The home-call of Sam McEwen on February 5, 1944, in Petersburg, Virginia, caused widespread sorrow among the assemblies throughout the United States, Canada, and the British Isles.
An outstanding figure as an Evangelist for over thirty years, Mr. McEwen’s heart-searching messages moved the most careless, while he portrayed the doom of the lost and lifted up a crucified, risen, and glorified Lord Jesus to the gaze of the perishing; and with tenderness and compassion he pleaded with sinners to be saved, and God gave him many souls.
Brother McEwen had a very unique ministry for the Lord’s people, having very decided convictions regarding the path of separation from the world. His solemn warnings against the unequal yoke seldom failed to reach the heart and conscience, while edifying, exhorting and comforting old and young with messages and examples from the Scripture, they were established in the faith.
He was born in New York City in 1877, the son of Mr. and Mrs. William Renwick McEwen, but was brought up in Petersburg, Virginia. Sam grew up to young manhood without Christ. Early in 1890 William Beveridge and Alex Lamb, followed by Benjamin Bradford and James Hamilton, went to Virginia preaching the gospel of God’s grace. The Lord used these young evangelists greatly, and they pitched a tent in Petersburg. The hand of God was stretched forth, and there were many trophies of grace. Some of the McEwen family were among the converts, but Sam had little interest in spiritual things.
Becoming more careless, Sam McEwen was bent on a life of pleasure, but in 1896 he was brought under conviction of sin, and a deep sense of his guilt and danger laid hold upon him, resulting in his receiving Christ. The change in his life was very manifest. Baptized and received into the assembly, he delighted in owning Christ as Lord.
Mr. John Monypenny visited Petersburg and brother Sam was greatly helped through his ministry. There was a clean cut from all worldly associations. His time was used in studying the Word and in happy service for the Lord.
Mr. McEwen soon developed a gift for preaching the gospel, travelling near and far after his day’s work, to make known the gospel to the unsaved. God was preparing the vessel for future use in His blessed service, and gave him about fifteen years of a most useful education in the assembly and in gospel work.
I first met Mr. McEwen at Philadelphia Conference in 1912. He was deeply exercised about giving his full time to making known the gospel. He was married some years before to Miss Annie Johnson, and together they were burdened about their path, as such a step with a little family to support was a test. However, the way opened up and, with Hugh Horn of Richmond, our brother came to Central Falls, Rhode Island, for a series of gospel meetings. There are still those in the Pawtucket Assembly who were saved in those stirring days. In the years that followed, from Boston, New Bedford, Lawrence, Lowell, and Pawtucket, precious fruit was gathered in through the ministry of Sam McEwen.
Brother McEwen linked up in service with B. Bradford, and in 1916 they went to Florida as pioneers, laboring a few winters in Miami, which resulted in souls being saved and an assembly being planted there, as well as one in West Palm Beach.
They became deeply exercised about Washington, D.C. and after much difficulty they secured a site for the tent in that large city. The hand of the Lord was with them, and souls were saved and taught the truth of gathering in His Name.
In 1922 Sam McEwen and his brother, Hugh, were invited to preach in a large tent in Toronto, Canada, and it became a memorable season. The tent was filled nightly and crowds were outside on Lord’s Days. Many passed from death unto life, and since then many more came to know the Lord through Mr. McEwen in Toronto.
For many years Brother McEwen cherished the hope of seeing the North of Ireland, the land of his forefathers, and in 1932 he left the United States to attend the Belfast Conference at Easter. His uncle, John Knox McEwen, met him there. His first address to the assembled company of about three thousand was 2 Corinthians 5:20, “We are Ambassadors for Christ.” The Lord gave him real help and all during his visit his ministry was valued.
It was on the heart of Brother McEwen to visit California, and in 1941, when I was driving out with some of my family, he arranged to join me in the trip and in tent work. When we met him in Detroit he was well supplied with testaments and tracts. He enjoyed visiting a number of small assemblies on the way, and was always busy sowing the Seed.
The brethren in Jefferson Street, Los Angeles, had a large tent pitched, and we began gospel meetings. Brother McEwen suggested having the Monday night meetings for believers. Those Monday night meetings grew in numbers and interest, and will be long remembered. When leaving, he had many invitations to return.
He was on his way to the conference in Jefferson Street Hall in January, 1944 when he was stricken in Seattle, Washington. Mr. Hector Alves undertook to accompany our brother across the continent, and when on the train, brother McEwen became very ill. Arriving in Petersburg, he was taken to the hospital in a very weak condition. He lingered a few days, and when able, testified to the grace of God. On Saturday, February 5, he passed peacefully into the presence of the Lord, leaving behind his widow, four sons, and three daughters to mourn his loss.
The funeral was held on Tuesday, February 8, from the Gospel Hall in Petersburg, where he had so long and faithfully ministered the Word, and which was only a short distance from the spot where he was saved in 1896. Mr. Bradford spoke in the crowded Hall from, “Mark the perfect man, behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace,” Psalm 37:37. Mr. Alves also took part, and Mr. Herbert Marshall of Boston, and the writer spoke at the grave. Thus was laid to rest to await the Resurrection Day our beloved brother who had so faithfully sought to win others for His Blessed Lord and Saviour.