heaven?” She felt very uncomfortable and made an excuse to leave the room.
Meetings began in the school again, and Mrs. Marshall was there the first night. Mr. McEwen read Romans 10:1, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.” The word “saved” took hold of her as never before and, as the preacher went on to exalt Christ as the only Saviour of men, the heart of that proud fashionable young woman of the world was melted. She accepted Christ as her own Saviour, and from the start of her christian life, Mrs. Marshall broke with every tie she held dear that would hinder her from walking with God.
The whole community was moved on this second visit. All kinds of slanderous reports were circulated in the press and from the pulpits. These evil sayings were believed and told all over the country. But the work was spreading and many people were added unto the Lord.
The evangelist got notice to leave his lodgings and on his way to the meeting that evening he felt so happy that the words seemed to ring as he walked along, singing:
Redeemed! Redeemed! Oh joyful strain.
Give Praise! Give Praise! And glory to His Name,
Who gave His blood our souls to save
And purchased freedom for the slave.
That evening God helped His servant wonderfully and at the close he walked to the post office for his mail.
Mr. Kennedy, although not saved, was more favorable to the gospel than his wife. He asked his daughter, “Where is the preacher staying tonight?” “He doesn’t know, father,” was the reply. They took him in and as Mr. McEwen describes it, “God kept me there for three weeks.” Many souls in those days were weeping their way to the cross.
The King family had a wonderful visitation. Annie had been saved while listening to Mr. Wallace speaking to an anxious soul. Louise, who was a nurse and away from home, was saved while reading a sermon by Mr. D. L. Moody. Margaret was a teacher, and one morning as she was leaving for school with her books on her arm, Mr. McEwen had the joy of pointing her to Christ. All these with their sister Fanny took a decided stand for the Lord and became companions of those who were bearing reproach for Christ.
Miss Emma Copp, a school teacher in Oxford, became troubled about her soul through listening to Miss Margaret King’s testimony. One day while waiting for a train Mr. McEwen called to see her and as a result she trusted Christ.
Again he had to leave his lodging and Mrs. Marshall secured a place for him with her brother Levi Kennedy, and the first night God saved his new landlady who also became a witness for Christ. One Saturday night their joy was greatly increased by the conversion of Ada King. The testimony of this young believer became a sweet savor of Christ. Later she became Mrs. Silver Allan and she was a receiver of many, a lover of hospitality, until she was called to higher service.
Mr. McEwen felt his responsibility to obey his risen Lord’s command in Matthew 28:18, 19, and 20. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘AH power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen’.”
He taught these believers the foundation truths of the faith, and when believer’s baptism was opened up from the Word, it caused no small stir among the people. However, there were some who took in the truth and were prepared at all costs to obey what God had taught them.
At the end of the bridge separating Port Philip from Port Howe, there is a beautiful little spot in the river within view of the open sea. Mr. McEwen baptized thirteen believers there one Lord’s Day morning. This was the first baptism and there was much disputing about it in the neighborhood after it was over. The first one baptized that morning was Mrs. Hume, who became a true mother in Israel and a deep student of the Word. Mr. McEwen often said of Mrs. Hume, “I owe much to her prayers and tears.” Her trust in God during her long life was very evident. When over ninety, a brother appealed to the assembly one Lord’s Day morning on behalf of a missionary who was in poor health. An offering was taken for that purpose and Mrs. Hume had only one dollar that she needed very much for medicine, but her last dollar went into the offering. At the close of the meeting a sister put a little envelope in her hand and it contained two dollars. This is only one of her many experiences of her confidence in the living God.
Mrs. Hume was known to her many friends all over as “Aunt Barbara” and, on the occasion of her one hundredth birthday, the christians in the Boston assembly had a celebration in her honor. I had the privilege of being one of the guests. A large decorated cake was made and sent from the Pile family in Cleveland, Ohio, with their love. Aunt Barbara came into the hall on the arm of Mr. W. H. Marshall, and marched up to the front with the alertness of a young girl.
A very happy time was spent, enjoyed by young and old, and a purse containing one hundred dollars, the loving gift of the saints, was presented to her with a hearty wish for more years to come. Her heart seemed filled with joy and she repeated twelve verses of a poem that she had written many years before, without missing a word. She was beloved and esteemed by all who knew her as that happy occasion indicated. Her end soon after was peace.
Alexandrina McKay, a girl of eighteen (afterwards Mrs. Hunter), was another of those baptized. After the baptism Mr. McEwen had a large meeting in the school house. Feeling was running high. A special officer in civilian clothes came up to Mr. McEwen and said, “Consider yourself under arrest.” His sister, Alexandrina, held up her Bible and said, “Jimmy. I am going by this book no matter what you do.” The arrest was not made, but he and a few others, one of them a Presbyterian minister, went to the Magistrate to see if this practice could not be stopped. Alexandrina kept her word. She was among the first in the Port Howe assembly and had the joy of seeing two of her sons and one daughter take active parts in three assemblies and also saw some of her grandchildren baptized and received into the assembly.