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