ALEXANDER STEWART, of Glasgow and Prestwick, was born in the year 1843, a year memorable in the history of the religious life of Scotland. It was in that year the great disruption of the Church of Scotland took place, when many of its members seceded and formed the Free Church of Scotland. Mr. Stewart’s parents were respected members of the Church of Scotland.
For the first nineteen years of his life he lived without God. One day, walking along a street in Glasgow, he took a giddy turn, and immediately the thought occurred to him that if he had expired on the street he would have gone to a lost eternity. Deep conviction of sin took possession of his soul, and for nine long months he endeavored without success to find peace. He commenced to attend Church, which for a long time he had neglected. He even called upon his minister, but, as he himself said, he got little real spiritual help. He took a class in the Sunday School, and all the time was in the dark as to how peace with God could be found.
Mr. Stewart tells his experience and conversion thus: “I was lying on my bed one day in sore anxiety of soul when that Scripture came to me, ‘It is finished,’ and immediately I entered into peace. I saw for the first time I was 1800 years on the other side of a finished work. I had been looking forward to something to be done by me, whereas I now saw that the work had been finished by another, the Lord Jesus Christ, on the Cross of Calvary.” Having found peace, Mr. Stewart joined the Church, but after his first communion he became so miserable that he left, and for two years he did not identify himself with any religious body. Like Noah’s dove, he went about trying to find a resting-place for his soul.
One Sunday morning during this period he went to an Assembly of Exclusive Brethren (so-called) in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, and they welcomed him to the Lord’s Table. He met there Dr. W. T. P. Wolston, Andrew Miller (author of “Church History”), and others, whose fellowship he valued; but his sympathies were too broad to permit of him identifying himself with any party which prevented him having fellowship with all true Christians.
Possessed with a love for the perishing, he commenced to preach in the open air at Phoenix Corner, Cowcaddens, Glasgow. In this open-air work he was associated for a time with a young man named Murray M ‘Neil Caird, the son of the Procurator-Fiscal of Wigtownshire, who was at that time studying law in the city.
Mr. Stewart never had any difficulty in finding a congregation. His rich, commanding voice, gentlemanly bearing, marked ability joined with deep spirituality, secured for him at all times, either outside or inside, a respectful and attentive hearing.
As a result of his gospel efforts in open air, in kitchens, and halls, converts multiplied, and the question arose what was to be done with them. Some of them commenced to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread on Sunday mornings, which continued in various buildings until eventually they secured a suitable place called Clarendon Hall. Later they removed to Union Hall, where Mr. Stewart ministered the Word of Life for many years to large and appreciative audiences.
Twenty years ago he removed his home from Glasgow to Prestwick, on the Ayrshire coast, and threw in his lot with the little Assembly there, which, under his godly care and rich spiritual ministry largely increased.
In addition to being an able speaker, he had the pen of a ready writer, and throughout his life many helpful articles from his pen appeared in the pages of The Witness. He also wrote some beautiful hymns, two of the richest of them, numbers 129, “Lord Jesus Christ, we seek Thy face,” and 346, ”0 Lamb of God, we lift our eyes,” appear in the Believers’ Hymn Book.
He was never robust physically, and when only twenty-seven years of age, through overstrain in preaching and working, he had to take a voyage to Australia. He was only absent eight months, returning again to the old country and to his loved work for his worthy Master. For some time he was rather feeble, and during the past few weeks had been confined to bed. As in health, so in sickness, his conversation ever was about the Lord, His Word, and His work. Parting with a friend who had visited him, he said: “If we never meet again, remember it has been mercy from first to last.” To another he remarked: “I’m only a sinner, saved by grace.”
He passed peacefully Home on 27th April, 1923, and thus ended a useful and fruitful life, filled with service to the Lord and rich in blessing to man.