Favor and Glory
Horatius Bonar was born in Edinburgh, in the year 1808. His education was acquired at the High School, and the University of his native city. He was ordained to the ministry, in the year 1837, and since then has been pastor at Kelso. In the year 1843, he united with the Free Church of Scotland. His reputation as a devoted writer was first gained on the publication of the "Kelso Tracts," of which he was the author. He has also written many additional prose works, any of which have had a very large circulation. Nor is he less favorably known as a devoted verse writer and song of praise-writer. The 3 series of "Songs of Praise of Faith and Hope," have passed through several editions.
Bonar, Horatius, D.D. Dr. Bonar's family has had representatives among the clergy of the Church of Scotland throughout 2 centuries and more. His father, James Bonar, 2nd Solicitor of Excise in Edinburgh, was a man of intelligent power, varied learning, and deep devotion.
Horatius Bonar was born in Edinburgh, December 19, 1808; and schooled in the High School and the University of Edinburgh. After finishing his studies, he was "licensed" to deliver a sermon, and began to be an assistant to the Rev. John Lewis, minister of St. James's, Leith. He was ordained minister of the North Parish, Kelso, on November 30, 1837, but left the Established Church at the "Disruption," in the year May 1848, staying in Kelso as a clergyman of the Free Church of Scotland. The University of Aberdeen conferred on him the doctorate of divinity in the year 1853. In the year 1866, he was transferred to the Chalmers Memorial Church, the Grange, Edinburgh; and in the year 1883, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland.
Dr. Bonar's songs of praises and poems were, he tells us, written amid a great variety of circumstances; in many cases he cannot himself recall these circumstances; they also appeared in several publications, but nearly all have been published or republished in the following:— (i) Songs of the Wilderness, year 1843-4. (2) The Bible, Hymn Book, year 1845. (3) Songs of Praises, Original and Selected, year 1846. (4) Songs of Praises of Faith and Hope, First Series, year 1857; 2nd Series, year 1861; 3rd Series, year 1866. (5) The Tune of the New Creation, year 1872. (6) My Old Letters, a long poem, year 1877. (7) Songs of Praises of the Nativity, year 1879. (8) Communion Songs of Praises, year 1881. Furthermore to numerous prose works, he has also edited The New Jerusalem; a Song of Praise of the Olden Time, year 1852, & c.
Dr. Bonar's poems—including numerous beautiful lyrics, some psalm versions, and interpretations from the Greek and Latin, a large number of songs of praises, and a long meditative poem—are very numerous, too numerous, possibly, for their constant fame as a whole.
Dr. Bonar's scholarship is thorough and vast, and his poems display the grace of style and prosperity of allusion which are the fruit of ripe culture. Affected very moderately by current literary moods, still less by the influence of other devout poetry, they reveal extreme vulnerability to the emotional power which the phases of natural and of religious life exercise; the phases of natural existence being recognized chiefly as conveying and fashioning religious life, used chiefly for depicting religious life, and handled for this purpose with a greater fineness of touch than in the Olney Songs of Praises, and with less conscious motivation than in the Christian Year. As a result of this vulnerability, and from the habitual contemplation of the Second Advent as the era of this world's true bliss, his songs of praises and poems are determined by a tone of pensive reflection, which some might call negativity. But they are more than the record of feeling; another element is supplied by his intelligent and personal grasp of Divine truth, these facts, particularly:—A present of a Substitute, our Blessed Savior; Divine thoughtfulness, righteous, yet free and common in offer; the task of immediate dependence upon the privilege of immediate assurance through that grace; communion with God, especially in the Lord's Supper, respecting which he persists on the privilege of treasuring the highest conceptions which Scripture warrants; and lastly, the Second Advent of our Lord: by his spirited celebration of these and other facts as the source and strength of religious life, his songs of praises are protected from the blight of not healthy, sentimental self-analysis.
To summarize: Dr. Bonar's songs of praises satisfy the most fastidious by their instinctive good taste; they mirror the existence of Christ in the soul, partially, possibly, but with clear accuracy; they win the heart by their tone of tender empathy; they sing the truth of God in ringing notes; and although, when taken as an entire, they are not perfect; however, in reading them, we meet with feeble stanzas, halting rhythm, imperfect rhyme, senseless Iteration; yet a singularly large number has been stamped with validation, both in literary circles and by the Church.
In Great Britain and America, nearly 100 of Dr. Bonar's songs of praises are in common use. They are found in almost all modern songbooks from four in Hymns Ancient & Modern to more than twenty in the American Songs for the Sanctuary, N. Y., 1865-72. The most well-known are, "A few more years shall roll;" "Come, Lord, and tarry not;" "Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face;" "I heard the Voice of Jesus say;" "The Church has stayed long;" and "Your way, not mine, O Lord."
He passed away in Edinburgh on July 31, 1889.
With Dr. Bonar's poetical productions great struggling has been encountered by the historian and annotator because of his thorough indifference to dates and details. It was enough for him that he had composed, and that the Church of Christ accepted and gladly used what, out of the fullness of his heart, he had given her.