Brethren Archive

Home-calling of a True Gospel Warrior – Alexander Marshall.

by Henry Pickering

“MEN WHO WERE WARRIORS" (2 Chron. 11. 1) is a title given to some of old, and might well be applied to one known and beloved world-wide, who entered into rest on 9th August 1928— ALEX. MARSHALL, Evangelist, Author, Editor.
Born in Stranraer, in the South of Scotland, 81 years ago, brought up in a Christian home, his father, a tailor, being known in the district as "Holy Marshall.”  As a young man, in 1863, he migrated to the great city—Glasgow—entered the house of Arthur & Co., wholesale drapery warehousemen, and attained to the position of buyer in the silk department ere he left for his life-work of evangelising.
Conversion.— Whilst in this employment, he heard that Mr. GORDON FORLONG, a converted London lawyer, who had been "a confirmed deist," was preaching in a circus, in Ingram Street, near Arthur's premises.  Having been for some time, anxious about his soul, he attended.  The preacher was vigorous, earnest, and evidently an enthusiast.  One of his traits was to march backward and forward on the circus platform, and again and again repeat strong sentences, such as,
"Believing is the root, feeling the fruit!" 
"It's the Blood that saves!"
and "It is finished!" 
explaining what he meant, till the Gospel was clearly and forcibly made known.  The first and last sentences gripped young Mr. Marshall's heart, and that night, in the autumn of 1865, he "believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, and was saved" (Acts 16. 31).
Call.— After 11 years' most active service, preaching in the streets and wherever doors were opened by the Lord, he was urged by elder brethren and felt called to devote his whole time to the Lord's work.  More than one offer of lucrative employment, then and afterwards, did not deter him from this purpose.  At a meeting in Glasgow, in 1876, to commend him to the Lord, he had the unusual experience of "the laying on of hands" (1 Tim. 4. 14), elder brethren thus identifying themselves with him by actually laying of hands on his head, in the presence of the Assembly.  We believe the brethren were Mr. WM. CALDWELL, father of our esteemed brother, J.R.C., and Mr. THOMAS COCHRANE, both veterans in the faith.  From that time until his last day of life, he continued to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Cor. 15. 51).
Preaching.— His father was an active member of the Evangelical Union (since merged with the Congregationalists), or, as they were better known at that time, "Morrisonians," who had as leaders Dr. Jas. Morrison, Professor Kirk, and many stalwarts.  Their main point of cleavage from others was "the extent of the atonement," being strong Arminians, or, "whosoever men.” This upbringing was manifest in all Alex. Marshall's preaching and writing, and he was ever ready to contend, in a friendly way, for this view of truth.  The saying which he repeated thousands of times, "There's a Hell for every sinner out of Christ, and a Christ for every sinner out of Hell," very aptly explained his view, and largely the impelling power which led him to "pray for all," because "Christ died for all," therefore "God would have all to be saved" (see 1 Tim. 2. 1, 4, 6).  This also explains why he ever expected conversions, usually got them, even many unlikely cases.  Several who became preachers themselves, or leaders of meetings, were converted under "A. M;" others were induced to assist him in his vigorous labours, and then to "launch out" for the Lord.  He ever rejoiced in blessing in the Gospel to whomsoever granted.
Writings.— His ready-writer pen has carried the familiar initials, "A. M.," to earth's remotest bounds.  His best known booklet, "GOD’S WAY OF SALVATION," a combination of two smaller booklets, first issued by The Publishing Office, Glasgow, in 1888, has had a circulation of more than 5,000,000 in several English-Speaking lands, and in some 12 languages.  The publishers have a list of over 200 records of conversion through it, and the Record above must have hundreds more.  More than 200 standard tracts, and hundreds of smaller ones, with innumerable articles in magazines and newspapers, all bearing a clear note concerning the Gospel of God, have appeared.  Millions must thus have been reached by the hand and pen now stilled.
As Editor of the Herald of Salvation, with a circulation of 75,000 monthly, most of which are distributed from door to door, he found an entrance into the homes of the masses, who thus read “words whereby they may be saved.”  Many conversions have been reported through reading these pages.  He was ever anxious that each number should contain a definite warning and winning note to reach conscience and heart.  The paper will be continued by those who have acted as assistants all through the years.
Journeys.— "The Travels of the Apostle Paul” reveal a restless spirit, ever seeking to enter “regions beyond.”  "The Travels of Evangelist Marshall" reveal the same spirit, would and might make a fitting companion map.  His labours in Britain extended from the Shetlands to Cornwal and touched most towns or districts in between.  Remarkable times in theatres, then a novelty, were witnessed in some large towns.  Along with fellow-labourers- RICE T. HOPKINS, CHARLES MORTON, JOHN BRUNTON, SAMUEL BLOW, and others now at rest—Leeds and other manufacturing towns were stirred, and hundreds saved and blessed.
Hearing of even greater need across the ocean, he set out for Canada in 1879, the journey occupying 15 days of rough sailing.  Here he endured much hardness in the backwoods, hair and beard at times being frozen on awakening in the morning in the rude shacks used as sleeping quarters.  He settled first in Toronto, then resided for seven years in Orillia, where he opened a Bible Depot, issued a monthly, and scattered tons of Christian literature.  Along with other veterans whose names are revered—DONALD ROSS, JOHN SMITH, DONALD MUNROE, JOHN M. CARNIE, T. D. W. MUIR, (the latter of whom alone survives)—he did real pioneering work in Canada and the States and helped to begin a number of Assemblies.
Returned to Glasgow in 1889, but crossed the Atlantic on visits to Canada and the States no less than 36 times.  Had Gospel tours and visited Iceland in 1897; Palestine and Egypt in 1898; spent 12 months in New Zealand, seeking a cure for insomnia in 1902; Shetland Isles in 1907; Jamaica and Barbados in 1908; Russia in 1910; and West Indies in 1916.  At the age of 72, volunteered for work amongst soldiers in France in 1918, in addition to visiting Switzerland, Norway, Holland, etc.  His last visit to Canada was in 1924.
Ministry.— Never claiming to be a "teacher," or an "expositor," he was distinctly an "exhorter." With a life known for persistence behind the Message, it usually had weight.  The saying which he oft repeated, and we think attributed to HENRY GROVES, that, "We are bound to receive all whom Christ has received, provided there is no definite Scriptural warrant for their rejection," rightly explained the ecclesiastical position of A. M., as well as the position of  "early brethren," and in fact the New Testament position, as it has never been controverted. Assembly troubles were ever a grief to him, as they hindered the progress of the Gospel, and brought dishonour on the Name.  Nothing stirred his spirit more than to hear of the rejection of a known believer from his birthright privilege of remembering his Lord, at His Table.
"STRAIGHT PATHS," and other booklets for believers, have led many to see the evils of sectarianism, priestcraft, and similar human ways, and led them to meet in a simple Scriptural way, as at the beginning.  Wherever he went, his first care was to find out the Lord's people and encourage them on in the Ways that be in Christ.
Liberality.— One thing he never mentioned was "money."  He might get much or little, but he accepted what his Master sent (Matt. 23. 8) and told no man.  Yet we know that a good proportion of what he received was passed on to younger and little known workers in this or other lands, or used in the very wide circulation of Gospel literature.  Dozens of times, we have exchanged $5 bills received from Canada or America for goods, for him to pass on to some isolated worker in the backwoods.  Whilst friends helped him in the supply of literature, he unstintingly devoted his own means to scattering the truth.  The last letter, which he wrote on the Wednesday before he died, was a request to the publishers to "send 5000 copies of 'God's Way' to the London City Mission, whose workers are soulwinners."
Closing Days.— The first real indication of failing health was given in "Personalia," in December, 1925, when he was laid aside with a heart attack.  Recovering in measure, he visited many places and delivered earnest messages.  Preaching in Glasgow in May this year, he had an attack at the end of a Gospel meeting, had to be conveyed home, and though he was able to be at local meetings, and pursue his loved work of writing letters and posting packages world-wide, he had to act with great care.  He attended the Morning Meeting in Prestwick, where he resided, exhorted all to come to the Prayer Meeting on the following Thursday, spent the three following days with his packages, retired to rest at eight on Wednesday night feeling tired, had a sharp heart attack at midnight, and entered into the presence of the Lord whom he loved so well and had served so faithfully for 63 years, at 1.30 in the morning, 9th August, 1928.  More than 400 fellow-saints followed the remains to their resting place in Prestwick Cemetery on the Saturday following.
Mrs. Marshall, nee Miss Tate, to whom he was married in Canada in 1882 and who has been a true helpmeet and a loyal supporter in his labours for the Master during all these 46 years, survives him, and must have the loving sympathy of thousands in her bereavement.
A personal acquaintance and happy fellowship during 40 years, leads me to assert that I have known of no worker for God more diligent "in season and out of season;" no more kindly spirit; differences of judgment, and even debates, never altered his love for his friends; and, in my judgment, no man had more real conversions than beloved A. M.  Great must be his reward. HyP.

In Memoriam: "A. M."
Slave of a Master, whom to serve
Such blessed freedom is,
Rest from thy labours here on earth,
And enter into bliss;
Bliss of a race well run,
Bliss of a service done,
Bliss of a faithful son, 
Bliss of the Lord.

Restless thy feet and pained thy heart
Thy Saviour's love to tell;
Welcomed by hosts redeemed thro' grace,
Home in God's House to dwell;
Home with the Church's Head,
Home with  the Blessed Dead,
Home thro' the Blood once shed,
Home with the Lord.

Silent the lip and pen which told
Thy risen Master's worth,
Seeking the haunts of God-loved men
Far o'er a sinful earth;
Preaching for all to hear,
Preaching both far and near,
Preaching a Gospel clear,
Preaching for God.

Building in time for endless years,
Building in souls of men;
Dreaming and daring till latest breath,
Ceaseless thy toil—and then,
In, without fear or doubt,
In, with a victor's shout,
In, to go no more out,
In, and at Home.
Andrew Borland, M.A.
"The Witness" Sept. 1928

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