Bring the Books: Alexander Marshall: Evangelist, Author & Pioneer By John Hawthorne

Perhaps best remembered for his remarkable gospel tract God’s Way of Salvation, Alexander Marshall (referred to as AM) is portrayed poignantly in the Pioneer Series, a collection of books recounting the lives of past evangelists and missionaries who labored for the Lord all over world.

Born in Stranrer in Wigstownshire, Scotland, on December 13, 1846, AM was raised in a God-fearing family, receiving early exposure to God’s Word. However, it wasn’t until the age of 19 that, having sought the world’s pleasures without satisfaction, he came under the preaching of Gordon Forlong in Glasglow, Scotland. With the preacher’s repeated cries of “It is finished!” ringing in his soul, he simply trusted the One Who finished the work of salvation.

Never one for half measures, AM began witnessing to friends and co-workers. He painstakingly studied the theological writings of Morison, Ferguson, and Adamson, all early leaders of the movement away from the established church. By the Spirit of God, this teaching, combined with his anti-Calvinist upbringing, became the foundation for his understanding of the principles of atonement, election, and the work of the Holy Spirit. He held open-air meetings, published articles, and became director of the home mission as part of the Evangelical Union to which he belonged. He actively supported D.L. Moody’s Glasgow campaign in 1874, for which he received acknowledgement from such stalwarts of the faith as Andrew Bonar and James Morison.

The author details AM’s association with another young believer, John R. Caldwell. With deep spiritual exercise, Caldwell, AM, and others began meeting in the simplicity of the New Testament church. They practiced believer’s baptism and met on the first day of the week to break bread in a hall on West Campbell Street. This association with the early assemblies characterized AM’s lifelong desire to be guided solely by the Word. In 1877, with commendation from the saints meeting at Hope Hall, Glasgow, and without any visible means of support, AM stepped out in faith to preach the gospel with Philippians 4:19 firmly fixed in his soul: “But my God shall supply all your need.”

Depending upon God to open doors, AM preached the gospel far and wide. From Donald Munro, John Smith, and Donald Ross, AM learned of the need for the gospel in North America. Beginning in 1879, AM preached, sometimes under primitive circumstances, throughout the Canadian Prairies, in Toronto, and in the United States. In 1883, AM married Amy Florence Tate. They settled in Toronto, Ontario, and she became his lifelong help mate in gospel work.

Ahead were fruitful, happy years of labor for the Lord. The author catalogues AM’s travels and the blessing that resulted: to the Pacific Northwest and California, to Reykjavik, Iceland, to Palestine and Egypt at the turn of the century. A visit to Central American coasts by steamer offered a unique time for gospel work amid persecution from Catholic priests. In 1909, New Zealand, South Wales, the West Indies, and Guiana saw God’s hand in salvation and the saints of God encouraged and taught in the Scriptures.

In 1910, AM was in St. Petersburg, Russia, where new liberties were evident to proclaim the gospel. Once home, Canada and the US again became ripe fields of service for this committed laborer. A gospel effort in Detroit is of interest as it was one of AM’s last visits to the US. His final years were spent in his Scottish homeland.

Evangelism and the ministry of the Word were foremost in AM’s labors for the Lord, but he was also a prolific writer. Correspondence, articles for various publications, books, and numerous tracts flowed from his pen over the years. The sincerity of his plain preaching and the vitality of his message are evident in his writing.

One of AM’s most widely distributed contributions was the little booklet, God’s Way of Salvation. Using comparison and contrast, he presents salvation, then answers the classic excuses and difficulties of readers. In his day AM saw the booklet published in eighteen languages with over four million copies in print. Hundreds, if not thousands, have found Christ from reading this booklet (including this reviewer’s father). Long after AM’s home-call in August 1928, this publication continues to be instrumental in the salvation of precious souls.

Mr. Hawthone, author of this excellent work, presents the salient events of AM’s life using notes, writings, pictures, correspondence, and testimonies from saints and assemblies across the world. The book’s value is in the remarkable record of human experiences that molded a character so greatly used by God for the blessing of others. From the barriers at the time of his salvation to discerning the Lord’s will for his life, AM is presented not as the hero of the faith that he rightly is, but as a testament to what God can do with a life, beset by human frailty, that is wholly committed to Him.