Brethren Archive

My Father:

John Knox McEwen (1853-1944)
Likely my grandparents, little thought when they named my father John Knox, that he would bear the characteristics of the great Scottish Reformer.  Someone has said that my father feared neither man nor devil. No doubt this was illustrated in his carrying an umbrella (on which gospel texts were painted) all over the country, sometimes embarrassing his host who was collecting him at the station, by walking through the principal streets with it erected and even getting him to carry it for part of the way.
My father was born in Dromore, Co. Down, Northern Ireland on June 20, 1853.  He was saved during meetings conducted by Messrs. Smith and Campbell of Scotland, at the age of 21.  Soon after conversion, my father commenced to preach the gospel, first of all, in his home districts, then going later to Nova Scotia.  He devoted himself to the work of the Lord for almost 70 years, until he was called home in his 92nd year on November 15, 1944.
On his first visit home, whilst labouring in the gospel in Crediton, near Exeter, he met Miss Alice Mary Fowler.  She earlier had at great cost, taken a stand for Christ, associating herself with the Christians gathering in the High Street Meeting Room in Credition, where she had been a communicant in the established church.  God honoured her stand and gave her the joy of seeing her mother and two sisters saved.
My father believed it to be the mind of God that this young lady should be his wife and their marriage took place at Credition.  The ceremony was conducted by Mr. Fred Bannister who, some time previously, had given up a good living in the Church of England.
Soon after their marriage, father and mother left England for Nova Scotia and laboured there with marked blessing until ill health necessitated their returning home with an invalid son who was born in the backwoods and lived only until he was about five years of age.  Owing to my mother's weak state of health, she was prevented from returning to Nova Scotia and after a period of repeated changes of residence, my parents finally settled in Exeter, Devon.  My father, however, who seemed to be possessed of extraordinary reserves of physical stamina, paid many visits to Canada and the U.S. as well as labouring in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, where he saw sinners saved and assemblies of believers formed.  He also made a visit to Spain.
Although father may have appeared severe at times on the platform, he had a truly sympathetic heart.  Many a tale could be told of how he ministered to the needs of the poor and needy and to the Lord's servants in various parts of the world.
In his personal life, father imposed on himself a strict discipline, both as to his diet and his habits.  He usually rose about five a.m. and the early part of the day was spent in prayer and the reading of the Scriptures.  I have often been told how he would burst into song early in the morning, one of his favourite hymns being:
"Saviour more than life to me,
I am clinging, clinging close to thee."
Father was always witnessing to sinners and many experiences could be related in this connection.  One evening, having an impelling urge to witness to the saving power of the Lord Jesus, he opened the bedroom window where he was staying and called out into the night, the words of 1 Tim. 1: 15.  The next morning, a man called to enquire if a preacher was in the house.  The man, standing on the verge of a pond, had been contemplating suicide, but hearing those life-giving words, was arrested in his tracks, and was led to trust the Saviour.
During the early years of the Second World War, four of us were engaged in visiting military camps and barracks, distributing copies of the Serviceman's New Testament.  Often father would stop servicemen from the U.S.A., show them his watch which came from America, and ask them how old they thought he was (not then far from 90) all with a view to introducing the Saviour. 
Father took ill in March 1944, in his ninety-first year but recovered sufficiently to get out again and ministered from the Word of God in the four Exeter assemblies.  In November of the same year, having passed his 91st birthday, he had a relapse.  During his closing days, he often quoted a hymn in the Gospel Hymn Book:
"Until l saw the blood,
It was hell my soul was fearing.”
Two verses of this hymn are engraved on his tombstone.
Even when very weak and nearing the end, he spoke of the Saviour he loved.  Almost, if not his last words were, "I shall be glad to see Him."  Thus passed a man who. with fearlessness and zeal and with strong individuality, bore a consistent and faithful witness to the Lord Jesus and left his mark on two continents.
“The Believer’s Magazine” 1977


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