Donald Ross (John 18:8)

The town of Alness is located on the pleasant shores of the Cromarty Firth, overlooked by gentle rolling hills. It was there, on February 11, 1824, that Donald Ross was born. Although he was raised in a God-fearing home, and was a moral young boy, he knew there was a vast difference between his morality and the godliness of his parents. It was the serious illness of his brother Duncan that spoke deeply to him. When he realized his brother might die, he thought, “If that was me, where should I go?” The answer came quickly: “If that was me, I should go to hell and be lost forever.” Those thoughts troubled him for a number of days. A short time later, as he was walking to Inchdown and feeling thoroughly lost, he “bowed his knees among the heather and cried to God for mercy.” When no relief came, he rose from his knees, thinking, “I am surely lost; I can do nothing … All at once that Scripture in John 18:8 flashed through my mind with great force and brilliancy, ‘If ye seek Me, let these go their way’ … At once my mind reverted to the Cross, and then I saw the fact: Jesus pouring out His life a sacrifice for me, His precious blood shed on my behalf … Instantly I comprehended what substitution meant. The work was done. Christ died for my sins eighteen hundred years ago, and the way of God to me was opened up, and so was my way to God. I closed with Christ there and then as my own personal Saviour. I trusted Him. I received Him. I rested on Him. The glorious truth flashed before me, ‘Christ died for my sins.’”

Donald Ross would go on to become a mighty evangelist, preaching the Gospel in many parts of Great Britain, Canada, the US, New Zealand, and Australia. He especially loved to hold tent meetings and delighted in “pioneer” work, blazing a trail for others to follow. He continued serving the Lord until the day of his death, and went to be with Christ his Master on February 13, 1903.

Donald Ross had learned the painful truth that we all belong to a disqualified race. That no one “can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him.” Our helplessness stems from our being sinners, already condemned, guilty before God. It is impossible for a guilty sinner to pay for his own sins, let alone the sins of others. John the Apostle, in Revelation chapter 5, wrote about this when he recorded that there was no one in heaven, on earth, or under the earth that could take in hand the work of rescuing sinners and reclaiming Planet Earth from its bondage. It was when the horror of this broke on John’s thinking that he was directed to the One Person Who can redeem sinners, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ is the Savior of sinners; He is the divine Redeemer. His sinless nature qualifies Him to be the Redeemer and, as the eternal Son of God, the infinite value of His atoning blood enables Him to offer salvation to the world. It was the great truth of substitution that dawned on Donald Ross – that Christ had taken his place, answering to God for all that Donald Ross could not pay. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus interposed Himself between His helpless disciples and the armed mob that had burst into the garden. He allowed Himself to be taken so that they could go free. What a marvelous picture of Calvary: Christ interposed Himself between the sinner and the righteous judgment those sins deserved! The sinners’ Substitute paid the debt and accomplished the work of redemption. The truth of this was enough for Donald Ross in the 19th century. Is it enough for you in the 21st?

A trembling soul, I sought the Lord; I knew my guilt, my sins deplored.

How welcome was His Word to me,
He took my place and died for me!

No other hope, no other plea,
He took my place and died for me.

The willing Lamb of Calvary!
He took my place and died for me.

No room for doubts, no room for fears, when to my view the cross appears.

My joyful song shall ever be,
He took my place and died for me.