Mr. McEwen found it impossible to continue preaching every night, visiting daily, and carrying on his own business at the same time. In the few short years since his conversion he had commended himself to the Lord’s people generally, and to the Lord’s servants who were used in his salvation. Moreover, he had to his account souls born again, whose lives were transformed, and at least one assembly planted.
He received the hearty commendation of brethren Campbell and Smith in his purpose. He went forth as he often said, “not on faith lines, but on the faithfulness of God.” “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” was often a stay to this busy worker who had cast his all at Jesus’ feet and was giving God a full day.
Writing of those early experiences he said, “Few assemblies in the country were exercised about having fellowship in the gospel with younger preachers. Indeed, we were looked upon with suspicion even by christians.”
With bodily ailments weighing him down, his menu at times not elaborate, and often not knowing where to lay his head at night, he was severely tested. All this was involved in treading the path of faith, and cast him much upon the Lord in those early days. In the years that followed as Mr. McEwen journeyed from one country to another, he bore in his measure the marks of a minister of Christ enumerated by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 6:4-10, “In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses. In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in watchings, in fastings, … By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; As unknown, and yet well known: … as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”
Young brethren exercised before God about being fully engaged in the Lord’s work at home or abroad might ponder earnestly that high standard and also reflect on how it was manifested by esteemed brethren now at home with the Lord.
Amid all the tumults Mr. McEwen was exceedingly joyful, aglow for Christ and for His sake counting all things but dung and dross. One night he had preached with his usual zeal and at the close he had no place to go. An old man who was a hand-loom weaver asked him, “Where are you going?” “I have not decided yet,” said the preacher. “You can share my bed,” was the hearty reply, and he gladly accepted. Next morning he started off to walk seventeen miles. The aged saint left him along the way and, from an old clasp purse, he took out half a crown (thirty cents) and said with tears, “I am giving this to God.” After leaving him the servant of Christ wept and sang along the way for joy-Securing a place to preach among Unitarians, he found fierce opposition from the start and he was handled roughly—even having hands laid upon him on Lord’s day after the meeting. A widow invited him to preach in her kitchen on Monday night. The place was filled with people who appeared anxious to listen. While he was praying at the beginning, the door opened and a few rotten eggs went “splash” on his head. Some old women wiped him off with a cloth and, after getting the audience quiet again, once more he lifted up his heart in prayer to God. He prayed especially for the disturbers and that God might manifest His power when, once more, he was covered with rotten eggs. The lady who had invited him begged him not to go out as they might kill him. He remained in the kitchen all night, and the next morning the son of the widow asked him to leave quietly because of the attitude of the people.
A walk of five miles brought him to the railway station and once more the faithful worker was busy passing out tracts to the passengers on the train. One woman, when she saw what was handed her, became furious and pounded him with her fists so that his face began to swell and all in the coach laughed and cheered loudly. Mr. McEwen said long afterwards, “The words of Christ had a meaning to me that morning I never felt before. ‘I gave my back to the smiters and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair,’ Isaiah 50:6.”