#Otdimjh 19 December 1808 Birth of Horatius Bonar, hymn-writer, philosemite and brother of Andrew Bonar


I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Come unto Me and rest;

Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast.”

I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;

I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.


I heard the voice of Jesus say, “Behold, I freely give

The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live.”

I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;

My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.


I heard the voice of Jesus say, “I am this dark world’s Light;

Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright.”

I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;

And in that light of life I’ll walk, till traveling days are done.

This was one of my favourite hymns as a young believer. I wonder how many Messianic Jews have loved its simple directness, its inviting warmth, and its call to discipleship. So I include Horatius Bonar as a significant entry into Messianic Jewish history. On another occasion we will review the life and work of his brother Andrew, one of four Church of Scotland ministers (along with Robert Murray McCheyne) who undertook a “Mission of Inquiry to the Jews” which began the work of the Church of Scotland in Israel and Hungary in 1841.

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Horatius Bonar(19 December 1808 – 31 May 1889) has been called “the prince of Scot­tish hymn writers.” After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he was ordained in 1838, and became pastor of the North Parish, Kelso. He joined the Free Church of Scot­land after the “Disruption” of 1843, and for a while edited the church’s “The Border Watch”. Bonar remained in Kelso for 28 years, after which he moved to the Chalmers Memorial church in Edinburgh, where he served the rest of his life. Bonar wrote more than 600 hymns.

Horatius Bonar was an advocate for the Jewish people and ministry amongst them. A great preacher and writer, his prose reflects the poetics and rhetorical skills of 19th century preaching at its best. It also reflects a reverse typology of Christians as the younger brother – Abel, Isaac, Jacob – and Jews as the older – Cain, Ishmael, Esau – an unfortunate figuration which plays into the hands of a supersessionist rendition of the relationship between the Church and Israel. But we should not hold this against him, as he was a child of his time, and did the best he could with the theological tradition he inherited. Here is some of his material:

The people of Israel present a most interesting subject for contemplation, and a large sphere for labor. Do you want an important theme to think upon? Here it is. Do you want a field in which to work? Behold it here. Surely no one who thinks on the past history of the Jews, or their present condition or future destiny, can complain of lack of interest in the subject before them. In the Jews we see a people by whom the Bible was written, and to whom, either as history or prophecy, a large part of it refers. These are the fathers, the prophets,and the types; from them came the Savior and his apostles. The lovers of antiquity, the admirers of the marvelous, the expectants of wonders, may all come here and not fear disappointment. Here there is much revealed that is most valuable; and two things, above all others in importance, may be learned by studying the history and prophecies of this wonderful nation; these are, the knowledge of God, and of ourselves. Yes, the Divine character and the human heart may be both traced in the past, the present, and the future of the Jew.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for the life, ministry and gifts of Horatius Bonar, and the way he expressed in hymns and sermons the worship and devotion of a generation gone by. The words he wrote and the thoughts he expressed resonate with us, especially as regards his love and concern for your people Israel. Just as he saw Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel and longed for the Church to be a means of reconciliation between Israel and Yeshua, help us to take further his work of giving a loving and true account of the relationship between Israel, her Messiah, and the nations united and reconciled in the his love. In Yeshua’s name we pray. Amen


Let us speak reverently of the Jew. Let us not misjudge him by present appearances. He is not what he once was, nor what he yet shall be.

Let us speak reverently of the Jew. We have much cause to do so. What, though all Christendom, both of the East and West, has for nearly eighteen centuries treated him as the offscouring of the race? What though Mohammad has taught his followers to revile and persecute the sons of Abraham? . . .

Nay, what though he [the Jew] may have a grasping hand, and a soul shut up against the world,–a world that has done nothing but wrong and revile him? What though he may inherit the crookedness of his father Jacob, instead of the nobility of Abraham, or the simply gentleness of Isaac?

Still let us speak reverently of the Jew,–if not for what he is, at least for what he was, and what he shall be, when the Redeemer shall come to Zion and turn away ungodliness from Jacob [Isa. 59:20; see. Rom. 11:26].

In him we see the development of God’s great purpose as to the woman’s seed, the representative of a long line of kings and prophets, the kinsmen of Him who is the Word made flesh. It was a Jew who sat on one of the most exalted thrones on earth; it is a Jew who sits upon the throne of heaven. It was a Jew who wrought such miracles once on our earth, who spoke such gracious words. It was a Jew who said, “Come unto me and I will give you rest;” and a Jew who said, “Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me.” It was Jewish blood that was shed on Calvary; it was a Jew who bore our sins in His own body on the tree. It was a Jew who died, and was buried, and rose again. It is a Jew who liveth to intercede for us, who is to come in glory and majesty as earthly judge and monarch. It is a Jew who is our Prophet, our Priest, our King.

Let us, then, speak reverently of the Jew, whatever his present degradation may be. Just as we tread reverently the level platform of Moriah, where once stood the holy house where Jehovah was worshipped; so let us tread the ground where they dwell whose are the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and of whom, concerning the flesh, Christ came. That temple hill is not what it was. The beautiful house is gone, and not one stone is left upon another. The
seventeen sieges of Jerusalem, like so many storms rolling the waves of every sea over it, have left few memorials of the old magnificence. The Mosque of the Moslems covers the spot of the altar of burnt-offering; the foot of the Moslem defiles the sacred courts . . . But still the ground is felt to be sacred; the bare rock on which you tread is not common rock; the massive stones built here and there into the wall are witnesses of other days; and the whole scene gathers round it such associations as, in spite of the rubbish, and desolation, and ruin, and pollution, fill you irresistibly with awe . . .

So it is with the Jew,—I mean the whole Jewish nation. There are indelible memories connected with them, which will ever, to anyone who believes in the Bible, prevent them from being contemned; nay, will cast around them a nobility and a dignity which no other nation has possessed or can attain to. To Him in whose purposes they occupy so large a space, they are still “beloved for their fathers’ sake” [Rom. 11:28]. Of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever.

Later Bonar boldly confessed:

I am one of those who believe in Israel’s restoration and conversion; who receive it as a future certainty, that all Israel shall be gathered, and that all Israel shall be saved. As I believe in Israel’s present degradation, so do I believe in Israel’s coming glory and preeminence. I believe that God’s purpose regarding our world can only be understood by understanding God’s purpose as to Israel. I believe that all human calculations as to the earth’s future, whether political or scientific, or philosophical or religious, must be failures, if not taking for their data or basis God’s great purpose regarding the latter-day standing of Israel. I believe that it is not possible to enter God’s mind regarding the destiny of man, without taking as our key or our guide His mind regarding the ancient nation—that nation whose history, so far from being ended, or nearly ended, is only about to begin. And if any one may superciliously ask, What can the Jews have to do with the world’s history?–may we not correctly philosophize on that coming history, and take the bearing of the world’s course, leaving Israel out of the consideration altogether? We say, nay; but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Art thou the framer of the earth’s strange annals, either past or future? Art thou the creator of those events which make up these annals, or the producer of those latent springs or seeds of which these arise?

He only to whom the future belongs can reveal it. He only can announce the principles on which that future is to be developed. And if He set Israel as the great nation of the future, and Jerusalem as the great metropolis of earth, who are we, that, with our philosophy of science, we should set aside the divine arrangements, and substitute for them a theory of man? . . .

I believe that the sons of Abraham are to re-inherit Palestine, and that the forfeited fertility will yet return to that land; that the wilderness and the solitary places shall be glad for them, and the desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose. I believe that, meanwhile, Israel shall not only be wanderers, but that everywhere only a remnant, a small remnant, shall be saved; and that it is for the gathering in of this remnant that our missionaries go forth. I believe that these times of ours (as also all the times of the four monarchies [Dan 2]) are the times of the Gentiles; and that Jerusalem and Israel shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, till the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. I believe that, with the filling up of these times of the Gentile pre-eminence, and the completion of what the apostle calls the fullness of the Gentiles, will be the signal for the judgments which are to usher in the crisis of earth’s history, and the deliverance of Israel, and the long-expected kingdom.

How Jewish history shall once more emerge into its old place of grandeur and miracle, and how it shall unwind from itself the bright future of all nations, I know not. But so it is fore-written, “What shall be and miracle, and how it shall unwind from itself the bright future of all nations, I know not. But so it is fore-written, “What shall be the reconciling of them be, but life from the dead?” [Rom 11:15] “Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” [Isa 27:6].

Israel has been a long time neglected, persecuted, and grievously wronged; let us go, like Jeremiah, and sit down with them amidst their ruins, and in a sympathetic spirit tell them of the Restorer of Israel—the Almighty Repairer of the great breach—the true Antitype of their own Zerubbabel, who can yet build them up “an holy temple, an habitation of God through the Spirit.” While we mourn over their great griefs, their mighty wrongs, and their yet mightier sins, let us gently tell them of “the Man of sorrows,” who is the all-sufficient “consolation of Israel.” We carry God’s own message, prepared by the hand of mercy for the heart of the miserable, and which can, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, win its way through a mountain of stone and a heart of adamantine [stubbornly resolute] hardness. Go, Christian, to thy wandering and fugitive brother, tell him of Blood “which speaketh better things than that of Abe” [Heb. 12:24]—Blood which can cleanse even those who have “gone in the way of Cain” [Jude 11]. Go, in the spirit of Paul, “with our hearts desire and prayer to God, that Israel may be saved” [Rom. 10:1]. Go, “praying in the Holy Spirit” [Jude 20]; and you will give no heed to those who say that “it is of no use preaching the gospel to the Jew.

H.Bonar, “The Jew,” The Quarterly Journal of Prophecy (July 1870):209-11

I ask you, do you actually think God has merged the Church with Israel making in the sense that these people of the anti-judaic persuasion would want you to believe? Yes, Paul has stated in Ephesians: 14. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15. having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16. and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross there by putting to death the enmity. 17. and He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. 18. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. This distinctly speaks of the Mosaic Law, not God’s covenantal promises He’s made with the Jews, which includes Eretz Yisrael. My friend, God is not finished with Israel on an individual basis. I pray that God will open your eyes from this blindness that has infected your vision.


Horatius Bonar, “The Responsibilities Of Christians As Regards The Jews,” The Quarterly Journal of

Prophecy, October, 1855, pp. 347-352.





About richardsh

Messianic Jewish teacher in UK
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