This enthralling book chronicles Mr. Ross’s salvation while still embedded in the established Church of Scotland, his dedication to preaching the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, (Who moved him to separate himself from denominations), and his incredible awakening to gather to the name of Christ alone.
Our story begins in the death and darkness of the established Church of Scotland where men obtained parishes from Parliament and then settled in comfortably, neglecting the lost. Mr. Ross was born to godly parents in 1824 in the parish of Alness Rosshire, Scotland. In their home, “the Name, the book, the day, the course, and the people of God were held in high esteem.” He witnessed his father’s stand for Christ. His father chose to honor the Lord and leave the established church during the disruption of the Church of Scotland, sacrificing his social and financial well-being for the truth of Scripture.
At age 15, in 1839, beholding his dear brother near death, Mr. Ross realized his lost condition. Within two weeks, he accepted the substitutionary death of Christ for himself through John 18:8. Initially, Mr. Ross was unwilling to repent, but God in great mercy saved him. It was that grace which propelled him to grateful and faithful service the rest of his life.
Mr. Ross, affiliated now with the Free Church of Scotland, which formed after the disruption occurred in 1843, preached the gospel enthusiastically as a layman, as our local brethren do now. He married, began a family, and maintained secular employment while giving himself wholly to shepherd work, weekly preaching, and study of God’s Word. God “squeezed him out” into full-time preaching when his secular job and all other opportunities were taken away.
A Christian owner of an iron works in New Mains, Lanarkshire, asked him to attend to the spiritual needs of his miners. In these rough mining villages, Mr. Ross worked under the hostility of the established church to comfort lost, laboring souls. He witnessed accidents and lives filled with sorrow, and his only remedy was the gospel. He held kitchen meetings, visited homes, prayed, read the Word, and brought eternal truths before men. His earnest care for souls, coupled with utter dependence on the Holy Spirit, produced much fruit in salvation. His heart, overwhelmed with the great need of perishing souls, longed for more usefulness.
At that point, the Lord sent him to the coast among tough fishing villages to preach with the Northeast Coast mission, which was an interdenominationally supported venture. God used this man mightily and many souls were saved despite further opposition from the established church. Mr. Ross always sent those who were saved back to the church but realized there was not godly, Spirit-led teaching or true life in the established church. During this time, while meditating on the Scriptures and experiencing a deep need of the Holy Spirit, Mr. Ross realized his current arrangement was spiritually wrong. After much prayer, Mr. Ross embarked on a novel adventure. He would establish the Northern Evangelistic Society and preach the gospel solely supported by “the Living and Eternal God.” Any man who would join him would not take pay or position, only what God provided. Here we again see the principle that a soul, obediently and faithfully seeking the eternal God, will be led closer to the truth.
In short sequence thereafter, around 1870, following closer to the God of the Scriptures, Mr. Ross saw the truth of believers’ baptism and the need to remember the Lord. Amazingly, the truth of Matthew 18:20 was unlocked to him after he was baptized by immersion. At that point, he resigned from the Northern Evangelistic Society and purchased a small chapel where he preached the gospel solidly for two years and in 1871 gathered for the first time to the name of the Lord Jesus and broke bread. Around this time, God independently awakened other men like Rice T. Hopkins, Samuel Blow, and H. P. Mackay who also brought souls to Christ and taught them from Scripture to gather alone in that name which is above every name. Thus assemblies developed in northern Scotland, spreading until this present day, culminating in a great many of our current assemblies in North America.
Mr. Ross clearly possessed a pioneering spirit and in 1876 crossed the Atlantic to America after the word came to him in fresh power to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel.” He began preaching in Boston, worked in the summer heat of Canada, and then moved west to Indiana, Chicago, Kansas City, Pomona (California), and finally into the south near Savannah, during the time after the American Civil War in 1876-1903.
His life and ministry were fresh, challenging, and Spirit-led. He encouraged many young men like Donald Munro and T. D. W. Muir, who had great impact on the assemblies of the Midwest and Detroit. He spoke with great force and solemnity yet with melting tenderness in the power of the Holy Ghost. Mr. Ross “died in harness” at the age of 79 in 1903, two days after preaching the gospel in another new area in Savannah, Georgia. One of his last statements was, “when the Lord comes I want only enough time to shout … Christ Died for the Ungodly!” Brethren, may we walk like our devoted brother Donald Ross, a man who yielded to the Word of God, a fellow-worker who wholly experienced the power of the Holy Spirit, and a soul who drew nearer to the heart of God!