Book review: The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (Lux Publications)

Book review:

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.

// 1808-1894

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.

// Books

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.

// Cross

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.

Bonar writes,

“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

13 thoughts on “Book review: The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar (Lux Publications)

  1. Hi Tony,

    As the publisher I thank you for the kind review and hope the works of Bonar bless many. However I do need to correct one thing you wrote about search capabilities.

    The CD IS fully indexed AND searchable. There is a file in the root directory called bonaridx.pdx, which is the index file. The contents can be searched very fast through that file. This file was easily used in earlier versions of Adobe Reader and is still quite functional in their latest releases. Hope that clears things up and makes it easier for you to use.

    Thanks again for the kind words.

    Warm regards,
    Darrin Brooker
    LUX Publications

  2. […] A Review of Bonar’s Works By D.R. Brooker A new review of The Life and Works of Horatius Bonar CD-Rom appears here. What, you don’t have one yet? This entry is filed under Horatius Bonar. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave a Reply […]

  3. Darrin,

    I am running Mac OS X and Adobe Reader 8.0 keeps telling me the bonaridx.pdx file needs to be rebuilt or something. I was using Mac Reader to read the .pdf files which explains why I could not run searches. Let me try some other things. Having a searchable index is great.


  4. Tony,

    I’ve tested it with Adobe Reader all the way up to 7.0. When the CD was released, 5.0 was the latest. Open the file bonaridx.pdx in the reader, not the main index file bonar-cd.pdf. In the box where it asks you “Where would you like to search?”, there will be an option that you click which reads, “In the index named bonaridx.pdx”. Search and all results will appear. The index search function works far better in earlier Adobe Reader’s; I’m not sure why they changed things the way they did. Running it through 5.0 on the CD is another way to get excellent results. This can be done if installed on your hard drive or if running right off of the CD itself. Let me know if this helps.

    (I don’t have access to a Mac right now as when I originally tested it, so I can’t give you those instructions although I would think they are similar).


  5. Darrin or Tony,
    Will there be a dead-tree version of the Works of Horatius Bonar, for those of us who’d rather cuddle up with a book rather than a monitor when we’re on the couch?

    Thanks and Merry Christmas!!!


  6. jc,

    That would be an awesome set! Unfortunately, publishers I talk to lament that multi-volume works simply do not sell well enough to justify the cost of production. So when I started asking around to see if there will ever be, say, a printed version of the works of Octavius Winslow I get “No” responses from all my publisher friends.

    What does make these works affordable and cheep to reproduce are CD-Roms. Like you, jc, I’m not a big fan of CD-Roms but I also understand that without these CD-Roms there would be no access to many works (like those of Bonar)! So I buy a nice printer and lots of ink cartridges. =-)

    I praise God for giving men like Darrin the conviction and the time and the technological talent to get these works out! Thank you, brother! These are a great service. Please keep us in the loop to newer projects.


  7. i first fell in love with bonar through his hymns. thanks for pointing us to the ‘mother load’ of his other works!


  8. i am a voluntary potographer, is there a chance you like to show some of my pics? i think it would be awesome and fit on your cms :-)
    absolutely admire your page! send me a e-mail please in case you want to see my pics

  9. Tony, thank you for posting this intro to Bonar. Can you share how you finally were able to get your Bonar files on the CD open. I purchased this CD but cannot successfully get the files to open on my PC?

  10. Dear Sir/Madam,

    Where can I buy The life and works of Horaius Bonar CD rom? Thank you for your information. With kind regards, rev.M.D.Geuze

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