Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Bonar, Horatius
BONAR, HORATIUS (1808–1889), Scottish divine, second son of James Bonar, second solicitor of excise, Edinburgh, was born in Edinburgh on 19 Dec. 1808. Educated at the high school and the university of Edinburgh, he had among his fellow-students Robert Murray McCheyne [q. v.] and others, afterwards notable as evangelists. Licensed as a preacher, he did mission work in Leith for a time, and in November 1837 he settled at Kelso as minister of the new North Church founded in connection with Thomas Chalmers's scheme of church extension. He became exceedingly popular as a preacher, and was soon well known throughout Scotland. In his early years at Kelso he anticipated the methods of the evangelical alliance by frequently arranging for eight days or more of united prayer. He began the publication of pamphlets supplementary to his ministerial work, and he gradually produced evangelical books, such as 'God's Way of Peace' and 'The Night of Weeping,' the sale of the former almost immediately disposing of two hundred and eighty-five thousand copies, while of the latter an issue of fifty-nine thousand was speedily exhausted. For the advancement of his work in his congregation and his Sunday-school classes, he began in Leith the composition of hymns, continuing the practice in Kelso and afterwards. He joined the free church in 1843. On 9 April 1853 he received the honorary degree of D.D. from Aberdeen University. He was appointed minister of Chalmers Memorial Church, Edinburgh, on 7 June 1806. He was moderator of the general assembly of the free church in May 1883. A man of extraordinary energy and versatility; Bonar was one of the last among notable Edinburgh preachers to conduct services in the open air, and this he frequently did on a Sunday in addition to the regular work for his congregation. He died in Edinburgh on 31 July 1889.
Bonar married in 1843 Jane Katherine, third daughter of Robert Lundie (d. 1832), minister of Kelso. She sympathised fully with his work, and is herself said to have written religious verse. She predeceased him, as did also several members of his family. He was survived by three daughters and a son, who became a free church minister.
As a hymn-writer Bonar was able to consecrate a passing mood by giving it a tangible expression in verse. His best hymns are spontaneous, fluent, melodious, and devotional. Occasionally they are genuine lyrical poems, as e.g. 'When the weary seeking rest' and 'I heard the voice of Jesus say,' which Bishop Fraser of Manchester thought the best hymn in the language. His 'Hymns of Faith and Hope' were soon sold to the number of 140,729 copies. The standard value of his work is illustrated in the 'Scottish Hymnary'—used in common by the three Scottish presbyterian churches and the Irish presbyterians—in which eighteen of his hymns occur, along with devotional lyrics drawn from all possible sources. Early influenced by Edward Irving, who delivered in Edinburgh three series of lectures on the Apocalypse (1828-9-30), Bonar steadily adhered through life to the belief in the Second Advent, urging his views in 'Prophetic Landmarks' (1847) and the 'Coming and Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ' (1849), as well as in the 'Journal of Prophecy,' which he edited.
Bonar published numerous religious tracts and sermons; edited 'Kelso Tracts,' many of which he wrote; and contributed to the 'Imperial Bible Dictionary' and Smith's 'Bible Dictionary.' He was for a time editor of 'The Presbyterian Review,' 'The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy,' 'The Christian Treasury,' and 'The Border Watch.' He selected devotional readings, which he furnished in some cases with prefaces and notes. His chief works were as follows: 1. 'Songs for the Wilderness,' 1843-4. 2. 'The Bible Hymn-Book,' 1845. 3. 'Hymns Original and Selected,' 1846. 4. 'The Desert of Sinai: Notes of a Journey from Cairo to Beersheba,' 1857. 5. 'Hymns of Faith and Hope' (translated into French), 3rd ser, 1857-61-6. 6. 'The Land of Promise: Notes of a Spring Journey from Beersheba to Sidon,' 1858. 7. 'God's Way of Peace, a Book for the Anxious' (translated into French, German, and Gaelic), 1862. 8. 'Days and Nights in the East, or Illustrations of Bible Scenes,' 1866. 9. 'The Song of the New Creation, and other Pieces, 1872. 10. 'My Old Letters' (a long autobiographical poem), 1877; 2nd edit. 1879. 11 . 'Hymns of the Nativity, and other Pieces,' 1879. 12. 'The White Fields of France: an Account of Mr. M'All's Mission to the Working Men of Paris,' 1879, 13. 'Communion Hymns,' 1881.
John James Bonar (1803-1891), elder brother of Horatius Bonar, born at Edinburgh on 25 March 1803, was trained at the high school and at the university of Edinburgh, and licensed to preach on 25 April 1827. Ordained minister of St. Andrew's, Greenock, on 20 Aug. 1835, he joined the free church (1843), received the degree of D.D. at Edinburgh on 20 April 1883, and celebrated his jubilee on 8 June 1885. A respected and popular preacher, he prepared several religious handbooks, including 'Books of the Bible,' 'Fourfold Creation of God,' 'Mosaic Ritual,' and 'Outline of Prophetic Truth.' He died at Greenock on 7 July 1891.
Andrew Alexander Bonar (1810–1892), the youngest of the three brothers, was born at Edinburgh on 29 Aug. 1810. Latin medallist at high school and Edinburgh University, he was licensed as a preacher in 1835, and, after some experience in Jedburgh and St. George's, Edinburgh, he was ordained minister of Collace, Perthshire, in 1838. He joined the free church in 1843, and on 4 Dec. 1856 he became free church minister of Finnieston, Glasgow, holding the charge till his death on 31 Dec. 1892. He travelled in Palestine in 1839 with R. M. McCheyne, of whom he published a very successful 'Memoir' in 1843. Besides various other short memoirs, pamphlets, and tracts, he wrote: 1. 'Narrative of a Mission to the Jews,' 1842. 2. 'Commentary on Leviticus,' 1845. 3. 'Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms,' 1859. 4. 'Palestine for the Young,' 1865. He edited Samuel Rutherford's 'Letters,' 1862; 2nd edit. 1891. He kept a shorthand diary continuously from 1828 to 1892, the record closing within a few weeks of his death. Of rather limited interest this was extended and edited by his daughter, who published it as 'Andrew A. Bonar, D.D., Diary and Letters,' 1894. It speedily reached its fifth thousand.[Horatius Bonar, D.D. : a Memorial (including an autobiographical fragment); Scotsman, 1 Aug. 1889; Julian's Dict. of Hymnology; John James Bonar, D.D.: a Jubilee Volume; Dr. A. A. Bonar's Diary and Letters; Rev. A. A. Bonar, D.D., by Professor Fergus Ferguson, D.D.]