To The Church Without a Name, The Truth, Two By Twos
Note: William Irvine was converted on January 8, 1893 in Rev. John McNeill’s mission in Motherwell Town Hall, advertised and reported in the newspaper articles below.
January 7, 1893
SABBATH, 8th JANUARY
Will preach in the
Mr. J. H. Burke, from America,
Saturday, January 14, 1893
On Sabbath the Rev. John M’Neill opened a week’s mission in Motherwell, where he addressed three meetings. In the morning he spoke in the Parish Church, and in the afternoon and evening in the Town Hall he addressed two meetings, one for females only at five, and for men only at 7:30.
At each of the meetings every seat was occupied, and in the evening an overflow meeting was held in the Christian Institute. In giving out the intimations in the morning, Mr. M’Neill said he wished to interject one remark to those people who would object to everything except what fitted their own anvil. Some would ask, why separate the sexes? He would answer, simply for the reason of common sense, for they could not at seven o’clock turn into men those who filled the hall at five; and if they used their common sense in spiritual things they might have been saved Christians before now, but alas! It was seldom that common sense was applied in that direction.
He took the text form the narrative in the Book of Ruth concerning Naomi and her daughter-in-law, and the parting of the ways, in the 16th verse, chapter 1st, "Entreat me not to leave thee," &c. He asked them to picture a Scotch woman going over the borer, and her return to her own country and people in similar circumstances, for it was just the same thing. He was afraid there were more Orpahs in our congregation than Ruths.
They were not genuine in heart. They would go to the station with you, and kiss you gently on the cheek, and when you were gone they would say, "I have had enough of her." There were also men in our own churches, aye, gentlemen, if you please, and they actually thought they were "blooming" saints, because they came to church occasionally, and perhaps took a part in a little heartless singing That was all the religion that could be seen with a microscope in their whole lives; but they were only scarecrows in the church. Outsiders looked at them, and watched them, and they said it was a sham, an they would have none of that sort of Christianity. That kept thousands outside the church walls. In the name of God, let them have done with that today and be real!
Touching on the passionate appeal of Ruth to Naomi, he said, Lord help some people. When Christ was pressed on their acceptance, they looked as if they were lured on to destruction, instead of to salvation. They came, if they came at all, with such a "swither,: as if they were not sure what they were doing. They went bang full tilt into drinking, to the theatre, and to business head over ears. But if to Christ, pardon, peace, happiness and heaven at last, they came dragging their heels behind them, and they put a hand into Christ’s cold and clammy, as if He was not worth trusting.
Let it be either cold or hot, or (Christ used the words) "I will spue thee out of My mouth." If he (the speaker) used the words originally in a Motherwell church that day, nothing would save him on the part of some dainty diettante people from a charge of vulgarity! They would go home and say—did you ever hear such language, such vulgarity? The vulgarity was in the souls that did not love Jesus Christ supremely. That was hideous vulgarity. Indecision did not reflect any moral or intellectual capacity in any man. It was the dry-rot of religion—"Put the pith of your manhood in your decision and turning point."
The weariness and languishing often seen in the churches was a disgust to the Son of God. Did anybody think they would be the worse or the poorer for making that day the decision that Ruth made? Well, let them look at her. She became mistress of that farm where she gleaned her livelihood amongst the stubble. He concluded with urgent appeals to those present to turn their faces today and follow in the same direction a Ruth did. The discourse was listened to with perfect stillness.
During the week crowded audiences have assembled in the Town Hall. Large numbers have flocked in from the surrounding districts nightly and the Rev gentleman’s discourses have been received with acceptance. Mr. M’Neill has also in the course of his mission spoken in Dalziel Free Church and Motherwell U.P. Church.
By advertisement we observe that this mission is to be continued in Motherwell. Meetings will be conducted next week by Messrs Ferguson and Bissect, evangelists, in the Clason Memorial Free Church and the Town Hall. We anticipate large and interesting meetings throughout the week.
The New York Times
May 9, 1897
Travels of an Evangelist
The Rev. John McNeill, the Scot,
Has Been All Over the Habitable Globe
PREACHED EVEN TO ZULUS
Smiled or Cried at the Same Points That Were Effective in Fifth Avenue – Human Nature the Same the World Over
“The first thing I must tell you,” said the Rev. John McNeill, The Scottish evangelist, to a reporter for The New York Times, “is that I am not dead." Hardly a day passes that some one does not come up to me and say: 'Why my dear Mr. McNeill, I heard you were dead.' And I sometimes reply to them in the words of the Irishman: ‘I have heard so, too, but I knew it was not true.’
“The reports of my death arise from the fact that the Rev John McNeill, a Scottish Presbyterian minister of my age, who, like myself, forsook his pulpit to enter the field as an evangelist, died in Brisbane about two years ago. My friends in America who had heard me at the World’s Fair saw the notice of the death in the religious press and naturally jumped to the conclusion that it was I. A good many Americans are buying a work of my namesake, who was a Highlander, while I am a Lowlander, entitled ‘A Spirit Filled Life,’ under the impression that I wrote it. It has had a large sale, but I have never disclaimed the authorship, for it is a good book.
Why He Became an Evangelist.
“What induced you to become an evangelist?”
“The death of my wife five years ago thrust me forth while I was filling the pulpit of Regent Square, London. I had been invited to enter the evangelistic field before, and the change in my life led me to leave my home. After leaving Great Britain I spend six months at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Then I returned to England and began a tour around the world with J. H. Burke, who is singing with me at my meetings here. We were three months in South Africa, two months in Tasmania, three months in Australia, two months in New Zealand. Then I went back to India where I spoke eight weeks in Calcutta and Bombay.”
“Did you notice in your travels any marked difference in the character or manner of your hearers?”
“No. An English-speaking man is an English-speaking man the world over. The audiences I have addressed here do not differ from those who heard me in Tasmania or in the Transvaal. The Zulus to whom I spoke, through an interpreter, in South Africa, smiled and cried at the same points that elicit similar expressions from those I have addressed in Fifth Avenue. Human nature, at the point where the Gospel appeals to it, is pretty much the same all the world over.”
What is your judgment upon that class of revivals where the penitent hearers come forward and, in full view and hearing of all, make public profession of their conversion to Christianity?”
“I don’t use those methods. I am content to preach the Gospel; and as to the results, my experience has been that they are found after I have gone by the ministers of the congregations where I have spoken.”
“There is some discussion as to the value of these special evangelistic services. What have you to say on that?”
“ My experience is that this work of constant preaching is such a strain upon a man’s brain and nerves that, as a matter simply of common sense, he wouldn’t keep at it six months if there were not results. It is not a form of ministry that any man, be he layman or minister, is likely to exercise long unless definite results become apparent.
In Liverpool for instance whence I have jut come, I have preached three ties a day for four weeks to an average of 8,000 people a day. Do you think a man is going to do that and make work like that his life work from place to place if there’s to be no definite result in the shape of changed lives and increase of church membership?”
“What evidence have you that there are tangible results?”
“In Liverpool during the last week of my stay, I asked my audience to be good enough to let me know to what extent the blessing of God had rested upon the preaching. Upward of 1,000 letters poured in upon me directly.”
Likes to Convert Women.
While Mr. McNeill’s style is peculiarly inclined to attract men, who seem to like his blunt word and his sharp prods, which never are anything but delicate, he has a vigorous answer to the scoffers who say that nobody goes to churches or revivals but women.
“Now supposing they were all woman,” he aid, “The work would be well worth the doing. A woman is as god as a man any day, and the new woman leaves u all behind. If you reach the women, you’ll get at the men also; the devil gets at the men through the women and why should not Jesus Christ do so also?”
Volumes of letters from his hearers pour in upon Mc. McNeill wherever he goes. As an illustration of the far-reaching results of evangelistic work he cites the case of a young woman who was converted at one of his meetings in Johannesburg. She wrote to her father in Australia, telling him of the change that had come to her. “Months afterward,” said Mr. McNeill, “I went to Australia, and this man came to my meetings, and he too, was converted. He was a careless glove-wandering man, one of the kind who go to Johannesburg for the gold and, not finding it, push on to the next place where adventure is to be found. This man came to Mr. McNeill and told him of the results of his work, which in this case extended to two continents.
Another instance of practical results mentioned by Mr. McNeill was the case of a Liverpool man who received a remittance in payment of a bad debt. The debtor in his letter said his conscience had been pricked at one of the meetings held by Mr. McNeill. “These business men’s meetings may become popular in Wall Street yet,” said the evangelist with a little laugh.
“I am not a D.D.,” said Mr. McNeill, when asked why he was sometimes called Dr. McNeill. “I was offered the honor once by a college, but I declined it. It is not for me, as your own Artemus Ward said when he was over in England and was offered the ‘crown of realms.’ ‘No,’ said he modestly, ‘It isn’t for me. Give it to the poor.’”
Mr. McNeill laughed heartily over his recollection of the famous humorist. “I read him when a boy,” said he. “It was my first introduction to what is called American humor and it appealed to my sense of the ludicrous strongly. Artemus Ward died all too soon.”
With Mr. McNeill at the Winsor is his brother Joseph, a student at Princeton Theological Seminary. Mr. McNeill is greatly encouraged by the increased attendance at his noon business men’s meeting at Chickering Hall.
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