Bring the Books: Donald Monro, The Pioneer Series by John Ritchie

Scotland has known many times of spiritual revival under such preachers as Rutherford, Cargill, Whitefield, Wesley, Robert Haldane, Andrew Thomson, Robert Murray McCheyne, William Burns, Brownlow North, and Duncan Matheson.

Donald Munro was born June 12, 1839 near the town of Wick in the far north of Scotland into a pious highland home. He was taught old Puritan theology, to fear God, revere the Word of God, observe the Lord’s Day, and live an upright life. The new birth was a necessity. With his parents he often gathered in the home of Donald MacKay to read the Word and sing Psalms. There was no observance of the Lord’s Supper as it was thought an ordained man must dispense it.

He was convicted of his need of salvation listening to Hay MacDowall and converted to Christ six weeks later as Brownlow North explained the truth of John 3:16. It was in the days of revival. Along with a number of other young men he signed a contract to work on the Suez Canal where he was isolated from other believers and was cast upon God.

Returning to Scotland he became a member of the Congregational Church. His interest was in the spread of the gospel and he labored with James Dewar. For seven years he preached in his spare time and finally devoted his full time to gospel work in association with the North East Coast Mission, working among the fishing villages on the north shore of Scotland. In 1870 he resigned to associate himself with the Northern Evangelistic Society which worked further inland. There was much opposition especially from the church ministers.

In 1871 he crossed the Atlantic to visit his two brothers in Parkhill, ON. While there, the Presbyterian minister offered him the use of the church to hold meetings in but he refused knowing it would only end with conflict. He believed there was not a church or a denomination that would allow the whole Bible or the whole truth of God. Renting a building he heralded forth the gospel. A dozen were saved the first 10 days including one of his brothers.

When Donald Munro returned to Scotland, some of his fellow laborers had discovered a new truth in their Bibles – believer’s baptism. He too had been considering it and was baptized the last day of 1871. They met for Bible readings and prayer and discovered also the truth of the Lord’s Supper and became convinced a clergyman was not necessary to carry out Christ’s request, so they kept the remembrance of the Lord Jesus. At that time many new assemblies sprang up across northern Scotland.

Donald Munro and John Smith labored together in the gospel in Scotland and faced a new problem. In many of the areas they preached there was not an assembly and the truths they learned forbade them from coming and going with what was not of God and His Word, not even for a visit. So it left them at times without fellowship.

He returned to Canada in October 1872 and with John Smith began gospel meetings in Parkhill, ON. After the meetings they continued with Bible readings setting forth believer’s baptism, separation from the religious world, and gathering unto the Lord’s Name. An assembly was formed in Parkhill, if not the first, one of the first in Ontario. They moved to Forest, Ontario, where there were a number of believers from North Ireland. They saw souls saved and saints warmed, and taught them the truth of God, and an assembly was established. They moved to Lakeshore, Thedford, Galt, Stratford, Clyde, Hamilton, Toronto, and many other places. The truth of salvation and the pattern of the assembly, as revealed to the apostle Paul by the Lord, became Donald Munro’s guide. He learned the Bible and he obeyed it. Tents became a useful tool for the gospel; conferences were held for the edifying of believers.

Donald Munro settled in Toronto in 1886. He started an annual work in the city using gospel tents which was continued by younger men over the years to the blessing of many.

For 35 years he labored in North America from coast to coast in small villages and large cities. His principles were unchanging. He kept at the preaching of the gospel. He remained separated from denominational associations and from missions. New assemblies were started in full fellowship with one another with no coming and going with gatherings that were started for convenience or by faction. Some of his fellow laborers in North America were Donald Ross (Chicago), John Smith (Cleveland), T.D.W. Muir (Detroit), John McEwen, C.J. Baker (Kansas City), W.P. Douglas (Cleveland), Robert Telfer (Toronto), and Col. Beers. Donald Munro leaves for us a worthy example of godliness: “whose faith follow.”

This book by John Ritchie is a delight to read and deserves our attention.