Category Archives: Horatius Bonar
On John 7:37 [“On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’”], Bonar writes:
“Who are they who need this living water? Not heathens; not profane and irreligious; but Jews; religious Jews; engaged in the worship of God, at one of their most joyful feasts. This is remarkable.
In the fourth chapter it is to the Samaritan that he presents the cup of living water. In the book of the Revelation, it is offered indiscriminately to all, Jew and Gentile. So also in the fifty-fifth of Isaiah. But here it is to the Jew, the religious Jew. He is the thirsty one, he needs living water.
His rites, and feasts, and sacrifices cannot fill him, nor quench his thirst. He has still a deep void within,—an intense thirst, which calls for something more spiritual and divine. It is not then to the idolatrous pagan that the Lord speaks; not merely to the lover of pleasure or lust; the heedless sinner. It is to the men who frequent the sanctuary,—who pray and praise outwardly; who go to the Lord’s table. It is to them He speaks. Perhaps the thirstiest of our race are to be found among our so-called religious men,—and I do not mean the hypocrite or Pharisee,—but those who, with devout conscientiousness, attend to what are called religious duties in all their parts.
They go through the whole round and routine of service, but they are not happy. They are still thirsty and weary. This external religiousness helps to pacify conscience, but it does not make them happy. Sabbath comes after Sabbath, and finds them in their place in the sanctuary, but they are not happy. It is a form or a performance; an empty vessel. They are just where they were. There are multitudes of such in our day; in our churches; at our communion tables, To them Jesus speaks, ‘If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.’ Duties, ceremonies, and performances cannot make you happy. They are a weariness. They leave you often more thirsty than before. But deal with Jesus, as God’s gift, as the dispenser of God’s gift,—you will find in Him the fountain of living water.”
—Horatius Bonar, Light and Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes (Dust & Ashes, 2002), 2:250—251.
“We cannot but hate death,
even when we have ceased to fear it,
and know that for us its sting has been extracted.
We hate it,
and thrust it from us;
loathing its advances,
and waging daily war with it—
seeking by every appliance of skill to overcome it and ward off its stroke.
We hate it because of its
and its coldness,
and its silence.
We hate it as the great robber
of our loves and joys,
who gives nothing but takes everything.
It cuts so many ties;
it rends so many hearts;
it silences so many voices;
it thins so many firesides;
it comes with its dark veil,
its screen of ice,
between friend and friend,
between soul and soul,
between parent and child,
between husband and wife,
between sister and brother.
Of human sympathies it has none;
it concerns not itself about our joys or sorrows;
it spares no dear one,
and restores no lost one;
it is pitiless and dumb;
it is as powerful as it is inexorable,
striking down the weak,
and wrestling with the strong
till they succumb and fall. …
Its history is one of evil,
not of good;
of breaking down,
not of building up;
not of gathering;
not of light;
and tossings to and fro,
not of health and brightness. …
Death has been the sword of law for ages;
but when it has done its work on earth,
God takes this sword,
red with the blood of millions,
snaps it in pieces before the universe,
and casts its fragments into the flame. …
We preach Jesus and the resurrection;
Jesus the resurrection and the life;
Jesus our life.
We bring glad tidings concerning this risen One,
and that finished work of which resurrection is the seal;
glad tidings concerning God’s free love in connection with this risen One.
The knowledge of this risen One is
Oh then, what is there in our dying world like this to impart consolation and gladness?
We shall not die,
Eternity is a life,
and not a death;
a life with Christ,
and a life in Christ.
For the Lamb that is in the midst of the throne
shall lead us to the living fountains of waters,
and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes.”
—Horatius Bonar, Light and Truth: Bible Thoughts and Themes (Dust & Ashes, 2002), 5:229—236.
Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar
In his exposition of Psalm 80, Augustine defines idolatry as the inability to break from “earthbound thoughts.” His understanding of idolatry stretches to encompass a communion of idolaters—of “pagans” and “heretics,” of both the polytheistic man clutching an armful of gods, and the man who identifies himself as a Christian yet whose so-called faith does not extend beyond what is seen. For Augustine, the link here between the “pagan” and the “heretic” is a paralleled inability to interpret this world by the eternal hope and promise in Christ. The antithesis of idolatry, for Augustine, is not to gain more “spirituality,” but to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).
Augustine’s understanding of idolatry must surely have been shocking, especially to the professing Christians who were forced to stop and ask themselves a simple question: Is my religion based upon anything more than “earthbound thoughts”?
The echo of Augustine’s exhortation—delivered almost 1600 years ago—continues to be an important in light of various influences (like theological liberalism) where it’s not uncommon to hear Christianity described in words that carry little more significance than “earthbound thoughts.” Talk of heaven and talk of hell—both used by Christ as motivating factors for decisions in this life—can too easily become unpopular themes in contemporary books and sermons. And too frequently they are not part of our thinking as individual Christians.
Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy
I was reminded of Augustine’s challenge to the “communion of idolaters” when I saw Reformation Heritage Book’s new title, Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). Here Bonar models for us how to interpret the difficult circumstances of our life on earth in light of the eternal promises and purposes of God.
Let me briefly outline the content of the book, and provide an “above-minded” excerpt at the end.
Night of Weeping
In the first half of the book, Bonar explains the nature of God’s discipline towards his children. God disciplines his children out of his eternal character—his love, wisdom, faithfulness, and power. This discipline is a training of the mind, will, heart, and conscience. God uses bodily sickness, bereavement, and adversity as he sets to work refining, sifting, pruning, and polishing. During this discipline our comforts come in several forms—Jesus weeps with us as we partake of his suffering, he reassures us in his word that all things work together for our good, he pours out special grace in every trial, he uses our afflictions as an opportunity to glorify God, he makes us useful here on earth, he supplies the means of mortifying sin, and he provides the Holy Spirit to comfort us.
In our age, which sometimes teeters on an overdose of “temporal spirituality,” the eternal spirituality and glory we are being prepared for can be easily forgotten. Life in Christ is preparation for something greater—”the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Bonar calls us to pay attention to the suffering and trials of this life because God is at work in all of the trials and struggles of this life, to prepare us for something greater, more gracious, and more glorious.
Simply stated, our trials are God’s means of purifying our desires and preparing us for the “pleasures forevermore” awaiting those who have been washed in the blood of the Lamb!
Morning of Joy
The second half of the book details these eternally glorious promises of God. God disciplines us now, to prepare us eternally. This connection is important as we fend of the encroaching idolatry in our own hearts. Throughout the book, Bonar encourages us to look beyond the circumstances in life and to the eternal weight of glory. Here is a lengthy excerpt from chapter 12, “The Glory.”
In those vast blocks of unquarried rock what various forms are lying concealed! What shapes of statuary or architecture are there! Yet they have no history. They can have none. They are but parts of a hideous block, in which not one line or curve of beauty is visible. But the noise of hammers is heard. Man lifts up his tool. A single block is severed. Again he lifts up his tool, and it begins to assume a form; till, as stroke after stroke falls on it, and touch after touch smooths and shapes it, the perfect image of the human form is seen, and it seems as if the hand of the artist had only been employed in unwrapping the stony folds from that fair form, and awakening it from the slumber of its marble tomb. From the moment that the chisel touched that piece of rock its history began.
Such is the case of a saint. From the moment that the hand of the Spirit is laid on him to begin the process of separation, from that moment his history begins. He then receives a conscious, outstanding personality, that fits him for having a history—a history entirely marvelous; a history whose pages are both written and read in heaven; a history which in its divine brightness spreads over eternity. His true dignity now commences. He is fit to take a place in history. Each event in his life becomes worthy of a record. “The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.” …
“The wise shall inherit glory” (Prov. 3:35). “The saints shall be joyful in glory” (Ps. 149:5). They are “vessels of mercy, afore prepared unto glory” (Rom. 9:23). That to which we are called is “eternal glory” (1 Peter 5:10). That which we obtain is “salvation in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). It is to glory that God is “bringing many sons” (Heb. 2:10); so that as He, through whom we are brought to it, is “crowned with glory and honour,” so shall we be (Heb. 2:9). We are “to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). We are not only “witnesses of the sufferings of Christ, but partakers of the glory that shall be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). So that the word of exhortation runs thus: “Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy” (1 Peter 4:13). And the promise is not only, “if we suffer we shall also reign with him;” but, “if we suffer with him, we shall be also glorified together” (Rom. 8:17). …
Glory, then, is our inheritance. The best, the richest, the brightest, the most beautiful of all that is in God, of good, and rich, and bright, and beautiful, shall be ours. The glory that fills heaven above, the glory that spreads over the earth beneath, shall be ours. But while “the glory of the terrestrial” shall be ours, yet in a truer sense “the glory of the celestial shall be ours.” Already by faith we have taken our place amid things celestial, “being quickened together with Christ, and raised up with him, and made to sit with him in heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). Thus we have already claimed the celestial as, our own; and having risen with Christ, we “set our affection upon things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2). Far-ranging dominion shall be ours; with all varying shades and kinds of glory shall we be encompassed, circle beyond circle stretching over the universe; but it is the celestial glory that is so truly ours, as the redeemed and the risen; and in the midst of that celestial glory shall be the family mansion, the church’s dwelling-place and palace—our true home for eternity. …
All that awaits us is glorious. There is an inheritance in reversion; and it is “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 1:4). There is a rest, a sabbath-keeping in store for us (Heb. 4:9); and this “rest shall be glorious” (Isa. 11:10). The kingdom which we claim is a glorious kingdom. The crown which we are to wear is a glorious crown. The city of our habitation is a glorious city. The garments which shall clothe us are garments “for glory and for beauty.” Our bodies shall be glorious bodies, fashioned after the likeness of Christ’s “glorious body” (Phil. 3:21). Our society shall be that of the glorified. Our songs shall be songs of glory. And of the region which we are to inhabit it is said, that “the glory of God doth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof” (Rev. 21:23).
The hope of this glory cheers us. From under a canopy of night we look out upon these promised scenes of blessedness, and we are comforted. Our dark thoughts are softened down, even when they are not wholly brightened. For day is near, and joy is near, and the warfare is ending, and the tear shall be dried up, and the shame be lost in the glory, and “we shall be presented faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.”
-Horatius Bonar, Night of Weeping & Morning of Joy (Reformation Heritage, 2008), pp. 227-232.
The Shed Blood of Christ: The Foundation of Christianity
What is Christianity? Not metaphysics, not mysticism, not a compilation of guesses at truth. It is the history of the seed of the woman—that seed the Word made flesh—the Word made flesh, the revelation of the invisible Jehovah, the representative of the eternal God, the medium of communication between the Creator and the creature, between earth and heaven.
And of this Christianity, what is the essential characteristic, the indispensable feature from first to last? Is it incarnation or blood-shedding? Is it the cradle or the cross? Is it the scene at Bethlehem or at Golgotha? Assuredly the latter! “Eh, Eli, lama sabachthani,” is no mere outcry of suffering nature, the cross is no mere scene of human martyrdom, and the great sepulchre is no mere Hebrew tomb. It is only through blood-shedding that conscience is purged; it is only at the cross that the sinner can meet with God; it is the cross that knits heaven and earth together; it is the cross that bears up the collapsing universe; it is the pierced hand that holds the golden sceptre; it is at Calvary that we find the open gate of Paradise regained, and the gospel is good news to the sinner, of liberty to enter in.
Let men, with the newly sharpened axes of rationalism, do their utmost to hew down that cross; it will stand in spite of them. Let them apply their ecclesiastical paint-brush, and daub it all over with the most approved of mediaeval pigments to cover its nakedness, its glory will shine through all. Let them scoff at the legal transference of the sinner’s guilt to a divine substitute, and of that Surety’s righteousness to the sinner, as a Lutheran delusion, or a Puritan fiction, that mutual transference, that wondrous exchange, will be found to be wrapped up with Christianity itself. Let those who, like Cain of old, shrink from the touch of sacrificial blood, and mock the “religion of the shambles,” purge their consciences with the idea of God’s universal Fatherhood, and try to wash their robes and make them white in something else than the blood of the Lamb; to us, as to the saints of other days, there is but one purging of the conscience, one security for pardon, one way of access, one bond of reconciliation, one healing of our wounds, the death of Him on whom the chastisement of our peace was laid, and one everlasting song, “unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”
-Horatius Bonar, Christ Is All: The Piety of Horatius Bonar (Reformation Heritage Books, 2007), pp. 79-80.
The icy blast of trial awakens the old man
by Horatius Bonar
We are not at all persuaded that there is so very much evil in us. We do not know ourselves. Our convictions of sin have been but shallow, and we are beginning to imagine that the conflict between the flesh and the spirit is not so very fierce and deadly as we had conceived it to be. We think we have rid ourselves of many of our sins entirely, and are in a fair way speedily getting rid of all the rest.
The depths of sin in us we have never sounded; the number of our abominations we have never thought of marking. We have been sailing smoothly to the kingdom, and perhaps at times were wondering how our lot should be so different from the saints of old.
We thought, too, that we had overcome many of our corruptions. The old man was crucified. It seemed dead, or at least feigned itself to be so in order to deceive us. Our lusts had abated. Our tempers had improved. Our souls were calm and equable. Our mountain stood strong, and we were saying, ‘We shall never be moved.’ The victory over self and sin seemed, in some measure, won.
Alas, we were blind! We were profoundly ignorant of our hearts.
Well, the trial came. It swept over us like a cloud of the night, or rather through us like an icy blast, piercing and chilling us to the vitals. Then the old man within us awoke, and, as if in response to the uproar without, a fiercer tempest broke loose within. We felt as if the four winds of Heaven had been let loose to strive together upon the great deep within us. Unbelief arose in its former strength. Rebelliousness raged in every region of our soul. Unsubdued passions resumed their strength. We were utterly dismayed at the fearful scene.
But yesterday this seemed impossible. Alas, we know not the strength of sin nor the evil of our hearts till God thus allowed them to break loose.
It was thus He dealt with Israel; and for this end He led them into the desert. “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart” (Deu. 8:2). Their desert trials put them to the proof. And when thus proved, what iniquity was found in them! What sin came out which had lain hidden and unknown before!
The trial did not create the evil: it merely brought out what was there already, unnoticed and unfelt, like a torpid adder. Then the heart’s deep fountains were broken up, and streams of pollution came rushing out, black as Hell. Rebellion, unbelief, fretfulness, atheism, idolatry, self-will, self-confidence, self-pleasing – all burst out when the blast of the desert met them in the face and called Egypt to remembrance with its luxurious plenty. Thus they were proved.
Even so it is with the saints still. God chastens them that He may draw forth the evil that is lying concealed and unsuspected within. The rod smites us on the tenderest part, and we start up in a moment as if in arms against God. The flesh, the old man, is cut to the quick, and forthwith arouses itself, displaying all of a sudden much of its former strength. When it was asleep we did not know its power, but now that it has been awakened, its remains of strength appall us.
It is not till the sea is ‘troubled,’ that ‘its waters cast up mire and dirt.’ When all was calm, there seemed naught but purity pervading it, and ripple folded over ripple in the still brightness of its transparent green. But the winds break loose, the tempest stirs its lowest depths, and then all is changed. Thus we see it in the saints. When calamity breaks over them like a tempest, then the hidden evils of their hearts awaken. Sins scarcely known before display themselves. The heart pours out its wickedness. Hard thoughts of God arise. Atheistical murmurings break out and refuse to be restrained.
- Horatius Bonar (1808-1889). Taken from The Night of Weeping and The Morning of Joy (Chapel Library) pp. 57-60. Also found in The Night of Weeping: Words for the Suffering Family of God found in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar CD-Rom (LUX publications: 2004), pp. 36-37.
Today’s post is for communicators who know the clarity a John Owen quote brings to a complex biblical topic or the punch a C.H. Spurgeon quote adds to application points. My goal today is to encourage evangelists, authors, bloggers, preachers in their work of reaching lost souls and edifying redeemed souls.
I will address various related questions: Are electronic books and printed books friends or enemies? How can I find the best electronic books? How do I search those works effectively? How do I find quotes on my topic? How do I best handle the quote in hand?
I regularly express my appreciation for paper books AND electronic books when it comes to sermon preparation. A useful library balances both. Electronic books provide a technological enhancement to printed books. Sometimes I want to search the Works of John Owen in a jiff (electronic), and sometimes I want to chain off several weeks to ice pick my way through an entire volume (printed). The electronic text enhances the printed copies by making them easier to navigate, but reading the full text of Communion with God on a computer screen would surely lead to a hyper-extended retina.
Living Upon the Son of God
by Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
[As a compliment to Sinclair Ferguson’s quotation from earlier in the day, this is an excellent example from one of my favorite authors of how the imperatives of Scripture should be wrapped in the indicatives of the Gospel. Notice by the end we have been called to endure hardships and pursue holiness. -Tony]
“I live by the faith of the Son of God” (Galatians 2:20)
Through the law we die; through the cross we live. The law kills; it kills even to itself: ‘We, through the law, are dead to the law.’ But this legal death produces or issues in a divine life; we die to the law, that we may live to God; we are crucified with Christ; yet we live; this crucifixion (or death) produces life; and yet this new life is not our own, — it is that of Christ; who dwelleth in us, and liveth in us, so that the life which we live in the flesh, we live by faith on the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself for us. This is the love that passeth knowledge; this is the gift that transcends all gifts.
Thus Christ is our life; its spring or fountain; its root; its storehouse or treasury. We live not upon ourselves, but on another; all that we have, and are, and hope for, is derived from that other.
1. We live upon His person. His person, like His name, is wonderful. It is both divine and human. It contains all that is excellent in the creature, along with all that is excellent in the Creator. His person is the great vessel of fullness, in which is contained all that is needed by the neediest of souls. It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell. In Him is the perfection of all perfection, the glory of all glory. On this glorious person we live. We draw our spiritual life out of Him. We live by faith upon Him. In receiving the Father’s testimony to His person, we draw in the life which is in Him for us. We use Him. We partake of His fullness. The virtue that is in Him flows out to us. Out of His fullness we receive, and grace for grace, — like wave upon wave.
2. We live upon his work. The great feature in that work is substitution, atonement, propitiation. It contains many things; but this especially: ‘Christ died for our sins.’ He ‘gave Himself for us.’ He was ‘made sin for us.’ It is this aspect of His work that so specially suits us; for what we require is one to stand in our stead, to represent our persons, to bear our sins, to furnish us with a righteousness. His work upon the cross presents us with all these, — — His finished work, His accepted sacrifice, His precious blood, His completed expiation on ‘the accursed tree.’ On this work we live daily. It is a quickening work; a work the knowledge of which is life to the dead soul. To disbelieve that work, or to lose sight of it, is death; to believe it, and to keep our eye upon it, is life and healing. The sight of it, or the thinking about it (call it by what name we please), draws in life; we live in and by looking. This work contains the divine fullness provided for the sinner.
3. We live upon His love. It is love such as men saw on earth when He went about speaking the words and doing the works of grace. It is love (or grace) which comes out so specially from the person and the work; the love of Christ; love without measure; love that passeth knowledge. It is love, infinite, free, suitable, unchanging. The knowledge of this great love is life and peace. Jesus loves! ‘As the Father bath loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love.’ How quickening and comforting is love like this!
We have thus spoken generally of what we get out of Christ’s living fullness. But let us now ask what this living upon Christ does for us. What do we specially get?
A. We get strength. In looking, we are strengthened with might in the inner man. Out of the depth of weakness we look, and are made strong. Connection with the person, the work, the love of Christ, communicates the divine strength. We lean upon His arm.
B. We get peace. The sight of Him whose name is the Peacemaker pours in peace. It is a peace-giving sight. We get peace by the blood of His cross; for He is our peace. Each fresh look communicates fresh peace, — the peace which passeth all understanding.
C. We get sympathy and consolation. He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. In all our affliction He is afflicted. He sympathizes with us; He goes down to the lowest depths of our sorrow; He comforts us in all our tribulation.
D. We get health. The sight of Him is healing. As we remember Him or think of Him, health flows into us. The fragrance of His name is medicine. To think of Him, is to inhale the health. Thus our cure proceeds; thus our diseases are banished.
E. We get holiness. Contact with Jesus is sanctifying. It is faith which brings us into contact with Him, and it is by faith that we are purified. We live by faith on the Son of God, and are by Him made holy. Thus it is that we are taught to hate sin, and thus we learn to seek holiness, and to delight in all progress therein. Christ says to us, Be holy; His cross says to us, Be holy; His love says to us, Be holy.
F. We get eternal glory. If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. ‘Thou hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood,’ sing the saints in heaven, ‘and hast made us kings and priests unto God: and we shall reign on the earth.’ Oneness with Him in humiliation leads to oneness with Him in glory; the glory to be revealed when He comes again.
– Horatius Bonar, Light and Truth in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar on CD-Rom (LUX publications: 2004), pp. 744-745.
Bonar: The Humble Calvinist in the work of God
“If Jewish or Gentile unbelief, and alienation from God were things which could be reached by moral persuasion, and human warmth; if men’s souls were within our reach as completely as their bodies, then God’s definite purpose as to salvation would be of little moment [importance]. But if the estrangement of humanity from God be a thing quite beyond man, and man’s argument or eloquence; if the resistance of a human will be a thing of almost unconceivable potency, and if the subjugation of that will require the direct forth-putting of Omnipotence, such as that which created heaven and earth, then God’s purpose is the first and last thing to be considered in going forth to deal either with Jew or Gentile. Other considerations may light up a false fire and produce a fair seeming zeal; but only the knowledge of a divine purpose can bring a man into a right missionary position, fill him with missionary devotedness, and nerve him [give confidence] in the hour of disappointment or discomfort. ‘Even so Father for so it seemed good in thy sight,’ was the truth on which the Son of God rested in the day of Israel’s first rejection of His Word; and it is just on such a truth as this, — a truth that lifts the divine purpose into its true place, that each of us, whether minister or missionary, must lean, in the day of apparent failure. The Pauline, or, if you like, the Calvinistic scheme, which connects all work for God with a definite purpose, and not with an indefinite wish, is that which alone can make us either comfortable or successful. Armed with this divine purpose, we feel ourselves invincible; nay, we are assured of being victorious. Having ascertained God’s purpose, and adopted it as the basis of our operations, we feel that we are in sympathy with God while working for Him. And it is this sympathy, this oneness of mind with God, that cheers us and sustains. He ever wins who sides with God. We shall thus be better fitted for enduring hardness, for ‘spending and being spent;’ that is, for expending ourselves, till all that is in us is expended.”
- Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury (1871) in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 1334-1335.
The contemporary church measures sin primarily by its effect upon marriages (divorce), the Internet (pornography), kids (rebellion towards parents), culture (racial tension, crime), nature (floods, tsunamis), and physical pain (sickness, cancer, death). These are all effects of sin. But the bible points us to a greater reality, beyond the reach of counselors, doctors, Internet filters, global warming and social scientists. I am talking about measuring sin by God’s Law and seeing our condemnation under it (see Romans 4:15).
John tells us that, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). Sin is a breach of God’s Law by sinners who – by breaking one Law – are guilty of every Law (James 2:10). We have a legal problem and we need a legal solution.
This week Horatius Bonar has been supplying us excellent material for meditation. His words on this subject are fitting.
“Man has always treated sin as a misfortune, not a crime; as disease, not as guilt; as a case for the physician, not for the judge. Herein lies the essential faultiness of all mere human religions or theologies. They fail to acknowledge the judicial aspect of the question, as that on which the real answer must hinge.”
-Horatius Bonar, The Everlasting Righteousness (Banner of Truth: Edinburgh) 1874/1993, p. 3.
In this Christmas season we can sing, ‘Joy to the world!’ not because sin and it’s effects have been removed from the world, but because guilty sinners can now enter the courtroom of God’s Law and be judged innocent of sin! Let us think of baby Jesus being born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4) to live and die to be the end of the law for everyone who believes (Romans 10:4). Christ has come, He has been crucified and He has taken away God’s judgments against us (Zephaniah 3:15)!
Here is my personal prayer this Christmas season: I want to search deeper into what it means to be justified – declared perfect! – in the courtroom of God’s Law. I want to see more clearly that because this baby lived and died “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).
Joy to the Word! Christ has come to ransom sinners! Let the criminals walk free.
Have a wonderful Christmas season!
The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (Lux Publications)
I build my Christian library around dead guys — not because I think everything old is better — but because I love reading literary affection towards Christ. There was a time when people wrote books (and read books!) simply on the beauty of Christ. No, I’m not kidding.
For the Puritans, the attention shown to every doctrine helps sculpt theological art that cannot help but point our affections towards Christ. The great examples are men like John Owen, John Bunyan, Jonathan Edwards and Samuel Rutherford.
But I am likewise growing fond of a pocket of writers contained in the nineteenth century with similar passions. I speak of Charles Spurgeon [1834-1892] who was — and I believe remains — the greatest preacher in church history. By sheer mass of published material he is unrivaled. Another man, Octavius Winslow [1808-1878], has become my favorite writer. His deeply devotional writing reminds me of Spurgeon, but is a bit more concise and pointed. His Precious Things of God and The Fullness of Christ are treasures! William G.T. Shedd [1820-1894] was a great theologian and preacher whose works remain in print today (if you’ve read them you know why). And then there is Andrew Bonar [1810-1892], a capable writer himself, he focused much of his time making sure the life of M’Cheyne and the letters and sermons of Puritan Samuel Rutherford were not forgotten. And he wrote a heartwarming commentary on the book of Leviticus. Can you believe it?
Worthy to be named as one of the preeminent men of the 19th century is Andrew’s brother, Horatius Bonar [1808-1889]. Horatius was a prolific preacher, author, editor and writer of over 600 hymns! His diverse literary talents remind me of Bunyan, his focus on the Cross and his ability to confront doctrinal concerns of the day remind me of Spurgeon.
Horatius Bonar wrote my favorite book on my favorite topic, The Everlasting Righteousness. In it, he succeeds in simple and passionate explanation of how sinners are made right with a perfect God (justification). If you are having trouble communicating this concept to others, this book would be a great boost!
And there is God’s Way of Holiness, which exhorts believers to fight hard against sin and take holiness seriously. “It is to a new life that God is calling us; not some new steps in life, some new habits or ways or motives or prospects, but to a new life.”
He also wrote books like “The Rent Veil,” “The Blood of the Cross,” and “God’s Way of Peace.” Each of these books grabs the reader to turn our eyes from the hollow worldliness around us towards the eternal beauty of Christ.
His books drip with the blood of Christ as the only foundation for eternal life, as the greatest pursuit of the Christian life and the focus of our eternal delight. No topic, no sermon, no theme, no hymn veers too far from the blood of Christ.
Characteristic of these eminent men of an earlier century, Horatius Bonar can (at length) focus his attention on the Cross. No matter the subject. When we need strength for the Christian journey, Christ is our meat and drink. His blood is “a refuge” for “a troubled conscience and a wounded spirit” and “a resting place” for the “sad and weary.” We look to the cross of Christ to be saved and to be comforted.
“The cross has many aspects, and embodies marvelous truths; all these connected with the Son of God. We learn much of Him in looking to that cross, and reading all its mysteries. No wonder that Paul should so glory in that cross. It contains so much of that which meets the whole case of every needy sinner. It brings out so much of the riches of the grace of God and exhibits to us, in Him who was crucified, the free love of God, that free and perfect love which casteth out fear. The cross contains peace, and the sight of the cross draws forth that peace, and fills our souls with it. The cross contains health, and the sight of it brings all that health into us. The cross is like the sun in the sky, which contains everything which our earth needs for light, and warmth, and health, and gladness. We look, and we are saved. We look, and we are comforted. There is the blood of the great sin-offering, the blood that cleanseth from all sin. There is the fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness. There is the well of living water, springing up into everlasting life. That cross is both death and life; condemnation and pardon, weakness and strength, shame and glory. It kills, and makes alive; it wounds, and it heals. It is wrath, and it is love; it is terror, and it is tenderness; it is righteousness, and it is grace. It is Satan’s victory, and it is Satan’s overthrow; it is the world’s triumph, and it is the world’s destruction. It saves in crucifying, and it crucifies in saving. All hell is there, and all heaven is there; rebellion is there, and reconciliation is there. That cross seems the embodiment of man’s unpardonable sin, and consequent rejection and banishment; yet it is the embodiment of an eternal pardon, the meeting place between God and the sinner, the link that is to bind earth and heaven together for evermore.”
-Horatius Bonar, The Christian Treasury in The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (CD-Rom, Lux Publications) pp. 729. (Posted with permission from publisher.)
// Life and Works of Bonar
So my excitement was justified when I recently learned that Lux Publications released The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar on CD-Rom. The CD contains biographies, photographs, hymns, sermons, books, articles and unpublished manuscripts. At over 13,000 pages long, this set is easily the largest collection of Horatius Bonar works available today.
The library of works comes in 146 indexed pdf files.
The biggest drawback to this collection is the inability for researchers to run text searches on all the works at once. This would be very beneficial. Even without this search capacity, I was struck with the care taken to compile these works into electronic form. For the first time in decades, these rare works are now preserved for a new generation of readers.
Bottom line: This is an affordable and superb resource for digging deeper into the beauty of Christ and will be easy to integrate into sermon preparation and devotion time. If you are not familiar with Horatius Bonar, I would encourage you to read him.
UPDATE: For two weeks I was unable to open the index files on my Mac but later successfully opened them on my PC. Even on my Mac, opening and searching these files through Adobe Reader 6.0 was a breeze. Contrary to my initial review, this CD-Rom is very easy to search. For more tips on how to search electronic works efficiently, please read our series on The Puritan Study and especially part 6.
Related: Tony’s Book Club pick #3: The Everlasting Righteousness by Horatius Bonar
Related: Preach Christ and Him crucified
Related: “Round the cross”: Bonar and the Centrality of the Cross
Related: “Go as a sinner”: Bonar on humbly approaching Christ
Related: “Overlaying the Gospel”: Bonar on the temptation to be ashamed of the Gospel