Gospel: This was their Story – T.D.W. Muir, Pioneer Evangelist of Michigan

Thomas Donald William Muir was an evangelist whose 56 years of gospel work created a rich spiritual legacy that remains to this day. Mr. Muir was born in the village of Ormstown, Quebec, on February 25, 1855. His parents, both of Scottish descent and staunch Presbyterians, ultimately moved to Hamilton, Ontario. Some time prior to this, during a near drowning in the St. Lawrence River, his father was converted, and developed a deep interest in spiritual things.

In God’s gracious providence, two gospel preachers came to Hamilton, Ontario, in June of 1874. Donald Munro and John Smith were recent Scottish immigrants themselves. Summoned to Hamilton by a godly Christian couple, they began preaching in a third floor room of a building on King St., West. After six weeks of meetings, however, no one had professed salvation, and, in discouragement, one of the preachers had his bag packed, ready to leave at the first opportunity.

At this late hour, the senior Mr. Muir attended a meeting, accompanied by Thomas and his brother Kenneth. On the wall behind the preachers was a large handbill, with the following question in bold print: “Friend, thou art traveling to eternity: to an everlasting Heaven or to an endless Hell! Which?” So pointed was the question, and so powerful the working of the Holy Spirit, that Thomas Muir was awakened to his need, and in his own words (quoting the Psalmist), “the pains of Hell got hold upon me; I found trouble and sorrow.”

Two nights later, along with his brother and another acquaintance, William Faulknor, Thomas was back listening intently to the gospel. He acknowledged before God that he was a sinner, and perishing; in simple terms, he described what happened next:

“While John 3:36 was being quoted from the platform, I looked away from self and sin, and found peace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who on Calvary ‘died for my sins according to the scripture’.”

Turning to his friend he gladly confessed, “I received Christ as my Savior a few minutes ago, and I know I have everlasting life, for His Word has said it!” A few moments later, William Faulknor was saved, along with Kenneth Muir. The first fruits of the Hamilton meetings were seen in three young men trusting Christ in a single night, July 23, 1874.

From the very first, Mr. Muir had a soul winner’s heart. He began taking two young ladies to the gospel meetings, where they, too, were saved under the preaching of brethren Munro and Smith. This aroused the antagonism of their father, a Mr. Sproul, and he forbade them to attend further meetings. But boldly bearding the lion in his den, Mr. Muir appeared at his home, and, opening the scriptures, led him to Christ through the words of John 3. The next night, a happy Mr. Sproul, his wife, and two daughters were at the gospel meeting. To his added delight, Mrs. Sproul beamingly whispered in his ear, “God saved me last night while I sat listening at the keyhole as you spoke to Mr. Sproul!”

Eleven months after his conversion, Mr. Muir went out in faith, preaching the gospel. By his own account, he had $20 in his pocket to meet his expenses and a verse to direct his heart: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt 6:33). Beginning meetings on the second floor of a carpenter’s shop in southern Ontario, he had the great joy of seeing a number saved and gathered to the Lord’s Name.

In 1880, at the urging of Donald Ross, Mr. and Mrs. Muir moved to the city of Detroit, Michigan. Making this his new hub for gospel work, Mr. Muir labored tirelessly throughout the state of Michigan. By train and by coach, on horseback and on foot, in the deep snows of winter, and in the humid heat of summer, he persevered. Erecting a gospel tent in an Irish district called Corktown, he endured many indignities, but saw souls saved and gathered as a local assembly Eventually it occupied the Central Gospel Hall, becoming a thriving testimony.

During Mr. Muir’s lifetime, at least seven other assemblies were planted in the Detroit area: Ferndale, Schoolcraft, East Side, the Mexican assembly, the Italian assembly, Salem, and West Chicago Blvd. (now Stark Road). While some of these assemblies are only a memory now, at least three of them still continue as monuments to the grace of God and the faithful labors of T.D.W. Muir.