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The Journal of John Long
About the Early Days
Newspaper Articles
Read about the Early Days
1893 - 1965
1966 to Present

Letterhead used by workers titled Christian Conventions

Perry, Oklahoma Conv, 1942

Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

Introduction Index of Chapters
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Appendix D

Revised January 1, 2016

Presbyterian Evangelist John McNeill

From Alexander Gammie's biography of Rev. John McNeill titled Rev. John McNeill His Life and Work, the following additional details were collected which clearly show that John McNeill was never a worker in this fellowship. This official biography was undertaken at the request of Mrs. McNeill and the publishers Pickering & Inglis.  This book may be obtained by special request through the interlibrary loan program, at no cost to the borrower.

John McNeill was born on July 7, 1854 in Houston, a typical Scottish village in Renfrewshire to Katie McTaggart and John McNeill. His father worked in a quarry and was Superintendent of Sunday School of Somerville Church. When John was 12, they moved to Inverkip where John grew up.  He went to work at 15 at the railway station as gateboy and assistant porter. When he was about 19, he wrote Rev. Peter Douglas of the Inverkip Free Church:

    "Then I remember one evening I wrote Rev. Douglas saying that I was not greatly anxious, but that I did feel I ought to decide, for if I did not decide for Christ, the world wouldn't allow me to be half-hearted. I quoted to him the text, `Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,' and added I believe in Jesus Christ. I am no atheist or blasphemer. I believe all about Him, but I do not feel one bit the better."
Mr. Douglas replied:
    "My dear John, you will never glad I am to get such a frank letter from you about salvation...Now I put it this way: Which am I to believe? You, who pronounce your own verdict on yourself, and say you cannot be saved because you do not feel any the better? Or am I to believe God speaking in His Word and pronouncing His verdict, and saying that if you believe in Christ, as you say you do, you are saved, and you will be saved for ever?"
John rose rapidly to the position of clerk in the General Superintendent's Office in Edinburgh. The first thing he did on moving to Edinburgh was to identify himself with a Church. He joined St. Bernard's Free Church and was soon working as a Sunday School teacher, and became ordained at an early age as a deacon.

He also became a member of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). As an active member, he developed a love of open-air preaching and of mission work generally, which ultimately became the passion of his life. The YMCA Vice-President was so convinced that John should be in the ministry that he helped to finance his education at the Edinburgh University. Before long, he married Susan Spiers Scott. After he had been at Edinburgh University three years, the couple moved to Glasgow where he took the remaining five years of his training at Glasgow University. He earned his livelihood doing missionary work for Bernard's Free Church.

After completing his studies, he was ordained a minister with the McCrie-Roxburgh Church, Edinburgh in July 1886, where John McNeill suddenly burst into fame and the people flocked to hear him: rich and poor, educated and illiterate. On February 28, 1889, he was inducted to the ministry of Regent Square Presbyterian Church, London.  His wife died July 9, 1891, of pleuro-pneumonia, just three weeks after giving birth to their fourth child. John was approached by J. Campbell White (soon to become Lord Overtoun) with the following offer:

"Here we are, two Christian men deeply interested and engaged in Gospel work. Our Master has given me money, and He has given you preaching, and yours is the greater gift. Why should not we go into partnership? I will undertake to relieve you of worldly cares, and you will go wherever you will, preaching the Gospel."

John accepted Lord Overtoun's offer and resigned as minister of Regent Square Church.  He accepted an invitation to become associated with evangelist D. L. Moody's campaigns, and in 1892, began his evangelistic work in Scotland, which was to continue for 15 years.  At the time William Irvine heard him and professed, Rev. McNeill was affiliated with Dwight L. Moody's evangelistic campaigns.

Chapter VI "Sixteen Years' Evangelising" records on page 113: "He travelled north, south, east and west in Scotland, England and Ireland, meeting everywhere with a wonderful response." 

Quote from page 123:  "In the homeland, on his return, he was constantly on tour practically from Land's End to John o' Groat's, preaching not only in great centres of population, but also in the small villages and country districts until there was scarcely a corner of the land where the voice of John McNeill had not been heard. In many parts of Ireland, he had some memorable missions. Obviously, it would be impossible to give here a detailed record of his various campaigns or even of all the places he visited. In any case, it would be the same experience everywhere of crowded congregations and of powerful preaching, in which pathos and humour and evangelical earnestness combined to make a profound and an abiding impression."

For nearly seven years after his wife died, John continued to carry his message all over the world...returning only for brief intervals to be with his four children. In July of 1898, he married Margaret Lee Millar.

The financial arrangement into which Lord Overtoun and John had entered some 16 years previously had been faithfully observed, but there had been no formal written agreement between them. On February 15, 1908, Lord Overtoun died, without making any written provision for the arrangement to continue.  At 54, John McNeill was suddenly left without any means to support his evangelistic tours, wife and large family.  He accepted an invitation to be the pastor of Christ Church Westminster Bridge Road, London.

The Rev. John McNeill died in his sleep on April 19, 1933. Funeral services were held in three locations: at Regent Square Church in London; at George's Parish Church in Glasgow; at Charlotte Chapel in Edinburgh.

A photograph inserted after Page 192 titled "A Group of Speakers at the Keswick Convention 1929" pictures Rev. John McNeill.

In summary,  John McNeill:

1) Accepted Christ at age 19, through Rev. Peter Douglas of Inverkip Free Church,
2) Began his Presbyterian ministerial studies at age 23 at Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities
3) July, 1886 accepted a pastoral position with McCrie-Roxburgh Church, Edinburgh
4) 1892 to 1908 was a traveling evangelist in Moody's campaigns
5) Sept, 1908 accepted a pastoral position with Christ Church Westminster Bridge Road, London
6) Died April, 1933.

Clearly, Rev. John McNeill was never affiliated with a group or movement similar to the 2x2 fellowship.

His son and wife, Archie and Evangeline McNeill, developed the Cannon Beach Conference Center in Oregon.  Their daughter is Heather Goodenough.

AUTHOR'S NOTE:  The John McNeill on the 1905 Workers List is not the same person as the above Rev. John McNeill.

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