His Hymns Make Souls Really feel Entire


If you could pick a century and a nation, not to reside in, but to check out in order to listen to preaching, what would it be?

A case could be created for the sixteenth century if you appreciate Geneva, and Calvin is a hero to you. There is undoubtedly anything appealing about London in the seventeenth century — think about hearing John Bunyan, Thomas Watson, John Owen, and dozens of other folks — some of them preaching inside a handful of minutes’ stroll of every other. Or possibly you would choose to be there two centuries later to hear C.H. Spurgeon.

For myself, I assume I would pick “my ain folk” and check out Scotland in the mid-nineteenth century. To be capable to hear Thomas Chalmers, Hugh Martin, William Cunningham, George Smeaton, William Chalmers Burns, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, John Kennedy of Dingwall, John MacDonald of Ferintosh. That would be a treat.

I belong to St Peter’s Totally free Church in Dundee. Robert Murray M’Cheyne was our initial minister. Occasionally I lean against the wall and whimsically ask it, “What was it like in the 1830s and early 1840s?” Sitting right here I may well, at occasions, have been capable to hear a minister with poetry in his soul — Horatius Bonar.

Undivided Service

Horatius Bonar was born into a comfy middle-class family members in Edinburgh in 1808 and died there in 1889. His father was a solicitor (lawyer), but the Bonar family members line gave quite a few ministers to the Presbyterian Church — such as his older brother John James, and the superior-identified younger brother Andrew.

Horatius Bonar’s life is just told. Andrew Somerville, one particular of the close-knit “M’Cheyne Circle” of his student days, mentioned, following his death:

He lived for the extended space of eighty years preserving a Christian and unblemished life in this globe of sin, treachery, and unrighteousness. From the day of his conversion at an early season of life, he laid all the sources of his getting at the feet of Jesus, consecrating his scholarship, his distinguished skills, and all the energies of his nature, that he may well undividedly serve on earth his heavenly Master.

Horatius (“Horace” to his good friends) graduated from the University of Edinburgh, was an assistant minister in Leith (the city’s port), served faithfully from 1837 in the Scottish Borders town of Kelso, and then was known as in 1866 to the new charge of Chalmers Memorial Church in Edinburgh (named immediately after his fantastic professor). Right here he ministered till his death in 1889.

Through his life he edited different Christian magazines, such as The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy (he was deeply committed to premillennial eschatology), wrote quite a few outstanding tracts (he had a fantastic heart for pointing other folks to Christ), and a quantity of ideal-promoting books (God’s Way of Peace and God’s Way of Holiness getting possibly the ideal identified they are nonetheless in print these days). In 1843, at The Disruption, he was one particular of much more than 4 hundred ministers who sacrificed their livings and manses in the Church of Scotland to type the Totally free Church of Scotland.

Bonar requested that no biography of him must be written (despite the fact that he himself wrote two biographies of other folks), and these who knew him ideal honored his request. But there is so a lot that could be written about his faithfulness in ministry, his friendships, and his fruitfulness. He skilled deep wounds throughout his life in the loss of 5 youngsters sometimes he was caught up in sharp controversy — on one particular occasion more than his assistance for D.L. Moody, on a different more than the use of hymns (rather than only psalms, and in some situations, paraphrases) in public worship. To inform these stories would call for a separate essay. But two functions of his ministry inform us a lot about the man.

Let the Young children Study

The initial is his operate with young men and women. From the starting, as a young assistant minister in Leith, he invested his energetic enjoy in pointing young men and women to faith in Christ and obtaining techniques of nurturing them in God’s grace. He loved them and was loved by them in return. “The youngsters he met would normally run up to him in the street, claiming a sort of home in him,” remembered a pal. A single of these youngsters mentioned about him,

I often wonder if any individual else ever possessed the faculty that he had of drawing towards him the affection of young men and women, which, when you had been after brought below the charm of his friendship, could under no circumstances afterwards be lost or lessened. How effectively I recall his class for us girls! We would not for all the globe have missed that hour on Wednesday afternoon.

I assume I see the small space underneath the dear old church exactly where we gathered, a vibrant, content band of college-girls, sitting about to listen to his earnest, loving, faithful teaching. I see Dr. Bonar seated at the finish of the extended table with the huge Bible spread out just before him, the Bible hymn book in his hand, his dear handsome face beaming, and the pleasant smile which lighted it up, as some of us gave a fuller, clearer answer than he anticipated to the query asked.

And then the final meeting just before the holidays what a solemn hour it was, as he reminded us that under no circumstances once again right here under must we all meet with each other, and spoke of the meeting-spot above. All kneeling down, to be every tenderly commended to the loving care of our heavenly Father, bathed in tears, we could hardly tear ourselves away, lingering extended immediately after the usual time.

It is a fantastic mark of grace, certainly, when a minister of the gospel endears himself to youngsters in this way. For this was also a man who was no shrinking violet and was resolutely opposed to any distortions of the gospel.

Poetry in His Soul

It was initially for such youngsters that he started writing hymns. In total, he wrote about six hundred, which, of course, are not all of equal merit. But considering that his time, most hymnbooks — exactly where they are nonetheless in use these days — involve a quantity of his compositions.

Bonar’s hymns are normally straightforward, but not simplistic poetic and however clearly theological and the ideal of them concentrate on the particular person of the Lord Jesus, his atoning operate, coming to him in faith, living unreservedly for him, and anticipating future glory.

In these hymns, the heart of the gospel is constantly identified in Jesus Christ, at the cross, in substitutionary atonement. For him — as for Paul — this was a private operate of Christ, achieved in enjoy for us, on our behalf and in our spot (“The Son of God . . . loved me and gave himself for me,” Galatians two:20). And though he wanted to express all this just and memorably for young men and women, he did so in such a way that the oldest and most mature are deeply moved by the profundity of it all.

Right here is “The Operate That Saves”:

Completed is the operate that saves,
As soon as and forever carried out
Completed the righteousness
That garments the unrighteous one particular.

And this enjoy, expressed at the cross, is an ongoing reality for the Christian:

The enjoy that blesses us under
Is flowing freely to us now.

The sacrifice of Christ and its implications are vividly described with an economy of words that not only give clear articulation to biblical teaching, but also vividly bring the reality of the cross just before our eyes, viewed by means of biblically-crafted lenses. Notice the visual and emotional energy of the second and specifically the third line of the subsequent verse:

The sacrifice is o’er,
The veil is rent in twain,
The mercy-seat is red
With blood of victim slain

Excellent Gospel Poetry

Bonar tends to make direct private application so that we uncover ourselves as evangelists to one particular a different as we sing:

Why stand ye then without the need of, in worry?
The blood divine invites us close to.

Other hymns with a comparable concentrate, creatively reworked, come to thoughts, such as “The Substitute”:

I lay my sins on Jesus,
The spotless Lamb of God
From all their guilt he frees us
He bears himself the load.

I lay my want on Jesus,
All fulness dwells in him
He heals all my ailments,
My soul he doth redeem.

I lay my griefs on Jesus,
He requires them all from me
I cast my cares on Jesus,
My shield and tower is he.

I give myself to Jesus,
This weary soul of mine
His proper hand me embraces,
I on his breast recline.

This is not Milton or Shakespeare. Bonar himself utilized to say it “might be superior gospel, but it was not superior poetry.” But in terms of gospel communication, it is multum in parvo, a lot in a small: the purity of Christ our sacrifice, the heart of his operate in substitution, the activity of faith, the fullness of Christ to save to the uttermost, to comfort and strengthen, the recognition that the Christian life is not straightforward (“This weary soul of mine”), the possibility of intimate fellowship with Christ, all punctuated by biblical allusions and in only 4 straightforward verses and significantly less than ninety words.

Entire-Souled Hymns

Other, and superior identified, hymns come to thoughts. They also are characteristically complete of biblical allusion and warm Reformed theology. Bonar wrote Colossians three:16 Hymns which (1) lead to the word of Christ to dwell in us richly, (two) are spiritual songs (in the sense that they are undoubtedly in harmony with Spirit-offered Scripture!), (three) give us techniques of teaching and admonishing one particular a different, and (four) support us to make melody to the Lord in our hearts. The lines may possibly be straightforward, but they are under no circumstances banal, and constantly create a theme, make private application, and lift the soul in praise to God.

“Blessing, and honor, and glory, and energy,” primarily based on Revelation five, is a amazing instance of that final characteristic, as it brings us in a complete-souled way to share in the doxology of heaven. Other folks, such as “Not what I am, O Lord, but what thou art! That, that alone can be my soul’s correct rest” illustrate Bonar’s capability to hold with each other the basic objectivity of the gospel with private appropriation of it. A deeply experiential preacher and writer, he effectively recognized that to concentrate exclusively, or even predominantly, on the subjective can rapidly leave us spiritually bankrupt, and however at the exact same time he draws out the affections in worship.

Head, Heart, and Hands

All Horatius Bonar’s hymnody was poetry but since he was a poetic soul, not all his poetry was hymnody. Certainly, he expressed his deepest feelings about all the things in poetry. In “Lucy” (written in August 1858 on the death of a beloved daughter), he writes out his discomfort in the presence of the Lord:

All evening we watched the ebbing life,
As if its flight to remain
Till, as the dawn was coming up,
Our final hope passed away.

And then this heartrending contrast:

She was the music of our household,
A day that knew no evening,
The fragrance of our garden-bower
A point all smiles and light

Right here we get a glimpse of what added pathos to each his writing and his preaching (and what is certainly an necessary but often absent characteristic of actual preaching) — the marriage of logos (effective biblical reasoning), with ethos (a life integrated with and illustrating the fruit of that biblical reasoning), bound up with pathos (the expression of affections and feelings that match and express the truth that is getting proclaimed).

Lyrics With out Music

There is an critical litmus test for what we sing: Does this hymn or song instruct me biblically and move me affectionately even when there is no musical accompaniment? If without the need of the rhythms and melody of the accompanying music, the words of a song or hymn fail this test, it is probably that the music is moving me much more than the gospel.

We do not, and likely must not, sing all of Bonar’s hymns these days. But handful of if any modern day hymnwriters surpass him in simplicity and gospel profundity, and it would be a sad loss to any church not to be familiar with at least a brief catalog of his hymns. I assume right here of:

  • A handful of much more years shall roll
  • All that I was, my sin, my guilt
  • Come, mighty Spirit, penetrate, this heart and soul of mine
  • Father, our youngsters preserve
  • For the bread and for the wine
  • Glory be to God the Father
  • Go, labor on commit and be spent
  • He liveth extended who liveth effectively
  • I hear the words of enjoy
  • Into the heaven of heavens has he gone
  • No, not despairingly come I to thee
  • Not what I am O Lord, but what thou art
  • O enjoy of God, how powerful and correct
  • These are the crowns that we shall put on
  • This is the day of fellowship and enjoy
  • Thy way, not mine, O Lord
  • Thy performs, not mine, O Christ

Who has not felt the tug of gospel truth in possibly his most often sung hymn, “I heard the voice of Jesus say, Come unto me and rest”? Or who, possessing tasted communion with the Lord Jesus at the Lord’s Table, can doubt that their encounter has been wonderfully described, and its which means marvelously illumined, by his hymn “This do in remembrance of me”? In Scotland it has normally been the custom to sing these 3 stanzas just before the Supper is served:

Right here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face
Right here would I touch and manage issues unseen,
Right here grasp with firmer hand th’eternal grace,
And all my weariness upon thee lean.

Right here would I feed upon the bread of God,
Right here drink with thee the royal wine of heav’n
Right here would I lay aside every earthly load,
Right here taste afresh the calm of sin forgiv’n.

This is the hour of banquet and of song
This is the heav’nly table spread for me:
Right here let me feast, and feasting, nonetheless prolong
The short, vibrant hour of fellowship with thee.

Then these verses following the enjoyment of the Supper:

Also quickly we rise the symbols disappear
The feast, although not the enjoy, is previous and gone
The bread and wine get rid of, but thou art right here,
Nearer than ever, nonetheless my Shield and Sun.

I have no support but thine, nor do I want
A different arm save thine to lean upon:
It is adequate, O Lord, adequate certainly
My strength is in thy may well, thy may well alone.

Mine is the sin, but thine the righteousness
Mine is the guilt, but thine the cleansing blood
Right here is my robe, my refuge, and my peace:
Thy blood, thy righteousness, O Lord my God.

Feast immediately after feast as a result comes and passes by,
But, passing points to the glad feast above,
Providing sweet foretaste of the festal joy,
The Lamb’s fantastic bridal feast of bliss and enjoy.

Bonar’s hymns outlasted the fads and fashions of his day and continue to speak to ours. It is testimony to their worth that music-makers wed them to diverse tunes in order to sing them for the increasing generation.

Nonetheless these days we can rejoice that Horatius Bonar identified a way of expressing his theology, poetry, and heart’s doxology in hymnody. And considering that we are commanded to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and make melody to the Lord in our hearts, possibly we must be praying much more than we do that God will raise up other folks like him these days.

We nonetheless want pastors with poetry in their soul.


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