Thoughts from Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)

Posted: February 12, 2010 in Uncategorized

I have received publications from the Chapel Library in Pensacola, FL for about a year now.  I always enjoy the literature they send.  Everything from a collection of essays on Conversion (with authors like A.W Pink, Spurgeon, J.C Ryle, Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, etc contributing) to partial works of men like Horatius Bonar.  I thoroughly enjoy reading men from generations past.  The tone in their writing is one of urgency and zeal.  They write with a passion rarely seen in literature, especially Christian literature, today. 

I picked up one of these booklets a couple of nights ago and began to read it aloud to my wife.  It is something I enjoy doing before we go to sleep.  We lie in the bed and I read a few paragraphs out loud to her.  I find it is a good practice.  I learn to speak clearer and pronounce words in a more correct way.  Those of us from eastern Kentucky need all the help we can get!

This particular work by Horatius Bonar is called “Words to Winners of Souls.”  It is directed at ministers of the gospel and has some very poignant words.  Over the next few posts I hope to highlight some of what this 19th century Scottish Presbyterian has to say.  I will begin here with the hymn that opens the book.  Enjoy.

“Tis not for man to trifle.  Life is brief, and sin is here.  Our age is but the falling of a leaf–A dropping tear.  We have no time to sport away the hours;  All must be earnest in a world lie ours.

Not many lives, but only one have we,–One, only one;  How sacred should that one life be–That narrow span!  Day after day filled up with blessed toil, hour after hour still bringing in new spoil.”

This really does set the stage for what Bonar will talk about.  He opens up with a call to action by quoting Oecolampadius, the Swiss reformer.  Oecolampadius says, “How much more would a few good and fervent men effect in the ministry than a multitude of lukewarm ones!”  Horatius goes on to say that the “lukewarm ministry of one who is theoretically orthodox is often more extensively and fatally ruinous to souls than that of one grossly inconsistent or flagrantly heretical.” 

The idleness of many pastors today is clear.  The weightiness of the office and the shortness of time is rarely considered.  We “sport away the hours” in all kinds of subtle ways.  Whether it be spending hours in front of our television sets, on the golf course, in front of a computer (needlessly), or even reading a book (to the neglect of investing in others).  We get caught up in a thousand different things.  And if we are not careful, we will have wasted our life and ministry.  We may be “theoretically orthodox,” preach and teach the ‘right’ things, but because of our lack of zeal/passion (Bonar uses the term ‘lukewarm’) we do damage to those around us.

Horatius Bonar calls us to arms.  He is only doing what the apostle Paul has already done.  “Redeem the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).


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