“‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28

They say do not work with animals or children. They need special skill. Horatius Bonar, “the Prince of Scottish Hymnists” was able to connect with youngsters superbly.

He was born just before Christmas in 1808, one of eleven children. Two of his brothers, John and Andrew, also became outstanding preachers. He studied for the ministry in Edinburgh, serving his internship in Leith, and then being ordained in Kelso. Later he returned to Edinburgh to the Grange and became one of Scotland’s most well known preachers.

Horatius began writing hymns while in Kelso, and many of them were especially for children. In those days the congregation only sang the Psalms, only the children were allowed to sing his hymns. On one occasion when a hymn was announced at a service, two church elders stormed out in protest! But the children loved his visits to Sunday School when he would lead them in exuberant singing.

He wrote I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say for his Sunday School in 1846. On the page on which he wrote the words, he doodled four faces and the head of a man wearing a hat. He based the verses on three promises of Jesus in Matthew 11:28; John 4:14; and John 8:12. The first half of each stanza echoes one of the Lord’s promises, the second half is our response.

He very much loved children. His wife and he lost five of their children in rapid succession. But God gave him hundreds of children in the Sunday School. Not only that …

Many years later, a surviving Bonar daughter was widowed and returned home to live with her parents. She had five young children. Writing to a friend, Horatius said: “God took five children from life some years ago, and He has given me another five to bring up for Him in my old age.”

He was nearly 80 when he preached his last sermon in his church. Among his last requests was that no biography of him be written. He wanted all the glory to be Christ’s alone.

(By the way his grandson, Horatius Bonar Macnicol, is mentioned on our WW1 Roll of Honour.)

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