"> '); Prevailing Intercessory Prayer : Havergal: Hymns of Horatius Bonar

Hymns of Horatius Bonar, D.D.

Frances Ridley Havergal

[An excerpt from a never-completed manuscript]





The following unfinished manuscript comes from Footprints and Loving Songs, a book that included an article on Havergal's life and an unfinished manuscript on the hymns of Haratius Bonar written by Havergal.

Hymns of Horatius Bonar

Probably not one of our "recent" hymn-writers is so "well known" as Dr. Bonar; certainly no poet of the sanctuary has a firmer hold upon South as well as North as a loved and recognised leader in hymns of Faith and Hope. While we may find individual hymns here and there which reach the same high level of true human heart-melody with Divine harmony, we do not find many writers pouring out such copious streams from the "fountain of their singing." So that to him has been given the double privilege of contributing largely to the Hymnal treasures of the Church of Christ, and also of enriching her with more than one of those imperishable gems, deeply graven with truth, beauty, and power, which seal their impress upon the hearts and memories of all her members, and will be heirlooms of the family of God until earthly generations have passed away for ever.

These need no quotation: we all know them by heart; almost every line has taken rank among our spiritual household words. It is rather remarkable that those which appear to have reached this high position are chiefly, if not all, in the first person singular, and testify directly and personally of the Lord's dealings with the soul and the soul's respondings to Him. This personality is reality; and reality, whether in poetry or in spiritual life, is always power. It is what a writer really feels or has felt, and not what he supposes others to feel, which comes home. For "as in water face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man." Not "men to men"!

Some high authorities have strongly advocated the exclusion of the singular, and the use of the plural only, in hymns for "the great congregation." But "the sweet Psalmist of Israel" was not thus minded, by far the larger number of his inspired songs being in the first person singular. What a force and glow there is in his personal praise: "I love the Lord:" "I will sing:" "While I live will I praise the Lord." What pathetic power in his personal pleading: "Have mercy upon me:" "hear me:" "look upon me." What felt reality in "my soul thirsteth for Thee:" "my heart is fixed." What aid to appropriating faith in "The Lord is my Shepherd, my Rock, my Fortress, and my Deliverer; my God, my Strength."

It would be a bold paraphrase which dared the loss of pluralizing all these!

We "believe" in and rejoice in "the communion of saints," and know the power of song when "the singers were as one to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord;" but this is rather enhanced than diminished when the whole force of individuality is thrown into each voice, and the energy and reality of the "I" is only multiplied and not merged in the "We."

Perhaps the four most widely known and valued hymns by Dr. Bonar are, "I heard the voice of Jesus say "—sweetest of all with its winning testimony to His realized grace and love; "I lay my sins on Jesus"—on whom, indeed, Jehovah has already laid them; "I was a wandering sheep "— an exquisite story of tender mercy and lovingkindness; and, "Thy way, not mine, O Lord." But we pass to some less familiar.

One of the happiest, brightest hymns we know is the following:—



Jesus, Sun and Shield art Thou,

  Sun and Shield for ever! 

Never canst Thou cease to shine, 

  Cease to guard us, never. 

Cheer our steps as on we go: 

Come between us and the foe. 


Jesus, Bread and Wine art Thou,

  Wine and Bread for ever! 

Never canst Thou cease to feed 

  Or refresh us, never. 

Feed we still on bread Divine, 

Drink we still this heavenly wine 


Jesus, Love and Life art Thou, 

   Life and Love for ever! 

Ne'er to quicken shalt Thou cease,

  Or to love us, never. 

All of life and love we need 

Is in Thee, in Thee indeed. 


Jesus, Peace and Joy art Thou,

  Joy and Peace for ever! 

Joy that fades not, changes not, 

  Peace that leaves us never. 

Joy and peace we have in Thee, 

Now and through eternity. 


Jesus, Song and Strength art Thou,

  Strength and Song for ever! 

Strength that never can decay, 

  Song that ceaseth never. 

Still to us this strength and song 

Through eternal days prolong! 


There is great weakness in vain repetition: there is great strength in judicious and telling reiteration of thoughts which are in themselves inexhaustible. A skilfully wrought musical theme in a chorus or symphony recurs again and again and again, each time taking deeper hold upon the ear and feelings, appearing more striking and beautiful, and giving greater delight at each recurrence. So in the singing of this hymn (I do not say in a mere glancing through) the "Ever" and the "Never" of the first verse might be easily passed over, though indeed they are all-inclusive; but they come again, emphasized by the illustrating chords of the sweet old tune Minden, and our attention is fixed on them; they come again and again, and by the end of the hymn they are sealed on the memory, and often, very often, on the heart too. Again, there is a threefold repetition of the thought of Jesus which each verse sets forth, and this is very sweet and very gladdening to the loving heart which delights to linger on each gracious aspect of its precious Lord.

We pass to one or two of Dr. Bonar's experimental hymns. They take us by the hand, as it were, lifting us to a higher level of happy experience. Such expressions of confidence seem to be often blessed to the souls of other "children of the King" who may have "gone mourning." They excite desire for the same blessed assurance, and arouse faith and expectation from "the same Lord" who is "rich unto all that call upon Him." Perhaps such hymns are one form of that "communication of faith" which "may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus" (Philemon 6).



Yes, for me, for me He careth

  With a brother's tender care; 

Yes, with me, with me He shareth 

Every burden, every fear.


Yes, o'er me, o'er me He watcheth— 

  Ceaseless watcheth, night and day 

Yes, e'en me, e'en me He snatcheth 

  From the perils of the way. 


Yes, for me He standeth pleading

  At the mercy-seat above; 

Ever for me interceding, 

Constant in untiring love.


Yes, in me abroad He sheddeth 

  Joys unearthly—love and light; 

And to cover me He spreadeth 

  His paternal wing of might. 


Yes, in me, in me He dwelleth—

  I in Him, and He in me! 

And my empty soul He filleth 

Here and through eternity.


 Thus I wait for His returning, 

  Singing all the way to heaven; 

Such the joyful song of morning, 

  Such the tranquil song of even! 


The following is another beautiful and most encouraging hymn:—



Be still, my soul, Jehovah loveth thee!

  Fret not, nor murmur at thy weary lot; 

Though dark and lone thy journey seems to be, 

  Be sure that thou art ne'er by Him forgot. 

He ever loves; then trust Him, trust Him still: 

Let all thy care be this—the doing of His will. 


Thy hand in His, like fondest, happiest child, 

  Place thou, nor draw it for a moment thence; 

Walk thou with Him, a Father reconciled,

Till in His own good time He calls thee hence.

Walk with Him now ; so shall thy way be bright,

And all thy soul be filled with His most glorious light.


Take courage, faint not, though the foe be strong, 

  Christ is thy strength! He fighteth on thy side: 

Swift be thy race; remember, 'tis not long, 

  The goal is near; the prize He will provide: 

And then from earthly toil thou restest ever;

Never again to toil, or fight, or fear—oh! never.


He comes with His reward: 'tis just at hand;

 He comes in glory to His promised throne. 

My soul, rejoice! ere long thy feet shall stand 

  Within the city of the Blessed One. 

Thy perils past, thy heritage secure, 

Thy tears all wiped away, thy joy for ever sure!


There is a wonderful hush in the first line of this hymn. It is like a great hand, very tender, very loving, and very strong, firmly laid upon a fluttering heart; one of those lines which, once felt and appropriated, are our own for ever, never losing their first power.


The well-known hymn beginning—

All that I was, my sin, my guilt,

 My death, was all my own: 

All that I am I owe to Thee, 

My gracious God, alone—


is a short, clear, and pithy hymn of contrasted experience. But the hymn beginning, "I thought upon my sins," cast in the same antithetical form, is more personal and more touching still.



I thought upon my sins, and I was sad, 

 My soul was troubled sore, and filled with pain; 

 But then I thought on Jesus, and was glad; 

 My heavy grief was turned to joy again. 


I thought upon the law, the fiery law— 

  Holy, and just, and good in its decree; 

I looked to Jesus, and in Him I saw 

  That law fulfilled, its curse endured for me, 


I thought I saw an angry, frowning God, 

  Sitting as Judge upon the great white throne; 

My soul was overwhelmed ; then Jesus showed 

  His gracious face, and all my dread was gone. 


I saw my sad estate, condemned to die;

Then terror seized upon my heart, and dark despair; 

But when to Calvary I turned my eye,

I saw the cross, and read forgiveness there.


I saw that I was lost, far gone astray, 

 No hope of safe return there seemed to be; 

But then I heard that Jesus was the Way, 

 A new and living Way prepared for me. 


Then in that Way—so free, so safe, so sure— 

  Sprinkled all o'er with reconciling blood, 

Will I abide, and never wander more, 

  Walking along in fellowship with God! 


Passing from the instances of Dr. Bonar's gift as a writer of experimental hymns, we must glance at another group in which he also excels—the spurring and stimulating appeals to "press toward the mark," or to "go work in the Master's vineyard."



Oh, 'tis not what we fancied it—

  This world, this world of ours; 

We thought its skies were sunshine all, 

And all its fields were flowers.


But soon o'erclouded are its skies,

   Its flowers they fade away; 

Our youthful hopes are vanishing, 

Our early joys decay.


Another light is breaking bright, 

  Which beams from heaven on high; 

And other flowers are blossoming, 

  Which cannot fade or die. 


Above us is a brighter land,

  To which we seek to come; 

Our sure and quiet resting-place, 

Our everlasting home.


Its fields are ever beautiful,

   Its skies are ever fair, 

Its day is always clear and bright, 

For Christ, its Sun, is there.


O Sun of Righteousness, arise, 

  Thy light upon us beam; 

For all this life is but a sleep, 

  And all this world a dream! 



Make haste, O man, to live!

  For thou so soon must die; 

Time hurries past thee like the breeze— 

How swift its moments fly! 

  Make haste, O man, to live! 


Make haste, O man, to do

  Whatever must be done! 

Thou hast no time to lose in sloth, 

Thy day will soon be gone! 

  Make haste, O man, to live! 


Up then, with speed, and work;

  Fling ease and self away; 

This is no time for thee to sleep, 

Up, watch, and work, and pray 

  Make haste, O man, to live! 


The useful, not the great,

  The thing that never dies, 

The silent toil that is not lost: 

Set these before thine eyes. 

  Make haste, O man, to live! 


Make haste, O man, to live!

  Thy time is almost o'er; 

Oh, sleep not, dream not, but arise, 

The Judge is at the door. 

  Make haste, O man, to live! 


The first of these is full of sympathetic and gentle luring from earthly things; the other is a bold and manly outcry to the slumberers and lingerers. Oh that the questions in another hymn of this group, "Shall this life of mine be wasted?" could be personally presented and pressed home upon the thousands of weary, dissatisfied lives which are being wasted, when they might be filled with gladness and usefulness!



Shall this life of mine be wasted?

  Shall this vineyard lie unfilled? 

Shall true joy pass by untasted, 

And this soul remain unfilled?


Shall the God-given hours be scattered 

  Like the leaves upon the plain? 

Shall the blossoms die unwatered 

  By the drops of heavenly rain? 


 Shall this heart still spend its treasures 

 On the things that fade and die? 

Shall it court the hollow pleasures 

  Of bewitching vanity? 


Oh that these life-wasting ones might awake to the recognition of what it is that is lacking, and thus be ready to listen to the invitation so fully yet briefly given in—



Ho, ye thirsty! parched and fainting,

  Here are waters, turn and see! 

To the thirstiest, poorest, vilest, 

Without money, all is free— 

    Thirsty sinner! 

Drink and stay not, 'tis for thee.


Ho, ye weary! toiling, burdened, 

  With a world of woes oppressed; 

Come!—it is thy Lord invites thee, 

  Lay thy head upon My breast. 

   Weary sinner! 

Come to Jesus, come and rest. 


Ho, ye wounded! bruised, broken, 

  Come, and health Divine receive; 

 Look to Him who heals the wounded, 

  He alone can healing give. 

   Wounded sinner! 

Look to Jesus, look and live! 


Another group of Dr. Bonar's specialities are those bearing upon the hope of the Church, the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. The following constitute a striking sequence :—



The Church has waited long

  Her absent Lord to see; 

And still in loneliness she waits, 

A friendless stranger she.

Age after age has gone,

  Sun after sun has set, 

And still in weeds of widowhood, 

She weeps a mourner yet.

Come, then, Lord Jesus, come.


Saint after saint on earth

  Has lived, and loved, and died, 

And as they left us one by one, 

We laid them side by side,

We laid them down to sleep,

  But not in hope forlorn; 

We laid them but to slumber there 

Till the last glorious morn.

Come, then, Lord Jesu, come.


The serpent's brood increase;

  The powers of hell grow bold; 

The conflict thickens, faith is low, 

And love is waxing cold,

How long, O Lord our God,

  Holy, and true, and good! 

Wilt Thou not judge Thy suffering Church, 

Her sighs, and tears, and blood?

Come, then, Lord Jesu, come.


We long to hear Thy voice,

  To see Thee face to face: 

To share Thy crown and glory then, 

As now we share Thy grace.

Come, Lord, and wipe away

  The curse, the sin, the stain; 

And make this blighted world of ours 

Thine own fair world again.

Come, then, Lord Jesu, come.



Time's sun is fast setting, its twilight is nigh: 

Its evening is falling in cloud o'er the sky: 

Its shadows are stretching in ominous gloom; 

Its midnight approaches, the midnight of doom. 

Then haste, sinner, haste, there is mercy for thee, 

And wrath is preparing—flee, lingerer, flee! 


Rides forth the fierce tempest on the wings of the cloud; 

The moan of the night blast is fitful and loud; 

The mountains are heaving, the forests are bowed, 

The ocean is surging, earth gathers its shroud. 

Then haste, sinner, haste, there is mercy for thee, 

And wrath is preparing—flee, lingerer, flee! 


The vision is nearing, the Judge and the throne! 

The voice of the angel proclaims, "It is done." 

On the whirl of the tempest its Ruler shall come, 

And the blaze of His glory flash out from its gloom. 

Then haste, sinner, haste, there is mercy for thee, 

And wrath is preparing—flee, lingerer, flee!


With clouds He is coming! His people shall sing: 

With gladness they hail Him Redeemer and King: 

The iron rod wielding—the rod of His ire, 

He cometh to kindle earth's last fatal fire. 

Then haste, sinner, haste, there is mercy for thee, 

And wrath is preparing—flee, lingerer, flee! 


A few more hymns were included. However the manuscript was never completed.—Footsteps and Living Songs, Frances Ridley Havergal, ed. Charles Bullock, 71-90