DONALD ROSS, the veteran Scottish evangelist, was born 11th February, 1823, of Godly parents in Ross-Shire, Scotland, and was brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Twice each day in his home they surrounded the family altar, the Scriptures being read, and God's help, protection, and blessing sought. He intensely disliked "family worship," feigning headache as an excuse for his absence. His description of himself at this time is not at all flattering. He says he was "as proud as a peacock, and as empty as a drum, " and yet he "said " his prayers night and morning, lest God would judge Him. At the age of fifteen, alone among the heather on a hillside, returning from visiting a dying brother, he was brought to a knowledge of the soul-saving truth of the Gospel through the words of John 18. 8: "If ye seek Me, let these go their way."
He was connected with the Established Church of Scotland, but left it at the Disruption of 1843, and identified himself with the Free Church. On his removal to Edinburgh he attached himself to the church of which Mr. Tasker was minister, and actively engaged in evangelistic work. From 1858 to 1860 he was missionary among the miners of Lanarkshire.
In 1860 he was appointed secretary and superintendent of the North East Coast Mission, making the city of Aberdeen his head-quarters. During the ten years that he filled this important and responsible position he was greatly used of God in the conversion of souls. These were the glorious "revival days" when the Holy Spirit worked so wondrously in Scotland. Thousands of persons of all ranks and classes were aroused from their slumber, and were earnestly inquiring what they had to do to be saved. Multitudes were brought to know Him whom to know is life eternal, and openly confessed Christ as their Saviour. Mr. Ross gathered around him a band of earnest, aggressive gospellers. The "war" was carried into the enemy's camp, and citadels of Satan were attacked and captured. In country districts and in fishing villages, in towns and cities, the heralds of the Cross were busy. Brownlow North and James Turner, HayM'Dowall Grant and Reginald Radcliffe, Lord Kintore and Richard Weaver, Gordon Forlong and Harrison Ord, Duncan Matheson and Donald Ross, gathered numerous sheaves of golden grain for the Lord of the harvest. Duncan Matheson and Donald Ross were men of kindred spirits, and were splendid Gospel pioneers. Matheson was accustomed to speak of his friend as "that Caledonian warrior."
Mr. Ross was a diligent student of the Scriptures. As he searched his Bible he became exercised as to his position, and after ten years' service in the North East Coast Mission he resigned. In 1870 he started the Northern Evangelistic Association. A number of evangelists joined him. Soon afterwards that society was dissolved, and he ceased being connected with any society or denomination, meeting with Christians assembling simply in the Lord's Name. He started a monthly paper, the Northern Evangelist and Intelligencer, which was afterwards called the Northern Witness. Since 1888 it has simply been The Witness, and has a world-wide circulation of close on 30,000 monthly.
Edinburgh was the next scene of his labours. A hall was secured and the work was carried on amidst much to discourage. In 1876 he visited the United States of America. There he found many open doors for preaching and teaching. In 1879 he moved his family thither, making Chicago, the metropolis of the west and north-western states, his centre for several years. He and three others began to remember the Lord in the breaking of bread in a tent, which was also used for evangelistic purposes. Amongst the number was a gentleman who had been identified with similar meetings in England. After the breaking of bread he looked at the tent, and remarked, "This is surely outside the camp," and never returned. But Donald Ross kept pegging away at the Gospel. In summer and winter, in rain and snow, in encouraging and discouraging circumstances, the gospeller kept at the Gospel. A number of Christians gathered around him, were baptised, and sought to teach others what the Lord had taught them. In this way the work in that vast and important commercial centre was built up, and to-day there are three or four assemblies of believers meeting on Scriptural lines. Mr. Ross evangelised in Boston, New York, and other American cities, as well as in towns and country districts in Canada.
In 1887 he visited California, and spent a considerable time in San Francisco, making the city on the "Golden Gate" his centre for several years. While in Chicago he started a tract depot in his own house, keeping a stock of tracts, Bibles, and books for Christians. For some twenty years he issued the monthly magazine Our Record, and for a number of years he edited a Gospel paper. In 1894 he went to Kansas City, Missouri, a rising western city, and made that his head-quarters, moving north and south, east and west for Gospel campaigns. In 1901 he returned to Chicago, where he made his home till he was called to higher service on 13th February, 1903.
Mr. Ross was essentially a Gospel preacher. He was more than a preacher and an exhorter. He was a labourer, and he toiled for the perishing; at fairs and races, in tents and halls, in barns and chapels, in music halls and theatres, in cottages and in the open air, he sounded out the wondrous story.
Near the end of his journey he said: "I will be eighty on the 11th February, and if I had other eighty before me, I would spend them in this Gospel of God's grace. There is no other work of such importance in the whole world. All other investments amount to nothing compared with this."