Horatius Bonar – (1808-1889), Scottish churchman and poet
Horatius Bonar had a passionate heart for revival and was a friend and supporter of several revivalists, He was brother to the more well-known Andrew Bonar, and with him defended D. L. Moody’s evangelistic ministry in Scotland. He authored a couple of excellent revival works, one including over a hundred biographical sketches and the other an addendum to Rev. John Gillies’ Historical Collections bringing it up to date.
He was a powerful soul-winner and is well qualified to pen this brief, but illuminating study of the character of true revivalists.
Horatius was in fact one of eleven children, and of these an older brother, John James, and a younger, Andrew, also became ministers and were all closely involved, together with Thomas Chalmers, William C. Burns and Robert Murray M’Cheyne, in the important spiritual movements which affected many places in Scotland in the 1830s and 1840s.
In the controversy known as the “Great Disruption,” Horatius stood firmly with the evangelical ministers and elders who left the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly in May 1843 and formed the new Free Church of Scotland. By this time he had started to write hymns, some of which appeared in a collection he published in 1845, but typically, his compositions were not named. His gifts for expressing theological truths in fluent verse form are evident in all his best-known hymns, but in addition he was also blessed with a deep understanding of doctrinal principles.
Examples of the hymns he composed on the fundamental doctrines include, “Glory be to God the Father”…..on the Trinity. “0 Love of God, how strong and true”…..on Redemption. “Light of the world,” – “Rejoice and be glad” – “Done is the work” on the Person and Work of Christ. “Come Lord and tarry not,” on His Second Coming, while the hymn “Blessed be God, our God!” conveys a sweeping survey of Justification and Sanctification.
In all this activity, his pastoral work and preaching were never neglected and after almost twenty years laboring in the Scottish Borders at Kelso, Bonar moved back to Edinburgh in 1866 to be minister at the Chalmers Memorial Chapel (now renamed St. Catherine’s Argyle Church). He continued his ministry for a further twenty years helping to arrange D.L. Moody’s meetings in Edinburgh in 1873 and being appointed moderator of the Free Church ten years later. His health declined by 1887, but he was approaching the age of eighty when he preached in his church for the last time, and he died on 31 May 1889.
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