Horatius Bonar Quotes

Dr. Horatius Bonar (1808-89) is perhaps best-known today for his hymns, such as ‘I heard the voice of Jesus say’, ‘Thy way, not mine, O Lord’, and the communion hymn ‘Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face’. An older brother of Andrew Bonar, he was educated at Edinburgh High School and the University, where he was much influenced by Thomas Chalmers.

After mission work in Leith, he was ordained as parish minister in Kelso in 1837, where he remained (after the 1843 Disruption and the formation of the Free Church) until 1867, when he was called to Chalmers Memorial Free Church in Edinburgh. He received a DD from the University of Aberdeen in 1853, and was Moderator of the Free Church Assembly in 1883. Influenced by Edward Irving, Bonar’s pre-millennial convictions regarding the Lord’s return were a feature of much of his ministry.

“For we are not saved by believing in our own salvation, nor by believing anything whatsoever about ourselves. We are saved by what we believe about the Son of God and His righteousness. The gospel believed saves; not the believing in our own faith.”  ~ Horatius Bonar

“It is not opinions that man needs: it is TRUTH. It is not theology; it is God. It is not religion: it is Christ. It is not literature and science; but the knowledge of the free love of God in the gift of His only-begotten Son.”  ~ Horatius Bonar

“We are forgiven, that we may be like Him who forgives us.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“The divine order then is first pardon, then holiness; first peace with God, and then conformity to the image of that God with whom we have been brought to be at peace.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Faith is the acknowledgment of the entire absence of all goodness in us, and the recognition of the cross as the substitute for all the want on our part. Faith saves, because it owns the complete salvation of another, and not because it contributes anything to that salvation.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“It is forgiveness that sets a man working for God. He does not work in order to be forgiven, but because he has been forgiven, and the consciousness of his sin being pardoned makes him long for its entire removal than ever he did before. An unforgiven man cannot work. He has not the will, nor the power, nor the liberty. He is in chains. Israel in Egypt could not serve Jehovah. “Let my people go, that they may serve Me.” was God’s message to Pharaoh (exodus 8:1) first liberty, then service.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Bold preaching is the only preaching that is owned of God.”  ~ Horatius Bonar

“Sin is too great an evil for man to meddle with. His attempts to remove it do but increase it, and his endeavours to approach God in spite of it aggravate his guilt.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“The believed gospel saves; but it is the believed promise that assures us of this salvation.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“The life above, when this is past,
Is the ripe fruit of life below.
Sow love, and taste its fruitage pure;
Sow peace, and reap its harvest bright;
Sow sunbeams on the rock and moor,
And find a harvest-home of light.”

~ Horatius Bonar


“Christianity was born for endurance; it is not an exotic, but a hardy plant, braced by the keen wind; not languid, nor childish nor cowardly. It walks with strong step and erect frame; it is kindly, but firm; it is gentle, but honest; it is calm, but not facile; decided, but not churlish. It does not fear to speak the stern word of condemnation against error, nor to raise its voice against surrounding evils, knowing that it is not of this world.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Let us see God before man every day.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“It is much to be feared that “we are weak in the pulpit because we are weak in the closet.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Be much alone with God, and take time to get thoroughly acquainted. Converse over everything with Him. Unburden yourself wholly -every thought, feeling, wish, plan, doubt- to Him…He wants not merely to be on good terms with you, but to be intimate.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Upon a life I did not live, upon a death I did not die; another’s life, another’s death, I stake my whole eternity.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“I looked for the church and I found it in the world; I looked for the world and I found it in the church.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Have I then no work to work in this great matter of my pardon? None. What work canst thou work? What work of thine can buy forgiveness or make thee fit for the Divine favour? What work has God bidden thee work in order to obtain salvation? None. His Word is very plain and easy to be understood, “To him that worketh not, but believeth in Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). There is but one work by which a man can be saved. That work is not thine, but the work of the Son of God. That work is finished.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Thy way, not mine, O Lord, however dark it be; lead me by thine own hand; choose out the path for me.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“A believing man will be a zealous man. Faith makes a man zealous. Faith shows itself by zeal. Not by zeal for a party or a system or an opinion; but by zeal for Christ – zeal for His church – zeal for the carrying on of His work on earth.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“All unbelief is the belief of a lie.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“How fast we learn in the day of sorrow! Scripture shines out in a new effulgence; every verse seems to contain a sunbeam, every promise stands out in illuminated splendor; things hard to be understood become in a moment plain.” ~ Horatius Bonar

I praise the God of grace;
I trust His truth and might;
He calls me His, I call Him mine.
My God, my joy and light

~ Horatius Bonar

“In all unbelief there are these two things: a good opinion of one’s self, and a bad opinion of God.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“God chooses us, not because He foresees that we would choose Him, or that we would believe, but for the very opposite reason. He chooses us just because He foresees that we would neither choose Him nor believe of ourselves at all. Election proceeds not upon foreseen faith in us, but upon foreseen unbelief.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“There can be no grace when there is no sovereignty. Deny God’s right to choose whom He will and you deny His right to save whom He will. Deny His right to save whom He will and you deny that salvation is of grace. If salvation is made to hinge upon any merit or fitness in man, seen or foreseen, grace is at an end.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Our changing years affect not Him with Whom one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day: Who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever. In a changing world, let us rejoice in this unchangeableness.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“If you are Christians, be consistent. Be Christians out and out; Christians every hour, in every part. Beware of halfhearted discipleship, of compromise with evil, of conformity to the world, of trying to serve two masters – to walk in two ways, the narrow and the broad, at once. It will not do. Half-hearted Christianity will only dishonor God, while it makes you miserable.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“He makes us to glory in tribulation: for this is the road by which all the former saints went to the kingdom; the way by which all are going now; the way by which the Master went during His sojourn here.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“If Christ be not the Substitute, He is nothing to the sinner. If He did not die as the Sin-bearer, He has died in vain. Let us not be deceived on this point, or misled by those who, when they announce Christ as the Deliverer, think they have preached the Gospel. If I throw a rope to a drowning man, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more than that? If I cast myself into the sea, and risk my life to save another, I am a deliverer. But is Christ no more? Did He but risk His life? The very essence of Christ’s deliverance is the substitution of Himself for us, His life for ours. He did not come to risk His life; He came to die! He did not redeem us by a little loss, a little sacrifice, a little labor, a little suffering. “He redeemed us to God by his blood,” “the precious blood of Christ” (Rev 5:9; 1Pe 1:19). He gave all He had, even His life, for us.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“You are perplexed by the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and election. I wonder that any man believing in a God should be perplexed by these. For if there be a God, a King, eternal, immortal, and invisible, He cannot but be sovereign – and He cannot but do according to His own will and choose according to His own purpose. You may dislike these doctrines, but you can only get quit of them by denying altogether the existence of an infinitely wise, glorious, and powerful Being. God would not be God were He not thus absolutely sovereign in His present doings and His eternal pre-arrangements.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“The road is rugged, and the sun is hot. How can we be but weary? Here is grace for the weariness – grace which lifts us up and invigorates us; grace which keeps us from fainting by the way; grace which supplies us with manna from heaven, and with water from the smitten rock. We receive of this grace, and are revived. Our weariness of heart and limb departs. We need no other refreshment. This is enough. Whatever the way be – rough, gloomy, unpleasant – we press forward, knowing that the same grace that has already carried thousands through will do the same for us.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Not that you are to read no book but the Bible. All that is true and good is worth the reading, if you have time for it. All, if properly used, will help you in your study of the Scriptures. A Christian does not shut his eyes to the natural scenes of beauty spread around him. He does not cease to admire the hills, or plains, or rivers, or forests of earth because he has learned to love the God that made them; nor does he turn away from books of science or true poetry because he has discovered one book truer, more precious, and more poetical than all the rest together.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“A believing man will be a humble man. He will think little and speak little about himself. True faith carries us above this pride, self-esteem, and vainglory… He will…refrain from giving prominence to self in any of his proceedings. His great object will be to hide self; and not only to forget it himself, but to make others forget it too. The man that is still proud, boastful, vainglorious, self-confident has good reason to suppose that he has never yet believed.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“There is nothing so hardening as unbelief; and one great reason for this is, that there is nothing so deceitful. It does not look a great sin; nay, sometimes not like sin at all, but like modesty and humility. It pretends to be jealous for God, to be conscious of personal unworthiness, to be unfit to venture on a hope of acceptance. Thus, it deceives… It actually hides itself, lessens its own wickedness, veils its hatefulness under the name of humility. In all these ways, it contrives to destroy faith, to cherish itself, and so to harden the heart.” ~ Horatius Bonar

“Much zeal is shown for the freedom of man’s will; little jealousy seems to be left for the freedom of God’s will. Men insist that it is unjust and tyrannical in God to control their wills, yet see nothing unjust, nothing proud, nothing Satanic in attempting to fetter and direct the will of God. Man, it seems, cannot have his own foolish will gratified, unless the all-wise God will consent to relinquish His! Such are some of the steps in the march of Atheism. Such are the preparations making in these last days by the wily usurper for dethroning the Eternal Jehovah.” ~ Horatius Bonar