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Rev. John McNeill
1854 - 1933
April 15, 2008

Presbyterian Evangelist John McNeill

NOTE: The John McNeill shown on the 1905 Workers List is not the same person as the Presbyterian Rev. John McNeill. His biography makes clear that John McNeill was never a Worker in the Two by Two Sect.

The official biography of John McNeill was undertaken by Alexander Gammie at the request of the widow, Mrs. McNeill. The title is Rev. John McNeill: His Life and Work, published by Pickering & Inglis, circa 1930. T he information in this Appendix was taken from this book.

John McNeill was born on July 7, 1854, in Houston, a typical Scottish village in Renfrewshire to John and Katie (McTaggart) McNeill. His father worked in a quarry and was Superintendent of the 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 gate boy 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."

Rev. Douglas replied: "My dear John, you will never know...how 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 office of the General Superintendent in Edinburgh. As soon as he moved to Edinburgh, he joined St. Bernard's Free Church and was soon working as a Sunday School teacher and shortly thereafter being ordained as a deacon. John also became an active member of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). He developed a love of open-air preaching and of mission work in general, 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 finance his education at the Edinburgh University. Before long, he married Susan Spiers Scott. He completed three years of University there, and five more years at Glasgow University. While a student, he earned his livelihood doing missionary work for St. Bernard's Free Church.

After completing his studies, he was ordained a minister with the McCrie-Roxburgh Church in Edinburgh in July 1886, after which John McNeill suddenly burst into fame and people flocked to hear him--both rich and poor, educated and illiterate. On February 28, 1889, he was inducted to the ministry of Regent Square Presbyterian Church, London . His wife, Susan Spiers Scott died July 9, 1891, of pleuro-pneumonia, just three weeks after giving birth to their fourth child.

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

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 . In 1892, he began his evangelistic work in Scotland, which would continue for 15 years.  In 1893 when William Irvine heard him in Motherwell Town Hall, and professed, Rev. John McNeill was affiliated with Dwight L. Moody's evangelistic campaigns. He travelled all over Scotland,

England and Ireland, preaching not only in large cities, but also in the small villages and country districts. His name was well known in Great Britain and Ireland.

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

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

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

In summary, John McNeill was born July 7, 1854:

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) 1892-1908 was a traveling evangelist in Dwight L. Moody's campaigns

5) September 1908 accepted a pastoral position with Christ Church Westminster Bridge Road, London

6) Died April 19, 1933.

As can be seen above, Rev. John McNeill was never affiliated with a group or movement similar to the 2x2 fellowship.

References:

John McNeill: His Life and Work by Alexander Gammie, c 1930. Great Britain: Pickering & Inglis.

Evangeline: A Story of Faith by Bette Nordberg, 1996. Biography of Evangeline (Duff) McNeill and the development of the Canon Beach Conference Center in Oregon

Compiled by Cherie Kropp-Ehrig




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