Horatius Bonar - Project Gutenberg eText 13103

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889), from Great Britain and Her Queen, 1897. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Horatius Bonar
Born December 19 1808(1808-Template:MONTHNUMBER-19)
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died May 31 1889(1889-Template:MONTHNUMBER-31) (aged 80)
Nationality Scottish
Occupation churchman, poet

Rev. Horatius Bonar (19 December 1808 - 31 May 1889) was a Scottish poet, churchman, and hymnist.



Bonar was a son of James Bonar Solicitor of Exise for Scotland. He was born and educated in Edinburgh, entered the Ministry of the Church of Scotland, and was settled at Kelso. He joined the Free Church at the Disruption in 1843, and in 1867 was translated to Edinburgh. In 1853 he was made D.D. of Aberdeen. He was a voluminous and highly popular author, and in addition to many books and tracts wrote a number of hymns, many of which, e.g., "I heard the voice of Jesus say," are known all over the English-speaking world. A selection of these was published as Hymns of Faith and Hope (3 series). His last volume of poetry was My Old Letters.[1]

Youth and educationEdit

Bonar was born and educated in Edinburgh, the 2nd son of James Bonar, Solicitor of Excise for Scotland.[2] One of 11 children, he came from a long line of ministers who had served a total of 364 years in the Church of Scotland. His brothers John James and Andrew Alexander also became ministers of the Free Church of Scotland.[3]

He was educated at the high school and the university of Edinburgh.[2]


Licensed as a preacher, he did mission work in Leith for a time, and in November 1837 he settled at Kelso as minister of the new North Church. He became exceedingly popular as a preacher, and was soon well known throughout Scotland. He began the publication of pamphlets supplementary to his ministerial work, and he gradually produced evangelical books, such as God's Way of Peace and The Night of Weeping,' the sale of the former almost immediately disposing of 285,000 copies, while of the latter an issue of 59,000 was speedily exhausted.[2]

For the advancement of his work in his congregation and his Sunday-school classes, he began in Leith the composition of hymns, continuing the practice in Kelso and afterwards.[2] His Hymns of Faith and Hope sold to the number of 140,729 copies.[4]

Early influenced by Edward Irving, who delivered in Edinburgh 3 series of lectures on the Apocalypse (1828-1829-1830), Bonar steadily adhered through life to the belief in the Second Advent, urging his views in Prophetic Landmarks (1847) and the Coming and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ (1849), as well as in the Journal of Prophecy, which he edited.[4]

Bonar published numerous religious tracts and sermons; edited 'Kelso Tracts,' many of which he wrote; and contributed to the Imperial Bible Dictionary and Smith's 'Bible Dictionary.' He was for a time editor of The Presbyterian Review, The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy, The Christian Treasury, and The Border Watch.' He selected devotional readings, which he furnished in some cases with prefaces and notes.[4]

Bonar married in 1843 Jane Katherine, third daughter of Robert Lundie (died 1832), minister of Kelso. She sympathised fully with his work, and is herself said to have written religious verse. She predeceased him, as did also several members of his family.[2]

He joined the free church in 1843. He was appointed minister of Chalmers Memorial Church, Edinburgh, on 7 June 1866. He was moderator of the general assembly of the free church in May 1883.[2]

A man of extraordinary energy and versatility; Bonar was one of the last among notable Edinburgh preachers to conduct services in the open air, and this he frequently did on a Sunday in addition to the regular work for his congregation.[2]

He died in Edinburgh on 31 July 1889. He was survived by 3 daughters and a son, who became a free church minister.[2]


As a hymn-writer Bonar was able to consecrate a passing mood by giving it a tangible expression in verse. His best hymns are spontaneous, fluent, melodious, and devotional. Occasionally they are genuine lyrical poems, as e.g. 'When the weary seeking rest' and 'I heard the voice of Jesus say,' which Bishop Fraser of Manchester thought the best hymn in the language.[4]

The standard value of his work is illustrated in the Scottish Hymnary — used in common by the three Scottish presbyterian churches and the Irish presbyterians — in which 18 of his hymns occur, among devotional lyrics drawn from all possible sources.[4]

His chief works were as follows: 1. 'Songs for the Wilderness,' 1843-4. 2. 'The Bible Hymn-Book,' 1845. 3. 'Hymns Original and Selected,' 1846. 4. 'The Desert of Sinai: Notes of a Journey from Cairo to Beersheba,' 1857. 5. 'Hymns of Faith and Hope' (translated into French), 3rd ser, 1857-61-6. 6. 'The Land of Promise: Notes of a Spring Journey from Beersheba to Sidon,' 1858. 7. 'God's Way of Peace, a Book for the Anxious' (translated into French, German, and Gaelic), 1862. 8. 'Days and Nights in the East, or Illustrations of Bible Scenes,' 1866. 9. 'The Song of the New Creation, and other Pieces, 1872. 10. 'My Old Letters' (a long autobiographical poem), 1877; 2nd edit. 1879. 11 . 'Hymns of the Nativity, and other Pieces,' 1879. 12. 'The White Fields of France: an Account of Mr. M'All's Mission to the Working Men of Paris,' 1879, 13. 'Communion Hymns,' 1881.[4]

His hymns include:

  • Fill thou my life, O Lord, my God
  • I heard the Voice of Jesus say
  • Thy way, not mine, O Lord
  • Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face
  • A few more years shall roll
  • Come Lord and tarry not


On 9 April 1853 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from Aberdeen University.[2]


Poetry and hymnsEdit



Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat.[5]

See also Edit

Horatius Bonar - I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

Horatius Bonar - I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say


  • Julian, John (June, 1907). A Dictionary of Hymnology. London: John Murray. pp. 161–162. 
  • Bailey, Albert Edward (1950). The Gospel in Hymns. New York: Charles Scribner's sons. pp. 451–455. 


  1. John William Cousin, "Bonar, Horatius," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 40. Web, Dec. 15, 2017.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Bayne, 231.
  3. Horatius Bonar, Wikipedia, October 2, 2017, Wikimedia Foundation. Web, Dec. 15, 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 Bayne, 232.
  5. Search results = au:Horatius Bonar, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 6, 2014.

External linksEdit

Poems and hymns
Audio / video
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