Horatius Bonar, a contemporary and acquaintance of Robert Murray M’cheyne was a Scottish churchman and poet. He is principally remembered as a prodigious hymnodist.
He was the son of James Bonar (1758-1821), Solicitor of Excise for Scotland, and his wife Marjory Pyott Maitland. The family lived in the Broughton district of Edinburgh, where he was educated.
He came from a long line of ministers who have served a total of 364 years in the Church of Scotland. One of eleven children, his brothers John James and Andrew Alexander were also ministers of the Free Church of Scotland. He married Jane Catherine Lundie in 1843 and five of their young children died in succession. Towards the end of their lives, one of their surviving daughters was left a widow with five small children and she returned to live with her parents.
In 1853, Bonar earned the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of Aberdeen.
He died at this home, 10 Palmerston Road in the Grange, 31 July 1889. They are buried together in the Canongate Kirkyard.
He entered the Ministry of the Church of Scotland. At first he was put in charge of mission work at St. John’s parish in Leith and settled at Kelso. He joined the Free Church at the time of the Disruption of 1843, and in 1867 was moved to Edinburgh to take over the Chalmers Memorial Church (named after his teacher at college, Dr. Thomas Chalmers). In 1883, he was elected Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland.
He was a voluminous and highly popular author. He also served as the editor for “The Quarterly journal of Prophecy” from 1848 to 1873 and for the “Christian Treasury” from 1859 to 1879. In addition to many books and tracts was a prolific hymnodist; many of his hymns, e.g., “I heard the voice of Jesus say” and “Blessing and Honour and Glory and Power,” became known all over the English-speaking world. His last volume of poetry was My Old Letters. Bonar was also author of several biographies of ministers he had known, including “The Life of the Rev. John Milne of Perth” in 1869, and in 1884 “The Life and Works of the Rev. G. T. Dodds”, who was married to Bonar’s daughter and who died in 1882 while serving as a missionary in France.
His hymns, which number over 140, include:
All Praise to Him Who Built the Hills
All That I Was
Fill thou my life, O Lord, my God
I heard the Voice of Jesus say
I Was a Wandering Sheep
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
O love of God, how strong and true
- Born: 19 December 1808, Edinburgh
- Died: 31 July 1889, Edinburgh
- Family: He married Jane Catherine Lundie and had 5 children
- Notable Works: Several books including the following titles.....The Everlasting Righteousness, God's Way of Holiness, How Shall I Go to God, Night of Weeping, God's Way of Peace & Follow the Lamb.