Horatius Bonar

Hymns Written

I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say
Not What My Hands Have Done


This Scottish Presbyterian minister and hymn writer came from a long line of Presbyterian ministers and was the brother of John Bonar and Andrew Bonar (the famous Bible commentator and author of “The Memoirs And Remains Of Robert Murray M’Cheyne”)  He, like M’Cheyne and his brothers, studied under Thomas Chalmers at the University of Edinburgh, and took part in “the Great Disruption” in 1843 that led to the founding of the Free Church of Scotland.

He wrote many best-selling (and quite wonderful) books including, “God’s Way of Peace”, “God’s Way of Holiness”, and “The Night Of Weeping.”  He wrote over 600 hymns, yet in his church (the Free Church of Scotland), hymns were never sung in the worship service!  He began to write hymns when after finishing college, he began to do mission work in a an area called Leith, a poor and squalid part of the city (according to E.E. Ryden.)  The children he was trying to minister to were not very fond of singing the metrical Psalms used in the Church of Scotland in those days , and so he began to write hymns of his own for them.  He set his hymns to happy childlike tunes and the children loved them.  One time, near the end of his life, he attempted to sing two of his hymns at a worship service and two of his elders promptly walked out!  His hymns are marked by great devotional warmth and intimacy and many can be found in the 3 volume work, “Hymns Of Faith And Hope.”

Bonar’s wife, Jane Lundie Bonar, also was a hymn writer (she wrote “Fade fade each earthly joy”) and their life was marked by much sorrow as they had five children die in their early years!  He himself suffered greatly during the last two years of his life.  I would recommend anyone to read not only his hymns, but in particular his book “God’s Way Of Peace” (recently reprinted as “The Everlasting Righteousness”)  which is one of the best books on the gospel I have ever read!  He has a wonderfully simple way of explaining the deep things of God in both his books and his hymns.

(by Kevin Twit, 2001)