Chapter 7 Orkney And Shetland Islands

The beautiful city of Edinburgh has been a great attraction to tourists from every country. The guide in that ancient castle holds the attention of old and young as he gives an outline of its history. Kings, queens, and nobles of other days are set forth in their order. Some harrowing tales are told but there is much that charms the hearers. The crown that was worn by the monarchs of Scotland is also to be seen with the many jewels of bygone days.

Mr. McEwen arrived in this city one day, but his whole interest centered in preaching Christ. He found a small assembly in Blackfrier Street and arranged to begin meetings on the next Lord’s Day. On Saturday morning an ad appeared in the newspaper that a redeemed slave from Ireland would tell how he was liberated. An Irish woman happened to read it and with her husband was present on Sunday night and she was saved. Years afterward when Mr. McEwen met them, both were rejoicing in Christ.

While in Edinburgh, Mr. John H., who became a true friend of Mr. McEwen, invited him to visit Orkney. These two groups of small islands, Orkney and Shetland, are in the far north of Scotland. The rugged hills are bleak, the inhabitants hardy and well suited to endure the rigors of the long winter months. The sweet story of the gospel has been welcomed there and many living stones have been hewn from the quarry of nature in that land. These have become stones in that great spiritual building.

He first preached in Kirkwall but found the soil very hard and very little ear for the Word. He then went to one of the small islands where an effectual door was opened and Mr. McEwen describes those days as, “Wonderful times when the power of God was displayed night after night. The very remembrance of those meetings gives me joy.” The Lord cheered His servant greatly as he went on to one of the other islands, sowing the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. The power of God was felt and also the power of the devil in opposition. However, in one night a big blacksmith and a farmer’s son and daughter were saved. On the mainland the Lord also gave His servant to see many sheaves gathered in, though some places were barren and hard.

In Evie there was a small assembly gathering in His Name and they received the Lord’s servant heartily. They were mostly old people and Mr. McEwen spoke of them as, “the choicest saints I ever met.” They had built a little hall but it was unfinished. However, he began meetings there and from the first God’s presence was felt and there were tokens of blessing.

Among the many attending the services were two very intelligent looking young ladies who became interesting cases of conversion. One was saved shortly after the meetings began while the other became an enemy for some time. But the experience of one who penned the hymn, “The gospel of Thy grace, My stubborn heart has won” was hers, and there was great joy over her conversion. Mr. McEwen visited the elder one when she was dying and he described it as a foretaste of heaven.

When the preacher left Evie he went on to Shetland. On reaching Lerwick he found three preachers there and he asked them if they had an open air meeting. They replied, “No.” “Well,” he said, “I am going to the square tomorrow afternoon.” There was an assembly in Lerwick and in the morning he made known his intention and soon the news went all over the town. As the hour arrived crowds from every direction were going to the square. There was only one policeman in the place and he was unable to cope with the multitude of people. The Gospel went forth in power that afternoon to an attentive audience. They formed a line, Mr. McEwen heading the procession, and started the well-known hymn, “We’re going to walk the plains of light, will you go?” The hymn was sung with all their heart.

While preaching in the hall, he noticed a man with a silk hat on his knee paying good attention. At the close the preacher asked him, “Are you saved?” “I hope so,” was the rather vague reply. The preacher with his characteristic searching look said, “Beware that your hope does not carry you to hell.” The meetings continued on, and on Tuesday night this dear man was saved and his wife accepted Christ a few days later.

During the day some very devoted aged brethren accompanied the preacher from place to place and he learned to ride a Shetland pony which was a help in visiting. On Mr. McEwen’s next visit to Lerwick a few years later, he arrived at midnight after a fearful storm. A man and his wife were standing on the pier to meet him and her first words were, “Man, am aye keepin’ saved, praise the Lord!”

One day while his meetings were still going on, Mr. McEwen felt a strong desire to visit a preacher in the town. He was very graciously received and taken upstairs where he related the story of his conversion. Then Mr. McEwen suggested to the parson that he likewise tell his conversion and, having none to tell, the evangelist used great plainness of speech on the vital subject. The parson sprang at Mr. McEwen, took him by the throat, dragged him down the stairs and threw him outside. When Mr. McEwen recovered, he looked at the man he had tried to help and said, “If you believe I am wrong this is a strange way to put me right,” and he went on his way rejoicing.

Our brother visited Aberdeen on the Queen’s birthday and took part with others in holding up the banner of the Cross in the open air but the crowd handled them roughly that day.

Mr. McEwen returned to Ireland encouraged by the work he had seen in Scotland. He was much exercised in heart, and spent time in prayer to God that he might be guided in his service in the great harvest field.